IMG_20171125_185538.jpgHope you like the picture of my cranberry sauce, the one made with the the recipe that used to be (still is?) on the packaging bag– cranberries blended with a whole orange, and sugar. This year I made it in advance with a little kombucha to enliven, in the hopes that it would keep longer without fermenting alcoholically… and be a bit probiotic.

Every year I celebrate Thanksgiving here in Britain, as a touchstone with my kids to the traditions I grew up with. For a decade now at least I’ve made a discussion of the history of the colonisation of the Americas part of what goes on– exploring the myths and lies of the holiday, and the shared experience of native peoples there.. I can’t really sit with the historic (and contemporary) violence without acknowledging it. When I read Anna Brones’s piece below, it was so spot on, I wanted to share it here on my blog.

As people in Britain increasingly celebrate this holiday, feeling grateful and loving with friends and family, enjoying the seasonal foods of autumn, gathering to feast, I hope there will not be here the same mistake as in the US– feeling grateful for everything we have at the expense of what people have lost, often horrifically, to make that happen for “us.”

anna brones

For many of us, our associations with Thanksgiving are mostly about food. Cranberries, pumpkin pies, stuffing and all those other things that turns the food media world into a seasonal frenzy of recipes and roundups. It’s a holiday where we’re encouraged to gather with our friends and family and be thankful, showing gratitude for what’s on the table and the people we share it with.

These are admirable ideals, however when we talk about Thanksgiving, share iconic recipes, gather around the table, we avoid the harsh reality of a holiday with a dark past, one of slavery, plague and massacres. At its core, Thanksgiving is a story of genocide, and instead of facing that reality, it’s a holiday that we have chosen to mythologize, erasing real stories and people along the way. Instead of the truth, the false narrative around Thanksgiving allows us to focus on the easy stuff…

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Social Media really can widen one’s awareness of what goes on in the world.  So lucky me, on Instagram, happening to follow some fermenting accounts located, at the time of the Hurricanes, in Puerto Rico.

Of course as the storms bore down I wondered what my friends’ experience would be with their fermented foods, as a kind of disaster-proof preservation, through the violence of the storms: no electricity, no problem! But I did find myself worrying about them a little, especially with long radio silences that ensued.

(Well, it’s been pretty bad, as we all know, and I personally like to shout loud and clear the words CLIMATE FUCKING CHAOS as “weather” events keep getting wilder and more destructive.  CLIMATE ACTION NOW!  Let’s hope something radical happens in Bonn.)

The rebirth of the ancient arts of fermentation in the past decades have sprung from different sources including culinary creativity with diverse cultural influence, an interest in raw foods and nutrition, deep need for microbiome healing, an awareness of the mega-problem of food waste and the fantastic resource that is home-grown, glut-prone produce.

There has also been a kind of prepper strain– make that sauerkraut for the end of the world! As the end-of-the-world seems to be popping up here and there all over the globe for lots of people (and thankfully then beginning again), it’s a gift to our fermenting movement that Feast Yr Ears on Heritage Radio Network interviewed Brittany Lukowsky of @preservadovieques, an Instagram mate.

Have a listen to Brittany interviewed by Harry Rosenblum of The Brooklyn Kitchen (and author of the very useful and inspiring new book Vinegar Revival). They discuss many topics, paint a picture of life on the island before and after the hurricanes and a sense of the abundance and ease that fermented foods offer in a crisis situation.  Was disturbing to hear about how bees lost all their natural forage.  But inspiring to hear of the delicious curries Brittany was making.  It’s a close-in look at what surviving a hideous natural disaster might be like. Do listen:

FERMENTATION PRESERVES LIFE IN VIEQUES AFTER HURRICANE MARIA

 

Meanwhile, the heroic chef  Jose Andres has been organising amazing kitchens and networks of chefs to feed people throughout Puerto Rico, one part of the puzzle, and you can be inspired here.

Here’s a foundation to donate money to help rebuild Puerto Rican agriculture with an emphasis on local food security and food sovereignty . I learned about this through @eldeparamentodelafood and read about some of this work here.  There’s the worry that because the agricultural (and horticultural) sectors have been so utterly destroyed, this might be a shock doctrine kind of moment for export agriculture, when what is needed and wanted so hopefully is the opposite– the rebuilding of an agro-ecological way of growing that can meet food needs locally.

In New York City, there’s the @queerkitchenbrigade, cooking and pickling and sending delicious, healthful food to home islands where people really need this good nutrition.  They can use our help!

 

 

This piece asks what Wales might learn about food systems from the Isle of Man. Two small places in the bigger picture. But the bigger and bigger places also have much to ask and to learn, and to embody “the universal values of place-based development.” A really relevant article.

