It’s no secret that I have an obscene love of food. What most people don’t know however, is how much that love extends to the utensils and dishes with which food is prepared, served and enjoyed. I would wager, in fact, even my own family is in the dark as to how deep my fondness for all things food-service related runs.
It seems I’m a bit behind in writing this column. Some of you overachievers — I’m looking at you, California — have already sent your kids back to school; last week even. The first week of August! And I’m not going to lie, I want to know how you managed it because my kids, who do not return to school until the second week in September, have interrupted me six times while I wrote this first paragraph. I’m ready for back to school.
As a matter of fact, if I’d known there were states out there who sent kids back to school in early August I may have settled elsewhere to raise my own. In the meantime all I can do is hope Michigan gets with the program and plan for the days when mine do go back. And, if you happen to be one of those parents wistfully thinking of school days ahead with me, I can share those plans I’m making. Especially those that have to do with food. Which is exactly what I plan to do. For the next three weeks we’ll be talking back-to-school food of the local, artisan and handmade types.
On the menu this week: breakfast! Experts agree it’s the most important meal of the day and corporate food giants expend a great deal of marketing moolah harking products that promise to get kids off to a great start — never pausing to divulge the sugar and preservatives that’ll accompany that breakfast, of course — without taking too much time from the precious few moments most families have. What isn’t widely publicized is that locally sourced, handmade breakfasts don’t have to take copious time either and they can be a whole lot healthier.
Here a few of our favorite simple breakfast pleasures that can be taken from farm (or farm market) to table in no time:
French Toast. You’ve eyed the homemade breads at the farmer’s market long enough. This weekend make your way to the booth and buy a few loaves. Yes, a few. Take them home, cut them into thick slices, coat them in egg and make french toast, removing them from the heat just before they’re done. Freeze them with a slip of wax paper between each slice and you can literally pull french toast from the freezer for a quick and easy breakfast all fall and winter. Just pop the slices in the toaster or toaster oven and warm. And remember, this is not your Grandma’s french toast. Experiment with herbed or onion bread dipped in garlic spiked egg and topped with sour cream rather than syrup, for instance.
Overnight Oatmeal. In a large bowl mix enough steel cut oats for the whole family with just enough soy milk to cover and leave the whole thing in the fridge. In the morning pull out the oatmeal, which will now be soft and thick, mix it with your favorite local fruit — dried or fresh — nuts, spices or honey and either eat cold or microwave just long enough to heat through.
Scrambled Eggs. I like mine topped with salsa; my husband likes his with sliced mushrooms and sharp cheddar; my oldest daughter likes her with just a dash of pepper and my youngest, well, she’s a purist, she likes them plain. No matter the fixin’s however, it never takes long to make them. I use the microwave. Yes, the microwave. And the bonus, very little clean up. My girls can even make eggs themselves this way. Just break an egg or two into a glass dish, microwave on high at thirty second intervals, stirring and fluffing with a fork each time until the eggs are done to your desired dryness.
Fruit Smoothies. Remember all those berries I told you to stock up on earlier in the season? Now is the time to pull them from their freezer resting spot and put them to good use. Add one of fall’s first apples to the mix and blend up a few cups of your favorite with a little ice and milk (soy, goat, cow, almond, the sky is the limit) and enjoy. For an added protein boost you don’t need powders from the health food store, drop in a handful of steel cut oats or pair the smoothie with a handful of nuts.
What’s your favorite on-the-go breakfast that doesn’t have your family relying heavily on corporate food giants and their products?
There are over two-hundred tomato seedlings living out their days in seed trays on my kitchen counter. The fruit of every single one of them is intended for consumption by myself, my family; no one else. I may have gone a little overboard. But we love — and I do mean love — tomatoes.
It’s no surprise then, if a producer wants to catch my eye all they have to do is market something inventive, something tomato-ey. Katchkie Farm of Kinderhook, New York did just that. And from there I fell further and further in love.
Katchkie Farm doesn’t just sell Tomato Jam — a product that they report has a little kick, but goes down smooth thanks to the included ginger and cayenne pepper — from their Foodzie Shop. Owned by Great Performances, a New York City company famous for its local catering and cafe menus, Katchkie Farm also brings their local, organic products to consumers in the NYC area via Farmer’s Markets in the city throughout the year. Plus, they offer weekly and bi-weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares to families in the Tribeca and surrounding communities; shares that not only include their own vegetables but also fruit sourced from other local growers for a round, family diet.
And you know, if we stopped there Katchkie Farm may be in a class with so many others — small farms and producers who are all striving for the same goals and functioning on the same mission; good honest and important goals — but they’ve taken it a step further, thoroughly earning their place in the Try Handmade hall of fame. Katchkie Farm is home to The Sylvia Center; a garden-to-table program that connects kids with the source of their food and empowers them to make healthful decisions in fueling their bodies. In my opinion, there is no work more important.
I may be rebellious. I may despise conformity. But I am also, in some things, a creature of habit. During the holidays, for instance, I adore tradition. Until just last year I eschewed the idea of any deviation from what I considered a traditional holiday feast. Especially when the feast was to be had on Thanksgiving.
Turkey, mashed potatoes — in my defense I had deferred many years earlier to the advent of smashed potatoes as a time-saving substitute on this count — green beans, corn, biscuits, gravy, squash, cranberry relish, stuffing. It’s unclear whether or not (most likely not!) those who celebrated the real first Thanksgiving would have considered even a portion of my meal traditional, but my opinions have always stood nonetheless.
It probably comes as no surprise that I tend to follow the work of Michael Pollan. One of his most recent articles in the New York Times, Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch, is no exception. I ran across it shortly after it was published and can admit it took me a few days to get through its eight rather comprehensive pages.
However, while I pride myself on being a feminist and do believe gender roles should be banished forevermore, while other people were responding with concern of it’s more sexist undertones (those I see, but think have been taken out of context — another story, for another day) I was busy fixating on another point made in the article.