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What Were/Are Your Favorite Fresh Food Living Situations?

Passadumkeg Jun 20, 2008 12:00 AM

I was reading the supermarket meat and chicken thread earlier this evening. In the middle of the night I started thinking how lucky I have been in the fresh food department most of my life.
As a kid, in central New Jersey, I hunted and fished all the time. Catching crabs and digging clams are fond summer memories. My dad's cousin had (and still has) a farm and we had free pick your rights for all crops. In college in Pa. 5 guys, who loved to hunt and fish, lived in an old farm house, were big Hemingway fans, and our freezer was stuffed w/ pheasant, deer and trout and we had a wonderful farmer's market. Viet Nam, a pass. New Mexico, elk, trout, crayfish and gathering pinon nuts, a Mormon food coop and a master's degree fueled on 100 lbs of pinto beans and 4 bushels of chiles (2 red & 2 green) fresh from the farm. Moved to Norway, lived on a small island, had a gill net, ate tons of fish and crabs, island lamb, made beer, wine and currant concentrate, picked berries and mushrooms and ate a lot of reindeer. Finland, more of the same with moose meat, salmon, herring, burbot roe and tons of self -picked mushrooms, dried in the sauna. Maine, Island life again,raised some little boys, worked summers as a sternman on a lobster boat, clammed, fished and hunted, ate tons of free crab, picked berries & mushrooms and started a big garden. Down to Bolivia! The trees in the yard gave us bananas, red mangoes, grapefruit, oranges and tangerines and the garden and open air market fresh fruits and veggies. Fished for piranahs and other fish and got fresh lambs and beef from our neighbor's ranch. Back to Maine and more of the same as earlier with the addition of a lot of deer meat. I worked 9 hours in our garden today with our wonderful 18 year old son (wife still has school) in preparation for a week's visit to my aged mother and a visit to the cousin's farm. My poor old bod is so sore I can't sleep, but life is good. :) What is your fresh food life and memories?

  1. m
    mlgb Jun 25, 2008 11:22 AM

    We lived in Kingston, Jamaica from about 1958 to 1962. All sorts of tropical fruits grew on our lot and the neighbors (mangos, avocados, tamarind, some wild sort of plum, otaheite apples, naseberries, soursop, sweetsop). The fruits that were gathered in the hillsides were sold in the markets (guineps, akee, star apples). Of course lots of sugarcane, bananas and pineapple. We had locally raised lamb and grass fed beef, usually grilled over charcoal (not the briquet kind, either). Went down to the shore for freshly caught lobster and crab boiled in seawater. Ate a fair amount of kingfish. Used to love sea grapes and coconut water (and the jelly inside green coconuts). Had a few chickens for a while but eventually ate them. Still love spicy food and ginger beer! Our housekeeper made things like bammy, johnny cake, and rice and peas.

    1. buttertart Jun 24, 2008 10:41 AM

      Highlights -
      SW Ontario, from local farms: Red Haven and Elberta peaches (my mother who thought it was a bit vulgar to talk about food knew the exact season of each peach grown in our area), Bing cherries, exquisitely-flavored strawberries, raspberries as big as the tip of my thumb grown by my cousin, potatoes grown by the same person and cooked immediately upon being dug, and corn and TOMATOES better than any since, period. Especially the late-season tomatoes with a pointed blossom end, have never seen this in the States. Morels by the shopping bagfull foraged by my dad, venison and moose he hunted occasionally.

      Taipei: Pineapple, lychees, small yellow watermelons, green oranges and lemons, custard apples, snow apples aka wax apples, the most refreshing fruit...arbutus...

      NYC's greenmarket produce is very nice but most of it does not measure up to les fruits et légumes d'antan.

      1. lisavf Jun 24, 2008 07:14 AM

        Wow, so many interesting stories. We had a garden tended by my grandfather, and the one memory I’ll always treasure is standing with him in the garden, picking sweet peas, popping open the pods, and eating them right then and there. They were absolutely the best-tasting food I’d ever had, and the short pea season only made me anticipate it even more each year. He grew all of the other usual suspects – tomatoes, beans, zucchini, onions, etc. – but peas were always my favorite. And I learned from this that fresher is better. The peas never tasted as good the next day. Nothing ever does, really.

        I had a very large extended family, and one gent, a family doctor, had a small farm (maybe 20 acres, I’d guess), where I spent a good deal of time in the summers. He planted corn and other crops, and he also raised chickens. This leads to my second fresh food memory. He’d buy a couple hundred chicks, and when they reached a certain age (not sure what that was), he’d caponize them. When I was old enough, maybe 12 or so, I was invited to take part in this annual ritual. Doc would crate all of the chickens the day before, and my job was to pull a chicken out of the crate and bring it over to one of the two “operating tables” that were set up in the coop. I had to learn how and where to hold them so that the “surgeon” could cut in the right spot. Then it was a couple of plucked feathers, a wipe with a Lysol solution, a slice of the scalpel, a flick of the removed parts, and I’d set them down by the water and feed. This went on all day. It was warm in the coop and it smelled of Lysol, feed, earth… good smells. Then in the fall, Doc would bring my mom a couple of freshly killed capons. That was when I understood the connection between the “cute” animals on the farm and the food we eat. And boy, did those birds taste good, because I knew I played a role in making them into the juicy birds they ended up as. Sadly, as I grew into an insolent teenager, I lost interest, and then Doc stopped raising chickens. I’d love to have that experience again.

