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Just a Sprinkle

Never underestimate the power of the sprinkle.

No.  I don’t mean the colored candy kind.  Although if they are chocolate, and called Jimmies, I can’t quite resist those either…  but that’s another post.

What I mean to say is, sprinkle, as in sprinkling seasoning.

Part of getting a kid to try different food is engaging them in preparation.  Something as simple as seasoning is enough to make a kid proud of cooking.

Sometimes in our kitchen, The Child is involved throughout the preparation, and those are substantial experiences.  But more often, she’s playing or reading somewhere and I call out, “Do you want to sprinkle the salt and pepper?”

She pops out of whatever she was doing, grabs a pinch of salt or a shaker of spice, and holds it up high.  Sometimes there is a quick dramatic flourish, and she’s gone in a flash.  Other times it is a focused and slow shower of flavor, watching carefully to see where the individual grains land.

Fresh cut chives sprinkled on breakfast eggs and tomatoes.

Credit, as for so many things in our kitchen, goes to Alton Brown.  Good Eats on the DVR was kid programming in our house.  No freakin’ Barney here.  And as a toddler she started learning from AB.  (Belching yeasty puppets!  Definitely children’s programming!)

In various episodes he points out why he holds his hand so high when seasoning.  Hold it low and all your salt lands in the same place.  Yuck!  Hold it high and you get a wide dispersal area.  Any kid who has played with glitter knows this.  The light went on, and since she was always strapped into her chair at the counter when we cooked anyway, we let her start seasoning things as a young toddler.

A good place to start is roasted fingerling potatoes.  The potatoes, simply cut in half on a tray and roasted skin side up, can take a little over-seasoning on their skins as the kid learns even application.

I do not know if this will help a kid venture to try something new, we make ours try everything.  But it always seemed to help her look forward to sitting down to a meal.  Watching someone else partake of what she made tapped into the pride as well.

Basic Roasted Potatoes

The first cookbook I ever bought for myself was Jacques Pépin’s Cooking With Claudine, and the first recipe is for a steak with roasted potatoes and onions.  He roasted large potatoes, and my preparation has evolved over many years to use fingerling potatoes instead.  Roast just a few for a small dinner, or prep a whole bag for a party.  We have them alongside everything from salads to stews to steak, or even dipped into chili or salsa.

Preheat oven to 400 deg.  Slice potatoes in half, selecting those which are roughly the same size.  Prep a half-sheet pan by pouring some olive oil in the center of the pan.  Use a silicone baking sheet if you have one, but it is not necessary.  Having a quality half-sheet pan that heats evenly is far more important.

Plunk a potato, cut side down into the puddle of olive oil and slide it over toward a corner of the pan, leaving some space around it for air circulation.  In succession plunk and slide each potato.

This is an excellent job for kids, even very small ones.  As you slice potatoes in half, the kid puts them in the oil and slides them into place and patterns emerge.  Sometimes they are in neat little rows, sometimes abstract polka dots, and sometimes a giant smiley face on the tray.  *grin*

The tops of the potatoes will need some oil.  Using your fingers, or those of the child labor, transfer some oil from the pan onto the tops of the potatoes.  They do not need to be coated, but if you let your kid do it, trust me, there will be olive oil on every bit of surface area of both potato and hands.  Kids take this job very seriously.  Handing The Child a pastry brush also works well for this.   “Okay kid, paint the potato tops.”

Then comes the seasoning.  With kosher salt from a ramekin, The Child takes a pinch and holds it high to sprinkle.  The pepper grinder is so much fun The Child loves that too.  BUT, there is the necessary admonishment here…  you season it, you eat it.  There is no getting carried away with the pepper grinder and throwing food away.  That’s a mistake a kid makes only once.

Roast the potatoes for anywhere from 20-45 minutes depending on your oven, size of potatoes and preferred doneness.  Once you can easily stick a knife in them from the top, they are done.  Let cool enough to handle and serve hot.  Leftovers are easily nuked.

Abdication

This week, I cooked.

