Sunday, January 27, 2008

Make Your Own Lactofermented Vegetables

One way to make those wonderful winter vegetables taste different, and last even longer, is to pickle them by lactofermentation. This is the method used for sauerkraut, kim chee and old-fashioned dill pickles. I wrote a paper last year on making Lactofermented Vegetables, complete with recipes. Enjoy!

It's an easy process, with only a few ground rules. I like to use the half-gallon canning jars; it's a good size and nearly foolproof to make in the jars. You can also make pickles in the summer, preserving those cucumbers for winter salads. Lactofermented salsa is also great, but it's not the season for fresh tomatoes. I'll post a recipe next summer for that.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Foods from Far Away: Spices, Coffee, Tea, Chocolate

What is this doing in a Locavore blog? Aren't you supposed to be eating only what grows locally? Yes, but.....

1. Many people won't eat locally if it means that they lose their spices, their morning coffee or tea, their chocolate. For example, in "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" Barbara Kingsolver's wonderful book, she allowed spices, and allowed her husband's coffee.

2. Spices, in particular, are very lightweight, and have been traded extensively for at least 1500 years. An ounce of cloves will last you for years. If you can get a few ounces of spices, to season up many many pounds of 100-mile meats, fruits, and vegetables, it's worth it. Spices are also important in lactofermented vegetables, a wonderful healthy way to preserve vegetables for long-term use.

3. Coffee, tea, chocolate, and tropical spices really can't be grown in the U.S. (with the exception of a single tea plantation in South Carolina). These items come mainly from less-wealthy countries, and if properly imported, are an important source of income for local farmers.

However, many times these items contribute to poverty and misery instead of relieving it. I have recently read the book "Javatrekker: Dispatches from the World of Free-Trade Coffee" by Dean Cycon (of Dean's Beans). He has traveled to many of the countries that produce our coffee and spices. Some of the stories are horrific; the local producers are taken advantage of by everyone along the way, and get pennies per pound for their hard work.

Children in some areas work as virtual slaves in chocolate plantations. Herbicides and insecticides are required by many large companies, and poison the workers and their families who cannot read the instructions which are in English. It's really hair-raising to think about the suffering which can be embedded in our innocent purchase of these foods.

The solution is "Fair Trade". Fair Trade is an international certification, which determines what farmers in a particular area would need to earn to feed their families, send their children to school, and improve their villages. It is always higher than the world price of these commodities.

The Fair Trade buyers agree on the bonus price, which is generally paid in a lump sum each season, above the usual price the farmers get. Lump sums allow coffee villages to build their own coffee bean processing plants, or build a school, or improve their source of potable water. It is difficult for an impoverished village to accumulate enough capital to make these simple changes in their lives without the Fair Trade bonus.

We have exceptions for coffee (Jim's call) and spices (my call) by which I mean tropical spices that really can't be grown in this country: nutmeg, allspice, mace, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, cardamon, and vanilla (well, not exactly a spice, but vanilla is also a fair-trade item). Chocolate was a holiday exception for two weeks, off now. And I'm saving a spot for black and green tea. When I buy any of these items, I will look for organic and fair-trade sources. We are citizens of the world, after all, and bear a responsibility for the impact of our purchases.

Red Cabbage? Daikon? Help

We're eating the winter vegetables from Cresset Farm, including red cabbage and daikon. These are unfamiliar items in many kitchens, so I've rounded up a few recipes to help.

Red cabbage is a very determined vegetable. You can add some thin shreds to a cole slaw made up of green cabbage and/or Napa, but a straight red cabbage slaw would be somewhat intimidating. Generally, red cabbage is braised with various seasoning, until it becomes tender and flavorful.

Red Cabbage and Chestnuts (adapted from Joy of Cooking)

Chestnuts are optional, but add a lot to the dish. Have your chestnuts peeled and simmered until tender.

1 cup cooked chestnuts
1 small head red cabbage, shredded fine
1/4 cup dry white wine or vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons bacon drippings or butter
salt and pepper
1 peeled, thinly sliced apple
1/4 cup raisins

Place cabbage in a bowl and pour boiling water over it. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then drain. Heat drippings or butter in skillet, add cabbage and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer covered 10 minutes. Add white wine or vinegar, raisins, apple, and chestnuts. Simmer together another 10 minutes and serve.

