Archive for category Nutrition & Recipes
Just a smidgen, add a pinch of salt, add enough water to cover, a handful of chopped onion, two fingers of butter… the oral tradition has preserved ancient recipes with measurements that guarantee a flavorful and satisfying outcome in the absence of standardized measuring tools. Surely, it has also provided much room for experimentation and personal input. “My grandmother’s” recipe may not be exactly as grandma made it anymore. Nonetheless, it retains its uniqueness merely because it was grandma’s, and because she was a pioneer.
The first publication of recipes on paper had to wait for the printing press to be invented. Before this, recipes were hand written and much fewer people than today knew how to read or write. Hired cooks and nannies were often given verbal instructions by mistresses who could read, or even by the children in their care. Imagine the wonderful relationship between a child who can read and a nanny who cannot, as they teach each other their respective skills.
I am of a different generation. I watched my mother and grandmother cook, but other than helping to mix this or that (especially when grandma made frosting for her wonderful cupcakes), I did not have an interest in learning, nor was I forced to develop one. I feel this was a great gap in my generation’s upbringing, at least in the context of the place where I grew up, in a white-collar neighborhood with professional parents who lived at a time when suburban life was sprouting everywhere as a sort of in-between community; not quite city, not quite country.
Nature is part of our makeup and it was inevitable that even hard-working, career-oriented adults would look at their backyards and long to dig their hands in the soil. Most of the families in my neighborhood (in fact, probably all of them) had the means to acquire all of their food at the store, but gardens began to pop up in every single backyard nonetheless. The previous generation had been close to the land, so it is them, in great part, who transmitted these values. But how do you draw the modern, career-oriented, 1960′s and 1970′s adult to the kitchen? Cookbooks. Cooking shows and cookbooks.
Cooking shows teach by demonstrating, somewhat like mothers had done. We are designed to learn by imitation after all. The cookbook provides the means for one to develop their own wings.
Producing a cookbook is an exercise in technical writing. The author must consider the audience, what language to use to both appeal to this audience and to make instructions user-friendly. The “step-by-step” format takes care of one important aspect of instructions books: breaking down a complex concept into immediately understandable and manageable parts.
Cooking, as you know, is an experiment in physics and chemistry. As with any other experiment, it is in the repeating of the process that we become aware of patterns and that our own miscalculations are brought to light. When we figure out what we did wrong, why we did not obtain the exact outcome the author describes for example, we also instantly understand a bit more about the physics and chemistry of food and cooking.
This knowledge is stored in the data bank of the mind and will be accessed automatically when we find ourselves in a similar situation again; in fact, this allows us to extrapolate, instinctively, and to grasp more and more of the art of cooking along the way. Because of this, over time, our relationship to the cookbook changes. We become hungry for greater challenges, feeling perfectly confident that we can learn something new.
I would venture to say that cookbooks build confidence and would not be surprised to learn that some therapists instruct their clients to buy a cookbook and learn to cook as a means of developing confidence and building self-esteem. How can you not have self-esteem when your own hands create a feast from scratch? Only yesterday you felt incompetent, yet now your own masterfully transformed harvest feeds every eye and stomach around your table.
The oral tradition is not gone; it is transformed by our literature. Cookbooks contain the voices of grandmothers and ancestors, for without their knowledge and teaching their pages would be blank. Opening a cookbook is like opening a book of secrets; as if someone had placed this on our lap saying, “Here. This is all I know. I trust you will make good use of it.” Maybe cooking helps us remember how capable we are, at anything.
Of The Soil - “I kiss the soil as if I placed a kiss on the hands of a mother.” – Pope John Paul II
Of Gifts - “The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.” – Pierre Corneille
Of Life - “Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.” – Lewis Carroll
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I began the previous Weekend Highlights by referring to mud season. As I write this, just a week later, it snows and I have had to make a path for the dog twice already.
Several years ago, this week, right here in Vermont, I spent an afternoon reading in the sun on a deck with no coat on. The temperature was near 80 degrees that day. It smelled like spring and felt totally invigorating. 48 hours later, a light snow began to fall as I drove down the mountain from where I stayed to run a few errands. I was gone about two hours. When I returned home, I could not make it back up the hill. That is how much it had snowed in just 120 minutes. Talk about extremes!
When the weather shows its moods, and nature shows its power, we must adapt, find humor and even a blessing here and there. For many of you who rely on the garden or farm for sustenance, and some for your livelihood, resilience, patience and faith are necessary. It is a constant challenge, yet you persevere. It always makes perfect sense for you to persevere, as heart-wrenching as this can be at times. I see this every week as I visit Facebook pages and blogs. You have my admiration.
Fast Grow The Weeds presents keen observations of nature’s dancing mood swings. “I do love living in one of the temperate stripes of the planet that experiences true seasonality. Four seasons are the given. Living here on a farm, however, I count six! Let us start with spring. Spring, summer, autumn, mud, winter, then mud.”