        1. soypower Jun 23, 2008 09:32 PM

          The house i grew up in had an amazing backyard. We had several fruit trees: apples, pears, prunes, and cherries. And a little shed that had concord grape vines threaded around it's roof...When my grandmother was alive and living with us she planted korean chili peppers, red and green leaf lettuce, green onions, cucumbers and strawberries. We also had a little pond-like area that my mom would use to grow korean watercress...

          Growing up in a korean household, the women of my family went on foraging expeditions where they gathered: bracken fiddleheads, different types of seaweed, various mushrooms, blackberries, and watercress.

          From the ocean, us kids would turn over large rocks and gather all those little crabs lying underneath while the adults were either digging for clams, fishing or gathering seaweed. My mom would stew the little crabs in soy sauce and garlic and we'd eat them whole.

          One year, my dad booked us a cabin on the beach for a labor day weekend. Every morning, the tide would go out and there would be a huge expanse of oysters...We thought it was strange until a ranger saw my mom shucking the oysters and fined her for each and every oyster...luckily, we had already been feasting on plenty of oysters for 2 days that we didn't have to pay for...

          I miss those days...The last time I remember not paying for food was either the last time I went to my mom's house or eating samples at Whole Foods...not sure which.

          7 Replies
          1. re: soypower
            Sam Fujisaka Jun 23, 2008 09:57 PM

            The Asian in America experience is quite the same for all of us. Beautiful.

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
              Caroline1 Jun 24, 2008 07:20 AM

              I suspect it's beautiful for all immigrants, Sam. But occasionally it's truly exceptiopnal for some. Last week I ordered delivery from a local Thai/Japanese restaurant, and the delivery guy was fun to talk to, so I asked him a question I've been asking immigrants for at least a decade: Was America anything like you expected when you arrived? In the hundreds of people I've asked, he is the first to ever answer "better!" All other responses were a resounding "No!" What made him special, and touchingly so, is that he came here at age 7. His family was escaping the Khmer Rouge nightmare of Cambodia. I cannot imagine the joy he felt at that age finding safety, let alone plentiful food. But... I don't think the joys of emigration are specific to any particular group. My family emigrated from England, and felt great joy at their good fortune. So for me, all the things that you and others express about growing up in California are universal to those of us who were so blessed. But alas, that California is nearly gone.

              1. re: Caroline1
                t
                torty Jun 24, 2008 04:23 PM

                Actually Caroline, even in the burbs of Los Angeles I have witnessed hispanic and asian women foraging for loquats, greens, and those odd red fruits that grow on the waxy bushes often found in industrial parks. I know there are pesticide issues, but it is heartening to see their joy at the discoveries. Plus all those goofy people who have citrus trees dripping with fruit, hanging over the fence, who probably buy "lemon in a bottle"- I love seeing people help themselves because I know they will appreciate the bounty. I also love to drive past homes that have pitched the concept of "the front lawn" and are growing veggies as well as the lush community gardens. Granted I also cry during sentimental commercials, but I get teary seeing the Japanese farm stand put out their "sold out for today" sign by 10 a.m. as I see the crops in the background.

                1. re: torty
                  Caroline1 Jun 24, 2008 09:42 PM

                  My problem is with the word "foraging." And anyone who has a problem with "preachy" should probably stop reading now. Oh, and the preachy isn't aimed at you, torty. I'm just venting the frustrations of life as I see it.

                  On my father's side, I'm a fifth generation native born Californian. Except I'm not, because our California no longer exists. I grew up in the "city" of Chula Vista. The "city" was three blocks long, the two southern blocks had islands down the middle of the street studded with tall palm trees, and the Sunkist Packing House marked the southern tip of the city. That's where the "city" suddenly gave way to acres and acres of lemon orchards that touched on acres and acres of truck farms.

                  After WWII those acres and acres of lemon orchards were sacrificed to Italian lemons imported at prices lower than they could be grown locally as part of the Marshall Plan to help the rest of the world recover from the economic ravages of war.

                  The truck farms moved in and covered that land. My dad retired from the Navy soon after the war, and for as long as it lasted, his business was designing and building vast custom irrigation systems for the huge truck farms of the Japanese American community. Golden years. After the harvest and before plowing, the farmers would open their fields for anyone to come in and help themselves to what was left. Tomatoes too large (and occasionally too small) to ship. How many here have ever had to cut a slice of beefsteak tomato into fourths and still had each quarter hang out the sides of a full sized sandwich?

