Sunday, June 26, 2011

It's all about food - Part 2

I had the most amazing day I've had for a long time. (Saturday) (Sunday - it was so amazing it took two days to write about it.)

I attended the Wyck House Food Symposium: Cultivating our Food Roots. My mind is so completely blown that I don't even know where to start!

I guess I'll start with the site. The Wyck House is one of the oldest houses in Germantown (a neighborhood of Philadelphia) and served as the ancestral home of the Wistar-Haines family from the 1690s until 1972. They were Quakers. Today it is preserved as a historic house and farm. They farm as 19th century farmers would have, have programs and the house and its artifacts are open for public viewing. For the Food Symposium, they hosted a food market and fair on Friday afternoon during the same hours as the weekly Farmers Market, and on Saturday hosted four amazing speakers in the gardens under a tent who spoke about food history and more.
My co-worker Matt, is really the culprit for getting us involved in this event. He is my partner-in-crime for getting THE COOKBOOK published. He is in charge of the digitization department and together with Ashley got everything ready for the book. He encouraged us to participate in the market on Friday evening. We decided we wanted to cook food from the cookbook in hopes of enticing people to purchase the book. That part of the plan didn't actually work, but people really liked the food. But it was great to be there.
There were some fantastic people there. First of all, fresh fruits and veggies right from the farm. Then there were other vendors, the first blueberries of the season, there was a historic food re-enactoress, Susan McLellan Plaisted in all her garb - she made a lemon tart - had the flip chart to prove it. And I must say - the tart was amazing. We talked about historic cooking. She was lamenting the fact that so many historic garden were closing and she couldn't get the correct foods to make some of her historic recipes. Who knew this was such a big deal? Well, I do now.
There was also the Wild Foodies. And I think that this is where the mind blowing started. I made the rounds, purchased my local-in-season-cherries and blueberries, and saw this lady with a bunch of pots on her table of... - get this - ALL THE WEEDS I HAVE IN MY GARDEN. So, ya just gotta go see what that is all about, right? And it was all about what to DO with them - how to eat them, how they are edible, how to use them for medicinal purposes. Which ones are anti-bug and post-bug-bite appropriate. I couldn't believe it. All these weeds I've been yanking out are edible! So I don't know about you people, but I have a yard full of all these things and I'll be surviving a nuclear Holocaust just fine thank you. (I hope) But I do have to pat myself on the back - I have been preserving some of them just because they are pretty. Now I know I can use them too! I've got to figure out how to learn more about this. In the meantime - here's what I did learn about the things I can eat in my garden...
We (with the cookbook) were in the back in a tent with Capogiro (the best gilato in North America), the Johnson House (who brought their own ginger beer), Le Dames d'Escoffier (who had a pork roast that melted in the mouth) and Whole Foods (who were making fresh individual pizzas on the spot). Are you hungry yet?
So to back up.... Friday morning, Matt and I cooked. We cooked like crazy!!! We made just over 100 meatballs. A stuffed eggplant recipe that went so fast we couldn't believe it - we'd doubled up on the Cherry bread because we knew that would be a hit and the night before I'd made 150 macaroons. Well, let me just tell you the hit of the day were the meatballs. Thank goodness there were (apparently) alot of vegetarians, because they were stellar and we had enough to have some left over. (page 8 by the way, if you have the cookbook). One of the first gentlemen to try them was a guide for the Wyck house and he raved! Two minutes later his phone rang, he answered it and said, "Hello? - Hi - lemmetellyou - I just had the best meatball in the world. Oh man..." I saw him today at the event and he reminded me that they were the best meatballs he had ever had. And yeeeeaaah, they are kinda good. Too bad he didn't buy a book. I hope he dreams about them and comes and gets a book after all. hee hee.We did break even at the fair. We spend about $133. for the food and such, and we sold a total of 8 books. $20 each. I'm really hoping some people bought the book online. Then we would make a profit.
And then today... - more blowing of the mind.
The symposium was four incredible speakers:
William Woys Weaver, Michael Twitty, Valeir Erwin of the Geechee Girl Rice Cafe, Rose Hayden-Smith, and Ben Watson.
