Author Archives: Timothy Hegberg
So here we are halfway into February and it’s about time to begin planting
Ok, that sounds fantastic. Right? Hours of sweaty work in July, dirt that
refuses to be removed from underneath fingernails and the worst part…
weeding. But you know what? I don’t care. I love gardening. But perhaps you
think gardening isn’t for you. Or perhaps that you don’t have time in your
incredibly busy life. Perhaps you think you kill everything. Or perhaps you
just don’t like vegetables.
Whatever your reason, let’s just accept that fresh produce is delicious and
completely worth the time and effort it takes to grow it. So how exactly
does one grow things? Gardening seems like a crazy impossible thing to get
started with. I mean, there are farmers who have been doing it for years
and they’re still learning new things! How am I supposed to plant things
and keep them alive if there are 75 year old dudes who have been doing it
their entire lives and they don’t even totally get it?
To this I say, “Don’t worry. It’s really quite easy and we’ll start a
garden for you in 5 easy steps.” Continue reading
This semester, I brewed kombucha under my bed in a college dorm room.
Starting from at beginning of this story, I took a kitchen chemistry class this semester (yes, I go to a liberal arts school). At the start of the semester we were told that we had to chemically and biologically examine a recipe and explain how it worked in scientific terminology. With all this time, I decided to create a beverage that I had fallen in love with over the summer. Kombucha.
For the uninitiated, kombucha is fermented tea. If you drink rum, wine or any other fermented beverage, you now officially lose the right to say, “Ewww”. It’s sour, tangy, refreshing and absolutely fantastic during the summer. Over winter, you can warm it and sip it like hot cider. The really fantastic thing about kombucha though is how great the stuff is for you. Loads of B vitamins, probiotics, other delicious things. It’s like an energy drink, but without the caffeine and nagging guilt from the energy drink (ok, it’s not actually strong enough to be an energy drink, but it’s still something). So it’s good for you, it’s delicious, I’m pretty sure it saves starving martians on Venus or something.
So how does this kombucha-y thing work? There’s actually a really simple explanation with lots of non-essential things to learn. The actual process is very simple: sweetened tea is fermented for 10 to 12 days using a culture to acidify the tea and give it a delicious, fizzy tang. There are a lot of other variables involved, but that’s the gist of it. If you want to learn all about making kombucha and all the interesting variations you can create, check out Kombucha Kamp which was an invaluable resource during my research. The Art of Fermentation is also a fantastic book if you’re interested in creating all kinds of delicious tangy foods. For now though, I’ll include a short explanation of why to choose certain ingredients with the recipe.
– Compounds – Ingredients –
3 quarts filtered water
It’s best not to use chlorinated water. Chlorine is meant to kill bacteria and viruses and other nasty things, but it’s kind of like cleaning your carpet with a flamethrower instead of a vacuum. Sure, you’ll get rid of all the bad things, but you’ve also gotten rid of the good things as well. Distilled water also isn’t a great choice since it’s really just pure water without any minerals or delicious things. Filtered water still has some of the good stuff left but doesn’t have the nasty chlorine chemically stuff.
1 cup organic sugar
You can use white sugar, it tastes crisp and clean. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of Sucanat (unrefined cane sugar). It still has the vitamins, minerals and molasses compounds that are normally removed and once it’s fermented gives a fantastic complex flavour. Other things that work? Maple syrup is delicious but expensive. Using honey also gives a really nice flavour, but as some on Kombucha Kamp will tell you, it doesn’t always work so it’s best to use half sugar/half honey. Stay away from artificial sweeteners and stevia, they don’t work at all. Rule of thumb: If it isn’t made of sucrose, it probably won’t work.
4 organic tea bags
Black, green or white tea only. If you want to add herbal teas, add them in addition to the 4 tea bags. “Real” teas come from Camellia sinensis and will provide nitrogen for the kombucha mother/mushroom/SCOBY/squishy thing. I recommend you use organic, but I did just fine with Twining’s English Breakfast tea for a month. When picking your tea remember, black tea will create the strongest brew, green will be smooth and white will be delicate. If you want to be creative, try combining 4 “real” tea bags with two herbal ones. Two chai tea bags with four black tea bags is delicious in the winter and two mango herbal tea bags with four green tea bags in the summer is fantastically refreshing.
