Eating locally, from Ireland
What: Final Winter Farmers Market
When: 10 am Sat., Mar. 16
Where: Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave.
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Some people dedicate their entertainment budgets to the re-enactment of Civil War battles. Others enjoy watching Survivor. My hobby of choice is something of a hybrid of the two, but with plenty of imagination, historic leeway and, most importantly, flavor.
My hobby is to eat seasonally, and, when possible, locally. Some people do so with an air of piousness, as if they are saving the earth with their immense sacrifice. I do it for fun, and for a sense of satisfaction that’s hard to quantify, and also for the challenge. As it happens, now is about as challenging as it gets.
Early spring is when recreational seasonal eaters like myself must bring our A-games to the kitchen, because it’s the trickiest time of the year to practice our craft. The buds may be out and the green shoots are shooting, but the garden has nothing to show for it.
And in root cellars and supermarket produce sections alike, the dregs of last fall’s harvest are rapidly dwindling. Garlic and onions are developing green shoots inside. Potatoes are sprouting on the outside, and winter squash is about to get soft.
It doesn’t matter if the produce in question came from Washington, California, or Mexico. If it was grown in the northern hemisphere, the clock is counting down. Our options have been whittled to a precious few.
Our pioneering, homesteading forefathers faced this challenge every year at this time, as did inhabitants of northern climates throughout the globe, from Europe to Siberia. The rules of my little game only apply to produce; if some soy sauce adds the right kind of flavor to something that resembles a Polish peasant dish, I’m all in.
This game is hardly limited to hobby homesteaders who grow and store their own food. Eating seasonally out of the grocery store can save you some money if you’re savvy—that’s a game we can all get behind. And seasonality trumps locality. Citrus, for example, is in season right now, and I’m all over it, even if it doesn’t grow where I live.
So if you want to have a little tasty fun that’s historically, seasonally and geographically relevant, following is a recipe for dealing with the dregs of last year’s Northern Hemisphere harvest. For most of us, they may not make the difference between life and death, but neither does the re-enactment of centuries-old battle.
But like the study of history, knowing where you’ve been is a good way of understanding where you are. Acknowledging the precariousness of our delicate food chain can give us an appreciation for our food security. And when the bounty of summer comes, it helps us appreciate that, too.
That said, this recipe for Irish Potato Salad hardly amounts to deprivation. I’d happily devour it at any time of year.
The recipe is on the authentic side of the spectrum. Until my little (optional) flourishes at the end, it’s made entirely of ingredients that could be found in a peasant’s larder somewhere in the United Kingdom a century ago. I found all of the produce ingredients at a recent winter farmers market.
Irish Potato Salad
1 medium cabbage, cut into 6 or 8 wedges
3 large potatoes (or more smaller ones), cut into inch-thick pieces
4 or so slices of bacon, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large onion, sliced thinly
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. While it heats, brown the bacon, and add the onion.
Add the cabbage and potatoes to a baking dish. When bacon is crispy and onions translucent, gently toss them with the potatoes and cabbage, along with the raw garlic slices. Add the stock. Cover with a lid or foil, and bake for one hour.
Remove from oven and cool 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve as a side dish, alongside your corned beef, or underneath a fried egg, or atop a bed of lettuce. It’s versatile, and delicious all by itself.
Me, I sprinkle with a little vinegar, mix it with a little mayonnaise, and make Irish potato salad. One can also add beans and salsa, for a Mexican version.
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