“Come ye thankful people come,
Raise the song of harvest home:
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin.”
Well, we had our first winter storms, and not quite everything was gathered in this year. Many farmers lost substantial portions of their crops. Now the eternal cry of farmers and gardeners is heard in the land, “There’s always next year.”
Yet as we arrive at Thanksgiving this year, still struggling with storm damage and losses, we must come with thankful hearts, grateful for caring neighbors and communities, for skilled town and utility workers, for all that we did gather in, and for all that we are able to share.
I have to confess that my own small vegetable garden supplies only a small portion of what we eat, so one of the things I give thanks for every year is the amount of fresh local food that I can buy. Sometimes I only have to go as far as the center of Heath where a neighbor sells asparagus and extra vegetables out in front of his house. Sometimes I go to the farmers markets and I often go to farm stands and Hager’s farm store on Route 2 where I can buy milk and meat as well as vegetables and fruit.
Eating local food does at least three things for me. First it gives me the most delicious and nutritious food because it has not lost its savor or vitamins while on its long trip to the supermarket. Second, local food supports the farmers in the area who give me the rural landscape that I love. As well as delicious produce. Thirdly, eating local food is good for our regional economy because it keeps my money in the community. And, it might even help keep a few people employed.
I am not the main Thanksgiving cook this year. We’ll be traveling to my son’s house where the rest of the family will gather as well. I don’t know the full extent of the menu because it is coming from many directions, but I know it would be easy to have a completely local meal, certainly a meal in which everything was produced in Massachusetts.
This year I bought my chickens, all healthily raised and beautifully cleaned and packaged from Wilder Brook CSA. Turkeys were available too, as are turkeys from the historic Diemand Farm in Wendell. Gone are the days when I raised my own meat birds and pigs.
There is no difficulty in getting local vegetables, squash, beets, carrots, turnips, potatoes, onions, garlic, shallots and kale. For years I have prided myself on harvesting the last Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving dinner, but this year I had to rescue the last sprouts from the rabbits and we finished eating them a week or two ago. At least those bunnies didn’t eat the winter squash, so I will be able to serve that.
Wonderful fruit is available from local orchards and the farmers market. I know everyone demands pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, but I demand apple pie as well. Apple pie, apple sauce, apple crisp and apple pan dowdy are standards on my dining table once apple season arrives. There are a lot of ways to enjoy the prescribed apple a day. Cider, too.
I am so glad that there will now be a winter farmers market the first Saturday of every month in Greenfield at the Second Congregational Church on Court Square. If your feet are used to taking you to the regular farmers market they will only have to take you a few steps further.
Have you thought about what local delicacies you will serve at your Thanksgiving dinner?
I am thinking about making a potato and rutabaga gratin that should travel well. My Swedish grandparents made a potato and rutabaga mash when I was a child. None of us cousins liked it much. I think rutabagas might be too strongly flavored for children. We tried to get it down with the help of ketchup. My grandparents did not approve.
4 T. butter 2 T. olive oil
4 cloves garlic finely chopped 1 medium onion thinly sliced
¼ c. flour 2 c. milk
1 c. heavy cream 1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 lb rutabaga, peeled and very thinly sliced 1T. minced thyme
2 c. Gruyere cheese (I may substitute some other local cheese)
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Heat butter and oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, cook, stirring often til soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in flour and cook till smooth, about 1 minutes. Add milk and cream, stir til smooth. Add potatoes, rutabagas and thyme and bring mixture to a boil. Cook until vegetables are tender and break apart. Stir in half of the cheese, salt and pepper. Transfer to a 9×13 inch buttered baking dish. Top with remaining cheese and bake til golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes.
I haven’t given a recipe in a long time, but this dish using common local veggies, including my own garlic, is in memory of my grandparents, and served with a large measure of gratitude for my family, for my garden and for our local farmers. There will be no ketchup on the table.
Between the Rows November 19, 2011