Food and Drink

Jars of eggnog on the kitchen island, waiting to go to happy homes.... Jars of eggnog on the kitchen island, waiting to go to happy homes....
Yellow pear tomatoes, round red stupice, and oblong Pompeii romas, all from plants I grew with my own hands, thanks to Renee's Garden Seeds. Yellow pear tomatoes, round red Stupice, and oblong Pompeii romas, all from plants I grew with my own hands, thanks to
Part of the kitchen garden at Terraphilia in fall. Part of the kitchen garden at Terraphilia last fall.

The past week was a hard one—one friend lost her adult son and another friend died suddenly. When life hurts, I am comforted by nature and the community of the land, hence this look at two thoughtful books grown with love—comfort food that nourishes mind, heart and spirit.

After last week's post, The Dangerous Power of Thin, I wanted to share two simple recipes. I may have a tangled relationship with eating, but that does not extend to food and cooking.

I love to cook. I revel in playing with the flavors, colors, and textures of fresh ingredients, in preparing food that's healthy and delicious, and visually appealing.

Janisse Ray's powerful call to preserve heritage crop seeds, our food inheritance.
Fresh-picked and fragrant!

Well, not strawberries and basil together, though that would be interesting.

It's 55 degrees F and foggy in Fort Bragg, California, this morning, and it feels very much like fall. Word has it that we've had some rain at home, and the first snow is dusting the high peaks. The seasons are changing in Richard's and my life too, and I'm feeling that poignantly this morning when Richard is sitting across the table from me in Headlands Coffeehouse in downtown Fort Bragg, the room humming with talk and the air warm with the steam from many cups.

Yesterday's drive took longer than expected, so by the time we stopped for dinner last night, the moon was rising over the Yaquina River Bridge in Newport, Oregon. As we sipped a Juniper Ridge IPA and a fresh lemonade (you can guess who had which!) at the Rogue Ales Pub on Newport's old waterfront, we raised a glass to our friends Martha and Jon Roskowski and their twins, Lucas and Sophie. Thanks for dinner and the beer!

For me, one of summer's real joys is being able to make ultra-fresh meals from whatever needs harvesting in our organic kitchen garden. I love a good tossed salad for lunch for instance, so in summer, I eat a bowl of whatever greens we have in abundance, topped by something juicy and something proteinaceous (usually slivered almonds or some other kind of nuts).

Part of finding the "normal" in our lives in the midst of this journey with Richard's brain cancer is resuming our simple, healthy diet, one of the tools we use to keep him healthy without resorting to prescription meds. After this latest surgery--his third craniotomy in 17 months--and six days in the hospital eating well... hospital food, we were both eager to get home to our own kitchen. 

Last year for Mother's Day, Richard bought me a dwarf Meyer lemon tree. I generally avoid indoor plants, reserving my gardening energy for our dryland meadow yard and our extensive kitchen garden. We're away so much between Richard's brain-cancer-care appointments at the VA Hospital in Denver and helping with my mom's hospice care, house plants only survive if they can fend for themselves.

Every, Richard and I celebrate the passing of winter's longest night with a party: we fill our bellies with my luscious homemade eggnog (recipe below), and our hearts with the companionship of friends and family.

I was standing in Ploughboy, the local-food grocery store right in my neighborhood, this afternoon, talking with the owners, Kerry and Dave Nelson, about why they went into the local-food business. "We want to teach people to have the relationship with food that our grandparents had," Kerry said. "The knowledge of how to use and appreciate what's fresh right now. The understanding that local food gives back to our local economy."

Food that's ready to eat is awfully convenient, but conventionally processed food is often astonishingly unhealthy. It's unhealthy for the environment in terms of the energy and other resources used to produce, process and package it. It's also often unhealthy for those of us who eat it, in part because of unnecessary and often highly processed ingredients, from high-fructose corn syrup to excess sodium.

... the tough cook. At least that's what I do to comfort myself when stress overwhelms me. More specifically, I put up produce from my garden and other local sources, stocking the freezer with the products of summer's sunshine. This weekend I processed about 16 pounds of apricots, made lavender vinegar (photo below), and started a marathon of pesto-preparation, beginning with freshly picked chervil. (Recipes to come in the next "Lighten Up" post later this week.)

It's my tradition on Valentine's Day to write about love. Tonight though, I'm distracted by worrying about tomorrow afternoon, when we'll drive over the mountains to Denver on the heels of a snowstorm that's blasted the high country for the past two days. It's not the roads I'm worried about though. It's what comes after.

Our recent road trip to Colorado's fertile West Slope farming areas yielded more than the initial research for three of my current writing projects, a great hike, and time with friends: we came home with a thirty-pound box of Olathe sweet corn and an equal-weight box of organic peaches. That meant in midst of the rush to get ready for the next adventure, about which more later, we carved out an evening to feed the freezer.