1/2 cup kombucha from a previous culture
You can get this at any local store that has plain kombucha. Or you can order some online. This doesn’t matter as much as long as it doesn’t have fruit juice or other things mixed in.
1 kombucha mushroom or starter culture
Best case scenario? You have a friend who will give it to you for free. Next best case scenario? You have connections with the weird hippie people at your farmer’s market. Worse case? Order online.
– Procedure – Instructions –
(Non-bolded procedure for science-y people. Bolded instructions are for the rest of us.)
- Heat 3 quarts of filtered water in a vessel of appropriate size. Bring to 100ºC/212ºF.
- Make 3 quarts of water boil.
- Sanitise the vessel that will contain the ferment.
- Wash a large glass or ceramic jar.
- Pour the heated water into the vessel that will contain the ferment
- Pour the water in your kombucha jar.
- Combine sucrose compound with heated liquid. Stir until dissolved.
- Mix your sugar with your hot water. Make sure it’s mixed in and isn’t settling on the bottom of the container.
- Add your four samples of Camellia sinensis to the heated water. Remove the samples once the water has dropped to ~21ºC/~70ºF.
- Add your four tea bags to the hot water. Take them out of the hot water when the hot water is not hot anymore.
- Combine the sample of tea ferment from previous experiment with the liquid.
- Add the kombucha from the store to the tea.
- Gently place the Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeasts (SCOBY) into the liquid. Cover with a sterilised cloth and keep in a dark location with regulated temperature for 10 to 14 days.
- Name your kombucha mother/squishy pet. Carefully add your pet to her new home and then cover the jar with a towel (rubber bands hold it in place pretty well). Keep out of direct sunlight as kombucha doesn’t tan well. It also prefers to stay at about 70ºF, though it won’t complain as long as it’s within 20ºF of that. Try to keep it cooler than 90ºF and warmer than 50ºF. Actually, it won’t complain at all. It doesn’t talk.
- After fermentation cycle is complete, remove SCOBY sample from fermented tea, making sure to reserve enough tea ferment to cover the SCOBY. Pour into containment vessels and store in a reduced temperature environment for up to a week.
- Once your kombucha is tangy and delicious, take the mother out and store her somewhere safe and clean with enough kombucha to cover. Pour your kombucha into jars and store them in the refrigerator. Try to drink them before the week is up because it will continue to get stronger (all those probiotics keep working even after you’re finished brewing).
- Consume beverage. Repeat process if more tea ferment is desired.
- Enjoy your kombucha. If you want to make more, then just start over from the beginning, since you should have all the ingredients again.
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Sarah Brinker is a talented lady.She’s a certified permaculture designer, permaculture teacher and health coach. Not too long ago, she moved out to California from North Carolina to start growing at new busi… Continue reading
It started with an email.
I sent a proposal to one Ms. Sarah Sohn to come intern at Side By Side Farms/CSA in Freeland, MD. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the world of semi-hippie farming establishments, Side By Side is a permaculture farm. They are Certified Naturally Grown and they supply to the cafe that I work at with Miss Williamson. It’s run by a pair of amazing, and sort of crazy women and an increasingly crazy farm manager. The truth is that none of them actually run the farm, it’s run by a little dog named Ruby, who is an absolute slave driver.
When I first arrived on the farm on a chilly, early March morning to talk with Sarah, I wasn’t sure if I was at the right place. There was no sign, there was nothing designating the place as a farm aside from the set of hoop houses that seemed rather barren for a farm. After a few minutes of checking my phone to make sure that the address was correct, I got out of the car and walked up the hill along a gravel truck path towards the upper greenhouse which I later learned was affectionately dubbed the “upper hoop house”. A little while later, I encountered the farm manager, Sarah. She showed me around the farm, told me some of the grander plans she had for the place and then ended the brief “interview” with the question of, “So are you interested in doing this? When can you start working?” I later learned this was because I showed up on time, sober and clothed.
