Farm to Table Fare
Wherever you are, let this be a time to celebrate your culinary landscape and its bountiful ingredients. Eat what is in season today and every day.
I would like to share with you the value of carefully sourcing what you eat and how you prepare your meals, both at home and abroad. I want to introduce you to the time-honored traditions of the farm to table movement. I truly hope that this gift will preserve family ties, tradition, and hope for the future of food and stewardship of land—and don’t forget clean eating for optimal health and longevity! The food that is grown as close to home as possible is the food I want on my table and on yours.
When it comes to my romance with food, nothing could have prepared me better than my early childhood in Upstate New York’s melting pot of culture. Prepared by true pioneers of growing and cooking from scratch, home-grown, hand-made, home-cooked food was always on our plates! Some of my fondest childhood memories involve berry picking at my grandmother’s house on my way home from school. Equally memorable were the hot summer days in our family garden picking fresh herbs, string beans, lettuces, summer squash, and vine-ripened tomatoes. We ate peaches, juicy slices of watermelon, and sweet corn that we shucked ourselves. In the fall, we drove through the covered bridges of Vermont to pick apples in orchards and pumpkins from great patches. And in the winter, the fragrance of home-baked bread, cakes, and holiday cookies filled the house along with the incredible smell of citrus peel, clove, and rosemary which my mother set on hot plates in her beautiful red and white porcelain cooker. I can still smell the love.
Fast forward a few years to when I spent 20+ years extensively traveling the globe, learning about the menus, flavor profiles, and ingredients of both American and multicultural cuisines. Eating my way around the world, I encountered the best and the worst places in the world to eat – and I loved every bite! Through the streets of the UK, I enjoyed high tea at the Ritz, paper-wrapped cod and chips by the Dover seaside, tikka masala in Sheffield, and the world’s largest Naan bread at Pushkar Birmingham. In Eastern European countries of Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, I found natural food preservation and preparation practices such as pickling foods in the cold winters and the traditional creation of delightful cottage cheese and rye bread. I had caviar and blinis in Russia, konditeris in Germany, profiteroles and roasted chestnuts in Paris, sweet homemade crepes St. Petersburg. I ate dates straight from the trees in the Tel Aviv and kebabs prepared by students at a Kibbutz near the Golan Heights on the border of Israel and Jordan. I shopped daily for my meals in the Mediterranean, drank coffee in Venice, and caroused the villages in Tuscany while eating fresh-picked grapes and homemade bread with chopped, farm-fresh salad and pure olive oil. I enjoyed fresh fruit in the rain forests of South American and the South Pacific. I partook in early morning service in Tokyo with a bowl of steamed rice and cup of miso soup. These formative experiences with local fare helped me to develop a discerning taste and a wealth of ideas for creating my own signature recipes. I encourage you in your travels to branch out and experience the local flavors. You will bring a great deal of life and spontaneity to your table by eating local.
Today, I reminisce on my memories of Idaho, its beauty and its bounty. I spent years there as a cater and personal/private chef. Boise has some of the most delicious produce, meat, fish and dairy I have ever eaten produced by amazing, traditional small-scale farmers and artisans. Nothing could be finer than just-picked, sun-ripened, local heirloom tomatoes or delicately soft, vibrant red berries. I enjoyed slender green beans, sweet pea pods, and tender stalks of asparagus; extraordinary cucumbers and an incredible variety of leafy kale; delightful earthly tubers and root veggies, such as fingerling potatoes, onions, and carrots. I regularly admired the orchards full of crispy pie apples, succulent apricots, and the ever-bearing cherry trees. This area also introduced me to many fragrant, unique herbs like Greek oregano, rare varieties of mint, lavender, and lemon thyme. Idaho also offers fantastic wine merchants, coffee roasters, cheese makers, and bakers who allure you with the most tempting flavors. It will also be no surprise to you that Idaho boasts some of the finest quality of pasture-free, organic eggs, poultry, beef, pork, and lamb. Oh, I miss you, beautiful Idaho. Where else can you walk the canals and eat the freshly-fallen, ripe apricots on an afternoon walk? Or pick plump berries in the foothills? Or eat just-caught fish fries at Sage Hen Reservoir? It doesn’t get better than that.
I challenge you, no matter where you are, to join in the movement and support your local and regional foods and artisans’ economy. Seek out farmers’ markets, ranchers, fisherman, artisan bakers, pasta and cheese makers; find specialty producers of holistic pet treats; discover locally-made honey, salsa, and sweets; research free-trade coffee roasters and great wine makers. From floral arrangements, clothes and jewelry, linens, and bath and body products to toys and art, you can purchase nearly anything from a local purveyor. When dining out, find a local market, a food truck event, or a restaurant with a farm to table menu. Even better, these establishments may have great cookbooks that you can use to reproduce the same great recipes at home!
That’s pretty much it. As the challenge begins, break out the invitations. Call some family and friends over to enjoy a local, seasonally-inspired, farm to table meal prepared from scratch at your home. Steam some local veggies with a little sea salt and olive oil. Pan-fry a fresh catch, lightly seasoned with local herbs. Slice a loaf of sprouted-grain bread. Skewer some fruit for a little fun. Maybe share in some libation with a good bottle of local wine or a spiked coffee cocktail. This is your chance to celebrate your culinary landscape, take part in its bountiful ingredients, and eat what’s in season, today and every day.