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I wrote an essay for catapult magazine‘s GOING LOCAL issue. Check it out and let me know what you think!
Pardon my absence here – we took a last minute family vacation to Seacrest, Florida last week. Seacrest is sandwiched between two famously planned communities that epitomize New Urbanism – Rosemary Beach and Alys Beach – along County Road 30A that stretches between Destin and Panama City on the Florida Panhandle. It is a beautiful spot. We love it because we rarely have to use our car once we get there, there are nothing but local places to eat and drink, and our toughest decision every day is whether to spend it at the pool or the beach.
Because we enjoy food so much, I thought I would recap here some of our favorite meals, and how I plan to recreate them at home.
- Our first stop for food is usually Goatfeather’s Seafood Market. We bought two pounds (!) of shrimp and had them steam and season them for us. We rode our bikes to the market and devoured the shrimp as soon as we got home. I don’t plan on recreating this one at home because there’s no way for me to match the freshness, and I like looking forward to having it at the beach.
- We always go to The Red Bar, a local favorite with a great atmosphere and out-of-this-world crab cakes. Jasper refused to sit down at the table because he was so consumed with dancing to the bluegrass band, so Grant and I enjoyed our meal while the rest of the diners laughed at our son’s dancing skills. Grant ordered the blackened grouper special, possibly the best meal of the week. It was only blackened on one side, so it didn’t have that overwhelming flavor that blackened things can sometimes have. It was served on top of a pan-fried grit cake that I could have eaten ten of. While looking for grit cake recipes, I came across this recipe that I think I’ll make for Grant for his birthday because if it tastes as good as it sounds, I won’t have to buy him anything at all :) I stuck with the crab cakes that were delicious as always.
- We went to George’s, which boasts a fried grouper sandwich that Gun and Garden Magazine lists on their 100 things you must eat before you die. Grant obviously went with the grouper sandwich. I can’t remember what I ordered for lunch, but it was accompanied by this delicious dill cole slaw. I think I’ll try to recreate it at home because my dill is always out of control. I saw this recipe, but I think I’ll up the dill to 2-3 tablespoons.
- We always go to Pizza by the Sea, and I think it was even better than we remembered, which is saying something since you tend to remember things better than they actually are. We enjoyed it so much (and it was so easy because it was very kid-friendly) that we went back a second time. Their marinara sauce was addictive. I asked for some tips, and they attributed it to the type of tomatoes they used, which I wrote down but lost the piece of paper somewhere along the way. I’ve emailed them, so I’ll let you know if I find out anything helpful.
- My favorite meal of the week was the coyote fish tacos at La Botanas. If we’re being honest, I had a few glasses of delicious Spanish and Portuguese white wine prior to my meal, so I don’t remember much of what was in them other than they were by far the best fish tacos I’ve ever had. And I don’t think that’s the wine talking because I shared a few bites with Grant, and he agreed.
- Our other favorite stop is Baja Burrito in Nashville on our way to the beach (actually, we find any excuse we can to stop here on any trip remotely close to Nashville). They always offer a few local, sustainably-raised meat options on the menu, which makes me happy of course. They have this amazing pineapple salsa that I could eat on just about anything. This time through, they had Texas-style brisket from a local farm. It was so tender and delicious that we stopped back by on our way home and both ordered the exact same thing. I’m anxious to experiment recreating our own version here at home. I’ll let you know if I find a winner!
All of our meals were delicious, but the ones listed above were the most memorable. Thanks for sharing in our traveling food adventures!
I love Mark Bittman, especially today, debunking the myth that junk food is cheaper than real food:
In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)
the engineering behind hyperprocessed food makes it virtually addictive. A 2009 study by the Scripps Research Institute indicates that overconsumption of fast food “triggers addiction-like neuroaddictive responses” in the brain, making it harder to trigger the release of dopamine. In other words the more fast food we eat, the more we need to give us pleasure; thus the report suggests that the same mechanisms underlie drug addiction and obesity.
To make changes like this more widespread we need action both cultural and political. The cultural lies in celebrating real food; raising our children in homes that don’t program them for fast-produced, eaten-on-the-run, high-calorie, low-nutrition junk; giving them the gift of appreciating the pleasures of nourishing one another and enjoying that nourishment together.
Can you hear me from there jumping on my desk shouting, “AMEN!”?
Seriously, read the whole thing.
Our garden is seriously winding down at home. There are still lots of tomato plants with green tomatoes longing for warmer days to ripen up, but everything else is looking pretty scraggly. I found this great fall garden checklist that I thought was very helpful in terms of making sure we do all that we’re supposed to do outside around this time of year. I don’t know about you, but I find it easy to slack off a bit once there isn’t anything growing out in the garden anymore. I have noticed that things go much easier in the spring when I spend a little extra time making sure everything is cleaned up and trimmed down before winter hits.
Side note: I tend to practice the lazy gardener’s method to ripening all of those green tomatoes.
The ‘drudgery’ of growing one’s own food, then, is not drudgery at all. (If we make the growing of food a drudgery, which is what ‘agribusiness’ does make of it, then we also make a drudgery of eating and living.) It is – in addition to being the appropriate fulfillment of a practical need – a sacrament, as eating is also, by which we enact and understand our oneness with the Creation, the conviviality of one body with all bodies.
The Art of the Common Place, Wendell Berry
Nature’s Harvest, our favorite (and only?) local seed company, is having a fall clearance sale. Now is a great time to stock up for next season’s garden. OR buy some fall crops to plant now (hurry!) or a cover crop that will help prep next year’s garden right now. My current order included some beans, hot peppers, and a cover crop mix to plant early next spring.
We keep seeds in the freezer from year-to-year, and they keep well. Here are some more tips for seed storage.
Gene Logsdon’s blog has this ongoing series called “Why I Farm,” in which farmers/homesteaders/gardeners tell their stories about why they do what they do. I’m fascinated by the series and look forward eagerly to each new entry. Read all of the entries on a rainy day, but here are a few of my favorite snippets:
So, in short, I farm because I want to be part of whatever happens after gas is too expensive to drive to the grocery 20 miles away where people pay far too much of their hard-invested effort and time for nutrient substances manufactured from agricultural industrial components, and I think raising real food that someone can take from one of our pastures and fields to his dinner table is the way to do it. And I think you can do it too, even if it’s just a small yard-garden, or if you want to take the plunge and farm yourself. (Dennis)
We put those kindergarteners to work — child labor can be a powerful thing. They dug beds, and we built trellises. They planted blackberries, raspberries, apples, pluots, and pears, and culinary herbs. We grew sweet peas and daffodils, and made a big bed of California wildflowers. We planted popcorn. (Barbara Ayers)
The garden alone is a game played with Mother Nature that equals anything a person can view on any of the TV sports channels. I’d say it is a combination of chess; wrestling and hide-n-go seek. (Jeff)
I found reading Wendell’s reflections in the days following the attacks particularly enlightening. I’ve spent the last few days imagining how different our world today would be had we heeded his advice. That he so quickly predicted the dangers ahead for us is a testament to Berry’s wisdom. I think we would do well to listen to him more closely and carefully in the next ten years.
I reviewed Another Fork in the Trail: Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes for the Backcountry over at the Englewood Review of Books. I thought some of you might be interested for all of those Fall camping trips to come!