Thursday, August 26, 2010

An act of courage, and the hand of the divine

Sometimes the most mundane activity inspires the most profound thoughts. After gathering the morning’s harvest, I set about dicing the six cucumbers to freeze (fresh cucumber soup in January!), nibbling as I cut, as one does. I slipped a sweet piece of pale green crunch into my mouth and experienced the most revelatory moment:

I made this

I made a cucumber. I also "make" tomatoes, eggplants, squash, corn. Beans. Beets. Carrots. In fact, I can make anything, with help from God and the goddess. A garden brings the divine into the kitchen, through each small miracle of a fruit.

Urban Americans are so disconnected from food origins, and so indoctrinated to rely on someone else's expertise, that it takes both imagination and a profound act of courage to eat something that no one has inspected, or vetted, or processed, or labeled, or packaged. In our culture every single piece of fruit has a label and a number. Small storefront grocery stores are mistrusted if not demonized, let alone the guy selling watermelons off the back of his truck. Children ask “what is it” when confronted with a cherry tomato on the vine, and have never snipped the ends off a bean. Eating something that only you and God have touched is nearly revolutionary if not actively subversive.

I learned today that in the UK, everyone is entitled to an allotment, because “landless citizens have a right to the commons.” Here in the states we’ve let cities like Detroit and New Orleans die, because god forbid someone should use someone else’s land (i.e. vacant, abandoned lot) to grow their own food. God forbid the government should be required to redeem land that they allowed private companies to contaminate, so that no one can use it to grow things on, while allowing agribusiness to drench our inspected, vetted, processed, labeled, packaged foods with poison.

This week, we've been subjected to a report about poisoned eggs. Eggs that have been bleached, irradiated, scrubbed, and in fact, vetted, processed and labeled, have supposedly sickened more than a thousand people. We took "baby's first perfect food" and turned it into poison. I don't have to worry about it. I get my eggs from a local farmer, who neither poisons, nor cannibalizes, nor confines her chickens, and whom I've met.

And I grew a cucumber, a carrot, a tomato, a bean. I ate it hot from the sun—God’s hand to my mouth.

Cucumber-raisin bread
Adapted from "Best Zucchini Bread Ever"

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose)
2 teaspoons cinnamon (freshly ground, if you're into it)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (again, freshly grated, assuming you have, um, nutmegs? around)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder (make your own!)
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup canola or nut oil
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup buttermilk (or regular milk with a splash of vinegar)
1 cup organic Turbinado sugar (or brown sugar, firmly packed)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups finely grated cucumber
4 oz raisins, plumped

Preheat oven to 350F.

Oil a 9×4 inch loaf pan and line with parchment paper. Line a 6-cup muffin tin with papers OR oil a mini loaf pan. Whisk dry ingredients and set aside. In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy, then beat in yogurt, buttermilk, oil, sugar, and vanilla and combine well. Stir in grated cucumber and plumped raisins. Fold flour mixture into the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Spoon batter into 6 muffin cups (or mini loaf pan) and pour the rest into the 9×4 loaf pan. Bake for approximately 50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes in the pan.

Loosen the sides and remove from pan. Cool loaf completely before cutting.

1 comment:

  1. Allotments rule. My maternal grandparents had one in Germany, that my mom (who lived in the big city of Hamburg) spent her summers in. The former treasurer of Flint, Michigan, did buy land from out-of-state owners, bulldoze the abandoned houses and make them into community gardens. Unfortunately, there are not many Google hits on this. I also get my eggs from a local person with chickens in her backyard--glad I don't have to worry about that scare, either.