Spiced Red Cabbage

3 tablespoons butter
1 head red cabbage, sliced thin
1 diced apple
salt to taste
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
dash nutmeg

Heat butter and add cabbage. Cook, stirring, until cabbage wilts (probably 15-20 minutes). Add remaining ingredients and cook another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Daikon is a very large, mild-flavored radish which is very popular in Asian cooking. Here are a few more ways to fix it.

Red and White Radish Salad

1 pound sliced radishes--use a mixture of daikon peeled, quartered and sliced, and red radishes, sliced
1/4 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley, if available

Mix vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Let stand 30 minutes. Add radishes, toss well. Let stand another 30 minutes to soak up dressing. Garnish with parsley. A very colorful dish for midwinter.

Stir-Fried Daikon

2 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup diced scallions or finely sliced leeks
1 medium daikon, peeled, quartered, and sliced thin (about 3 cups)
2-3 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1/4 teaspoon hot chili oil or Thai curry paste

Heat oil in skillet, add scallions and stir-fry for a minute. Add daikon, stir-fry for a minute. Add 2 tablespoons water and continue to stir-fry until water is gone. Now add soy sauce, sugar, and chili paste or oil, stirring for another minute or so, until tender-crisp but not mushy. Serve.

Daikon Clear Soup

A traditional Japanese dish, warming in cold weather.

1 strip kombu (kelp) 6-8 inches long
2 cups sliced peeled daikon
1 sheet nori, toasted and cut into small squares
tamari to taste
sliced scallions for garnish

Place strip of kombu in 4 cups water, simmer 10 minutes. Remove kombu. Add daikon, simmer 5 minutes. Season soup with tamari, pour into bowls and garnish with a few slices of scallion and a few squares of nori. The kombu can be used in another dish, cutting it into small dice, or some can be added back to the soup.

Braised Beef and Radish

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 pound stewing beef, cut into medium chunks
1 pound daikon, peeled and cut into medium chunks
1-2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice seasoning

In skillet, brown meat cubes in oil. Add daikon, spice, and water to cover by 1 inch. Simmer until meat is tender. You can add salt or tamari to taste.

Two Locavores on Vacation

I haven't been posting for the last couple of weeks because we were traveling to New York state to visit my son Eric and his wife Aileen. This is part belated-holiday visit (it's cheaper and easier to travel AFTER Christmas), and part house-hunting trip for them in the Catskills.

This is the first travel away from home that we have done since starting our 100-mile diet in November. Our rules were that we would try to find local food at our destination, but not be rigid about it; the main point of the trip is the visiting and being with our loved family, rather than what we eat. I expanded this slightly to say that I can bring back a few small items with me that were produced within a 100-mile circle of our destination.

That said, my sweet DIL had put in some work in finding stores selling local foods. They rented a house for the week, with a fully equipped kitchen. We shopped locally and cooked all but one of our meals.

The crowning locavore glory was a locally raised roasting chicken, eight pounds. We roasted it one night, with local potatoes. Then I took the meat off the bones, and we used it in lunches the rest of the week, along with other items. I cooked the carcass, making a rich chicken soup from the broth and meat, with the vegetables that we had on hand (including canned peas).

The first full day we were there in the Catskills, we went to the Adams natural food market in Saugerties, which had lots of local foods. We got New York state apples, Grafton Valley 2 yr old cheddar, Russell Farms buckwheat flour, New York potatoes, local onions, Kim chee. This was the source of the fabulous roasting chicken.

We also got fresh local ricotta, an absolutely superb product. We used it for lasagna and breakfast crepes, as well as an occasional dip with the spoon. Miles ahead of any commercial product I’ve ever had. If I can’t find real fresh ricotta, I’ll have to learn to make it. We also got local eggs and milk (regular commercial pasteurized) but it was good. Local for Woodstock New York includes Pennsylvania, Vermont, and New Jersey, since it is in the south of the state.

We shopped at the local German market and got local bacon, really superlative. German potato salad, smoked gruyere, European chocolate, German herring and sardines, local venison salami were among our other purchases. I expect the bacon had sodium nitrite in it, but oh well, once a year won’t hurt. We also got local maple syrup there. And we stopped at the Sunflower market in Woodstock, a natural foods store, for local cheese, milk, and eggs.

I saw linden flower tea for sale in the German market, which was imported, but I bought some. I have wanted to try out this tea for a while. It was delicious, with a honey-like fragrance, and very soothing. We have many linden trees in our area as landscape trees, so collecting linden flowers should be easy enough to do. You collect them just as the flowers fall, and dry them gently so that they will keep. I am definitely doing this next spring in linden blossom time. BTW linden is also known as tilia (tilleul, tiglio) and lime flower (though it has nothing to do with the citrus lime).

