Saturday, December 13, 2008

ACLU and Alberta Co-op

The sun was out a couple weeks ago, so I went for a walk with my dog to catch the light and warmth. "excuse me, do you have a minute?"
And so he tells me about his mission against prop. 8 and will I join the ACLU. He gives a good spiel and I appreciate his efforts....
"Really? You mean I could have been eating beer marinated slugs this summer?"
"Well, I don't know if I'd want ones that had been outside soaking dead in beer. But there are those people who eat road kill; swear by it. That isn't my scene. I like to collect when they are alive and purge them, make sure they are healthy."
"That's great! I don't know why I didn't think to eat the slugs...of course."
OF COURSE! You hear that? It is happening.
I took some of the left over Muhammarra to the Alberta Food Co-op where I work as a substitute/on-call cashier. It was a training session about recruiting owner-members. A few people tried the dip. Others were interested in being so near to it. One co-worker came up to me, "Is that with slugs? I heard you eat them. I am so excited to try. We had 4 cabbages in our garden completely covered in slugs last year and they devoured them."
"Yes, and now you can devour the slugs with the cabbage in some delectable vegetable garden mollusk medley of your own imagining."
"Do you purge them? How?"
I told her my methods for clearing my mind and garden mollusk guts before eating them. She smiled, "Cool. Thanks!" excited and anticipating the spring to come.
And won't it be fun to go on a snailing expedition in Ashland in spring?! Someone from tango just told me that the sidewalks are slippery with snails in May and June. What a blessing!

Slow Food potluck...

I walked in a few minutes late. Lots of savory dishes on this table, salads on that, desserts over there. I realized how many events and situations I have been attending lately that give me the initial feeling that I am in school; the sense that I am a bit awkward inside and self-conscious (does it have to do with the clothing?) No, it is the entering into a place where you know no one and don't know what to expect. Sure, it will be fine, perhaps fun, perhaps educational. But there is an element of effort that is noticeably different from when I go to a party that is just a social gathering about relaxing and enjoying. Oh yes, and I know over half the people there. Whenever there is a cause at hand, this case p:ear was announcing its work with homeless youth, the focus is on action and responsibility; revelry is not the theme. Love, delicious, nutritious food, and caring for the health and wealth of people and planet was on the table.
I was serving up an adaptation of a Turkish Muhammarra using pecans from my housemate's parents' farm, local red peppers, garden mollusks (mostly snails, about 25 small slugs and one large Limax Maximus), lemon, parsley, mint, toast, garlic...It tasted the same with and without the garden mollusks, so I consider this a great starter dish for the squeamish. All but 1/4 of the dip was eaten. The sign said "Muhammarra: Pecan, pepper, and garden mollusk dip." The escarglows (snail shell candles) burning in the lettuce leaf garnish helped illuminate the ingredients for those questioning "what does she mean by garden mollusks?".
I am learning so much about reducing my footprint. When I went to the potluck, I was under the impression that I was to bring enough plates and utensils for 6-8 people. It seemed odd that 6-8 people would all bring enough food for 6-8 and also enough plates and napkins...wouldn't that be like 60+ plates? Yes, and that is how I learned that you bring food for 6-8, but a ceramic plate, metal fork, and cloth napkin for yourself. So there I was handing Anil a small paper (of the highest recycled materials, I tell you) cocktail plate and thinking, "Crap, I just gave some ceramic dishes back to this catering guy the other day or I'd have some in my car." And all this Pelegrino water is just for us, honey, so drink up. The wine people brought is apparently for 1-2, not 6-8, and so don't imagine that a draught of organic red will be smoothing over your palate any time tonight. It worked well. Anil and I could load up our mini plates and go back for seconds. It helped me take one bite of the over 30 or 50 dishes and truly downsize my eyes. Probably the most vegetables I have eaten in months in one sitting. So delicious!
I spoke with an acquaintance about her food. She introduced me to her husband and said, "He ate it!" about my dip. She did not. I looked at his plate and smiled. There was one bite taken from the small slice of bread shmeared with the reddish paste. "You didn't eat it." I semi-rudely blurt. Really, did I have to put him on the spot? He tasted it. "The slugs kind of ..."
Of course. It took me 4 years to get there. Some are already there, others close, others definitely aren't heading there and that's great. I have many things that don't interest me, and I commend him for giving it a shot at all if it wasn't on his radar before.
As we were getting my dish to leave, Anil points around a wall to a small kitchen with a dishwasher open revealing at least 10 plates. I laughed. The dishwasher was directly across from the food. Obviously the whole plate fiasco was a form of entertainment for us and a humbling reality check for me. There are so many ways to lessen our waste on this planet. Fortunately I am gleaning bits of knowledge as I continue to immerse myself in the world of food.

Friday, December 5, 2008

SO I wrote this a week or so

ago. It has been crinkling up on the back side of an outline of a bracelet my sister asked me to make for her. I made it. How fun to hammer silver again. I was housesitting where I could use the studio. It was comforting and rewarding to play with metal.

