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local food from Whatcom County!

Local Eats!

I’m taking a radical turn on the blog here, by making a new entry after an eon of dead air.  I made the blissful journey into finding out where my food comes from. It started innocently enough with a viewing of Food, Inc. followed by The Future of Food,  and finished with Deconstructing Supper. Basically, I went a little bonkers. I know there are a crap ton of food blogs out there, and I hardly want to make this into one, but hey, I’ve found that every job I worked and everything I cherish from my memories revolves around food. During my search, I discovered this: food is our culture condensed. Do you really want to say your culture comes in a box, or from this new family of farmers and all the influences that is this melting pot of a country?

Here’s the thing. I’m tired of the usual food blog that gives all these ridiculously bizarre recipes, substitutions up the wazoo to lower the calories, and my personal favorite to snark on is recipes that consist of using highly processed crap. Isn’t it enough you’re cooking the food that you need to add a bunch of highly modified crap? No thank you! So, after saying this to my ex and other single guys I know, I just want to say, you ate WHAT for dinner last night? C’mon, it’s not that hard to cook, people! Sure, it takes time, sure, it takes care, sure, sometimes it takes longer to cook the damn stuff than to consume it, but it’s that care and love and using the best, healthiest, whole ingredients you can. So, first, let’s meet your meat.

Tuck and her calf

Tuck, a mischevious, but good momma! (Click on pic to see the rest of the herd!)

Do you know where your meat comes form and how it was cared for? What about that fish you’re grilling? Do you know how and when your fish was caught? How about it’s potential species endangerment, are they over fished, are they taking care of the species as a whole, is it loaded with toxic chemicals and heavy metals, or worse, is it farmed, ranched, or improperly handled ? What about your delicious sea prawns being dredged off the ocean floor destroying the ocean floor in the process on top of countless other little creatures getting caught in the path that we don’t even eat, or was it pot trapped, limiting damage to environment and other species? Was that cow you just ingested raised in a feed lot on a toxic diet of hormones, antibiotics, and grain or was it free range, processed locally, from a heritage breed, tame, and untainted? Was it cared for when it was sick? Was your pork raised in a sterile environment, pumped full of antibiotics, fed an improper diet, and slaughtered wholesale with no regard for the pig’s ultimate sacrifice, or was it allowed to run free, graze on grass and healthy foods, from a heritage breed, and honored for it’s sacrifice from the moment it was born? Don’t even get me started on chickens and eggs, and you know this dark turn is also headed straight for your milk sources too. Worse yet, all this crap you’re putting in your body is shipped from who knows where wasting fuel resources, and is wrapped carefully in plastic which bombards us with toxic chemicals as well. I encourage you to, if you’re going to eat meat, understand that something died so you could eat it. There is no reason to cause this noble creature giving the ultimate sacrifice any additional undue pain just so we can eat cheap (and flavorless!!) generic meat.

Sure, you think that I’m going to stop at the animals, when this is just the tip of the iceberg when you start to consider what’s going on with out vegetable side of the food supply. Monsanto has created a shit ton of strange genes to enter into the vegetable world. The worst one (in my opinion, this one trumps the cross species gene splicing) is the “kill gene”. This prevents man’s first start into what we now consider the civilized world, agriculture. The kill gene stops an F1 generation from ever being produced. A plant will create seeds, but they will never germinate, and you will have no future crops. From a corporation’s standpoint, this is good for business because a farmer would always have to buy new seeds from the company. From a societal standpoint, this spells death to our food supply. Are your veggies really organic, and do you realize USDA organic certification allows over 140 chemicals to be used on your “organic” veggies? Did you know co-op farmers can grow GMO crops for “organic” processed food? If that’s not bad enough, just start thinking how much fossil fuels are used in the transport of your food, organic or not.

tricolor carrots... they taste best right from the ground!

tricolor carrots... they taste best right from the ground!

