Sunday, December 6, 2009

A deboned turkey ready for the oven

Here is the bird trussed and ready for the roaster.  It weighed 23 lbs.  The thigh bones were removed.

A Lovely Way to Roast a Turkey

Here is our de-boned Thanksgiving turkey before putting it in the oven!  Having not de-boned a bird in awhile it took about 45 minutes . . . . but it’s worth it.  I didn’t stuff the bird – one can – but I like the way a de-boned bird carves.  No bones in the way.  Once the wings, and legs are removed you can slice clear across the whole carcass. 
There was a time years ago after having learned to de-bone from watching the Julia Child show in which she de-boned a duck that I regularly de-boned chickens and turkeys.  So with a bit of practice I can get back to getting it done in 15 minutes or so. 
One of the major advantages of de-boning is having all the fresh bones to use with the giblets to make a much richer stock for the gravy.  Yum!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Talking about food while on the road (and cooking too)

On my long three weeks journey, after a few days in spent Oxford, MS at the Southern Foodways Alliance Conference, I crossed the Mississippi River at Helena over to W. Helena in Arkansas.

At Pine Bluff High School I talked African American foodways and gardenways in the Jefferson era and also contemporary health issues of concern to the black community.  All 5 Social Studies classes came to the library to hear me talk. The thing they found most astounding is that there are 320 calories in a 20 oz soda; and that it would take 92 minutes to walk them off!

I bought fabulous huge Jewel Yams, young kale, mustard, and turnip greens from Charles and Bobbie Carpenter Clark at their produce market where they sell the vegetables they raise on their farm east of town.
At the middle school I served baked yams, greens cooked with onion and smoked turkey, and corn pone made on my cast iron griddle. We drizzled the pone with local made sorghum syrup and Ribbon Cane Syrup.  Yummy was the general consensus!

The smell of twenty baking yams is a wondrous experience.  After a light rub with oil I bake them till they are super soft and the sweet juice is carmelizing in the bottom of the pan.  Of course I love them hot but cold will do! And they freeze well.

I bought a smoked turkey wing and used it for the rich taste it adds to the greens.  It adds little fat and can easily replace the traditional smoked pork hock.

The next leg of the journey took me even further south followed by a hugh leap northward!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

The best tastes of the Fall

Today I'm thinking about butternut squash soup; creamy, thick, deep yellow, yum!   Several versions of this soup that I've been served are too sweet for my taste. I'm usually most responsive to savory.  My recipe contains roasted red pepper, sauteed onion and garlic, half and half,  and the whole pot is whirred with my immersion blender (ain't they a fabulous tool?) to a smooth puree.   Served with thin slices of baguette drizzled with olive oil and browned up in a hot oven it is all the supper one needs.  Oh, I forgot, the wine!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Leni's heading back north

Here I am in Vicksburg, Mississippi, bookin' out ahead of Hurricane Ida!  Heading up Highway 61 just like in the Dylan song . . . . . 

"God told Abraham Kill me a son
Abe says Man you must be puttin' me on
God says No
Abe says What?
God says You can do what you want, Abe, but . . . . 
The next time you see me coming you better run
Abe says Where you want this killing done
God says take it out on Highway 61"

And that's just the first verse!  I shall rock my way to Memphis and beyond.  

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Finally some sun as I drive across the South

All the rain has played hell on the crops here in the south.  This picture is of a sodden cotton field unable to be harvested.    I also passed soybean fields still with rows full of wet, and in some cases now moldy, plants.  In addition to wiping out field crops the rain has been very hard on the US farm raised catfish industry here in the Delta.  If you enjoy catfish please be willing to pay the small bit more you might have to pay for US produced as the farmers recover.  Ok, special plea is over, but I only eat and enjoy catfish and have no monitary interest!!  
Today I'm off to Pine Bluff, Arkansas; through the Delta at Clarksdale, cross the Mississippi River at Helena.  Today my driving sound track will be Bessie Smith, especially her Backwater Blues, and Robert Johnson.  I might even stop for a lunch of crayfish or maybe fried oysters!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On the road

After I left Bristol it was rain, rain, rain. I put my Virginia Roots Music CD in the player and sang my way down the road.  Spent the night in Jackson, TN; about 100 miles west of Nashville and today head down to Oxford, MS for the Southern Foodways Alliance Conference. Yum!! Three day of talking about food, eating food, and, oh yeh, talking about food!   The weather gods may be on my side today; clouds but no more rain for a few days.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The continuing conversation about the 'food desert'

Further thoughts re the generous and thoughtful responses to my ‘food desert’ post. 

