Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Who Does Your Food Come From?

Last week, I received two quarterly publications that come as part of the Slow Food U.S.A. membership: Slow, the international publication, and The Snail, the U.S. publication. Each presents a sensual combination of literature and photo-journalism. What immediately struck me about the two publications was the absence of food-images. Instead, photographs of people dominate their visual aspect. Indeed, we are what we eat. In addition to asking where our food comes from, we ought to be asking who our food comes from.

If I am bound to the earth by my dependence on it for food, then I am also bound to the farmer who produces the food that nourishes me and my family. I choose to entrust him with the nutritional care of my family. What could be more personal than that? In return, I support the farmer by purchasing from him regularly. I affirm his belief in providing good food for people in an ecologically sustainable way. I further encourage his efforts by actively avoiding, thus not supporting, large-scale, non-sustainable food operations.

In this way, I begin to know my local farmer. When he comes to a small gathering place to sell his produce, I also begin to know the other people who depend on and support him. His table becomes a place where ideas and knowledge are exchanged. A community develops there and the relationships within that community strengthen over time.

The point I'm trying to make is that the food itself is but one form of nourishment that comes from knowing our local farmers. Through knowing them, our food becomes an axis around which we nurture our bodies, minds, spirits, and our gregarious nature.

Van Lewis's Clams:
A man who introduced himself to me simply as "Van," showed up at the Grower's Market last Wednesday with clams from his Alligator Harbor farm. Before I'd had a chance to converse with Van about his farm, my toddler indicated that it was time to go home. I later learned that in addition to being a clam farmer and commercial fisherman, Van Lewis is a Harvard-educated human rights activist and an outspoken political advocate for local fishermen. He is also a member of the Lewis family, locally well-known for activism during the civil-rights movement.

At home with Van's Clams: Clams Moinette
After we tucked our son into bed, Matt and I chatted with a rare, luxurious ease as we prepared a supper with Van's clams. Matt opened a bottle of very fresh Moinette, a beautiful Belgian beer, and poured some into two shapely glasses. As we sipped and talked, I washed the clams, chopped garlic, shallots, and parsley, and steamed the clams.

The clams in their open shells, heaped over a shallow pool of sea-and-allium-infused Moinette, in a blue and white bowl sprinkled with parsley from our garden, the two glasses of good beer, the peaceful quiet of late evening, generated a convivial warmth between two tired souls. We lingered late enough to know that we'd lose precious sleep, and it was
worth it. That evening, we fed our bodies, our spirits, and our family bond.

Clams Moinette:
1# clams
1 1/2 T butter
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
fresh lemon
minced parsley
1/2 C Saison, Wit, Hefeweizen, or other crisp, not-too-malty, not-too-hoppy beer

Swish the clams in a bowl of cold water, allow sand to settle to the bottom, and remove the clams. In a medium sized pot (large enough to hold the clams in a single, close layer), sweat the garlic and shallots in the butter until fragrant but not browned. Add the beer, bring to a boil. Add the clams, return to boil, and cover. After two minutes, uncover, and remove each clam to a serving bowl as it pops open to avoid over-cooking. When all have been removed to their serving bowl, pour the cooking liquid over the clams. Sprinkle very lightly with lemon juice, sprinkle with minced parsley. Serve with an additional bowl for empty shells.

Van Lewis's Quahog Clams are available at
Clamalot/St.Teresa Shellfish/Cicada Market:

(you may want to call ahead to check availability)

1847 Thomasville Road
(850) 222-0025
(850) 697-3857
10:30a-7:00p Tuesday-Saturday


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