4 October 2015 09:33PM
FOCA Turkey: (Sorry for the more than two wee hiatus. The flurry of activity around departure was complicated by the undependable Internet connections of hotels in old stone buildings.)
To economists, agriculture is a sector of the economy that produces a commodity, to be sold in bulk and processed. In my conception of a small farm—agriculture as we practice it—it is very much about growing products which are already food. We expect our customers either to bite into a fresh tomato, carrot or pear, treating it as food immediately, or to transform it rather directly into a meal by cooking it.
The complexity of taste of a vegetable is a function of the soil it grew in, the fertilizer and rain that nourished it, how much sunlight it received, and the point in its growth process when it is harvested. The taste and texture of our animal based foods derive from similar factors, and indirectly, through the vegetables the animals have eaten.
I recently found myself disappointed, if not infuriated, by an op ed in the New York Times in which a pundit whose ideas I usually respect enthused about our ability to produce industrial meats, meaning vegetable-based products that taste like real meats. As the flavor of such products increasingly approximates real animal products, this pundit suggested, we will be able to move away from environmentally damaging agribusiness methods and toward a more sustainable food system.
I found the premise insensitive from two perspectives. One, it indulged in the scientific hubris that by using industrial methods, we really can replicate the taste of real foods. I think that’s just baloney. As we’ve repeatedly learned, scientific “improvements” in food always come at a sacrifice of flavor, texture and other qualities we value. This premise completely contradicts the valuable lessons taught us by the locavore movement, that particular aspects of local environment and agricultural practice produce very particular flavors which will never resemble a product created to satisfy the taste requirements of one particular food scientist or the homogenized uniformity of a product created to appeal to an average consumer, based on taste testing with a representative focus group.
Second, the op ed reduced the consumption of food to ingesting the fuel necessary to keep our bodies operating mechanically, rather than recognizing the social meaning we invest in food. We derive sustenance from enjoying good flavors, from sharing our enjoyment with others, from making food for those we wish to share our lives with, and from eating communally and participating in the social rituals that accompany a meal.
I’ve thought about this opinion piece a fair amount in the last week as we’ve traveled around Turkey. Sometimes I’ve been reminded, to my dismay, of all the ways in which modern society has already devalued food and its preparation. Turkish food standards are generally very high. This is a society that puts great emphasis on eating excellent food, carefully prepared and sensitively served. Yet throughout the trip so far, we’ve been struck by the prevalence in our salads of thick-skinned industrial tomatoes that look perfect but taste only vaguely like tomatoes. Having enjoyed the last six weeks of incredibly sweet and complex heirloom tomatoes from our farm, it is particularly disappointing to be served these hard red slices. If our industrial food engineers cannot even create a tomato that tastes like a tomato, how can we expect them to succeed at making a soybean fiber taste like a grass fed T-bone steak? We’ve also seen the stark contrast between the excellent level of food prepared by Turks for other Turks, in the less touristed restaurants and regions, and the food prepared by Turks for foreign tourists in towns taken over by the tourist economy.
The display cases of appetizers may look the same as the ones in restaurants catering to Turks, but what arrives at the tourist’s table very often barely resembles the Turkish dishes the tourists think they’re tasting. Recipes are stripped down to basics, de-spiced,and homogenized. Freshness is not a priority. Some places have no compunction about serving appetizers that have been sitting amongst others in the same display case for so long that each begins to taste like the other.
The association between clientele and quality is not absolute—we had some great food at the Istanbul Airport domestic transit terminal and some very mundane food in restaurants catering to rich Turks—but it’s pretty clear that there ia a correlation between the quality of food and the degree to which the preparer cares about satisfying the tastes of the person he or she serves.
Of course, if you want to see where the real meaning lies in producing and consuming food, you need to take it out of the restaurant context, which accounts for a minority of food consumption and introduces commercial complexities, and examine it at home.
