Dispatches from the Past: Oh the gap – between spring and edible fresh foods! No wonder we’ll fry dandelions….‏

(Editor’s Note:

This originally went out April 3, 2014.

Leah)

This is it, folks.  The eight week home stretch.  Don’t worry. The wild treats come soon (I hear ramps are up in Ohio)…

We managed to find a couple limited rounds of root veggies for those for whom a beet or two would make all the difference!

Found grocery list.

Found grocery list.

Good Morning!

I love grocery lists. I’m not particularly good at making them, or following them, or meal planning for that matter.

But I love the lists. And yesterday my six year old made his first handwritten grocery list. Two of them, in fact.

List One:
Apples, Oats, Carrots, Chicken, Hambergers (his spelling), Cheese, Milk, are all on the ‘Warehouse’ list. That is, mom is supposed to remember to bring them home from work (hence the list).

List Two:
Tuna fish, juice, dog food, butter, bananas. Those are from the grocery store.

Now, all terroirology aside in terms of the ethics of banana consumption and the merits or lack thereof of tuna fish (we buy the line-caught, folks, take it easy)…I found it rather remarkable that in the mind of my six year old the world so naturally divides once again into ‘store boughten’ goods and those bought or produced by local businesses.

I’m not saying our family isn’t slightly out of the ‘norm’, because we certainly are. What I’m suggesting is shifting food supply from the ‘one’ back into the ‘many’ is, in a nutshell, as simple a six year old writing two grocery lists.

I’m sure most of you already know this, and certainly I’m cliche in posting my maternal astonishment at the wonder of the next generation (my own next generation in particular) but here’s a secret which I know readers of FOUND magazine will relate to.

When I see a grocery list in a cart or dropped in the parking lot, I snatch them up. There’s rarely anything as succulent as the contents of FOUND, but for someone who spends 40 plus hours a week thinking about the food supply, there is some deep covetous appeal to a discarded grocery list. As though the composer of the list has no clue that ill-attended contents of their pockets are the architecture of the livelihoods of thousands. Would you take the blueprints for the pyramids and leave them in the course of chariots? I think not.

Man’s great achievements are many, and the pyramids will certainly endure beyond the industrial food system. Somewhere along the line a really smart little hieroglypher started stacking blocks and I’m sure his mom thought he was a gift from the gods too.

(Tell me you don’t wonder what her food supply list looked like? I’m not sure if ‘grocery’ translates.)

Whatever your perspective on all this, make up your Crown O’Maine list and send it on in!

Marada

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Dispatches from the Past: Organic farmers are light years ahead of you (or at least a ‘light year’)….‏

(Editor’s Note:

This originally went out on March 20, 2014.

Leah)

Rainbow peppers landed at COM on St. Patty’s Day (frozen and diced and neatly packaged from Northern Girl, I might add!)……

Now, let’s turn them into a pot of gold or soup, depending on your perspective!

Good Morning!

This past week organic farmers sent in their certification applications or renewals. Considered by some to be just paperwork, certification actually entails a good deal of thought put in to crop selection, markets, opportunity, pros & cons of certification, and a bit of review of which crops ran out when and whether we can expand or extend that season.

Many of you, like me, have noticed how quickly we’ve run out of such staples as beets, colored carrots, rutabaga, daikon, cabbage. The good news is its not because there was less available, but because we sold it more quickly. Organic farmers across the state are gearing up for a busy year, because above and beyond the produce they sell through us, to you, market for organic produce continues to expand.

The market for all Maine grown and produced goods continues to grow, without a doubt, but in the world I work in, the preference is heard and recognized for certified organic produce. That’s not to say there aren’t customers for farms using organic practices but choosing not to certify, because there certainly are. We continue to offer both non-organic produce and organic, and enjoy using our business as a ‘pathway to certification’ where that makes sense for the farm.

Along with developing our ‘regular’ market, there continue to be larger opportunities for organic growers to (pun intended) grow into. We hope that blending these opportunities will help increase supply for you, and for us!

So as you think about your food purchases this year, remember that in order to feature organic produce items on the list at the end of March, someone, some very dedicated certified organic grower, was thinking of you a year ago today.

Imagine a world where the makers of food think about your health and well being for a year (or even years) before it enters your body.

It turns out that matter matters, and farmers, stewards of our land and co-stewards of our health, have been hoping for some decades that their customer base will join them in this understanding.

