We had a great meal last night. Home made pasta with a mushroom/wine sauce, asparagus and a salad with green house lettuce and wild edibles. It got me to thinking about what made from scratch is.
For most people, a pasta meal means going to the market and purchasing a box of spaghetti and a jar of sauce. The salad would come from a bag and the veges from the frozen food isle. To truly make last night’s meal from scratch was a bit more complicated.
I had to buy the wheat from a food co-op, then pack it properly in 6 gallon buckets with oxygen absorber packets. I would love to say we grew the wheat or got it locally but we are in Massachusetts and not a lot of wheat is grown here and only a minuscule amount by home producers. To produce the flour that will eventually be pasta requires that I grind it. I can do this by hand but I use an electric mill. The flour is mixed with eggs from the McMahon’s chickens, kneaded for 10 minutes then rolled out and cut in my Atlas pasta maker. The chickens that are laying now were purchased last year and raised by hand. The noodles dry for the afternoon, draped over the backs of the kitchen chairs. Now for the sauce. It begins a year earlier when someone inoculated some logs with shitake spawn (I would love to say these were my mushrooms but the slugs ate mine and I had to purchase some. At least they were local. ) The wine was started a year earlier, made from dandelions lovingly picked and fermented and given to me as a gift. Next year, the wine and the mushrooms will be from from my backyard. I needed butter too. This was bought in bulk and canned last fall. It too is fairly local stuff. Now for the salad. To have so many greens so early means depending on our greenhouse. We planted the seeds in late February and have been enjoying the greens for the past month. The vinegar we drizzled on the greens came from a small producer in Italy. It is dreadfully expensive stuff, over 25 years old and with an amazing flavor. I will make apple cider vinegar this fall but it will not be the same. The asparagus came from the roots we planted three years ago. This is the first year they will produce an amount sufficient for us to both eat and preserve. The asparagus requires care to produce so well and the season is short. I will dry some to powder for soup mix as it does not freeze terribly well and canned is an abomination. Better to enjoy it daily in season, then grieve the loss and move on to summer squash.
Any leftovers from this meal will feed the compost or Tom and Heather’s pigs when they arrive. We will eat the leftovers again as the compost enriches the soil, the pigs feed our neighbors and the pig poop is returned to their soil. The plants that grow from this healthy soil will produce flowers that feed our bees which will return the favor by producing honey and wax. It is a beautiful thing.
My meal was the result of the labor of many artisans and much investment of time, energy and money on my part. It would have been possible to produce my dinner for less money, with labor performed by people making minimum wage and not at all invested in the quality of their work or the health and happiness of my family. I could be wrong here but it is hard for me to imagine that a factory worker is able to think about the quality of the product much beyond keeping the rats out of the soup. The machinery is so fast, the noise appalling and the consumer so distant. So I will continue to think about my food, where it comes from and how it circles around. Today is a busy day but I will try to find the time to sneak up to Deer Hill for an hour. The leeks and wild ginger still abound. If I want ginger tea in January, the time to gather is now. Real food is really, really slow.