3.04.2009

eating is an agricultural act

So, if you guys remember, each week of the Ridge to Reef program has been devoted to a different (yet connected) area of study. We've done Farm-based Education, Permaculture, Sustainable Building, Agroecology, Renewable Energy and, last week, Slow Food.

Slow Food, as opposed to fast food, refers to a movement started in 1989 in Italy by a man named Carlo Petrini. McDonald's aimed to open a location there, but they faced passionate resistance from the locals because the kind of food experience McDonald's has to offer directly opposes the culture of food there. The movement has become more of a self-promoter with a political agenda in recent years, but their core foundation of belief in the importance of food, and good food, is a great one.

Part of the movement's philosophy reads:
"We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible ... We consider ourselves co-producers, not consumers, because by being informed about how our food is produced and actively supporting those who produce it, we become a part of and a partner in the production process."
We spent the week discussing all aspects of food, from production to plating. We talked about different diet types and ways of consuming food. We talked about preparing food and went over a few recipes. Then, at the end of the week, we prepared a feast.

On Friday, February 27, the R2R crew held a Slow Down Dinner. Creque Dam Farm routinely holds these dinners to raise money for the farm. Guests must reserve a seat in advance for a six-course meal, made from as much local food as possible, preferably straight from the farm. But on Friday, the meal was just for us and the rest of the farm crew.

We were split into 5 groups of 2 and sent to experiment and prepare one course to be included in our five-course dinner: appetizer, soup, salad, entree, and dessert.

The dinner was, in all seriousness, an amazing success. I was actually concerned that some of the dishes wouldn't turn out right, especially since most of us had little experience creating a recipe, let alone serving it to 30 people. But it all turned out, and it turned out delicious. Good food, good friends, and good conversation all around.

The appetizer was blanched okra skewered over a polenta circle with tomato and pumpkin chutney topped with a roasted pumpkin seed and spice sprinkle.


Way to go Mandy and Ms. Judith.


Next up was the soup, which I was selected (out of a hat) to prepare along with Ashley. We spent all Thursday afternoon experimenting and creating a recipe for a cold cucumber soup. Every single ingredient (except a little salt and pepper) came straight from the farm. It was entirely raw vegan. And it was delicious.

We had harvested about 60 cucumbers the day before, which is why we chose to work with cucumbers. Ashley and I cut and carved out the seeds of 30. I hiked around the farm and collected about 14 baby coconuts that I cut open to use both the water and meat. We also harvested some fresh cilantro, scallions, sour orange, and honey. We cut, added, squeezed, diced, and poured all of this into a food processor and slowly blended until creamy. Then, we chilled our concoction over night.

Just prior to dinner, I went to the Mandala garden and plucked 50 cranberry hibiscus leaves while Ashley ground up dried sorrel into a powder. We sprinkled the powder over the soup and added two of the leaves on top as a garnish (a very tasty garnish). Cold soup was definitely a good idea and it totally hit the spot.


Ashley and I with our new dish, Cococucu:


The salad was a roasted vegetable salad with peppers, eggplant, and potato, topped with fresh greens and a tamarind vinegarette with sorrel reduction sauce.


Pretty dang good, Marshall and Mere.


The entree was a seared, coconut encrusted mahi-mahi topped with red flavoring peppers, holy basil flower, and green curry paste on a blached bok choy leaf and a side of rice infused with moringa and topped with a ylang ylang flower...


And the vegan option: same as above, just papaya instead of fish.


Thanks James and Dez!


Finally, dessert. We ended the night with a pumpkin pudding cake with raisins topped with fresh coconut sorbet and a honey rum drizzle sauce. (I finished off the sorbet after lunch today. Ugglkhoiee, it was so good.)


Ryan and Patrick deserve a prize.


Most of the farm crew with the R2R students after dinner:


Oh yea, and I have a mustache now. And ironically enough, when I got back from some travels this past weekend, there were some facial hair changes with a few of the farmers. Ben, the founder and owner, almost has a Fu Manchu going on. Keith, the chef, has a dirty mustache. And Kyle is now rocking a Mohawk. At least I'm not alone anymore...

6 comments:

Jessie said...

Ben,

I like the mustache.

The food looks delicious. Reminds me of the dishes I enjoyed at Blackberry Farm, fresh food off the farm and presented so beautifully.

Can't wait to see you!

Love,
Mom

Audrey said...

looks delicious!! I'm jealous, but I'm sure you'd be jealous of my yogurt and cereal, scrambled eggs, and salads!!!
colombe agneau

Will Rucker said...

dude ben, these look great man. you are looking a bit like Russell Hammond with that stache. and as mom said, can't wait to see you and hear your stories. i'm really looking forward to it.

also, the unmastered/not completely mixed version of Veckatimest leaked and let's just say....i'm sad I found that it leaked because i wanted to wait and..... i can't stop listening to it..

And mom, nice pic, you're looking really spiffed up with that red lipstick and black vest.

Scott said...

dig the stash

max. said...

i'm hungry now. thanks.

lizkirk said...

oh my gosh i want all of that.
wowee teach me your wonderful island cooking ways.