What I’m trying to get at is your food. I want to slap the plate out of your hand, and scold you for not knowing where and what you are really eating. I’m not here to toot my own horn, as living on a budget is a bitch, and even I still slip up now and then and get mass produced butter. I will be busy this year sourcing as much of my food as possible from local farms, and I intend to take my new friend with me to pick up my staples: meet my Motobecane Cafe 24 spd. If you see my chubby butt peddling around Whatcom county (Samish too, if I’m feeling frisky enough to bike 60 miles in a day!), please don’t honk, I’ll freak out and fall off.

motobecane cafe 24sp

Motobecane Cafe, my new best friend

some of the time: we’re heading into the wetter and much slimier part of the season, so it’s back to the wellys! Sporting dresses and skirts topped (or bottomed?) with heels tends to be the strangest thing my customers get to see when they come by my work. At least once a day I hear the comment of either “you don’t look like you work at a seafood store,” or “I could never wear heels here!” I smile, and take it as a compliment. I adhere to the code of dressing for the position I want, not necessarily the position I have. To that end, I have no business in a seafood store, let alone at a fillet table wielding a knife the length of my forearm… but I love it!

Sporting my two inch closed toe heels, I deftly fillet and butterfly fish, cluster crabs, and help my customers select what they would like for dinner. There is a fine tuned art and love I have for the filleting and seafood preparation that is rivaled only by the Japanese and their treatment of sushi. I can fillet a #180lb halibut, a #50+ salmon, butterfly the tiniest trout, and maintain one of the highest recovery rates at my work, and I always credit one thing: love and respect for the food you are going to put in your body. After all, it is going to be part of you, right?

Incorporating my work into my life (and body!) is a lot easier than for most, since all I have to do is eat the very fish I sell… which I do frequently! My home kitchen has become a test kitchen for just about everything that comes in, from rockfish, lingcod, black cod, and my favorite of late: Sanddabs! This year marks the first year we’ve carried these ingenious little wild bottom fishes, and good lord, their buttery flesh is not to be missed! I abused the butter on this one, constructing a meal out of a lemon, half a stick of butter, and local eats: local greens, locally handmade pasta even made with local flour, and some ‘dabs. These little guys are flat fish like flounder, but they are “fatter” in comparison, and, my oh my, they have the most peculiar odor when fresh: reminiscent of high molasses brown sugar. No kidding, brown sugar. Go smell a bag of brown sugar, then go smell a fresh dab. See? Told you so. Amazing, isn’t it?!

sanddabs with classic meuniere

Fresh Sanddabs for dinner!

With love, I put my heels on; with love, I prepare and eat; and with love I give you your fish. If I clustered your crab, filleted your fish, or picked you out the best halibut cheek, know that I did it with love. Not just because are you a customer who indirectly pays me my wage, you are loved and respected just the same as I love and respect the seafood I give you. The love of food and a well prepared meal is a common thread world wide. Food is love, culture, family, and home all wrapped in a beautiful bundle, much like a shrimp gyoza. I make the most of this simple philosophy: I view donning on my heels and dresses is much like the presentation of food, I’m bringing it all together in a neatly tied and pretty package. So don’t underestimate your local fishmonger in heels!

When people ask me where I work, the conversation goes like this:

Long lost friend asks, “so, where do you work these days?”

I reply, “at a fishery.”

“….And what do you do there?”

Being torn between listing off the things I do and highlighting the nasties,      I inevitably retort, “I sell fish.” ...and what do you do at your work?

...and what do you do at your work?

Travis G. pictured above doing what he does best. We are a loud, raucous, disgusting crew clad in olive green bibs, rubber boots, and blood.  This is the point where you may be dismayed, for my wardrobe’s sake, at what I do for a living. Although this seems horrifying, I am the first to admit I have not been on the production line since last year.  I typically moonlighted as a slime line hand, where I would bathe the fish once they had been headed, gutted, and scraped in a tub of water.  After about ten to fifteen fish through the pan, the water is crimson, and viscous with slime.  To keep things amusing on the slime line, we would throw the hearts that occasionally remain on the fish bodies back at the main processors in jest.  Thank goodness for the bibs, although your sides and elbows would still get blood-spattered.   More often than not, a bloody elbow was from a gentle, loving caress from a coworker with an ensanguined  knit glove.

So what do I do now at this little fish shop of horrors?  I sell the cleaned fish and talk to a lot of people.  I also fillet said fish, kill crabs both by cooking and by breaking them live into “clusters”, boss the few people under me around, update our website and facebook (yes, my humble fishery is on facebook), some cleaner parts of processing, buy and grade fish from the local tribal fishermen, put out an email publication, getting my toe dipped into graphic art, and last but not least, walk around looking cute handing out sass by the fist full to crew and customer alike.  I basically get to be myself all day, in attitude and dress.  That’s right.  I still wear heels here on occasion, when the mood strikes me.