I do very much understand that individuals have little/no control over headers, headlines, or photos used in media.  As a performer for many years I became used to being misquoted in even the simplest interview!  My sending my remarks directly to Common Good City Farm was not to find fault in any way with their work or the gardener being profiled.  I wanted to share my response to the article in general and let them know where I felt ‘flavor mag’ had miss-stepped with their introductory header.  
That being said I still have strong feelings about the term ‘food desert’ and a wish that we continue to search for a less problematic phrase.  I come at these feelings from a long life of interest in food.  For over 40 years I have gardened and taught home cooking.  During one decade my husband and I farmed 160 acres of South Dakota homestead land growing organic pinto beans and cultivating a 3 acre market garden. So I’ve raised a great deal of food, sold a lot of food, given away a lot of food, and even counseled WIC mothers on prenatal and breast feeding nutrition.  I really care about food. 
These days I supply eggs from our small flock of Buff Orpingtons to a micro-enterprise run by members of the Quality Community Counsel in Charlottesville. ( ) When I am wearing my historian’s hat I talk about the history of African American foodways, American culinary and agricultural history and, more and more, how those histories tie in to contemporary health issues in the African American community.  Over and over I have opportunity to talk to other black women who are active in this battle for food justice and I find I am not alone in my misgivings about the term ‘food desert.’  I think we are made uncomfortable by the almost flip way it rolls off the tongue.  Please understand, I am not accusing any one of actually being flip – it’s just that easy phrases sometimes have a way of sounding flip when such an interpretation is least meant.  The words have a pejorative ring to it them, and while meant to implicate and castigate the grocers and outside entities who ignore the urban poor, seems to include the urban poor in its sweep.  There’s just something bleak and discouraging about it.  On top of which it is not the dirt under the finger nails activists (black, white, urban, rural) who typically use this phrase.  Instead it is becoming easy media header language when addressing issues of food justice. Now if we do need a quick inclusive phrase to head an article, I personally would not be at all uncomfortable with ‘urban greedy bastard syndrome.’    But that’s just me.

Email Oct 22
Common Good City Farm
Hi Leni,
Thanks for your email.  I agree. I
'm not sure how much you have worked with
publications, but we don
't get to choose titles and headlines often, so
that part what not up to us.  Not that I am giving you an excuse, but we
't even get to choose the photos they use (or take).
Sounds like you have some interesting thoughts and passions.  I hope you
are involved or will get involved with the inner-city food communities
wherever you are. People need inspiration to continue the work they do.
They need neighbors and words of encouragement and positivity. If we spend
time nit picking terms people use, we are spending energy that could be
well spent making construction impact to people
's lives.  I agree with your
statements about the article, but nonetheless, it
's an article in a
publication that is being read by many people-far and wide in this
region-from all walks of life. If articles like this even spur a tiny new
thought of recognition to our cities less advantaged people, to changing
our industrialized food systems so they can be more equal and enable access
for all and support our small farms, then they are worthwhile.  We can find
wrong in everything.  And we can find right in most of those things as
well. We are feeding people who don
't have access to fresh food easily.  We
are teaching kids how tomatoes grow and teaching adults how to cook with
chard.  We are facilitating communication between kids and adults who share
stories and pass on culture.  Whether we are a "food dessert or not, the
nearest grocery store is almost a half mile away.  And the closest and most
convenient place for food is a corner store, without produce for sale.  We
have a long way to go to continue to improve the work we do and influence
it, but nonetheless, I believe we are making at least a tiny difference.
And that to me, is inspirational and worth waking up for.  The child who
planted a tree yesterday came back today to make sure it was alive and had
water.  Yesterday, she didn
't know trees needed water.