Planting beets with Sarah Sohn (back) and Lisa Augustyniak (front).
Sarah Sohn. Weed torcher.
A month later, I started my internship with Side By Side Farms. I thought about keeping a proper journal, or perhaps a blog, but I felt like it had already been done. So I opened up my phone and downloaded Instagram in order to keep a photo journal. I already had a fancy Nikon DSLR, but I didn’t want to use it for this. No, if I was going to document an internship at a Certified Naturally Grown, Permaculture/semi-hippie farm, it was going to be with tools that anyone could get.
There’s something about photographing with a DSLR that’s fantastic. You have clarity, you have better quality, you have control and options and precision. I chose to forgo my DSLR for documenting my internship. I wanted it to be approachable, so that every aspect of it could be done by anyone. Almost everyone has smartphones or devices with access to Instagram these days and the majority of them have cameras. There’s something about the idea that everyone is on the same playing field, that everyone has the ability to be a fantastic photographer that appealed to me. I still took photos with my DSLR while I was at the farm, but my journal would only be iPhone photos because it was a quiet message that anyone could do what I was about to do.
My first day started around 6 in the morning. By that point in my life, I was already a fairly early riser (by college student standards, 7 in the morning is early), but it was a bit early even for me. The sun was just starting to rise above the trees in my yard and the neighbor’s solar controlled driveway lights were still on. I showered and ate and drove to the farm, the brisk air blowing through the cabin of my green 2004 Toyota Camry. When I got there, the first thing Sarah had on the agenda was covering crops. You see, when it’s cold the plants you’ve just started, the tiny green sprouts, need a bit of help. If it gets too cold then they need to be covered, lest the frost kill them. So off we went, throwing plastic covering over the tops of the plants in long rows to keep the frost off of them and hopefully, preserve them so we could have an early harvest.
It started at 6.
Much of the summer went like that. I would wake up early, go to the farm, we would plant seeds or transplant new plants, weed or water, cover and uncover. There was a rhythm to it, a sort of off kilter routine that changed daily. It was fun, it felt like an endless struggle with nature, but one where we could eventually mold the landscape to fit our needs. We didn’t use much machinery, one tractor for tilling and a pickup truck. Everything else we did by hand. It was difficult and laborious, but incredibly rewarding. There were days where I would drink close to two gallons of water and still feel dehydrated towards the end of the day, but if was always worth it in the end. I got a share of the produce, a small amount of money (enough to pay for my petrol over the summer) and always a free lunch made with whatever we had lying around the farm.
The Truck. This was the vehicle I learned to drive stick shift on.
We did most everything by hand, though there was a tractor. One of the farm residents, Finch created this as a model of the tractor we had.
Those were some of the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever created and eaten. They were absolutely delicious and about as fresh as you can get, most of the time having been picked a mere hour before consumption. There were fresh eggs, honey from the bees on the farm and always loads of produce. There were times where there were so many of a particular vegetable that I would be sent home with close to $50 in produce, simply so it didn’t go to waste. Those meals were amazing and I got to cook and consume them with people that, to this day, I believe are the most interesting and enjoyable people I have worked with. I heard stories and met people that, had I not participated in those lunches, I never would have heard. It sounds strange to say, but I met a man while I was working there and I listened to his stories every time he came. The second time I ate lunch with him, I decided that he was the man I wanted to be like when I grew old.
Freshly picked and washed beets.
What I expected and what actually happened, were completely different things. I expected to come and learn. I expected to learn techniques and the best varieties and how to run an organic, small scale farm. What I learned was that those aren’t the things that matter the most.
