Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Series Look at Local Foods

Every so often, I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels, writing on this blog. Sure, you know I'm a fan of local foods, you know I love to bake, and you know I'm constantly experimenting in the kitchen. (See that bread? It's made with local flours, local dry milk, local honey, and those richly golden local eggs I recently bought.)

But given the cyclical nature of local foods and the way my cooking generally falls into set patterns that follow the seasons, after a while I feel like both my cooking and my writing get a little stale. (Honestly, do you really want to know how often I can live on homemade pizza for a week?)

With the summer swiftly approaching, bringing with it the farmers' market, I'm hoping to reinfuse this site with a little more excitement as well as little more substance (like that loaf of bread you see pictured above). Not only will I have weekly Market Reports for you, with luscious tales about my market finds, but I've got a couple of other series planned for you:

1. Since this year marks the first time I've ever subscribed to a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) -- and it's the first time my farming friends the Bakers have set up a CSA -- I'll post weekly reports about my CSA box and what I hope to cook or preserve with the produce. And since I think patriotism shouldn't be limited to mere flag-waving symbolism, you'll find this series under the tongue-in-cheek title of "Oh, Say, Can You CSA?" (Talk about following the beat of a different drummer...)

2. I've been pondering the outline for a possible book project on eating seasonally and preserving food for the lean months. I really don't have time to pursue a book right now, though, so I'll make this a month-by-month series called "Preserving the Seasons" with set weekly entries on what's growing or being harvesting each month, what to cook with fresh produce, what to preserve (and how), and the example of one local meal to tempt you into trying it yourself. Obviously come winter, the focus of each week's post will vary, but that's the current plan.

All of these series will start in June, since both the CSA and the farmers' market begin early in the month, and since for us here in northern Ohio, early June is really the first time in the year when we can find a consistent source of local foods.

With any luck, these series will help you and me both to incorporate more local foods into daily meals, to preserve more food in a variety of ways for winter, and to get ideas for doing just a little more next year. (Maybe I'll even get inspired to build a cold frame to have more fresh greens during the winter!)

You may have also noticed that I've stopped updating the index pages in favor of using labels for each post. I'm still coming up with labels to use, but at some point I may try to go back and add labels or at least add a section with labels appended to the index list. For those of you who follow this blog through an RSS feed, would you please let me know if updating individual back posts will flood your feed? I don't want to make it impossible for you to keep up with what's going on.

As always, I'd love to hear back from you. What are you doing and would like to share? What questions do you have? What other possibilities do you see?

I'm no expert, so I'm happy to learn from my Dear Readers at the same time that I hope you'll find something to learn from me.

Stay tuned -- and we'll see where this journey leads us!

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At 5/21/2008 2:06 PM, Blogger justagirl said...

I love what you said about patriotism. You are so right. And also right about having to wait until June for local produce! I am a huge fan of CSA myself. Ours is out of Yellow Springs. And we have a wonderful farmer’s market every week in the plaza across from my office. Mmmmm.

I’ve been disappointed in the last couple of years though to find that no one grows Beefsteak tomatos anymore! Why is that? There’s nothing better than a big fat juicy Beefsteak! Oh how I wish I had the time and energy to grow my own garden! Your bread looks absolutely delicious.

At 5/21/2008 2:14 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Glad you agree, justagirl. If we're to be proud of our land, why not support the people who are working on it to provide us with good food? Makes sense to me...

Please feel free to add your own weekly CSA or market reports to the comments here... or point people to your blog if you write about them there. It's always exciting to find out what other people can find locally. (And I always hear such cool things about Yellow Springs... but have never been there...)

Not sure about the Beefsteak tomatoes, though I suspect more of the market farmers go toward the heirloom eating varieties. I don't know how Rutgers will compare, though my dad seemed to think it better than Beefsteak. Don't know!

At 5/21/2008 2:40 PM, Anonymous Mitch said...

I belong to a CSA in Maryland and we always receive complaints that we don't produce Beefsteaks. Our farmer just isn’t interested in producing non-heirloom tomatoes. This year we'll be having five heirloom varieties. Plus, part of the fun of belonging to a CSA is being exposed to fruits and vegetables (or varieties thereof) that you don’t normally see in the local grocery store. Now my wife and I don’t even grow Beefsteaks in our garden, we don’t really miss them.

At 5/21/2008 2:46 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

That's true, Mitch... and that's part of the fun of a farmers' market, too: learning about new foods and varieties of old favorites. So what ARE you growing in your garden?

At 5/21/2008 5:52 PM, Blogger valereee said...

I love both ideas! I'm always looking for seasonal recipes and for ways to preserve the harvest.

At 5/22/2008 6:48 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Then I hope I'll be able to give you a few new things to try, valereee... and hope you'll share, too!

At 5/22/2008 6:00 PM, Anonymous Janet said...

I've been a CSA member for a dozen years now, and you are in for a treat. I'm looking forward to your series, especially on food preservation. That's a big gap in my cooking repertoire, and I have a long list of excuses to justify it. I'll bet you'll shake me out of my preservation inertia. I'll also let you know about the feeds. I've been pondering the same question myself as I consider adding or updating my blog categories. BTW, sound like you'll have a book written by the end of the year whether you outline one or not. Good luck!

At 5/23/2008 7:32 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Thanks, Janet! I'm really looking forward to the CSA as I just love this farm family -- always so cheery! -- and their produce. I'll do what I can to fill a few gaps for you, but I know I won't be able to cover everything, nor would I expect everyone else to do everything!

I figured you'd be a good one to let me know about feeds. We'll keep sharing information as I make changes, I'm sure.

And hey, if a book happens while I'm not looking, great! But I just thought that since I've been hearing a need for this sort of information, why wait to put it out there?

At 5/24/2008 3:04 AM, Blogger cv said...

I am excited to read your outline and participate in whatever part of your book I can. I think it's a fantastic idea.

I love the Farmer's markets and am more determined than ever to use them whenever I can.

I'm also growning containers full of vegetables, even though I live in a double wide trailer in a park and have no access to a garden. I read a news article this week that the seed companies nationwide have done more than double their business this year than last. The downturn in economy has prompted a huge surge in home gardening.

At 5/24/2008 9:31 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Hey, cv, thanks! Looks like you had about as much resistance to garden plants this year as I did... which is to say, not much! :-) Hope your garden grows well, too... and I hope that with more and more people turning to gardening, we might start seeing more healthy and happy people bucking the food system!

At 5/27/2008 10:39 PM, Blogger Ed Bruske said...

I like this idea a lot. In my own case, I'm finding that preserving is the only way to make use of all the food we grow.

At 5/28/2008 7:50 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Thanks, Ed. I'm really going to have to be disciplined about preserving food this year, between all the produce I'll get from the CSA, from the garden, and from the farmers' market. Guess I know what I'll be doing this summer!


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