I engaged my kid in the process.  We sat and ate together.  It was a proper meal, and she was with me at the local farmers market when we bought the ingredients.  It was food we could talk about and try together.

This would seem a no-brainer considering I write about our family, food, cooking, and parenting.  I write about our daughter’s developing palate, and how we lucked into a kid that eats and tries without too much complaint.

Except I have not been writing.  Only one post so far this year!?!  I have a long list of half-hearted ideas, all a steady foundation in self-admonishment.  We certainly have not stopped eating.  But I haven’t really been cooking either.  We have been in the food-is-fuel mentality for some time now.

Occasionally I would get a spark of inspiration, but these thoughts repeatedly centered around one theme.

Abdication.

Child rearing sometimes feels like managing abdication.  It would be hypocrisy to continue writing about our successes without acknowledging the stumbles.

Of course I have a host of handy excuses.  A job change for The Spouse.  Living mostly-apart while figuring out the new school and a mostly-move to the other side of the Bay.  Living through six months of construction in the midst of it all because, of course, the cabinets and fixtures were ordered mere weeks before the job offer arrived.  Plus, initially we didn’t really think we’d move.  (Or maybe just I didn’t.)  Oh yeah, and that successful spinal fusion a few years back?  The next disk is on the degenerative slide into oblivion.  And double oh yeah, I needed to pack and prep The Dog and The Child to travel for the summer as soon as school let out.

The extra pathetic aspect is that all these demanding circumstances are founded in really good stuff.  It’s a good job with great medical in a crap economy.  It’s a final stage remodel, watching eight years of dreaming come to fruition.  The Child is thrilled about the move to a new community and new school, even though she spent a happy 2nd grade year at the old school.  And by renting a small apartment we can keep our connections to our old ‘hood while exploring another community.  All of this stress is very good stress.  We are very lucky.  Did I mention we spend summers on a lake?  We’re really, really lucky.

But somewhere along the line with all the positive on the horizon, I gave up trying to make sure we were eating right.

It was a gradual slide into abdication for me.  Construction debris and drywall dust meant we ordered Chinese or Indian take out or hit the sushi bar often.  Turns out the kid loves uni.  A growing child who loves uni and anything else on the special board takes a chunk of change.  So as soon as conditions would allow I made us… stuff.  Stuff.  It was food but it wasn’t quite cooking, and I was not proud.  Initially I found myself laughing off an evening of beans on toast by telling The Child I was introducing her to an important component of British cuisine.  For months we enjoyed locally-made Massimo’s pizzas delivered through spud.com, telling myself at least it was unprocessed and local.  But before I knew it, many meals a week were a tortilla nuked with cheese, and breakfast was peanut butter toast or cereal day after day.

At the end of the slide I find myself sitting down six months later to a dinner at the cabin of freezer-burned Ore-Ida ‘seasoned’ fries, ketchup, and a martini.  I muttered with a disapproving smile that omnivorous means being able to eat whatever is available, right?  They were leftover from my father’s spring fishing trip.

Seriously.  I didn’t buy ‘em.

But I liked ‘em.  Uh oh.

I had fallen a long way, and the epiphany meant pulling out the camera, just like I used to when we sat down to fabulous meals.

I could feel my own palate changing.  My cravings on a personal level often devolved into an evening of putting The Child to bed and pulling out a bag of spicy chips and a tub of sour cream.  Yeah, that’s right, if you dip the Thai Spice Kettle Chips directly into sour cream you don’t even have to mix up a proper dip.  Now that’s lazy.  Deliciously lazy.  During the six months of construction I gained over 12 pounds.  My clothes stopped fitting.  And by June, those awful fries with ketchup actually tasted good.

What’s worse, I could see my kid’s patterns changing.  She was craving sweets and salts when bored or tired.  The habit of asking for a snack in order to avoid facing anything from chores to homework was well developed.  She started walking in and asking for candy for breakfast?!?  And it wasn’t even Halloween.

“Really? You thought that would work?  On what planet do you think…”  We’d never once had candy for breakfast.  She would shrug and wander off like some sort of zombie.