I learned that if you want to run a farm, you learn a lot of those things on the fly. I learned that it was relationships that mattered the most. That sitting on the porch of the farmhouse taught me more than hours in the field did (and that’s saying something, because I learned a lot in the field). That hours in the field gave me the best relationship with my local farmer I could ever get. That the relationship with restaurants and your CSA members determine what the best varieties are. That running a “farm” can just be a fancy way of saying you have a profitable, over-sized garden. And I learned that I don’t want to have a farm. I want to have a relationship with my local farmers, one that’s profitable for both of us and for the environment. I want relationships with restaurant owners that support local farmers. I want to support people that care about people. That’s the most important thing my internship taught me.
Though, Sarah, if you’re reading this, yes, I do have a printed copy of that planting schedule in my “garden” folder and Elliot Coleman says, “Hello”
Lettuce. Available as an iPhone cover!
Disclaimer What you’re about to read are some of our ideas of what an ideal permaculture kitchen looks like. It is no… Continue reading
We declare that gastronomic permaculture integrates ourselves, our food, our community and our earth. It recognises that every meal is accomplished in an ecosystem, and it is the convergence our three basic needs: nourishment, security and love.
Sunday, 28th of July 2013 – 5:10am
“We’re going to Maine,” Ema said as she turned the key to the green Grand Caravan we had packed with camping materials, food and two other people. We had spent the last month or so preparing for this trip, but it never quite seemed real until the morning we woke at 4:30, drank a mug of tea each and sat the last of our supplies and ourselves in the van. Our journey technically started in June when we began talking about going, but our headlights driving down the alley, in a general northward direction said otherwise.
I had already been to Maine once that summer with three of my friends and my family. One of those friends, Mr. O’Cabbott, sat in the backseat with his counterpart, Mrs. O’Cabbott, as Ema drove the vehicle and I occupied the passenger seat. Both Ema and I had been to Maine numerous times, normally a yearly destination for both of our families. This year however, Ema had been stranded at home, working at a (rather fantastic) cafe while I was interning at a farm. Eventually, I joined her working at the cafe and we talked of Maine. There was much planning; lists were made and meetings were had with both Mr. and Mrs. O’Cabbott. Ema and I went for a love of Maine and food. Mr. O’Cabbott for a love of Maine and Mrs. O’Cabbott for a love of adventure.
(From left to right) Mr. O’Cabbott, Ema, Tim
We spent that summer learning what Gastronomic Permaculture was, we experienced it, tasted it. We spent a week with friends, never eating alone and only once out of twenty-one meals with a mediocre meal.
To meet our needs, we will first source whatever we can from our own piece of the earth, taking care to tread lightly, respect the seasons and observe what is plentiful.
Photo taken by Ema Williamson
Tuesday 23th of July, 2013
We began preparations with what we already had. With all of us being poor high school students (Mr. O’Cabbott), recent high school graduates (Mrs. O’Cabbott and myself) or college students (Ema), we were all rather concerned with not spending everything we had earned over the summer on a single trip to Maine. So we all pooled our resources; Ema had a garden, I had a farm internship, as well as a garden at my own place of residence and Mr. and Mrs. O’Cabbott had unspecified sources for the food they procured (most likely taken from their unknowing families’ pantries).
From Ema’s garden, we gathered beets and carrots. We sliced the beets thin tossed them in oil, sprinkled them with sea salt and threw them in the oven for a while. When we pulled them out, they were crisp and crunchy, some were a bit burnt around the edges and others were still floppy. It was alright, we ate a few and we threw a few into the compost bucket but they were mostly quite good. The carrots were cut into strips and placed into a container to be dipped in hummus later.
From my garden, I brought tomatoes. We didn’t plan to do much with them aside from eat them on bread or with hummus or simply by themselves. I had a large quantity of them, in a number of varieties: Roma, Purple Cherokee and Green Zebras. There was easily enough for four people, the amount chosen forgetting that Mr. O’Cabbott didn’t share Ema and my love of tomatoes.
When we source from elsewhere it will be from people with whom we strike up conversations and form relationships. They are people who care for their own piece of the earth.
