Monday, December 29, 2014

Guest Column: Tastes Like Freedom

Daily Hampshire Gazette Guest Column: 

Tastes Like Freedom


(Published in print: Monday, December 29, 2014)

EASTHAMPTON -- Summer people line up under a leaf canopy on the green.
An al fresco supper awaits them. Sunflowers hold down 40 fluttering
tablecloths and a hula-hoop woman cavorts with a red-headed boy in
face paint. Laughter is heard over an insatiable appetite for heirloom
tomatoes and pedigree peaches.

It's high summer, the kombucha is being poured and everyone is happy
in the city of Greenfield. Last year over 1,000 souls were served at
Free Harvest Supper, an annual event, where food left over from the
harvest is shared with one and all, rich and poor.

It all started years ago when someone whispered something to someone
else at a Saturday morning peace vigil. That somebody was Juanita
Nelson. She was spending Saturday as usual, marching around in front
of the green. Juanita and others carried hand-made signs that read
“End Violence Now!” and “Guns into Plowshares.” Cars and pickup trucks
drove by and honked, sometimes in agreement, sometimes not.

It was August and the Farmers Market was in progress. Farmers with
leftover produce were giving it away in the final half hour of the
market. During a lunch break and while eating a tomato, raw and warm
from the sun, Juanita got an idea. She looked at her friends and said
in a whispery drawl, “There are so many farms around here, why don’t
we just collect all extra harvest and feed everybody?” Juanita’s voice
on the radio is how I first got involved as a volunteer for Free
Harvest Supper. It was about seven years ago. A DJ from WMUA asked
about her politics.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “What does sharing food have to do with the
anti-war movement?”

Juanita replied, “If you know who grows your food, if you depend on
each other for food, you’re not going to fight with them, are you?”

Juanita Nelson knows something about violence. She met Wally Nelson
when he was in jail and on a hunger strike. Juanita was on assignment
for a local paper to interview the man who participated in the first
wave of Freedom Riders protesting segregated transportation in the
south. Juanita’s first act of civil disobedience was to eat lunch in
the whites’ only section of a Washington, D.C., restaurant which got
her arrested and kicked out of college.

She and Wally were perfect for one another. They moved to Woolman Hill
in Deerfield in the 1970s and lived simply growing all their own food.
With a community of like-minded souls, they put up what they grew for
winter consumption.

That community resulted in the formation of the Greenfield Farmers
Market, the Pioneer Valley War Tax Resisters and the Valley Community
Land Trust. Wally lived to be 93 and Juanita, now in her 80s, lives in
Greenfield, inspiring Winter Fare (the first winter market) and Free
Harvest Supper.

Juanita and Wally were onto something with their garden. The hegemony
of processed food with its addictive cycle of salt, sugar and fat has
put the nation into a diabetic coma. Eating is an act of intimacy
second only to sex. Surely you want to know where your partner has
been. Should food be any different?

We have the advantage in the Pioneer Valley of good soil and farmers
who give their lives to the work. Grow your own, buy local and learn
to cook. Not only is real food better for you, it tastes like freedom.

Mary A. Nelen is a writer and photographer who lives in Easthampton.

Friday, December 5, 2014

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Radicchio di Treviso Tradivo Frittata

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Radicchio di Treviso Tradivo Frittata
by Tim Wilcox
Kitchen Garden Farm
Sunderland MA

·       2 heads radicchio, grilled and chopped

·       ½ medium onion, diced

·       3 Tbsp olive oil

·       4 eggs, beaten with salt and pepper

·       ¼ cup plain white breadcrumbs (optional)

·       Balsamic vinegar

Heat the oil in your preferred omelet pan.  Add the onion and sauté gently until golden.  Add the radicchio and toss.  Pour in the eggs (whisked with the breadcrumbs if using) and cook over medium-low heat until the bottom is set.  Find a plate about the size of your pan.  Place the plate snugly over the frittata and invert.  Slip the frittata back into the pan and cook 1 minute longer.  If you don’t want to flip it, finish it under the broiler until set, 1-2 minutes.  Serve either at room temperature cut in small wedges with a smear of goat cheese as hors d’oeuvres, or hot with table cheese and affettate (coppa, prosciutto, salami, mortadella, etc) as a second course.  The diners drizzle with balsamic to their own tastes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Madeleine Moment with Radicchio Tardivo

Where does it come from, this feeling of complete happiness, complete contentment? 

Another bite and another wave of contentment. The taste, what is it? Now a vision of something, a beach, yes, it’s the beach in summer, South Beach, and gulls, and now a bike, its your bike, there up against the dune, the tire spinning madly. The whole of the summer of 1976 springs to life.

You are transported from your drab existence to your aunt's home on Martha’s Vineyard. Another bite and now you are running through burning sand but your feet are cooled by a wave. You are on your day off from waitressing. You are 19 year of age. Petty grievances have all but vanished. There is no sadness; there are no regrets just the pure sunlight of summer and possibility of what is to come. How did it happen, this transport to another time? What does it signify? It seems to be the frittata you are eating for lunch. You take another bite. What is in this frittata? It is the crimson and ivory radicchio tardivo that you tucked inside it. There's no mistaking it. The flavor is of lobster. But where did it come from this radicchio tardivo? You put down the frittata and search your mind.

You’re there at the farm just before Thanksgiving shopping for local vegetables. You see baskets of leeks, beets, romanesco, bunches of herbs tied up and brussels sprouts on their stalks. In the corner, next to a cooler, is something that beckons to you. It is what you are there for, this basket hiding in the shadows. Three, not one but three bunches of the famous radicchio tardivo are there resting comfortably, like so many heads of state.

The vertiginous crimson and ivory vegetable, too beautiful to be food, is grown with love and erudition by a farmer from Sunderland. Tim Wilcox went to Hampshire and did his Div 3 on radicchio tardivo in the town of its origin. You thank the farmer, his wife and their farm. You thank Pioneer Valley where a person can major in radicchio in college and plant the stuff here in our loamy American soil.