We lived in our completed home for a total of nine days before school ended and we trekked to the cabin for the summer.  Travel was smooth and easy for Child, Dog, and Mom, but it was late.  We collapsed into bed in our clothes upon arrival at midnight, grateful for the feel and smell the Northwoods around us, even in the dark.  When this summer ends our family will be living together again 24/7.  The new school is close enough to ride bikes on a nice day.  Hopefully my grumpy spine will benefit from less time in the car driving to and from school.  The new community has a gorgeous farmers market, and dear friends.

We woke to a mostly empty fridge that first morning and I made Fake-Cheez Singles on toast for breakfast, handed her one, and we went outside to feel the breeze blowing up off the lake.  While standing there, The Child handed it back to me, “This is gross.  Do I have to eat this?”

“No honey.  No you don’t.”  Her tastes don’t have the plastic-cheez 80’s muscle memory to fall back upon.  Mommy ate two.  Ew.

Then I thought to myself, “Okay then, time to reboot.”  First step is to forgive myself for the failure.  Learn and move on.  Each day this summer there has been a little less abdication, and The Child sees me more aware.  Our healthy routines and patterns are returning, slowly.  I actually feel like cooking again, and even a little writing.  Halle-freakin-lujah!

Well, it’s official. I am close enough to the end of our remodeling to start thinking like a rational human again. Or at least thinking about my future rational thinking.

I am, however, a long way from cooking. Our three month project turned into the inevitable 4+ month project due to the realities of construction.

In the course of that time, I discovered I really ought not live amidst construction and hold concurrent expectations. I didn’t write well. And I certainly didn’t cook much surrounded by the dusty, crowded counters.

I managed to get a kid to school and back each day without completely losing my mind. Full stop.

But tonight, I see hope.

I see a patio door installed. The culprit of the several week back up, it is now in place and the remaining details can finally move forward.

And, I see a radish.

Yeah, that’s right, a gorgeous radish.

I love radishes. When attempting to cut back on calories, my husband and I find them a very satisfying salt conveyance. The Child, however, merely tolerates radishes. She endures them sliced sparingly in a pasta salad, and moderately condones them chopped and drenched in balsamic vinegar. But she has never had that “Oooo! More!” reaction.

Until now.

My friend, Stephany, posted the following in her Facebook status yesterday, “Let’s see how many raw radishes with salt and farm-made butter I can eat for dinner outside in this stupid beautiful weather…” I remembered seeing Jacques Pépin do a Fast Food My Way segment on raw radishes and butter. And I had just picked some up at the store.

The Child and I just had our first warm evening on the porch, with radishes stuffed with butter for dinner. She preferred hers with salted butter but no additional salt. I am a big fan of the extra salt dip. Maybe it’s not a complete dinner, but it is close enough to justify moving directly to dessert.

And why not? I have a radish-loving kid and a new patio door. Cheers!

The Leftovers Queen

Nearly two weeks after Thanksgiving, and we are still eating leftovers.  Turkey sandwiches and quesadillas, french onion soup, breakfast fried mashed potatoes, stuffing frittatas, lasagna, and even a pan of turkey enchiladas.  When it comes to repurposing leftovers, we rule!  Our fridge is finally emptying out and very little has been wasted.

I splurged on a 20-quart stockpot for Thanksgiving this year.  It was a big purchase…  it’s only a cheap-o Target pot, but with cabinet space at a premium, I am still not sure where to store this monster.  No regrets, however, as a 20-quart pot meant nearly as much post-holiday turkey stock.  The old laying hen we brought home from our farm day joined it’s compatriot’s carcass, and I have enough stock to last a very long while.  It is well worth the small up front effort to have homemade stock on hand.

And where there is stock, there is soup.

Leftover Squash Soup

This technique works for any amount or type of leftover mashed veg (root vegetables or squashes in particular) and is merely an exercise in heating things up.  But there are a few basic things to consider for those new to cooking.