Back to the other side: I turn on the radio. I am listening to Studs Terkel being interviewed on Speaking of Faith," a radio program on OPB. "How great. This is perfect for cleaning the garden mollusks."
So I rinse them in a colander and put some new cornmeal and crushed egg shells, fresh water into their small last residence. For the last 20 minutes of the interview, I sit with my metal strainer full of snails and slugs. Their gliding and sliding around the rim, over one another's shells is mesmerizing. One large snail reaches out to lean on a Limax Maximus slug. One tiny translucently young snail hitches a ride on larger one. Then a small slug wraps itself like a letter C around a shell traveling the narrow circular rail. So much roundness. Such social creatures. Could you be any less violent than them? At any minute they will climb to towering heights. Like in the Dr. Seuss book, Yertle the Turtle, they stack atop each other, but I don't get the feeling they are competing for the best view or to be the king<>queen of anything. They like each other and are uninhibited about their affectionate and curious nature. I am speaking for them, sort of paraphrasing the unheard word. If there is scientific data showing that they are truly merciless angry shell stacking assailants, don't hold back. I can synthesize and adjust for my fabrications.
"When you speak of death, it turns to life, you see, " Terkel is talking about his experiences writing his book, Will the Circle be Unbroken. No one speaks of the end, their end, without coloring the book of their life.

It makes me wonder why I can kill the snails and slugs; one friend lightly called me "miss mollusk murderess." I will not kill a chicken, squirrel, rabbit, dog,...and then eat it. I am imposing gradients of value onto forms of life. It is sobering and real. Not heavy and downer, but fills me with a peace that it is really that simple. We must eat. We must reduce our waste. We must allow for the food chain to exist and be responsible for our choices...sounds heavy after all. But when I hold a tiny newborn snail to Henrietta the chicken, she hammers her beak, "That's MINE!" I know she isn't feeling guilt about meeting her dietary survival needs. She needs to make eggs; snails have calciferous shells that she needs.
My conundrum when speaking to vegetarians and vegans is summed up in Horton Hears a Who: "a person's a person no matter how small." That Seuss wisdom is powerful. Just take out the person and add mollusk and you see, I know I am taking the life of something valuable. Maybe one day I'll stop eating them. For now I am grateful that they pirate my neighbor's vegetables and flowers while leaving trails that glisten me into the moment everywhere.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I have been carrying the 30th birthday...

in my mind, not sitting down to share. It was amazing. The Halloween rain didn't happen this year. I got some great catch, and the garden mollusk kheema in a pumpkin with aloo gobi surrounding it was well-received. People ate with ease and were not averse to the land oysters offered. They were well-flavored in the spices and squash; a good texture and seasonally warming feast.
Tim Pearce told me that the slug pics I sent were both in the family Limacidae. One, the bigger, was a Limax Maximus (sounds like it can lift you car and toss it over a bridge), the other most likely a Lehmannia Valentiana: "I haven't eaten very many slugs from the Limacidae, but I do remember trying a Limax Maximus a long time ago. I don't remember whether the digestive gland was foul tasting or not; since they are in a different family from the Aronidae, for which the ones I have tasted do have bad-tasting digestive glands. You could try the Limacidae digestive glands yourself and see how they are...I am glad to hear you are practicing biological control by eating your pests!"
So we ate the glands of the European invaders; nothing detectable to describe as foul-tasting. I can't quite express my impression about that night, it was such a grounded and vibrant affair. Considering how many people think slugs are gross, this was a gourmet-appreciative group eating with silver in a home being created to capture the colors and qualities of far away travels. Not pretentious, but conscientious.
Afterwards, after the hours of cooking and being filmed while making a dish I had never tried before, I needed to go tango dancing. Sure, I was in "costume" and people thought I couldn't get over Halloween...well, maybe one of my old housemates was right, "I would think Halloween was a high holy day for you." So no one thought that I was just in from a day of Miss Snail Pailing. I shared some of the left over Garden Mollusk Kheema with a couple people there. OK, 2 people tried it.
"What is it?"
"Garden Mollusk Kheema."
"This is GOOD."
I wondered, "Do I need to say that slugs are in it? I mean, I have always announced when even the slightest bit of snail is included, like in my gingersnail bread men cookies. But this night I said "garden mollusk has meat."
"Do I look like a vegetarian to you?" and the bite was being swallowed and I know, I know. I plan to declare the ingredients boldly and in plain laymen's terms when I serve for them again. Somehow at the moment, I didn't want to act like something was wrong, when nothing was. Garden mollusks are a local meat source found in gardens. It is for the people with mollusk allergies that I worried. I was being honest and didn't want to act like I was dishing out an eww sick kind of meal:
"Wait!! There are slugs in there! Are you ok with that?!" No, "It is garden mollusk kheema. (pause) there is meat in there. (pause)." I wasn't pushing it since I was there to dance and drift into the musical dreaminess and loving connection. He swallowed and smiled and I smiled and danced.