Cooking again

Cooking again

So, I’m starting to cook again, which is a relief. Although the Albertson’s frozen lasagna and mac-and-cheese did see me through the worst of it, I always liked cooking, and not being interested was strange to me.

Last weekend I made a soup (I blogged it but then lost the entry in a small snafu) from leftover duck stock I found in the freezer, lentils, sausage and a mix of kale and turnip greens (also from the freezer and last summer’s garden). It was great — the unctuous duck stock is the perfect foil for the slightly bitter turnip greens, the lentils provide the perfect neutral base note, and the garlicky sausages provide the right note of interest. I’ve been eating it for lunch all week, and somehow, in the dead of winter, eating dark greens from the garden feels healthy in both physical and spiritual ways.

Late last summer, I bought a box of salmon from a neighbor. Twenty-five pounds of gorgeous wild salmon that Chris caught himself off the coast of Alaska. It’s packaged in big fillets — one side of salmon per plastic vaccuum pack. And until recently this has sort of defeated me — that’s a lot of salmon for one gal to eat. But last week, after reading an article somewhere about Omega-3 fatty acids and depression (not that I’m depressed — in a family of depressives I’d recognize real depression, but I am still considerably sad and if Omega-3s can help, well then I’m all over it), I got inspired. I threw a salmon side in the fridge to start to thaw, and then when it was just slightly thawed, I cut it into single portions, which I then resealed using my handy seal-a-meal thing I bought last summer. Now I have five portions of yummy salmon in the upstairs freezer. So, last night I had a piece of salmon I’d thawed, and I went downstairs to see what’s in the freezer veggie-wise and noticed that I have a lot of tomatoes left. When the tomatoes came ripe last summer I drizzled them with the parsley-basil oil I made, oven-roasted them and froze them in packages. So last night I put a piece of salmon in a gratin dish, dumped a package of my own tomatoes over them, and baked it for half an hour. It was delicious. It took two minutes to prepare. And it was all home-grown (or caught), and somehow, eating tomatoes from last summer, tomatoes I grew myself and harvested before disaster struck was really comforting.

Today I’m off to Bozeman to do some errands — get my hair cut, that kind of thing. And I’m going to buy half a lamb from Thirteen Mile Ranch. Unlike the lamb I didn’t buy last fall after Patrick died, this one comes already butchered and packaged (although I had been looking forward to watching Matt, of Matt’s Meats butcher my lamb — well, next year). I love lamb, and would eat more of it but finding local lamb in the grocery stores around here is difficult (I’m not sure why), and buying Australian or New Zealand lamb at Costco when I live among sheep ranchers seems the epitome of everything I was hoping to subvert buy starting a garden in the first place. So on the way to get my hair cut, I get a lovely detour out the Springhill road, where I can pick up a box of lamb to go in the freezer with the box of antelope that Parks brought me, and the box of salmon that Chris caught.

I like knowing my food. I like knowing and paying the people who produced (or procured) my food. And as I learned last fall, buying food from people you know, and with whom you live, makes you a part of the community in a really visceral way. And you never know when you’re going to need to rely on your community.

Or as the bumper sticker says around here: “Be a Yokel, Buy Local.”

10 thoughts on “Cooking again

  1. Charlotte, seriously…I believe this post from you will prove to have been the inspiration I’ve long-needed to start a “real” vegetable garden this year. All sorts of excuses (in the past) but not a single good reason. I’ll be sure to let you know if, no, make that *when* I follow through on this thought. Thank you for planting the seed!

  2. Charlotte, I am also a lover of greens but have only enjoyed them fresh from my garden. This year I intend to freeze some as well. I love the bumper sticker. Be a Yokel, Buy Local is now my new motto.

  3. They’re easy to freeze — I found out from all these Extension service websites — you blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling water, dump in an ice bath, drain really well, and freeze. I bought one of those vaccuum sealers and it’s worked wonderfully. All my greens are still bright green and lovely, and delicious. And no fossil fuels were spent trucking them to me!

  4. I woke up this morning thinking about you for some reason; wondering how you were. I’ve been having a terrible time keeping up with my favorite blog/journals lately. I thought I’d stop in and let you know I was praying for you. Sometimes the whole month of February can be a cold lonely month for all kinds of reasons.

    Hope the writing is going well.

  5. Your post reminded me of the scene in “Prince of Tides,” when Lila Wingo finally made what she thought would be the perfect recipe to enter into the Colleton League.

    “She had thawed eight wild ducks that Luke had killed the previous winter. The stock she made from the discarded duck bones and parts was dark as chocolate and its flavor was wild and sun-charged but slightly overpowering…She cooked the ducks slowly with turnips and onions and tart apples and scuppernong grapes from the arbor….

    I was worried about the turnips but my mother assured me that wild duck was the only meat she knew of capable of holding its own against a turnip.”

    It’s good to read you talking about food again.

  6. Oh Rus — thank you. My own prayer life is … well … dry at the moment, so I can’t tell you how deeply I appreciate your prayers.

    And Terrilynn — I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that turnip greens and duck are fabulous — any French bistro cookbook will pair turnips and duck, but somehow, I’m still wonderfully surprised. Thanks for the fabulous quote …

  7. Hey Charlotte – there is good energy frozen in those fruits of last year’s garden – I’m glad you’re finally digging back into them. We are very big on knowing our food here as well….. I have a romantic obsession with canning, but am realizing that for this year’s goals : a winter’s worth of tomatoes, onions, potaotes, greens – a vacuum sealer migh be just what we need to take advantage of our freezer space as well…. Hugs – keep cooking.

  8. Another lamb bumper sticker I’ve always liked – “Eat More Lamb. 20,000 Coyotes Can’t Be Wrong”

    It cracked my brother up. (I was working at a meat packing plant then, and the lamb salesman put them on our cars).

    Mike died 13 years after he saw that sticker. He was still quoting it as one of his favorites and laughing his big laugh.

    My prayers returned a few years later, and I have been saying some heartfelt ones for you.

  9. This was such a beautiful entry.

    I was moved.

    Seriously. All that talk of lamb and veggies and salmon and knowing your food, well, shucks, it just makes a fella want to high-tail it out of New York City and buy hisself a plot of land.

    Happy for you that you’ve found this nirvana.

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