Put the squash in a saucepan, breaking it up with a spatula so it is not just a big Tupperware shaped lump.  Liberally season with your choice of spices.  For this go round, I used the Barbecue of the Americas spice blend from Penzeys.  It was a free sample and is a blend of salt, paprika, allspice, nutmeg, cayenne, pepper, cinnamon, thyme and ginger.  The nutmeg and allspice complement squash particularly well, it adds a rich color and a bit of heat, as well as just enough ginger for flavor without pushing it into curry territory.  *sigh* I heart Penzeys and am powerless against the crack like pleasure of Penzeys free samples.

Add enough stock to nearly cover the squash and start reheating, stirring occasionally to incorporate the liquid and keep the bottom from scorching.  A quality silicon spatula works very well for this.  Zyliss makes one which works really well.  The silicon stretches up much of the handle, which is great when you accidentally leave the spatula sitting in the pot between stirs.  (Not that I ever do that…  no…  not me…)

I sliced and toasted some garlic bread from the Gracie Baking Co.  I found a ramekin of goat cheese remnants at the back of the fridge.  Some stray baby spinach was located as well.  Sides were officially done.

Turning attention back to the soup, it had bubbled away during homework negotiations and was now more like babyfood than soup.  No problem, just add more stock until it is just shy of the preferred consistency.

Then turn off the burner before adding the dairy.  In this case I used Straus Whole Milk Plain Yogurt, but cream, half and half, or sour cream would work well too.  Fresh dairy can take a little heat and vigorous stirring, but fermented dairy products can curdle quickly if they are left to boil at this point.  Their proteins have already started to coagulate from the fermentation process and are simply more delicate.  So I just play it safe and turn off the burner before stirring in the yogurt at the end.  Another option is adding the dollop of yogurt or sour cream individually and letting The Child stir it in herself.

Notice there isn’t a measurement of any ingredient through any of this.  This is leftover squash soup.  You start with what’s leftover, you add liquid until it looks right, and then you serve it.  We polished off the squash, the last of the yogurt, some goat cheese, and spinach before any of it went bad.  I love that feeling of rescuing food just before it’s about to go south.  Plus, the entire loaf of bread is now sliced and in the fridge, making garlic toast with eggs much easier next morning before school.

The Child turned her goat-cheesed garlic toast and salad into a spinach sandwich and proceeded to dunk it into her mug (punning about squashing it into the little cup of squash soup).  Then she asked for seconds on everything, even the spinach, and double-checked I didn’t skimp on refilling the soup.

I love it when a meal comes together.

A good friend is preggers for the first time and recently asked point blank, “What one thing was most useful when she was little?”  Obviously there are must-have purchases to keep an infant safe and healthy.  But hands down there is one product at the top of my most-useful list, and it has nothing to do with food:  the Eurobath.  Made by a company named Primo, I think this is one of the most worthwhile and functional tools around.

I am a big fan of registries.  The notion that it is somehow ‘not personal’ to give something you know the parents have already vetted is selfish on the part of the gift giver.  Parents should be gifted what they want and need, not saddled with extra stuff which may take time to return, duplicate what they already have, or in the case of the Eurobath, take up an enormous amount of space.

When new-parents-to-be are sorting through what they think they will need, the little infant bathtub seem like a necessity.  Most folks add it to their list without much thought and move on.  But in reality, sponge baths on the changing table work great during the lumpy stage, and most kids outgrow those little infant tubs in a matter of days.  Save a few bucks and just buy the sponge.

Post-spongebath at 12 weeks old

However, for the Eurobath, I have embraced hypocrisy and often *gasp* purchased off-registry, having it shipped directly to the new parents.  Friends have given me insight into their typical response of, “What the…   are you kidding me???”  Yeah.  I know, it’s three feet long.  Sorry about that.  Trust me.  You’re going to love it.

The Child at 4 months kicking and splashing away!

And love it they do.

The beauty of this thing is that it works for the limbs-flailing lumpy stage, and toddlers as well.