Aileen had also bought us American Classic tea, blended with tea from the South Carolina tea plantation, the only tea plantation in the U.S., and the closest to local black tea that we can get. It has a very nice flavor. Bigelow owns the plantation.

The New York weather was cold, with a damp chill that just goes through you, compared to our drier cold. But we had only two very small snow flurries. The area is a mecca for locally-produced food, especially in the warmer periods of the year. The land is fertile and harbors a large number of CSAs, small local farms, dairy farms, and so forth. Maple syrup is produced locally. The New York apples are wonderful. The area has a strong tradition of locally-produced artisanal cheeses.

We stopped at Lucky's, the local chocolate shop, and got some treats, locally made from non-local ingredients, but delicious.
We ate brunch at Sweet Sue's in Phoenicia, NY. The food was delicious, and the servings very generous. Aileen made a fabulous brown-rice noodle lasagne, with local cheeses, spinach, and pesto.

I made gluten-free pizza the next evening using flours she had brought, local mozzarella and sausage, and more of that delicious pesto (the brand name was Buddhapesto). Pesto goes a long way. I'm happy I have many small jars of it in my freezer from last summer's basil extravaganza from Cresset Farm.

What I brought back: a bag of buckwheat flour produced less than 30 miles from where we were, and some New York cheese.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

January: What Are We Eating?

We're having a lot of soups now. Seems like I've always got at least two to choose from in the frig.

Borscht is a big favorite. Made with Cresset Farm beets, cabbage, onion, garlic, and carrot, and local bacon or sausage. Topped off with homemade yogurt from Windsor Dairy milk, this is a totally local meal. (recipe #1 under Nothing Beets Borscht post)

Caldo verde is another. Made with Cresset Farm kale, onions, and garlic, local potatoes, and sausage. I still have some local Anaheim chiles (a couple fresh in the frig, believe it or not, and some roasted in the freezer), so I add them too. And sometimes I add some soaked dried beans (currently using up my stock from Native Seeds/SEARCH, but looking for local sources).

Chicken soup from Northern Colo. Poultry chicken (Nunn), Cresset leeks, local potatoes (sometimes Cresset, sometimes from LaSalle). Potatoes, leeks and chicken go together so well.

Cole slaw of various types; the fresh food tastes great this time of year. I make slaw from green cabbage or from Napa (both from Cresset). Napa makes a great slaw. I've been adding a little radicchio (Cresset) and sometimes carrot slivers (Cresset). And once a hothouse Loveland-grown tomato. I also add pickled cuke slices (lactofermented by me from Cresset cucumbers). Dressing can be kefir/buttermilk (Windsor Dairy milk) with dill weed (Cresset) and celery seed (on hand), or olive oil (exception) and pickle juice or vinegar (on hand).

The last three weeks I have been fixing pizza for Saturday night dinner. Jim's has WheatLand Farms wheat flour, mine is from my dwindling stock of gluten-free flours. I've been using pesto (made last summer from Cresset basil and garlic) as a sauce, and Jim's is from the nearly vanished stock of tomato paste/sauce. Uh-oh! Then local sausage (Rocky Plains), local mushrooms (Hazel Dell), olives (California, exception), and Windsor Dairy's delicious fresh mozzarella. Yum. (Next summer I'm going to put up TOMATO PASTE! and tomato sauce, etc. etc., so we don't run out.)

We're enjoying our stored apples from our trees. I often have a chopped apples with homemade yogurt (Windsor Dairy milk) for breakfast; I fix spiced apples with cream for dessert often (like an apple pie without the crust, and without extra sugar). Spices are on hand; like Barbara Kingsolver I declared "spices" an exception. Spices have been traded by humans for millenia. My chosen spices are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, mace, allspice, black pepper, cardamon and vanilla, none of which we can grow here. When I run out of stock, I will get them fair-trade and organic.

Another apple dish I plan to make soon is red cabbage cooked with apples and onions. Red cabbage is a little too resistant to make good slaw (except for a few bits for color), so cooking is the way to use it. It keeps nearly forever in a cool place.

Winter squash: Delicata stuffed with Hazel Dell mushrooms, a little rice (dwindling stock), and fresh mozzarella, with fresh herbs (cut from my sunny-window herbs). By the time my rice is gone, I hope to be able to find quinoa locally. I also plan to make some winter-squash soups, and will post recipes as I try them.
Those who can eat wheat could use whole-wheat (WheatLand) bread crumbs instead of rice to stuff squash, and make this dish perfectly local.

