Now that the growing season is done, I am catching up on some movies that came out this year. Last week I watched Won’t You Be My Neighbor, a documentary about Fred Rogers and his show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It had some sweet clips of Mr. Rogers interacting with kids in various settings and interviews with co-workers and family members. Realizing now as an adult how unique the show was in its relaxed use of time and resources made it even more special to me.
Toward the beginning of the documentary a question was posed, and then sort of left open and not explicitly answered: for all the positivity of the show, and Fred Rogers’ effort to normalize healthy and mature ways of dealing with feelings, did it work? Was his show successful in accomplishing what he set out to do? Is our society actually better for it or not?
At the beginning of each farm season I always have an idea of stretching myself to do more preserving, more foraging. To make better use of the food that I am surrounded by in my day to day work. Some years I keep up with things better than others. Some summers I realize, to my chagrin, that I am not really eating as many greens as I think of myself as eating. Other years I’m happy to have berries in the freezer and canned tomatoes on the shelf, and I try not to be hard on myself thinking I should have done one more batch.
Using whole food well takes work. Wherever you’re getting it from. Using whole, local food from a CSA that you have to pick up at a certain place and time (and you get a bunch of food at once, onion skins and all) definitely takes work. It’s not bad work, but the fact that I know, and you know, that there are easier ways to eat makes the work if it stand out.
I think eating local means swimming upstream a bit. Maybe it feels that way in your own household if you have to work to use the Winter Share before next month’s, or you’re trying to convince a person to just try the beets, for Pete’s sake. Certainly it feels upstream in our culture; where more and more having exactly what you want when you want it (or in two days with free shipping) is the norm, and even subtly celebrated.
When I was younger and had just started farming, and even now too, I would sometimes get so frustrated and overwhelmed feeling about how broken our food culture is here in the U.S. How simple, well grown vegetables sitting at farmer’s market is never quite as exciting as the booth with the coffee and pastries. Or how there is just no way to be competitive in prices when anyone can buy a dozen eggs for 99¢. On the flip side, as much excitement as local food has generated in the last 5, 10, 30 years it is not as much excitement as the opening of a new brewery or chain fast-food restaurant.
At the end of they day though, I know it isn’t up to me to single-handedly change the way our food systems work. I can’t. It is not up to you either exactly, though I’m glad you’ve chosen to stick with our CSA in our little corner of the map. The Food Farm can’t change it all, though maybe it can do bits and pieces of change. Change would be nice, and it feels necessary in the way we use food and its impact on our environment.
I think participating in a CSA and choosing to get a part of your daily calories from a local source is a good thing to do. And I’m glad I work at the farm and that Janaki and Dave are always trying to tend to things better and make the soil more fruitful, while also giving it what it needs to be sustaining for the years to come. I don’t know that it will change the whole world though. And, I don’t even think that is the only reason to be a part of it anyway. There are probably as many reasons for joining our farm as there are CSA members.
Who would say not to do the right thing, just because the right thing might not fix everything, or anything? Mr. Rogers wouldn’t say that. Or at least, he didn’t seem to live that. And maybe there is no “measurable” impact of his show on our culture. I don’t know. But I bet if one started digging, one would find a lot of meaningful stories and more than a few tears if you asked people who grew up watching his show what he meant to them, what he still means to them if they think about it.
I can’t say that our vegetables season in, season out, have the same emotional impact as Mr. Rogers has had on some people. They have a different kind of impact, and I think it matters, and I’m glad that you all think so too, regardless of if we’re changing the world or just our meal plans.
For the farm crew,
In your share this month:
Chioggia Beets – Red Cabbage – Carrots – Yellow Onions – Russets and Purple Fingerling potatoes – Sunshine and Delicata squash
Roasted Chioggia Beets with Feta
- 1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- Kosher salt
- Coarsely cracked black pepper
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
- 8 small beets (about 2 1/2 pounds), washed and trimmed
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small bits
- 4 ounces feta cheese, thinly sliced (see Note)
- Handful of spicy baby greens, such as mizuna, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the raspberry vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the honey, the shallot, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Whisk in the grapeseed oil until emulsified.
Arrange the beets so they fit snugly in a single layer in a deep baking dish. Add enough water to barely cover the beets, then add the remaining 1/4 cup of vinegar and 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey and the butter. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the beets are tender when pierced with a knife. Let cool slightly.
Drain and peel the beets and slice them 1/4 inch thick. Add them to the honey dressing and let cool for up to 4 hours.
To serve, arrange half of the beet slices on 8 small plates and cover with the feta. Top with the remaining beet slices and drizzle each serving with about 1 tablespoon of the dressing. Garnish with the greens and serve.
Carrot Cake Pancakes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (optional)
- 2 tablespoons golden raisins (optional)
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups finely grated carrots
- 3 tablespoons butter, for griddle
Cream cheese topping
- 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Dash of ground cinnamon
Place a rack in the upper third of your oven and preheat to 200°F. This will keep the pancakes warmed as they’re fried in batches.
To make the pancakes: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and, if using, nuts and raisins. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, brown sugar, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir in carrots. Stir carrot mixture into dry ingredients, stirring until just Incorporated. Let rest for five minutes while you make the cream cheese topping.
To make the cream cheese topping: In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy and lump-free. Whisk in powdered sugar, two tablespoons milk, vanilla and cinnamon. If you’d like the mixture thinner, add the remaining tablespoon of milk.
Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a cast-iron skillet or griddle pan. Spoon 2 tablespoons batter into the hot pan per pancake, flipping once, until pancakes are golden on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer finished pancakes to a serving dish or tray in the oven, to keep warm while you repeat the process with the remaining batter, adding more butter as needed.
Serve warm with cream cheese topping.