My focus as a home cook is to source food as close to home as possible and make as much as I can in my own kitchen. This blog documents these efforts. I call it “Kitsap Cuisine” because I have been trying to eat just in the Kitsap foodshed.
I am homesick for real food. The kind that just came from the earth, or the henhouse, or the teat; grown with care, treated simply before landing on the plate. I am homesick for neighborhood where people know my name and care about whether my house is standing. I am homesick for community made up of people who care about food, and about the fertility of the land, and whether our grandnieces and nephews will get to enjoy the same blue skies and birdsongs that bring so much pleasure to our lives.
After spending a week in Vermont it’s been rough to come back to Kitsap. In Vermont I went to the local co-op and bought ingredients from a 15-mile foodshed that made up an entire meal, no exceptions. I met people there who are building their lives around rebuilding the local foodshed.
We have people in Kitsap who care passionately about these issues too. Think about Karen Olsen, who went to the trouble to get a cow dairy certified to sell raw milk. It takes my breath away. What an effort! And what milk! Whenever I give it to people I feel sorry for them, because they don’t live in Kitsap, and don’t have access to that milk every day.
We have so much, but we don’t yet have a complete foodshed. In the last year I’ve found myself making so many exceptions to the Kitsap-only rule that it felt like there were more holes than fabric in that effort, so to fill the holes, I found myself buying foods from anywhere.
After Vermont I needed to rethink what I was doing. Reboot the idea of Kitsap cuisine. The “Cultivating Regional Food Security” conference last winter concluded that Washington state can feed Washington state. Eastern Washington farmers still mostly ship their products out of state, but if their output were redirected to western Washington, they could feed us. Until we have a functioning foodshed in Kitsap, it makes sense to me to source food in the region wherever possible.
So here are my new processes:
Grow as much as I can.
I grow all my own herbs. Some vegetables, getting better at this all the time. Lavender. I do have bees, although speaking as a beekeeper, and the new secretary of the club, there’s no honey in Kitsap this year; the bees are more by way of a hobby or a gift to the world than producing livestock at this point. As soon as Ted gets the chicken coop up we’re getting chickens.
Source food as local as possible.
If I can get something locally, I get it locally. My vegetables come from Abundantly Green, Gregory Farm, and Pheasant Fields Farm, all within ten miles of my house. Chicken and eggs from Abundantly Green, Pheasant Fields Farm, and Blackjack Valley Farm. Beef from Abundantly Green, Blackjack Valley Farm, and Clark Farm in Sequim – Tom and Holly come all the way to Poulsbo Farmers Market to sell their meat and I love the terroir.
Stay within the state.
Many surrounding counties have meat, cheese, and honey. Most of the fruit at our local farmers markets comes from Eastern Washington. The eastern half of the state also grows grain. I talked to Andrea Wigglesworth about the reboot, and she suggested I try to stay on the west side of the state, but the only grain I have access to is grown in Chimacum at Finnriver Farm, and I go through what I buy from them quickly. I need hundreds of pounds of flour per year to bake bread for my family.
Keep the exceptions down to essentials.
Example: cooking oil. Washington state’s Apres Vin makes artisan grapeseed oil but it’s too spendy for even the one percent to use in everyday cooking, and I’m not in the one percent. California is the closest source of olive and grapeseed oil.
I really miss Vermont butter, sourced from named farms. Organic Valley is the closest source I can find – this farmer co-op has a regional processing plant. I am under the impression distribution goes through Wisconsin, so that butter is still travelling a thousand miles to get to my plate. This is the best I have been able to do.
Dairy products: cream, butter, sour cream, cottage cheese. Organic Valley when possible.
Cheese: Mt. Townsend is a Chimacum-Port Townsend operation, our closest cow cheese maker. Tillamook is a farmer co-op in Oregon, and I put their cheddar up against any fancy cheddar anywhere in the country. (Sorry Vermont!)
Olive and grapeseed oil: from California if possible.
Vinegar: a preserving essential, I can’t find a co-op source for apple cider or white vinegar. Perennial Vintners does offer verjus.
Citrus: Organic Valley orange juice. When their farmer lost a crop I stopped drinking it, but they’re back online. Lemon juice is a preservative.
Imports: the usual exceptions – coffee, chocolate, spices.
I’m trying to swap honey in for sugar as much as possible. Sugar beets are all GMO at this point, cane sugar has gone up in price, and it’s really an industrial product, no co-ops that I know of provide sugar. Ironically, while I’m learning to cook with honey, the bees used several 50 lb. bags of the white stuff this year.
The pantry is still filled with leftovers from the food distribution program I provide to a private group that meets in Tacoma. That group focuses on price rather than local sourcing, it mostly serves low income folk, so I pick up stores from Costco and Cash n Carry. Pantry foods from these sources that make the exception list: rice, oatmeal.
I’m pretty much the most fastidous person I know in trying to live within my local means. I’m not a nut, I do go to the grocery store to fill in gaps, and I buy baked goods and eat at restaurants where I have no idea where the ingredients came from. That said, I’m going to see what kind of everyday cuisine I can create within these guidelines.