A lot of people have been joking around that my Grow, Cook, Eat tour is emulating the book/film sensation Eat, Pray, Love. Even though I know yall are teasing me, I’m still pretty flattered. Difference is, I’m not interested in putting love at the end of this thing. Love is woven into every moment of all these gatherings around growing, cooking and sharing of food. The best part of this leg of my trip has been a return to love—with friends and family in Minnesota. I understand a lot better now how I came to be where I am, and why I care about the things I care about. And why I’m on this journey in the first place. It’s a real blessing to land here—in this place so close and so far away from home—in the middle of my journey. It’s a reminder and an inspiration.
My mom and my sister-in-law both indulged my invasion of their kitchen on my way here, and I only barged my way in because I saw local food sitting there in the kitchen that needed to be cooked and eaten. And in both cases it wasn’t food that was purchased in the local farmers’ market or CSA or anything anywhere near that. They—or their family members—grew it themselves. I come by this honestly, I guess.
After hanging out here on Round Lake and invading Winona LaDuke’s kitchen for a few weeks, my best friend for over thirty years, Becky, alerted me to a Harvest Festival in Duluth. I brake for harvest. So, I packed up a weekend bag and drove over to one of my favorite places in the world. I think the festival was just an excuse though--we just ended up flying kites on the lakeshore with the kids instead of doing much with the festival. And the real highlight was reconnecting with my kindred spirit, her kind and wise husband and their bright, inquisitive and beautiful children.
And we shared two completely locally produced meals together. When I arrived the first night, the chicken Becky and Brad has grown that summer was already on the grill, the roasted veggies (potatoes, onions and carrots) from the garden (complete with whole heads of roasted garlic!) were sweetening up in the oven and the sweet corn was waiting to be shucked and boiled. It was my kind of place, alright. Becky has had a dream realized this year when she started a small CSA. She has been dreaming about farming for many years and this year she sold three and half shares, and fed her own family on a small but ambitious garden. I am so proud of her!
And happy too—especially when I get to enjoy the fruits of her labor. I am promised pork chops when I come back next month.
The next morning we took the kids and headed over to a local dairy and pulled raw milk right outta the bulk tank. Take that Georgia and your raw milk paranoia. This is how real people get real milk. (Unless of course you are in India and you actually milk the buffalo yourself). The smell in the milk house transported both Becky and I back to our childhoods when we would go over to our neighbor (and her relative) to get raw milk from his bulk tank. I was especially proud of her as she poured the milk into beer growlers. When you can’t get beer, get milk.
When we got home, Nik, Becky’s son, who has some very special gifts when it comes to food, discovered that I had a box of Indian spices in the back of my car. I don’t go anywhere without my kitchen anymore, and out of sheer laziness these hadn’t made it into Winona’s kitchen yet. This provoked a keen interest in Nik to sample, smell and taste what could be done with them. I couldn’t have been happier to oblige. I offered to cook up a “full Indian dinner” for them and made a potato and kale dish and a tomato cheese dish. We all went out to Becky’s garden and harvested everything we needed for dinner. An hour later we were enjoying the fruits of her summer labor. The paneer was a special joy to make out of the fresh raw milk, and it was a crowd pleaser for sure.
Before we ate, we gathered around the table and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for the special gifts of being with each other and for the food that we had been given so graciously by the land.
Love. Pray. Love. Eat. Love. Repeat.