Friday 26th of July, 2013 – 4:00pm
I interned at Side By Side Farm/CSA over the summer, clocking between twenty and thirty hours each week. Along with amounts of physical labor that removed any reason to own a gym membership, I was given a small amount of money and a weekly bag of produce. When there was a lot of a particular item, I would often be sent home with an extra bag or three of said excess item. Some weeks I would get pounds of tomatoes, other weeks it would be an entire bag of three kinds of kale. There was one particular time earlier in the year when I was given eight bags of Winterbor kale and they were all turned into kale chips. I ate seven of those eight bags were eaten in about a week.
Before we left for Maine, my bag of produce from Side By Side held:
- bell peppers
- a few squash (both zephyr and yellow)
- green beans (wax and string)
- a single onion.
The cucumber was cut and added to the carrots. The tomatoes were added to the ones I brought from my garden and everything else was stored in the back of the van. Those vegetables eventually became the base for the many meals we created on that trip.
Kale from Side By Side Farm/CSA
We will purchase other goods from shopkeepers and restaurant owners who take into account their customers. They are middle-men who have respect for the entire community.
Thursday, 2nd of August 2013
Thursday began as a chilly morning with three of us wearing an additional layer (Mr. O’Cabbott simply wore a warm hat). It quickly became a beautiful day as we drove towards Portland, ME for the day. After a brief frustrating encounter with a parking garage, we walked out into the city and promptly split up into two groups and went our separate way for a while, plans to meet up at a cafe later in the afternoon.
Ema and I walked around, not really knowing where we wanted to go, sans a few stops to More & Co., Roost House of Juice, The Portland Museum of Art and of course, Rosemont Market & Bakery. It took us most of a morning to look around, neither of us really purchasing anything, rather taking in the sights and sounds and smells of places. We visited More & Co. for a moment or two and marvelled at the design. We purchased smoothies and nori rolls from Roost, two different ones of course, so we could try multiples. The Portland Museum of Art was fantastic, though Ema was disappointed that there was a single Andrew Wyeth, rather than a collection. The city was a collection of these small businesses, ones that would have no place in our own towns where small business seemed to struggle needlessly.
Rosemont, however, was fantastic. We ended up running into Mr. and Mrs. O’Cabbott and decided to reunite our groups. It was good that we did. We searched through Rosemont for produce and we purchased some, checking with everyone that our plans for dinner would be approved by everyone. As we were checking out though, Mr. O’Cabbott remembered that Ema had been looking for a container of honeycomb to try. Looking around he found some that was not only honeycomb, it was local, it was produced in Maine by Maine bees and a local beekeeper. Ema was thrilled, really both of us were thrilled.
Rosemont ended up being one of a few local food businesses we visited on other days, Morning Glory Natural Foods (Brunswick, ME) and Rising Tide Community Market (Damariscotta, ME) being a few of them. Morning Glory was an experience in itself, Ema and I walked around the shop, utterly excited by the eighteen kinds of kombucha, the peanut butter in an upside-down jar and coconut milk ice cream in a dozen strange flavours. At Rising Tide (Damariscotta, ME), we saw an almond butter machine and we wished we could find a way to take it back with us. We went back to Rising Tide on Friday for a dinner of bits and pieces. I’m glad we did, as Rising Tide lists their mission statement and vision statement on their about page and I fully support what they’re trying to do. They are a proper local, small business that wants to make a positive impact on their community. They are people who care for their customers and know their names.
Our final resource will be businesses that cause the least amount of environmental and social impact; they create positive changes in the world.
Wednesday, 24th of July 2013
There were only a few days left until we had to leave. We had gathered much of our cooking equipment and decided what needed to be brought. We searched through spices, deciding what we needed and what we didn’t. We made lists of things to buy from the local grocery stores, what we would scavenge from our gardens. I knew what would be coming in my share from Side By Side later on in the week and so we were covered as far as food we were bringing. Halfway through packing though, we realised we didn’t have any curry powder. Since we use curry powder, even in things one doesn’t normally put curry powder in, we added it to the list to purchase.
