Saturday, June 20, 2009

Old Food

For lunch today, I dolloped kim chi onto egg-roll wrappers, rolled them up and fried them. I made the kim chi myself. This evening, I jarred and refrigerated sauerkraut that I made myself and I pickled some fresh beets. One jar of beets I am pickling with vinegar, sugar, and spices. The other, I am pickling with whey. I "made" the whey myself from yogurt. Typically, I think of whey as a byproduct of cheesemaking, but in this case the cheese was the byproduct--a tangy cream cheese. Before going to bed, I set some black beans to sprouting.

So, what's going on?

Well, for most of my adult life, I have enjoyed cooking and food prep. and I have always felt like the way we buy and prepare food around these parts is pretty disconnected from they way most humanity has and does handle food. I am grateful for the grocery store and that is still where the majority of my food comes from. But I do think that, when the way we approach food is radically different than most of human experience, we have to be somewhat alienated from that experience and the humans who are part of it. As someone who values tradition, I really want to better understand food traditions.

So last year, Skylar and I started a garden. This year it is about double the size but still pretty small. We also got off to a bumpy start with the summer crops, so while dad is Tweeting that he has green tomatoes on the vine, we are thrilled that our plants have cleared eight inches. However we did plant early and late spring crops this year, which is progress.

But the whole preservation and fermenting kick comes from my recent read of Nourishing Traditions (subtitle excised because it is self-contridictory and embarrassing). This is where have learned about fermentation in the history of food culture. So far I have fermented carrots, cabbage, and beets. I look forward to cucs (pickles), tomatoes (ketchup), mushrooms (mushroom ketchup, if you can imagine), and just about every other vegetable I can get my hands on.

Also, we are kombucha-brewin' nuts now. I don't know where I first heard about this fermented tea, but Nourishing Traditions talks about it and I educated myself on the Web. Coincidentally, cousin Zach took a class, so a got a starter culture from him, have multiplied that, and now have three gallons fermenting on staggered schedules.

We bought a dorm fridge at a pawn shop to hold all of my glass jars of fermented/brewed stuff.

Sprouting nuts, seeds, and legumes is apparently another traditional way of getting max nutrients from those foods.

There is a method to my madness. Jaime has a crazy digestive system and it seems that Simon may have inheritted some of it. We have verified via testing by a gastroenterologist that she has an over abundance of some sort of bad flora in her gut. She had begun a regiment of heavy-duty antibiotics to kill this off, but had to stop it due to other health issues. Well, fermented foods are a benifit here in a couple of ways: fermenting using the methods I am learning is pro-biotic. Fermentation increases the growth of the bacteria that are beneficial to your digestive system--some of the same bacteria in live-culture yogurt. Additionally, fermentation is, essentially partially pre-processing food, making it easier for your system to digest.

Anyway, all that stuff is out there on the nets and in various books. Fact is, I love the taste fermented foods like kim chi and kraut and I love making stuff from scratch as much as possible. I am spending scads of time in the kitchen, but I find it very satisfying.

Then of course, there is bread making, which has actually slowed down for me since determining that really great tasting bread requires long rising times. I need to work out the best way to work my schedule with that.

I dream of a life of growing things--vegetables fermenting, kombucha brewing, cheese aging, bread rising, and beer brewing in the house and fruits, vegetables, chicken, rabbits, and whatever else growing outside. Children and grandchildren growing both in and outside (but mostly outside). I have been reading Sharon Astyk's blog and would love to have something similar, but in town. Whether or not I realize that dream, anything I do to grow/make my own food is incredibly satisfying.

I'm hungry now.

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