On Chicken and Values and Mindfulness

The Tale

I threw a chicken into the garbage today. And I felt awful about it. Through my own carelessness and inattention, I took a frozen chicken out of my chest freezer and forgot to put it back, leaving it on the cement floor of a hot garage for twelve or so hours. It was largely thawed, but while my heart wanted to go ahead and just roast it, my head said to take the well-Googled advice and discard it, thus avoiding a chance to catch food poisoning.

About the Chicken

First, let me begin by stating that I am not a vegetarian, let alone a vegan. I understand the ethical underpinnings of such a diet, but I am an omnivore who has no issues with eating animal flesh and other animal products. If you are one, I applaud your finding a diet that dovetails with your convictions. But my convictions differ from yours.

Let me tell you about this chicken, though. It was humanely raised—pastured and able to peck in the dirt for bugs and slugs, just like a chicken should. It was locally raised as well, as I went to the farm to buy it. And therefore, it cost more than the factory chicken found at supermarkets. The cost is something I’m willing to pay—I’d rather pay more for high quality food and buy less. This is not a value judgement against you if you purchase supermarket poultry. Remember that food is my “thing”. I spend a bit more to buy crisp organic butterhead lettuce from a local organic farmer than my 99-cent iceberg loss-leader. I would much rather buy a small piece of unusual and artisanal cheese that retails for $29.99/lb. than buy pounds of pre-shredded industrial cheese. But I rein in my spending elsewhere—I don’t buy many clothes, I cook my own meals rather than going out to restaurants frequently, and I don’t need the latest electronics. I’m childfree, so I don’t have to worry about feeding a family. I’m not judging you, so please don’t judge me.

Chickens, Values, Mindfulness

So what bothered me about throwing this chicken in the trash? It wasn’t the money—I am fortunate to be able to afford this and can easily get another without sacrificing my monthly food budget. No, it was something else—I respect my food and I respect the producers who have provided it for me. In this case, it was an affront to my values caused by my own carelessness. That chicken was slaughtered–for nothing!–because of my negligence. The hard work and labor of the farmers who raised it, a lovely young couple making a go of it on a local organic farm, was for naught because I was not paying attention. It’s not about the money—it never is and never was. It was, instead, a disconnect from my values.

In a way, I am grateful to that chicken for prodding me to focus on mindfulness, the act of paying attention and being in the moment. I vow to be more present and I vow to show more respect for the food that nourishes me. And I vow to treat the next chicken with more care.

Share

Mayan Jaguar Lettuce Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

The Mayan Jaguar lettuce lends itself to salads with strong, sharp flavors. Add some chicken (or more cheese, if you’re a vegetarian) and you’ve got a main dish salad. Note, this will serve 6 as a side dish

What You’ll Need

  • knife and chopping board
  • whisk
  • immersion blender, aka hand or stick blender
  • measuring cup and spoons
  • large bowl
  • salad tongs

Ingredients for the Salad

  • 1 head Mayan Jaguar lettuce (or other romaine)
  • ¼ cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup walnut pieces, toasted
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded

Ingredients for the Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2/3-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp walnut or regular Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

How to Make the Vinaigrette

  1. Pour the vinegar into a bowl or tall container and add the salt. Whisk until the salt is dissolved
  2. Add the mustard, shallot, oil, and pepper. Using your immersion blender, blend the ingredients until emulsified and well mixed.
  3. Taste and add salt or pepper as necessary. The vinaigrette will keep, refrigerated, for a week.

How to Make the Salad

  1. Add the salad ingredients to a bowl.
  2. Toss with the about 1/3-1/2 of the vinaigrette. Add a little more if you like it more fully dressed.
  3. Serve immediately.
Share

Farmers Market Finds: Mayan Jaguar Lettuce

The Start of the Season and the Start of Discovery

With the advent of my local farmers market (Minnetrista in Muncie, Indiana) holding weekly markets, I look forward to the thrill of culinary discovery, of the delight of finding a new-to-me variety of vegetable or fruit, or of a vendor offering me new locally produced treats. This past Saturday, I ventured to (and through) the market, with its wares. The pickings, and the number of vendors, were rather slim—it’s been a very challenging spring for planting. The average high temperature in February was followed by a lower one in March. Following on the heels of a relatively colder March, April turned warm again. May, what few days of it we’ve had, had been a cold, soggy, sodden mess. Copious amounts of rain interspersed with frost. As an organic farmer I know said, it’s been a most challenging spring for a farmer.

Still, on that morning of May 6, it wasn’t raining, despite being forecast. I ventured over to one of my favorite produce stands (Christopher Farms, a local organic operation), so see what farmer and all around wonderful person Wendy Carpenter had to present to her customers, both loyal and new. Knowing that I was looking to eat more salads, I was drawn to one of the more striking lettuces I’ve ever seen—Mayan Jaguar.

Mayan Jaguar Lettuce

With its dappled maroon and green, a head of Mayan Jaguar lettuce certainly commands a second look. This has the ability to form the foundation of a seriously interesting looking salad (interesting as in good, not weird). So naturally, I had to buy some.

Mayan Jaguar lettuce belongs in the romaine/cos family. The head is tall and the spines of the leaves have that characteristic romaine crunch. Its leaves are gorgeously ruffled. It is a beautiful lettuce.

Flavor-wise, Mayan Jaguar is sweet with a hint of bitterness. In a salad, it pairs nicely with balsamic vinegar and walnuts. Add some dried fruit and blue or goat cheese for a delicious dish. I will share a salad recipe which uses Mayan lettuce to its advantage in my next post.

Start Your Own Voyage of Discovery

If you have a local and treasured farmers market, find a vendor with unusual varieties of produce. In my experience, I’ve found that organic farmers are likelier to offer something different than conventional farmers (but I am a sample size of one). If you are unsure, just ask—most farmers would love a chance to talk about their products! It’s a great chance to break out of a standard-supermarket-variety rut.

Share

Coming Soon–The Farmers Market!

I look forward to this every year—the start of the weekly farmers market season. My local market operates weekly from the first Saturday in May through the last Saturday in October. Monthly indoor markets occur during the months of November through April. So it’s May 1 and this Saturday (May 6) will be the first weekly market of 2017! I look forward to regional goodness and talking to farmers with whom I’m on a first-name basis.

And I’ll be blogging here at Flyovertapas again. Now, I won’t have a set schedule like my market, but I’ll be sure to post a couple of times per month, especially once my semester ends. In the meantime, I hope you have a local market of your own to enjoy!

Share

Flyover Tapas–Returning in May!!!

I’m not sure of the date, though it’ll be sometime after the semester’s grades are turned in and I’ve had a few days to decompress. In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying all things food-related in the Midwest! It’s already mid-February, so I’ll see you in approximately three months, when we’ll be well into spring (although it’s been pretty springlike throughout much of this winter).

In the meantime, enjoy these heritage turkeys. I took this picture at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa.

Share