Sunday, November 29, 2009

A (Mostly) Organic Thanksgiving

I believe it was President Herbert Hoover who promised America "A chicken in every pot." Figuring turkey was close enough, I named my free-range, locally raised turkey "Hoover" in his honor. And Hoover was mighty tasty this Thanksgiving!

The fact that I named my turkey has weirded out a few people. And frankly, I would have gone to pet him (or at least see him) before his demise if he had lived a bit closer. Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma (which I am currently reading), has mentioned that consumers are very much removed from the "animality" of our food due to our industrialized food system. Our cellophane-wrapped, styrofoam-packaged meats look very little like the animals from which they originally were carved, and we don't even call our meat the same thing we call the animal itself. Pig becomes pork, cow becomes beef or veal; only chicken and turkey seem to maintain any resemblance in name or look, and even then, they are often lumped together as poultry.

Just as missiles and machines and computers have made war morally easier in some ways (it is easier, for instance to send a missile flying overseas at a target where unnamed, unseen foes lurk rather than to look a foe in the eye while you gut him with a bayonet), our industrialized food system has made it morally easier for us to eat meat; after all, as a rule, consumers don't have to look their Thanksgiving turkey in the eye before slitting his throat.

By naming Hoover, I was trying to get a little closer to my food. Animals give their lives daily to help sustain us, and somehow it just seemed respectful to give him a name. I feel like I owe it to the animal to appreciate its sacrifice, and knowing that Hoover was happy, running around in a grassy area, living a turkey life before becoming my meal makes me feel better about eating him in some bizarre, ironic way.

This summer, I want a chance to at least watch a chicken slaughter, if not actually participate in one. If I can't bring myself to look a chicken--or turkey--in the eye before slaughter, I don't think I have the right to eat it.

In addition to Hoover, most of the rest of the meal was made of organic or pesticide-, hormone-, and antibiotic-free ingredients.

The candied sweet potatoes and garlic-parmesan mashed potatoes were made from farmer's market potatoes. The herbs used in the dishes were insecticide- and pesticide-free herbs from the farmer's market and my own garden, dehydrated and stored in spice jars for use in cooking. The raspberries in the White Chocolate Raspberry Bread Pudding (pictured) were organic, purchased at Meijer. Only the cranberry sauce really wasn't organic-based; I couldn't find organic cranberries anywhere!

More and more, I am moving to organic--or beyond organic--foods. It's easier than people think, and not as expensive as they might expect, particularly if consumers watch stores for organic food sales and then stack coupons.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Onion Chopping Block

You might remember an earlier post of mine about chopping onions. I chopped 5 pounds of walla wallas, leaving the entire house smelling of onion. Fumigation with various de-scenters didn't help much.

I think I found the solution for only $20 at a garage sale--a potting table! The hole in the table portion houses a plastic tub for soil, although I'll be using it for chopped onion. I'll be able to go outside and chop to my heart's content (I will probably don goggles this time) without smelling up the house!

It will also come in handy during planting season as I am starting seedlings and repotting.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back into the Garden...

It was sunny and 70+ degrees today, so I decided it was probably time to hit the garden and yank out the sunflower, okra, and tomato stalks and throw them on the burn pile. I managed to get out the sunflower and tomato stalks, but couldn't budge the okra stalks (picture at left). I had forgotten how thick they get and how tightly they hold the ground, unlike the sunflower stalks, which are a bit easier to remove. My low back was already hurting a bit from lugging boxes of books around inside to put on the Ikea book shelves, so I didn't have much oomph to put into the okra. I'll have to see if I can talk hubby into digging them out for me.

A few days ago, I decided it was time to harvest the last of the green peppers, no matter how small they still were. I had diligently covered them with kitty litter buckets at night and on days when the temperatures were supposed to get near freezing, and they had been uncovered for several days where lows were in the 40s. But then, when I went to harvest them, they clearly had not survived the cold, wet weather (picture at right). The plants were shriveled and brown, and the peppers were a sickly green, wrinkly, and sporting black rotting spots. Only a week before they were green and healthy looking. [sigh] The moral of the story is, I guess, to plant green peppers much sooner in the season. I knew it was a crapshoot when I planted them, but I was hoping to get at least one pepper! At least I have several bags of diced green, yellow, red, and orange peppers I nabbed at the farmer's market over the summer.

Once I had all the sunflower and tomato stalks on the burn pile, I took one last quick survey of the garden. I need to rake the grass clippings and compost a bit more evenly over the garden (a job for another day, because the garden is still a bit muddy). It's a very different sight from the lush, green garden of summer.

But wait...are those onions?

Yes! They are! I couldn't believe my eyes. The cold and wet had taken out my precious pepper plants, but the white onions I couldn't find because of all the other encroaching plant cover were growing up through four inches of grass clippings, and looking pretty healthy at that! I wasn't sure at first whether they were onions or shallots (I never did find my shallots), so I dug a couple up. They were small white bulb onions. The outer couple of layers were slimy and clear--probably destroyed by the cold--but the rest of the bulb looked healthy. They were too small to do anything much with, so I left them to rot in the garden, to provide nutrients for the soil for next season. What amazed me is that they had about 12 inches of green on them from the top of the bulb to the tip of the green! They really wanted to get to that sunlight!