D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

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Preservation As Gratitude -- Guest Post by Lindsay Strannigan

I am beyond thrilled to have my amazing older sister here to guest post today. I have always looked up to Lindsay with a combination of terror/awe. She is fierce, beautiful, funny, accomplished, AND smart. It's a little overwhelming. A few years ago Lindsay started a food blog which (naturally) became very popular called rosemarried. She has inspired me on a journey towards local and seasonal food, and now I just might have to start down the road of preserving.  I've been to a couple of the food swaps my sister has organized and it is absolutely bonkers. Everyone from hipsters to homeschooling Grandmas come and swap food items they have created. You come with 10 jars of jelly and leave with an assortment of delicious, hand-made food. I love how people like my sister are using their creativity to step outside of the food systems that so often crushes those at the bottom of the economic system. 

So often, conversations about food can carry underlying assumptions of privilege. This doesn't have to be the case, however. We can talk about creating and eating good food, all with our global neighbors in mind. 

 

 

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Preservation as Gratitude

Guest post by Lindsay Strannigan

 

Food preservation - canning, pickling, fermenting, etc -  isn’t a new phenomenon, by any stretch of the imagination. Throughout generations, humans have practiced this delicate art. Until recently, however, preserving was often born out of necessity. People preserved food because they had to, due to a variety of reasons: lack of refrigeration, electricity, funds, or fear of famine, storms, and drought.

I am painfully aware of the fact that I do not preserve for such reasons. I do not have these particular worries, and yet, I find myself compelled to can and preserve. There’s something magical in the ritual, in the quiet and tedious process that is preserving. I love that you have to do it the same way every time. There are no shortcuts. You can’t cheat the system. It is what it is, and you have to accept that. When I hover over that giant pot of boiling water - hoping and praying that my jars will seal properly - I take comfort in the knowledge that thousands before me have done the same.

All romanticism aside for a moment, however, and I am still faced with the fact that my reality does not necessitate canning. I do not need to do this in order to survive.

So why do I do it? Why do any of us preserve and can? What is the appeal of canning?

First, let me state the obvious: Canning is hot right now. The internet (I’m lookin’ at you, Pinterest) is brimming with DIY-ers and aspiring home preservers. Food swaps are spreading across the country and bookstores are brimming with an ever-growing selection of canning resources and cookbooks. It’s easy to dismiss this as a fad, as nothing more than a nod to vintage kitsch. I would argue, however, that this goes much, much deeper than kitsch. This isn’t just nostalgia, this is a concerted attempt to reclaim a culture of food and community.

When it comes to food, we are all hopelessly lost. We live in a broken world and food is just one of a myriad of hurdles we are forced to navigate on a daily basis. Every day we are confronted with mixed messages; advertisers bombard us with their messages of health and vitality, beauty and happiness. The truth is, however, that most of us aren’t happy. We are overweight, undernourished, overworked, and underpaid.

In many ways, we aren’t all that different than canners of generations past. We may not fear storms or drought, but we definitely live in uncertain and desperate times. Life is hard and the promise of the American dream has lost it’s golden luster. In times such as these, the art of preserving makes a lot of sense. It’s simple, economical, and empowering. It is a way to regain a small amount of control in a very uncertain world.

There’s something to be said about returning to the roots of food, to the way things used to be. It just makes sense. Canning, pickling, drying, and fermenting are age-old techniques, designed to prevent food spoilage and make the harvest last all year-long. This is a rich and beautiful tradition, and I firmly believe that there is freedom and joy to be found in the process. When we preserve foods, we are forced to think about our relationship with food. We learn about the changing of seasons, sustainability, and the importance of cultural traditions. Food preservation teaches us to be thoughtful about our purchasing. It teaches us how to spend less and waste less.

Mostly, though, I think that preserving is an act of gratitude. As I’ve learned how to can and pickle and ferment, I can’t help but feel grateful. I am so thankful for a God who provides, a God who created seasons, colors, flavors, and everything good and beautiful. He gives so freely, and I feel compelled to treat these gifts with respect and humility. For me, food has always been one of the most tangible and enjoyable ways in which I experience the love and grace of God. Whether it be sharing a meal with family and friends, or canning 100 pounds of tomatoes in the heat of the summer, I feel connected to the Creator.

I would like to step back for a moment, however, and acknowledge that I am speaking from my own personal experience. I live in a place where I have limitless access to a gorgeous array of fresh fruits and vegetables. (I live in Portland, OR, for crying out loud. This is the birthplace of local, sustainable, organic, etc.) I am aware that many people in the United States simply do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Even in areas where fruits and vegetables are plentiful, there are many people who simply cannot afford to purchase seasonal produce.

I understand that there are a myriad of reasons why my case for food preservation may not apply to most of the American public. You may not own a canning pot or mason jars. You may not have the time or energy to learn the process. You may have zero interest in canning, pickling, or fermenting. That’s totally fine. This isn’t for everyone. However, I do think that the principles of food preservation apply to all of us. We ought to treat food as a gift; as something to be celebrated, shared, and saved. We should treat our resources with care and respect. We should strive to be less wasteful. These are principles that all of us can practice, whether or not we choose to make jams or pickles.