Convergence is happening.

Converge those orders right on over to us, please!

Marada

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Dispatches from the Past: Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboards couldn’t be as bare as mine…but I have some ideas of how to fill them!‏

(Editor’s Note:

This originally went out March 13, 2014.

 

Leah)

The Dig Is (Almost) Done.  Now for Stocking.

Below: The foods my house cannot function without…

1. Flour, two or three types.
2.  Dry Beans
4 . Maple Syrup
5. Pancake Mix
6. Eggs, Cheese, Yogurt
7. Meat, (you might go for tofu or tempeh, here)
8.  Vegetables (I’ll settle for ANYTHING).
9 .  Frozen berries
10. Butter

Good Morning!

The glory of terroirology was good while it lasted. And I remain a believer. But a fresh round of snow has gotten me feeling a bit more like the scores of adventurers and -ologists who at some point must have realized they would NOT return from their journeys.

I’ll admit that’s a little melodramatic. But the thought of buying a Maine homebrew BEER KIT to celebrate St Patty’s Day (and distract me from the shortage of cabbage) did cross my mind!

It becomes a bit demoralizing to catalog (as I must, each week) as well as the discoveries, all the food that becomes UNavailable…dozens and dozens of foods with celebrated seasonality. Said seasonality is all well and good until I go to my home cupboard and find it bare. Well, almost bare. There IS that stack of smoked salmon samples I picked up last weekend from Sullivan Harbor Seafood

It’s a good thing my kids are used to this routine. Mom works long stretches at a food warehouse filled with food treasure, loads the car with the cast-offs and short dated products and drives home after bedtime. Or, mom lives a very balanced life, departing work at 5PM, but somehow in the rush to balance work and kids leaves the groceries in the COM cooler.

I wish I didn’t remember my dad doing the SAME kind of quirky feast or famine routine! Bringing home 10 flats of kiwi fruit from Boston after delivering potatoes for a week. Then making a 20 quart stock pot full of wheat berry and potato stew… and I’m pretty sure those were the only two ingredients.

It might even be a tradition in our family. Exploring the nuances of Maine food production and marketing. Preparing some rather randomized menu selections as a result.

How else would you get kids to try smoked salmon? Or tacos without cheese, in the case of last night’s dinner. 100% local tacos from the onions in the burger (ungratefully picked at by the under-five crowd)…to Emily’s Taco Salsa from Cheryl Wixson’s Kitchen to the corn tortillas from our new friend at Tortilleria Pachanga in Portland, made with Maine grown corn.

The side effect of terroirology is a lack of attention to staples. Cobbler’s kids sort of thing. So while I ruefully retire items such as watermelon chunks and yellow onions from this week’s list, my kids remind me that our kitchen lacks some very obvious, otherwise abundant Maine staples. Maple Syrup, dare I confess?

How about your kitchen?

Marada

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Dispatches from the Past: The more we look, the more we find! If it’s made or grown (or preferably both) here in Maine, we’re intrigued and hope you are too!‏

(Editor’s Note:

We’re making headway! The grasses are pushing impatiently and inexorably through the field grass, sward really, up in Aroostook, and we’re caught up on dispatches into March now–any day here I’ll be current, and can regale you with non-dispatch related ramblings and thoughts on local agriculture and eating.

Up here with all the snowload this winter, the spring is lagging some 7-10 days, and the riverbottom fields were mostly underwater until yesterday. Today there are huge chunks of winter ice, jumbled and dirty on potato fields, with logs strewn here and there across the orderly remnants of last year’s rows.

But the robins are fat and vocal, the bears are moving around again, and the beavers are in a frenzy of spring chores out back, so it’s coming slowly.

This dispatch originally went out March 6, 2014.

Leah)

The Big Dig 2014 continues…

1. Salad Cut Kelp
2. Lettuce Mix from Flying Pond Farm
4 . Popcorn from Green Thumb and also from Green Ledges Farm
5. Olivia’s Garden Lettuce Heads

6. Asiago from Sonnental in 5# half wheels
7. Napa cabbage!
8.  Parsnips from Goranson Farm
9 .  Coarse and/or fine rye from Aurora
10. Storage Onions available

Good Morning!

