Eat Mendocino

2 women, 365 days, 3,878 square miles


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The Gratitude Tree: Thanks for the love!

After launching our Kickstarter campaign only 4 days ago, we are delighted to have raised just over 25% of our goal! As each donation comes in, I’m amazed at the outpouring of support from fans, friends, neighbors, relatives, colleagues, high school classmates, and people I don’t even know! It’s really an incredible feeling to know that each of you has been affected by our journey, and wants to see this book written. Last night I wrote down the name of each supporter to hang on the gratitude tree, which is a manzanita branch that hangs on the wall of my bedroom.

Gratitude_tree_names

Gowan came by to find me hanging the last name and vocalized her amazement at all the people who love us. She’d been busy tromping around in the mud installing an automatic watering system at the farm and was surprised and moved to see what had transpired amidst our “virtual” community. She pointed at names of past interns, community members, and friends with the same pride and humility that filled me as I decorated the tree. Even though I’d been tracking the donations, the magnitude of it didn’t hit me until all thirty names were dangling from the branch. It was beautiful. And really inspiring.

Every single one of you brings us closer to our goal, and makes it evermore real that we are actually going to do this. Upon waking in the morning, the first thing I see is the gratitude tree and I know that 1. this book must be written 2. you all will make sure that it does (even though the idea is a quite daunting). Thank you all for believing in us – and for helping spread the word!

To add your name to the tree, visit our Kickstarter page and contribute today.

Sarah_gratitude_tree


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Eat Mendocino launches Kickstarter campaign to help us write a book!

A couple of weeks ago we shared some big news. That within our mighty little hearts was a book that needed to be written. And now, we invite you to help us make that happen.

We’ve said all the important stuff in this video, and in the project description: what we plan to do, how we plan to do it, and why we feel we owe it to the world to make this happen. Plus, the cool rewards you’ll get for supporting this project.

We ate local food for 365 days. Now we have 16 days to raise $5,000. I posted the video on Facebook this evening and we have already raised $340 from 9 backers and it’s not even midnight. My heart is swelling up.

This fundraising campaign is short and straight-shooting, ending on Valentine’s Day because it’s my favorite holiday (if you’ve been following us since last February you know I love any excuse to wear hearts), and I really see this book as a love letter to local food, from all of us.

The way that Kickstarter works is that you only get the money if you meet your fundraising goal, so know that every dollar counts; it all adds up. Watch the video, spread the word, and be our valentine!

Click here to visit our Kickstarter project page and donate.

A giant thank you to our wonderful friend Mischa Hedges of TrimTab Media for making this lovely video in record time and doing his best to make me seem charismatic in the morning, with a script that I could not memorize even though I wrote it. Ha!

Thanks for all your support in helping us “barnraise” this book!
XO


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A recipe for vulnerability

We are in the final stretch of the year and when people ask how it’s going right now, my response is that these last three months may be the hardest yet, and on some levels I’m totally over it. It’s harvest season and, yes, food is abundantly available and we’ve gotten really good at sustaining ourselves. But, the life of a locavore isn’t simply about the season or the food supply.

Most of the things we do are relatively easy, such as these examples from the past week:

  • Overcoming my fear of canning and turning 30 pounds of tomatoes into sauce
  • Devising a fruit fly catcher to deal with the population boom due to the above
  • Making pickles & yogurt before the cucumbers and milk go bad
  • Figuring out how to extract salt from seawater
  • Finding the first wild mushrooms of the season
  • Even dealing with the “too many mothers” in our virtual kitchen who constantly assume that I am doing everything wrong and destined to get botulism.

Next week I’ll be harvesting bay nuts and corn and making corn tortillas from scratch with our friends at Mendocino Organics. As I’ve said many times before, no single undertaking is inherently difficult. Whatever we are making/doing usually just requires time, some basic equipment, and enough will to triumph over the lazies. I love making, foraging and problem-solving and this is all really fun (aside from the stress and fatigue) and I feel like a domestic ninja when things work out. Every single meal is an accomplishment, and the joy of working so hard for your survival is unparalleled.