                  California soil is rich. We had an entire hedge of geraniums down the street side ("road" actually) of our house that completely hid the wire fence they clung to. When they grew too tall or wide, my grandfather would cut them down and throw the cuttings down the side of the hill, where they would take root and refuse to die. I remember friends visiting from the east coast spending a day marveling and taking movies and photographs, all the while commenting how much a potted geranium cost "back home."

                  Great aunts and uncles on my father's side owned a huge chunk of what is now the sprawling city of Santa Ana, Orange County. They were a major part of why Orange County is called Orange County. Acres and acres and acres of oranges. Now acres and acres and acres of concrete. And I'm sure people forage in both of these areas of my own long-ago youth for those plants and trees that are still managing to hang on and do their thing. The soil is rich beneath all that asphalt and concrete.

                  I don't go back to California, because "my" California isn't there anymore. But -- and this is the preachy part -- it just doesn't make any kind of sense to me that arguably the richest soil in America is no longer used to grow crops to feed the masses, both here and abroad. And when I want the best tasting tomato I can find in my supermarket, there are none that are big enough to cover a slice of bread, and chances are their poor little roots have never touched soil. They're hydroponically grown, probably under artificial light.

                  What's wrong with this picture? Years ago I wrote what I called "Caroline's Law." It states that "any bureaucracy is a minimum of 10 IQ points dumber than the stupidest person who works there." When you have to drive through thousands of square miles of unfarmable open space to get to the most farmable land in the country only to find it covered with "crumbling and pot hole ridden civilatization," I think Americans (and possibly the whole human race) are giving bureaucracies a deep run for the money!

                  Preaching over. Thank you for reading. Oh, and ChowCops, if you think this ain't about food, you missed something somewhere!

                  1. re: Caroline1
                    Sam Fujisaka Jun 24, 2008 10:32 PM

                    What became the peach farm and packing house outside of Clovis, California, after WWII went to my uncle, brother of five sisters (including my mom) who worked hard but didn't get that farm. Irrigated peaches, both from Sierra run-off and cheaply pumped groundwater. We eventually lost out to increasing input and labor costs and low prices paid for premium fruit. Ironically, while I was in places like northern Laos working to help alleviate rural poverty, immigrant hard-working Hmong had bought the land and profited 5000% when the land was finally zoned residential and then paved over!

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                      Caroline1 Jun 24, 2008 11:46 PM

                      Sam, I think that's what may be called "poetic injustice." But what is stranger (or more frustrating) than life?

                      On an associated -- but only indirectly -- note, have you ever heard of "flat peaches." I think that's what they're called. Bought some at a supermarket two weeks ago. California grown. White peaches about the diameter of a good sized apricot, but flat, like someone set a book on top of them while they were growing. And amazingly easy to peel. I'd never heard of them before and -- unfortunately -- haven't seen them since, but what absolutely incredible flavor! Have you heard of them? Or do you happen to know if it's a new variety? What I wouldn't give for a tree full of those!

                      1. re: Caroline1
                        Caroline1 Jun 25, 2008 08:03 AM

                        duh-uh...! Google is my friend! They're an heirloom Chinese peach that is making a come back. Also alled "donut peacheds" and "bagel peaches." If anyone sees them, buy a bushel and run. They are the most incredibly flavorful fruit I have had in decades. Truly wonderful!

          2. c
            cimui Jun 23, 2008 08:29 PM

            ah, all of you need to stop it. you are making me so jealous!

            my mother and i used to plant a gigantic vegetable garden when i was growing up in ky, and we'd have more cucumber, tomato, eggplant, zucchini, peppers and beans than we knew what to do with. we'd give as much as we could away to our neighbors and still had too much. we'd go as a family and pick our own strawberries and blueberries in the summer, and apples and pears in the fall. my mom and i would cut young chives in the backyard, which sprouted all over like weeds. my friend mara's mom was from eastern KY coal mining folks, and she taught us how to make young dandelion green soup, which people ate in really hard times. my friend, angela, whose folks were all farmers, born and raised, and i would help her granddaddy at the farmer's market on weekends and he would send us home at the end of the day with an enormous bag of corn, which my buddy luke's mom, who grew up on a farm in austria, taught us how to shuck, barefoot in the backyard while luke's little brother ran around squirting us with water pistols (before super soakers were invented).

            we spent summers in cali, where my grandparents still live, and i would spend all my time climbing the apricot tree in the backyard and eating myself sick from all those gorgeous, perfectly tree ripened fruits. and then there were her figs and nectarine trees, which i also raided, almost as fast as the birds.

            now i'm gazing out of my nyc apt window thinking of how nice it would be to plant a window box with tomatoes next year -- and maybe one of those kitchen table planters for growing herbs. :)

            3 Replies
            1. re: cimui
              Sam Fujisaka Jun 23, 2008 08:35 PM

              Didn't know you're Colombian. I can say hello to your grandparents here in Cali if you like.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                c
                cimui Jun 23, 2008 08:58 PM

                ah sorry -- cali as in california -- tho i'm sure some people believe cali, colombia really should be a part of california. after all, baja california is ours, isn't it? manifest destiny! heigh ho!