One of our best and most meaningful meals of this trip so far was our visit to the Ayrancis, a peasant family in the tiny, subsistence level village of Kale, near Demre, where Peter’s good friend Nuket, a woman in her thirties, together with her mother, entertained us for lunch.
As a good host might, so as not to leave us languishing on our own, Nuket shared the food preparation process with us. She arranged a cloth on the floor of the main room in their modest cottage and seated herself cross-legged with her ingredients arrayed before her. She chopped parsley and scallions, mixed them with crumbled white cheese, dried mint, and salt, and kneaded a dough. She then moved to the “hayat”, the predecessor of our kitchen, which translates as “room of life,” where both hearth and water source are located. There, again seated on the floor, she set up a wood fire. With a thin rolling pin, she rolled out the dough on a round wooden cutting surface with legs, about three feet across, until the dough was almost the size of the board and almost as thin as a crepe. She sprinkled the herbs, scallions and cheese on half of the surface and folded over the other half, sealing them both shut. These pancake-like delicacies are known in Turkey as “gozlemler.” She then transferred them to a greased metal griddle over the fire. Her mother, also squatting on the floor, used a long wooden pallet to monitor their progress and to flip and remove them when necessary, while Nuket created the next gozleme. As they came off the griddle, her mother basted both sides with melted butter
Once the gozlemler were done, Nuket grilled chunks of goat and tiny goat chops, which were left from the goat the family had gotten from nomadic herders at their “yayla” (summer grazing grounds) for the recent, major holiday of “Kurban Bayram”, or Feast of the Sacrifice. The goat, the gozlemler, and Nuket’s mother’s tiny stuffed grape leaves, filled with rice, nuts and spices, became our meal. It was delicious, but more than that, it was appreciated for all the trouble taken to obtain the ingredients, simple though they were, and the effort that transformed them into something one would want to share with family and friends.
Can you imagine the same event with manufactured steaks of soy fiber that taste almost like real steak? No, that kind of nutrition is more appropriate to an atomized society in which food is reduced to fuel alone, and is swallowed while staring at a computer screen alone.
Surely there are other ways, through better agricultural practices and more sparing consumption of meat, to be environmentally responsible, yet still enjoy food as the full cultural expression it ought to be.
EDIBLES: Kyle is holding down the fort through the torrential rains, threatened hurricanes and the like and can take and fill orders: firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-810=4908
TURKEY ORDER TIME:
If you haven’t yet reserved your Thanksgiving turkey, now’ s the time, before we leave for (where else?) Turkey. We’ve been down this road before, those who wait are disappointed. Our turkey order form is below.
EDIBLES KEEP COMING UNTIL FROST
BELL STYLE YELLOW AND GREEN PEPPERS, LONG CHILI PEPPERS, $2/LB.
ASIAN PEARS, $2.50/LB.
LEEKS, $1 EACH
COLLARD GREENS, $2/BAG. The weather says summer, the calendar says September, and the collards will be way sweeter after a frost, but for those who can’t wait…
MUSTARD GREENS $2/BAG
EGGPLANT ping tung long or diamond black, $2/lb. a few still coming
WHITE TURNIPS, $2/lb
TOMATILLOS: green Mexican husked tomatoes, $3/lb
HEIRLOOM TOMATOES: Black Krim, Brandywine, Rose de Beirne, $2/lb, still a precious few, perhaps
MEATS: Before we get to other vegetables, please note that we have ample beef. Twenty pound sample packs can be ordered at $200 per pack. We will be doing another group of lambs this fall. If you’d like a whole or half lamb, please let us know. If you’d like cuts from the last batch: Leg of Lamb and loin chops, $16/lb, shoulder roast $14 a lb, Pigs that went to market July 15 are fully processed. Sample packs, 20 lbs. for $200, smoked bacon, $10/lb, pork chops, $12/lb., butt roasts $10/lb, spare ribs $7/lb, smoked hocks, $6/lb., breakfast sausage, $10/lb., chorizon and hot italian sausage, $9/lb.
EGGS: $5 per dozen.
