Thanks to Slow Food International‘s 3 week #EatLocal challenge, I have become so much more connected to the community where I live, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. We live just east of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, here, at 4900 some odd feet above sea level, in the north eastern part of the state.
As a French trained former professional chef (who learned while in a working apprenticeship at a Continental French restaurant in Estes Park, Colorado – owned by a French-German couple, and managed by Culinary Institute trained chefs), I found it absolutely captivating to source as much locally grown and produced ingredients these last 3 weeks, at times to create French inspired recipes, at others to cook what I feel is a country gourmet cuisine for myself, friends and family.
Over my whole adult life I’ve had a deep love for preserving the harvest – my first canned goods back in 1981 were spicy Kosher dill pickles whose cucumbers I sourced from the valley while I lived with my husband in Estes Park. I was pregnant, and as a tongue in cheek lark chose to make pickles as my first project. Now I make salsas, jams, pear and apple sauce, dry fruits and tomatoes, freeze all manner of vegetables and fruits.
Living in a city of about 170,000 people is much different that the organic, sustainable mecca I loved and lived in for almost 8 years – Paonia, Colorado. There, almost every person I knew had a garden, and while living in my last home there I could boast that there were organic orchards in 365 degrees around me. Cherries, peaches, pears, apples.
Here in Fort Collins, though I love the pace of life, all of the choices, and culture – when I took on this challenge I realized some truths immediately. The close proximity of Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and Whole Foods Market, Natural Grocers, King Soopers – would not matter, quite as much. In fact, when I decided to, I’d be roaming the aisles to locate locally grown or produced foods, and they were mostly few and far between.
As a person who loves to cook international cuisines as well as eat them, it has re-enforced – as I’ve mentioned in other posts – a kind of pioneer, primal instinct, totally embraceable mentality that has truly helped me connect more deeply with the place I live. I appreciate – so much – the Google searching leading me to the LaPorte Feed Store, where I purchased multi-colored organic free range eggs as well as having a hand written notice catch my eye about raw local goats milk, yogurt and chevre produced minutes away from my home. Which led me to contacting the woman who owned the farm, being invited into her kitchen, purchasing her products, then being invited to come meet the goats whose milk products I would be exclaiming about for the next week. This, in a rural community context is pretty much protocol, but here in the city, I delightedly accepted as a cherished, brand new reality.
I could go on and on, but I invite you to scroll through this compilation of favorite photos, as well as my past blog posts since October 16 chronicling these fabulous three weeks. Know your farmer, and love the farmers you get to know and trust. Blessings to all. Signing off now to make my dinner (some re-creation of wonderful leftovers!) on this last night of the challenge. Thank you to all the heart felt producers of food in this world. A large part of my joy in this has been scrolling through ALL the amazing foods from all over the world that people are sharing as they Eat Local. It’s a fantastic way to feel connected.
The Dinner Table
She hefts the steaming platter, carries, sets it, tilts her head
(Envisioning the jigsaw of dishes she needs to place, to arrange)
then adjusts it to center on the cloth.
Lifts two full bowls from the counter next, bends
and sets them down gently, smiling.
She knows these dishes are special favorites as exclamations,
anticipation and laughter ring out from around the table:
love that’s built Slow over time knows.
She beams as it spills out from her heart.
Her Food, her recipes are built from it.
Her love heads back with her
into the kitchen from the garden, dirt on her hands.
It sings brightly into the tomato sauce
becomes the rhythm of her knife on the board, chopping cilantro and basil.
It fills all spaces in between
tiny air bubbles in her whipped cream,
and in the froth she stirs back
into simmering jam.
There’s no question it ripples through chocolate, whisked smooth and molten on the stove.
Her love is carried
into every kitchen fragrance,
tastes and textures,
And can be felt, fully present
In silence now
Falling around the table like the descent of fog
as everyone brings
those first few mouthfuls
To their lips.
Eat Love, Eat Local.
Fort Collins, Colorado