                1. re: cimui
                  Sam Fujisaka Jun 23, 2008 09:59 PM

                  Thank you. Funny, I was born and grew up in California. Can't quite get a grip on Cali = California (especially since I live in Cali).

            2. Sam Fujisaka Jun 23, 2008 07:34 PM

              As a kid in Fresno and in the backyard: pecans, walnuts, avocados, oranges, grapefruit, asparagus, pomegranate, loquats, kumquats, Japanese pears and apples, grape leaves, mint. Peaches and oranges from the family farms. Gathered: water cress, Pismo clams, abalone. Hunted (and prepared and ate): pheasant, dove, quail, geese, deer, and boar. Fished: trout, bass, sea bass... And the restaurants before the chains!!! Mexican, Armenian, Japanese, Basque, Chinese, Italian, German, Polish, ... My mom and the aunts cooked as well as anyone on the planet then and since--Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Filipino, Italian, Swedish, even "American"! Both sides of my family driven and obsessed by food--lots of skills by each of the cousins, several restaurants. Poi and lao lao and Kailua pig from Hawaii side folks. All based on what you could grow--or buy the best of.

              Grad school: blackberries and "feral" apples; but my wife and I cooked with gusto all the time, every time. Lots of entertaining. I ate well in the Oregon State Pen (where I was looking at the lives of lifers) where the low security farm produced great fresh foods, from meat to all fruits and veggies.

              Bolivia: cheese from the altiplano, fresh juices, great rustic breads, great wines, BBQ's of whole splayed goats. Empandas, saise, lots of meat, lots of home cooking to remain healthy. Tarija was an agricultural center--great fresh, mostly organic, foods!

              Asia: an explosion of foods! Based in the Philippines where I cooked a lot (95% of the time)--such great sea fish (that the Japanese somehow didn't get), tropical fruit, and vegetables. Also loved and learned my versions of bulalo, fresh lumpia, sinigang (e.g, ng kanduli), embutido, dina-gu-an, Bicol express, BBQ chicken feet, sisig, kare kare, pusit, and much more.

              And, by working in those places—ate and learned the dishes of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia, Pakistan, Madagascar, Kenya, Burma, and the like. From peasant Viet stuffed sour gourd to banquet Chinese duck to Tandoori rote to laab!! All foods of people who live close to production.

              Then back to Latin America--to Colombia where it has been mostly cooking better and for more people based on more and more good produce--while learning more and incorporating stuff from the Amazon, Peru, and Brasil, and, best, from Mexico and Guatemala.

              And street and peasant and farmers’ foods all along the way! Ricefield rats to sun-dried Bhutanese pork fat to deep fried sparrows. From broiled tuna collars to deep fried bugs in Mindanao. From smoked capybara to manisoba in the Amazon, from laab and khao niyao in Lao to chicken piri piri in Tanzania or roti and mutton on the highways of Pakistan to morning pho in Vietnam or tamales in Guatemala or a sudado de pescado here in the Alemeda of Cali…all foods that are fully local from production to preparation to the love that they evoke!

              I’ve far too often managed to turn my personal life into s&*t, but have had an incredible food journey along the way--and almost all based on local fresh foods and local long-standing cltures and traditions.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                c
                cimui Jun 24, 2008 07:08 AM

                Really interesting. I knew you were well traveled, but the range of places you've lived is astonishing.

                I have to ask about the ricefield rats! There's a certain justice / smart preservation of calories to eating the rats that eat your rice -- but my guess is that most people don't eat rats b/c of the diseases they may carry. Should I start eyeing all those critters in the NYC subway? And if not those, their country cousins in the Catskills?

                1. re: cimui
                  Sam Fujisaka Jun 24, 2008 07:38 AM

                  The ricefield rats are consumed in the vast rainfed lowland rice areas of Burma where populations (of humans) are low. People eat only rats trapped way out in the rice fields. They would never think of eating a rat trapped from around human habitations. The rats consumed are pure rice fed--and yes, there is justice because people do suffer large losses from the rats. Those Catskills rats might be OK--but again thay might be in too close association with humans.

              2. s
                Springhaze2 Jun 23, 2008 11:49 AM

                I live in northwest new jersey, when we were kids we knew where there was a patch of wild strawberries. I have never found cultivated strawberries to match the wonderful flavor of those berries. I can often still find wild blueberries, blackberries and raspberries in NJ, but haven't found a wild strawberry patch in years.

                1. vonwotan Jun 23, 2008 05:54 AM

                  For the overall experience I would have to say Northern Virginia. We were surrounded by organic farms, with free range eggs at fifty cents per dozen, a wonderful spring fed trout farm, and local abatoir for the neighboring farmers. We had a ready supply of fresh herbs from the neighbor's greenhouse and wonderful produce from the farmstands and farmers markets...

