Wednesday, January 20, 2010

COOKING, FRAN & WALLY - January 2010

While you are resolving to read more books, lose 20 pounds, volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, here is our suggestion: Promise yourself you are going to do something differently about food. To start, listen to the words of former White House Executive Chef Walter Scheib, now the “American Chef”.

Wally: Good food means good ingredients. Get fresh products and use them in your diet and eat more nutritiously. Patronize farm market vendors so they profit and can expand - it benefits everybody. Even though it’s winter now, you may find gardeners who have a winter garden. Follow Michelle Obama’s lead and start a garden yourself, even window boxes or pots on your deck. Get to know a farmer or join a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture). You help fund a farmer and get fresh produce or meats in return. You also might help save a family farm, build the community economy and, of course, you will eat great food. Supermarkets don’t have to be impersonal megaliths with the employees as shrink-wrapped as the chicken. One thing you can do right now is get to know the butcher, the produce manager, the deli people. They would welcome your friendship and it would make them feel that their expertise is valued. For example, if the produce department doesn’t have something you want, ask the manager to order it for you and promise to come in and get it. Begin to build your pantries—stock up on a selection of oils, mustards, vinegars, chutneys and the like. You can call up your foodie friends and have a tasting party. Set out complimentary hors d’oeuvres for the category you are featuring, provide drinks and you’ve got a good party. If that would be a bit expensive for you, ask your friends to bring their favorite mustard, chutney or whatever you’re tasting; you provide the hors d’oeuvres and drinks, and the conversation will flow with the wine. You could make it a contest and let the guests decide which condiment they liked best. You may be surprised what successful entertaining that can be.

Fran: Wally’s comments give us an excellent insight into the mind of a man passionate and joyful about both the complexity and simplicity of good food. No detail or nuance is unimportant in creating or making a recipe. Finding as much fresh stuff as you can shouldn’t be a chore but a delight and nothing wrong with its being fun. Obviously winter is not the time for the large number of farmers’ markets here, but last month a vendor from Purcellville was selling greens at the Del Ray Market site. The Old Town Market in Market Square is open year round. Both are worth checking out. Incidentally, Chef counts anything within 300 miles “local”. Keep this column on your desk to remind you to go even fresher when spring comes. Tell your friends. The more people who patronize market gardeners, the more there will be. We will also try to list CSAs in this area closer to springtime. I found one in The Plains listed on the Internet, but there may be others.

Many restaurateurs pride themselves on their own gardens or relationships with carefully chosen local vendors. You could certainly ask about this when you dine out. Again, the more we ask for fresh, the sooner restaurants will comply. Bon Appetit!

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