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Potato salad and post-industrial agriculture

July 24, 2009

: ) Sometimes mixing food and politics is fun.

Last night we went to the pool party and it was overcast and slightly chilly out for swimming (only about 70-73 degrees out). First, we went and played softball, since the boy and his coworkers will be challenging their rival work site to a game of softball in a few weeks. I played softball the summers after 4th and 5th grade, and it’s shocking how easily it came back to me. The boy and I played catch on Wednesday night (and, not so shockingly, lost the brand new softball to the steam in the park) and my crappy throwing and catching skills transformed in a flash to their former glory. I think I might even be better at catching than he is. And he’s got longer arms!

But I digress. Since we played so much softball, we didn’t end up eating until about 8:30 pm. Really good beef hotdogs and onion-filled hamburgers were grilled, my potato salad was the only side, and the ice cream we’d brought for dessert was half-melted. The fruit sauce I made was delicious, however.

On the way home, the ice cream melted even further, the opened half gallon (in a folded cardboard box container, not the lidded ones, of course) had dripped all the way up the stairs to our apartment (which we sheepishly discovered this morning) and had to be thrown. The other was stuck in the fridge in hopes of being salvaged.

All in all, it was a nice night, if a little haphazard as parties go. We did end up swimming, but I’m not much for splashing and horsing around and dunking, so I kind of just floated for most of it, while the boy (who reverts to age 12 when placed in water) and the young’uns basically beat each other up. Even Marco Polo turned into a contact sport. Oh well, it was still pretty fun.

The potato salad I made is the boy’s mom’s recipe (not written down, by the by, but made by taste) and this time I improved upon it. So here it is:

Tangy Potato Salad:

10 or so small to medium red potatoes, scrubbed and trimmed of any eyes or bad spots
2-3 small white onions (or one very large onion)
1 1/2 – 2 cups mayonnaise (I used canola) or to coat
1-3 tablespoons dried dill weed or to taste
5-8 tablespoons vinegar (I used white wine) or to taste
salt and/or pepper to taste

Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and cut into half moon slices 1/4 inch thick. Place in 4 quart or larger saucepan. Salt. Fill to cover with water and set to boil. Cut tops and bottoms off of onions, cut in half lengthwise and peel off papery skin. Slice very thinly. Place in large storage container (one with a lid) and use fingers to separate layers so you have a big pile of long, very thin bits of onion.

When potatoes are boiling, check with a fork for doneness. Potatoes are done when a large slice is easily pierced with a fork. Drain and let cool in colander. While potatoes are still warm (but not hot), add to onions and add mayonnaise to coat. Then add dill and vinegar to taste. If necessary, add salt and/or pepper.

This is a guestimate recipe. I haven’t actually gone and measured it all out. Maybe someday I will, but I doubt it. The salad should be tangy and creamy and amazingly delicious. The onions will not taste like raw onions. The sauce will not taste like just dill. It will just taste delicious.

Mmmm, I am definitely having some potato salad for lunch. Nom, nom, nom…

Now, on a slightly more serious note, I was reading Civil Eats today and ran across this amazing video from Britain about permaculture, sustainable agriculture, and the future of farming in our soon-to-be oil-short world. It’s an hour long, just to warn you, but it is a beautifully shot documentary by a former wildlife videographer-turned inheritance farmer.* Check it out, it’s well worth the watch. Maybe on your lunch break? For sure this weekend, anyway.

(*Note: To me, an inheritance farmer is someone who grew up on a farm, went off to do something else as a young adult, and is now returning to the family farm to actively farm it, either because their parents are aging or because they have inherited the farm from deceased relatives. To me, inheritance farmers are distinctly different from people who grew up on and take over the family farm without leaving, or from new farmers. They have two unique perspectives (that of how farming was done when they were growing up, and the perspective of an urban or suburban outsider) that I think give them stable roots in farming and new ideas on how to change and improve it. That isn’t to say that any type of farmer is necessarily better than the other. Just different.)

It really got me thinking about post-industrial ag and everything that’s wrong with today’s food system. Which, of course, always gets me going! It is very interesting, however, watching the British perspective on sustainable agriculture. As an island nation that imports a large majority of its food and all of its oil, it is far more aware of impending change in the way we live our lives than the U.S., which is a shame. Because if the U.S. put all of its scientific ability and entrepreneurial spirit and energy behind finding a solution to the oil crisis, instead of just pushing the gas pedal further toward the floor in an effort to burn through as much fossil fuel as possible in the shortest amount of time, the world would be a whole heck of a lot better place.

I voted for President Obama, and while I don’t exactly agree with everything he says or does, it is heartening to see that he is making changes across the board. Some are big, some are small, but they are changes that for the vast majority are good changes. I can only hope he tackles our agricultural and energy crises next. In my opnion, healthcare, while very important, is not going to do us much good if we keep eating crap and squandering our resources.

But I digress into politics. Time to go do something else. But before I go, here’s a little treat:

Black raspberry and plum sauce in the beginning stages

Black raspberry and plum sauce in the beginning stages

Black Raspberry and Plum Sauce:

2 large black plums
1 level pint black raspberries
1/4 cup buckwheat honey
pinch ground ginger
2 tablespoons water

Cut up plums into raspberry-sized pieces. Add both fruits to a medium-sized saucepan (2 quart is fine). Add 2 tablespoons water and honey and ginger. Cook until soft and thick. Serve over vanilla ice cream. Yum! Makes appx. 3 cups sauce. If you do not like black raspberry seeds, don’t make this sauce. : )

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