I love to cook good food. I hate to cook bland, ordinary, tossed together from cans of stuff food. When I get a new cookbook I ignore the recipes that tout the convenience of canned soups, frozen vegetables and cheys whez (deliberate misspelling). I want a cookbook full of recipes that start with “Pluck the goose…” and “dig about a half bushel of new potatoes…”
Ingredients. Basic, looks-the-way-God-made-it ingredients. I love peasant cooking.
Wherever I live and whoever my local friends are, I want to know how they cook and eat. I want to dig into their ethnicity and learn how to make posole, verenyky, and oyster pan roast. I am overjoyed when I am given a five pound, irregular hunk of moose roast or ten pounds of blue potatoes. If there wasn’t a slow food movement already, I would start one. And it wouldn’t be the foodie version that includes truffles, unless I had a truffle-seeking pig of my own.
Our local food in the dead of winter is potatoes. Red, white, yellow. We eat a lot of potatoes in various ways. I scrub and quarter them, pour a dab of olive oil on them and sprinkle them with dried herbs, then roast them at 350F for forty minutes or so. We also have turnip, apples and onions, and about half a cabbage. The carrots are gone. The turnip was finished tonight. I have about 30 pounds of potatoes left, nine pounds or so of onions, a few apples and the last of the Christmas clementines. I will use the last of the canned tomato sauce this week. I do have garlic and ginger, neither local products. I will have to shop by the end of the week.
I delve into my Scottish and British cookbooks for food ideas in the winter – Lancashire hotpot, shepherd’s pie. The older Mennonite and Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks are great sources of getting-by food. The newer ones have too many canned soup and cheys whez recipes. Even in the most traditional cultures, the ways change, and the housewives can get to a store more often. I am just a few miles from a moderately good grocery store. I could buy all the cheys whez and canned mushroom soup I want. (Which is none, but if that is what I have, I will use it and be grateful. And contrary to popular belief, the neon orange cheys in a jar is not actually one molecule away from plastic. That doesn’t mean it is a nutritious choice, but it won’t turn to playdough in your veins, after all.)
But what is the point of homesteading if every time we “feel like some nachos” we climb into the Dakota and roar down the backroad to buy some corn chips and neon cheys product? If we can’t make it through a few weeks on the plentiful though plain provisions we have, how can we expect to make it through a year on food we grew ourselves? Because cheys whez is not a crop.
We won’t be living off the land entirely this year. This is the year to try out different kinds of garden produce, to see how many chickens we need and learn how to make our own goats’ milk cheese. There will be some error, and it will be really nice to have the Spend Easy just down the highway. We may never be able to get away from buying grain products unless we can get more acreage. But I am expecting that this year will take the easy livin’ weight off our midriffs and duffs.