Season of mussels and gray days by the shore. Season of mushrooms in the brown forest floor. Season of salt and pantry and sweet winter squash, of miso and ginger and long-standing traditions. Whatever your seasonal proclivities, the recipes gathered in this issue of the journal highlight the flavors of late autumn here on the Central Coast. As winter looms, and the rains begin to fall, there’s more time in the kitchen, or at the table, where I scratch notes on my modern-day laptop version of parchment and quill.
It’s an interesting practice to write this journal, week after month after year after year. Sometimes I have to go back and make sure I didn’t say the same thing last year. Ho-hum, is she talking about the angle of the sun in October again? Fresh starts in January? I may be the only one that would notice—but I care so much about what we do here, I want it to be the best possible journal, and not a rehashing of old ideas.
That tension between old ideas and tradition can be a difficult one, though. Especially when our focus is not on fancy new-fangled whatnots, but on traditional preservation and seasonal eating. There’s only so many ways to slice a rutabega…right?
Winter comes each year, and yet each is different from the last. There will be rain-but how much, and for how long? And who will grace the table at our gatherings, and what stories, what new dishes do they bring to share? Was it a good year for apples, or for peppers or for pears? How much made it into the pantry? All of these factors shape the same old winter, making the season its own, anew, every year.
The same thing goes for ingredients. Even the old stalwart veg, that have been with us for generations, can be made to shine again in our eyes and on our tongues, with a little special treatment. We live in a world of abundance, no matter how unevenly it is distributed. Joshua Mc Fadden touched on this the other day, at a talk he gave at the feed store. Someone had asked him about the meaning of the subtitle of his new book, Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables. He shrugged. “It doesn’t mean anything, really. It sells books.” He meant, I think, that ‘his’ way, a creative and attentive exploration of seasonal flavors, is not really new. It’s only new in that discoveries can still be made, new flavors coaxed from a familiar assembly of ingredients. In the same way that the 26 letters of our alphabet can be assembled to tell an infinite number of stories, the ingredients that make up our local cuisine can be rearranged to create new stories and flavors. It isn’t a new way, really. A stranger comes town, or you set off on a journey. Beyond that, anything is possible.
Hey, a stranger IS coming to town! Well, kind of. He’s not a stranger. In fact, he’s a super-local forager, mycologist, writer, and scientist, to name just a few of the hats he wears, cocked at a jaunty angle on his head. We’ve never hosted him here at the store before, though, so that’s exciting. We’re talking, of course (of course!) about Christian Schwarz, who’ll be at the store here November 4th; giving a talk entitled Citizen Science is Mushrooming in Santa Cruz: How Ordinary Folks Contribute Crucial Knowledge to Our Understanding of the Natural World. Christian is the author of our favorite new mushroom guide, Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Fungi of Coastal Northern California, a beautiful, in-depth tome that highlights the mushrooms of our very own mycelial network. He’ll be giving a talk at 11, followed by a book-signing and Q & A at noon.
We usually put the coming attractions at the bottom of the newsletter, don’t you know. But I was thinking about a beautiful, wandering piece Christian wrote a while back for a local magazine, about traveling in a day from the misty redwood forests of Ben Lomond, to the briny ocean, and the feeling of belonging, of immersion in the environment, the connectedness of land and sea, forager and foraged. It stuck with me, and echoes, now and then, as I ramble myself, from forest to sea. Sometimes we do this in recipe form, too; see the recipe that follows.
Yes, this is what a rambler might want to eat, after wandering all day, through forest, field, and shore, a dish that mingles and marries the flavors of land and sea. Encompassing shoreline and forest, cloaked in white clouds of milk, this recipe is simple, decadent, and, frankly, radiant. Ramble on.
A mug of Golden Milk is not amiss, either, after a long day of tramping. Or after any kind of day. Ginger warms, turmeric reduces inflammation, and they both contain important vitamins and antioxidants. A steamy mug of golden milk, made with dairy, nut, or coconut milk, is the perfect sunset beverage, calming and rejuvenating.
Miso is another sippable solution that heals and comforts. It’s a long, slow ferment that can take from 6 months to several years to complete, but is relatively simple to initiate at home. We’ve partnered here with Eriko Yokoyama and Masumi Diaz, who grew up in Japan, rich in a culture of fermentation lore, to bring the art and science of miso-making home to your own kitchen. Together, these two have been teaching classes on traditional fermentation methods and food preparation, under the name of Hakouya. Hako can be translated from the Japanese as fermentation, and uya as house, so their company is aptly named. We were so happy to have them in our kitchen, old and new traditions meeting and mingling from across the seas. In a season that may soon call for the detoxifying, nourishing simplicity of a bowl of miso soup, it’s the perfect time to get started with this slow, salty process.
Strands of seaweed, cubes of tofu, and scallions are all traditional additions to a perfect bowl of miso soup. But have you ever considered making your own tofu? It's simple, and so gratifying. Soybeans are magic.
Experience the mystery of miso in more ways than one. Miso Butter graces the table here in a dish of seasonal roots. Compound butters in general are a great way to add flavor to dishes in succulent butter form.
The smoke from recent wildfires is still clouding the air, and it mingles with the welcome drizzle and mist. They don’t look so different, from afar, but the feelings they stir are worlds apart. The forest and our rural homes all feel particularly precious now, and just in time for the season whose root motivation is gratitude. Our hearts ache for those affected, and we do what we can, in ways large and small, to bring cheer and healing to those who have been affected. The gathering of materials for winter wreaths feels especially tender this year, as though the act of gathering were in itself an act of appreciation, a celebration and a recognition of blessings.
Join us, if you like, on November 5th for a wreath making class here at the store, to weave your own green circle of thanksgiving and seasonal celebration.
Seasonal Wreath Making
Sunday November 5, 2017
$45 includes materials
Or, if libations are more your style of seasonal celebration, come on down November 18th, for a class on Craft Cocktail Fixin’s. Perfect to give as gifts or to enjoy with friends, this class comes just in time for the season of celebrations ahead.
Seasonal Craft Cocktail Fixin’s For Gifts And Guests
Saturday November 18, 2017
Stay tuned, as always, for upcoming classes and events; we add them regularly, and there is more fun ahead in the weeks to come.
We are grateful, as always, for your continued interest and engagement. May your November be full as a bowl of miso, everything you need held between your two hands, warm and rich and, finally, enough.