You could also use Haystack Mountain goat cheese instead of the mozzarella, or in addition to it. They are west of Niwot, and have a lot of wonderful varieties. You can go to the dairy to buy their cheeses, if you're close; Whole Foods carries lots of the chevre, and generally a few other varieties. For Christmas, I sent my daughter-in-law's parents a package of Haystack Mountain goat cheese (her mother is a gourmet cook) and she was impressed.

Roasted winter vegetables: turnip, parsnip, carrot, and leek, olive oil (exception), and fresh herbs from my sunny window.

Another favorite is buffalo burger (Rocky Plains) patties with melted mozzarella cheese (Windsor Dairy). A common simple meal is a sausage link or two (Rocky Plains), with a cooked vegetable and cole slaw.

We rely so much on our Cresset CSA vegetables, on Windsor Dairy, on Northern Colo Poultry for eggs and chicken. There are many CSAs in our area, a number of small local dairies, a number of small ranchers raising meat and poultry, so you can pick some near you. If you are reading this from another part of the country, you can do a search on the Local Harvest web site. It's really amazing how many small local producers there are, in every corner of the country.

So, we're eating like kings and queens here; still a lot in the freezer, pantry, and garage (cool room); on-hand non-local food is dwindling (necessity is the mother of invention; I'm figuring out these things as I go along). I'm gradually losing a little weight, not for lack of food, but because the local home-cooked food is more satisfying.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Wam Up Your Winter with Curry Spices

Indian spices are warming and good for the digestion. They lend themselves very well to the winter vegetables. Curry powder is a Western invention, though it can be convenient. Indian cooks use a selection of spices, suitable to the ingredients of each dish, though there are common elements. Commonly used spices include coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, black mustard seed, cinnamon, fenugreek, cayenne, cloves, black pepper, and cardamon. The word "curry" means a dish of vegetables cooked with sauce.

Simple curry spices: equal parts ground coriander, cumin, and turmeric, and cayenne about 1/4 as much (or to taste). You might throw a teaspoon of each of the three spices into your vegetable dish.

Simple garam masala: "sweet spices" toasted and ground together; used in chutneys, puddings, and many other dishes. One ounce each whole cardamon in pod, stick cinnamon, and cloves. Toast on cookie sheet at 200 degrees for 30 minutes. Then take seeds out of the cardamon pods, and put into a spice grinder with broken up cinnamon and cloves. Grind to a powder. Keep in a jar. For spice grinder, you can use a small cheap dedicated coffee grinder, or a mortar and pestle.

Now to the recipes:

The following is somewhat similar to the Spicy Parsnips dish in the Cresset newsletter, but uses the individual spices.
I have gotten very fond of parsnips this winter.

Curried Parsnip Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced fine
1 pound parsnips, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water
1 cup milk

Sautee onion, garlic, and ginger in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add the parsnip, spices, and stock. Simmer 15 minutes, until parsnip is tender. Run through blender until smooth. Put back in pan, check for salt and add if needed. Add milk and some freshly-ground pepper. If soup is too thick you can add some more milk or water.

Indian Cabbage and Potatoes

1 pound green cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
2 good-sized potatoes (about 1/2 pound), peeled and diced
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon each turmeric, cumin, and coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
small tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Or: 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate, or to taste

Heat oil, add black mustard seeds and onion. Mustard seeds will pop. When they have stopped, add potato. Saute 5 minutes, stirring. Now add cabbage and spices; keep stirring. Lower temperature and cook for 25 minutes uncovered, stirring every few minutes. When cabbage and potatoes turn to a golden brown, remove from heat and add tomato and lemon, or tamarind.

Spiced Milk
12 ounces milk (whole)
small cinnamon stick
one whole clove
1 cardamon pod
honey to taste

Heat milk, add spices, let stand for 5 minutes. Remove spices, add honey to taste, and serve. Or you could use the Garam Masala above, stirring a little of the spice powder into the milk.

Potato Bhaji
2 pounds potatoes
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Boil potatoes, whole, until tender but not soft. Remove, cool, and peel. Cut into chunks. Heat oil, add black mustard seeds, onion, and garlic. When onion has browned, add potato pieces, turmeric, red pepper, and salt to taste. Stir, reducing heat, for a few minutes, then cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Top with fresh cilantro if you have it, or sprinkle with coriander powder.

Now for a traditional Curry Powder dish. I remember this as the first significant dish I ever cooked for my family, as a young teenager.