Maniffesto Bwyd | Food Manifesto

By Jane Powell

Bees hover over marigolds, cornflowers and yarrow in full bloom around the edges of a field of beans which stand blackened and dry, ready for harvest. Beyond, the land slopes down to the valley bottom, where small herds of South Devon cattle are grazing the species-rich wetland meadows. Hedgerows abundant with blackberries, hawthorn and guelder rose divide Guilcagh farm up into small parcels, where Jo Crellin also grows wheat for milling and hay for the horses of the nearby riding school. This is the Isle of Man, where the sunny low-lying northern tip, in the rain shadow of Snaefell, is well suited to cereal cultivation.

We’re on a walk organized by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, and the co-existence of food production and nature is certainly a strong theme of the discussion. There is also a historical dimension: archaeological evidence suggests that people were growing wheat…

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IMG_20170904_121123.jpgIt’s a bit terrifying beneath the skies controlled by Rocket Man and Barking Dog, when you know a misunderstanding or miscalculation, based on rabid ego or hungry id and advanced technological war toys, could render apocalypse for a terrible number of people.

And speaking of people, so many of us around the world have developed a fantastic love for Kimchi, food of the lands of Rocket Man – a salty, sour, umami, often fishy and spicy pickle that opens the taste buds and the heart– not that the germ-phobic Barking Dog would ever try a food so microbially rich.

It was with a personal prayer for understanding and peace that I experimented making Aubergine Kimchi in August. Aubergines were 39p a piece at a local supermarket, which felt unbelievably cheap for our neck of the woods. I’d been interested in the method for Ukrainian Sour Aubergines in Olia Hercules’s  Mamushka. Instead of beginning to ferment aubergines from raw, as do many American and British recipes, Read the rest of this entry »

The Landworkers Alliance “is an organisation of farmers, growers and land-based workers… campaigning for policies to support the infrastructure and markets central to members livelihoods, building alliances and encouraging solidarity. [They] also raise awareness of the role that small-scale producers, family farmers and land-based workers play in providing food security, environmental stewardship, rural livelihoods, strong communities, animal welfare and high-quality affordable food.” Here are some films they’ve just made– really worth watching.

Here’s a really nice film documenting people getting together to grow their own food with support from an organisation called Community Foodie.

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Shredded CARROTS and RADISHES, RUBYKRAUT, PICKLED CHILLIS and CELERY, CORIANDER, DILL, OIL and SCRAP APPLE BLACKBERRY VINEGAR.

Often when I teach workshops, participants seeking the health benefits of fermented foods ask about consuming them: how do we eat these foods? how do we incorporate them into our diet, our day, our meals? How do we use the ferments we make?

So I launch into my talk on the variable use of the word “pickle” and the idea of a savoury morsel, and sauerkraut and kimchi as foods that go as condiments or digestives or piquant flavour-rounders with many other foods.  And of course you can cook with ferments, and traditionally around the world many functioned to preserve raw ingredients later to be be used in cooked dishes like soups and stews. I explain how I like to toss kraut and small pieces of pickles in green salads, and sometimes to puree them in dressings, and to add probiotic, succulent brine to bolster flavour and acid. Raw is good for maximum bacterial benefit.

Lately I’ve been layering ferments in root vegetable salads.  These salads are nourishing, delicious, filling, and can be invented truly from what’s on hand in a well-stocked kitchen of local and seasonal ingredients. If you find yourself fermenting, then you’ll have interesting, creative fermented elements to incorporate, for endless possibilities, into your meals.

The formula I’ve been obsessed with is so basic: shredded roots, layered with a ferment and fresh herbs, then dressed.  And add whatever you like. Proportions are yours to decide. Leftovers are yours to use up.  Alliums, garlic, ginger and spices– yours to choose.

Here are a few salads I’ve made recently on this theme.

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Shredded BEETROOT and LEEK, RED ONIONS, SAUERKRAUT w white cabbage, spring greens, radish tops, coriander and cumin seed and ginger, PARSLEY, RED PEPPERS, Olive Oil and Vinegar.

 

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SWEDE (rutabaga), CARROT, KIMCHI with dandelion, cleavers, alexanders, chives, CORIANDER LEAF, DILL, YELLOW and RED PEPPERS, OLIVE OIL, LEMON JUICE, SESAME OIL.

 

 

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SWEDE, CARROT, LEEK, CELERY, some smashed PRESERVED LEMON, SAUERKRAUT, DILLWEED, AVOCADO,  the TURMERIC-Y BOTTOM of a JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE PICKLE, Olive Oil. (Fish would have been so nice in this!)

