Eat Mendocino

2 women, 365 days, 3,878 square miles


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Baking pumpkin bread from scratch with mom’s recipe

Everyone wanted to know what we would eat when the year was over. We didn’t really know how to answer that question, or what to expect. The only way you can do something like what we’ve done is to give up on the alternative and stay singularly focused on the day and the meal directly in front of you. Instead of thinking about what we couldn’t have, we directed all of our energy on what we could discover, create, and improvise. This was necessary for survival, and also for joy and creativity. So, I began this year with a fridge and pantry stuffed with local food, and I could have easily glided into another week, month, or year with the same modus operandi. Not only that, but I have actually found it difficult to transition away from our food routine – which I didn’t exactly expect. The rhythm of living and eating this way has been grounding, cozy, and private, and I am emerging from it with a sense of being an alien from another food planet. During my first trip to the grocery store, I got so overwhelmed that I left without buying anything. I don’t love to cook – I love to eat. But, now I find a profound comfort in preparing food for myself. That said, I also have a lot of other things that I want and need to do in life, and look forward to having more time for life outside of food, once I adjust.

As it turns out, most of what I’ve eaten in the first few days of 2014 is basically what I was eating last week, with a few additions. Like bubbles in my water, and cinnamon and leavening agents in my baking. Today I baked pumpkin bread, and it was not totally gross at all! That’s because I uncharacteristically used a recipe this time. When I realized we could use baking powder & soda again, I excitedly texted my mom and asked for her pumpkin bread recipe, ASAP. I guess it was on my mind since ’tis the season and I had to watch everyone else eat loaves of it during Christmas. Of course, I still improvised a few things and used mostly local ingredients, but it was a baking success! One of the hallmarks of mom’s recipe is that the bread is super moist and yummy. I think you’ll love it.

I got the pumpkin for this one from Adam and Paula Gaska at Mendocino Organics in Redwood Valley. I roasted it and then pureed the pulp in the Vitamix to get the right consistency (sometimes you need to strain it if it’s super juicy). A tip on winter squash: Most farmers are sitting on more squash than they can store right now, and are feeding it to the pigs. If you want a good deal on winter squash, approach a farmer about purchasing larger quantities directly from them. You will get a much better price than at the store or the Farmers’ Market.

Fresh pumpkin puree

Mom’s Pumpkin Bread Recipe

1.5 cup & 2 Tbsp. flour  
(I used Red Fife wheat from Mendocino Grain Project, because that’s what I had)
1.5 cup sugar or substitute  
(I used honey to taste, much less than 1.5 cups – honey is ultra sweet in baking)

1 tsp. baking soda
.5 tsp. cinnamon
.5 tsp. nutmeg
1/3 cup water
.5 cup oil   (I would have used local butter if I’d had enough, instead used coconut oil)
2 eggs  
(I used local duck eggs only because I’m allergic to chicken eggs, but many people swear are the best for baking due to added loft)

Sift dry ingredients together.

Sifting the flour

I have never sifted anything, ever, so I asked mom if I had to and she said she always sifts, and I didn’t want to be the one to make this recipe look bad. I remembered I had bought a tiny vintage sifter at a thrift store because I thought it was cute, so I excavated my kitchen to find it.

Hello cinnamon!

I find following a recipe more tolerable when using heart-shaped measuring spoons. I think Mom got me these, too.

Beat all other ingredients in a separate bowl and then add all together.

Adding the wet ingredients for pumpkin bread

Honey trick: I heated up the coconut oil and then stirred the honey into that to make them both easier to mix in.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes. Enjoy!

Mom's pumpkin bread

Since I don’t know anything about baking with leavening agents, I didn’t want to overfill the bread pan, so I also made some little cupcakes, and then froze most of them for a rainy day (a smart thing that I never do, but my mom does it all the time and it is her recipe afterall).

Pumpkin bread cupcakes


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Rhapsody in Yogurt

I’m lucky for many reasons- I’m lucky to be surrounded by beautiful friends, I’m lucky to have such vibrant soil, (I run a wildly successful worm brothel and nightclub) I’m lucky to have the best partner imaginable, the best sisterwife, the best kid, the sweetest Bucket dog. I’m so blessed. And the foundation of all these blessings and mother hen of the collective Binky experience is my mom. No one could ask for a more supportive, thoughtful, lioness of a mother. And true to form, she wrote this blog in the middle of her busy schedule while she prepared to travel for a conference because she knows how busy I am in the week of our Earth day festival. Earth Day is really just a more expanded Mother’s Day, and since my mom is the collective mother of *all* the Binkies, read her words and let some real mama love wash over you.

