Monday, July 23, 2007

Catching up

Oh, I missed OLS 4. I ate mostly local last week, but I kept thinking that later in the week I would make this really great meal of roasted veggies (from the garden) and friend polenta (with corn meal from Manheim, PA) and some fabulous fruit dessert......and well, that never happened. And I should have taken some pictures of our more plebian fare earlier in the week . Oh well.

Back to the mushrooms..through a business relationship, a coworker came in on Monday afternoon with some fresh baby portabella mushrooms for me from Kennett Square. I had discussed the whole chinese mushroom thing with him and he happened that day to be around an owner of a mushroom house, so he asked him about it. Turns out most canned mushrooms come from China. And China is allowed to use formaldehyde in its mushroom growing process. We aren't allowed to use it in the United States. China also uses human waste in the compost that they grown their mushrooms on....another thing that is a no-no in the United States. So check those labels and use fresh when possible, most of which are grown in the United States. I didn't use those canned mushrooms in a local meal, but now I'm tempted to throw them out and not use them ever. Formaldehyde? Human Waste? ewwww.

Those fresh mushrooms were grilled that evening in an aluminum foil packet with local butter and I ate them on one of those grass-fed burgers from Masonic Homes with a side of sweet corn and the best white peaches I have ever had in my entire life. Plebian maybe, and the pretty much the same as I meal I already used in OLS, but darn good all the same.

And on Saturday I hit a milestone. I have never been a tomato person. I hated them for years, only tolerating them cooked, or really diced up small in a salsa. Then after college, I started to get the gardening bug a little and planted a cherry tomato or two every summer. I ate them on salads and enjoyed them. But I still could not tolerate a giant slice of tomato on a sandwhich. Yuck. Since we've moved to our house, I've planted a lot of tomatoes every year. Too many. And I gradually started to enjoy bigger tomatoes, especailly in a caprese salad. Of course anything with mozarella cheese and basil will taste good I suppose. I'd look at a big old heirloom tomato and really, really want to enjoy just biting into it. But I just wasn't there yet. I mostly sold them or gave them away.

But Saturday I decided to make a BLT. I had goregeous garlic clove studded bread from Central Market and pepper bacon and lettuce left over from Masonic Homes the week before and my Brandywines had ripened (pictured unripe here cause I am lazy and didn't take a picture before I sliced into them). So I whipped up some homemade mayo, toasted that bread and stared into that sandwich with those big huge slices of tomato. And I took a bite. And I loved it. And all my tomatoes issues just disappeared.


Blogger Mikaela said...

Thanks for the 'shroom update. Even if it sort of made me feel vomit-y. :P

11:52 AM  
Blogger Faith said...

I agree -- thanks for the mushroom update. I don't eat mushrooms but my husband does, and I'll pass this information along to him. It's too disgusting to keep to myself.

It was interesting to read about your past with tomatoes (how racy does that sound?). I have always felt the same way about tomatoes in that I could only stand them when they were cooked or diced fine. I think I was the only girl in Philadelphia pulling tomatoes and onions off of my hoagies. :o) I've always wanted to overcome my distaste, though, and maybe I should try small cherry tomatoes on my salad, too. Baby steps, right? Your story shows there's hope for me and tomatoes yet.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Faith said...

Oh, and I noticed you weren't on the OLS blog for Meal #4 and I thought, Oh no, not again! Then I read this post. :oD

12:13 PM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

I know I wasn't the only kid in Camp Hill pulling off tomatoes from sandwiches. My parents had a hell of a time at drive thrus, me hating tomatoes, my sister hating mayonnaise and cheese. But I did it in baby steps, because I really, really wanted to like them.

Mikaela, sorry for making you feel vomity right at lunchtime.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Kitt said...

I used to hate tomatoes, too, until I started eating really good ones instead of the mealy softballs most groceries try to pass off as toms. A tomato right off the vine, sliced and sprinkled with a little salt, is a revelation.

And I'm not squicked out by human waste as fertilizer; it's a "renewable resource" that's been used for thousands of years in Asia and in fact is commonly used in the U.S.: sewage plants give their nitrogen-rich sludge to farmers. In the Midwest, Milorganite is a popular gardening product, produced by the Milwaukee sewage treatment plant.

It may be hard to think of, well, poop, in the same context as your food, but I think the greater danger to you lies in unsafe canning processes, not the growing.

