If teachers, aunts, uncles and even parents can (and do!) have favorite kids, then farmers can most certainly have a favorite fruit of their labors. For the Urban Farmer, I…
“Like wildflowers; You must allow yourself to grow in all the places people thought you never would.” -EV* The Urban Farmer has a way of roaming the farm, gathering up…
When the golden arches threatened to land on Italy’s terrain, specifically to land near the Spanish Steps in Rome, Carlo Petrini reacted. He founded the Slow Food Movement to oppose the growing trend of fast food chain restaurants. As a girl who typically has one arm in the arm of a dirty, dusty urban farmer, I, not surprisingly, find myself on the Slow Food Movement’s side. However, recently, I’ve been thinking about how “Slow Food” might be a bit of a misnomer.
Maybe we should call it “Hustle Food?”
When said dusty, dirty urban farmer and I hit our two-year mark, I showed my love through time-intensive food: Pickle Brined Fried Chicken, Bánh Mì Style Deviled Eggs, Whole Grain Zucchini Cornbread and this Whole Grain Cherry Pie. Planning the menu took time. Sourcing the menu took time- a combination of farm ingredients and grocery shopping.
The whole process of planning and executing that menu was a far cry from driving your honey to a window, ordering off a board, pulling up a few more feet and receiving the food. I understand why “slow” seems to describe my anniversary versus the hypothetical.
However, when I think of “slow food,” I see images of men and women delicately adding floral garnishes, digging peacefully in the dirt, chatting while pouring a refreshingly chilled rosé. [Admittedly, we bloggers are at fault for this all too pristine depiction of setting a slow-food style feast, and I acknowledge my guilt.] When I think of “slow food,” I don’t think of me running around the kitchen in a dirty-ass apron, sweat matting my hair to my face, an already hot kitchen reaching sweltering new temperatures that threaten to rot the hard-earned tomatoes from my beloved’s farm. This, my friends, is why I am proposing a new campaign- “Hustle Foods.”
Our forefathers and foremothers were not sitting around basking in picnics. Even if they were gathered for a summer picnic, they were still predicting weather patterns, comparing notes, exchanging produce and planning canning sessions. Back then, they were HUSTLING. Life was a constant cycle of planting, harvesting and preserving.
Our forefathers and foremothers were planning constantly. They wouldn’t think about a bowl full of green peppers while eating a Chipotle dinner because you know, they were just “so tired.” They were thinking about those green peppers while using those green peppers to prepare that night’s dinner, while simultaneously canning pickled peppers and oh, I don’t know, rearing 12 kids in the background. They were HUSTLING!
So as much as I am pro- the Slow Food Movement, and as much as I am acknowledge certain modern conveniences are necessary, I am still proposing a new term. As much as I am moving toward more sustainable models for using the Urban Farmer’s hard-earned produce, I am still failing. Too much is still landing in the compost bin, and I am still shy about canning (do the jars really need to be sanitized that much?), but with each sweet cherry bite, I’m aiming to hustle harder. Care to join my movement?
Cherry Pie with a Whole Grain Basil Flower Crust
Adapted from Bon Appétit
About This Recipe: The combination of almond flour and white whole wheat flour give this crust a toasty look and a nutty flower. I added flowers from a Sweet Basil plant for a floral accent to the crust. Alternately, use fresh basil or sweet basil for an herbal accent.
We drove through the streets of Philly with the immediacy of a getaway car. We were not, however, escaping. We were on the hunt for a very specific purveyor of bánh mì.
Some people cook big batches of food on Sunday (like this grain bowl). Others, like my longtime friend Heather, buy enough banh mì to ruin the structural integrity of a plastic bag. At the time, I didn’t get it, but I enjoyed listening to my friend’s Vietnamese pronunciation of the sandwich interrupt her otherwise perfect English. It could have been the influence of her love for the food itself, but the words “bánh” and ” mì” seemed cheerier, nearly an octave higher than her normal chatter, as they rolled off her salivating tongue. With a car full o’ bánh mì, we returned to the normally scheduled activities of my weekend visit.
Even though I shared the seat with that bag full of Vietnam’s classic sandwiches, I didn’t bother to sample one, not a single bite (not that Heather would have shared). If me of today met that version of me, I’d be soooo condescending. “You’re not even going to try that?” Then again, the me of today might plow through niceties, ignore the past me’s shock at time travel, dive into that busted bag of sandwiches and try to be cute through a full mouth “#sorrynotsorry.”
Me of today constantly craves my neighborhood cafe’s vegan version, teared up (i.e.: sobbed/choked) eating Pittsburgh’s famous one (those jalapeños will get you!), and in the interim, is constantly trying to channel the magic of pickled vegetables and spicy mayos.
In so many ways beyond adopting bánh mì habits, I have changed since that sandwich excursion. Yet, had you asked me then, I probably would have said I had hit some sort of stride, pushed myself, expanded myself and grown into me. My current self might eagerly say the same, but that’s just setting the groundwork for 40-year-old me to look back lovingly and laugh, “Oh you! You have no idea what is in store!”
Beyond food preferences changes and the willingness to dive into “exotic” samplings, it seems we humans are constantly evolving more than we admit. It’s an idea worth dissecting, especially when you consider how easy it is to write off humans based on past transgressions or current associations. We attach labels like “ex con,” “Republican,” or “Democrat” (said with equal levels of disgust depending on who is speaking).
This notion of fixed personalities is not only unforgiving, but it’s flawed. It’s a notion that stuck with me after listening to a recent episode of the podcast Invisibilia. In “The Personality Myth,” the co-hosts follow an inmate with a horrific record as he plans a TEDx conference in a prison. He speaks eloquently and poetically about feeling different, a new man down to his very DNA, all with a proper deference for the heinous acts he committed.
If a little thing like a pickled Vietnamese sandwich can shape so many aspects of my life, it’s worth talking about how second chances, good faith and human decency might have grand powers for bigger changes. We live in ugly times in need of beauty and connection, so hard boil some eggs, pickle some vegetables and put little delicate dill flowers on those eggs!
Then maybe take a real risk and reach out to a neighbor in need, or speak out on behalf of someone who needs a voice, or try to pay off some of society’s debts through good ol’ acts of kindness. In my case, I made these for the one I love the most, to celebrate how we have spent two years growing and changing together.
Bánh Mì Style Deviled Eggs
About This Recipe: Banh Mì actually refers to the bread used in the namesake sandwich, but these eggs borrow the pickled vegetables for a twist on deviled eggs. If you want a spicier/hotter pickle, keep the jalapeño seeds in the mix. For a more mild flavor (i.e.: a no-tears eating experience), skip or reduce the number of seeds in the mix. The pickle recipe yields more than you’ll need for the eggs, but I like to have the pickles on hand for toppings on sandwiches and grain bowls.