                  1. mamaciita Jun 22, 2008 08:30 PM

                    My most gratifying fresh food experience ever is plucking greens out of our vegetable patch for a dinner salad.

                    Fresh, warm tomatoes come later in the season, but nothing compares to the greens.

                    1. v
                      Val Jun 22, 2008 06:21 AM

                      You have such great memories! Central Jersey=Monmouth County, by any chance? That's where I'm from. I only had a friend whose grandmother lived in Bay Head and I would occasionally go with her crabbing, great fun. My parents were totally 100% food dysfunctional so no help there for me; had to rely on friends for food inspiration.

                      1. Scargod Jun 21, 2008 07:33 PM

                        As I mentioned (above), I have gardens. This evening I improvised when we had two unexpected guests; one a vegetarian. I picked sugar snaps, broccoli, onion, zuchinni, zuchinni blossoms, thyme and chives to make various dishes. I quickly cooked dried black beans and incorporated epazote, pasillo chile pepper and fresh green onion; for us (omnivores), I added bacon grease. I made blue corn (from Arizona), jalapeno infused/yogurt cornbread. I steamed fresh sweet corn. I quickly grilled a Bell and Evans hormone-free, free range grown, etc, etc, chicken (meaning expensive & good tasting) with chipotle-Italian style seasoning.
                        We had a great time and I enjoyed the challenge.
                        It is very satisfying to create a garden, tend it with one's own hands and then share its bounty with friends and neighbors.
                        To me, this is the essence of how we eat and live, right now. This is culminating my mother's training, and influence of many good cooks and gardeners, most of whom were women. My younger brother, too, who is a great "Q" cook; and a grandfather, who was a great farmer. Very satisfying!

                        1. a
                          Anne Jun 21, 2008 05:54 PM

                          Thanks for starting this wonderful thread! So many great stories...
                          I spent every summer of the first half of my life at the New Jersey shore. My grandfather would go crabbing---3 times a day, bringing home at least a bushelful of blue claws each time. Knowing my grandfather, crab was probably the first solid food I ever ate. Dinner was often a pile of cooked crabs on the newspaper-covered table, served with nothing but a nutcracker for the claws. Still my favorite meal, although I get it far less frequently now that I'm living in the Midwest!
                          However, for the last 20+ years I've had my own organic fruit/vegetable garden. We live on a 1/3acre lot in a small city (6,000)in central IL where we grow much of our own produce. I start almost everything from seed, and try to have something to eat from our gardens throughout the gardening season. The gardens start producing in late April (spinach), and we'll still be harvesting in November (winter squashes and Brussels sprouts). I love to try new recipes using the bounty from our gardens. Right now we're eating a lot of sugar snap peas. I grow small amounts of a wide variety of herbs, fruits and vegetables. Some gets put into the freezer, and I've made refrigerator pickles, but other than that I don't do much preserving. We just enjoy the fresh produce as it comes in. Life is good!

                          1. Caroline1 Jun 21, 2008 01:04 PM

                            I think we're all imprinted for life by the foods of our childhood. Growing up in southern California was a foodie's delight. In our yard (7.5 acres) we had apricots, loquats, black figs, green figs, guavas, and a gazillion local truck farms for fantastic produce to make up for what we didn't grow. Lemons from the orchard across the road, valencia and naval oranges from family orchards farther north, along with off the tree avocados and walnuts. Neighbors would bring us passion fruit and fresh lychees. About a month ago, I discovered "La Yogurt Sabor Latino" that comes in two flavors; mango and passon fruit. Oh the memories that flooded back with that first taste of passion fruit!

                            When the homeland hysteria of WWII "relocated" all of the local truck farmers and their families (among many others) to Utah for the "duration" of the war (Mom, how long is a "duration?"), everyone was urged to plant a Victory Garden for the war effort. My grandfather put in a doozie. Carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, beets, peanuts, soy beans, English peas, blackeye peas, beans, string beans, celery, artichokes, asparagus, incredible tomatoes... Well, if he could get seeds for it, we ate it! Oh, and sunflowers. The kind that grow to eight feet tall with flowers that are more than a foot across. And, as the song says, "Corn as high as an elephant's eye!"

                            Fresh raw milk from my best friend's dad's dairy. Mother made our butter from the cream.

                            We raised chickens in a huge pen, and a handy by-product was our own eggs. Rabbits in hutches, which I was taught to dispatch with a "rabbit punch," then skin and dress. And almost every year at least one turkey for Thanksgiving. God, I hated turkeys! It was my job to gather the eggs first thing in the morning before going to school. No big deal, because if it was raining, it could wait until I got home or it stopped raining. Except when we had a turkey. They are such stupid animals, and when it rained, I had to treck way out to the chicken coop to make sure the stupid turkey had gone inside with the hens and wasn't standing outside looking up at the sky to see where the rain was coming from. Turkeys truly have drowned doing that! And they're the only bird you can herd, just like sheep. In really good years, I would talk the family into ham for Thanksgiving, and a goose for Christmas. Geese are waterproof, so who cares?

