Friday, September 24, 2010

Giving food away

I hate to give away food.

Sounds hateful, doesn't it? But I have a terrible time picking produce from my garden with the intent to donate it to a food pantry, or gift it to a friend.

This guilty little secret was mitigated this year because I took charge of the "Farm2Give" plots at Peterson Garden--seven 4x6 beds which were put in specifically to give away. So I got to feel all good about myself, as we've donated more than 50 pounds of food so far.

But I've had a lot of extra produce in my own garden as well, and it's all sitting in my larder.

I started thinking about this because my dear friend B has been hit hard with both breast cancer and an ovarian cyst-- they found the two tumors within a span of a few days. So I spent the morning today making food for her-- cucumber soup, squash soup, pesto, jam-- from my precious store. The squash soup especially is delicious. The pesto used up half of the plants that are still in leaf. I love B with all my heart, but it's killing me to give this stuff away.

I suppose in a way that makes it the more special-- it's not much of a gift if it doesn't mean anything to you.

The hoarding of food is built into our genes. Above I use the term "precious store" facetiously, but food is, in fact precious. It barely even qualifies as race memory to save food. Within living memory, you saved food or you and your family died. Modern food keeps- in refrigerators, or in cans, or simply on the shelf through untested modifications like irradiation. I would guess that something like potato chips have a shelf life measured in years. Because food is now easy-- grown, cooked, and preserved by someone else-- we don't value our food as much.

I value my food. It's entirely possible that I love my winter melons more than I love my children; I hope it's never put to the test. I don't quite name each tomato, but I do refer to them by gender. My food is precious to me. Here's hoping that the goddess understands, and bestows extra blessing on it for my friend.

Roasted autumn vegetable soup with roasted squash seeds
1 medium squash (about a pound), seeded (conserve the seeds)
4-5 small parsnips
2-3 cloves garlic
3 cups vegetable stock (I used a carrot green-based stock)
garam masala
white pepper

To roast the squash, parsnips and garlic: heat the oven to 350. Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Set these aside. Peel and roughly cut the parsnips (about 1" chunks), and peel the garlic. Put all on a baking sheet, and either brush fully with olive oil, or spray with a cooking spray. Put in the hot oven for about 40 minutes. Check the garlic at 20 minutes; if it's started to brown, remove it. When the vegetables are all done, allow them to cool until you can handle them. Scrape out the squash meat, and put this in a large soup pot with the garlic, parsnip chunks, and spices. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the parsnips are soft, then blend with an immersible blender, or decant into a food processor or blender, until smooth. Non-vegans serve with a little cream, topped with:

Roasted squash seeds
Gently remove the meat and string from the conserved squash seeds (just squeeze them in your hands; the seeds will pop out). Spread these on the same baking sheet you just used (why wash two?) and allow them to dry for about 10 minutes. They'll go from slimy to sticky; you don't want them to dry all the way. Dredge them with seasalt until they are completely coated, then with some garam masala. Pat them down on the baking sheet, and roast at 350 for 5 to 8 minutes, or until lightly brown.

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