As I sit eating my breakfast and reading the latest issue of one of my food magazines, I’m struck by the simple words of an Irish chef, JP McMahon, in a Kerrygold butter ad, “You get a product and then you make a dish, not the other way around.”
Sure, it’s an ad, but he is a Michelin star chef on a tiny island, in the tiny town of Galway, whose committed to using only ingredients purchased on the island. Meaning he has, relatively speaking, limited sources of local foods so he has to work with what is available. This is precisely how I have come to cook over the last 30 years. Or, more accurately, how I have been cooking for the past 30 years. It’s just that I continue to hone the process each year, as I discover new ways of storing and preparing items as well as becoming accustomed to going without an item and recreating something that will work in it’s place. I am an exceedingly practical person and one that has always been on a budget. So when you add these elements to learning survival, herbal, and gardening skills, it immediately becomes a fun challenge to see how much we can live on just what we grow and make. It has come to feel deeply satisfying and nourishing to eat this way, certainly second nature at this point. While I enjoy a meal out now and again, it invariably is less tasty than what I could prepare at home, not organically grown and therefore not nearly as nutritious.
So, back to my breakfast. As a mostly paleo, gluten-free, and dairy free person, any meal is made up of some variation of veggies and meat/eggs and a paleo/gluten-free baked item like pancakes, breakfast cookies, or muffins. I start with my red peppers, that are piled on the counter according to variety; habanada, paprika, sweet apple, and pimento. They’ve got to be stored somehow, but in the meantime, they sit on our counter and get used in nearly every meal. Glasses are filled with stems of basil, parsley, and kale that also get used in this way. Then, there are the baskets of pears and apples. Whoa! I’ve thawed a block of ground beef I purchased from the neighbor, who literally lives across the street. It’s from a seven year old cow that had been a milker. They only raise a few cows at a time, they all have names, live out on the pasture and are well loved. People cringe when you talk about knowing and loving who you are eating. But isn’t that the point? To have deep feelings and care for what we are taking in? This idea that we must dissociate when it comes to killing our food is ridiculous to me. That is precisely when we want to be the most present, the most thankful, for we are taking a life. Our obligation to live with integrity as a way to honor the lives we take to live is critical, and, in turn, brings more meaning and depth to our own lives.
So now I’ve got some ground beef, this year’s garlic and a sweet apple pepper simmering away in a small pan. I break off a small chunk of frozen shiitakes and place it in the pan to thaw. They’ve already been sautéed with ghee before being frozen, so that will add the perfect richness I’m looking for. I then get two eggs, also from the neighbor, and fry them in ghee on a hot, cast iron skillet. I lay two gluten free pancakes (made the day before for breakfast) on the skillet to warm, then on the bottom of a shallow bowl. Spoon the veggies & meat on top and then top with the eggs. Perfect!
I have finally become one of those people that can walk into anyone’s kitchen and find ingredients to make something delicious, with just what is on hand. That is where the practice has to start. Even if the items aren’t local or fresh, there is something delicious, waiting to be made, in your fridge and pantry. I do buy condiments and gluten free flours such as a rice blend, almond flour, and cassava flour. I also buy avocados, bananas, and sometimes salad mix (when there is none in the garden). I’m not a purist, nor am I striving to be. I am striving to leave less of a footprint on Earth, in terms of consumption and waste, and care well for myself and family in the process.
Eating this way is a practice. A practice in simple living, in managing cravings, in accepting what is. At first it can feel uncomfortable, like denying yourself. Then, slowly, you realize that not only are you NOT denying yourself, you are actually loving yourself better, being creative in the kitchen, eating healthier, and not needing to fulfil every craving.
The power of this practice — eating locally, seasonally, organically, deliciously — is also one of the most radical acts you can do to change the world for the better. Yes, yes, I know we have heard this type of rhetoric many times, for many years, but we need to really let it sink in, to recognize the power we have in our food choice, that effects our health, local economy, and the Earth (soil health). When we feel helpless to stop the violence of police brutality against people of color, or stem the tide of global warming, or even to help a family member struggling with addiction; we can know we are helping the soil, the local farmer, the local economy, and our bodies — as well as not supporting BIG business, BIG Ag, chemical companies and slaughter houses by eating this way. Look how powerful that is!
So the next time you get a craving for some specialty, store bought item you’d have to go get, look in your fridge, freezer and pantry first or buy a locally made version of that food. I know you’ve got something yummy in there just waiting to be made.
A Savory Something
2 types of frozen/fresh veggies – 1 cup each
Garlic if available – 2 cloves sliced
Onion if available – 1/2 chopped
Protein of choice (meats/eggs/substitute) – 1 cup shredded/chopped
Healthy fat – Olive oil, ghee, avocado oil – aprox. 1/4 c.
Salt/pepper/spices to taste
Condiments/sauces if desired
Warm the oil in a small sauce pan. Throw in sliced garlic and onion and sauté until browned slightly. Add the meat and sauté about 5 minutes, until cooked. I like to cook eggs separately and place on top of dish when done. Add frozen/fresh veggies and a sauce (or a little water) and let simmer together until well cooked and blended (I used an organic sweet and sour sauce in my breakfast). TASTE as you are cooking! We want it to be delicious! Add spicing as you choose, but don’t feel obliged. There is nothing wrong with salt, pepper, and butter. Place your favorite local or homemade bread in the bottom of a shallow bowl, pour the meat & veggies over top and you’re done! If you use avocado oil (good for high heat cooking) then be sure to drizzle ghee or olive oil on the dish at the end for flavor, as avocado oil has none. I make some variation of this for breakfast and dinner daily. NOTE: we make our own ghee from organic butter. Just do search for ‘clarified butter’ on your phone and it will tell you exactly how to make it. It’s SOOO easy, WAY less expensive, doesn’t need refrigeration, and is an excellent gut repairer.
It’s been a strange and full year here at Wildmoon Homesteading. With so much to be aware of and concerned about in the world, I find myself continually shifting my focus back to how I can and want to contribute. With delicious, homegrown food as the guide, my path continues in sharing this with others. We had a full class this year and they grew a beautiful garden! In a week we will have our last weekend together. I am dreaming up our meals, activities and adventures right now, to make our last weekend celebration special. To see photos of our weekends together, follow me on Instagram at wildmoonhomesteading and FaceBook at Wildmoon Homesteading LLC.
The 2022 program is about half full already! If you, or someone you know, wants to learn more about growing, making and eating delicious food and herbal medicines check out this program. We have such a fun time working, playing and eating together, I know you will love it.
Stay healthy, love yourself, love each other and be kind.