Sunday, October 10, 2010

Walking the Walk: Food Security

In the Pacific island kingdom of Tonga, all coins carry the inscription, Fakalahi me-akai, Grow More Food. This simple message encouraging self-reliance has deep importance, especially for this isolated group of tiny islands. Providence, self-reliance, security, all very important.
This summer, while working together in the community garden, a young friend asked me if I thought it was possible for Point Roberts to "achieve food security". It was a sincere and very interesting question. The short answer is yes and no. The long one, what my wife calls the Sagittarius answer, is filled with more questions than real answers, and enough tangents to qualify as a geometry problem.
To begin, any talk of food security has first to address food reality. As I write, I'm enjoying a morning cup of Costa Rican coffee, Tres Rios, to be exact. I like good coffee, and cream, and butter, whole wheat bread, gorgonzola, miso, virgin olive oil, and a glass of Aussie shiraz. The list goes on. These choices define a food reality that Pt. Bob, USA, does not currently provide. This all becomes part of the "no". The "yes" is fairly easy to describe. Tonight's dinner will be homegrown potatoes, hot beet salad, and braised sockeye fillet from Point Roberts waters. That's as local as it gets. The problem is how to stretch it out, to make all of my meals local.
At this point, unless I'm willing to make some major dietary changes, it won't happen. What's left is a compromise. On the one hand, work hard to provide everything I can. On the other, make considered choices as to source, quality, and the true cost of things I buy. Where does the beef come from? A small, family ranch in Sedro Woolley. And the coffee? Ideally, it would be shade grown, fairly traded, and unsprayed. Honestly, I don't know, but whatever it's provenance, it tastes wonderful, and I'm thankful to have it.
To say that our current food system needs improving is a huge understatement, but I'm not ready to completely abandon it until we've worked out some good alternatives. Thankfully, all across the country, more and more people have begun doing just that; taking back their birthright. Our grandparents and great-grandparents did it. First nations peoples did it. We can provide for ourselves, we just have do it.
The most inspiring example of this I've seen happen, was this summer's Kid's Camp involvement in building the Community Garden. From an empty lot with nothing but stubby weeds and grass, to a full tilt garden with tomatoes, chard, carrots, lettuce, onions, and sunflowers higher than your head! And they did it, from soil to seeds to fresh food. With help from the Point Roberts Parks Board and numerous helpers and sponsors, we have started something, that, like the simple inscription on Tongan coins, is deeply important.

WtW Note: Hot Beet Salad- (This dish will even change the mind of people who say, "I don't like beets!")

Scrub and grate 2 large beets and 1 or 2 carrots. In a fairly deep frying pan (or wok) with cover, slowly saute, in ample olive oil, 1/2 a finely diced onion, 1 sprig of fresh tarragon and 3 or 4 leaves of fresh basil. Dried herbs will work, but don't be skimpy. Cover and let the onions brown. Uncover and stir in grated beets and carrot. Add a liberal splash or two of balsamic vinegar, and a smaller one of tamari (soy sauce), 2-3 shots (to taste) of hot sauce, and 1/4 cup of red wine. Cover and let simmer until the beets are tender. Serve hot, topped with a dollop of plain yogurt, sour cream, or your favorite creamy ranch dressing.

Braised Salmon Fillet-

Use the other half onion, but slice it into long thin strips. Saute onion in olive oil with fresh thyme until the onions are browned. In a small dish, mix the juice of 1/2 lemon and two tablespoons of mayonnaise. Place the fillet flesh side down on the onions for 2 or 3 minutes, then lift and place it skin side down on the remaining bedded onions. Top the fillet with lemon/mayo sauce and add 1/8 cup white wine. Cover the pan and let simmer for 6-8 minutes. Chill a good white wine for this one.

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