                            And it was during the war that I learned that you can feed a cow green grass and get white milk, but you cannot feed a cow tomatoes with the same result. An old lady who lived up the road had her cow stake in our yard, but neglected to feed it when it ate everything green within reach. So Alton Brimmage and I, both about nine, went across the street and gathered a full flat of culled tomatoes for the poor hungry beastie. And the poor hungry beastie loved them! But boy, was the old lady pissed when she trudged up our back porch steps at six the next morning the next day toting a bucket of "cream of tomato" milk! Who knew? The cow was hungry and we were just trying to help. Ever since then, I've wondered what would have happened if we'd given the cow a bucket of Hershey bars...

                            Then I grew up and got married. In Biloxi, while my first husband was in air traffic control school at Keesler AFB, the neighbor across the back fence was a shrimp boat captain, and about once a week he'd call me over and hand me a big galvanized bucket nearly to the brim full of shrimp. And occasionally we'd walk out on a train trestle near Gulfport to fish. In about five trips, I think we caught one five ounce fish, whatever it was, but oh.... The numerous times we ALMOST landed blue crabs! We were about thirty feet abve the water, and the crabs would hold onto the line and leisurely eat our bate, then let go and fall back into the water about ten feet from being landed. But there was a little Italian restuarant in Biloxi that served great crabs for the price of dirt, so we survived the frustration quite nicely.

                            Then we moved to Turkey, and I was back in produce heaven! But some parts of eating were a little unusual. It was maybe a couple of years at most since the CIA and the Air Force (SAC) had established the base with a mission to fly U-2 spy planes over the USSR, and there was no commissary on base. Occasionally the base exchange would have a few items like evaporated and/or powdered milk, some Spam, plus junk food.. There had been a recen disaster -- can't remember exactly what, but I think it was drought (maybe) -- that had almost wiped out all of the cattle in the whole country, so beef was about impossible to find on the local economy. But huge flocks of sheep were herded into the city everyday and slaughtered in the butcher shops, then the preferred cut was removed as consumers requested it. I think I was a half hour off the plane when a neighbor came over and told me she'd hired a housekeeper for me so I could send her shopping for meat, and warned me to stay out of Turkish butcher shops until a commissary was opened on base. Well, the butcher shops wouldn't have stopped me, but not speaking the language did! It hadn't crossed my mind to ship a kitchen stove in our hosehold goods, so I cooked on a single burner alcohol stove and/or an Aladin kerosene space heater until we could get a proper stove Oh, and a "Black Angus" electric rotisserie. Oooops! Nearly forgot about the elaborate copper and anodized aluminum fancy schmancy "buffet" electric frying pans I had. They were gorgeous, if not ideal. No idea what happened to them. So thus armed, I taught myself how to cook lamb so it tasted like beef, pork, ham and even, on occasion, lamb!

                            The produce was incredible. My biggest problem was trying to find out what things were called. Not all fruits and vegetables could be found in any of the three Turkish/English dictionaries I had on hand. There was some local "intollerance" for Americans at the time, so Sabahat -- and later Fatma -- didn't feel comfortable taking me shopping for produce. Other kinds of shopping were okay. Fatma, the chef that great fortune and our dear friend Sureya brought to me, used to make a green bean, lamb, and tomato stew that was to die for! Too many incrdible "good eats" to name here. I LOVE Turkish food!

                            I think I was there about four days when my downstairs neighbor (Turkish, married to an American) came to my door with one shrimp in hand to ask if I'd like her to send her shrimp guy up so I could buy some. I have seen spiny lobsters smaller than that shrimp! The shrimp monger always had a huge cloth bucket kind of thing he carried the shrimp in, along with a "scales of justice" balance scale. However much shrimp I wanted -- half kilo or three kilos -- he would switch out shrimp until he had exactly and precisely the amount of shrimp I ordered, show me the balance bar with pride, then when I had looked at it and smiled, he would scoop up a couple of handsful of bonus shrimp and toss them in gratis. Caught fresh that morning in the clear turqoise waters of the eastern Mediterannean, and the best giant shrimp I have ever had in my life!

                            The thing that was missing in Turkey, and later, extremely difficult to come by when I lived in Greece, was lettuce! The name of it was in my Turkish dictionaries, it just wasn't available in the markets of Adana! When I lived in Greece with my second husband, the pruduce market in Amaliada used to special order romain "maroli" for me every Thursday, and I would drive miles to get it. I think you always miss most what you can't have. In Turkey I had a four year craving for glazed doughnuts. In Greece, the craving didn't start until two weeks before we left, but it was for McDonald's little hamburgers with the tiny diced onions in them.

