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Backyard Food


 
 

You won't see fresh pineapple in any of my recipes. Why? Because long-distance relationships are difficult! Pineapples don't grow where I live. Getting to know them well, experiencing all their stages of growth, tasting them at their peak, distinguishing the subtly different pineapple flavors that depend on a place—all these are impossible where I live.

Developing a close relationship with foods—a friendship, if you will—is the idea behind backyard terroir in the broadest sense. I'm committed to the foods that grow at my feet.

What you will see in my recipes are ingredients that we grow either on our farm or close by. We have meat, dairy, vegetables, fruit, and eggs. You'll also see ingredients that travel well from afar. I like to say, "If a food can arrive at my kitchen in ideal condition on the back of a donkey, then I'll happily include it in my cooking!" Ingredients such as spices, rice, grains, and dried fruit have traveled the world on donkey-back for thousands of years, adding a bit of exotic flavor to more local fare. 

A preoccupation with quality ingredients is not an unusual attitude for the food-dedicated. Many cooks and chefs have come to the same conclusion: The true origin of flavor comes down to one thing only: the quality of ingredients. When you have really good raw materials, all you need to prepare them is a little salt, maybe pepper, some acid, a fat, and, only some of the time, a heat source. On the surface it sounds simple, but it turns out that getting really good ingredients onto your table is the hardest part of the culinary endeavor.

Of course this raises the question: What is a really good ingredient? Vital, fresh, flavorful; rich in nutrients and microbes; unoxidized, uncontaminated, unrefrigerated: That's a good start. But our commercial food system is poorly set up to supply us this kind of food. Transportation is enemy number one. Maybe it's chemical fertilizers and pesticides? Or maybe high-density farming, antibiotics, and growth hormones? The causes are complex. What's clear, though, is that no purchased food has ever tasted as good or gone down as well as the produce, milk, and meat that we raise in our backyard.

The recipes you'll find here can be made with mostly easily obtainable ingredients. Find the best you can, as close to the source as possible. A backyard can be defined as your own, your neighborhood, your county, or your country. Draw the line where that quality of the raw materials begins to fade. If you think you've crossed it, pick up something closer at hand. What you eat will taste so much better!