Thursday, September 15, 2005

In Season

I like to keep my eyes open for books on food -- be they cookbooks, non-fiction explorations of food and culture, or simply novels. Sometimes I like to expand my knowledge or awareness with such books, and sometimes I'm just looking to add some tasty new recipes to my repertoire.

Earlier this year I found a review for a new book called Simply in Season. Published by the Mennonite Central Committee, the same folks who brought us the More-with-Less Cookbook, this book sounded like it would be another good, straightforward cookbook, but with an emphasis on using foods in season, as they're harvested, or preserving the harvest for later. So I knew I had to get a hold of this book and look it over.

When at last I picked it up from the library last week, I took it home and went straight through it in the course of a day, bookmarking recipes all through the book (arranged by seasons) and picking out good quotes and facts for use here. For example, in one side note, farmer Dan Guenthner meditates on the diversity of creation and its impact on how he sees his work:

After 15 years of farming, I feel as though I know so little. Oh, I know a few of the nearly 300 beetle species here. I know most of the common weeds and the birds that nest on these acres. I know the toads, the salamanders and the fireflies that land in our children's hands. But what about the rest? How small would this farm have to be in order to know all of the life forms that share it? How can I learn to let go of my own narrow design for this landscape? (p.67)

And author Mary Beth Lind offers her thoughts on taking the time to appreciate the seasons, whether in the garden or the kitchen:

Time is health. Unfortunately I've been brainwashed into thinking that time is money. I'm trying to re-program myself to think of time as health. I know that slow foods such as whole grains, dried beans, and vegetables are better for me than fast foods. Wellness programs suggest 30 minutes of exercise daily. My spiritual director recommends 30 minutes of meditation and prayer daily. I guess, for my health, I'll keep spending time in my garden; it provides for both. (p.181)

As I explored the book and mentally dipped my finger into several recipes, I noticed something unusual: I regularly caught myself smiling broadly as I read. Was it the thought of all that fresh, organic, locally-grown produce going into delectable dishes? Was it the delight of reading how others approach their food with the same awareness of its connection to our environment? Was it the joy of the spirit in giving food its proper respect and place in creation, as well as in sharing it to nurture family and friends?

Yes, yes, and yes.

These recipes come from all over the United States and Canada (as well as a few international mission outposts), giving it a true community cookbook feeling. Maybe that's what made me so happy: the realization that there are many more folks out there who share my views on sustainable agriculture and good food.

Before I return the book to the library, there are a few fall recipes I'd like to try, such as the Savory Squash Bread Pudding, the Vegetarian Groundnut Stew, an Apple Cake, Carrot Cookies, and one or two granola recipes. I'll have to thumb through the book to come up with my list for the farmers' market this week so that I can cook while these foods are still in season.

There are many other recipes calling my name, though, and I may find that I just have to get my own copy. (That's saying something, because I don't buy cookbooks very often -- I prefer to borrow them and copy a few recipes before giving the books back.)

And until I can test more recipes and let you know how they turned out, I'll leave you with a recipe that helped me use up the last of my organic okra for the year:

Okra Curry

If you like fried okra or Indian food, this is worth a try. Be sure to cook the okra until tender and soft so that its flavor and texture mingles better with the tomatoes and spices.

1/2 c onion, sliced
1/4 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 lb okra, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1 c tomatoes, chopped

Saute onion in 2 T oil until golden. Add garlic and spices and saute for a few minutes. Add okra and salt and cook a few minutes. Add tomatoes and cook a few more minutes until the liquids evaporate.

Sevres 6


At 9/15/2005 7:40 AM, Blogger Kelli said...

Nice site, Baklava Queen. I appreciate your integrity in cooking. I've flagged your site and will be back to check out some recipies when I'm not running off to get ready for work. :S

In good health,

At 9/15/2005 8:17 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Thanks, Kelli! I'll keep an eye on your site, too, since it seems we share some of the same interests/concerns...

And we all do the best we can!


Post a Comment

<< Home