Monday, August 29, 2011

Rain Check

There was supposed to be a cookout today, but someone up there had other plans.  It got me thinking about the weather, and how, in our modern age of instant gratification, there's still nothing we can do about it.  In hindsight, it's odd that I thought as little as I did about the weather during Corn Free July.  I was lucky enough to have a very sunny month in which to try my experiment.  There wasn't a single July farmers' market I planned to go to that got rained out, and not a single day on which I got caught walking home hauling bags of groceries in the rain.

The sun, the rain, and the wind were such an integral part of my life when I worked on the farm.  Too much and the crops will be ruined, too little and the crops will be ruined.  Hurricane (or Tropical Storm, or whatever she is now) Irene has reminded me that, as much farmers' market shopping I do, and as many farmers and farmers' markets and people who think local food is cool that I follow on Twitter, I'm still experiencing these things out of their true context.  Back in the days when the shoe was on the other foot, I laughed at people like me: people who patted themselves on the back for getting up "early" on a Saturday morning to feel like they were getting back to nature.  For the urban locavore, a rained-out farmers market means having to get that week's trendy vegetables at Whole Foods instead.  For the farmer, it means not making any money that day.  It might mean having a harvest go to waste because it can't get to the consumers before it spoils.  Or, depending on the scale and set-up of your farm, it might just mean letting the vegetables grow a bit bigger while you take a much-needed day off to tend to the greenhouse, or maybe just sleep past 4AM.

My city-dweller experience with inclement weather this weekend turned out to make for a delightful plan B.  As I just hadn't been able to stop myself from buying the ingredients for enough baked goods to feed two dozen people even though I knew the cookout probably wasn't going to happen, I spent a chunk of yesterday afternoon experimenting with a cornless peach-blueberry-apple crumble.  As I was taking it out of the oven, my upstairs neighbor, Melissa, happened to poke her head into my kitchen on her way downstairs to the laundry room.  I explained to her my dire problem of too many baked goods and not enough people to eat them, and she generously volunteered to help in any way she could.  As it turned out, the weather wasn't bad enough to keep me in, and so I brought the crumble to dinner with friends in Medford, where it was a big hit.

I've got enough ingredients to make another one today, and, as long as the power doesn't go out before I get around to it, that's just what I'll do, and I'll be sure to bring some upstairs.

Here it is, adapted from a recipe by Corky Pollan, Michael's mother.


1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon firmly packed dark brown sugar
10 tablespoons pasture-fed butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 peaches
2 apples
1 quart blueberries
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup white cane sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon


1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Slice up peaches and apples into evenly sized pieces
3. Mix fruit filling ingredients together in a large bowl, and pour mixture evenly over the bottom of an  8-inch square baking pan.
4. Mix dry crust ingredients together in a separate bowl until well blended.
5. Mix in butter evenly.  Pour mixture on top of the fruit layer in the pan.
6. Bake for about thirty minutes, until top is golden brown and fruit starts to bubble.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A-Maize-ing August

I can’t believe it’s over so soon.  I’m not ready.  I didn’t even get to make a “corned beef” pun.

On second thought, this croissant I’m chewing tastes like Heaven.

I wonder what’s in it.  Probably milk, butter and/or eggs from some very unhappy factory farmed, corn-with-a-side-of-antibiotics-and-growth-hormones-for-dessert fed animals.  And most likely at least one if not half a dozen sweeteners, emulsifiers, and general “why not?” additives.  And all that vagueness is scary in and of itself.  I’m not sure what is in this croissant at all or where those ingredients came from.  Were you ever hired for a job without your employer reading your résumé first?  When was the last time you bought a used car without at least looking at the odometer to see what you were getting yourself into?  But eating, the most basic and urgent of human necessities, that we’re more than happy to leave up to chance.

Did I mention this croissant is delicious?

It’s not the corn that makes it delicious, of course.  I’ve had some truly excellent vegan pastries.  And, as I discovered with my cookie experiments over the last few weeks, it’s entirely possible to find everything you need for baking without those pesky additives, if- and this is a big if- one is willing and able to put in the extra time, effort, thought, and money.  And that’s just not something I can do twelve months a year.  Who can?

Yup.  At least for now, Corn is King, and like it or not, we're all his loyal subjects.
Look how mad he is!  He's gonna have me beheaded if I don't fall back in line!

I've learned a heck of a lot over the past month, though, and I hope I've been able to pass some of that along to you.  I won't be updating the blog as much from here on in (until next July, that is), but I hope you'll check back once in awhile for updates and insights on the sustainable food movement in general.

Happy August!