Happy Hour Fundraiser

The Cooking Family

Last chance to buy tickets for Thursday’s Bellevue Farmers Market Happy Hour! Come celebrate, drink, nibble, and continue to support our community treasure from 5-7pm at Pearl.

[Photo by  Scott Warman  on  Unsplash   ]

[Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash ]

I’ve been thinking about how food brings people together, whether they want to be connected or not. In the case of chef and culinary historian Michael W. Twitty, he discovered both the connections and the “or not” when he researched his family’s background and interwove it with the history of slavery and food in the American South.

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If you love to trace food history globally, this is the book for you. With the importation of slaves, the traders also brought foods (and food know-how) native to several locations on the African continent to America and the Caribbean. Once enslaved cooks were scattered across their new locations and faced with some new ingredients to accompany familiar ones, variations on tradition African dishes were adapted into the cuisine we now think of as “Southern.” Hoppin’ john, jambalaya, sweet potatoes, greens, okra preparations, gumbo spiced by a “holy trinity of bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes…that is as Senegalese as they come, or Dahoman or Kongolese” (62). Because slave food rations were so limited (all the good food they cooked landed on the slaveowners’ tables), slaves kept garden patches to supplement their diet. When Twitty hits a rough financial patch in his own life, he plants his own garden, based on family knowledge:

During those lean times I had to be strategic. Corn was tasty but carried with it too many chances to attract pests and bacterial infestation. Cabbage did too. No Southern garden was complete without either in its due time, but I could not afford to waste space on buggy plants. My father taught me how to make weak lye-soap sprays. My provision patch would be organic as much as possible, bugs picked off and squashed underfoot, with things grown together to confuse buggy pests, conserve water, and to crowd out weeds.

What does he grow? Six varieties of sweet potatoes, pattypan squash, cowpeas, herbs, peppers, pole beans, okra, greens, four heirloom tomatoes, peanuts, lettuce, garlic, onions, melons, and more! He had me wondering if such abundance was even possible in a Pacific Northwest patch, or if I’d have to buy a million-dollar greenhouse with a heating system and import soil from Virginia to recreate his abundance.

But the book is about more than food and making connections to African roots. The Cooking Gene is also a family story. The amount of research Twitty (and others helping him) have put in boggles the mind--he can name way more of his forebears than I can. The history of slavery in the South played out personally in his family's movements geographically and in their genetic makeup. While most African-Americans are about 10-15% "white," Twitty is 28%, meaning he can call a greater number of great-great-great-grandmothers unfortunate members of the #MeToo movement than most. Ouch. It’s one thing to trace genealogies when nice official records were kept, but since slaves were considered property, names and personal information were rarely written down about them. Instead, you might find a brief description, a vague age, and a “value” assigned. Uncovering so much of his background involved mighty detective work.

Nor does Twitty leave the DNA stone unturned. I was fascinated to read about the different DNA-analyzing companies and the differences between them, and what he and other family members discovered by getting their numbers done. Twitty even found the comparatively rare white female forbear in his family: a white woman who had had children with a non-white man! He conjectures she might have been an indentured servant because, heaven knew, that wouldn’t fly in many other circumstances.

The Cooking Gene isn’t a demand that white chefs quit appropriating black African-influenced cooking, but rather that Southern cooking be honest and embracing of its true origins and give respect and credit to the cuisine’s pioneers, people who were able to wring from slavery and oppression beautiful foods and a way to hold on to their lost cultures.

Last Market of the Season!

How will we remember the 2018 Market season? Maybe as the smoky one? The one where berries came early and lasted the whole rest of the time? The season where we tried that new melon variety or drank enough kumis and kombucha to repopulate ten antibiotic-decimated guts?

I’m looking at you, mango flavor.

I’m looking at you, mango flavor.

But all good things must come to an end. (Though, have you ever thought about that saying? Why on earth must they?) In the case of living on our seasonal planet, we’re entering the season of cold temperatures and little outdoor growth, when we all get to take a break from yard work, at the cost of not getting our fresh, local, seasonal produce.

Look, Ma, no lawnmower! [Photo by  Simon Matzinger  on  Unsplash  ]

Look, Ma, no lawnmower! [Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash ]

Be sure to get down to the Market one last time this Thursday, for that last bag of Honeycrisp apples or slice of pizza or baked mini-pie or bouquet of flowers! And then, remember, you can celebrate another great season and enjoy tasty hors-doeuvres at the Happy Hour Fundraiser the following Thursday. Get your tickets now!

The season ends, but my obsession with food goes on... I’m reading M. F. K. Fisher for the first time, thinking about food legacies and breakfast cereals, so you’ll be hearing about all that in future posts. Thanks, folks. Thank you. If you enjoyed the blog, I’ll be here all year.

Two More Markets and a Bonus!

When Alexa told me this morning it was only 41F out, and today’s high would only struggle up to 58F, I broke down and turned on the furnace. Blah. But two bonus days of no furnace beat zero bonus days, right? (I can see all your heads nodding because, based on an informal poll of asking random people around me, I now draw the sweeping conclusion that, here in the greater Puget Sound, we don’t like to turn on the furnace until October 1. It could be blizzarding outside, but it the calendar says September 27, that furnace stays off.)

Don’t touch that dial…

Don’t touch that dial…

While we’re talking about bonus days, I have some bad news and good news. The bad news is, there are only two Market days left. Two more Markets where you can stock up on all that fresh produce and meat and goodies. I here provide a “Do You Have Enough?” list:

Do You Have Enough…?

  • honey

  • tuna

  • wine/beer

  • meat

  • berries (to freeze)

  • baked goods (to freeze!)

  • tomatoes (make soup or sauce and freeze, and one last pico de gallo)

Don’t forget to have your last pop or slice of pizza, as if you needed reminding… With the baseball playoff season upon us, I’m adding a bag of fresh tortilla chips and one of salted, roasted peanuts to my list.

And the good news? Well, after our two remaining Market days, there’s one last hoorah planned for Market-lovers. Happy Hour! You’ve supported the Market all season (or perhaps for multiple seasons), so why not join in for some drinks and Market-y hors d’oeuvres, accompanied by live music, hanging out with fun folks, and some casual opportunities to show financial support for this beloved community treasure? I’ve already invited a couple friends and look forward to a fun time on October 18, 5-7pm at Pearl Restaurant. Why not make it total evening out? Start with Market Happy Hour and then go catch A Star is Born or First Man at Lincoln Square?

Imagine what shared vision can accomplish

Imagine what shared vision can accomplish

Just like with popular movies, you’ll want to buy tickets ahead! Let’s see if together we can’t ensure our wonderful Market finds solid footing for many seasons to come.