The molded plastic does a great job of cradling a tiny child gently so it was much easier to sit next to the tub rather than hunch over and destroy my back any more than it already was.  It sadly can’t go without saying that you don’t leave a kid of any age in this thing unattended.  Ever.  Don’t be daft.  But, this tub provides a comfortable angle and support for a wee one to splash and kick in the water without having to awkwardly lean over to support their weight for them.  It gives the freedom to get them clean without a struggle, and more often than not a bath became a long respite of happily-entertained baby time.  Fix a cuppa tea, settle into a comfortable spot on the floor next to the tub, and babies will contentedly entertain themselves splashing away for an hour.

I would not use this on a counter.  Once it’s got water in it, it is way too heavy and unwieldy to try and drain properly.

At eleven months old sitting up in the Eurobath with a pointless fork

Once the kidlette is big enough to sit up safely on their own they simply face the other way and the molded plastic slides their bum into a comfortable spot.  (Once again under the don’t-be-daft heading – it’s not for standing up in, climbing into without help, or leaving a kid alone even for a second.)  Many a scorching summer day was spent splashing in the tub cooling off.

And as for storage?  Yeah, at 36” long, 21” wide and 10” deep, it is big.  There is a hole on one end if adding a cord and hanging it from the wall fits your space, but we elected to store it in our tub.  It was just too big and unwieldy to put anywhere else.  The convenience of kid entertainment was well worth the inconvenience of removing it each time we needed a shower of our own, and the tub within a tub set up worked well for us for three years.  The manufacturer recommended age is from 0-24 months, however The Child was comfortable in it until she was about three and she has always been top of the charts on height.

I had a blown out disk in my back unbeknownst to me when we decided to have a baby.  Doctors always blew off my back pain because I was young, active, and flexible.  When The Child was 9 months old and I was having trouble functioning at all, I finally saw an orthopaedic instead of a GP.  The MRI showed there was no disk left at L4-L5.  There were a few fragments of disk tissue, and the space where the disk used to be had utterly collapsed leaving my vertebrae in direct contact with each other.

I managed three and a half more years before finally electing to surgically address the problem, and the Eurobath was a big help.  This unwieldy piece of molded plastic helped The Child get used to the feel of splashing water in her face as an infant, became daily entertainment for an active toddler, and made bathtime far safer for us both at a time when I was often physically incapable of leaving the house or moving from the floor.  That’s just full of win.

Thanksgiving is the most important holiday of the year for our little family.  The Spouse and I each have a long history of preparing feasts open to any and all friends in need of a cozy place to go.  Long before we dated, we were friends on opposite ends of the state consulting each other on menus, recipes, and cooking methods.  Once engaged, and finally in the same city, Vagabond Turkey Day was born.  For ten years, it has been about opening our home to an array of interesting people and watching them all connect.  Nothing fussy or fancy, just old friends and new sharing food, drink, games, and conversation well into the evening and often through the next day as well.

Day Two has, in fact, become an event unto itself.  Traditionally, the stock simmers all night while stragglers stay playing games through the wee hours of the morning.  As guests raid the fridge, bones are added to the bubbling cauldron on the stove.  Then on Friday, we make Jacques Pépin’s recipe for French Onion Soup (from his book The Apprentice).  Typically a few folks crash for the night, and a few decide to return the next day.

We added experimental doughnuts to the mix this year.  It was quite a draw.  Throughout Friday we had a constant full house.  French Onion Soup quickly became a ‘deconstructed’ stockpot of stock and onions while getting a few friends to pot luck lasagna and salad.  We were low on savory items, but were overrun with desserts.  The onslaught of sweetness muscled in on counter space – squeezing out most of the traditional game play.  But we will have to rejigger and perfect our strategy in years to come because the doughnuts were an unmitigated success.

There will be doughnuts again.

Oh yes, there will be doughnuts again.

The Spouse attempted these once before, after watching Chris Cosentino recommend Dynamo Donuts on an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate.  The Second Try was better still, and The Spouse has already posted the recipe.  But they were so good they merit repeating here.

The Child punted on helping out this time.  There were friends over with bikes and games outside.  So her dad brought out a fresh plate of warm doughnuts for all the kids.

Best.  Dad.  Evar.

