Thursday, July 18, 2019

Summer Discoveries: Cicely Straws, New Greens and…Fries with Eyes?


Though I love to travel to faraway locations as much as anyone, I don't have to go far from home to make some (potentially life-changing) discoveries. We're only a little over a month into the summer—in the Pacific Northwest the good weather can extend well into September or October—and it's been a banner season so far for eye-opening experiences.

Along with making my own infused vinegar and oil from the spiky pink pompoms in my chive patch, I've had three other new-to-me revelations.

At the Hoodland Farmers Market.

While I was planning a week-long sojourn in a cabin on Mt. Hood, I heard that the Hoodland Farmers Market in Welches had launched its first season and would be open during our stay. Being the farmers' market obsessive that I am, it was immediately put on our schedule. The day after we arrived, I had picked up a few greens to tide us over for the week when a small pile of green stick-like bundles caught my eye.

A hand-lettered sign said "Sweet Cicely Straws 10¢," so I asked the tall bearded fellow standing behind the table what they were like. He said they had a mild, slightly sweet flavor and that they'd be good with light sodas, but when he mentioned he preferred them with gin and tonics, I was sold. A little research revealed that cicely is related to anise, fennel and caraway—it's sometimes used to flavor akvavit—and that the leaves, seeds and roots are all edible.

In the interest of science, on our return to the cabin we immediately tested them with gin and tonics, served al fresco by the river, and while the flavor was subtle, indeed, they were a perfect (and perfectly local), functional garnish.

* * *


Confession time: My name is Kathleen and I have a greens problem.

There. I said it. I can't pass by a pile of leafy vegetation at a market without stopping and admiring the fluorescent light green, dark green or medium green hue, caressing a leaf to find out whether it's thick and substantial or soft and ephemeral. I imagine what it would be like to cook with (or not), whether to steam, chop, chiffonade or leave it whole, what preparation would bring out its best flavor.

Like I said, a problem.

So, of course, when Josh Alsberg of Rubinette Produce mentioned in passing that he'd just received some sweet potato greens from Groundwork Organics north of Eugene, it was all I could do not to grab him by the lapels—Josh with lapels is an odd image, but an apt metaphor for my mania—and insist he give me some right away.

But I held myself in check, picked up a bunch (well, two) and brought them home. Fairly substantial, the deep forest green leaves seemed like they would hold up to a quick stir-fry, so I threw them into a hot pan already heaped with sautéed spring onions and green garlic, spritzed them with tiny bit of chive vinegar and served them alongside rotisserie chicken.

So, you might ask, am I going to try to free myself of this greens obsession? Um…no…not anytime soon, as a matter of fact.

* * *


It started with a dinner on the garden-like patio at Burrasca with owners Elizabeth Petrosian and Chef Paolo Calamai. Elizabeth had posted photos of their Tuscan artichoke dishes made with organic purple Italian artichokes, grown by Tom and Patreece DeNoble of DeNoble Farms, which included a salad of raw shaved baby artichokes, tiny and tender fried baby artichokes and a creamy, delicate artichoke sformato.

Over the fire.

Another dish on the menu was frittura con gli occhi, amusingly translated as "fries with eyes," which was, to me, an irresistible must-have, not only because of the name but it also being fresh West Coast anchovies simply breaded and fried whole. (Yes, whole, as in heads on.) Tiny, crispy and tasting of the sea, I was entranced.

Tiny, tender and delicious.

So it was fortuitous when, the very next day, I stopped by Flying Fish, Lyf Gildersleeve's outpost for sustainably sourced fish, and what should be in the fresh case but some of those very same fresh anchovies. I bought a pound and brought them home, breading half of them in a flour, salt, pepper and pimenton mixture and the other half in a panko, salt and pepper mix.