CARROTS, $1 FOR BUNCH OF SIX
SUMMER SQUASH, Trombocino and Zucchini, $1/lb
SWISS CHARD: $2/bag
BEANS, now flat romanos in addition to haricots verts, $3/lb
BEETS, Chiogga (striped) and deep red, some golden. They’re getting big, but a ew wave is also beginning $3/lb
Mint 75 cents a bunch
Parsley, 75 cents a bunch
Chives, 75 cents a bunch
Shiso, green or red, 10 leaves for $1
Grape leaves: roll your own, 10 for $1
Sorrel: It goes great with eggs, $3/bag
GOOSE FOR CASSOULET: Those of you who missed the chance to return to the Dickensian ideal of Christmas by roasting a goose for the occasion still have a chance to enjoy our lovely Toulouse geese, which went to market on Dec. 16, and are still freshly frozen.Â Roast them or make confit for cassoulet. Most range between 7 and 8 lbs. $10/lb.
AND OTHER BIRDS BECKON: We have lovely Freedom Ranger chickens, most between 4 and 6 lbs., with the more complex flavor that results from the slower growth and enjoyment of foraging of this French-developed meat chicken. $6/lb. We have French Guinea fowl as well, This year’s fowl are meaty and delectable, most between 3 and 4 lbs., $7/lb. Also Muscovy ducks, $7/lb, some quite tiny in the 2 to 3 lb. range and others around 5 lbs. All these birds were harvested in October and November. Birds from past seasons are also in the freezer for $2 less per pound.
PORK: Eating at Cochon during French Quarter Fest has of course reignited our pork passion. We are now selling smoked bacon and breakfast sausage at $10/lb. Our 20 lb. pork packs are available at $200 with a selection of chops, roasts, ribs, hocks, sausage and smoked bacon. Pork chops also sold separately at $10/lb.
Last batch of beef by the cut. Though the new beef has arrived, we’re giving priority to sample boxes first, and then will sell cuts of what’s not out the door in the sample backs. For those who want cuts from the last batch,
Ground beef, $7.50 for a 1.5 lb. tube, and now some 1 lb. tubes at $5. (All from one cow…. ours!)
Sirloin or rib steaks, $14/lb.
Stir fry or stew beef, $5/lb, Chuck roast, $5/lb
Top or bottom round roast, $8/lb,
Sirloin tip roast, $12/lb
LAMB loin chops or leg of lamb, $14/lb, shoulder roast, $12/lb, ground lamb, $10/lb
Peacock feathers: $1 each, a dozen for $10. Our peacock is presently molting, so new feathers are being gathered daily
COMPOST SEASON CONTINUES: Our mountain of compost, a mix of cow, sheep, turkey and chicken poop with plenty of vegetable matter mixed in, is ready to be applied to your garden. $6/ approx. 40 lb. bag, and we can sell by the truckload if you’re interested as well.
TURKANA FARMS, LLC
110 Lasher Ave
Germantown, NY 12526
email@example.com 518-537 3815
Please check here if you would like to receive email offerings in season:______________
Number of turkeys desired: ___________
Approx. weight desired ________
(Note: the smallest turkeys will be about 7 lbs, and we will have a very large supply of 8 to 9 lb hens. The toms will be more in the 12-15 lb. range, only a few of the largest dressing out at 17-18 lbs. )
Pick up place: ___at the farm; ___Lower Manhattan___a point along the Taconic Parkway. $5 surcharge per bird for off farm pickup
The birds will be slaughtered Saturday, Sunday or Monday before Thanksgiving. The birds will be available fresh, not frozen. Pickup will be the Tuesday or Wed at the farm, Tuesday afternoon along the Taconic, Tuesday evening at 125 Cedar St., PH, New York, NY (near the World Trade Center)
Please send a deposit of $40 per bird to hold your reservation to Turkana Farms, LLC, 110 Lasher Ave., Germantown, NY, 12526. The balance due will be paid at the time of the pick up.