The not-so-easy things:

The difficult part is integrating all of this into the rest of life and work, at a pace that is not built for living from scratch. Traveling for work last week I survived on nuts, cheese and apples for a few days when I didn’t have time to cook nor access to a kitchen. But it’s all doable, and with a little more planning and prep, I could have been well-fueled. Why wasn’t I? This gets to the core of it – I don’t want to. Not every day, not all the time. Not all by myself. And, I miss green tea and chocolate and tequila.

While living closer to the land and food has been tremendously grounding and empowering, it has also been isolating and lonely. When I signed up for this, I didn’t want to eat 3 meals a day by myself for 365 days. Community has been built through the project, but it has also been disruptive and alienating to have such an extreme diet that means I can’t eat at restaurants, meet people at a cafe for a hot beverage, or eat the food at a wedding or a birthday or go on a normal date. Sometimes I make dinner with/for other people, or bring my own food to group meals, but the food often feels like a barrier between me and the situation. It becomes the focus of conversation when sometimes I want to enjoy the warmth of other human bodies and connect about things beyond sustenance. I know, it’s also totally amazing to be so connected to food, and be talking about real food with people every day. That’s the point of this. On a more basic level, I am sick of cooking all the time, and I don’t always want to plan ahead or take so much responsibility for every darn thing I put in my mouth. Plus, I have been largely stranded in Mendocino for six months without a car, which makes connection and community exponentially more difficult in a rural area.

All said, limits are extremely revealing and the Eat Mendocino project (along with the near-death experience this year) has allowed me to take a big, deep look at my existence. And I think that all the “hard things” really come down to one hard thing, which is the hardest of all: being vulnerable. This year, more than ever before, has made me realize how much we need each other – as neighbors, friends, and links in the food chain. Communities were created around the food supply, and now, food exemplifies the disconnectedness of human society. We don’t need each other to survive. We don’t need to know where anything comes from, or where it ends up. We don’t need to plan ahead, we don’t need to get along. We can just go to the store and buy food from strangers. It’s convenient, and it’s cheap-ish, and it’s simple. But, the costs of our fossil-fueled culture of ease are enormous.

I watched this video today by one of my favorite speakers, Brené Brown, who has dedicated the last ten years to studying vulnerability. I want you to watch this video, all of you (and her other videos, they are fantastic). But, if you don’t here’s what she has to say about the ills of a society dominated by an avoidance of vulnerability:

“We numb vulnerability. Evidence of the numbing: We are the most addicted, we are the most medicated, obese and in-debt adult cohort in human history; we’re numbing. And this doesn’t even include busy-ness […] Because we just stay so busy that the truth of our lives can’t catch up.” – Brené Brown

I think she’s so right.

People often ask me, “What are your goals are with the project?” There is a compelling list of social, ecological, political and spiritual reasons behind our mammoth undertaking. But now, I simply say this:

My goal is for people to become more intimate with their food.

To me, it’s all about intimacy. Whatever this means, for whoever you are, wherever you are. It doesn’t have to mean eating local. It’s about slowing down and getting one giant step closer to your food, whether that means making dinner with your kids, cooking something from scratch for the first time, or buying too many strawberries or peaches and throwing some into the freezer to forget about them and rediscover them in a few months. It means doing something that you are afraid to do and not worrying about whether it works out, reading the labels and asking questions about the ingredients, or picking an apple from a tree. This is one thing we can do to un-numb ourselves.

To me, this greater intimacy is the direct path to awareness which ultimately leads to being more vulnerable in life, and with each other. On this path, how can we deal with our vulnerability, and lean into it (even when we’re tired, frustrated, or scared)? This is what Brené Brown advises:

1) Practice Gratitude

I have mad gratitude for every seed and hand that has fed me this year, and I will try to remember to say thank you daily – especially when I want to whine. I have never been so grateful for the gestures of others; there is simply no higher act of love than feeding me. Thank you to Sisterwife Elizabeth for making me this yummy dinner last week at the end of my big work trip. I would so marry you.