Frying them in olive oil on a cast iron skillet on the grill, the flour breading coated them more completely and gave the little fish some extra crunch, while the panko was a bit scanty and not as crispy. But oh so fun and so delicious! (Plus I got to say frittura con gli occhi several times that evening.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Mid-Summer Book Report: Child Brides, French Dirt, Norma Paulus


All it took to breeze through three-and-a-half books was a week spent in a rustic cabin on Mt. Hood accompanied by a spate of cooler-than-normal weather that "forced" me to spend more time indoors than out. Yes, we got out for hikes, but then retreated to the comfort of books and coffee and lapdogs.

The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada's Polygamous Mormon Sect, by Daphne Bramham, is an exposé of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), "one of the largest of the fundamentalist Mormon denominations and one of the largest organizations in the United States whose members practice polygamy" (Wikipedia). Bramham, an award-winning journalist and author (as well as a personal friend), has been doggedly reporting on this cult for the Vancouver Sun for the last 15 years.

Starting with a history of the sect when it broke away from the mainline Mormon church (the Latter-Day Saints or LDS) when the LDS banned "plural marriage" in 1904, Bramham traces the evolution of the FLDS—with settlements in Utah, Arizona, British Columbia, Colorado, Texas and South Dakota, all governed by a self-proclaimed "Prophet"—to the 2007 trial and conviction of one of those prophets, Warren Jeffs, for being an accomplice to the rape of an underaged girl.

At the time of the book's publication in 2008, Bramham wrote:
"Prophet Warren Jeffs controls every aspect of the lives of more than eight thousand people, from where they live to whom and when they marry. Jeffs has banned school, church, movies and television. He has outlawed the colour red and even forbidden his followers to use the word "fun." Along with his trusted councillors, Jeffs has arranged and forced hundreds of marriages, some involving girls as young as fourteeen and men as old as or older than their fathers and grandfathers. Many of the brides have been transported across state borders as well as international borders with Canada and Mexico."
A page-turner, it chronicles the dangerously wacky, power-hungry men who turn a so-called religion to their own ends, damaging the lives of gullible men, women and children in the process. Bramham doesn't spare criticism of government officials of both countries for taking an infuriatingly hands-off approach to the commonly acknowledged abuses happening right under their noses. It's a gripping story, well-told and thoroughly documented. Highly recommended.

* * *

For something completely different, French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France, by Richard Goodman, begins with the author recalling how, as a 20-something aspiring writer, he was presented with the following classified ad by his Dutch girlfriend: "SOUTHERN FRANCE: Stone house in Village near Nimes/Avignon/Uzes. 4 BR, 2 baths, fireplace, books, desk, bikes. Perfect for writing, painting, exploring and experiencing la France profonde. $450 mo. plus utilities." With the adventurous spirit of youth, they rent the house for a year and move to a small village where Goodman is moved to start a garden on a small patch of ground loaned by a villager.

Far from the cutesy tales told of the quaint inhabitants of small villages in France or Italy—Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes being perhaps the best-known practitioners of the genre—this is the story of a young man falling in love with a garden and learning about himself in the process. Charming and well-told, it even received the unsolicited imprimatur of none other than M.F.K. Fisher herself:
"I possess a deep prejudice against anything written by Anglo-Saxons about their lives in or near French villages, especially in Provence. I really cannot stand the lip-licking enjoyment of local peasantry by these visitors from America and England. So, Richard, I thank you for breaking the spell. I like very much what you wrote. It did not sound supercilious at all. All my best always, M.F.K. Fisher"
I couldn't agree more.

* * *

The Only Woman in the Room: The Norma Paulus Story by Norma Paulus with Gail Wells and Pat McCord Amacher, startled me on many levels. As a native Oregonian who lived through the years covered by this biography and knew many of the names and issues described in it, I was fascinated to learn of the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing involved in some of the biggest headlines—think the bottle bill, saving Oregon's beaches for public access, the Land Conservation and Development Commission, which baked land use planning into our way of life—as well as more personal insights into pioneering Oregon luminaries like Tom McCall, L.B. Day, Betty Roberts and Gretchen Kafoury.

