There are many reasons to grow your own food. Some people do it as a hobby, some people do it for a living and some people do it because they believe it is the best way to ensure that the food they’re eating is the freshest and healthiest food available.
But I also happen to believe that growing your own food is deeply comforting.
I don’t think the scale on which you’re growing or gardening really matters. I think what matters is that when you put something into the soil and nurture it, in your own way your putting a little bit of love back into the world. And giving love is just as good as getting it.
If you’re getting a bit worried that the Cream Puff has gone all spiritual on you, don’t. These ruminations come about as a result of a two-month perusal of Jim Denevan’s excellent cookbook Outstanding in the Field: A Farm to Table Cookbook.
When I do a cookbook review, I like to take my time getting to know the book. I like to read it (or as much of it as I can). I pay attention to things like the binding and the quality of the paper (does the book lay flat when it’s open or do the pages flip over?). I like to read the directions to recipes and see if I can get it in the first read-through. In a nutshell, I like to get to know the book.
Based on my getting to know this book, I would say that we’ve become very close friends. Prior to receiving this cookbook, I’d never heard of Denevan. After a bit of research I found out that he’s a chef, but with a twist. Instead of operating a restaurant, Denevan brings the restaurant to the people by organizing huge outdoor meals that feature the freshest and most beautiful food available. He started an organization called Outstanding in the Field through which these incredible outdoor experiences are organized. Imagine a travelling restaurant showing up in your neighbourhood, setting up an enormous table and then inviting everyone in the neighbourhood to sit down together and enjoy the best of the local produce. What a way to honour all the incredible growers and food producers out there that are working their behinds off to keep the tradition of wholesome, good food alive!
As for the book, it’s just beautiful. Lots of colour photos and recipes that flow from one to the other seamlessly. The emphasis is not on complicated or fussy dishes but rather on simple, appealing cooking that relies entirely on fresh (and hopefully local) foods. There is also a strong sense of kinmanship with those among us who are food artisans. You know who I mean … those people that work like crazy to produce unbelievable cheese that no one knows about because too many of us are busy eating processed, fake cheese. Or that grower that’s singlehandedly brought all sorts of heirloom vegetable varieties back to the forefront.
I guess the point is that this food is beautiful and delicious and easy to grow and cook with.
Note: The first two photographs feature a Fresh Strawberry Bavarian, which is made by combining strawberry puree, sugar and lemon with unflavoured gelatin dissolved in water. Some whipped cream is added and the bavarian is chilled overnight. The second photograph features a Corn Chowder with Marjoram, which is made by separate corn kernels from the cob. The cobs are then cooked in water for about an hour to create a vegetable stock. The kernels are sauteed with onion and carrot and diced potato. The stock is then added in and the mixture is cooked for a good 20 to 30 minutes. Puree half the mixture in the blender and then return to the remainder of the soup. What you end up with is a nice and chunky corn chowder. Don’t forget the marjoram!