                            When my second husband and I lived in California, where we met and I grew up, we ate free from the sea until we moved to El Paso. I've written about that often. Abalone in Del Mar was as plentiful as lamb in Turkey, except it was free. And like lamb, I taught myself to make just about anything with abalone. Except pate that was not rubbery. I finally concluded it just wasn't possible. But it tasted good!

                            When the Shah of Iran was deposed, we landed in El Paso by default. We were supposed to go to Tehran, and I was sooooooooo looking forward to once again having great caviar in my diet! But alas, it was not to be. To this day, I think the Shah would still be Shah if he hadn't banned prayer calls in most of Iran. Before we were to leave, I asked his nephew where the best place to live in Tehran to hear prayer calls would be, and he looked at me wide eyed and said, "Oh, you would have to live in Qum! My uncle has banned prayer calls everywhere else." I knew we were in trouble right then.

                            So we ended up in El Paso. Jack rabbits the size of burros, and Rick almost totaled his little Honda Civic commuter car on the road to White Sands when one jumped him. But you don't eat road kill! We lived on the Rio Grande, and had water rights from the river to water our lawn, and co uld have had a good sized garden. But the primary crop around us was cotton, and the new house was bult on land that had been a cotton farm, so there was no way I was going to plant and eat anything in that dirt!

                            But Hatch, New Mexico, was just a jog up the road, and oh, the chilis! I miss the aroma of chili roasters outside super markets during the season. And Dallas drives me nuts with chili rellenos made with the WRONG chilis...! Hey, you love what you're used to so don't pick on me! :-)

                            Oh, and even though I would see dads out fishig in the Rio Grande with their young sons every time I drove up Westside Drive from home, there was no way on God's green earth I would eat a fish from that river! A friend worked for the water company analyzing all of the local waters, and that was not water she deemed safe to wade in. But one of the local fishing enthusiasts did bag a good sized piranha from the river! Apparently an abaondoned "pet," but the fisherman gained his 20 minutes of fame with it.

                            I miss the home grown produce of my youth. Even though I have a huge backyard, I highly suspect the ground is heavily polluted with ptesticides, so I don't dare try to grow anything edible in it.

                            I've tried the local farmer's market a couple of times, but found it less than satisfactory on business practices, if not the produce. But so far, I'm pretty happy with the organic grass fed dry aged beef I've stocked the freezer with. It's nice to find a cow that tastes like a cow again! Okay. It ain't fresh, its frozen, but it's a whole lot better than wet cured antibiotic/growth hormone laden never-been-frozen stuff I'm allergic to...!

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Caroline1
                              Passadumkeg Jun 21, 2008 02:38 PM

                              Did you learn to drink Raki? I had good Turkish diplomatic friends in Helsinki. Next week and again in July when my son & his pregnant wife come from Helsinki, we will visit a very good Turkish restaurant in New Jersey. Where in Cal. did you grow up, LA area?

                              1. re: Passadumkeg
                                Caroline1 Jun 21, 2008 03:38 PM

                                Born in LA, grew up in San Diego, summered with paternal grandparents in SF. "California" is home.

                                Raki? Did I learn to drink raki? What's to learn? You just swallow! Both raki and ouzo are naturals with mezze. In Greece, the mezze are very "user friendly." In Turkey, you have to be on guard. One of the first mezzes I had in Adana was at an outdoor restaurant a Turkish friend took us to for absolutely fantastic natural-charcoal broiled chicken. But first, we were served raki with ice water -- mix the "tiger's milk" to your own liking -- and a tray of sections of a green pepper that grows in a corkscrew shape. I was told it's called the Turkish equivalent of "Lady finger." Nazim asked if I could eat hot things. I shrugged and said I ate Tobasco by the tablespoonful. He said that nevertheless I should be cautious as they are very hot peppers. I cautiously touched my tongue to a cut surface. BIG mistake! It blew my toenails off, and I couldn't taste a thing for a day and a half! Thankfully, we went back to the restaurant again, and the chicken was truly incredible.

                                I fell in love with Turkish wine! Especially the Kavakledera label. Really lovely reds.

                                The most exotic booze I had in Turkey was some sort of fig "white lightning." Again, Nazim brought some for us to taste. I think it was about 300 proof (only a slight hyperbole) and tasted like jet fuel flavored with fresh figs. The flavor was interesting, but the after taste was -- hmmm -- "uncomfortable?" I smoked back then, and Nazim told me not to smoke while drinking that stuff. I am quite sure he went to great lengths to get it for us. I was seriously suspicious that's what Anthony Bourdain may have been drinking in his show from Crete when he said they were drinking raki. Good raki is very very similar to good ouzo.
                                Well, it is if it's distillery bottled. I pass on jet fuel.

                                I'm jealous of anyone who lives near a "good" Turkish restaurant. Wish I did! :-(

                              2. re: Caroline1
                                FoodFuser Jun 23, 2008 07:45 PM

                                Neat, Caroline. Nice images.

