Eat Mendocino

2 women, 365 days, 3,878 square miles


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What my freezer looks like with 12 days to go

While most people are baking sugar cookies and singing the Twelve Days of Christmas, I am now facing the unbelievable reality that we are only twelve days away from the end of this indescribable year. Twelve. Less than two weeks to go. The thought of it is surreal. I can only wrap my mind around what is what is right in front of me, and what I’ll be eating next (which I guess is how we’ve made it this far). While staring into my freezer today, I realized that this is the well-stocked freezer of a locavore who knows what she’s doing, in stark contrast to what it held one year ago when we were about to learn what it meant to be hungry in the middle of the winter.

In preparation for the Christmas break, I spent the day wrapping up some projects for work, hastily doing my taxes so that I can apply for Obamacare, and doing various food projects. Like devouring this rockin’ quesadilla…

Homemade tortilla with flour from the Mendocino Grain Project and fresh mozzarella cheese

Dehydrating a bunch of Hachiya persimmons…

Persimmons

And, making a batch of sea salt. This jar is Gowan’s Christmas present!

sea salt

While we only have a couple weeks left (and trust me, I’m really looking forward to relaxing my life a bit when this is “over”), it’s not really about the countdown. I could survive on what’s in my cupboard and refrigerator for months. I don’t need to keep processing and putting away food. But, that is not the point. This project is as infinite as nature. It’s not really ending and it never will; the seasons will continue to cycle and the rhythm of this new food lifestyle will continue as naturally as the wind blows. I like this rhythm, no I really, really love it, and I want to follow it to the best of my ability always.

So, back to the freezer. If my kitchen were any smaller it couldn’t even be called a kitchen. But, I do have a pretty standard-sized freezer and it is completely stacked with food collected over the last twelve months. Here’s what it holds today…

Freezer Inventory:

Beef marrow bones from Magruder Ranch
The BEST peaches I’ve ever had
Elderberries
Salmon Steak from Noyo Fish Company
Three pork chops
A pig heart and other organ meat
Bone broth made from beef marrow bones and crab shells
Meyer lemon juice frozen in ice cube trays
Brown rice from Massa Organics at the Chico Farmers’ Market
Persimmons
Raw butter
Squid bait for fishing
Spicy tomato sauce
Yellow plum jam
Figs
Bean soup
Ice packs for my trusty cooler
The bowl for the ice cream maker (it’s important to always have this in the freezer in case you have a sudden need for ice cream)
Plus, a plastic bag filled with compost. Yes I keep my compost in the freezer until I dump it. It helps mitigate funky kitchen smell and flies when you cook as much as I do. Feel free to borrow this trick.

Quite a list, eh? I even impressed myself by digging out things I’d forgotten about! Two indisputable lessons from living the local life: nothing is more comforting than full cupboards and nothing is sweeter than a perfectly ripe persimmon. I am an extremely fortunate girl and I might even have subsidized health care soon, too.


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Harvesting Sea Salt on the Mendocino Coast

Today we discovered the North Pole, and that Santa does exist – in the form of crystallized salt formed on tidepools on the rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean. For those of you who have been following the salt saga, you know that it has been our most finite resource in the last seven months. I have come to call salt, “white gold.”

Today, we set out on a salt mission, backpack loaded with spatulas.

Searching for sea salt

In this video, I demonstrate our unabashed excitement at discovering some salt deposits.

And in this one, Gowan is delicately harvesting sea salt like the mermaid that she is.

As we scooped up these precious crystals, I looked at Gowan and said, “we are totally winning.” She agreed. No matter what else we have accomplished in the last 7 1/2 months, this is monumental. Salt security means that a locavore can rest easy, and harvesting it ourselves basically means that we are Santa Claus. Tonight we will sleep like babies.


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How the jars fill up

After a week of not seeing Gowan (which feels like an eternity in locavore time) we made a dinner date for tonight. When comparing kitchen stock and discussing who would bring what, Gowan asked the dreaded question, “Do you have salt?” I hesitated to answer, because I knew my stores were running low, but I didn’t know how much she needed. Salt for a meal, or salt to make 4 gallons of fermented veggies? Before I could answer, there was a knock on my door. And this is what I found when I answered:

Salt Angel

A salt angel. Truly. My friend Aleya spontaneously decided to drop by with a gift of sea salt that she had harvested last year. Her timing was beyond serendipitous. I returned to the computer and replied to Gowan, “I have LOTS!!!”

This is how the jars fill up. One by one, when you least expect it. I have described this project as a leap of faith, but it is also defined by the many leaps of generosity and kindness that happen all the time, in the most perfect of ways. The best part about Aleya’s gift wasn’t discovered until after she left.

Message from a salt angel

Nothing like a love note on a ball jar lid! These little gifts of sustenance and gratitude have been one of the most profound parts of this eat local experience. We have abandoned convenience and control and opened the door for surprises and miracles. This is not to say that there is not an incredible amount of planning, coordination and intention behind our food life. But, we have also unleashed a new force of unexpected generosity by inviting people into our kitchens through sharing this story. Some of June’s surprises: a fresh-caught fillet of ling cod, a couple pounds of speckled bayo beans and a bag of goji berries grown in Willits!
Goji Berries

I think these gifts are so touching because food is intimate. We need it to survive, so it reveals our vulnerability and our mortality. What we eat and what we grow and forage also reveals something about our lives. Food reflects culture, history, class, tradition and of course, climate.  I stopped by my accountant’s office today and the receptionist exclaimed, “You are famous!” I dismissively laugh at this, but am always delighted when someone wants to talk food. She starts by saying she wouldn’t want to give up cookies, and I assure her that cookies are definitely part of our diet. She also shares that she’s growing peas, and wants to give me some if she has extra. This, too, is how the jars fill up. These food offers always make my heart smile because I know that feeding us is also an endorsement for a new and different food future. One where we talk about food, we share with strangers and we are not so afraid of intimacy.

Next I go to Gowan’s, where her jars are full of delicious fermented veggies from her garden.

Gowan's fermented veggies

Jar 1 features a green garden medley of onion blossoms, peas, zucchini and red pepper. Jar 2 is sweet red onions and beets. Both are done in a saltwater apple cider vinegar brine.  Thanks to Aleya’s salt, the jars will keep filling up. Gowan also has two dozen duck eggs for me, which were graciously transported over the hill from Ukiah by Supervisor Dan Gjerde. How’s that for public service?! Then we go back to my place to feast on a huge pot of those delicious bayo beans and make a batch of candy-cap custard ice cream with roasted bay nuts. We were too excited to photograph the ice cream. Now, we go to bed with full and happy bellies. Thank you to all of you who have helped fill us up. You inspire us.