Maple-Glazed, Apple Bacon Doughnuts – The Second Try

(Adapted from Alton Brown’s Yeast Doughnuts)

For the doughnuts
•    1 1/4 cup milk
•    2 tablespoons apple juice
•    2.5 oz shortening
•    2 packages instant yeast
•    1/3 cup warm water
•    2 eggs
•    1/4 cup sugar
•    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
•    1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
•    23 oz all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
•    2 medium apples (gala or fuji)
•    1 lb bacon
•    1/2 – 1 gallons peanut oil

For the glaze
•    3 cups powdered sugar
•    4 tablespoons of maple syrup
•    2 tablespoons of vanilla extract

(Will make approximately 50 doughnuts)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bacon a rack inside a foil-lined half sheet pan. Cook bacon for 15-20 minutes, until crisp. Reserve rendered bacon fat. When bacon has cooled a bit, dice bacon and split in half.
Warm milk in sauce pan until hot enough to melt shortening. Pour milk over shortening and stir until combined.
Place yeast in warm water for 5 minutes.

Peel and finely dice apples. Place 1 tablespoon of reserved bacon fat into a frying pan and saute apples over medium heat. Keep diced apples moving constantly until they give up some liquid and pick up a hint of color, about 5 minutes. Remove apples and any remaining bacon fat from pan and add to milk/shortening mixture along with 1 tablespoon of reserved bacon fat.

Lightly beat eggs.

Combine water/yeast, apple juice, eggs, nutmeg, milk/shortening/apple mixture, nutmeg, sugar, salt, half the bacon, and half the flower in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Mix on slow speed until flour is incorporated, then increase speed to medium. When well mixed, stop mixer and add remaining flour. Again, slowly increase speed until well mixed. It will be very sticky.

Switch to dough hook and mix on medium until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a shiny ball.

Move the sticky, elastic dough to a bowl and allow it to rise for one hour, until it has doubled in size.

Dump dough out onto well floured surface. Flour your hand and gently flatten dough until 3/4″ thick. Flour a 2″ and 1″ biscuit cutter. Carefully cut out 2″ disks and move to wax paper, the use the smaller cutter to cut out the holes. When done, cover with more wax paper and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.

In a heavy stock pot, add enough peanut oil to fill to 2-3″ deep and heat to 365 degrees.

Prepare the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and 6 tablespoons of reserved bacon fat.

Working in batches of 4-6 doughnuts, fry doughnuts until golden brown and delicious on both sides, about 1 minute per side, using chop sticks to gently flip the doughnuts. When done, transfer to cooling rack and let cool for about a minute before dipping in glaze. Return to cooling rack and sprinkle with bacon from the other half you reserved.

(This works best with two people, one frying, one glazing.)

The most difficult bit will be giving the glaze about 5 minutes to set up. Doughnuts will still be warm and delicious!

Farm Day

There was much anticipation of farm day around here.  I’ve written about our monthly community supported agriculture (CSA) meat share before, but this was the first time we visited the farm.  When asked if she would like to help butcher our Thanksgiving turkey at Godfrey Family Farms, The Child’s first question was, “Will I get to help take the feathers off?”  Each time a parent at school innocently asked if she was looking forward to the holiday, she swelled with pride and explained that she would be meeting her Thanksgiving dinner up close and personal.

*insert Lamorinda-mom cringe here*

Meanwhile I was awash with suburban hyperconsciousness myself:  are the alarms set, where are the work gloves, oh #$%*, it’s going to be 51°F and raining.  We packed enough spare clothes and shoes to enjoy farming to it’s fullest and not need the car detailed afterward.  You would have thought we were leaving for a month.

Enjoying a cinnamon roll with a mason jar of fresh milk from their Jersey cow, Mocha.

We were instantly put at ease upon arrival.  The Godfreys are a remarkably welcoming large family.  Kids far outnumber adults.  While taking in the comforting coordinated chaos, we warmed up with coffee in the kitchen (coffee with real cream from their cow).  The Child dove into the throng of many kids rolling, filling and cutting cinnamon rolls with Rose’s guidance.