-Gowan

Rhapsody in Yogurt

My girls will tell you that I am terrible with names, because it is true.  Rather than prolong the awkward pause caused when my mouth has to wait for my brain to catch up, I have taken to calling all of the beloved women in my life a generic “Binky.”  As the mamma of half the Eat Mendocino team (and honorary other-mamma of the other half), I sometimes have the great good fortune to sample to locavore genius of the Binkies.  Last week, one of the Binkies gifted me with a pint of freshly-made yogurt – perhaps from the same batch referenced in her blog entry on the subject.  Chuckling and muttering greedily, I hid the prized jar under my coat and scurried home, feeling like Fagan anticipating a particularly rich haul from the day’s pick-pocketing.

My husband and I ate the yogurt for Sunday breakfast with fresh, organic strawberries.  I opened the canning jar and surveyed the coveted treat that floated in a thin veil of whey with tiny, buttery flecks of clotted cream on top. It was the color of my grandmother’s flocked cotton bedspread – antique white.  As we dug in, bliss crossed our faces, and it was clear that this yogurt was superior to any manufactured product we had ever eaten – it was another food entirely.  To eat this yogurt required a pause, a reflection, a meditation.  I would go so far as to say that reverence was required.

Creamy and tart, at once delicate and corpulent, it married the berries and clung to them without feigning a blush.  There was a faint under-current of “cow-ness” to it, but not in a bad way – more as a tribute to the warm cow that had recently given it up for the cause.  It lent richness to the dish that I have never tasted in its poor, pasteurized cousins.

The pint disappeared in one sitting, leaving us fully satisfied and at peace.  It occurred to me that several cartons apiece of Yoplait would not have done the job of this gem in an old-school canning jar, made with love in a little oven by the sea.yogurt

Now, those who know me well will not be surprised that my rhapsody on a gift of homemade yogurt contains a political coda.  The longer I live the more intrinsic politics become in everything I observe.  Politics reflect our culture even as they drive it.  Our personal decisions become group mores that inform capitalism, which in turn builds machines designed to turn out dollars – machines that create unintended byproducts that carry consequences for all of us.  As the first-world agribusiness machine chews through the mono-cropped, genetically modified feed that will be given to our dairy cows along with plenty of antibiotics and rBHT, the sun looks on in horror.  Never before in the history of mankind have we laid waste the Earth so ferociously in order to feed all of us to bursting – and leave us malnourished.  We eat, and eat, and eat – and never before have we collectively been so tired, so fat, so diabetic, so neurotic.

Of course, we are only doing what we have been trained to do – we are part of the machine we have helped to create.  Just as seeds are tortured to make them pest-resistant and unable to reproduce themselves, so have our minds and bodies been tortured in the effort to make more and more dollars for the machine.  Our own basic human needs have been used against us.  Perhaps the only lesson I took away from my college marketing course was this astonishing factoid: the largest purchasers of psychological data and research are marketers.  That particularly insidious and heartless machine is designed to know more about us and our desires than we know about ourselves.

Processed foods are carefully engineered to light up the addiction centers in our brains.  The perfect balance of salt, fat, and sweet is carefully formulated to tickle the nodes that are hardwired to never be satisfied.  “Mouth feel” is a new area of extensive research and currently is considered an essential consideration for any new food product.  Don’t even get me started on packaging – the brain-blasting graphics and colors are designed to create the same primal response within us as observed in chickens trained to peck at a bright target for a pellet.

We have built a machine to please us without caring for us and fill us without nourishing us.  Worse yet, the chronic low-grade malnutrition has left us tired, fat, achy, isolated, and sad.  We have invented something other than food – something not-food, and we have over-tipped the scale until it is all that many of us can access.  The revitalization and even worse, the community, have gone out of food.  We sit alone in our cars at the drive-through, chewing and staring.

And that, friends, is why Eat Mendocino is going to save the world, and my precious Binkies are doing it.  Eat Mendocino is not the rod thrown into the gears of the machine; it is a dusty little chamomile plant blooming modestly beside the road, waiting to be noticed.  For those who do notice, it will help to restore our connection to the earth, to each other, and to our own spirits.  It is the only thing that can, and the Binkies are showing the way.  They would never say that about themselves, but then, that’s what mammas are for.

Am I implying that we all should drop out?  Shall we dismantle this machine at the expense of those who will be crushed by what tension is left in the springs?  Maybe those of us who are capable of doing so should consider it seriously, but the machine must be allowed to wind down slowly for those who are not and never will be so privileged.  If that is so, then the best we can do is to heed the friendly invitation of these young women: to do what we can, where we are, with what we have.  We can begin to identify those small things we can do in our sphere of control – a tomato plant, a duck in our garden rows.  The yogurt recipe seems entirely approachable to me.  Maybe I will try that soon. If nothing else, we can cast a kind eye upon the chamomile plant by the roadside.  Her tiny roots are creating cracks in the asphalt.

Happy Earth Day, my friends, with all my heart.