I love it when I feel I am in the middle of something. It doesn’t happen often being a bit of a “living on the edge” sort of person- in all senses. But when it does, I feel that delicious “a-ha!” moment welling up out of my back brain and jumping out of my mouth onto The Keyboard.
- A-ha! Locavorism is my way of being a lazy bum- what’s growing outside the door? dandelions? rosemary? rosehips?
- A-ha! Organic Gardening is also wonderfully lazy, no schedules to follow for spraying or bottles of poison to sort out by use by date.
- A-ha! Canning & Preserving in small batches is fast and easy. 4 jars of quince here, 5 jars of salsa there; faster than going to the supermarket.
- A-ha! Butchering & Charcuterie making on the farm with artisan French butchers is part of the yearly cycle here.
- a-ha! Farm-to-table does work when you live surrounded by fertile fields in a wealth agriculturally based society. “France” in a word.
- A-ha! Urban farming works as long as you have Wi-Fi and can Google “mysterious chicken diseases”.
- A-ha! The Back-to-the-Land movement I joined in the 70′s on Lopez Island, WA never went away, it just got better music.
So when the I see this big kahuna wave swelling around me, I’ve been sitting on my long French board for about 20 years, it makes me want to start paddling faster and faster. Catch that wave now! And at last, I can be the #1 Surfer French Farm Queen-Dudette in town.
This week’s wave is all over the web on blogs and news sites. Kim Severson writes an article at the NYT about some of the of the problems people are having raising chickens in an urban environment. And today, Alex Williams writes about the new “do-it-yourself butchery” taking place around the country in shops, cooking schools and well as bars. Like preaching to the choir, I want to join in and shout Amen! or Hallelujah! After all, I learn by doing, too. And while I want to encourage and applaud these Good Food neophytes, I want to bang them on the head, too.
Like parents that think Easter chicks are cute- for a week, I imagine those chickens abandoned by someone who found out that a living breathing animal eats, poops and needs attention just like we do. I think about the wasted meat not cooked from that lovingly raised porker by someone whose stomach was turned by the smell of too much raw meat or the serial killer smell of fresh blood. I know some of that good meat will end up in the garbage uncooked. I know what happens not just because I see it when fresh students and interns show up in France all starry-eyed or because I have years of experience of sheltering the delicate Gourmet-reading gourmand from knowing too ‘much ado about foie gras’, or the ‘truth behind truffles’. I know what happens because I, too, have been there. And I am willing to admit it.
I’ve learned a lot these two decades of eating France. Yet, I still have a lot to learn. About Charcuterie- did you know that the age of the pig (minimum 12 months) affects the acid level produced in the meat muscle and thus affecting the quality and curing of the jambons, saucissons and chorizo? I didn’t either until this summer when Camas D., Jonathon K. and I sat down at teh lunch table with the Brothers Chapolard for a Q&A about their pig farm and artisan charcuterie operation. About Chickens- after a year with my own layers (11 hens- 1 rooster) and losing a couple to neighbor dogs (including Bacon the teenage gangsta pack member), I am soooo glad I have chicken-raising neighbors who coached me through my first crisis (one too many rooster) and told JK and me exactly where to stick the knife. The Coq au Vin was as good as any I have cooked and eaten.
Interested to learn more? Not on the web but live and in person with people who love their food and make it too. It’s easy this winter. Come to France (air fares are looking good, children!) this November (read about it here) or meet me in the North West this New Year 2010 as I pack my Gascon bags with lots of ideas and tons of experience on making cassoulet, rendering duck fat, confit and natural foie gras with Neal Foley on his Podchef Island and Robert Reynolds at his wonderful Chef’s Studio in Portland.
Now about that wave… let’s keep it swelling. There are a lot of delicious rides ahead.