Verisimilitude

The 9 course meal we ate on Saturday night  was completely sourced from a 100 mile radius of the restaurant.  Given its location just east of Seattle, it was no surprise that salmon,  geoduck, mussels, and oysters were on the menu. We also ate local lamb and pork. All the veggies like turnips, carrots, greens, cabbage, potatoes, beets, and cucumber came from the restaurant farm, as did all the herbs and flowers used in the dishes.  (Day lilies, Marigolds, and Bachelor Buttons are surprisingly tasty.)  There were lovely local mushrooms. All the wines had been commissioned from local vintners by the restaurant owners last year for the meal.  Cooking fat was either butter, grape seed oil, or hazelnut oil. They grow quinoa locally, and we had that, too.

The restaurant owners went to the extreme, though, to make sure that everything we ate was from within 100 miles.  That meant that they churned their own butter from milk from local cows, and planted a couple of acres of rye and wheat to mill their own flour for the bread. They collected clean local sea water to make their own salt. We had no pepper, but there were so many farm herbs in the food that we didn’t miss it at all. Lemon verbena provided all the citrus we needed. The biggest dilemma was what to use for locally sourced leavening for the hazelnut cakes we had for dessert.

They started out last year collecting mule deer antlers from within a 100 mile radius of the farm  and grinding them to a powder. Horn is apparently a good leavening agent and made some pretty good cakes. It takes a lot of laborious, time consuming grinding, though, and they found an even better leavening agent  in wood ash from the fire place. Who knew?

Plan a meal completely sourced from a 100 mile radius of your house. What would you serve?

 

41 thoughts on “Verisimilitude”

  1. sounds like a great meal
    what a fun trip
    it nice you all enjoy food so much
    i think minnesota wine is ok not great
    there are some new distillery’s that do gin vodka and whiskey but that’s also only ok

    grass fed beef is supposed to be good from here
    farmers markets are better than wal mart for tomato’s but i’m not certain a 100 mile radius is considered
    there is a restaurant here called birch wood that’s been on the local food bandwagon for a long time
    nice theme
    but my shirt sox and underwater
    glasses frames gasoline car parts all come from elsewhere
    what are you going to do?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. RIse and Shine Baboons,

    This concept, which the chefs of the world have been pretty taken with over the last decade, is something that just strikes me as an ordinary occurrence and just not that interesting. I think my farm roots are showing. Both sets of my grandparents grew and preserved food that supported their families. My grandmothers harvested, canned, froze, slaughtered everything that went in our mouths. We bought all our meat from my uncle (who lived 90 miles away right on the boundary line of S. Dakota and MN). The novelty of all this just escapes me. I guess I had such different experiences from the eaters of the world that followed my Iowa farm habits.

    If I was having a meal and a 100 mi menu I would choose August as the time for the dinner with the following:

    Walleye
    Wild Rice (maybe more than 100 mi, but certainly regional)
    Tomato/basil salad from my garden
    Sweet Corn
    Dessert—Wild plum pudding from my old pioneer recipe (the plums are ripening nicely. I came home with some from N. MN this weekend). The rum in the sauce is probably outside of the 100 mi limit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Renee, This meal gave you such rich blog ideas. Must have been a fun evening with your daughter. She sounds like a budding social worker who I would enjoy.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I told her this meal was a once in a lifetime experience, so rarified and ridiculous it was. She had a good time and even ate the fish courses. She liked the oysters the best of all the fish.

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    2. I agree. Sourcing from a 100-mile radius doesn’t seem that remarkable if you consider that’s a 200 mile circle and can include both domestic and wild products. The arrangers of the meal must have sensed that too. Otherwise why the culinary gymnastics of mule deer antlers and fireplace ashes if all you need is a bit of something alkaline? Or why not just choose a dessert that doesn’t need leavening? My suggestion of beer and pizza was not entirely smartypants. Local beer compares much better to all possible beers than local wine does. And pizza can take so many forms and toppings that it can be as elegant as you wish it to be without the sense that you are somehow fetishizing the food.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I think those of us who grew up close to the source of most of our food, and before preservation options and transportation made it possible to ship food all over the globe, forget that a lot of big city folks these days have a different relationship to their food. I think that pioneers like Alice Waters have done a great deal to restore our awareness and appreciation of locally sourced food.

