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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!

I’m baaaack! It’s been awhile, I admit. I figured I might as well give this up… but wait. There’s so much to say! Much to my waistline’s chagrin, I have been cooking a lot! Over the holidays I discovered fudge. That was generally a bad idea: the fudge was delicious. Too delicious. Ate too much of it, delicious. Repeatedly. Fortunately, I only made two batches, and gave quite a bit away. In other culinary news, I’ve been eating venison breakfast sausage from a local deer, been eating seafood like its going out of style, and have managed to expand my appetite to the… Orient? Asian? Ummm, the far east? Between making miso, perfecting making rice, and eating crab and fish soups with rice noodles, I have quite the appetite for “asian” food… I really just eat bits and pieces from various areas, but my dad insists my soul lies in Malaysia. Why? Well, I discovered laksa.

The love affair with the dish that has its roots everywhere (Malaysia, China, Thailand, etc), laksa, began a few months ago, really.  After donning my favorite bunny slippers, I glanced over my dad’s World’s Best Soups book, and came across this recipe for prawn laksa. It haunted me again from another book I borrowed from his ample collection, a few weeks later. The culmination of the formulation that I must try this “laksa” thing, was watching an Anthony Bourdain episode where he encounters the intoxicating spicy noodle dish with laksa gravy. The burbling pot of brownish liquid topped with ample pools of bright red oil had me mesmerized; this laksa was not to be passed up as a recipe layed to the wayside. Having no restaurants locally for me to try this magic concoction at, I was left to follow a recipe. The first time I looked at the recipe, and following my own misguided path, wound up with what could only be described as the best damn tasting fish soup I had ever come across! But it wasn’t laksa. Laksa should have a thicker broth, and be made with candlenuts… I kept mumbling over the next few attempts… adding even more red curry paste as I went.

Putting on my Seychelle’s Power Yoga shoes, I hit up my local Asia Market (seriously, that’s the name). I disturbed the owners from their lunch because I was too blind to see the candlenuts directly to my left, and quickly found everything I had been missing, and also picked up a beautiful daikon radish…. I’ve been eating lots of miso soup as well. The daikon is such a great touch in it!

But I digress, armed with laksa leaf, candlenuts, coconut milk, a fresh kaffir lime, cilantro, and green onion, I was set.  Finally, the bubbling brew I saw on tv was about to be at my very own house! I crushed the candlenuts, grinding them into a paste, and combined it with the fiery red curry paste (with additional softened chile pods, deseeded) and simmered them in a touch of sesame oil. When the oil started to separate from the paste, I know it was time to add the coconut milk and stock I had made from a rockfish head. Sometimes working as a fish monger really has its perks. Soon, the bubbling brew came to life! At a very low simmer, the broth formed a lovely layer of red chile oil that promised tear jerking, sweat inducing pleasurable pain of eating food that is just a little spicier than you can tolerate, and I made my noodles. I topped my rice vermicelli noodles with bean sprouts, pieces of rockfish fillet, green onion, hand shredded daikon and courgette,  and poured in the laksa “gravy”. Topping the whole mess with the essential laksa leaf, I stared at my meal for a moment, said a prayer for its life, and without even bothering to sit down at the counter or kick off my heels, I devoured it. As promised, it was fiery; as promised, it was delicious beyond measure! There will be many more batches of laksa in my future!

Here’s what the concoction looks like: I sadly haven’t taken a picture yet, but a fellow wordpress blogger has a great picture!

expatbrian.wordpress.com

thank you, fellow wordpress blogger!

On a side note, my father is an amazing person that influences me, and will continue to long after he’s gone. Sometimes, he’s a jack ass, but most of the time, he’s my father. He knows me better than anyone, and for some strange reason is still proud of me. He may not say it aloud, but I see it in his eyes. We have grown closer over the woks and skillets of our various kitchens, mastering our own versions of southwest cuisine, italian, and asian, learning as much as we could from each other, and always working well in even the smallest of kitchens. Although he doesn’t invade my kitchen space every day, I still hear him in my head saying little things like, tuck your fingers back or you’ll lose them. So, to my father, thanks for the culinary curiosity, and may your kitchen always have rice!