I'm just trying to gain a little bit of perspective. I mean, does that look like $30 worth of food? It has been so long since I have bought produce at the supermarket that I honestly have no clue any longer as to whether I'm leading us straight into bankruptcy with my food-buying shenanigans or if possibly, just maybe, the fact that I don't buy processed foods counterbalances these expenditures. Most likely I'm simply making excuses.
See, I nerded up last week and started scrutinizing every last food purchase for the past six months. This wasn't the first time that I got a little obsessive and dug around in my financial tracking software in a mad effort to spell out exactly where my food dollars are going, but I was after a different statistic this go round, namely to check how much of an impact the farmer's market and Locally Grown were having on our bottom line, and to find out what percentage of my food budget went to local foods during the October Eat Local Challenge. The organic raw milk I purchase for the kids is less expensive than the organic big-company milk I had previously bought at the supermarket, so of course I was somehow hoping that everything would even out when it was all said and done.
Of course I was wrong.
Looking back, it was easy to see that the CSA we participate in from May through July is a better bargain than buying individual items through the farmer's markets, and the reasons are obvious enough to pinpoint without much need for critical thinking. The issue for us though is that the CSA only lasts for three months, and I tend to still be hungry during the other nine months of the year. Last year, I fell off the wagon quickly enough when the CSA ran out, but that was because I hadn't bothered to fully research the other local food options. Now that I am much more aware of just how much is out there, and that the bounty includes eggs, dairy, milled items and even meat for The Carnivore, well, it turns into a war of Ethics vs Budgets. It is no wonder advocating local foods is viewed by many to be an elitist activity.
So you see why my perspective seems a bit skewed to me, right? At the market early this morning, with Little Miss Piggy bundled up in her Yoda hat and tucked into her sling, I slunk through the stands battling a crisis of conscience while slurping down a bite-sized empanada that I bought for a dollar. One dollar for essentially two bites. I abhor frivolous spending, but I want so badly to support my local farmers, to feed my family a safe and healthy diet, and to enjoy the superior taste of local and organic foods.
I'm going to need therapy. Thank you for listening.
And honest to goodness, this is not what I came here to whine about. [Whoops - I meant to say 'discuss intelligently.'] What I did intend to do was to share a peerless recipe for Chunky Jerusalem Artichoke and Potato Mash that I think would be ideal for Thanksgiving (which, as you know, is, like, tomorrow or something), but I was unable to take an appetizing photograph of the dish and so I used this snapshot of my farmer's market finds and, well, one thing led to another and I ended up on this tangent again...
Anyway, last week, shortly before I commenced this latest meltdown on the financial, environmental and ethical costs of food in today's world, I ordered some Jerusalem artichokes on a whim from Locally Grown. I had read about these tubers numerous times in food publications, but had, as far as I know, never actually run across one in real life. And I truly knew nothing about them when I placed my order, but was loathe to allow a little thing like ignorance stand in my way. So order them I did, though oddly enough under the circumstances, I have no memory of what I paid for them.
They aren't much to look at, and actually resemble ginger root so much that I suppose I may have mistaken one for the other in the produce section of the supermarket at some point and that might be why I assumed they were uncommon. Once I got them home, I gazed balefully at the little fellas for days, pushing them aside in the crisper drawer time after time before finally sitting down and searching for recipes.
'Twas more difficult than I expected to find a recipe that appealed to me. I came across soups that called for ingredients I didn't have on hand and countless recipes that had the odd and knobbly little root-thingies in the starring role with little more to support them than salt and lemon juice. I was too wary for those, instead hoping for more of a gradual introduction, so it was with some relief that I settled upon a Bon Appetit recipe for Chunky Jerusalem Artichoke and Potato Mash.
Sounds fun, doesn't it? Truly, the end result wasn't just merry, it was the life of the party. I fell deeply, madly in love with the dish, with it's rustic texture and it's earthy flavor. I'm telling you, this would be perfect for That Turkey Meal, just bitter enough to offset all those other cloyingly sweet side dishes, yet simultaneously interesting and unobtrusive. The Jerusalem artichokes add a delicately nutty flavor to the recipe and keep a firmer texture than the potatoes, lending a toothsome quality to each spoonful that saves the dish from being just another soft and mushy bowl of mashed potatoes. Best of all, at least as far as holiday meals go, the simplicity of the preparation make for a nearly effortless side dish that can be made ahead and reheated without compromise to either the flavor or the texture.
I really think you'll like it. Especially if you choose not to obsess over it.
CHUNKY JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE AND POTATO MASH (adapted from a Deborah Madison recipe printed in Bon Appetit, serves 6)
- 1 lb Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed clean and left unpeeled, cut into roughly 1-inch chunks
- 1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, left unpeeled (though you can peel them if you find potato peelings hinky), cut into roughly 2-inch pieces
- 1 Tbs coarse Kosher salt
- 3 Tbs unsalted butter
- Combine Jerusalem artichoes, potatoes and salt in large pot and cover with cold water.
- Bring to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 15 to 20 minutes until potatoes are tender.
- Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
- Return vegetables to pot and mash coarsely, adding reserved cooking liquid 1/2 cup at a time, until chunky mixture forms.
- Stir in butter, and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add more cooking liquid if needed to get the texture you like.