When In Rome…(or Brooklyn)
If I come back from a trip to Italy you won’t exclaim “But didn’t you miss burgers and fries?!” Instead, we’ll talk about all the fabulous food I ate while traveling through the regions of Italy, each with a unique cuisine based on local ingredients. Yet when I tell people that I am eating a diet based on what is produced close to my home in Brooklyn, NY the first thing they want to talk about is all the things I am deprived of: no sugar, no cashews, no citrus, no bananas, no…! For a whole year?!
Well, focusing on what I can’t have is dramatic, but the truth is that I have never eaten better (and I was already eating pretty well).
This past week I decided to stop trying to replicate the flavors I am used to with substitutions (local honey for sugar, etc.), and instead cook as if I were simply trying to discover the most delicious way to use what I have. That is, after all, how every regional cuisine was invented. That is why the classic recipes of Brittany rely on butter but it’s all about olive oil in Provence–because that is what they had.
I had a chance to practice this concept when I realized that I was out of baking yeast (keeping in mind that I have to bake all of my bread this year from locally grown flour). What I did was make a sourdough starter using the grapes growing over a chainlink fence in my garden. All grapes host wild yeasts, which is what makes them the ultimate wine-making fruit. Luckily for me, those same yeasts can also leaven bread.What does the bread taste like? Tangy, chewy, earthy, and delicious.
So please, no more questions about whether I am suffering on my 250-mile diet. Instead, pretend I am traveling someplace that has really fantastic food. Ask me what here tastes like.
To make your own sourdough starter using grapes, follow these instructions.
Click here for tips on maintaining and baking with sourdough.