That morning she got a full tour of the farm.  She watched Rose milk their Jersey cow.  She learned how to collect eggs from the Godfrey’s genius henhouse set up.  She met cows, chickens, turkeys, goats, rabbits, geese, ducks, sheep, pigs, and quail.  She met the livestock guard-dog puppy.  (It turns out when you cross an Anatolian Shepherd with a Great Pyrenees, you get something akin to a horse.)  In a matter of minutes The Child was off and running with the kids, on the best tour possible… a view of farm life from farm kids.  Every once in a while I would peek around and make sure I could spot her, and it was clear from a distance that she was thrilled and having a ball.

The Child, baby chickens, and many giggles!

The farm didn’t smell like a farm.

I don’t smell very well anymore (anosmia… but that’s another post), so when I could not smell any of the, eh hem, traditional farm smells I assumed it was just my deficient olfactory receptors.  But then I started asking around to the other participants, and no one else smelled anything either.  It makes sense given that every creature has room to be healthy, and nothing goes to waste.  From the bits discarded during processing of birds to the potato peelings left over after making lunch for a crowd.  No resource was squandered.

Then I asked the real finicky nose.  My kid.

“Nope,” she said matter-of-factly. “I didn’t smell anything gross.  Brian said that’s his test.  When he can smell an animal he has too many of them.”

And it seems to be working.  The farm didn’t smell like a farm.  It smelled like being outside in the dirt, cold, rain, and fresh air.  The ewww-factor simply was not there.

Hands on Learning

When it came time to start processing birds, the Godfrey’s were smart and did a practice run.  There were some old laying hens which, while not the best eating, word on the street was they make a superior stock having given their all.  It was a great way to learn a process I’d never seen before.  Learning how to do it properly is daunting;  catching, killing humanely, scalding, plucking and dressing.  There is so much to learn… which organs you probably don’t want to break, how to get entrails out without making a giant mess, all the while keeping the work area clean and the bird safe to eat.

Rose homeschools her children on the farm, clearly a skill set useful when handling a dozen awestruck suburbanites out to pat themselves on the back for their purchasing choices.

Photo Credit: Colleen Cummins/Appeal-Democrat -- Click on the thumbnail for the article

They made the day about relaxed learning.  Assiduous with keeping workspaces clean, tools in good repair, and coolers of ice water at the ready, the backyard classroom had a relaxed, pitch-in-where-you-feel-comfortable attitude with avid discussion amidst shivering smiles.  The Spouse did most of the hands-on work, while I preferred to watch with frozen fingers stuffed in pockets.  The Appeal-Democrat story the following Sunday did a great job covering the actual processing of birds.

Good Teachers Share Mistakes

Brian and Rose are extremely modest given what they have achieved in a mere two years of farming.  The day was full of learning-on-the-job stories from natural born storytellers.

Photo Credit: Godfrey Family Farms

The “chicken mansion” is a source of well-earned pride, giving visiting kids a chance to collect eggs without the daunting prospect of reaching under the actual chicken.  Brian laughed as he admitted the crows got the better of him for a while, as they would wait patiently for lunch to roll down the chute.  Now some fabric covers the treasure until kids come to collect it.  Next to visiting the baby chickens inside their pen, collecting eggs with the other kids was The Child’s favorite part of the day.

Another achievement is their plucker.  Brian beamed when he recounts Rose discovering the online design for the Whizbang Plucker, and chuckled while sharing his own pride having built a tool himself which works so well.  This contraption was remarkably quick, and speed is essential when getting a bird from slaughter to the cooler to ensure food safety.

Our Bird

Our day at the farm is what community supported agriculture (CSA) is all about.  Brian and Rose Godfrey thoughtfully shared a bit of themselves with the curious and engaged community they are fostering throughout the Bay Area.  It was a day of embracing the ideal that everyone always has something to learn.  The experience reinforced that buying our monthly CSA-share of meat helps ensure the safety and quality of what our family consumes and serves.  And we all in turn brought our well-cared-for, tasty birds home to share with our friends and family to spread the love.  Delicious love.

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