Dinner made by Elizabeth

Elizabeth also shares some really good advice about How to remember the good in a recent blog post, which boils down to writing down the compliments that people give you. When I want to numb, I need to remember the incredible things that strangers have said to me about how we have inspired them to think differently about their food; there is truly no greater compliment.

2) Honor Ordinary

It’s true, we often overlook the ordinary, waiting for the next big thing. When we get closer to our food, and really stop to taste it, an apple becomes extraordinary. By turning off our monkeyminds to notice the ordinary beauty in the world (like this beautiful golden chanterelle we picked yesterday) we get closer to what is always right before us.

Golden chanterelle

3) Fill Your Reservoir with Joy and Love

There are countless ways to fill up with the good stuff. Take the time to do that. For me, tonight, it was writing this post, and knowing some eyes out there would read it. Love to all. – S


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easy summer dessert: brown butter peaches w/ chevre

Introducing our beloved sisterwife Melinda, writer of this blog entry and creator of the world’s loveliest desserts. We love it when she comes home to surround us with her love and sweetness.

i am a winter girl.  everyone who knows me well knows that i’d rather live in january than june, and i’d rather wear sweaters than sundresses.  but summer has a few perks, reasons to keep me on the rotating… and chief among these is stone fruit.  the smell of the season is wrapped in the fuzzy fur of peaches, the baby’s cheeks of apricots, the silky, sexy skin of plums.  have you ever poached a peach, to remove its skin?  it comes off in a slippery, sensual sheath… leaving behind a glowing orb of sweetness, the colour of a july sunset late – nearly bedtime.  [stone fruit are one of the worst fruits for pesticides.  if you’re unconvinced about the ickiness of conventional growing practices, try poaching an inorganic peach.  the chemical-smelling scum that rises to the top of the water will have you running for the nearest farmers market in search of sanctuary.]

anyway, this weekend was a quintessential assortment of summer days; lovely enough to mollify me with regards to the heat (yes, i think 75 degrees is ‘hot’).  on friday i spent the night with a friend who was housesitting inland, and i spent the morning perched in trees (first plum, then apricot) tossing fruit into my bag below.  ‘i should stop,’ i thought, when i had about ten pounds, but then i stood back and looked at the trees and you could barely tell that they’d been harvested.  so i went in for another ten.  the drive home was heavenly; my car blissfully redolent of sunshine and sugar.

said the woodpile to my chest, ‘at least one of us is well-stacked.’ saturday my parents and i put in the better part of the coming winter’s firewood – massive rounds of old growth fir that we loaded into, and then out of, the back of the truck.  our arms and backs and knees ached, and from finger to bicep we were covered in pitch that smelled like christmas.  when my father swung the maul over his head and brought it down on the largest rounds, my face was splattered – kissed – with fir water; not sticky yet as sap, but fresh and cool and delicately sweet.  seeing the pile that will warm you over the months to come is something to relish.  with that wood my mother will bake bread, i will mull cider, my rabbit will sleep under the stove, and our home will be warm and welcoming.  and in the broader spectrum of Eat Mendocino, our fuel source for food and warmth will be local, and its harvesting made us stronger in body and spirit both.

sunday was jam day – one of the best days of the year, ‘christmas of summertime.’  the 14 pounds of plums were ceremoniously cooked down with the last meyer lemons of the season, and safely canned into their mason jars, away from prying tongues.  if there is anything more delicious than plum jam, i haven’t yet met it.  as it is, we put by enough that all through the gray of winter we’ll have the tang and joy of summer for our hearth-baked bread.  i would like to name a daughter ‘plum,’ but erika says she’ll end up a stripper.  but then, look at me!