Captain's Chicken
1 frying chicken, cut in pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup tomato sauce, or 2 tbs tomato paste thinned with water
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt

Put butter, onions and garlic in kettle, saute onions until soft, then add cut-up chicken pieces. Continue to saute, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes. Then mix tomato sauce, curry powder, salt, lemon juice and 1/2 cup water, and pour over chicken.
Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, until chicken is tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. If it becomes too dry, add a little water. Serve with Indian Rice.

Indian Rice
1 cup uncooked rice, preferably basmati
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup slivered onions
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Cook rice in 2 cups water with salt until tender, about 20 minutes. When rice is almost done, heat butter in small skillet, add onions and almonds. Cook stirring until onions are soft. Then add raisins and stir until they plump up. When rice is done, stir onion mixture in.

Happy Eating!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Month 2: Challenges and Feasts

We finished our second month of 100-mile eating on December 31.

The holidays were a challenge. There are soooo many goodies out there, social occasions, gifts, and so forth. Jim asked to have Chocolate be an exception, only for two weeks ending New Year's Eve. This sounded reasonable, so we allowed it. I bought some Organic Fair-Trade chocolate and cocoa, and a couple of boxes of Whole Foods Organic Chocolate Truffles. I found that with six weeks of not eating any, I had pretty much lost my taste for it, so he ate most of it. We're off chocolate again now, not missing it. Food is a big part of holiday traditions, and going cold turkey (pardon the expression) would have been very difficult.

Jim gave me a Meyer lemon tree, in a big pot, for Christmas. It has a beautiful green lemon on it. I've also bought a variety of herbs in pots, to give us that fresh taste. Part of our Christmas dinner was roasted root vegetables (parsnip, carrot, and turnip, all from Cresset Farm) with a little olive oil and fresh rosemary and thyme. Yum.

I shared the rules of our 100-mile diet with my sister back at the first of November when we started our quest. One of them is that we can accept and enjoy unsolicited gifts of food. Well, bless her heart, she did not forget that. Our Christmas box from her was heavy. It had walnuts, pistachios, and hazelnuts, two grapefruit, six Meyer lemons, 2 tangerines, a pear, a large organic pomegranate, two organic free-trade chocolate bars, organic curry powder, a fresh ginger root, and a bag of tapioca. All things that are off limits for us. How very thoughtful.

We have been enjoying the fruit. (We've been enjoying everything, of course.) I dried two lemons, and juiced three (Meyer lemons are not good keepers). I took the lemon rind, and the grapefruit rind, and candied them by a recipe I found on the internet. That taste of citrus will be precious in the winter months ahead, nice for a little munch, nice cut up in cakes or ice cream. Here is the recipe: very easy.

Candied citrus peel

One cup citrus peel (lemon, orange, grapefruit)
1/2 cup sugar

Cut up the peel into strips. You don't need to strip off the inner pith, but remove the fruit part. Put in pan with water to cover, bring to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, repeat two more times (to remove some of the bitterness). Drain again, mix the sugar and 1/4 cup water in your little pan, simmer the peels 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then set out on a rack and let them air-dry. When they are no longer sticky to the touch, put into a jar. (I haven't tried honey, but will for the second grapefruit; sugar is not local.)

I found a cute little gadget for making a pint of ice cream: Donvier (also comes in quart size). You freeze the central cylinder overnight, pour your mixed ice cream ingredients into it, and turn the handle every few minutes. Takes about 20 minutes, almost no work. We fixed nearly-local ice cream with Windsor Dairy milk, beaten eggs, honey, and a little vanilla. Delicious. Makes just the right amount for us. I was out of cream, but the rich milk made a lovely light ice cream just as it was. It's nice to know we don't have to give up ice cream for eating locally.

Now that the holidays are past, we are facing the dark days of winter. I did a little inventory of what we have: still lots of fruit (fresh apples in garage, dried fruit from yard, frozen berries I bought last summer); CSA vegetables (winter squash, root vegetables, cabbages and their kin) plus the occasional local hothouse tomato, and lactofermented pickles of various kinds; plentiful supply of meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy from local farmers (we won't go hungry). In the pantry, the tea selection is thinning out, the rice is half gone, still plenty of herbs and spices. I'm holding back on the rice, using potatoes more often.

