You can learn just about all you’d want to know about a person’s relationship with food by stepping into her or his kitchen. If the stove and counters are mostly cleared off and crumb-free, if there are dishes drying somewhere beside the sink, and you see no sign of a spatula, colander, or nearly-depleted vessel of olive oil, you can pretty well assume there’s an outside source of nourishment sustaining this someone. To be sure, you can always open up the fridge.
The kitchen I reside in is not so tidy. It currently features an unwashed cast iron skillet, an assortment of peculiar-looking tomatoes, dishtowels tossed here and there, a bucket of blueberries, and a teetering tower of cutting boards, bowls, and kitchen tools set to dry in a dish-rack. This is a farm kitchen, and its scenery changes right along with the seasons. Whatever edible wonders are growing outside will ultimately make their way into this space and onto our plates.
At this time of year, in particular, my kitchen is both a blessing and a curse. It has the tendency to hold me hostage while I feebly attempt to utilize excessive amounts of things like squash and basil. (I am, in fact, stringing and snapping beans right now as I think of what to type next.) There are spring beets, turnips and green garlic still waiting to be washed and consumed, and though we managed to make several jars of sauerkraut, there are at least a dozen more heads of cabbage in the barn fridge. In a nutshell, there’s always work to be done.
It's not always easy for our children, either. My son, for instance, doesn’t have lettuce for his sandwiches because, well, it’s too hot for lettuce now and his mother cannot bear to purchase any from the store when she was looking out over a field full of the stuff mere weeks ago. If the kids want eggs for breakfast and there are none inside, they may have to make a trek to the coop. And there will be no strawberry shortcake in February unless our greenhouse berries wow us as they did two years ago and pop out mid-winter. A farm kitchen is, like it or not, as much about principles as it is about peas.
Fortunately for us, much of the Athens community understands this and thus supports local farms such as ours. Many of you are also avid gardeners. Since it can be a challenge to know just what to do with the goodies that end up in your sink, and since I’ll be in the kitchen anyway, I thought I’d share with you whatever I’m cooking up as inspiration.
If your kitchen looks much like what I described in the first paragraph and you’re not completely content with keeping it that way (in other words, you want to use it), I hope you’ll revisit this column, because I have plenty of food for thought to share, as well. As an introduction to the hows and whys of eating seasonally and locally, get your hands on a copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” It is truly a must-read, and a gem of a book, at that.
Next week: What to do with all that basil.