I was fortunate to be selected to enter the “24 meals, 24 cities, 24 blogs” event featured by Foodbuzz. For this event I was delighted to pay tribute to my book club. We are a group of 4 women who get together every few months to discuss a novel over delicious food & drink. This month we decided on Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. This blog will take you through our dinner menu (featuring local vendors), provide general comments & discussions about the book, as well as some favorite quotes.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a narrative & part memoire of Kingsolver’s family journey from an urban life in Arizona to a rural lifestyle in West Virginia, where they vow to eat only locally grown food for one year (Exceptions: spices, coffee, olive oil and flour whereby fair trade alternatives were purchased). The chapters flow from month to month and season to season recounting how the family learns about farming, gardening, cooking and ultimately become an integral part of their community.
In Kingsolver’s words: “This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals & vegetables whose provenance we really knew and of how our family was changed by our first year of deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbours, drank the water, and breathed the air."
The book was written with Barbara Kingsolver’s husband, Steven Hopp and their daughter Camille Kingsolver. Steven provides scientific based sidebars regarding the industrialization of food and the global impacts it has caused. He touches on subjects such as sustainability, energy consumption, factory farming, and food-safety. While Camille’s essays focus on a teenager’s point of view of eating locally and offers up the family’s seasonal recipes.
The book inspired our book clubs dinner menu. It would be hypocritical to discuss this book while eating factory farmed chicken or vegetables that were flown halfway around the world contributing to the use of fossil fuels. Instead it stood to good reason that the food & drink we consumed would be both seasonal and locally produced. In addition we thought it would be fun to try some recipes from the book Animal, Vegetable Miracle, adding variations where necessary to keep within the local and seasonal theme.
It was also a good challenge to try eating locally and seasonally in Ottawa in November, a season that although offers some tasty fruits and vegetables is not as flourishing and plentiful as summer. Most of the markets closed down by the end of October and if you had not made appropriate arrangements to store your food for use in the winter months, you may struggle to find local foods. After some research I discovered a few local vendors and local farms with greenhouses all within a 100 mile radius. Those that were not found in a 100 mile radius were purchased from sources within Ontario (such as the wine). The first course was this wonderful butternut bean soup, which a bookclub member decorated so elegantly with local organic thyme.
BUTTERNUT BEAN SOUP
1½ cups dried white beans, soaked overnight and drained
3 medium portabella mushroom caps, sliced (optional)
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbs. thyme
1 tbs. sage
4 tsp. rosemary
2 butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
Combine beans and spices in a large sauce pan, add water to cover amply, simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until beans are tender and most water has cooked off. Add mushrooms toward the end.
While beans are cooking, drizzle a large roasting pan with olive oil and arrange squash skin-side-down. Cook at 400 for about 40 minutes, until fully tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and serve each half squash filled with a generous scoop of bean soup.
The soup was hearty and delicious. Locally speaking, my dad was able to grow over 30 butternut squashes with nothing but sun and water.
SWEET POTATO QUESADILLAS
1 clove garlic
1 T oregano
1 T basil
1 tsp cumin
chile powder and cayenne powder to taste
Olive oil for saute
4 flour tortillas
4 oz. jalapeno cheddar (St. Albert Cheese Factory)
5 leaves spinach
Preheat oven to 400. Oil a large baking sheet, spread tortillas on it to lightly oil one side, then spread filling over entire toritillas. Top with slices cheese and spinach. Place another tortilla on top of filling and press down. Bake until browned and crisp (15 min.). Cut into wedges & serve.
1-2 greenhouse tomatoes seeded and diced
1 small greenhouse onion
1 jalapeno from dad's garden
1/2 lime juiced (optional as not local)
salt and pepper to taste
Mix ingredients and serve with quesadillas.
ROASTED SEASONAL VEGETABLES
Red or white potatoes, cubed
butternut squash, cubed
parsnips, thickly sliced
carrots, thickly sliced
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, minced
Peel and cut vegetables into 1" cubes, and place in a roasting pan. Toss with maple syrup and olive oil, add minced garlic and pepper. Roast in a preheated oven at 400F for 45 min or until tender, stirring occassionally.
POACHED APPLES & PEARS
4 apples, removed core and cut into wedges (keep skin on for rustic look)
4 pears, remove core and cut into wedges (keep skin on)
1/2 cup of liquid honey
2 vanilla beans, split and scrapped
4 cinnamon sticks or 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
2 quarts of water
juice of one lemon
In a crockpot or large pot place the apples, pears, vanilla, cinnamon and honey. Cover with water then bring to a simmer over medium to low heat for about 20mins. Once apples and pears are soft enough remove them using a slotted spoon and place on a plate. Reduce the poaching liquid to a light syrup then place fruit back in crockpot and hold on warm until ready to serve. Serve with ice cream and vanilla pod or cinnamon stick.
The flavors and aroma of vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon in these poached fruits are so warm and comforting.
Much of the food used in the meals were found at the Ottawa Organic Market. Above is my husband looking for local organic vegetables, but getting distracted by the yummy vegan pastries.
Greenhouse spinach and greens from a local Quebec farm.
Stuart's Natural Session Ale - the first all organic beer brewed in Eastern Ontario.
Ontario Wines. We enjoyed a few bottles (yes a few) of some nice dry full-bodied red wines from the Niagara on the Lake Region.
Saslove's Meat Market sells organic meats and dairy products produced from local farmers.
St. Albert Cheese Factory (Ice Cream and Cheese). I remember going here as a child to have ice cream and pick up the world famous curds, known best in French Canadian Poutine.
Ontario Grown Sweet Potatoes (Ottawa Organic Farmer's Market). I just love these roasted or cut into fries and grilled.
COMPILATION OF OUR FAVORITE QUOTES
Do you try to eat seasonally, or do you just buy whatever looks good in the store regardless of whether it’s in season locally or had to be shipped in from another hemisphere? Will you change your ways after reading this book?