Thursday, February 10, 2011

Linking to My DNA of Cooking




I got another book in the mail! It is like getting a box of chocolates to satisfy my craving to know more. I received Forgotten Skills of Cooking the Time-Honored Ways Are The Best over 700 Recipes Show You Why by Darina Allen, who is called "the Julia Child of Ireland".
Last night I was brought back to my roots of Northern Europe reading her fantastic book showing how to create those dishes that are part of my DNA.


The chapter titles are:


  • Foraging

  • Fish

  • Game

  • Beef

  • Dairy

  • Eggs and Poultry

  • Pig

  • Lamb

  • Vegetables Herbs and Salad

  • Preserving

  • Desserts

  • Cakes and Cookies

  • Bread

  • Household Tips

  • Resources

How many of you have tasted Comfrey Fritters? I have Comfrey growing in my garden. I know it is a time-honored herb, but I have never used it in my cooking. I also saw a recipe for a drink made with Comfrey leaves as one of the ingredients.


In her Household Tips, Darina list several old but true methods of helping with a stiff neck, Nettle stings and how to clean the oven. We need to be reminded that there are problem solvers that don't come in a clean plastic bottle with a squirt top formulated with high-tech science and harmful substances.


I suddenly know with encouragement by the author that I could possibly even cure a whole ham and that my Norwegian ancestors would love that salted cod might show up on my dinner table very soon! I found out that it doesn't have to be cod that has been salted to death and stiff as a board. We always laughed at that it was said the real flavor came from the dog lifting his leg on the cod while it was leaning up against the back porch wall. You can use just enough salt to use within a few days to have delicious taste of salted cod without suffering from guilt from knowing that your arteries are now permanently blocked and your blood pressure is off the charts.


I think we partly threw away much of our old cooking methods because we now had refrigerators to keep food safe and fresh instead of preserving them to keep the bacteria from growing. We also got carried away with eating healthier with less salts. Funny, we didn't mind eating McDonald's hamburgers or Banquet frozen dinners. We got rid of the old to replace with even more questionable new foods. We now have engineered and genetically altered foods. Heaven only knows what we eat if we are not careful. Our labeling laws don't always keep up with processes our food manufactures come up with. We can't tell from a label what the cow ate to create the steak we purchase or the milk that we drink.


Darina brings us back to the knowledge that we threw out with the wash in the early 1960's when new was best and old was just that - old and useless. I came into adulthood at that time. I wore Jackie Kennedy styles, made jello cakes and even ate Wonder Bread. Remember Valveeta Cheese? It still exist even though most of us feel it is just colorized melted plastic of some sort.


Through the years, I have chosen my own style to wear, eat whole grain breads, like to make my own cakes from scratch, eat real cheese and even manage to make bread about once a month. But, I have never attempted to go to where my mother never went. It was probably my grandmother who last raised her own chickens, made her own butter and made bread each and every week. My mother born in 1919, thought those skills of making her own food were outdated and unnecessary. She was convinced to throw out the old for everything new. She used only cake mixes, loved those frozen dinners and gave up fresh vegetables for frozen or canned. Advertising pays very well for a reason - it works. We believe what we are told.


Maybe like Egypt revolting in a need for freedoms that they have learned about through the internet, has also had us reaching back into our past to find a simplified way of life without advertising making us choose what to be, what to do and what to buy. I think it is an internet revolution with people like Jamie Oliver shouting at us to think for ourselves. Of course TV has joined this band wagon with shows letting us meet these strange people who believe basic food is good for us. Food without chemicals and genetic engineering is making a comeback. We crave it. We search it out. This is news coming from the people from a food revolution. Companies are rushing in to get their fair market share with labels of natural, organic or whatever sounds good for today. But do we really know they are truthful? They have lied to us in the past. They have lost our trust. We no longer believe that someone else really cares about our welfare. We have to care ourselves. We are searching our past to find a way to know what our own food consist of and to be responsible for our own well being. We are growing our own vegetables, reading labels like those on a mission, searching for meat that has been raised in dignity and health and developing skills that we once thought were needless.


I even thought for a brief moment that I was being innovative. What a foolish assumption. Search the internet for new terms of use like organic, sustainable and chemical free. It is amazing what those searches can find!


Welcome to a new but not original way of life. I hope someday to report that I have cured a ham. I hope that I can get my own chickens soon and that maybe a pig might even find a home with me until the day he feeds my family. I have yet to figure out how to get over killing. Up until now, my life has been eating meat from a plastic wrapped package. I don't hear a squeal, a gasp or see death. Darina even describes how to break a chicken's neck. It is out of my reality, but I know my day will come when I find this as a normal process of life.