 

 

 

 

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Through all these years fermenting vegetables, I have often wondered why there is so little a tradition of this kind of food preservation in Britain.  Did the prevalence of beer easily make malt vinegar available for vinegar pickling? Perhaps the relatively mild winters meant less of a hunger gap than in colder climes eastward? Maybe the early entrance of rural workers into a wage economy cause an earlier loss of indigenous food traditions? Might there be foodways left to be discovered? I’d like to believe this last, but I don’t have an answer.

I scour old cookbooks and find not much– perhaps an occasional mention of making fizzy drinks with “yeast” (which of course could so easily be wild rather than derived from baking and wine making)  — elderflower champagne, for example, or bottled drinks of burdock and dandelion, or nettle.  But these are sugar ferments, and different from preserving in brine with bioactive bacteria– i.e. sauerkraut, kimchi, cucumber pickles. Somewhere in Hannah Glasse I once read a reference to wedges of cabbage in salt brine– but that didn’t feel like a common cultural practice.

It was a thrill when I learned about Beetroot Stout, a delicious, nourishing, medicinal vegetable-based cocktail.  When I queried Glyn Hughes of the incredible site The Foods of England Project, he responded  that the only thing  that came to mind for him was  Potato Cheese (to England– only hypothetically– via Germany):

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Enter a caption

http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/potatocheese.htm/ Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 19 July 1855

The immediate association was with Kishk, a Middle Eastern cultured milk and bulgur wheat ferment, Read the rest of this entry »

16939130_10212262234370809_3631159052469427728_n.jpgI’m excited indeed to have a piece in the current issue of Comestible Journal, a really creatively curated and political US-based food journal / zine. Here for example is the table of contents in this current issue, Winter, No. 4, that I’m a part of. You can order a copy , as well as art work and past publications, here; I thoroughly recommend “Protest Fuel” in particular; its a brilliant food-people’s response to the political moment of this new presidency.

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Does the Food Movement’s Elitism Hinder Our Progress? Some Reflections of “Fast, Cheap and Easy”

A few years ago I was in a convenience shop with my young children, who kept pestering me for the various processed crap purposefully positioned, as we all know, in every aisle. I was growing impatient and cranky. The words shot sternly out of my mouth: “That’s junk food. We are not junky people.”

Never would I have considered myself the kind of a person to label others as “junky” and ascribe morality to eating choices. But I’d actually used the word; did I believe it? Did I also believe I was raising my children to be better than those other “junky” kids? I felt sure that my whole grains and limited sugar diet were making them healthier, but was I also inculcating in them elitism and us-vs-them notions about choices people make? The words appalled me so much that they became a stepping-stone of introspection, leading me to question my values surrounding food.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Last weekend I was incredibly moved to be in the presence of seeds descended from those which Vavilov and his colleagues saved under wartime duress (i.e. a Stalinist prison, and starvation).  These were exhibited as part of the Artes Mundi exhibition at National Museum Cardiff in which the Futurefarmers collective of artists installed visuals to their “Seed Journey” exploration of the history and future of seeds as part of our common heritage. Amy Franceschini explains some of the project in this video below:

A few days later I found myself working at an event where Anne Parry of Felin Galon Watermill was speaking on behalf of her visionary efforts to network farmers, millers, brewers and bakers around “Welsh Grain.” We talked a bit about the Cardiff exhibition, and she shared that some Welsh grown wheat had gone off on the sea-faring adventures of FutureFarmers.

So exciting! I went home and wrote to Anne, asking if she could write a paragraph for this blog, sharing the story.  And she responded:

“As part of their Seed Journey the Flatbread Society were meeting with Andy Forbes of the Brockwell Bake in London. The Welsh Grain Forum has been collaborating with Andy, who is wonderfully knowledgeable and committed, to reintroduce the wheat Hen Gymro back to Wales….so since The Seed Journey group were travelling to Cardiff it seemed appropriate that we celebrate this by them symbolically bringing us a sheaf of Hen Gymro from Andy when they came up to Cardiff. (Pics from the Brockwell Bake gallery here). About half a dozen WGF members were able to be there and it turned out to be a simple, inspiring and encouraging event where we received the wheat, gave them samples of Hen Gymro grown once more in Wales, and other Welsh grown heritage cereals, to take on their journey and then shared bread and cakes baked with our locally grown and milled flour. There’s something about the it by Artes Mundi here , and stuff on our Welsh Grain Workshop page and on Rupert Dunn’s Torth y Tir page.”

Really wanted to share this wonderful story which gives Hen Gymro an epic adventure, its itself part of the whole global Story of seeds, grain, people, history.


And now, a moment with Johnny Cash, and an affecting photomontage:

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