I went to the store that afternoon, looking around and happening upon a massive shelf of spices. Being a recent high school graduate who was already working a job at a cafe and an internship at a farm, my funds were a bit lacking. But after digging through to find the cheapest curry powder, I stumbled upon a shelf of Frontier spices. Frontier is a Co-op that specialises in natural and organic spices and herbs. They have a lot of Fair Trade spices and I know a number of people who purchase their products and are always impressed with the quality. I had to think about it for a minute, but I knew that I would use all the curry eventually, I knew it was an important spice for me and I’d rather support small businesses. Frontier isn’t exactly small, you can buy their spices at Giant Food Stores and at shops all across the eastern seaboard, but they make an effort to have a positive impact on the world and the businesses they source from.
I wasn’t able to buy all my spices from Frontier, but I got the ones I valued the most. Curry was one of them.
We will clean and organize our kitchen in ways that take into account natural environments and that are relevant to how we cook and eat.
Image by Ema Williamson
Monday 29th of July 2013
It was a bright red basket. Ema had swiped it from her parents who never used it, determining that the owner should be the one that uses it. We packed it with hummus, carrots, cucumbers, sprouted lentils and various nut butters. There was a knife and cutting board and mason jars for water. We packed a CocaCola crate of spices, the ones we believed to be essentials. There was salt and pepper, curry (from Frontier), a bottle of liquid smoke, cinnamon, nutmeg and a half dozen other spices. We packed only the essentials, but they were customised for our tastes. They were always easy to find in the back of the van, not in the least because there was no longer a half dozen bags on top of them. There was always the spice we needed and very rarely did we say, “this would be better with some _____.” We made do with what we had and if we were lacking, we found a solution or substitute.
We will cook with all of our senses – we will see, hear, touch, smell and certainly taste – and cultivate our culinary instincts.
Monday, 29th of July 2013
We didn’t have a recipe. It really didn’t make much of a difference anyways, Ema and I rarely follow a recipe. A recipe should be a guideline, not a rulebook. It gives you the inspiration you need to create something. A recipe can never be perfectly replicated anyways. There are so many factors between the quality of your ingredients, the region you’re in, if your water is chlorinated or not. We were camping, we weren’t in a kitchen and we had limited resources. So we improvised. We wanted curry, so we made curry. We had green beans and squash, tomatoes and sprouted lentils. We tossed them in a pan and we sautéed them until they were tender. We tossed them in spices, salt and pepper, curry and liquid smoke, perhaps a few other things as well (we didn’t keep a close eye on what went into it). We tasted and experimented as we went and eventually, we were satisfied we had created something we were happy with. We had to put time into figuring out our ingredients and we had to trust that our judgement would make something delicious, but it was worth it to have a meal that was completely ours.
We will cook with what we have, where we have it, sometimes in unorthodox places.
Friday, 2nd of August 2013 – Noon
It had been raining the whole day, always middling between a proper rain and a light drizzle. It was enough to warrant carrying an umbrella, but not enough that I had to walk under it the whole time. Actually, I ended up holding it because whenever Ema held it, she would hit me in the head with the corners.
We had just been visiting to a cafe and farm slightly north of Camden. We were going to eat at a cafe, but couldn’t find a place that seemed either interesting or was what we wanted. We walked around Camden and looked at a few cafes and restaurants. We saw a lot of really good places to eat, but none of them were quite right. Eventually, we found a market that we went into. After looking around for a few minutes, I bought a bowl of curried carrot soup and we walked back to the van to consume it, deciding we wanted sandwiches.
We opened up the back of the van and pulled out our leftover provisions. There was Black Crow bread and walnut butter, honey and fresh ginger. Ema cut a tomato and made a salad out of it. I, of course, had my soup which was put into a metal camp mug and placed over a rocket stove. We heated it, tasted it, adjusted it with some additional salt, pepper and curry and placed it on the dashboard. With bottles of kombucha in hand, we sat up front and ate and talked with the dashboard of the van as our table and the trunk as our kitchen.
We will cook with people we know and people we do not know, people of any age.