The book recounts that Paulus, a representative of a more moderate Republican party than we know today, and many in her party were pro-environment, advocated for women's rights—Oregon ratified the Equal Rights Amendment not once, but twice—and helped give Oregon its (now sadly diminished) reputation as a bastion of progressive government.

As the first woman elected to statewide office, as Secretary of State in 1976, Paulus was a practical yet visionary leader in her public career, though her dream to become Oregon's first woman governor was dashed in a bitter (if close) loss to Neil Goldschmidt in 1986; Barbara Roberts was to earn that distinction in 1991.

A chronicle of Oregon politics during a critical time in our history as well as the remarkable personal story of a woman's growth from humble beginnings to acclaim on a national stage, this is good read for longtime and newer Oregonians alike.

* * *

In case you're counting, the other (half) book, which I'd started before we arrived at the cabin and finished soon after, was the excellent Raw Material: Working Wool in the West by Stephany Wilkes, reviewed here.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Farm Bulletin: Remembering Martie


More than a place to buy local products and meet your farmer, a farmers' market is a place where longterm friendships can grow. In this remembrance, contributor Anthony Boutard recalls Ayers Creek Farm's longtime customer Martie Sucec, she of the blackberry slump and a dedicated fan of the farm's berries.

We decided to become vendors at the newly formed Hillsdale Farmers’ Market, debuting on Bastille Day 2002. Our first market e-mail was sent to our friend Martie Sucec. Martie loved Boysenberries above all other fruit, and we were advising her that we would have a flat set aside that weekend. We kept her updated week-to-week, and soon her friends and other customers asked to be included.

Martie Sucec.

A lay editor at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Public Health Research, Martie had a deep appreciation for language, a loathing of jargon, and a kind manner. Any author worth their salt would work hard for her approval. When asked how he started Coming into the Country, John McPhee quipped he started with “Dear Mom,” whiting out that salutation when he was done. The market essays often started with “Dear Martie” in mind.

When Chester season started that year, Martie came back the next week with a slump and a couple dozen copies of the recipe which she had gleaned from an old edition of Gourmet (recipe below). Martie ritualized the gesture and for fourteen years we would return home with a slump made the first Chesters of the season. Vendors who counted knew her by name.

Carol first encountered Martie 25 years ago—meet is too feeble a word to describe such an event—and came home describing the neighborhood chair of the Multnomah Village Neighborhood Association as an amazing person. Later, I had my own encounter and shared Carol’s sentiment. At one point, I told Martie that she reminded me of General Anna, a central character in Jean Merrill’s The Pushcart War, a book I had purchased at a school book fair and read as a 5th grader. A couple of days later, having read the book, Martie chuckled about how much she enjoyed Anna, a principled and determined resolver of conflict.

Purple martins at Ayers Creek.

Martie died in April. That same week a purple martin arrived at the farm, checking out one of the bird boxes used by kestrels, starlings and flickers. A week later, he returned accompanied by his mate and, if I am interpreting their behavior correctly, they are busy feeding chicks. Those handsome, gregarious birds will be associated with memories of Martie, our handsome, gregarious friend.

Martins have a quality described as site fidelity, with the birds returning to the nesting site year-after-year. The martins, and Marties fondness for Boysenberries, slumps, grey shallots and Sibley squash will keep her in our mind all year.

Here is a brief tribute to her from her neighborhood.

Blackberry Slump

4 c. fresh blackberries (2-3 pints)
2 tsp. lemon juice (add some zest, if you like more lemony flavor)
3/4 c. sugar, depending on the sweetness of berries, or to taste
1 c. all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. milk (whole, 2%, hemp or soy) room temperature
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put berries in an ungreased 5 to 6-cup casserole, gratin dish, deep dish or ceramic pie plate and sprinkle evenly with about 1/2 cup of the sugar. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining sugar into a medium bowl. Add milk and melted butter and whisk until smooth, then pour over berries (don’t worry if berries are not completely covered). Bake slump in middle of oven until top is golden, 35-45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool 20 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Photos of purple martins by Anthony Boutard.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Summer Essentials: Berries Call for Shortcakes!


