Forgotten Foods: Theory + Thoughts

The idea behind ‘Forgotten Foods’ has everything to do with the foods we have forgotten we can supply, rather than buy. It is a slow and never ending process, but little by little I am learning how to get the very most out of the things that I eat. This means trading in the convenience of store-bought and/or packaged items that can instead be harvested from the land. It means utilizing more of the foods I do buy from the store. This also means taking more care to understand the supply chain of any and all products that I consume. I generally follow a few major ‘rules’

  1. From Michael Pollan’s philosophy: Eat Real foods, Not too much, Mostly plants
  2. If you can make it yourself, don’t buy it in a box
  3. If you buy it, buy it in season and as close to the source as possible.
  4. ALWAYS know your source, keep it as local as possible

Here, you will find some daily tips and tricks, as well as reasons for doing so. My food philosophy is rooted in an ambitious dream of food sovereignty- the ability to supply my own needs from the abundance around me. Until that day, this will be a relationship heavily influenced by picking battles, mild yet unavoidable hypocrisy, and doing the best I can with what I have. If I were to categorize my diet (in the literal sense of the word) as its own new fad, it would be something like the lovechild of a vegan, ketogenic, and localvore’s diet- I’m an local enthusiast that believes in lots of seasonal-green-whole-foods, good fats, clean meats, and regular fasts…though most of this is getting harder and harder to source. The keystone of this philosophy, in line with the theme of this blog, is little by little. These tips are the ‘pocket changes’ that you can make slowly and surely over time to break the chains holding you to the processed, ready-made, planet polluting, people enslaving, big man companies. Do so as these ideas speak to you- you need not change your life in one big, radical move. Try some out and let me know what you think. Build the community up and share your tips in the comments if you so please!

Veggie Scrap Broth

This is quite possibly the easiest, most successful tip that I can put out there. If compost is not something overtly available to you (for whatever reason), this is a great way to reduce your own food waste + use the very most of your veggie scraps. All you need is a freezer-safe contraption and whatever veggies don’t make it to your plate each night.

As you prepare your regular meals, hold on to the veggie scraps you typically toss out- garlic/onion outer skins, citrus peels, pepper tops/seeds, mushroom blemishes, potato skins, leafy greens that you didn’t get to in time…you name it! Keep it in the freezer until you get a solid supply going. Each week, or whenever it gets full, empty the contents into a crockpot and fill with water. You might have 2-3 cups of frozen scraps for a medium-large crockpot. Cook on high overnight. In the morning, you will wake up to an amazing smelling veggie tea, otherwise known as broth! Use the broth to cook your other goodies like rice, noodles, or potatoes. Alternatively, use as a base for simple veggie soup or sip it on its own. The options are endless. I love spicing it up by adding any ginger or turmeric scraps, some black peppercorns, and something hot like jalapeño seeds. I may then use the broth to sip on during a fast or any time I need a little kick in the tush.

Kick Your Chicken Breast Infatuation

Am I the only one that as a kid thought chicken breasts and/or thighs were just how chicken happens? Chicken is one of the most widely consumed meats on the market, and one of the sketchiest supply chains. It almost seems like a “Gateway Meat” for folks either trying to clean up their diets (generally according to the latest fads, no further comment here) and/or get off the veg head life. I’m not going to tell you to stop eating chicken. I’m not going to tell you to start eating chicken– this isn’t an argument for or against choosing to consume…but for those that do, I’m going to give you a simple tip to get picky with your chicky.

Stop buying parts of a chicken. Just don’t do it. In no sustainable world does it make sense to buy a few pieces of many animals. I don’t care if they are free range, it just doesn’t make sense. I promise I’ll get off my chicken pedestal in a minute, but I have grown passionate about this. If you are going to eat meat- and I am of the theory that yes, humans benefit deeply from a diet that includes meat- you gotta do your research. Rather than going to the store and getting the family pack of ready-to-grill thighs, breasts, etc, head to the farmers market and find you a good chicken guy. He’s got eggs (probably from chickens, ducks, and quails), maybe he’s got some greens, and he’s got your chicken. Buy a full chicken. No half-assing it. Maybe get some eggs, and hell, some of that arugula while you’re there. Here’s what happens with the chicken when you get home:

  • Prepare the slow cooker with a bed of onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and any other hearty veggies you want
  • Put your chicken in the slow cooker
  • Add spices, dressings, sauces per your mood
  • Forget about chicken for the next five hours and go live your best life
  • Take chicken + veggies out, separate meat from bones, put bones back in the crockpot with the frozen veggie scraps that you have been saving from tip number one. Leave overnight for a delicious chicken-veggie broth to cook, drink, freeze, party with.

