Sunday, January 31, 2010

Just the Aftermath


We don't entertain as often as we would like to. Probably because it involves cleaning the house, and my credentials in that department are really nothing to brag about. But it was obligatory to prepare spaghetti alla carbonara with the guanciale I made from those freebie hog jowls. And I couldn't do that without inviting the farming couple who donated them. If you're going to clean the house for one couple, I figured, why not invite a few? So two other gardening couples were included as well, including Kelly and Meg of Future House Farm.

Spaghetti alla carbonara waits for no man; you serve it the instant it's ready. So we didn't pause for a picture - we ate. And then the rest of the evening was so filled with gardening, farming, and food talk that we never got out the camera. We talked about local producers of pastured meats and dairy, how to transplant blueberry bushes, the best way to control mint's exuberant growth in a container, organic certification and its value - or lack of value - for small-scale farmers selling to a local market, the abomination of eggs from battery hens, wwoofing, the nitrogen content of human urine and its use for gardeners, the current scarcity of real butchering skills, coq au vin and the flavor merits of roosters or old laying hens, the advantages of vermicomposting over regular composting for those in very small spaces, various local vendors of premises-made ice cream, raw milk ice cream, various cane berries and how to tell when blueberries and wineberries are truly ripe, the necessity of bird netting when growing blueberries, how much we'd pay for our meal if it were served to us in a restaurant, Oprah Winfrey having Michael Pollan on her show, and all the phone calls our farming friends are suddenly getting about their pastured eggs and meat. My kind of conversation.

It was a kick to have such a local meal in January. We ate our own eggs and garlic, plus the home cured guanciale in the carbonara, incredibly awesome fresh salad greens from a local farm, a shallot from the same farm in the vinaigrette, and lemon balm from our own backyard to finish out the meal with a simple herbal tissane. I've prepared carbonara any number of times with American style bacon, which is the best most of us can usually do with that recipe. Guanciale, which is the authentic ingredient, adds a distinctively different taste to this dish. It was sweeter than bacon, and meatier, yet it didn't dominate the other ingredients to the degree that bacon does. This is counter-intuitive to me, since the guanciale is drier and much more concentrated than bacon. I honestly think I prefer the guanciale version. I also used (my version of) Kathy Harrison's "instant" fruit crisp topping for our dessert. (Note to self: make another batch of that soon.) The peaches and blackberries in the crisp were admittedly frozen and store bought, but at least organic, as was the vanilla ice cream.

I ate too much. I don't think I was entirely alone in this. That table was grazed. In a way that would delight the heart of any cook. It's been a while since I overindulged like that. I just couldn't help myself. I may have to skip a couple meals today, just to give my system a rest. But it was a great time.

That picture up there? All that was left of a batch of carbonara made with two full pounds of dried spaghetti, snapped during clean up.

13 comments:

Tree Huggin Momma said...

You are a brave woman. I love carbonara, and your cured jowels looked yummy at the end, but the entire proceses turns my stomach, I was a vege for many years because raw meats (but not raw fish) simply makes me want to gag. Something I will have to get over if I want to be more locavore (or if I get my own hens). I don't mind to cook, but if I think about the meats I am cooking with the smell and look simply makes me ill. However I don't notice that to be the case with the patured beef I have been using, could my nose be telling my brain commercial meat is simply bad for my body?

Melynda said...

What a wonderful evening you offered to guests and friends alike. Thanks for sharing here.

Kristen said...

That meal sounds fantastic! I am planning on putting in some blueberry bushes this year, and I know that bird netting is crucial.

Also, I'm having a giveaway for a bread machine over at my blog, if you or your other readers are interested!! I use mine all the time.

Joyful said...

Sounds like a wonderful time was had by all. I'm like you in the hospitality area. I feel I need to have everything perfectly clean when I have people over. I'm just getting through renovations. When that is done, I hope to up my hospitality to friends. It is always fun even though I don't do it as often as I'd like.

Sandy said...

Sounds wonderful! Don't you love parties with like-minded people and getting down with some good home cooking? It's the BEST!

Anonymous said...

What did you decide was the best way to transplant blueberries?

el said...

Well, I was with you in spirit: sounds like both a wonderful menu and some definite happy dinner talk! (And: don't you hate it when you eat too much? Argh.)

So glad you posted about it too. Maybe you'll inspire more folks to share in yummy local food.

My recipe for clean house: Winter. All bets are off for the warmer months :)

tech.samaritan said...

Sounds like my kind of conversation too. I need homesteader/farmer friends close by!

Fortunately my brother and his wife are nearby, and are of the same ilk, and most, if not all our get-togethers consist of homemade food, garden talk, sharing news of Amish neighbors, plot planning, and cooking.

Kate said...

THM, I don't consider myself very brave. No one else at the dinner blinked either when I told them what was on the menu. In fact, I had the guanciale out on the cutting board so folks could see it, and when I said it was "like bacon," they said, "What do you mean? This IS bacon." That said, if it's not for you, then no sense pushing yourself to go there.

Melynda, thanks.

Kristen, thanks for the notice about your giveaway. I make bread without a bread machine, but I'm sure the winner will be delighted with it.

Joyful, I can sympathize with the renovation process. Our projects have been few and minor, but they can still be very disruptive.

Sandy, yes, I agree. Good food and good company is tops.

Anon, the best way to move blueberry bushes is as early as possible. At the very earliest moment the ground can be worked, which is to say: don't wait for the last frost in your area. Do it during the next thaw. Probably this applies to other bushes as well.

El, I *seriously* ate too much. Not just, Oh, I shouldn't have done that. But OMG, my stomach hurts! Really, it's been a very long time since that last happened. Winter should be cleaning time, but I just turn into a slug. Each time I rouse myself from lethargy I just add a half-completed project to the piles of stuff scattered around the house. Really. It's embarrassing. And then they just turn into more projects to be finished up when spring motivation hits.

tech samaritan, sounds like we're on the same wavelength. I wish my like-minded friends were closer to hand, but I'm grateful they'll turn up at my place however often they do.

Chile said...

What a delightful sounding gathering. I love when I can find people to have such wide-ranging conversations with, especially if they don't freak out over the idea of human urine in the garden!

How did ya'll decide to deal with exuberantly growing mint? I'm harvesting a bunch today to make Indian green chutney, mostly in hopes of reining in the plant. I know, though, that this will make it bush out even more...

Kate said...

Hi Chile, the consensus on mint is serious containment. A bucket buried too low to the ground, or in the garden is still a hazard, since when mint sprawls and touches the ground, it can put out new roots from its stems and spread. So either bury it in a bucket with several inches of the bucket above ground, or keep the soil level in the bucket well below the rim of the bucket, or both. Another technique would be to put the bucket somewhere out the middle of an area that you mow regularly, so that any opportunistic spreading is checked. The mint bucket in the garden was generally thought to be a Bad Idea.

Kelly said...

The evening was amazing. Thanks again.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Kate -- You are a woman after my own heart, taking a picture of the mess instead of the food! May all our dinner parties go so well.