Peaches!

and that brings us to today.  a bus ride brought me to sarah’s door, and when gowan appeared in the afternoon she came bearing treasure:  a box of peaches that practically glowed with internal light, like souls all lined up in a row.  showing up at sarah or gowan’s is always a treat because i’m inevitably treated to a feast of epic proportions, created from colours and flavours no grocery store’s produce aisle can compile.  i rarely have anything to contribute to the meal beyond a dirty joke, since they move with the practiced dance of those who are intimately familiar with their ingredients and their purpose, but tonight i volunteered to take on dessert, since the SECOND thing people who know me well know is that i love to make dessert.  like, LOVE it.  i usually like to make it more than i like to eat it.  which is weird, i know… but in my family food is a source and sign of love, so cooking for someone is akin to making them an edible valentine.

sarah’s kitchen does not readily accept more than one cook, so i was tasked with making dessert that could be assembled while dinner (stuffed squash, purple potatoes, greek corn salad, mixed green salad…) cooked.

Sisterwife Melinda
(me)
Eat Mendocino Dinner

(dinner)

 

my grandmother had a magnet on her fridge that said ‘i love cooking with wine.  sometimes i even put it in the food.’  truer words were never written.  so it was with great fanfare that i opened a bottle of goldeneye’s jaw-dropping pinot gris, and divided it amongst the people and the pot.  i set that to simmer, reducing it until it was the colour of my favourite dark pink lipstick, and its flavours of berry and citrus had been concentrated.  at the last moment i stirred in a little honey, and then i turned to the cheese.

to some lovely Pennyroyal Farms chevre i added the zest of a meyer, as well as a squeeze of its juice, plus some honey and the chopped blossoms of some of the elegant french lavender that mendocino is so full of right now.

then came the peaches.  i heated a lovely large pat of local butter in cast iron, and when it was bubbly i put in four peach halves, cut sides down (leave the skin on or they’ll not be nearly as pretty in the end).  i fried these until the butter had browned  and the peaches were a lovely caramelized pale brown on the bottom.  i covered a serving bowl with sliced strawberries; little jewels that were almost sinfully crimson.  the peach halves rested on this bed of red, and into their pit holes (there has GOT to be a prettier word for that…) i scooped lovely little pillows of cheese.  the whole thing was bathed in the wine reduction, and garnished with lavender sprigs.  i would have liked some mint in with the berries, but the last of it had gone into the (amazingly delicious) greek salad, which was an excellent excuse.

 Brown butter peaches w/ chevre

anyway, the room was filled with mildly inappropriate moans of love as we licked our plates and wondered whether we could lick our own thighs when we dribbled nectar onto our jeans (we can’t.  oh well.).  and i am content to let summer swallow me, so long as it includes stone fruit, pink wine, and good friends.

recipe-ish:

if you’d like to recreate this magical concoction, here are some approximations:

fry 2 peaches (4 halves) in 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in cast iron, until the butter and peaches have both browned.

simmer 1.5 cups rosé until it’s reduced by half (at least.  more[which is really less] is better).  then add a spoonful of honey and stir to dissolve.

mix the zest of a meyer lemon and a generous squeeze of its juice into half a cup of soft cheese (chevre, ricotta, mascarpone…).  season with fresh chopped lavender and honey to taste.

strawberries.

and toast to the sun when you eat its glory. warning: you may find yourself inappropriately licking your plate. cheers!

Finger-lickin' good


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Eat Mendocino on the radio!

Hey guys,

Did you catch our interview on Women’s Voices on KZYX? If you missed it, no worries, we have the link for you here:

Blake Moore was kind enough to talk to us about our locavore ways. We had a blast, her show is really fun and I hope everyone gives her a listen. We’ll be back on before this all is over for sure.

Rock. Star.

Rock. Star.

0225132001

I know we’ve been a bit lax blogging lately- Spring has started and my life has been consumed by the greenhouse and by babies! Promise we’ll be back on the horse in no time. For better or worse, our Facebook page is where the action is! Check it out for gratuitous baby goat pics, mussel harvests, aioli making, and my big mastiff Bucket snuggling baby chicks. http://www.facebook.com/eatmendocino

Loves,

Gowan


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Resolutions

We are approaching the two week mark of eating, drinking and breathing local, and we are very much alive and well-fed. Please don’t think that we have forgotten about our dear readers/followers/skeptics during the kickoff of the big project. We think of you often. The days are just packed; we are in a constant flow of finding and processing food, cooking, cleaning up and doing it all again. Time is marked by the movement and consumption of food, and somehow everything else has to fit in around it. It can be very difficult to formulate complete sentences at the end of the day.

