Archives for posts with tag: produce

I got a Facebook message worrying that annacotta died… No, she didn’t die, she’s just real, real busy packing up all her earthly possessions (which sururisingly fit into four 16 x 16 boxes and the trunk of a Camry,) trying to learn Spanish before a very frightening final, and writing papers on the destiny of Being and the correlations between light and literature (and wondering just how any of this will be all that useful in, you know, real life.) And eating, mostly at one AM after the library closes. Mostly peanut butter and pitas, smoothies and clementines. Although I’ve discovered roasted radishes, the creamy, quiet, refined older sister of the rowdy raw radish. Anyway. I’m not dead.

Here’s another re-purposed Catalyst article. This article was so insanely up my alley, I couldn’t help but write two thousand plus words and take up two whole newspaper pages blathering about local food. It’s fascinating! I’m so curious about why this trend has so seriously taken root, and no matter how hard I look, I can’t seem to figure it out. It all is very sensical, better for the environment, better tasting, betters the local economy… but there are lots of sensical things that we all just ignore, for the most part. Why is the local movement so hip, so successful?? One could write a thesis on it. Or at least a real, real long article.

The local food movement wants us to change the way we think about our food. Wants us to reconsider the dirt and the farm and the farmer and the cook — the trip our food took to the table — before tucking in to our meals. “I think it gets down to human nature … how we as human beings want to function, and how the way we’ve been functioning [in terms of eating] is wrong,” said local chef Eric Bein of Station 400. “It’s a very passionate thing to eat something … you’re putting something into your body — it’s an intimate thing. But that’s been taken out of it. There’s no identification with the food. It’s just to fill the stomach, fill the gas tank up. People don’t think about the food that they eat and where it comes from … but I think we should and we need to.”

Proponents of local food are realizing this need and emphasizing the roots of not just the food Americans eat food but to the country itself, harking back to the idea of America as an agricultural nation. “People are starting to realize … that this is how it used to be,” explained Bein. “America was built on agriculture, it was built on small farms, it was built on people breaking bread as a family.”

The local food movement is based on this “back to the land” principle, an idea that’s been manifested in a wide variety of campaigns and changes. Bein wants to bring this homeland ethic into his restaurant with tasty local eggs and produce. Others hope to fill their table with the yields of their own gardens and more yet are moving toward simply keeping their dollars in the local economy, shifting their purchases from shipped-in strawberries to the ones picked just 70 miles away.

You know you wanna know what happens next…

Street food mecca! Empanadas…my favorite. Must figure out how to recreate. The crust remains a little doughy, by some magic bakers trick…or maybe because they sit on a hot plate all day until getting popped in the microwave before consumption. Either way, perfection. Available with all kinds of fillings, most commonly, as one empanada-hawker put it in English for me: chicken, vegetables, or meat. Go for meat. Chopped beef (not ground, usually) with onions, olives, and hard-boiled eggs. Mmmm. Also in the parade of street food: choripan (chorizo + pan…sausage n’ bread. I never had one, but Momma was a big fan), steak sammiches (of course), fresh OJ (which they had everywhere, for less than a glass of crap reconstituted OJ here…I drank A LOT of juice…), mega-sweet, mega-good fruit salads, popcorn, caramelized nuts (peanuts and/or almonds made on the spot, a hot copper pot swirled with sugar and vanilla and a splash of water to coat the nuts in crystal sweetness…you get drawn in by the burnt sugar smell and next thing you know you’re all hypnotized, handing over crumpled pesos for a little plastic bag of nuts…), cake (food stand, with stacks and stacks of decadently decorated cakes…tres leches, towering chocolate cakes, cakes coated in sliced strawberries…and hordes of people standing around the stand, shoving bites of cake into their happy mouths while they balance the enormous slice on a wobbly paper plate), and these awesome little grilled tortillas, still doughy inside, charred on the outside.

Mate, it’s for reals. It’s not just for the sweet oldies clinging onto the way it was, not at all. Everyone, all mate, all the time. (Supplemented by a hearty number of cafe cortados though, of course.) Mate cup/gourd, bombilla, thermos of hot water, pack of mate- necessary at all times. Packed into specially designed mate packs, or minimalist-style thermos tucked under the arm, mate in hand, or even jammed in the baby stroller cup holder. There are ultra-fancy gilded, hammered silver gourds, campy little painted ones, pretty little wooden ones, hip little silicone ones. Mate tradition seems strangely a  bit similar to the call to prayer–albeit sans-religion–a little break from the day’s work to reunite with your friends, maybe have a small snack, chat, sit on the curb, you know. Though we had the burnt-sugar mate at Casa Feliz, we never took part in the full on mate sipping deal. It felt a little…intrusive, tourist-posing-as-mega-cultural-traveler, Lonely Planet momenty to buy ourselves a mate set up and mimic all the cool Argentinians.

Produce in Argentina is muy fascinante. As far as I could tell, it comes from like, you know, farms. Farm-wooden crate-truck-bodega. And while big ol’ supermarkets are scanty, specific shops (carnecerias, fruterias, etc.) litter the city along with a mass of bodegas. But whereas an American bodega would have maybe a couple unripe bananas and some carrot sticks packaged with ranch, every bodega has a substansial little produce corner, run by someone entirely different than the shop a lot of the times. Buy your Quilmes and soap at the register, then cross the store to pick out some slightly dented duranzos and bunched arugula, a couple shining eggplants and a bag of oranges for juicing from the produce man hunched over a mini tv behind his wares, yelling at the Boca Juniors. Who knows if it was organic or sustainable or whatever–it’s accessible and plentiful, real vegetables and beautiful fruits available on every street corner! (And how badly did I want a battered old produce crate? Very, very, very badly. And the one place I documented they had plastic ones, of course)

And…tango. It’s delightful. And legit, everyone seems to know at least a little tango. We happened to be in Buenos Aires for “Noche en Vela” or Sleepless Night, a big big night of hundreds of art/music/cultural events all across the city. Cafes filled to the brim with people pressing their ears against stone walls in an attempt to hear the strains of a famous flamenco band, the giant obelisk in the center of town became a massive canvas for a flashy light show, and a whole busy street was blocked off, crowned with a stage for a tango band, the street itself full of swaying couples, some impressively talented, sweeping each other around amongst the gawkers, some just sweetly fumbling through the steps before taking a break for a small sip of mate.

 

Unlike at home where winter means frozen fields, in Florida winter means it’s finally cool enough for plant to grow without being burnt to death. The growing season is just starting in earnest, and this weekend’s farmers’ market was jam-packed with truckloads of fresh local produce and crowds of freezing local people. Starfruit and radishes and the famous Florida oranges, Floridians wrapped in their warmest winter garb for the bracing 65 degree morning. (Tragically, pathetically, I am one of them, shivering in my pashmina in the sunshine.) 

There were masses of the giant beetle-shiny avocados, slices of which I’ve been smearing on slabs of baguette and topping with sprouts for a mid-morning, mid-afternoon, midnight snack.

And lots of dogs, big brawny goldens smiling at tiny sweatered pomeranians. Even a few corgis, all of which I petted with extra love.

It’s nice to not be shoving sunglasses up my sweaty face and instead be cozily wrapped up in my Northwesterner fleece as I pace the market looking for sun-lit vegetables.

Even though it was still solidly within breakfast hours, I couldn’t help myself from getting a fresh grouper taco from the fish van. Big filet of just-grilled grouper topped with chunky avocado-cucumber salsa-guac, lime cream, and lightly pickled cabbage. I felt very content with the world as I perched on the curb and ate my mess of a breakfast taco and watched the dogs and octogenarians go by.