Thursday, September 30, 2010

Foodie Patootie

I was a foodie loooong before the term was popular. I of course blame everyone but myself. Lets start with the dad. Times were tough, money was almost non-existent. So bedtime snacks were often hi-carb, hi-fat. Dad's best culinary feat was the white bread trick. He'd take the entire loaf, toast it ( or sometimes broil it in the oven if the toaster was broken, which meant the top of the bread was near black and the bottom was warm and mushy ) and smear it with whatever fake butter product was available. If it were payday, we'd get that loaf served to us with a jar of generic peanut butter layered on top. Oh baby, oh baby. He'd bring that loaf o' lard into the living room on one big red and orange flowered melamine plate . We'd fight tooth and tail for that Wonderless bread because if you took more than your share your butt would surely get kicked.

Dear old mom played no second fiddle to the king of grub. On her good days she could whip up a HUGE pan of mac and cheese made with all the leftover cheese pieces she could scrape out of the crisper drawer, which by the way, kept absolutely nothing "crisp." She knew how to slosh together American with Cheddar with Swiss with a packet of powdered Kraft cheese (just add milk or in moms case, 1/2 milk, 1/2 water) eons before Paula Deen made it chic.No one could stretch a meal and still maintain its comfort status like my folks.

Now fast forward 40 years to the Spence Farm Foundation Harvest Feast held this past Sunday in rural Fairbury Illinois. Dozens of chefs, local farmers, volunteers, board members and even a few limo low riders traveled near and far to prepare fresh locally grown produce and meat into dishes that even Don and Dusty, the Plain Janes of  "Lets make a Meal," would have savored. Two chefs, Jared Van Camp from Old Town Social , Chicago, and Manny Martinez from Destihl in Bloomington, split one of our Red Wattle hogs in half  (a la King Solomon) and made completely different dishes. From Jareds camp came smoked pork loin, pork belly pastrami, bratwurst and franks with housemade sauerkraut. And in Manny's corner, the Wattle was roasted in this huge wooden box for hours and hours and served with chimichurri sauce, pickled red onion and spice roasted marzen poached pears. Yet another chef, Aric Miech of Mindy's Hot Chocolate, Chicago, did the honor of preparing some of our beef brisket by smoking it over apple wood and then serving it with apples and black pepper on a whole wheat baquette. Man, I just got a serious case of the giggles imagining my dad saying "baquette". I just know he would have said "BAG IT".  I kill me. Aaaaaaanyway...

These three guys and their staff were just a small part of the group of skilled chefs, who managed to prepared dishes that not only tasted great but looked as beautiful as this

Sweet potato and leeks roasted on fragrant hay with black olive cake, molasses and pear

Keith and I ate until ...well we never did stop eating. Jared sent us home with a LARGE bag of sausages, brats and frankfurters which we ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day. At the end of the evening an auction was held to benefit all the projects the Spence Farm Foundation carries forth each year, such as teaching the art, history and practice of sustainable small family farming across our country. We went home filled with tremendous gratitude for the Spence Farm Foundation who helped us and so many other farmers in so many ways. We were even more grateful for the bounty of food, friends and fun that God has granted us and so many others in our neck of the plains.

Yeah, My name is Donna and I'm a foodie.

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