It's high season in Oregon for berries, folks, and while I don't have an argument with pies, crisps or cobblers—drop one off any time, really!—in my family's opinion there's no higher or better use for fresh berries than finishing a summer's feast with fresh berry shortcakes.

Simple, lightly sweet shortcakes.

The buttery, lightly sweet shortcakes, which can also do double duty as breakfast scones, come together quickly in a food processor. Shower them with a scattering of lightly sugared berries and a plop of whipped cream (or ice cream, depending on your druthers) to make these ephemeral seasonal delights shine.

Berry season calls for shortcakes.

Whether you've got raspberries, loganberries, blackberries, tayberries, strawberries, boysenberries, blueberries or—I know I'm forgetting some—a mixture of two or more, save a couple of pints out of your next flat of berries to make this startlingly simple and stunningly delicious classic.

Berry Shortcake

For the shortcakes:
2 1/2 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) frozen butter or margarine, cut up
1/4 c. sugar
2/3 c. whole milk

For the berries:
2 pints berries
1/4 c. sugar (adjust according to sweetness of berries)
Whipped cream or ice cream

Preheat oven to 425°.

Put flour, balking powder, salt and sugar in bowl of food processor. Pulse four or five times to combine. Add butter or margarine and pulse several times until the mixture resembles cornmeal. With processor running, add milk in a stream. Keep processor running until the dough comes together in a soft mass.

Remove dough from processor, place on floured surface and form into a soft ball shape. Divide dough ball in half and gently pat out each half with your hands into six-inch disks (they will be about 1/2"-5/8" thick). With a butcher knife, slice each disk into six triangle-shaped wedges. On a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, place wedges slightly apart for crispier sides, touching for soft sides. I usually separate them by 1/8" and they puff up into wedges that break apart easily. Bake about 12 minutes or until tops are medium brown. Remove to racks to cool.

While the shortcakes are baking, put the berries into a large mixing bowl and add sugar. Using a spatula, gently fold the sugar into the berries. Allow to macerate for at least an hour (you can also place berries in the refrigerator until assembling). Using one wedge per serving, slice wedges in half lengthwise and place on individual serving plates or bowls. Scatter berries over the top and drizzle with juice that collects in the bottom of bowl. Top with whipped cream or ice cream as desired.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Farm Bulletin: Early Season Update


I've seen folks posting pictures on their social media feeds of some early season grains and produce from Ayers Creek Farm, so I was glad when the following update from contributor Anthony Boutard arrived in my in-box.

Around this time of year I receive inquiries regarding the upcoming season. Might as well get a jump on the questions. Here is how things look in the field.

After dealing with last year’s disastrous brand name starting mix, chronicled earlier, this year we purchased our potting mix from OBC Northwest. OBC, once the Oregon Bag Company, morphed into supplying greenhouse supplies when cleaning and reusing bags became a historical artifact. No lofty claims advanced by creative artwork on the package (below left). It is a simple and generic organic mix in a plain white tote which we supplement on our own by adding some bonemeal, kelp, humic acid and supplemental wetting agent.

A tote of organic potting mix from OBC Northwest.

The wetting agent allowed in organic farming is derived from yucca and is a very important component of the mix. In soilless potting mixes, the yucca extract promotes the even wetting of the peat and compost. At transplanting, it keeps the area around the roots moist so they will grow easily into the surrounding native soil. As the yucca extract is an organic compound, it is perishable, breaking down over time, rendering the mix stale after a few months. At that point it is nearly impossible to resaturate the soilless mix properly. The water just passes through as in a sieve, though it is not obvious that the mix has not absorbed adequate water. Refreshing the wetting agent is an insurance policy. The other problem with last year's mix was low-grade compost. The company was obviously cutting corners to meet demand.  

