American Terroir, by Rowan Jacobsen
The book is written in the style of "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan, but the focus of each ingredient is its origin and why that origin is important to flavor and the future of the area in which it is produced. The hook was the first chapter, which focused on maple syrup production in Vermont. I haven't been able to put it down since ... just got through the coffee section. Brilliant!
All of this focus on place and origin brings my thoughts to where I live and work and eat. New Hampshire has a bounty that's often forgotten by modern eaters. Come to think of it, it is rare for me to taste food that is native to this area. My cousin Greg Trahan is a mushroom forager - fungi fun-guy if you ask me - and he's done me the service of finding Black Trumpets and King's Beard the past few weeks. Black Trumpets are really black chanterelles and they are delicious. Earthy, savory, with a firm bite. They are the best mushrooms I've ever tasted. And they came from the woods. He even found a hand-full in my parents yard the last time he visited.
I want to incorporate elements of this into what I offer as a personal chef. How I can do that on a larger scale has yet to be figured out, but I know it's possible. New Hampshire's soil is notoriously rocky and mineralized. That's a problem our friend Josh Trought has had to deal with while he develops the soil of his organic and educational homestead in Dorchester, a beautiful place named D Acres (you can check them out here). I could write a novel about D Acres, and I will someday, but not this post ... but Josh has been rebuilding his property's soil with a mixture of composting, wood chips, permaculture, and time.
Minerals might be overpowering in a large growing situation, but what they do provide food is flavor and depth of character. We can taste the earth where something is grown if we taste carefully enough. Terroir was made famous by the wine-growers of the world, why shouldn't we apply it to the beautiful food we create here at home? Our terroir is our history and our identity. And I find it fascinating. With all the rocks we've got in our soil around here, I'm sure you can't help but taste all the Live Free or Die that exists in our farm fields and herds.
Over the course of my culinary "education," I've found that I prefer a simple approach to food. 20 ingredients in a recipe isn't necessary for it to be delicious. If your ingredients are high quality, so is their flavor. No need for additional fats to make all of it palatable. Good, clean food is prepared simply. The flavor is built in. That means healthier meals. That means having a better grasp of where your food comes from. Over my career I've had the pleasure of making connections with some fantastic food producers. Venison, garlic, wine, cheese; I've done my best to seek out finest ingredients where I live. This is a service I can offer to future clients. I want to work with people who know food. In their busy lives they might not have the ability to travel to four locations to get all of their food items. But I can. And that's what I want to do with my life. Connect people to the land around them. Give them the best of everything. Show them that in and on our rocky soil there is beauty and health and life ... all richer than the fluorescent din of the grocery store can provide.
Now that I've found my vocation I really have to step on the gas. It's time to get moving. And move I shall.
Hope you're all well. Enjoy this sunshine that just came about. It's just what the end of the harvest needs!