I'll be back to report on my progress of reaching back into my ancestry. I don't plan on plundering the shores of England as my Viking relatives did or burn books or kill people for believing something I find disturbing, but I will use some of the past to create a better future. I will bring in what was thrown out with the wash that really needed to be cherished as a healthy wise treasure to hold dear. Comments are always appreciated and enjoyed.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Life as a Food Hero


So, what happened to me since the holidays? I surely haven't bothered to write on my blog that is a sad fact. Well, life takes many turns giving me new direction to what I think and what I do. Simply, I got interested in several different things and found little time to sit to type about me.


Spring is almost here; which got me thinking about my vegetable garden. Not to do anything half-assed is a fault that I cannot manage to control. I read several gardening magazines, books, articles that I had saved and looked up things on the internet in an effort to make the best possible vegetable garden. This took hours that turned into days that ended up in weeks and even over a month! I found a website that was fantastic in letting me visually see what I was planning. It is GrowVeg.Com . This site allows you to draw out your garden plan and even see how many of each vegetable you can plant in the allotted space! Whalla, I could see what I was plotting in my head. If you make a new file, you can then see where you will plant your next season and whether you can actually put the peas where you think you want them. The plan flashes red to remind you that maybe that isn't a good choice taking in the considerations of why we rotate our crops. The first month is free, then the site will charge you a mere $25.00 to continue using it. They even send you emails to remind you to start your proper seeds at the right time because you have told the program your zip code! I always need a slap aside the head and love that email telling me that it is the time NOW!


I also read about a book, "Food Heros" by Georgia Pellegrini and true to my nature ordered the book from Amazon.com. I could not put the book down. You can see a link to buy a copy at the top of this post. I bought a used one from Amazon that made it a tad less expensive. I always buy used books when I can. I am a yellow-underliner and a used book is just as good as a new. It is surely not pristine after I have marked it up! I've loaned the book to two different people who also were excited about the possibilities for becoming a food hero! Georgia also has a blog that you can read on line. I can't wait to buy her other book due to be published in the fall "Hunter Woman". I know my daughter, Lynnette, will love it as she loves the idea of hunting and then using her kill to supplement her larder. To make a long story short, I met up with Anne Boulley at a local party given by my friend, Laura Ashby. Anne and I met up to discuss organizing a group based on the premis of being food heros. Laura and another friend, Lee Sadaat came to the meeting. We will certainly become food heros of Brookings, Oregon! Anne, bought pork belly while in Portland so three of us have made our own bacon! We have also played with making carmelized pork belly. YUM!
The book is so much more than cooking. It has stories about being a bee keeper, beer maker, mushroom picker etc. I really thought I was being so innovative until my mother received her latest copy of Ladies Home Journal. There was an article about something similar! The article is on page 102, of the March 2011 issue. Extreme Housewives is the name of the feature. These women have embraced the kind of back-to-basics homemaking our grandmothers did- and they've been happier. So, just when you think you have a fresh new idea, think again.
Now, I have also encountered the most amazing weather on the Southern Oregon Coast! It has been in the 60's for like two weeks now with full sun, warm breezes and NO rain. I have spent hours and hours...days upon days, turning over dirt, hauling tree limbs Jim has cut down, cleared up spaces that haven't seen the sight of organization in years and strung out my garden plus much more! If it doesn't rain soon, I will die of exhaustion. I missed the first 21 points in the Super Bowl yesterday because after 1/2 glass of nice wine I was zapped out cold on the couch! My arms and hands are limp and my back has twinges of muscle pain from hacking way too many hacks and pulling way too many blackberries from their stronghold on my property. I have cleared at least 200 feet of fenceline, turned over the garden space, hauled wonderous stuff out of a corner in the back acre and much much more! I purchased 75 lbs or more of fertilizer, mixed it and fed everyone that yelled out to me that they might be hungry. I have used 1/2 of it so far.
So, friends and family, I think I need to get off of here and get busy again. The house is yelling that it needs my attention and the sun is shining telling me to yonder out back. The choices are endless and my body seems limitless even at the advanced age that I have become. When do I say enough is enough. I think never.

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We blog about our rural area in the Pacific Northwest . This blog is all about my life and the places where my mind wonders from day to day. Have fun reading and looking at pictures. We welcome comments.

Be sure to watch, just above this blurb, my husband, Jim, using his 10 foot hands-free electric fishing kayak

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Be sure to check out the separate blog to find out about our electric kayak, Kingfisher 10! You can find the blog at http://electrickayakkingfisher-10.blogspot.com . You can also read the features list on this kayak and purchase building plans and building kits at www.winchuckriverstore.com .

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We moved to our current home on the Wild River Coast of Southern Oregon from San Jose, CA. Our family consist of Jim and Karen, two dogs and two cats. Karen's passion is gardening. Jim's obsession is building electric powered fishing kayaks and fishing.