|The vast array of local food at our potluck|
Here at Pine Mountain Settlement School, we’ve come to realize that food security is as much of a culinary issue as it is an agricultural one. This past Saturday, we hosted the 100 Mile Potluck, a dinner with Grow Appalachia families to celebrate our harvests and showcase dishes prepared with ingredients raised, harvested or collected within 100 miles of the school. I used the afternoon as an opportunity to prepare my meal for the evening, scrambling for recipes that would accommodate the sparse ingredients that were locally available in early June. Using local cage –free eggs from Grow Appalachia’s own Valerie Osborne, shitake mushrooms from logs down on Pine Mountain’s campus, arugula and ramps from our garden, I tried desperately to fashion a 100% locally grown garden frittata. I burnt the eggs slightly, but it was a learning experience, and no one seemed to mind much as the other ingredients worked to redeem my dish. As families arrived at the picnic site with dishes in tow, they brought with them salads, rhubarb cobblers, quiches, deer meat chili, cornbread, corn muffins, garlic scape pesto pasta, mashed potatoes, and mustard greens, with most of the dishes being created in part with something from a Grow Appalachia garden. I hoped the food tasted as good as it looked, and as I sampled the various recipes, it was the best meal I’d eaten in a long while. Aside from the great food at our potluck, the event provided a chance to socialize and dine with all the folks that I usually only see in the context of their gardens. After all the hard work that we (mostly they) have put into raising a garden this season, I sometimes forget that the ultimate reward for growing your own food comes when you put the first forkful of fresh rhubarb cobbler into your mouth and savor the richness of its flavors. My frittata was a personal victory because it was the first meal I’ve ever made with food that I’ve grown from seed, and I’m sure other people get similar sense of pride from eating what they grow. When I first joined the Grow Appalachia team, I had the personal objective of learning to garden, but I could have never foreseen that living in Harlan County, I would learn as much in the kitchen as I would in the field. Many of the families who participated in the potluck contributed their recipes along with the prepared dishes, which I intend to compile in hopes that y’all can experience the wonderful flavors of Harlan County as well.