The article is appropriately titled, “On Mud Season.” It goes even further as to suggest, and rightly so, that various perspectives exist when it comes to the weather. The gardener sees it one way, which truly varies from garden to garden. The scientist has yet another point of view as he or she searches the why and how of every variation. And then there are the beasts. Those who live with us have long learned where to find comfort: On our laps or on the grounds we keep warm under a roof. At this time of the year, even the bugs we chase from the garden have their own take on the weather, having to shift their duties from the prospect of a good meal one moment to near return to hibernation the next.
“But yes, we had an actual winter. Albeit it was a wee one, lasting maybe 8 weeks, still, it was long enough to keep me out of the gardens proper and fishing for sustenance in the greenhouses and root cellar only…” further observes the author. [Read More]
Mud is very grounding. It brings our attention to the path ahead as we carefully make our way. It grounds us as it brings our attention to our shoes and keeping the floors clean. When mud renders the ground soft and the path uncertain, our focus turns to the very act of moving.
Inevitably, suddenly, our thoughts are called back to another place and time; another now where they linger naturally throughout the day, underneath the surface. A project or chore requiring special attention can shift our thoughts. Memories can do this as well as they flood the mind and heart like a lifting veil revealing another dimension. Such an experience was the topic at Feather on The Ground recently.
“It’s been nearly 2 years now since we lost my father… Some days I can still feel him with me. Today was one of those days… And then the oddest thing happened,” recalls the author. “I walked into the garage to get an extension cord to run the water pump to clean the pond and found this little bird desperately trying to escape through a closed window…”
One little, innocent bird. A fluttering of wings, and all of a sudden an entire chapter of life comes to mind. It brings joy and sorrow all at once, but mostly joy, because what it brings is a very tangible embrace. This little creature turns into An Unexpected Gift. And there is more. [Find Out Now]
A gift showed up in my email on Thursday in the form of a notification from Emerson’s Acre. The words Missing but Not Forgotten…I Hope jumped at me from the subject line. Instantly, I knew that this would be the third entry in this week’s Highlights. Forgotten? Absolutely not!
“So, I’ve been a little MIA lately. Last years’ grand experiment didn’t go so well and I allowed the demands of my business to distract me from (read: avoid) my failures and to ignore what few successes I did have,” explains the author. So while the career offered a detour from a few gardening and goat keeping experiments that did not turn out quite as hoped, it appears it also offered the necessary distance to reassess and make new plans.
Yes, it sounds like this is precisely what is happening at Emerson’s Acre (Emerson himself would approve). “Through the winter I occupied myself with my business, my family and firewood,” shares the author. “Now, Spring is calling and I’m answering… The gym side of my business can get somewhat frenetic… The garden doesn’t work that way and I’ve become especially grateful for it.” [See what's happening in the garden]
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Writer’s block descended upon me early this morning. It is not so much writer’s block as having too many ideas for too many topics all at once and not being able to decide between them. Then there were several interruptions. It is one of those days when people assume that I can do as I please since I am self-employed. They are right. I can do as I please, and what pleases me is to be doing my work, right here, at this keyboard, to research topics and concoct articles, to read, to learn.
The interruptions today brought me to a pause, much like when we have placed all our skill and energy into preparing a special meal and reach a moment when all that remains is to wait for guests to arrive. We lose ourselves in the process until a change of pace makes us keenly aware of every detail again.
Perhaps everything we do is like that. Yes. Now that I think about it, every single action or process leads to a pause, many in fact, when we look at what we have accomplished so far and cannot help but give in to a few philosophical musings. This mind shift is what turns our daily activities into living poetry. It connects us to everything in a fresh new way. Some call this epiphany. It is at the source of our greatest moments of gratitude. It comes upon us through the senses, triggered by an object, a color, a smell. The poetry goes like this…
After installing a weed mat, kneeling by this year’s new garden plot - There is a place and time for weeds and a place and time for sustenance, just as there is a time for rambunctious humor and a time for serious, down to business living.
Looking back at the garden, after seeding the first rows – Now the wait. We do not want to wait, yet it is in the waiting, as much as in harvesting, that nourishment is found. Waiting grows our sense of awe. It makes it impossible for us to take anything for granted.
While cleaning the pressure canner and putting away the canning accessories and recipe book - There is much reassurance in knowing that a fresh store of wholesome food awaits. There is much reassurance in realizing that, in spite of our technological advancements, we persist in digging our own hands in the ground to give birth to our own nourishment. This, perhaps, is one of the surest signs of our immutable humanity.
As we disassemble the juicer or blender and take great, carefree gulps of the refreshing, living liquid - If only we could drink in each moment with such a sense of renewal. Each moment is renewal; it is only the observer who refuses, or fails, to know this. Maybe we should drink a fresh gulp of juice, or at least water, every time we lose faith in the possibility of renewal. Maybe that is all it takes to shift our thoughts and find hope again.
My writer’s block is gone at the moment. So I’ll pause while I’m ahead!