The peppers and tomatoes are now in the field and look great. The first run of direct sown crops—the corns, beans and chickpeas—are in the ground as well. The rain has come at the right times. Mustard, durum and soft red wheat are sown in November, and are also in fine shape. Sometimes a planting season will, by chance, progress smoothly, much in the same way as a Saturday delivery run when we happen to be in the van for every aria in the Met’s broadcast of La Boheme. Some years, on the other hand, are a challenge, a delivery with no relief from unsatisfying driving music.

Chester blackberries.

The pollination of the perennial fruits occurs April through June. For the small fruits, the crop looks excellent. Prompting us to buy another freezer to increase production of Loganberry and Boysenberry preserves. Plums and apples have a good set. The cherries were in bloom during several frosty nights and the crop is sparse, noncommercial. The Chester blackberry bloom is beginning, the hives were placed last week, and this run of dry, warm weather is helpful.

In early May, we were inspected for compliance with the rules of the National Organic Program (NOP). This is our 20th year as certified organic growers. The first four years preceded the NOP, and compliance was measured against the standards laid out by the International Federation of Organic Movements (IFOAM). Every few years, the certifying agency decides they need to bust you for something. Predictable and infuriating, but nothing personal.

Marionberries.

This year, our certifier decided that we needed to have an Organic Handler Plan in addition to the Organic Crop Plan. Never mind that every crop we sell is grown by us, and every detail required in the handling plan is already covered in the crop plan, making the handler plan a pointless redundancy. As an aside, it is very hard to be a commercial farmer who does not handle the crops they grow. For 19 years this was deemed sensible by a succession of reviewers and inspectors, but now it is obvious to a new inspector that has never seen seen our farm that we might be perpetuating an epic fraud.

With a well-articulated snarl, the handler plan was submitted. Apparently, a big potential for fraud was averted as a result. Now we have to put a sticker in the bags denoting the lot number. Simply adding “Lot number 2018” will placate the bean counters. Without a handler plan, this fraud preventing measure would have gone uncorrected. Navigating life, it is best not to get hung up on these arbitrary indignities.

We will be scheduling some open days again this year, coinciding with the early cane berry ripening, the first week for the Chesters, early September for the Astianas and grapes, an early October date, culminating with days before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In between, Josh Alsberg at Rubinette Produce (2340 NE Sandy) maintains a good selection of our goods—fresh and dry. Jim Dixon at Real Good Food also carries some odds and ends in his new store on NE Couch at 10th.

Rosalinda Guillen: A Force for Farmworker Justice


My profile of organizer and farmworker justice activist Rosalinda Guillen of Community to Community Development for Civil Eats.

A ferocious organizer and labor activist for more than 30 years, Guillen founded Community to Community Development in Washington, a group led by women of color and fighting for better farm-working conditions.

A C2C community gathering.

The phone rang at the grassroots food justice organization in Rosalinda Guillen’s office at Community to Community Development (C2C) in Bellingham, Washington, in August 2017. The person on the line said a group of 70 farmworkers was walking down the road leading away from Sarbanand Farms, a large, corporate-owned blueberry farm in the area.

Farmworker justice leader Rosalinda Guillen, the executive director of C2C, soon arrived on site with her staff to find that the men had been fired for complaining about mistreatment after the death of one of their fellow workers, 28-year-old Honesto Silva Ibarra. Silva Ibarra had died of dehydration from being forced to work 12- to 14-hour days in the hot, smoky conditions caused by fires that were sweeping through the region that summer.

Because the men had been fired, they had lost their visa status and would be considered undocumented. C2C immediately set up an encampment for the men and put out the word to the local community.

“We had an amazing outpouring of support,” Guillen said. “People brought money, food, tents, chairs, sleeping bags. Doctors and nurses volunteered to check the workers out. They appeared with cars and vans to drive them to the clinic, to the hospitals.”

