Nobody’s Fault But Mine

Easter was a simple affair, but still a good dinner. It centered around a Flintstonian slab of lamb–a whole shoulder–that I rubbed with spices (cumin, 5-spice, coffee, coriander) and slit and stuffed with copious ramp bulbs.

The various supporting players were straightforward enough: polenta with last summer’s pesto stirred in towards the end, then poured into an oiled baking dish to set up, then cut into cubes; local upland cress quickly stir-fried with garlic and cider vinegar; a gratin of red potatoes with foraged ramps, garlic mustard, nettles, and wild garlic puréed into the cream before baking; and a sauce made with homemade yogurt and homemade feta blended with ramps, salt, vinegar, truffle oil, mustard oil, and local roasted squash oil. Nothing haute or fancy about any of it, but oh-so-good. This lamb is delectable, and the sauce in particular such a compelling complement (feta? yogurt? alliums? Come on) that there’s not much more to say about it.

The various components of this meal also served handily to make a few subsequent dinners much much better than they would have been otherwise. And this is another reason to cook and eat at home: your hard work roasting something is flavor equity. When you take those bones and simmer them into a stock, you’re recouping the effort of the original preparation with interest from the ripening in the fridge. Having bits and pieces of other things to add in (or fabulous tangy fermented milk sauce with wild alliums, for example) is quite literally gravy.

This got me thinking some more about the previous post, and another reason why it is I like to eat at home besides having nobody but myself to blame if the dinner is not exactly as I want it to be. As more and more things are deemed to be toxic (plastics, non-organic anything, even sitting in front of this wretched appliance) I am more and more inspired to grow and produce more of my own food so that I know its provenance. I’ve spent years working with toxic materials in the studio, and who knows how many pesticides and other toxins accumulated in my body while I grew up oblivious. I don’t “exercise” in any traditional sports or gym sense, but I’m outside every day in season–for more than an hour when possible–digging and weeding and picking and schlepping stuff around. I never saw the point of running in place on a machine (unless the person in front of you has a beautiful ass); I like to get shit done. Digging holes and moving barrows of compost from one place to another in the service of more and better food from my little spot strikes me as killing a whole bunch of dangerous birds with one stone.

Given that the house is permeated with wi-fi, my studio is filled with solvents and pigments that are poisonous, the computer is trying to make me fat, and my phone is slowly microwaving my balls when I leave the house, it seems that taking control of food as far up the supply chain as we can is not just a fake yuppie virtue but a very real proactive step towards not dying in an untimely fashion. And when we grow and cook and bake and preserve our own food, we have a peace of mind that no restaurant can ever hope to touch. And it just tastes better when you make it yourself, at least 95% of the time. And that is intended to be a factual statement.

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  1. April 27

    That’s how I feel about eating locally, too. The more you know the farmer, the more you know the food.

  2. Having just made croissants and puff pastry… I ask… why pay so much more for so much less/? Your lamb is heavenly… great stuffing components. It is better to know where things come from and meeting the people who give you the ingredients (if you don’t have land to grow it) well, it feels natural… much more so than little plastic packages.

  3. April 28

    Ah. Now you’ve cottoned to why I moved to 5 acres: DIY, no gym required. Better eating all around. And: total flipping control. Maybe that’s the biggest reason.

  4. Peter
    April 29

    Zoomie: Honestly, though, the food is better. That’s what makes this whole endeavor worthwhile.

    Deana: It’s true. Real food is good food.

    El: I covet your extra 4 acres.

  5. Janet
    May 1

    Peter, I covet your 1 acre.
    I truly wish I could grow vegetables in my small backyard, but it’s far to shady for that (I can grow Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Trillium). I’ve been thinking of my front yard, but worry about people stealing and dogs doing unspeakable things, like leaving little gifts for me to clean up. At least, I cook from scratch every day, try to buy organic and visit the farmer’s markets (when opened) every week.

  6. Peter
    May 2

    Janet: Maybe a low fence for the dogs? Urban front-yard gardening is quite the rage in some places. Though if your neighbors steal it that would suck.

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