We jokingly called our freezer discovery mission here at Crown O’Maine ‘the Big Dig’. Little did we know it would last more than a week, or that we might, with a bit of sustained effort, unearth treasures of many types – not all of them frozen. If any of you are thinking of the recent news story of the frozen prehistoric virus, that’s not where I’m heading here! (It was tempting to link the themes though….)

It takes the sustained interest and enthusiasm of a single minded ologist (or many of them, in our case) to bring these foods, collectively, to your doorstep. Lucky for COM the fact that my research is privately funded (thanks, ahem, to yourselves) allows this to be an ongoing project, with a dedicated and passionate staff.

Lest my words convey that we study and collect static specimens of the cuisine of a long-dead people, allow me to supply one ologist-prefix option: terroirologist? I know, its a bit hard to say ten times fast, but terroirologist (I like ‘terr-wall-o-gist’) seems more appropriate than locavore (because you all know it’s not JUST about consuming the food). It’s not even just the thrill of the chase or the large quantities of batch-roasted on Maine wood coffee that get me up in the morning. There is a more elusive and thrilling idea I’m pursuing.

There are people, we call ourselves Mainers, who eat everyday (as most humans do), who actually still make food with their own hands from the very land they also walk upon (with any luck and presuming little snow accumulation). This food is regionalized, even within the state, cultural, on so many different levels, and (this is where it gets REALLY exciting, folks) evidence IS stacking up that there are distinct flavor profile differences among carrots from our distinct micro-climates and soil types.

Chefs, I know this comes as no surprise. Like most things ologist, there are those who are early adapters ahead of scientific evidence and then there are those who have the discipline to empirically prove things. I’m more of a sensationalist somewhere in the middle I suppose.

So while you ponder the implications of widely understood terroirology, please put your Crown O’Maine orders together. Every item on our list comes, in my mind, from a region of geographic and cultural importance.

Marada

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Dispatches from the Past: Maine’s cupboards are far from bare, although a bit more room in the pantry leaves space for experimentation….‏

(Editor’s Note:

This originally went out on February 27, 2014.

Leah)

The Big Dig 2014 continues…

1. Green beans, frozen 15#
2. Sonnental Bacon & Ground Pork return
3.  Watermelon chunks for smoothies
4 . Popcorn from Green Thumb and also from Green Ledges Farm
5. Olivia’s Garden Lettuce Heads

6. Butternut Squash
7. Nelson Family Farm roasts & steaks
8.  Garlic is back in stock
9 . Chantenay carrots from Woodprairie Farm
10. Storage Onions available

Good Morning!

This week’s list is lessons in food strategy. Eating year round in Maine involves a bit of effort, and luckily our growers, by strategy or circumstance, manage to pull interesting food from the pantry just when we’d started to despair of variety. We think of an out-of-stock item as a disappointment, but every so often I’m grateful for shortages, for what they illustrate…

Here in Maine, in particular, we are fortunate to have our own salt supply from Maine Sea Salt. Each year, as awareness grows, demand threatens to outstrip supply. Each year Sharon and Steve produce a little more to meet the demand. This year their stockpile was reduced by the end of January, they shipped the last few big orders and closed shop for the month of February for a much needed break. Sea salt, as you may know, is solar-evaporated. Sharon & Steve pump seawater into greenhouses and with the help of the returning sun, have pillars of salt that dry over time, are ground, smoked, flavored, and packed.

For most modern cooks, running out of salt is simply inconceivable. For pioneers and homesteaders throughout time and across the world, salt has been key to food preservation and even survival. As we finish out the winter this month, supplies of many of our favorite Maine foods run low. Salt, and its seasonality, remind me that even with all of our efforts to create a seamless supply chain, even the most simple of foods are at their essence, products of nature, subject to the weather and the tides.

An unsalted meal humbles, reminds us of our true place in the food chain, neither at the top, or the bottom. In all our efforts we ultimately play second fiddle to the sea and the sun, the seasons, supplies.

That being said, there is plenty to chose from on the list this week…and we are not totally out of salt in all shapes, forms, and flavors.

Marada

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Dispatches from the Past: Ahoy from Houlton, with yet another list of local Maine food for you!‏

(Editor’s Note:

This winter marks a new milestone for Marada and I; normally we drive through all weather conditions to our family’s house in Grand Isle whenever we go North to the County. County folks are used to driving, and if you’ve already driven 4-6 hours, depending on where you’re coming from, why wouldn’t you drive 1-2 more to sleep in your own home?

