When something hits Time Magazine, you know it has officially arrived. I'm not saying your mom and Aunt Sally won't still roll their eyes when you start talking about the importance of pasture or eating locally over Thanksgiving dinner, but they will at least have heard about this stuff. Progress! Here's the Time article on grass-fed beef, and here's their article on the 100-mile diet.
I've started a sourdough with flour from Maine. I used just filtered tap water and flour. No yeast! This is more a symbolic and aesthetic gesture than an indication of real purism. I love the idea of local wild yeast slowly growing and fermenting, ultimately ending in truly local bread.
I haven't made sourdough in a long time, mostly because a commitment to frequent baking is required to make it worthwhile. It may take me a while to get back in the swing. My friend E., who is married to the cheese salesman, keeps a sourdough going that is very much rooted in her kitchen - all her bread tastes just a little like cheese. The sourdough must pick up on certain cultures from some of the cheeses. My kitchen is less fertile with living foods, but I'm working to change that. My sourdough was bubbling a bit last night, so it seems all is well.
All was not well, sadly, with my first attempt at sauerkraut. You see, I am essentially an idiot when it comes to math. I have a somewhat impressionistic relationship to numbers, and, as a results, sometimes I put in twice the necessary salt. Not often, but sometimes. So my sauerkraut, still in its early days, tasted about as salty as a cheap dill pickle. I dumped it. Fortunately, the cost of salt and cabbage is negligible. I can afford to start another batch this weekend.
The sauerkraut project is unnecessary, at least as far as obtaining local ingredients goes. I can't yet get local cabbage, and I can buy excellent local sauerkraut from the good people at RealPickles. But I am feeling a deep need to have a living kitchen, full of fermenting things and growing things and slow-cooking things - the stocks and breads and fermented pickles and fine homemade things that give a kitchen a soul and a sense of place. I want these things to relate to the place around me, the New England fields and woods that I love. This is partly just a growing need for connection to my food source, but also I know a reaction to the death of my friend. Her illness was strange and complicated, but resulted in part from her neglect of her body in many, many ways, including failure to eat genuinely nourishing food.
Our culture tends to split food into two groups - the bad-for-you-and-delicious and the good-for-you-and-awful. It's a match-up between a bacon double-cheeseburger and brown-rice with tofu. One day indulgence wins, the next day guilt wins, and both sides entrench their positions. But fast food really tastes terrible, and a lot of the health food options at your local co-op are highly nutritionally and environmentally suspect, despite their reassuring flavorlessness and green packaging. I don't want to eat like a McDonald's-scarfing American or a Gourmet-obsessed foodie or a hairshirt hippie. I want honest food, sustaining and good, that's all.
(I also don't want to eat like this guy. I love the Onion.)