For my bustling fam of two, this crocked chicken lasts at least four to five meals each. We leave it in the fridge, typically as shredded chicken, to add to any quick lunches and/or lazy (and delicious) dinners. The broth can be used to cook rice, make a soup, or just to have on hand for a snack. Win-win-win.

A final note on chicken. This a great meat to get behind, when done right. More and more towns are beginning to incentivize backyard chicken farming, and for good reason. These natural composters are great for your backyard ecosystem, stimulating your compost operation and gifting you a bounty of beautiful eggs. Starting your own or supporting your neighbor’s chicken project is a great way to keep things out of the hands of big factory farms where chicken operations can be horrendous for animals, humans, and the planet in general.

Get to Know Your Yard

If you have some land, begin to see at it as a garden gifted by the land. As you start to recognize different weeds, you may find that you have the perfect salad already growing out your back door. Last spring we began to identify the different flowers, plants, and weeds growing wild in our yard and found an abundance of dandelion greens, amaranth leaf, and edible clovers. You might get lucky, as we did, and find a mushroom here and there (though be sure to call for backup to safely identify it). Always exercise caution and common sense when eating wild foods, but keep your curiosity heightened! Always leave more than you take and get familiar with the replacement rates of different species. Certain herbs that you buy in the store are easily transplanted with little to no maintenance (including mint, basil, ginger, and turmeric!). Keep peeping this blog for more specifics of wild foods, but open your mind to exploring your own land too.

Kombucha

Oh, the wondrous world of bubbly, probiotic teas. If you are already a Kombucha drinker, stop everything you are doing and start brewing your own. You will save $$$ and fall in love with the creative process afforded by this effervescent elixir. If you haven’t gotten on the ‘booch train, that’s okay too…it can be an acquired, though highly recommended taste.

To get your own SCOBY, do a quick shout out to your friends, fellow hippies, yogis, etc. I know I’m stereotyping here, but if the shoe fits? You’ll likely come across one within a month. Otherwise, there are several places to purchase one online, or even start to grow your own from a store-bought Kombucha (though I have zero experience with how/if this is possible…Siri will know!). Once you have a SCOBY you’re good to go. Use a large glass vessel, preferably with a wide mouth for the best SCOBY health. The bare-bones recipe is about 1 gallon black tea + 1 cup starter liquid (Kombucha from a previous batch) + 1 cup of sugar. Make sure the tea is at room temperature and all sugar/starter liquid mixed before adding the SCOBY, then set in a cool, dark place with a cheese cloth/ tea towel tied over the top to protect from any foreign organisms. After 5-7 days, start testing your brew out using a (reusable!) straw until the sweetness-to-acidity is at your preferred ratio. Depending on the SCOBY, it could take anywhere from one to two weeks to ferment. Each batch will produce a baby SCOBY, which you can remove and give to a friend, or keep until it gets too big to handle. Dehydrated scobys also make great dog treats!

I like to think of the SCOBY as a somewhat sentient entity. SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Some call it a mushroom, a fungus, the Mother, etc. You want the health of your SCOBY to be priority numero uno. If you see any sorts of mold growing, your batch has been compromised. Additionally, you may find that your SCOBY reacts differently over time- the first few brews may be hard to pin down the perfect timing, but after the SCOBY gets used to your tea, it will start to crank out the goodness with more gusto- and consistent quality. This is where we get to have fun and start tweaking the recipe. If you have other wild teas and/or sugar sources available, see what happens when you turn them into Kombucha. Adding fruits, herbs, and spices during the second fermentation is also a lot of fun! If you are into craft beers, you can even start playing with hops to see what you come up with. The world is your oyster, ferment it!