Guillen cutting a “Campesino Power” cake during a C2C Farmworker Tribunal.

A ferocious organizer and labor activist for more than 30 years, Guillen, now 68, founded C2C as an organization led by women of color, a place-based, grassroots organization committed to strengthen local and global movements toward social, economic, and environmental justice.

In 1995, Guillen won the first-ever farmworkers’ collective bargaining agreement in the state of Washington with Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery after helping to organize its workers and after an eight-year boycott of its wines. Previously, she organized strawberry workers for the United Farm Workers (UFW) in California, eventually serving as political and legislative vice president of the union’s executive board.

“I’ve always appreciated that Rosalinda can speak to the nuances and complexities of a just agriculture system, knowing that not everyone sees the same path forward,” said Kerstin Lindgren, a strategic organizing researcher at Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “But [she] doesn’t lose sight of a vision for justice that is more broadly shared.”

In the case of the terminated blueberry pickers, C2C helped educate the community about what had happened by using live feeds on Facebook and protests at state agencies. It held community forums where the farmworkers testified about their experience, medical workers talked about what extreme dehydration looks like, and staff from farmworker justice organizations explained the H-2A program—a visa allowing a foreign national to enter the U.S. for temporary or seasonal agricultural work.

“People saw it—they saw what happened,” Guillen said.

Modesto Hernandez, receiving a 2018 Seeds of Justice Award from from C2C.

The attention enabled C2C and a coalition of other organizations to introduce Senate Bill 5438 in the Washington legislature, which would create a state Office of H-2A Compliance and Farm Labor to provide oversight and monitoring of the H-2A program in the state. The bill passed in May and will take effect at the end of July.

“Community to Community has made my life real,” said Modesto Hernandez, a farmworker and member of C2C, who had suffered devastating personal injury, losing his feet to frostbite from unsafe working conditions, as well as experiencing discrimination. “Without their support I would not be able to think positively about my future. Now I know that I have the ability to take care of myself, I don’t need charity—I need fairness, and C2C has shown me how to raise my voice and get people and agencies to be fair.”

Destiny Comes Knocking

Guillen and her seven siblings grew up living in migrant labor camps following her father, a farmworker from Mexico, on the migrant circuit around the United States. Despite this fact, at the age of 37, Rosalinda Guillen had never heard of Cesar Chavez.

But on the day Anne Atkeson, a recruiter for the Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign, knocked on Guillen’s door in rural Whatcom County, Washington, Guillen was living on a chicken ranch with three sons while working as the manager of data processing at Skagit State Bank. It was the third time that Atkeson had appeared on Guillen’s doorstep, desperate to find a person of color to help with local organizing for Jackson’s campaign.

“I honestly was not even registered to vote at the time,” Guillen said. But something about Atkeson’s persistence made Guillen invite her in. “I figured I’d let her talk 15 minutes, then she can leave and leave me alone.”

“But the minute [Atkeson] said, ‘What do you think about the United States having a Black president in the White House?’ those words were like a whip or something,” she recalled. “I looked at her and I said, ‘What are you talking about?’”

The idea of a Black president resonated with Guillen, she said, because for her and many others, being a farmworker in virtually all-white rural Washington meant being treated as a second-class citizen as well as experiencing outright racism, unequal treatment, and disrespect.

She registered to vote and started going to campaign meetings, eventually running for—and winning—election as a precinct committee officer where she brought in the rural Democratic Party Caucus for Jesse Jackson.

“I loved it,” Guillen said of her work registering voters and distributing literature. “It was so invigorating talking about democracy and the Constitution and racism and Jesse Jackson and opportunities for people of color. I didn’t know this world existed. I was infused with a whole new identity. That’s where I learned about Cesar Chavez and the farm worker movement.”

Read the rest of the story about Guillen's groundbreaking union organizing and activism for farmworker justice.

Photos from the article courtesy C2C.