Cantastic · 4 August 2007
Part of the reason that I decided to meld cooking and reading is that I believe the two are both essential victuals to consume and that by examining what we feed our stomachs at the same time we examine what we feed our brains, we can create a more meaningful and enjoyable eating experience.
I believe that talking about food is only natural. Our very survival depends on eating, so it’s a universal topic. Eating is one thing we can say we share in common with literally every person on the planet.
So, when the talk round the blogosphere turned to the great community of readers that got wrapped up in the story after Harry Potter was released, I started musing about the great community of eaters, cookers, and foodies that I knew was out there, yet hadn’t really reached out to yet.
When I read that this week is Eat In, Act Out week here in San Diego, I decided to attend an event and meet the locals. San Diego Food, Not Lawns set up an ambitious array of events for the week. I jumped right in and attended the canning workshop on Monday.
You might recall that I’d done some previous research and canning earlier this year. Naturally, I wanted to compare notes and get live, hands-on, advice from a canning expert in addition to making my debut into the real live food-lovers community.
I drove down to the City Farmers Nursery (a haven just north of downtown owned by Bill Tall) and was greeted in the parking lot by one of the volunteers. She directed me to Bill’s kitchen and suggested that I spend a few moments taking a look around the nursery first, since I was a bit early.
The Nursery itself is built around the homes of the owner and his family. Although I didn’t linger too much (and plan to go back during normal operating hours), I did snap a few picture that capture the feeling that this is a nursery that is owned with passion and pride.
My first impressions of the nursery were confirmed when I walked into Bill’s kitchen. His house seemed built around it, and the idea that cooking is a vital and communal enterprise. Check out Bill’s pot collection, which he proudly displayed with the phrase “If you keep your pots in sight, you’ll use them a lot more”. It was an awe inspiring kitchen. Unfortunately, none of my panoramic pictures of the kitchen turned out, but Dennis from The Kitchen is Our Playground posted a great one. You can also spot me in the group photo (I’m the one with the demon eyes ;) ).
Bill quickly put us at ease with an introduction of his life and the history of the nursery. He explained that his goal was to be completely self-sustaining by the end of next year and then took us on a tour of his pantry, pointing out things he’d already canned or frozen to set away for the times they’re not in season. I’d be less than honest if I said it wasn’t a bit daunting, as well as inspiring. After all, the fact that I haven't killed my herbs is a big accomplishment for me. Growing all of your food seems like a major undertaking, one that I still don’t think I could fit in between working, writing, and studying.
But, I’ve always been a firm believer in the power of the pocketbook. As Kate over at Accidental Hedonist pointed out, every time you buy an imported food, you’re making the choice to support that company and help them continue. Planting an entire garden is a lot of work but choosing to purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season is relatively easy. Canning and freezing things so you’ll have your favorites year-round is the next step for me. (I’ve been snacking on non-thawed frozen strawberries this entire week, from the abundance that I picked in May, and they are delicious!)
So yes, my mission was multi-faceted. Meet people, then learn to can more tasty things, thereby not buying out of season.
The best part of the experience was the easy camaraderie of the group. Bill put us to work peeling peaches and snapping beans and conversation sprung up quick and easy in the small groups we separated out into. Bill was full of easy to implement ideas for using up the seasonal produce too. He had basil plants that were going to seed, and when a few of the participants had finished their bean snapping, he had them make pesto sauce out of the excess leaves. It was a stimulating experience to be in a group of people all casually gathered around to make food that would be bundled away and eaten at a later date, one that really resonated with the way I feel about cooking.
At the end of the evening I left with a jar of peach jam, a jar of beans in vinegar, and a small start on putting myself out there in the foodie community. It was my hope that with this blog, I’d be able to share my food and book experiences, and I feel like I took a step in the right direction this Monday.