From left to right, Mr. O’Cabbott, myself, Mrs. O’Cabbott, Ema
We were quite the eclectic group. Mr. O’Cabbott was the youngest at barely 16. He was my friend that had come along on my earlier trip to Maine. When the two of us returned from that first trip, we talked to our second companion Mrs. O’Cabbott about Maine, about our adventures and the fun we had. Mrs. O’Cabbott was the second youngest at 18, though only a month older than myself. (The O’Cabbott’s weren’t actually married, but they earned their nicknames from their constant bickering like an old married couple.) The three of us had been friends for a number of years and Mr. O’Cabbott and I had enticed Mrs. O’Cabbott into going with us.
Before we left, Ema and I explained to them that they were always welcome to help cook or partake of our food, but if they wanted meat, they were on their own. Ian more than compensated, purchasing chicken while in Maine and cooking it very well (I’ll assume based off of Meg’s compliments, I didn’t partake). Meg was our resident fire-master, able to get a fire started, even during the rainy, damp mornings we had almost every day. Ema and I would generally take care of the main dish and Ian and Meg would help here and there, but if a suggestion was made, we always considered it. We made food democratically. If someone had not been fond of curry, we would have debated on other spices or given them another option. We shared our kitchen, it might have been a picnic table, but it was a place for us all to gather and cook together.
When a mistake is made during cooking it is not the end of the world. We will not waste, we will adapt.
Thursday, 1st of August 2013 – Around Noon
We had forgotten cooking oil. It really didn’t make that much of a difference, but it was disappointing nonetheless. We had hiked to Morse Mountain and then down to the beach below for an afternoon of beach time for Mrs. O’Cabbott. We had packed a backpack of Black Crow bread, goat cheese from Rising Tide, tomato, avocado from Rosemont, Mr. O’Cabbott’s aluminium pan and my rocket stove. Amidst our hurry to get going so we could enjoy our time outdoors, we had left our jar of coconut oil in the van. A good hike back, we decided we would simply make do. The bread toasted slightly unevenly, but Ema had sliced it thin and I played with the flame until the cheese melted properly. It was a very slight mistake, not like a mayonnaise that had separated, but it could be dealt with and adjusted for easily. There was also a strong ocean breeze that threatened to blow out the flame, even from the rocket stove. Mr. O’Cabbott engineered a wall of sand around the stove which ended up helping to keep the pan balanced as well. Even without the oil and with a rowdy flame the sandwiches were still delicious and there was no one who was unsatisfied with that meal.
We will eat in accordance with our body’s needs and quirks, bearing in mind that these will change with the months and years. This is different for everyone.
Tuesday, 30th of August 2013
Ema and I have been quite vocal about what we eat and what we don’t eat before. (In fact, we were vocal enough that another person decided he should voice his opinions as well.) Mr. and Mrs. O’Cabbott, however, didn’t share our dietary choices. We didn’t eat meat. Mr. O’Cabbott survived on meat. Mrs. O’Cabbott generally ate everything that Ema and I made, though she would partake of Mr. O’Cabbott’s meat creations as well. No one was ever hungry though. That night we compromised and made a frittata. There was swiss chard and goat cheese, salt and pepper and liquid smoke. We threw the whole thing in a dutch oven and then into the coals of the campfire. It cooked until the bottom was burnt and the rest was cooked to deliciousness. There were a dozen eggs cracked into that frittata and there was no frittata left when we were finished.
We will remember that this takes time.
Saturday, 3rd of August 2013
We woke rather late that last day, none of us entirely ready to head home but with twelve hours to drive back to Pennsylvania we packed up our things and began our drive south. The ride wasn’t entirely without food, we had leftovers. We had other snacks as well, but they didn’t quite satisfy our hunger for Maine. As we crossed the bridge from Maine into New Hampshire I opened the window to get a final breath of Maine air before closing it at the border. We were officially headed back. It was a week we had lived out our manifesto, even if we hadn’t written it quite yet. Shortly after returning to Pennsylvania, Ema and I began work on Gastronomic Permaculture and continue to dream of Maine.
