Yesterday was hands-down the best eating day of the experiment.
For breakfast I had some Full Belly Farm wheat berries, soaked overnight, then cooked with diced apples (the Anna apples, an early ripening, mild weather apple are delicious) and stewed plums. Drizzled with honey.
Lunch was green tomatoes dredged in some flour and fried in duck fat (!) with a fried egg. Followed by a jar of stewed apricots.
Yes, I have a very regular BM these days.
For beverages, my new thing is lemonade with honey and mint.
In the afternoon, I biked over to my friend Jennifer’s house and grazed a bit in her garden. She has physalis, or Cape gooseberries (which are a great source of Vitamin C) and green beans and grapes. Then we walked around Berkeley and picked blackberries. In a two block radius of her house is a peach tree (with peaches on the GROUND), an asian pear, an enormous plum and pear tree, walnut trees, and tons of blackberry brambles.
We picked a bucket of berries and talked about how we grew up eating. Jennifer’s dad took them strawberry picking and canned or froze tons of their food. William came by and we used the car as a ladder to access a whole bag of Elephant heart plums. They’re green with red centers.
THEN we picked green walnuts to make nocino, or vin de noix, a walnut liquer. You know how green walnuts smell really good? This captures their essence, with the help of some 95 proof alcohol like vodka or everclear. I’ve only had it once, when this fella named Adam brought some to a party. It’s a digestive. We picked them a little late, in Italy, most people get the little green guys on June 24.
Finally, for dinner I made zucchini pancakes (shredded and drained then mixed with cilantro and mint and coriander and a wisp of flour) with a large green salad (which included a new ingredient: armenian cucumbers). For dessert? I got totally Little House on the Prarie and made a blackberry pie, with a crust made of duck fat mixed and chilled with Full Belly Farm wheat. Who knew? I won’t say the crust was light and flaky, but it sure was tasty.
When I got the pigs I was all, “Yeah, I’ll be making proscuitto and salami.” But do I know how to make those items? Er, no.
Thank the dumpster gods, then, when William and I were knee deep in the Eccolo restaurant’s dumpster (the best d-ster in the East Bay because it’s such high quality) and one of the cooks came out to talk to us.
“Yeah, I got these two hungry pigs,” I told him, stuffing plate scraps into a bucket.
“You should really talk to Chris Lee,” he said.
“Is he the main chef?” I asked.
“Yeah, and the owner.”
A few weeks later I had to go to Sur la Table (meat grinder), and I stopped in at Eccolo and asked to talk to Chris.
A tall man with big eyes and a lovely soft-spoken manner came out to chat with me, the Insane Lady.
I told him about the pig project and confessed to dumpster diving, and could he help me learn about making salami?
Incredibly, his answer was yes.
This past week I began my salami tutorial with Chris. So far I’ve observed how to make a variety of pork-cured products: coppa, pancetta, salami, sausage, and proscuitto. Chris is a great teacher, he studied with Italian salami-makers and butchers. He’s one of the only chefs in the area who makes his own cured meat products.
Yesterday I stopped by to watch the salami get painted with penicillin and then Chris “opened up” a proscuitto. The big legs have been hanging in the breezeway for nearly two years! After Chris cut away the fat rind layer, underneath was a lovely deep red meat with streaks of fat. On a meat cutter, Chris shaved the meat into some fine ribbons. I had a momentary dilemma: I’m on the 100-yard diet. Can I really eat some of this meat?
In the end, the fact that this was just a taste, and Chris had worked on it for two years! Two years! I couldn’t refuse. It tasted nutty and rich on the top of the mouth, hearty and earthy.
Next time you’re at Eccolo, order the salumi plate. Ok?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go eat some fried vegetables or some crap.
Jeez, time’s flying. Only 12 days before I can have a proper cup of tea. And some toast with butter….