        When I walk the aisles of my local supermarkets, I’m overwhelmed with the amounts of processed foods, and I don’t even want to think about where the meats came from. I’ll take the locally sources foods any day, and I do think it’s a big deal that our awareness has been raised.

        The “eat local and seasonal” movement is a push back to the notion that just because we can have “exotic” food any time of the year, it isn’t necessarily the best use of our resources. Nor is it our healthiest or tastiest option. Seems to me that, as with so many things, you can carry this to ridiculous extremes. On the whole, though, I think it’s a principle worth striving for whenever possible – and for a lot of different reasons.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree that it is a principle worth striving for—until the craze for it started, it had never occurred to me NOT to eat that way. I have always cooked and I have tried to avoid processed foods forever. The notable exception was Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, which my very picky son loved as a child. It was one of the few foods he would reliably eat. I used it out of desperation. It has not graced my house for 20 years, though. And he is now quite the gourmet eater—the pickiness was left behind.

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      2. This time of year, including a couple months back and a couple months in the future, is a nice time to eat local (although I’m not about to go without salt or use ashes for leavening in my baking – or do without chocolate) but come February, March, April, if you haven’t put summer in a jar and you try to eat seasonal food, it gets to be tiresome. I call it the “I’m sick of turnips” time.

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    3. Regarding wild plums:
      from Wool Gathering (1867) by Gail Hamilton

      But we have been so long hard at work on our farm, that we have surely earned a holiday. We will go a plumming, and the fame of our plums shall resound afar. It is amusing to put Minnesoteans to a cross-examination on the fruit-crops. Apples? O yes! Certainly. There is no reason why she should not have as fine a crop of apples as the East or the South. Still, one cannot help noticing that, however large may be her potential fruit crop, the apples that you actually see come from the lower States. And it must be admitted that the fruit of Minnesota is at least a little coy. It will not unsought be won.

      This is a general fact, but there is one illustrious exception, for Minnesota is prodigal of plums. Wild in the woods, like berries, the great, beautiful red globes hang on the trees in tempting abundance,—almost as luscious as their cultivated kin-folk. Out we go in the pleasant afternoon of the Indian summer, strolling through the brown, sunshiny fields, crisp and warm to the feet,—aromatic with the essence of the thousand flowers which the summer has distilled; wandering along the steep banks of the blue rushing river, roaring over his rocks, and whirling with many an eddy and many a soft ripple round his green little islands; winding in single file along the narrow path through the copse at the foot of the hill, on whose southern slope the mingled shade and sunshine of oak groves flicker softly around a pleasant home. The copse is aglow now with splendid colors, and its burnished leaves shine ruddy and dazzling in the sun. But its saucy fingers play witch-work with straying garments, and twitch at Jamie’s curls most teasingly, as his bright little head goes bobbing along the path before me, just on a level with the shrubs, and the spring of his swift feet is as evasive and as fascinating as heat-lightning. Now the sheltering woods enclose us, and we part the bright boughs above our bending heads, and now we come to green open spaces, and the trees droop before us, heavy laden with their pulpy fruit. Carelessly and quickly we strip it from them by handfuls; ever mind if a few are crushed or lost,—there are bushels more than the most provident house-mother can ever use, let her fashion them never so cunningly. Plum preserves, plum jellies, plum pickles, plum butter,—so the female Minnesotean tricks out her solitary drupe in “troublesome,” but most toothsome “disguises.” And so the male Minnesotean brings himself to believe and proclaim that Minnesota is a great fruit state!

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        1. Peter Gideon of Excelsior introduced the first winter hardy apple, the Wealthy, in Minnesota in 1868. He’d been working on it for about 15 years.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. The only edible sources of protein I can see out my window in this geezer hotel is squirrel, black squirrel. I never ate a black squirrel but I assume there is a suitable recipe. Michigan is the Wolverine State, but I have zero interest in wolverine steaks.

    Is there a historical dimension to this search for local foods? Local supermarkets are filled with protein and vegetables that didn’t exist here originally. Local Indians farmed, but grew no spuds or tomatoes in pre-Columbian Michigan. They loved corn, beans, squash and wild rice.