Let’s start from the beginning shall we?
The term permaculture (permanent culture ) was coined in the 1970s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Permaculture is guided by twelve principles and three ethics: earth care, people care and fair share.
Typically permaculture is applied to agriculture and garden design. However, David Holmgren writes in The Essence of Permaculture that, “Although permaculture is a conceptual framework for sustainable development that has its roots in ecological science and systems thinking, its grassroots spread within many different cultures and contexts show its potential to contribute to the evolution of a popular culture of sustainability, through adoption of very practical and empowering solutions.”
Between Mollison and Holmgren, there are a lot of big words in the last two paragraphs. That’s ok, permaculture is like tea: there are all kinds of tea lovers, but the two most dissimilar types are those who love plain black tea and the connoisseurs. They are both lovers of tea, but in different ways. Permaculture is the same way, you don’t have to be an expert to be a permaculturalist, you just have to care about the three things that Mollison sets out:
Those three ethics are the guiding ideas behind everything permaculture; they determine the way you plant your garden, how to plant with the seasons and making the best use out of all energy expended. It’s an exercise in restraint, in efficiency and in ethical living. The real attraction to permaculture, however, is that it benefits everyone. This seems like an impossibility in our world – where for every winner, there is a loser – but nature doesn’t play by the same rules. In nature there is always an abundance, always more than you can make use of. So you share the excess, because we all live as part of a larger ecosystem, where each person, animal and plant has importance and value.
Gastronomic permaculture, follows these same ethics. The original idea originated with my partner Ema Williamson (a Permaculture Design Certified anthropology major at Millersville University of Pennsylvania) with whom I took my Permaculture Design Certification course. She scribbled a few notes about what the term “permaculture cooking” could possibly entail and showed them to me one afternoon. A very long, accidental brainstorming session ensued and the idea for gastronomic permaculture was started.
Of course, we figured that someone was already doing this. Why wouldn’t someone combine permaculture and food? But aside from a job offer for a permaculture chef in Ethiopia, we couldn’t find anything. So we continued to work. We debated over the definition for months, picking our words very carefully until we created this long, overly complex definition sometime around 11:30pm:
Yep. It’s wordy. It’s complex. It’s scientific and posh and hipster. But it’s exactly what we mean.
Gastronomic permaculture can start with creating a window box garden, getting to know your farmer, becoming friends with the people at a farmer’s market, shopping at local stores. It is a practice in redundancy and resiliency. A gastronomic permaculture network is designed not to fail. It is built around multiple relationships with the land, with farmers, with purveyors, with friends and acquaintances.
A gastronomic permaculture network remembers that we don’t live in a bubble. We live in an ecosystem; at some point our actions and choices affect everyone. We make our choices, setting our sights on the positives, the opportunities. We grow our food organically, we purchase locally and if possible, organically. When it’s not available locally, we purchase it fair trade, from a local store or at least a shop that makes it their mission to positively impact the world.
A gastronomic permaculture network is good for you as well. It nourishes your entire being, both the material and non-material things we need to live. You should have abundant food, healthier food, better tasting food and you should be eating it with others.
As we write, you’ll see examples of how we’re able to live by our own definition. We’ll share how to go about ‘designing’ and ‘maintaining’ a gastronomic network. You’ll see what we mean when we say a “gastronomically productive network”. We’ll write about how to eat healthy, environmentally friendly and community friendly food without a CEO’s salary (heck, we’ll show you how to do that on a college student’s salary). Most importantly, we’ll be writing about the connections that are made when you pay attention to your food and where it comes from; to the integration of food and relationships, rather than the segregation.
If all this is confusing to you, don’t worry, it confused us too for a while (and we came up with the idea). The whole idea is best summed up by M.F.K. Fisher anyway:
So if you love food, keep reading. If you love the earth, keep reading. If you love people, you should definitely keep reading. Because gastronomic permaculture is all three in one. And this is only the first post. We have a lot more to say.