Update on the huge blow-out $8 spending spree:
Headed to the Berkeley Farmer’s market on Tuesday. I don’t usually love the farmers market so much–too many people, shopping in general is lame–but as soon as I got off my bike, I felt delirious. So many options! So many well-fed people! My friend Jon! After my first pass, it was clear what I would be buying: wheat products. From Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm, I purchased two, 2-pound bags of flour (they mill it on the farm!), 1 pound bag of wheat groats. That took out $6. Which seems ridiculously cheap. I only had $2 left, so I bartered with the cheese lady (can’t remember their name, it’s not very good cheese) and she sold me a tub of cheese curds for two smackers. Suddenly I felt very rich. My eating future seemed brighter. On the ride home, I went limp when I realized I COULD MAKE BREAD! At home I started the process to make my own wild yeast starter. Should be ready in a few more days.
I’ve really gotten used to this 100-yard diet. Another breakthrough yesterday: young squash. Though I hate to poach my growing Blue Hubbards, there are so many on the vines, I cut one. It was about football size, and I immediately went up to the kitchen, grated it, then pan fried it in duck fat with some coriander seeds. Heaven! With a little stewed plums on the side, it was the perfect sweet/savory combo. I didn’t have to eat all day.
The other big news is I sold one of the baby rabbits! A family with three girls came by to check out the chicks through a backyard gardening program Willow runs, and they spotted the rabbits. They have two at home and want more. I think the dad is secretly going to raise them to eat. Anyway, now I have $8 that I earned from the farm (it was me, after all, who bred them and made sure the mama took care of the youngins, and fed them lovely greens from the Chinatown dumpsters), so what shall I spend the money on? Obviously, I want to buy food. But only food directly from a farmer. And it’s going to be cheese, I think. Any suggestions?
The Camellia sinensis arrived yesterday! In an act of pure caffeine-induced desparation a week ago, I ordered three of these tea plants over the phone from a nursery called Camellia Forest (www.camforest.com). Got the large leaf, small leaf and the assamica varieties. The plants arrived through UPS, and I promptly planted them in my front yard. Then I dashed upstairs and made some tea. According to the directions from Camellia Forest, to make green tea, you pick the leaves, let them hang for a few hours until they are limp. Next you steam or sautee them to prevent oxidation. The final step is to put the leaves in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes. Did I get my buzz on? Kinda.
Other things learned from the 100-yard diet in the last few days:
-dried fava beans with preserved lemons, garlic, shallots, and some olive oil makes a good spread for lightly blanched cabbage leaves.
-best salad: roasted beets, apple chunks, hard-boiled egg, onions, lettuce, and olives.
-blackberries drizzled with honey: go there.
-stewed apricots are kind of weird.
-little ducklings don’t have much meat, but they do have some good fat.
In other news, the New York Times came to the farm yesterday and took photos of me and the pigs, me and the ducks, me and the chickens, me and the rabbits. I’m sure he thought I was insane. Look for the article at the end of the month.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and this 100-yard challenge has spawned some serious necessity. These days when I’m hit with a craving for something unobtainable, say, a big plate of pasta, I pick some squash blossoms, dip them in egg batter, fry them until golden and eat them with a sprinkle of preserved lemon juice. Or, for breakfast I handmill the corn kernels down (thank god I saved those cobs from last year), pour a little boiling water over the grain, then add a handful of shredded beets and an egg–and viola! beet cornmeal pancakes. I eat them with stewed plums and honey. It’s really brilliant. There are rough spots though, like a totally gross (almost) inedible fava bean stew. The horror. I wonder if the original reason recipes were written down and followed was not so much for taste, but to ensure food wasn’t wasted. I’m seriously thinking about all those survival books I read as a kid–My Island Summer, Little House on the Prarie, Call of the Wild, Julie of the Wolves, Sacajawea. I’ve been fascinated with the idea of living off your own inventions and skills.
Not that I’m not using modern technology. The other day I microwaved my peppermint/verbena tea. And a duck caught a chill (I’ve relocated them in a grassy area in the lot) from a long swim in the galvanized tub (he couldn’t get out) so I rushed him upstairs and used a blow dryer (it’s Bill’s, I swear) to dry him off and stop the shivering. He loved it! He moved his head around so the warm breeze would ruffle the feathers on top of his head. His down feathers had gotten wet, so he could’v died! Later, I spotted him from the window, puffed up, positively whiter than the others, and for the first time in my life, I thanked the person who invented the blow dryer.