Warm regards for a brighter and healthier future for all,

RE: Email Oct 22
The FLAVOR editor sent me a very detailed and interesting article that will appear in their fall issue; it also contains a sidebar on the origins/uses of the term ‘food deserts.’   
I recommend it.
Flavor Magazine, oct./nov. 2009 •
A Desert in Our Midst - September was National Food Desert Awareness Month.
So just what is a food desert?
Zora Margolis
Zora Margolis has lived in Washington, D.C., since 1996. She wrote about the Dupont
Circle farmers market in the Aug./Sept. issue of Flavor and co-hosts the farmers market forum on, D.C.’s popular food lovers’ discussion site.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rejecting the 'food desert' concept

In response to FLAVOR MAGAZINE, June/July 2009 article titled Not Quite What I Was Looking For under the page header 'in the food desert." 

Paul Ryan's description of his personal journey from home gardener to community gardener was timely.  It was good to follow one man's path to urban farming. 

It is the header "in the food desert" I find problematical. Food justice is among the most troublesome in the modern repetory of social issues.  The communities of which Ryan speaks are not 'deserts.' They are neighborhoods full of people, with desires, ambitions, energy, and, yes, poverty.  But they are not the empty wasteland implied by the word 'desert.'  They are deserts only in the lack of enough grocery stores, too many fast food joints, and disgusting school food furnished via putatively 'free lunch systems."   It is only a desert in that folks outside the community tend not to see the residents within; and having made their pronouncements can then feel generous, or not, as the mood strikes them, while ignoring the grassroots efforts of the inhabitants of that 'desert.'  It is a desert because Food Lion or Giant, or Kroger can't be persuaded or shamed to build there even though there are often small Mom and Pop establishments carrying the full weight of the whole community's needs.   It is a desert because the zoning restrictions often put insurmountable barriers to alternative uses of empty lots or other abandoned spaces perfect for gardens or community gathering places.  In these 'deserts' most of the residents are working poor and lower middle class people of color.

Nothing about Ryan's article describes finding a desert; his first search for a community garden finds one quickly but it is one with a long waiting list - evidence of interest, I'd say.  He didn't invent the 7th Street Garden; there they were, waiting for him to join them.  Poor inner-city folks aren't sitting waiting for the foodies to come save them.  They are already organizing to take back their city spaces and use them for the good of their elders, their youth, and their families.  Not a desert at all.  Ryan's experience with an activist community garden could be replicated all over the country; in Charlottesville, Virginia with the Quality Community Council or with Chicago's Graffetti and Grits urban food cooperative/garden initiative, just to name two.  

So I would suggest we seek to find a more humane vocabulary; perhaps the header could have been "seeking food justice"  or "finding an inner-city food community."    


Monday, October 12, 2009

The bounty of fall greens

This past weekend I was the recipient of a bounty of fresh fall
collards; broad flat deep green collards. Let's hear it for the QCC
(Charlottesville's Quality Community Council)!!
Today I prepared the collards for the freezer; 15 min cutting out the
stems, 5 minutes cutting the leaves in julliene strips; 5 minutes
sauteeing the onion in olive oil and 45 minutes cooking the collards
to perfection.
Yes, I could have used bacon or smoked pork hock but I may want to
serve these collards to my vegetarian daughter-in-law.
Yum! Four quart freezer bags of luscious greens.
And our lovely flock of hens will love the stems for a treat tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Best Cow and Calf

AS you can see Cello was a beautiful animal.  Her temperament was gentle and she stood to be hand milked with never a twitch!  She was a Guernsey and her milk was so rich that by the time I would get the bucket into the house the yellow cream would have already begun to rise! 
The little heifer at her side was our first female calf after a run of six bull calves in a row over the previous two years (we were milking four cows at the time).  She had all the lovely qualities of her mother. 

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I'm seriously thinking about raising another milk cow.

pros: they live for 15-20 years; they love you and give you milk and a new calf once a year; they produce lots and lots of manure for the garden; in the winter when you milk a cow her flank is warm and wonderful to lean your cheek against; milking gives one incredibly strong wrists, hands and forearms; Guernseys and Jersey's have beautiful eyes and rough warm tongues; you get 2-5 gallons of milk a day to share and play with; cows come when you call.  

cons: cows (even a small breed) produces lots and lots of manure; they have to be milked twice a day for at least nine months a year; 2-5 gallons of milk a day (yes, every day!) is a challenge to find a use for; finding a large animal vetranarian  who has access to AI (artificial insimination) to bred the cow regularly might be difficult;  there has to be a barn/milking shed; there are NO vacations unless you train someone to step in to milk when you need a day off; when a 700-900 pound animal steps on your foot you know it. 

Someone talk me down.  