Then again, very little squicks me out; I try to respect the squickedness of others!

2:07 PM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

I think in the United States though, human waste has to be completely composted and sterilized or pasteurized before used on crops. Pretty sure those safeguards aren't in place in China. But I could be wrong.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Kitt said...

I believe they do try to compost the waste as much as possible first; the fresh stuff will burn the plants just as dog pee leaves spots in your lawn. That said, no, they don't process it or pasteurize it as a sewage plant would. Which means the Chinese don't eat a lot of raw vegetables and are very careful about washing produce, which is sensible no matter what fertilizer you use.

My third day in China I was at a party and small, raw cucumbers were being passed out as snacks. I immediately thought of all the warnings about nightsoil I'd read before I left and recoiled, then realized, heck, if they're eating them ... so I had one, too. I never got sick from the food in three years there (except from overindulging in meat once); I just ate the way everyone else did.

I think I worry more about the antibiotics and hormones that are finding their way into our water supplies and our meat; less of a problem in China because most farmers are organic simply by dint of poverty.

2:58 PM  
Blogger El said...

Interesting stuff.

I had a source, somebody's crabby old uncle, who lived in PA and grew the most wonderful crimini mushrooms. He'd dry them and send them to my foodie friend in MN (and I would beg a bag from her). Never asked what he used for fertilizer, though!

Tomatoes out of the garden (and to some extent potatoes and carrots) simply are 1000 times better than the crap you can buy at a grocery store. Try telling my husband this, though (regarding tomatoes): he stands firmly by the George Carlin schtick that a tomato, somehow, doesn't look "done" yet on the inside: like it is still a pupae (pupa?).

My take on "night soil" as it is euphemistically known in China is: it works, and has worked, for them, for millenia. I am not quite sure I would want the average American's poop fertilizing my garden, though: think a diet of prescription drugs and big macs, no thank you. Maybe I am just biased. (And no, you won't find "humanure" in my compost piles; the chickens fill them up enough without our help!)

Okay! That's enough poop talk for today!

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do I read your food posts before dinner? It just about kills me.

Thanks for the info on the mushrooms. And even more in the comments.

I grew up on fresh garden tomatoes, so have always loved them. Even the fancy ones on the vines our stores sell can't compare to a fresh one.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, congratulations on the tomato assimilation. I just wish the nights would warm up around here so mine could hurry up and ripen!

and thank you, I think, for the info about mushrooms. Ew and double ew.

9:01 PM  
Blogger kris said...

Brandywines were my introduction to heirloom tomatoes - they are the best! Congrats on getting to this point with tomatoes - your BLT sounds awesome. Our first tomato is almost ripe and it will be a BLT meal for us - can't wait!

11:51 PM  
Blogger Rurality said...

Oh not my mushrooms too! Argh. I'm starting not to trust anything I didn't grow myself!

7:29 AM  
Blogger meresy_g said...

That was it.....they weren't 'done' on the inside. LIke they were still forming. All that weird goo and seeds. I totally know what El's husband means. But now I look past it cause they taste so good. Brandywines almost have a buttery taste to them. The San Marzanos have started ripening and I really like them. Lots of flesh, very little goo.

10:13 AM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Even now, I could never just bite into a tomato - although I like them sliced thin... think it's leftover from my childhood chore of dislodging hornworms from the tomatoes and plants, knocking them into a tin bucket. Unless I can see the whole inside, my mind is sure there's a hornworm lurking somewhere.

I'm the only one in my family who'll touch a mushroom, so I won't tell them your story, El... it will just give them verbal ammunition against my choice of cuisine!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

3:00 PM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Must have been a hallucinogenic mushroom since I called you El instead of Meresy!

Well, her comment was almost as long as some posts ;-]


3:03 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Meresy_g, this is going to sound silly, but I am so happy for you that you are starting to like tomatoes! That sounds totally silly and pollyannaish, but they are one of my favorite summer treats and it really does pain me when others miss out on them. (Like my boyfriend.)

As far as the mushrooms go... EW. I even like(d) canned mushrooms, but... formaldehyde?! Yikes!

12:06 PM  
Blogger sara said...

Oh my God, that's so foul! It reinforces my new-found commitment to eat local whenever possible.

I'm such a shroom fan, too.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

I KNEW it! No one on the planet can resist a BLT.

7:40 AM  

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