You could trace my interest in the local food movement to many sources; dozens of different experiences have contributed to my viewpoint now. But one of the earliest influences was my mother.
I frequently complain about my mother, as many daughters do, but one thing she did and did right was this: feed us. When other kids were getting Captain Crunch and Fruit Loops, we were told to read the packages – if sugar came too soon in the ingredients list, it went back on the shelf. While other kids got Spaghettios and boxed mac ‘n’ cheese, we ate chili and honest-to-goodness macaroni and cheese made with several real cheeses.
In a lot of ways, eating locally is just taking these good eating habits and building on them. Where Mom made her chili with canned tomatoes, I’ve learned how to use fresh (and compensate for the change in taste) to avoid the HFCS and the miles of travel that the food undergoes, for example.
One of my favorites that my mother – and many other moms, too – used to make often was scalloped potatoes, which I made for dinner last night. (I like that eating well and eating locally doesn’t have to mean giving up my comfort foods.) I had some “blue” potatoes (actually purple, all the way through), red potatoes (just on the outside), and fingerlings in white and red. I based what I made on a very basic recipe, the sort that I worked from when I was learning to cook from the red Betty Crocker binder in the farm kitchen.
I didn’t have local version of every ingredient – I’d run out of local onions and don’t have a local source for butter or flour yet – but I did have lots of good, local milk. My boyfriend was kind enough to introduce me to the Battenkill Creamery through the farmer’s market in Saratoga. Not only is their milk delicious, but it’s local on several levels – it comes from a farm in Salem, New York, it’s bottled and processed right there, and even the feed for the cows is grown on premises. It’s fantastically fresh and Emma’s been obsessed with it ever since I brought home the first bottle of cream top (non-homogenized, so the cream floats up).
So now, as often as possible, I get all my milk from Battenkill, and sometimes some ice cream too (so good). There’s something about giving your kids milk from a glass bottle that appeals to a mom.
Here’s the recipe the way I made it last night:
Scalloped Local Potatoes
3 pounds of potatoes
½ cup of whole wheat flour
Salt and pepper to taste
6 Tablespoons of butter, cut into small pieces
1quart of milk
Run the potatoes through the slicing blade of a food processor; cut the onion into chunks and do the same.
In a large bowl, mix the potatoes and onions with all other ingredients but the milk. (Alternatively, you can layer it and sprinkle everything on, but I find this way easier.)
Pour it into a greased 9 by 13 baking pan and pour the milk over the top. Bake at 425 degrees until the milk begins bubbling; then turn down to 375 and bake for another 45 minutes to an hour.
Of course, it also goes without saying that you can alter this in any number of ways; add garlic, or pieces of ham; sprinkle Parmesan or bread crumbs on top; add cheeses to the sauce to make Au Gratin. For my money, though, it doesn’t get any better than the classic Scalloped Potatoes with Ham – but I gave up meat for Lent.