Agri-culture

muckin' it upWordsmith by day, wanna-be farmer/domestic goddess by night

Hear celebrated farmer-activist-writer Wendell Berry recite some of his poems, including that one that always soothes me, “The Peace of Wild Things.” And in the same tradition, my friend Stephanie Jordan will read from her poetry collection, Waiting for Rain: Stories of Love, Loss and Agriculture, in Norman on Sunday. And it might even be raining. 

Looks like I’m going to take a road trip sometime this spring or summer to visit Key Ingredients: America by Food, a traveling food history exhibit making its way through rural America. Here’s the Oklahoma schedule. I’m pretty jazzed since I’ve been wanting to see more of Oklahoma, and I’ll get to geek out on our country’s culinary evolution while doing so.

Living Kitchen

Have you heard of the Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy in Bristow? Around here it’s known as “the farm that makes people cry,” since Chelsey and I both got misty-eyed when we first read about it. It just seems like a dream: growing and cooking and hosting—all at your homey home.

Conventional wisdom taught Lisa Becklund, a chef and native Washingtonian, that when it came to food, the more exotic and well-traveled—the better. But since taste is paramount, Lisa found her clients receptive and excited about the fresh, local ingredients she sought out, which led to her toying with the idea of a farm-restaurant enterprise. She fell in love with Oklahoma while accompanying a friend on a family visit. Shortly after returning to Washington she decided to leave her Seattle restaurant and start farming here. She raises vegetables, chickens, goats (for milk), and sheep (for meat) on a 7-acre farm.

We went to one of Lisa’s Farm Table Dinners last weekend. It happened to be my birthday. We were greeted with refreshing mojitos and were given a farm tour where I learned that llamas deter coyotes and they poop in the same spot. Fascinating! So, their poo can be efficiently gathered for compost. I thought I took a picture of the wheelbarrow o’ poo, but alas, I did not. Just use your imagination. And speaking of poo, the Living Kitchen facilities offer a “hippie bathroom,” which features a groovy composting toilet.

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Lisa and Casey on the farm tour. Casey is the “much-more-than-an-intern” and lives in the yurt.
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The probable origin of “the grass is always greener on the other side.”
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I loved the peaceful, friendly vibe of the Living Kitchen and the food was absolutely a-mazing. Every. Single. Bit. I can’t wait to go back. Maybe it will become a birthday tradition.

the menu:

first
chilled cucumber gazpacho and sun gold nugget nectar with lavender olive oil

second
everything-in-the-garden salad with homemade goat milk feta tossed in a lavender balsamic vinaigrette, studded with fresh lavender leaves

for the tongue
lime, lavender, and pineapple mint ice

entree
pork shoulder crusted with lavender salt and slow smoked over lavender wood
served with tender Italian flat beans and Yukon gold potatoes in pan juices

dessert
lavender-lemon pound cake with peach ice cream
Tidal School Oklahoma Gold served in lavender-smoked glass

soul food
chocolate lavender truffle

Gardening in the Concrete Jungle

fort mason community gardenWhile I was attending a conference in San Francisco I happened across this oasis one night on my way back to the hotel from a restaurant. My feet were killing me and I was sleep-deprived, so I told myself I would come back and explore. I’m so glad I did. I was full of superlatives as I lumbered around this most beautiful, most unexpected agrarian conglomeration.

Established in 1975, the Fort Mason Community Garden overlooks San Francisco from Fort Mason, a former Army post. Organic practices are strongly encouraged and pesticides are forbidden. The 125 garden plots are 100 square feet, on average. The land is tiered, which adds drama to the garden. It was so neat to look at all diverse plots and personality. Some are for growing food, others for flowers, or a combination. Some tidy; some unruly and exotic. There’s even a zen garden. Members are required to plant at least two seasons per year. While the garden feels like a secret, the community knows its value: the membership waiting list is four years long.
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Everett Price maintains his plot on a Sunday morning. He’s been a member of the Fort Mason Community Garden for 20 years. He and his wife Alice wish they could bring their dogs along; alas, dogs are not allowed.

More photos here.

Soon I’ll start profiling community gardens in the OKC metro. Please leave suggestions in a comment. If you want to profile a community garden for oklavore.com, email me at tricia@oklavore.com.

This little piggy…

While I was in New Orleans a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of eating at Cochon. And now when I think about the place, I start salivating.

I learned of the restaurant on a morning bike ride. I can’t remember your name—but thank you so much, Patience from Austin, Texas, for telling me about this treasure; I was growing tired of fried seafood poboys.

Cochon, I learned, means “pig” in French. And this makes sense since they cook up an assortment of pig parts. On an almost daily basis, local pigs are delivered to the in-house boucherie. The restaurant has a bit of a diner feel to it on account of the spartan booths and bar. All the furniture is made of sleek, nude wood and the walls are warm shades of orange and yellow. I imagine the place takes on a different vibe at night when the bar’s main function is for drinking bourbon, rather than watching the chef. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at a restaurant that boasts a James Beard award recipient. One of the chefs, Donald Link, was the 2007 Best Chef of the South; Cochon was nominated for best new restaurant. The restaurant opened in April 2006.

Everything on the menu sounded adventurous and tasty. I settled on the pig cheeks (yes, facial cheeks) at the recommendation of my waitress, Julie. I also ordered smothered greens and an Abita amber.
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For dessert, the house-made buttermilk blueberry ice cream was very tempting, but when I waffled between the ice cream and the custard, there was no contest. Julie gave me a quick, decisive, “The custard.” Chocolate and chicory custard with cayenne whipped cream. It was luscious; the cayenne didn’t add much taste-wise, but it imparted a nice warmth to the chilled, creamy custard.
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I loved it so much I went back the next day! I had green tomato and craw fish casserole and jalapeño spoon bread with okra and lima beans. Odd combination now that I think of it.
@ cochon

Hello! from San Diego

What a treat (and relief) it is to be in perfect 75˚ weather! Great timing because we were slowly cooking in Oklahoma. Matt and I are here for a mapping conference—the biggest in the world—to learn lots about new technology, refresh our knowledge, get a better grasp on some mapping concepts, tips for prettier maps, technical support, networking, etc. I bet we’ll have a little fun, too.

Last night we had supper at The Local.
the localA passerby told me it was a 1959 or ’60 El Camino, el-el-cam-in-o. The drinking hole is cute, though the trash cans are an eyesore in this photo.

drink local

And drink local, we did. I had a Green Flash West Coast IPA, which was mellow at first, then followed by distinct, almost 7-UP-like citrus notes; it was yummy, refreshing, and like no other beer I’ve had. Then I had a more conventional Stone Pale Ale. Matt had a Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale and a AleSmith IPA. I’m sure there will be more where that came from.

fish tacos & lobster tacosLobster and fish tacos with a spicy cream sauce and plenty of cilantro.