Bainbridge Island and the Kitsap Peninsula have a wealth of small farms producing vegetables, fruits, meats and dairy products. The Puget Sound area also has miles of shorelines and access to fresh and saltwater fisheries. And there are a growing number of local food artisans creating fine cheeses, breads, wines and much more. Finally, we have an ever-growing list of restaurants and food retailers who include local food in their offerings. Look for the Island Food Circle decal on their door.
The distribution system hasn’t quite caught up with all of this local abundance, so buying it isn’t as easy
Makes about 20 cookies
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 cup of sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked nettles (squeeze out the cooking water and finely chop, it should look like frozen spinach)
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 400F. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined well. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt, then add to butter mixture, and mix
In a previous article about growing vegetables, I described the experience of finding a few handfuls of veggies growing in my neglected garden last fall and turning them into inspired meals. It was one of those times when the opposite from what you expect happens: After a summer of falling down on the job, I had thought I'd have too little in my garden to bother with, and instead, I found the small amounts of various vegetables available on any one day enabled me to use them in new, creative ways. My small basket of this-and-that seemed to burst into luscious salads and dishes I couldn't have imagined before.
My paltry garden bounty was mythology, like the Biblical story of fishes and loaves multiplying, or the Hanukkah story of a tiny bit of oil burning for eight days. It was such a remarkable experience, I knew something important was happening. Some long-held assumption was caving in, and in its place, a new concept about myself as a gardener, a cook, and an eater, was emerging.
And then came the produce department epiphany.
Sometime during this mythological garden experience, I made the inevitable trip to the grocery store and found myself standing -- list in hand -- in the produce department, unable to move.
In the novel Watership Down, Richard Adams' rabbit characters are sometimes struck with a fear that renders them helpless -- the proverbial "deer in the headlights" phenomenon. Adams calls this "going tharn," and it must apply to humans, too, because there I was at Central Market, surrounded by mountains of apples, piles of potatoes, hills and baskets and bins of produce that stretched almost as far as the eye could see -- gone tharn. For several moments, I was paralyzed by the dizzying array of choices that confronted me.
I pushed my cart aimlessly around the store that day, feeling a bit sick, realizing this wasn't the first time I'd felt overwhelmed at the grocery store. Memories of being a young wife and mother, rushing in and out of the store, getting it over with as quickly as possible, ran through my mind. And suddenly I knew that I have always felt overwhelmed at the grocery store.
Never able to plan or visualize meals very well, I have for years armed myself with a shopping list and a grocery cart -- and after a deep breath, plunged into the fray that is the modern American grocery store, white-knuckling it through the aisles until I was safely back in the car. When I arrived home, grocery bags on every counter, I had no idea what to make for dinner.
As I continued to harvest small baskets of veggies from my garden last fall, these revelations came together to form startling insights and bold, new ideas. I began to realize that my identity as an inept cook wasn't so much about cooking as it was about navigating the countless choices available at the grocery store. My garden experience spoke the truth: Give me fewer options and my imagination has room to work. In fact, I actually love to cook, when I'm not overwhelmed.
Now that I've opened my mind to thinking about food and cooking differently, I find I'm not alone. Carolyn Goodwin spoke to this creativity-with-less in her article, Eating Through The Snow. Mark Bittman's column in the New York Times, The Minimalist, has much to offer on the topic, as well as his book, Food Matters. The truth is, there is inspiration everywhere these days about changing the way we eat, which can include shrinking our grocery store footprint.
I guess I'll be forever grateful to last summer's neglected little garden for setting me on the path to a new conciousness about food. In addition to improving my shopping, cooking and eating experiences, these "what is enough?" insights have contributed to a sense of healing that goes beyond food, into arenas of self-esteem, health, and thrift.
Many cliches come to mind in this "less is more" business. But for me, Marcus Aurelius said it best: "Very little is needed to make a happy life." Indeed, sometimes very little is needed to make a satisfying meal.