On this day ten years ago, I packed dry beans, thawed frozen tomato sauce, chopped onion, beef, barley and cubed roots into a crock pot, so that in the morning, local food would already be there.
As luck would have it, my thrift store crock pot scorched everything into a malodorous mass. I woke up, ten years ago tomorrow, to a kitchen full of acrid smoke and an empty stomach.
In the morning begins Eat Mendocino 2023, as foretold in the ancient scrolls of WordPress circa 2013.
My partners are coming with me on this journey, as much as they want to, and so are my lifelong friends and cousins. You can too, in your kitchen and here online as I document this journey. I will be sharing recipes, local food access tips, information about the hidden gems in the County’s agricultural community and how we keep going as a producer community.
Much has changed since 2013! At the end of Eat Mendocino 2013, my family and I founded Fortunate Farm in Caspar. In the last ten years my hand injuries have caught up with me, and I am no longer a full time vegetable farmer. I am the flock manager of the Fortunate Flock, heritage sheep and rescue goats that control invasive species with their cute bellies and make beautiful textiles. I also work remotely helping other ranches coexist peacefully with apex predators via the Mountain Lion Foundation. Luckily we are part of a vibrant food community and produce is still being grown on site in Caspar by my partner Morgan and Hunter and neighbors Sam and Julia and Megan and Cameron, and goats milked by Leu and Clara and Noah, and an herb garden managed on Fortunate Farm by the Mendocino Herb Guild. Xa Kako Dile, an Indigenous woman lead non-profit, has its home at Fortunate Farm and works on food sovereignty issues. I feel blessed and secure to be so surrounded by the work of so many capable hands.
Sarah is traveling for work these days, and while I look forward to feeding her when she’s back in Mendocino, I will miss her on the daily and miss her social media skills. Please be patient as I figure out a schedule and sync the accounts.
For those who are able, I have a Patre-on account under my name, Gowan Batist, where you can contribute to my writing time for a few dollars per month. Work there consists of Eat Mendocino articles as well as work on other subjects, and except for some content that’s too spicy for this platform, you can follow all of the Eat Mendocino journey without subscribing.
It’s been the privilege of my life to spend ten years in this beautiful place, and I like to think I’ve learned a few things in the years between the gangly kid I was at 24, and the person I am today, filling a pot with provision for tomorrow.
Happy New Year, with my love,
P.S. below is the recipe, I won’t always have time to do this, but when I can I will always use folks names and give enough direction to replicate what we’re eating. A lot of substitutions, some weirdness, and very little measuring is involved.
Cholent/Chili crockpot fusion:
The recipe I made today is a riff on a traditional Shabbat stew, which is made the evening beforehand with beef, potatoes, sometimes beans, and barley. Whole eggs in the shell are often included, and so are whole cloves of garlic. This is what I tried to make last time, but what gives this a bit of a twist is that it includes dried chiles and ground beef rather than a roast, and cubed rather than whole potatoes. (I also don’t have barley this time- in 2013 the Mendocino Grain Project grew purple barley, but this year they didn’t. We have tons of bags of other good things from them though!) The eggs will steep in the broth overnight and be cracked and eaten tomorrow, infused with the spices.
This is a recipe that can be improvised on literally endlessly. I sautéed the ground beef with the salt and spices. I added the soaked beans and cubed veggies to the crock pot along with the quart of tomatoes and added enough boiling water to cover, then mixed in the sautéed ingredients and nestled the garlic and eggs into the top. I cook on high for about an hour and then turn down to low. Beware the thrift store crock pot- this time ten years ago I sent it to low… but faulty wiring meant all points on the dial were “high.” This one should be better!
This crock pot contains:
Ground beef from my beloved 12 year old cow, Pip, who had to be put down this spring after she broke her hip.
A candy onion from New Agrarian Collective
Shallot, carrots and rutabagas from Caymin at Big Mesa Farm
Sea salt collected by my partner Morgan and made into herb salt in our kitchen
A bay leaf from a tree in Willits collected by Hunter
Chili powder from Booneville Barn Collective
Bayo beans from McFadden Farm
Olive oil from Terra Savia
Tomatoes grown by Cam and Megan and canned by us with our friend Amalias help
Potatoes and whole heads of garlic grown by Brian at Covelo Organics
Red Kuri squash grown by us here at FF
Aaaaand whole eggs given to us by our friends Sarah and Alex
In this food, there is a community, our community, our story. I can’t wait to tell some of it.