The 70-mile meal
You may have heard about the 100-mile diet craze of about 10 years ago. Maybe it was 15. Anyhow, that's about the time I got involved in the local foods movement through the ND Department of Ag. Before that time, I was doing what my mom always did – feeding my family the way food was meant to be enjoyed, locally.
I learned in the 1970s, my high school years, a typical roast beef dinner with mashed potatoes and carrots were produced no farther than 70 miles from the plate.
Things changed considerably, and I had no idea until I began my local food systems work. Former Ag Commissioner Roger Johnson said to my supervisor Chuck Fleming after my very first formal presentation, "She doesn't think people are really going to start canning again? Does she?"
Well, we were both wrong. People are interested in canning, and I did not ever expect to have to work so hard to find canning jars, bands and lids as I did last summer.
Gardening, canning and cooking my meals was my life. When I found out there were people out there that did not know that potatoes grew underground, much less that you could quickly boil them and make mashed potatoes, I was shocked.
If I had known that the information stored in my head about food preparation and growing your own was so sought after, I would have been writing it down and published a book.
I did publish a book or two. The very first one was a divine vision of how my many aunts and uncles survived without roads to big box stores. How did they preserve meat without electricity? Or eat any vegetables in the winter. It might be why I grew up eating food prepared from flour and water and the many variations thereof. Today, I still enjoy those dishes and have taught many a class in bread, kneophla, dumplings, and strudels. Just so you know, we tried to use only one spelling of the word "knoephla," in the book. It was impossible with all the ladies sending in their recipes with individual spellings. It added a flavor of its own to the recipes.
There has been the occasion that a student misinterprets what a strudel in our part of the country is compared to the sweet, apple ones from – well, I guess I don't know where.
I read a lot. Therefore, I write. The first book was called "Ewiger Saatz." I will address that a bit more next week.
In the meantime, I found this stew recipe and had a light bulb moment. I can make this dish from everything local. It's that easy. And boy, paired with a slice of spelt sourdough bread straight from the oven, a little salad (no, I didn't grow that, YET), we had a "meal from heaven," according to my husband.
Here are the recipe and the attribution to the grower.
EASY PEASY STEW
Stew Meat – I used grass-fed sirloin from Joshua and Tara Dukart's Seek First Ranch. They live near Hazen, and we have our meat processed at Hazen Meats.
Onion – Diane's Home Creations, Mandan, ND. Diane and I are partners in the farmers market. The seed for these storage onions called Dakota Tears came from Prairie Road Organic Seed near Fullerton.
Potatoes – Christy Werre, another one of my partners from the farmers market.
Carrots – I grew those myself. We keep two-gallon bags in the spare fridge, so they are fresh until about Easter when it's time to plant again.
Spicy Tomato Juice – Another one of my favorites. We had an excessive harvest of tomatoes this year, so I was able to make everything tomato for winter. I really used my tomato soup with roasted peppers for this batch and saved the spicy tomato juice for beer. All the ingredients, minus the lemon juice, were grown in my backyard.
DIRECTIONS: Prepare beef by cutting into one-inch cubes and placing in the bottom of your favorite Lodge cast iron Dutch oven. Peel, or not, your potatoes and carrots and cube them, layering on top of the meat. Add onion to taste, salt and pepper and pour the quart of tomato juice, or soup, over the top.
Bake at 250-degrees for four hours or until the vegetables are soft. If you have a slow-cooker, I imagine you could prepare this in there. I prefer the taste of cast iron and the oven myself.
So, two takeaways from this experience.
Here's hoping by the time you read this, warm air will sweep away this cold and the memory of it. Next week we talk German.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.