William Woys Weaver started Saturday's mind blowing. I wish I would have heard him speak before publishing THE COOKBOOK. He talked about trying to figure out - in order to recreate authenticity - kitchen gardens of the 18th and 19th centuries. He showed how to read recipes and extract the subtle information from which can tell you so much. I cannot wait to get back to work to start doing some more research. He showed how images are very important to authenticating what we think are heirloom seeds. We have huge "ephemera" collections I will be pulling on Monday to look at to see what treasures are in them.
Michael Twitty - I don't even know where to start with this man. He was an incredible wealth of information about food and the history of the enslaved peoples and African Americans. How did food migrate from West Africa to the Americas - what is the origin of the word "yam" and what where enslaved people's garden's like - how did they grow them - how was it important and why? The origin of the word yam is from the word yahm a common West African word in many languages. He went on today that this is also the origin of the word yum. Here we've got these African Mamies - raising white kids and black kids, telling them to "eat up!" YAHM, YAHM. Michael then went on to say that if you look up 'yum' in the dictionary it says, "origin unknown." to which he said, "that mean us", meaning former slaves and African American people. After listening to him speak I realized - I needed to come home and rethink my entire vegetable garden. If enslaved people could feed themselves on these small 8ft.x8ft. plots - I should be able to do so as well. I can't wait... although it may have to be next year. But tomorrow will be my garden day. I plan on making some progress then.
Valerie Erwin, chef of the Geechee Girl Rice Cafe in Germantown, spoke briefly about how to prepare a meal with local, in season, fresh foods. And then she talked about the lunch menu and how she'd decided on that for our lunch. Eat your hearts out...
We had salmon broiled with a very yummy spice rub, a fresh greens salad with lovely dressing, a bean salad - to die for, black eyed peas, sugar snap peas, red peppers, red onions, all in a savory dressing - oh dear - I had heaps of seconds of that. Then there was corn bread and collard greens, and for dessert - a yellow cake with fresh fruits from the Wyck house (peaches and black raspberries) and home-made whipped cream. I think there were very few people who didn't have seconds. I had to save my dessert for later. It was delicious. Yummy Yum Yum.
After lunch, Rose Hayden-Smith spoke. Rose embodies the politics for the day. She is the Strategic Initiative Leader for Sustainable Food Systems for the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources. She is also a US History historian. Her specialty? Victory Gardens. How interesting - how incredibly interesting! She said that the first Federally mandated education curriculum was foods and gardens during WWI. She proceeded to show posters and imagery. She continued to argue in favor of shortening the food mile. She argued in favor of small community or civic gardens. Schools should have gardens - and on and on. She encouraged us to look at the USDA website. and many others besides. I had no idea I could!? The commentary after her speak quickly became a heated discussion of current farming politics.
The last speaker was Ben Watson. Who knew there was so much to know about apples??? Apparently we can thank the bears for them. They are accused of choosing the sweetest apples from trees, walking a way and then pooping the seeds out with a nice, "fertilizer" to get the new tree growing. Ben talked about looking for varieties that have dissappeared, how they are propagated, which are good to eat, which are good for cider, and which are good for insect repellant purposes. I'm seriously toying with the idea of getting an apple tree. Although there is a lot of research that needs to be done first!

To write the above - I sat outside in my weedy garden with Jacques who started chasing the fireflies, which made me decide it was time to go in.

Today - Sunday, I slept in. I felt I'd deserved it. Then I went for a bike ride, came back and decided it was time to tackle the garden. Lawn mowing, hedge trimming and a new examination of what it growing in my garden. Mary came over and dropped off my farm share in the afternoon, mostly the same stuff as last week. So I decided to look up a recipe for what to do with garlic scapes. Again... eat your hearts out....

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1/3 cup walnuts
¾ cup olive oil
¼-1/2 cup grated parmigiano
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add parmigiano to taste; add salt and pepper. Makes about 6 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

For ½ pound short pasta such as penne, add about 2 tablespoons of pesto to cooked pasta and stir until pasta is well coated.

This recipe is stolen from: A Washington Post Blog, A Mighty Appetite, by Kim O'Donnel

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