The topic of resolutions is ripe at this time of year. Some may consider this project the ultimate New Year’s Resolution. I don’t see it that way. Probably because I think that most NY Resolutions fail. Also, because this is so much bigger than a single action or intention. It’s nothing less than a New Way of Life. In the last two weeks, I have identified many sub-projects that require much resolve and will be essential to the success of this wild endeavor. I am sure this list will keep growing.

  • Project find local food: This is particularly challenging in the middle of winter and requires much resourcefulness and networking and sometimes requires emergency 300 mile treks for a dozen duck eggs. We are getting better at this every day and with the help of many friends, local food is also finding us.
  • Project endless dishwashing: Every meal renders my tiny kitchen basically unusable. In less than 2 weeks I have completely conquered my dishwashing allergy, with the help of iTunes shuffle on max volume. My friends do not recognize my kitchen.
  • Project cook every day: Preparing everything from scratch is one of the biggest changes – nothing comes from a package, can or box. And there is no such thing as “eating out.” I now travel with a cooler, a mobile pantry and a sharp knife. Huge perk: leftovers. veggiestirfry
  • Project forage/wildcraft: Food is all around us and we have so much to learn about identifying and harvesting wild edibles.
  • Project don’t be a hermit: I could blame it on winter hibernation, but I tend to like having space and time alone. This project has thrust us out in the world, needing to make new connections, spend time getting to know others. We are going to make a lot of new friends.
  • Project think ahead: We have to know what the next meal will be before we get hungry. My new favorite appliance is the crock pot.
  • Project ask for help: Often. We are entering foreign realms like how to cook parts of animals we’ve never seen before and how to cook with seawater. We Google things every day. And we are going to be calling our moms a lot. We will also surely ask for your help. We are already humbled by the gifts and kind gestures we have received.
  • Project learn how to do a bunch of new (sometimes scary) stuff: Like fishing, kayaking, and killing animals.
  • Project inconvenient: This project defies the American standard of convenience, ease and efficiency – and it’s a daily challenge. We must do it every single day even when we’re tired, stressed, heartbroken, menstruating or just don’t want to. Another reason why not being a hermit is good – it’s really nice to cook and eat with others on the days where you are the little engine that cannot.
  • Project diversify: Variety is essential in terms of what we’re eating, and where we can get it. Food fatigue has already set in and we must keep the colors and flavors of our meals varied. This is a challenge in the middle of winter with limited options, but we are getting creative. And we are especially grateful for the farmers’ markets and grocery stores that source local products.
  • Project carb load: Within the first week I had begun to drop weight. Getting plenty of protein, veggies and nutrients, but I had to increase the mashed potatoes ratio in my diet. No complaints about that – especially when swimming in fresh milk, butter and sea salt.
  • Project ‘This might be totally gross’: gourmetlunchI started this guerrilla cooking “show” years ago with my roommate when we went gluten-free. Now we’re taking it to a whole new level. Sometimes it really is (of note, a particularly bland Soviet-style cabbage potato soup in Week 1), and you eat it anyway. Sometimes is is also totally delicious – like yesterday’s gourmet afternoon meal of seared lamb cheeks with fava bean hummus, goat brie and arugula. Best meal of the year so far!
  • Project increase access to local food: This has become a primary goal of mine. So many people are amazed when we tell them how many products are available locally – if you know where to find them. I hope that we can help connect the dots and improve access to local food so that more people can do what we’re doing with greater ease and convenience.

And, finally, Project WRITE. Sharing our experience is just as important to us as doing it. Last night, we set a new resolution: we will each be blogging 2-3 times a week for the rest of the year. We are truly excited that our blog already has a following, and we look forward to having you along on this journey.