    Since I live almost on the shores of Lake Huron, a local meal would probably include lake trout or whitefish. Elk and bison were big protein sources once, but hunters would need to travel a long way for those now. As a cheese hater I could eat the meals of our original Native Americans without sniffing for the presence of vile dairy products.

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  4. Fresh-caught walleye fried in crackers crumbs and bacon fat, leg of lamb (MN’s is considered to be some of the best in the world, according to a nephew-in-law who is an excellent, well-traveled chef), tomatoes, corn on the cob, Perhaps ice cream made from frozen local strawberries–since fresh strawberry season doesn’t quite overlap with corn/tomato season–salad greens and herbs from any local organic garden, and believe it or not, a selection of decent MN wines (I just tried some recently–very respectable!) or craft beers or liquors (seems to be lots of craft distilleries opening up around here.)

    I would dine like a king on Minnesota’s summer bounty.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 5 people

  5. This time of year it would be cucumbers for us. Might get sweetcorn if I ate enough deer and raccoons to keep them out of the corn.
    Course always chickens and eggs… but not if we eat too many chickens.
    And I’d have to learn how to butcher again which isn’t high on my list of things to learn.
    Which leads to making lye soap and getting lard again. And do I need a meat grinder then or not necessarily??

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’d go to the farmers market and choose from the offerings there. The St. Paul farmers’ market requires everything to be grown locally, although I don’t know what the exact radius is. I would keep it simple, maybe grilled chicken and assorted vegetables, a salad with hard boiled eggs and some local goat cheese. I’m not very aware, though, of where stuff comes from. Could you use salt? I’m not sure you can get salt locally. And where does salad dressing come from? I know I have balsamic vinegar from Italy, so that would be out.

    I suspect the project would require a lot of homework.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m not a purist, and wouldn’t go to extremes to assure that every single thing was locally sourced. How much olive oil, virgin or not, originates in Minnesota? And yes, I’d use salt.

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  7. This is fun, Renee. We ordered 1/4 cow from a local farmer last winter, so I would have a beef borscht that included lots of our garden beets, Yukon golds not from the Yukon, carrots, onions, herbs… Might have to hit the Farmer’s Market for lettuce for salad, but other greens etc. from here. Maybe a cantaloupe mint dessert soup, but our cantaloupe won’t be ready for a while… same with pumpkin pie. I imagine there may be local flours, but I’ll go elsewhere for the seasonings and dressings.

    An apple or pear crisp for dessert since I have no plum-laden woods at hand (that I know of). And there are some local wineries here that are OK in a pinch. Or as mentioned above, the local craft beers in this state can’t be beat.

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    1. There are probably plums near you—they are ubiquitous in MN and Iowa. Foraging is an all-season activity. To find plums ripening now, you must note where the plum thickets are about May 1. They tend to line old rail tracks and fence lines. They bloom with a pale pink small blossom about May 1. Not all of the thickets produce. So once you know the location, then around July 15, start looking for the fruit. Now you know my secret foraging behaviors.

      If at some point you know you are coming up to the Cities or to BBC, let me know. I can make the wild plum pudding.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. About all I can find is corn, cucumbers and giant zucchini.

    We went to a free produce drop last week. Local farmers bring in extra produce to give away and we got probably 30 lbs of vegetables! Oy, too much for the two of us. So I’ve been cutting them up, using my Food Saver and putting what I can in the freezer, and it’s filling up fast. it’s certainly nice to have though.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. At our very small local farmers’ market there’s a new vendor. It’s a man originally from Nigeria. The last couple of weeks he has brought greens to market I’ve never seen before. The first one was tree basil, and last week is was cassava leaves.

    The grower comes prepared with photocopies of a description of the items as well as recipes for how to use them. The tree basil has a surprisingly strong flavor; nothing like the regular basil we’re used to or Thai basil. It makes excellent tea.

    The cassava leaves I’m not so sure about. They may be more trouble than they’re worth, we shall see. Tonight I’m fixing a Sierra Leonian cassava leaves stew from a recipe the grower provided. In addition to the cassava leaves it calls for 1 lb. of meat and 2 dried fish(!), cooked beans (doesns’t tell you which kind), onion, red peppers and peanut butter. Leaves a lot to my interpretation. Perhaps I had better have the ingredients for some backup meal available.

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