However, if you do choose to pickle, preserve, can, and ferment -- I highly encourage you to share this knowledge with your family, friends, and anyone else who is willing to listen. These are invaluable and empowering life skills, which will only serve to benefit and enrich future generations. In addition to sharing your knowledge, I would encourage you to share the actual fruits of your labor. (Those 15 jars of blackberry jam that you canned last week? You don’t need all 15 jars.) Do not be tempted to hoard your preserves, rather, give them away. Food is a gift that is meant to be shared, so preserve often and give generously.

 

Links:

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My favorite canning website is PunkDomestics.com -- it's a wealth of amazing recipes.Here's a few pickling/preserving recipes from my blog:

 

 

2012_2_7-Lindsaykitchen-25Lindsay is a freelance food writer, event coordinator, and social media consultant. She shares recipes, photos, and food-related stories on her blog, Rosemarried. In addition, she co-hosts the PDX Food Swap and serves on the board of the Montavilla Farmer's Market. She lives in Portland, OR, with her husband (Nicholas), orange cat (Penelope), and dwarf rabbit (Lil Omar). You can find her on twitter here.

 

For all posts in the Downward Mobility series, please click here.

 

a thanksgiving of firsts

i got hit by a wave of sadness yesterday, out of nowhere, alone at the park with the toddler. and i realized: this is the first thanksgiving i have ever been away from my family.

for some reason, in all my travels, i always made it back for this holiday (but i did miss a christmas or two). and my family has always done thanksgiving up big, my childhood filled with memories at my grandparents house in the woods, so many cousins to play with. in recent years the hub has been portland, any and all travelers, wanderers, or the family-less welcome to a seat at my parent's table. my sister, the famous food blogger, has in recent years upped the ante of our meals, and they are now culinary masterpieces. we play games, watch tv, lounge and laugh at the babies. and we talk, all day long, about what we are thankful for; but the strangest part is that we don't even have to use words. the day after thanksgiving i always did a second meal for all my refugee neighbors (sometimes it was disastrous, sometimes it was peaceful--but it was always fun).

so this year is the first time i ever went to a store and bought all the fixin's for a meal, myself.

this is the first year i am not rushing around trying to plan anything. this is the first year of cooking food by faith, of not-knowing who will come and eat.

this is the first year with a mobile child (my blue velvet cake has prodigious finger poke holes in it, there are chocolate fingerprints on the couch).

this is the first year of feeling, deep down in our bones, that our choices will not always be easy. and this makes us grateful for the grace to obey.

in the midst of the tears (yes, there will be tears), i am very thankful. to even be in a position like this is crazy-cakes. i feel as confused and expectant as a pre-pentecost disciple, wondering what in the blazes is going on, just along for this crazy ride. with jesus, you never know what is going to happen. and, of course, there is a solidarity in lonely meals, in being far from loved ones, of having to forge your own customs in a strange place. i am grateful for the privilege of experiencing life here, of getting a small glimpse into the other side of holidays, the dark and lonely places.

so for us, like many, today is full of both sadness and thanksgiving. maybe it is for you too.

may you be present in all of it, wherever christ may send you.

Resurrection Cake

Image Hey guys. Did I tell you about Easter? It was really great. Probably the most relaxing family holiday we have had in a while. While it was sad that we weren't hosting entire bands (like the Sherwood Easter) or the entire staff of YWAM Salem, it was amazing to just sit around in the sunshine, eat some food, and watch the babies be cute.

When it comes to cooking, people never even ask me what I want to make anymore. There are too many good cooks in the kitchen (especially when the older sis is a renowned food blogger who makes things like nettle spanakopita for funsies). I am the girl who is good with butter, flour, and sugar. I am the baker.

So, with my one job to do, I went all out. I wanted to take all of Pinterest and convert it into a cake. To celebrate spring, being with family, the end of Lent--it feels too far out to say I really wanted to make this cake for Jesus, but you know what I mean.

So, I made a 5 layer purple ombre coconut cake.

For those interested in the deets, it was pretty uncomplicated. I used the martha stewart recipe for coconut cake (found here), but that recipe calls for 6-inch cake pans, and I only had 8-inchers. Plus, that recipe is not set up for the ombre-effect (it calls for baking 3 cakes and slicing them in half to create 6 layers), so I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 to fit my needs.

For the ombre effect, after I had mixed up the batter I divided the batter equally into 5 bowls using a measuring cup (tedious, but worth it). I added red and blue gel food coloring (sorry people, it has to be the gels in order to make the virbant colors), starting with a sleight hand and working up to a richer, more vibrant purple. One bowl I left free of color entirely, for the first layer. [Side note: this would have been much easier if I had just bought PURPLE food coloring. The mixing and matching took forever, and I was working frantically to get these in the oven by the time the baby woke up].

The layers were thin and only needed to bake for 15-18 minutes. Once they were cooled, I started stacking them, layering them with sprinkles of coconut and vanilla pudding instead of frosting (which I think made for a tastier cake).

Once they were all stacked, I finished it off with a very simple buttercream frosting, but you could do whatever you want.

Overall, the visual impact was great. The taste? Honestly, not my favorite cake. However, my husband and brother-in-law (who are both not cake people) said it was their most favorite cake ever. So there you have it.

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Goodbye, Purple Ombre Coconut Cake. You were good to us.

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