But this winter, with its cascading weekly snowstorms, and surprisingly bad road conditions, meant that Marada and I both stayed overnight in Houlton on separate trips. It’s a sure sign of weather, but also of age–we’re no longer careless enough, or care pas enough, in Valley French, to risk the horrible driving conditions.

The County plow crews are pros, and County drivers go much of the winter without their wheels touching pavement. But discretion is the better part of valor, and for the first time in our 31, and 30 years, respectively, we each paid for a hotel in Houlton on our trips North.

So, having officially turned 30 the day before this went out, I officially retired my jokes about retiring at 30, and I have no desire to prove my mettle against the storms, moose, and drifts. I’ll hunker down til the worst is past, and stay warm and relaxed while the road whites out.  Sigh. I really am getting old…

This originally went out on February 20, 2014.

Leah)

The Big Dig 2014 continues…

1. Scallops made it on the list!
2. Crabmeat is back!
3. Okay, this time spinach really is back.
4 . Stew chickens from Tide Mill Farm
5. Moodytown sausage, rack o’ribs, more!

Good Morning!

You all deserve a good newsletter, with connecting themes and entertaining links. This morning, however, finds me in Houlton, where slick roads last night pushed the pause button on my journey northwards for meetings today. Yes, Virginia, there is a north of Houlton.

While I get ready to resadddle the Volvo, I figured I’d get the availability list out the door. So no sweeping prose, leaps of local logic and such this morning. Just the delivery. That is, after all, the mission.

Here’s to well delivered, local, delicious, and sustainable food!

Marada

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Dispatches from the Past: Meat of the matter, more discoveries from our stores and supplies, how do our food choices affect our friendships, anyway?‏

(Editor’s Note:

Sadly, that golden tomato vinaigrette mentioned, which was a perfect taste bud surprise–summer-in-winter–is now out until the sunshine season of fresh tomatoes. It was a great one, and I hope you got a dose of it before it was gone.

Tis’ the season for lamb, though, if you’re of a carnivorous nature. And if not, Lamb’s OTHER Lover Boxes are still available. Enjoy!

This dispatch originally went out on February 13, 2014.

Leah)

The Big Dig 2014 continues…

1. Lamb Lovers’ Box from North Star Farm
2.  Golden Tomato Vinaigrette from Jordan’s Farm
3.  Rutabaga from Green Earth Gardens
4 . 5 gallon pails of diced tomatoes (let’s talk).
5. Nelson Family Farm Roasts (request the list – many types, 1-2 of each)
6.  Lamb shanks and kabobs have returned!

Ryan and Artie, enjoying winter.

Ryan and Artie, enjoying winter.

Good Morning!

Have you ever considered whether your relationships follow your eating criteria, or vice versa? That could be taken literally, as in, “I’d never date a meat-eater,” or a bit more figuratively, “I really need to know people/foods before I want them to be fixtures in my life.” A friend of mine recently said, “It’s just so hard to eat anything now because our standards are so high.” Considering food is a chief source of conviviality and gathering, our principles around eating may have unintended social consequences
-ask my mom about our ‘Food Purist’ phases some day.

This week we have a unique new offering – a ‘Lamb Lovers’ Box from North Star Farm. It contains the centerpiece cuts for 4 meals for 2 people, and considering the price of lamb by the pound is a pretty good deal. Recipes also included. Adding the box to the list sparked my sense of linguistic adventure – don’t vegetarians love lambs, too? So to please the vegetarian and texting crowds (no need to be both) I threw on an ‘LOL Box’ – ‘Lamb’s Other Lover’…with 4 locally made vegetarian staples that even my meat loving family enjoys.

As local food becomes more popular, more widely available, more prevalent throughout our food chain, we sometimes worry whether we will lose our sense of intimacy with craft products, individual farms or producers, or even the essence of the foods themselves (when was the last time you wandered through amber waves of grain?)…

In this midwinter season, I invite you to ‘meet your meat’ by which I am refering to the ‘meat of the matter’. We are digging a bit deeper here at COM, both in our product offerings and in the shaping of our company. We’re looking at our criteria for the food we offer and eat, and how that impacts our relationships with the people who produce them, purchase them, and consume them with us. Matter, matters, it turns out.

Marada

 

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