Cookery Maven Blog

Gathering For The Table

In Your Hands

The dog, the donkey, surely they know They are alive. Who would argue otherwise?

But now, after years of consideration, I am getting beyond that. What about the sunflowers? What about The tulips, and the pines?

Listen, all you have to do is start and There’ll be no stopping. What about mountains? What about water Slipping over rocks?

And speaking of stones, what about The little ones you can Hold in your hands, their heartbeats So secret, so hidden it may take years

Before, finally, you hear them?

Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

gathering 1

Foraging and gathering— two beautiful words that have been lost in an increasingly noisy, busy and disconnected world. Somewhere in the midst of our cold and white winter, Ellen and I dreamed up a cooking and foraging class at her farm on a beautiful summer night. Maybe it was our longing for the viscous evening summer light, the smell of soil warmed by the sun or the many varied shades of green in her field but once the idea took hold, it was full steam ahead. There is something profoundly sacred in gathering food and preparing it for those you hold dear— it's our common ground and one that is the basis for community, healing and our shared history.

Prior to meeting Ellen, my foraging experience could have been summed up in two words, berry picking, but she has opened a world full of wild and medicinal plants for me. I now know that cattails taste like clean lake water, sweet cicely tastes like anise and is a tonic for diabetes,  milkweed flowers taste like broccoli and burdock root looks like the mandrakes from Harry Potter and is good for liver support.

Mary Oliver said, 'What about the sunflowers? What about the tulips, and the pines? Listen, all you have to do is start and there’ll be no stopping.' The world looks different when we realize we are surrounded by purpose and energy cloaked in green leaves, flowers, berries, bark and roots. With our Gathering for the Table class, Ellen and I hoped to bring a mindfulness back to the seemingly ordinary act of preparing a meal. There is life, humming and vibrating, in everything we eat and the simple of acts of recognition and gratitude change the way we look at what surrounds us— celebrating the sacred in the garden, the forest and the farm.

Ellen demonstrated how to harvest cattail pollen on the shore of her pond.

Ellen gave the students their first taste of freshly harvested cattails.

Harvesting the burdock root involved shovels and a fair amount of digging— the roots were deep.

Oday, one of the farm dogs and a wise and devoted old soul.

This shot reminds me of Francois Millet's The Gleaners— bent over in search of salad greens.

As the evening wound down and we sat around the table, a familiar sated feeling settled in with me. I looked around the table at the women whose hands and hearts had touched everything on my plate, at my son Will whose heart and spirit were in every image he captured that night, at Ellen and Eric who have cultivated a space where healing and abundance are manifested everywhere you look and realized these are the blessings of bringing the sacred back to table. When we gather around a table, we are performing a ritual that goes back to the beginning of time— a meal is a pause in our noisy world to connect with our people. Now if that isn't sacred, I don't know what is.

Curried Coconut Brown Rice Salad with Cattail Pollen, Cattail Hearts and Chive Flowers

1 1/2 to 2 cups brown rice 1/4 cup chives, chopped 3/4 cup cattail hearts, chopped 1/4 cup chive flowers 1/2 cup coconut milk, or more as needed 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, or more to taste 1 tablespoon curry powder, or more to taste 1 tablespoon cattail pollen Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation Cook rice in abundantly salted water, as you would pasta, until it’s just done- about 30 minutes or so. Drain, rinse in cold water, drain again, then combine with chive and cattail hearts in a large bowl.

Combine coconut milk, rice wine vinegar, curry powder and cattail pollen in a blender and turn machine on; a creamy emulsion will form within 30 seconds. Taste and add more vinegar a teaspoon or two at a time until balance tastes right to you, then add more curry powder, salt, or pepper, if needed.

Drizzle vinaigrette over rice and cattail hearts. Use 2 big forks to combine, fluffing rice and tossing gently to separate grains. Stir in chive flowers and taste. Adjust seasoning or moisten with a little more dressing if necessary. Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to a day, bringing salad back to room temperature before serving.

Wild Rose Petal Syrup

2 1/4 cups water 3 cups granulated sugar 2 cups packed rose petals, coarsely chopped 3 tablespoons ascorbic acid powder

Preparation Heat the water to boiling and add the sugar. Remove from the heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Allow the sugar syrup to cool to 80°F, then stir in the chopped rose petals. Cover the pot and let the flowers steep in the syrup for 24 hours.

Filter out the flowers and squeeze them well to extract all the flavor. Filter the syrup through a fine mesh coffee filter. Add the ascorbic acid, using a whisk to dissolve it. Add the warmed syrup back to the remainder, and mix it all well.

Store in airtight, sterilized glass container. Makes about 4 cups of syrup.

Gathering for the Table Blue Vista Farm Menu

Curried Chicken Kebabs with Vidalia Onions and Pineapple

Milkweed Flowers with Ghee

Indian Burdock Root

Curried Coconut Brown Rice Salad with Cattail Hearts, Cattail Pollen and Chive Flowers

Foraged Salad Greens with a Red Wine Vinaigrette

Rose Scented Bayfield Strawberries with Cattail Pollen Shortcakes and Sweet Cicely

Tea with Yarrow, Lemon Balm and Mint