Eating during the winter being fairly crucial for carbon-based life forms, almost all cultures have harvest celebrations at this time of year. True, some now surround football-watching as much as actual food gathering, but my own celebration is tactile and palate-based to the point that I might have to send in the Mac for repair because of the bounty. Indeed, I’m engaged at this second in a series of almost spiritual genuflections in an attempt to not drip gooey burrito fixin’s, most of them just-harvested from outside the Funky Butte Ranch House door, on my keyboard as I type this Dispatch of Culinary Thankfulness.
The centerpiece of my personal harvest celebratory dance is the overflowing supply of Anasazi beans, a variety whose back-story is nearly as tasty as the beans themselves. Someone not too long ago found a vat of these pinto-style protein factories in a Millennium-old painted ceramic urn tucked into a cave not far from here, and, lo and behold, they sprouted. Thank goodness that hiker wasn’t inside watching football â€“- a ritual in which I take part perhaps once or twice a year, when the commercials are most expensive and I feel an obligation to represent my extremely rare demographic (Neo-Rugged Individualist Organic Digital Age Cowboy).
Anyway, the ancient beans sprouted and now you find them in bulk at every crunchy co-op in the Southwest, and they grow, if not like a weed, then exactly like a bean that loves this climate. If the Anasazi Bean Council had as much advertising dough as the GMO Corn Council, the slogan we might see splashed all over health magazines Might Be, “Zero Carbon Miles For 1,400 Yearsâ„¢.” Indeed, I’m just part of a very long bean-growing tradition on this patch of land (which I hope and suspect was always called the contemporary dialect’s version of the Funky Butte Ranch). They practically grow by themselves. Trust me. I’m not a fellow born with a particularly green thumb.
And (oh, no, pause to elbow-wipe home-grown green chiles off the shift key) the beans this year are so plump and tasty that they are a stand-alone snack in themselves. Add some of the aforementioned Funky Butte Ranch green chiles, goat cheese and assorted greens, and well, you see why I have trouble ceasing chomping to type. The greatest pleasure, which won’t surprise any would-be locavore who has reproduced, is listening to my 16-month-old son scarf these just-plucked delicacies at the table across from my office desk. His vocabulary has been getting increasingly nuanced, and he keeps looking at me with a face no more food-smeared than mine and saying, almost singing, “Yum yum!”
Two Yums Up. Wow. Accent on the second syllable. That means, “A subtle meatiness on the palate which only gets more sophisticated with the interplay of fresh goat cheese and crayons.”
So I’m feeling like Mr. Locavore today. Elements of this burrito that are Funky Butte Ranch-grown or -raised include: beans, chiles, scallions, carrots, chevre cheese, tomatoes, cukes, lettuce, parsley and sprouts. Also local are the tortillas, which are made in a town 28 miles away, and the cilantro, grown by a neighbor. Not local are the avocado and lime -â€“ which I’ll be growing along with the rest of my tropical food addictions once the Funky Butte Ranch Hypocrisy-Reducing Greenhouse gets going. Stay tuned for that. And, of course, the palate-cleansing Funky Butte Ranch Natalie Merchant Vanilla Ice Cream I’m going to inhale as soon as I post this Dispatch is both local and very close to what I imagine food in the place where kind people go after dying tastes like.
This all sounds scrumptious, my belly is full and happy just as autumn is upon us, and I’ve been living this way for weeks. The key now is to increase it to months, and then to year â€˜round. That’s about the best thing anyone can do to concretely help save the Earth: eat as locally as possible, and let the politicians know that they must immediately help transition the coal power plants to solar and wind, in order for us not just to vote for them, but to have a planet to vote on a century from now.
Meanwhile, I’m keeping my eyes open. If the Mimbrenos (the folks who last planted these beans hereabouts) were anything like the pack rat I am, there must be more of those protein-filled urns around here. Now, where would I bury beans if I had to survive in the valley? Oh, wait, I do. True, the Mimbrenos had no barbed wire to deal with during their stewardship in these parts, but they didn’t have GPSes and topo maps, either. While I search for the treasure, perhaps on foraging walks with the goats, I’m eager to hear what y’all are harvesting this season in your ecosystem. If you are growing, I wonder if you’ve noticed that gardening is like petting a dog: it always feels like time well-spent. Believe me, clever people are getting doctorates proving the health benefits of both.
Postscript: I’ll be giving a three day “Anyone Can Get Petroleum Out of Their Lives Without Giving Up Digital Age Comforts” workshop at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California on November 13, 14, and 15. The folks at the non-profit Esalen would like as big a turnout as possible, so I’m mentioning it here as well as on the Live Events page. It’s actually not too pricey for three days (although, true, most of my one-evening events are free), but I think anyone who has ever spent a minute at Esalen will attest, worth it for the physical surroundings alone, let alone the delicious and healthy food. And hopefully we’ll all learn a lot. Click here for info.
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