As part of my new strategy to create a more structured, useful, and predictable blog, Sundays will now be "food day" here at Vamos a Ver. This will not only be of benefit to readers, but also to me. I need to be thinking about food on Sundays because Monday is our usual farmshare pick up day, and that means lots and lots of vegetables that we need to have some kind of a plan for. There's a reason fresh foods are called perishables! For tomorrow's pick up I am expecting to see a lot of butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, radishes, and kale. There will probably be something I'm not expecting too- vamos a ver...
A little background on our farm and on our food buying, food cooking, and eating habits in general. Jim and I belong to the Food Bank Farm of Western Massachusetts with my daughter Anna and her husband Ray. Here's how it works. We pay a flat fee to belong to the farm, which we pay before the beginning of the season. This year the fee for the four of us is $655, which we split two ways between our households. In return we get, from May through November, all the fresh, local, seasonal, organic vegetables that we can possibly eat. In season we also get all we can use of u-pick strawberries, fresh herbs, and flowers. Other foods like cheeses, meats, eggs, breads, baked goods, and more- almost all local and many organic, are also available for purchase. The farm has been one of the best things in our lives this year, and has changed the way we eat and think about food. Between belonging to the farm and also belonging to a food-buyers club with our neighbors, we seldom need to shop at a grocery store anymore. Really. This has put shopping back in the background of life where it belongs and where it used to be 100 years ago, before it became one of the primary activities of living that it has become for so many of us. But I digress...
So, tomorrow is pick-up day at the farm, the second to last pick-up before the farm closes for the season. I'll make the hour plus drive up there. Anna and I will meet as usual, and we'll either have lunch or get our shares and then have lunch. The fact that Anna lives up that way plays a definite role in our belonging to the farm, making it a social/family visit trip versus just a food getting run. It's a way of pretty much guaranteeing that we see each other once a week, which might otherwise not happen given our respective busyness and work schedules. This year we have also purchased a winter share at the Brookfield Farm for $120. Pick up will be every two weeks and will include all we need (hopefully) of local winter root vegetables, kale, etc.
Although shopping isn't a major focus of my life, eating well is. Along with regular, intense exercise, eating well is part of the foundation of my plan for trying to stick around on this earth for as long as possible. I like it here. Although I have always been interested in nutrition, this interest has become more central to my life since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. There's a lot of information out there about ways of eating, specific foods, and supplements that can increase a woman's chances of landing herself on the good side of the survival stats. This game of playing "beat the breast cancer" has ironically become kind of an enjoyable hobby for me. As it said on a refrigerator magnet I stumbled upon recently, "My goal is to be immortal- so far so good."
I currently eat a plant-based diet of primarily local organic whole foods, including limited quantities of chicken, eggs, and fish. I don't eat mammals and more recently have stopped (except on very rare occasions) consuming dairy products. I also avoid processed soy and eat whole soy foods in limited quantities. I never drink alcohol. All of these choices are based on my best understanding of the current research on diet and breast cancer. I pay particular attention to diet and lifestyle factors that can influence hormone driven breast cancers, since my particular cancer was strongly hormone sensitive. I also try to emphasize foods that are noted to have anti-cancer/anti-breast cancer properties. More on this in future posts.
Although I like to cook, I also like to keep things simple. There are a lot of other things I like to do too and I don't want to be spending all my time in the kitchen. I find often that the simplest dishes with the fewest ingredients sometimes taste the best and are the most satisfying. I also like to put my own spin on recipes. Except for baking, when exact amounts can be critical to achieving the desired outcome, I tend to somewhat disregard measuring and following recipes exactly.
Although I am not a vegetarian I tend to focus on vegetarian recipes and cookbooks. Lately I have been using more macrobiotic recipes. My current favorite macrobiotic cookbook is Aveline Kushi's and Wendy Esko's, "Changing Seasons Macrobiotic Cookbook: Cooking in Harmony with Nature." I've also been using "The Vegetarian Family Cookbook" by Nava Atlas, and Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" a lot.
These are the cookbooks I'll be sitting down with this afternoon when I do my "what are we eating this week" planning session. I already know some of the things we'll be having, like steamed kale (which I never get tired of), radish pickles, roasted chicken breast with homemade pesto (by Jim) that we froze in quantity into cubes using ice cube trays this summer.
I'll also be making our current favorite recipe from Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks site:
I love Heidi's site and if you haven't visited it yet please do. Even if you hate to cook it is worth visiting for its loveliness alone. Maybe it will make you want to cook.
As usual I've put my own spin on the recipe. First of all I make it with butternut squash which we have lots of right now. She mentions that you can substitute other winter squashes as you have on hand or see fit. Other changes I've made to the recipe include substituting walnuts or pecans for sunflower seeds (I don't like sunflower seeds), maple syrup for the honey (I like maple syrup- a lot), omitting the water, and using fresh rosemary instead of cilantro. We like cilantro but not everyone does. Anna for example despises it. I like using a lot of rosemary in my cooking because of it's potential anti-breast-cancer properties- for me always a consideration.
Here are a few shots of the farm. These were taken in October.
Kale, lots of it.
Morning glories climbing the chicken shed
Lunch Macrobiotic style
And now on to the planning session and the rest of the day. Tune in next Sunday for more on eating for breast cancer survival, eating local and seasonal, and related recipes.