Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What I've learned so far

What I've learned so far...

1) Starch makes you feel full. I don't know how the Atkins crowd can claim they are never hungry. I've been on a near-Atkins diet for four days, heavy on the meat, dairy and vegetables, and I'm pretty much always hungry. I would pay through the teeth for some local potatoes. Soon?

2) And, speaking of paying through the teeth, local fruit is expensive. Local vegetables are about the same as supermarket, my local meat is cheaper than comparable organic meat, but local fruit is really expensive. And, apparently, I can hoover up a quart of strawberries in no time. Which brings me to ....

3) I eat a lot. Really, I must eat all the time. Now I understand why I'm chubby, because I eat all day long. This is much harder to do when you can't just buy stuff. Planning out my eating ahead is making me painfully aware of how much I usually eat between meals. The meals are about the same, but the between-meal munching is much more problematic. Which reminds me..

4) Stopping to get a bite or a drink is a big part of my life. By far the hardest part of this experiment is not giving up my favorite foods or having to cook all my meals. It's not being able to stop while walking around in the city to sit and have a coffee or a drink. Urban folk buy the right to sit down in public with the purchase of food or drink. And restaurants do not have all-local options.

Actually, this is a pretty big problem. I don't drive, so summer in the city is hard enough as it is. No running off to the pond or the ocean for me. I don't even have a yard, so no barbecue or gardening. That pretty much leaves walking around, puttering in used book or cd shops, going to the marvelously empty museums, and, most of all, sitting in cafes or bars, watching the world walk by. I don't know if I'm going to be able to give that up for whole month. I don't know that I want to. But giving it up so far has shown me how much I take it for granted.

5) Jonnycakes are hard to make. Here's John Thorne on the subject:

Let's be honest: unless you come from Rhode Island, a true jonnycake isn't
worth make for anyone but yourself. They're tricky to make and no one will thank
you for the effort - at least until they've acquired the taste. Why make them?
Well, they taste like that crisp crust that forms of the bottom of the mush pot,
a mouthful of hot crunchy corn. If that and the pleasure of working a delicacy
out of unpromising and reluctant material is the sort of thing to appeal to you,
the effort pays for itself.

Well, maybe. But I wasn't able to achieve sufficient success to really speak to
jonnycakes with any authority. I will say that Gray's Grist Mill produces an
amazing cornmeal, full of bright flavor, a revelation of how good cornmeal can
be. But my jonnycakes were a disaster, the lovely crust coming away from the
cake every time, leaving a sticky footprint on my cast-iron skillet. I gave up
on cast iron and switched to my tiny, rarely-used Teflon pan. Two miniature
jonnycakes cooked slowly, slowly, and I was finally rewarded with the promised
flavor and crunch - two whole bites-worth. I gave up for the time being and
had a couple eggs instead. I think the secret might be a real griddle, not
a skillet, and a very thin spatula. I will try again, but in the meantime..

6) I can make a silk purse of a sow's ear. Or rather, I can make a very
nice dinner out of leftover jonnycake batter, which is essentially polenta. I
put it in the fridge until dinnertime, then dotted the top with butter and
broiled it to get that lovely crunchy crust. I then served it topped with
sauteed mushrooms, re-hydrated dried mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes (Sangha
Farm, Ashfield, MA, 109 miles), fresh oregano, pepper and paprika, plus a
spoonful of smoked goat's cheese, and a side of beet greens and early garlic.

7) I've learned I could live happily on goat's cheese.

8) Oh, and about those mushrooms? I've learned to doublecheck labels. There's a mushroom grower in Connecticut that used to provide mushrooms for the Harvest Coop. The store carried two types of mushrooms, the ones from California and the ones from Connecticut, and I bought the Connecticut ones all winter. So yesterday I picked up the California mushrooms, read the label, put them down, picked up the other mushrooms, and bought them, only to notice while cleaning up AFTER dinner that they came from Pennsylvania. Not the same mushrooms. So I've fallen off the wagon, inadvertently. Bugger all.


plentyo'moxie said...

speaking of mushrooms and provinence - on your recommendation, i looked up the oyster creek mushroom company from damariscotta, me. i had an inkling that *all* of those delicious varieties couldn't be from maine - i was only a little right. the morels are from montana. otherwise, either grown by the company itself or purchased from local foragers. and they are gorgeous, gorgeous dried mushrooms. crazy superior to any others i've worked with.

Pyewacket said...

You gotta keep on your toes! Thanks for the info - fortunately, I ordered the "Maine mix," which so far has not included any morels. I can imagine Maine would be a nice place for mushrooming, all damp and shady...

Nio said...

When I lived in Central Square, I used to shop at the Harvest Coop. It was right down the street from my apartment.

Yuck, mushrooms.

J. said...

I just stumbled on your blog, and I have to say, I really admire what you're doing. It's not easy, at all, to eat local, especially in the winter months.

I'm a bread maker, and I've been considering milling my own flour at home. There's a couple of farms in Vermont (about 5 hours away) that sell organic wheat berries pretty cheap. $10-$15 per 50 pound bag. But I'm wondering whether you've had any luck finding a closer source of local grain.

I've considered ordering online (not local, I know) but shipping would just kill me. More expensive than the grain itself ....

J. said...

Oh, one other thing. If making your own sourdough starter didn't work out, I'd be glad to give you some of mine. I've always got extra, and it kills me to throw it away.

email me at

jmiller at removespam daviesmurphy.com

if you want some. I'm just up the road in Watertown.

Anonymous said...

nice blog, and the pics are good too. I LOVE mushrooms.

Kristin said...

Have you seen Edible Boston yet? Being the first issue, it's a little thin, but the content is good and there's a great review of the Sam Fromartz book.

Walter Jeffries said...

I am curious as to what are your local prices for veggies and meat? It would be interesting if you could post some. e.g., how much do locally grown pork chops cost or half a pig or a whole pig? How much do locally grown tomatoes, lettuce, apples, brocolli, etc cost? I would offer to start buy we buy so little and grow most of our own that I don't have numbers for most things. I did see a sign on a farm stand of brocolli for $2.49 but I don't know if that was per head or per pound. They also had a sign of tomatoes $2.89/lb. We sell our pork for what comes out to about $3.61 per pound in the freezer including all costs (half pig=75 lbs of cuts, slaughter, butchering).