Going critical: frozen lima beans and peas; tea. I'm saving my last Exception for some kind of tea, but it seems extravagant to say "all kinds of tea" so I won't do that. I have plans to plant beds of herbs this summer to dry for herb teas; most tea herbs grow here just fine: mints, chamomile, linden flowers (an unused resource), raspberry leaves, rose hips, etc. etc. No peas and limas until next summer some time; perhaps I'll plant some. It's made me think of foods I want to put up next summer, to prepare for the following winter.

I'm sure by March and April, we'll be craving fresh green leaves. Ursula at Cresset Farm picks the spring's first tender dandelion leaves, nettle leaves, and other wild spring greens for soups and salads that taste so good in the spring. I'll let you know how we fare with that, as it comes up.

Note: I have lost another four pounds, eating wonderful local foods and as much as I want. The food is just more satisfying. And avoiding junk food and fast food has also been contributing to my weight loss, I'm sure. (For me, weight loss is good. I have some more extra pounds I'd like to bid goodbye to.) When I said "100-mile diet", I wasn't thinking of losing weight, but it's been happening.

A Bountiful Harvest of Books

I am sure there are many other excellent books on local eating out there that I have not found yet. Local eating is catching fire everywhere. The Oxford Dictionary declared the term "Locavore" as the new word for 2007, representing the zeitgeist (spirit of the age). Anyway, here are some of my favorite recent books.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. 2006. ISBN-10: 0143038583. Pollan traces the history of the foods we eat, from McDonalds to the cornfield, from Big organic, from feedlots, from the small farms and fields and forests. The dilemma, by the way: What shall we have for dinner?"
The problem: our "national eating disorder". Very interesting read.

Coming Home to Eat: The pleasures and politics of local foods by Gary Paul Nabhan. 2002. ISBN-10: 0393323749. Nabhan decided to eat foods grown in a 250-mile circle of his home in southern Arizona (his goal was 80% of his food). He took it a step further, to try to eat only foods that are native to his region. His writing is as spicy as a smoked jalapeno, as he tells his triumphs and failures. Here is a quote from the Epilogue.

"The real bottleneck to the revival of native, locally grown foods is a cultural--or more precisely a spiritual--dilemma. If we no longer believe that the earth is sacred, or that we are blessed by the bounty around us, or that we have a caretaking responsibility given to us by the Creator--Yahweh, Earth Maker, Gaia, Tata Dios, Cave Bear, Raven, or whatever you care to call him or her--then it does not really matter to most folks how much ecological and cultural damage is done by the way we eat.... Until we stop craving to be somewhere else and someone else other than animals whose very cells are constituted from the place on earth we love the most, then there is little reason to care about the fate of native foods, family farms, or healthy landscapes and communities."

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, with Steven Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. 2007. ISBN-10: 0060852550. This book is a best-seller, and rightfully so. It is a joy to read her lucid, entertaining prose, telling the story of her family as they moved to a small farm in Southern Virginia and started trying to eat locally. They raised vegetables and fruits, and put them up for the winter. They raised chickens and heritage turkeys. They got to know their neighbors, and what their neighbors produced. The book's chapters go through the months of the year, from March to March, with the treasures and problems of each month.

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith, J.B. Mackinnon. 2007. ISBN-10: 030734732X. This is the book that pushed me over the top into local eating. It is the entertaining story of a couple living in Vancouver, British Columbia, who decided to eat food produced within a 100-mile circle of their home. They also started in March, with almost nothing on hand, living in an apartment, and they were STRICT. They ate a lot of potatoes the first few months. Advantages: their circle included the ocean, and they could buy fresh fish off the boats; the climate in Vancouver is damp but not cold, so people can grow food for more months of the year than in Colorado. A real adventure; I could hardly put the book down.

Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables by John Peterson. 2006. ISBN-10: 1423600142. A cookbook from Angelic Organics, one of the largest CSAs in the country. Lots of good recipes for lesser-known vegetables. Sidebars on biodynamic agriculture, weather on the farm, and assorted other topics make this more than just a cookbook.

The Year of the Goat: 40,000 Miles and the Quest for the Perfect Cheese by Margaret Hathaway, Karl Schatz. 2007. ISBN-10: 1599210215. The two authors left a high-stress life in New York City to travel in their van for a year visiting goat farms and goat dairies all over the country, including our very own Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy near Niwot. More than a back-to-the land fantasy, their odyssey put them in touch with terroir, a French term meaning the taste of the land where you live, and it is an excellent introduction to this concept. Funny, quirky, very personal, a good book to while away some winter days.

For another, much more exhaustive list of interesting books on a wide range of topics, see Sharon Astyk's Casaubon's Book blog Best Books About Nearly Everything.