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blog posting 9-20-2009

Self-reliance vs the ideology of self-sufficiency
None of us are self sufficient.  We all need somebody! Despite the often nostalgic retro-interpretations (our idealization of Little House on the Prairie comes to mind!) Americans weren't self sufficient in the colonial past, the Revolutionary Era nor the long 19th century. Few people or families, if any, ever possessed all the varied skills or owned all the necessary tools to produce enough cloth, iron tools, crockery, wagons, harness reins, shoes, or staple provisions such as wheat flour, to name a few basic items of those more rural times. The 'rugged, intrepid pioneer' family made what they could, but they purchased or traded for what they couldn't.  And as soon as a general store opened in the neighborhood folks rushed to buy industrially manufactured consumer goods; needles, tea kettles, ribbons, jack knives, rum, sugar, cloth by the yard, paper and ink, to name just a few items.  In many cases plantation owners bought barrels of readymade rough clothing and shoes for slaves which they found via ads in urban antebellum newspapers.  Ladies (both urban and rural) bought the newest fashions found in the same sources.  In truth long before Columbus arrived Native American cultures traded over long distances for interesting and innovative products not available locally; the red soapstone (Catlinite) for tobacco pipes is one example, decorative bird feathers another.  
From the late 19th century till well into the 20th Montgomery Ward and Sears supplied Americans on the farm and in small towns with all the tools for self reliance but nobody was fooling themselves with some idea that they didn't need anybody else.  Folks farmed to sell crops to enable them to purchase the tools that would help them lead a more comfortable farming life.  The local blacksmith might repair a plowshare but the iron stock he used to do it came from afar.      
Today rather then judge ourselves by some illusory benchmark of rural American self 'sufficiency' we might better make an effort to be more self-reliant.  By self-reliant I mean making efforts to do as much as possible for one's self. When organizing a household - whether in an urban apartment, a suburban lot, or a small acreage - learn to cook what you can, grow what you can, barter and buy what you can within your local community, and beyond that to understand the costs and production realities of the things you do buy from the wide world of regional, national and international trade. No way to avoid it; we all use gasoline and electric power, we buy tools made by someone else, we buy foodstuffs grown by others.  But we can discipline ourselves to participate in the world economy in a more conscious way and to strive for a level of self reliance appropriate to our life circumstance. 
The vast majority of Americans live in cities and suburban settings; they are not going to make their own cheese or harvest their own wheat.  But they can support local producers of fresh vegetables, they can cook from scratch, and we all can vote to create conditions of food justice for others both nationally and globally.      

Sunday, September 13, 2009

More on McWilliams

James E. McWilliams      Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly.   Little, Brown 2009.  
With the emphasis on 'just' McWilliams asks all Americans concerned with issues of food production to look beyond our own immediate and often elitist solutions to understand the true global implication of our activist food policies and politics.   All in all many of his ideas are interesting and worthy of discussion.
And I was right there with him up to the chapter on meat animals.  I don't like factory meat farms either but becoming a vegetarian is not the solution I'd choose to combat them.  What bothered me was the 38 pages of chapter 4  "Meat - The New Caviar: Saying "No," or at Least "Not as Much," to Eating Land-Based Animals" which came down to an elitist demand of vegetarianism as the solution to American meat eating. To give him his due McWilliams does offer a full chapter on the potentials of aquaculture as potential sources of animal.  But more important than my difficulty with McWilliam's meat position is that he makes literally not one mention of dairy products, egg or feather production, leather and wool production; all of which require the raising of herds and produce food and income for millions of the world's people.  While it is within the realm of possibility that (some) people would (someday) give up beef, pork, chicken, there's no way people will be giving up dairy (cheese, yogurt, butter, not to mention milk among lactose tolerant populations), eggs, shoes, or wool textiles.  In the long conversation on food policy we have to include this broader more generous perspective or find we are only speaking to ourselves.  So anyone sucking down a yogurt smoothy and wearing a down jacket while they rant about meat should probably re-access their positions. 

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Food production: Local and Global

After reading, it seems, so many of the current books on local, sustainable, and responsible farming, gardening, and eating I have at last been introduced to an author who articulates a nuanced mid-ground between the ideals of the locavore movement and the necessities of global food production!  


Half way through it I have already underscored and commented on more pages than pretty much all the other books combined.  More reaction to follow.