                                1. re: FoodFuser
                                  Caroline1 Jun 24, 2008 06:56 AM

                                  Thanks. :-)

                              3. t
                                torty Jun 20, 2008 01:12 PM

                                Oh my- the memories....As a kid it was fresh fruit off our trees (plums, peaches and nectarines- especially the white ones-, oranges, lemons, tangerines, pomogranites, loquats and grapes), fresh chicken and duck eggs, and honey. I can still smell the honey when we were emptying the hives. You would be sweat soaked with smoke in your eyes. The hives were down a steep hill. When the knife hit the wax on the frames and released that liquid gold it was so amazing. Watching the "drunken" bees who erratically circled around in the garage where the extractor was, after over indulging, was a hoot. Since they worked on the fruit trees but also the native vegetation like eucalyptus it was a fragrant, complex honey that of course varied during the year. As a newlywed it was my first hugely successful raised bed vegetable garden. No corn has ever tasted the same. There were also kumquat and lime trees that lead to all kinds of tasty experiments. Now I am getting into foraging a bit for wild fennel and berries in my neighborhood. I only eat tomatoes from my Dad's patch- so far only one this year but it defined "tomato". I have neighbors with a lemon tree that produces super juicy fragrant fruit. A whole one, sliced in rounds and steeped with warm tea produces a lovely refreshing iced tea that resides constantly in my refrigerator. Easily accessible farmers markets (smallish one is 5 minute walk) and a local farm stand where you can see the crops growing behind the stand complete the picture. Life is good.

                                1. c
                                  CA Scotch Chick Jun 20, 2008 09:13 AM

                                  We were lucky enough to live in Belgium for a year. The difference in quality of market food in Europe was astounding. The veggies had such intense flavor; the breads were amazing; and the dairy, especially the cheeses were not even the same products we have here. Mmmmmm.

                                  CA Scotch Chick
                                  www.scotchchix.com

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: CA Scotch Chick
                                    k
                                    kati_spears Jun 20, 2008 09:56 AM

                                    I agree with CA, Europe food is so awesome. I lived in Germany for 4 years and when coming back to the states (11yrs. ago) I have always been looking for that taste that they have there. I have not been able to have anything compare to the food that was in Germany. I am just happy I do not have to buy honey or salt, and the drinks are bigger then a swallow. LOL

                                    1. re: kati_spears
                                      s
                                      shoo bee doo Jun 25, 2008 05:59 PM

                                      I agree, also. I always ache for more intense flavors and smells. I'm sure all European food are more nutrient-dense than our foods.

                                  2. southernitalian Jun 20, 2008 07:33 AM

                                    And you're worried about not having cable? PLEASE write a book or at least an expanded story on a blog!!!

                                    1. j
                                      julesrules Jun 20, 2008 07:33 AM

                                      Passion fruit (or something similar) tree in the backyard of a country house my family rented for 3 months in Ecuador when I was 6... for a cold-climate, city girl that was amazing. Fresh grilled fish at the beach grill at a Cuban resort 10 years ago (sadly I don't think you can hope for that from all-inclusive resorts anymore).

                                      1. zoe p. Jun 20, 2008 07:24 AM

                                        Nothing that exotic or elaborate to report. But I did love getting an organic CSA box in Pittsburgh, PA one year . . . cooking with excellent, farm fresh produce was more fun, and more rewarding. And very easy.

                                        1. Scargod Jun 20, 2008 03:40 AM

                                          When my son and I would go to Questa (area, in NM) and stay in a primitive cabin, We'd catch cutthroat trout and eat them like corn on the cob. When I was about 14, we would steal corn from the farmer's field and eat it raw. Ate mustang grapes on several occasions but they sure were hard to take. At my grandparents farm I learned, early-on how to wring a chicken's neck and clean them. We would go fishing in the river for catfish with the guts and liver. Frequently we'd hunt rabbits and birds. We'd always bring back some beef and pork from the farm. In '83 I had a spectacular veggie garden. I would get home from work (preferred transportation-Kawasaki 650) and put on cut-offs, wiggle my toes in the dirt and eat veggies raw as I worked the garden and gathered food for dinner.
                                          Now, I have a seperate veggie garden and an herb garden and do the same, but miss the scoot... (but don't miss a regular job)
                                          We've started foraging for edible plants and mushrooms and have enjoyed quite a few, so far..morels, oysters and fried chicken. I've hunted a little over the years. Mostly birds. I have dove in the freezer and we recently had a rabbit I shot. Never could get that rabbit quite tender enough for our liking. I should take up fishing again.
                                          Thanks for helping me dredge up good memories and remember how good I have it as a gentleman farmer.

                                           
                                           
                                          1. s
                                            shaebones Jun 20, 2008 02:46 AM

                                            Picking mussels off the rocks in Cushing Maine, then scrubbin 'em and steaming them w herbs, garlic, wine and lots of butter.

                                            1. hill food Jun 20, 2008 01:30 AM

                                              jeez P. write a book....

                                              (serious)

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