What Here Tastes Like

Right after the local foods feast celebrating the end of The 250, I headed to Ellen‘s in PA for a weekend of local foods cookery. Kitchen Caravan was filming us for a piece on “What Here Tastes Like.”

Ellen lives in a beautiful wooded area of Pennsylvania, and some of our weekend included foraging near her home. (So good to get out of the city for a couple of days!)

We started out collecting the last of the season’s highbush blueberries,

and then lucked into a patch of blackberries laden with ripe fruit.

We also found some choice edible mushrooms, boletes and blewits. Sophia, from Kitchen Caravan, sauteed the blewits and served them up on toast alongside a salad for lunch.

We canned blueberries and dilly beans, and made an herbal vinegar with beebalm (a.k.a. Monarda, an indigenous herb in flower now). I also collected some sassafras leaves to dry and grind for filee powder to use in gumbos this winter.

The main dinner included quail wrapped in bacon and seasoned with rosemary and spicebush–put together by our friend Mark and grilled by Ellen’s husband, Michael. Alongside, we had potatoes that I sauteed in duck fat (no olive oil exemption for this meal!), spicebush ice cream made with all local dairy (from a recipe in my book) served with blueberry pie, and lovely local wines including Ellen’s homemade blueberry wine.

Emma, the camera gal for Kitchen Caravan, grabbed moments in between cooking frenzies to interview each of us. The topic, What Here Tastes Like, is an interesting one, and I look forward to viewing the piece when it is up on the KC site.

This was not a historical meal. We were not trying to replicate what the food of the region tasted like before other-than-indigenous cultures arrived. We were going for a blend of what is truly native to this place with what has been introduced but is now part of the landscape. Take that quail, for example, and its rosemary-spicebush seasoning. Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a plant native to the Northeastern U.S. that was and is used by people indigenous to this region. Rosemary is a European herb, but the sprigs we used were grown here. Needless to say, the quail and bacon were locally raised. The combination was delicious. Maybe this is a different kind of fusion cuisine, combining what is grown and raised here now with what was here all along.

This morning Michael made sunnyside-up Guinea hen eggs. We at these with toast and a variety of Ellen’s jellies plus Mark’s blackberry jam. For lunch, we had local spicy lamb sausage, roasted pattypan squash, several of Ellen’s chutneys, a salad with purslane from the farmers’ market, and blackberries with a zabaglione that Sophia cooked up.

Tonight I’m back in Brooklyn. After cooking for 17 people on Weds. and a weekend of contributing to the cooking for the KC spot, I’m thinking simple. So simple that I may not get much further than a salad with CSA tomatoes and basil from my garden, followed by locally grown popcorn and a Netflix movie. Hey, it may not be the most nutritionally balanced meal ever, but once in a while ain’t gonna hurt me. Think of it as a locavore’s version of fast food.

Not sure what this is about? Read Getting Ready for the 250-Mile Diet and The Rules

Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes by Leda Meredith


2 responses to “What Here Tastes Like”

  1. acmeplant says:

    It was a delicious weekend indeed; thanks for coming! Can I use the photo of us picking on my blog?

  2. Miriam says:

    Leda’s book arrived!

    More and more, I see articles online and in print about the importance of eating local, from bodies as respected as the NY Times. Your book is surely making an impact on the public who seeks to learn more.

    And the recipes look so good! I’m not a fan of dill except in pickles, but that dilly bean recipe made me rethink what “pickle” means. Guess what I’ll be preserving over the next few days….

    And it’s a great read – a vibrant, engaging memoir. I totally enjoyed it.


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