“Eating is an agricultural act” Wendell Berry, farmer and writer
There is a climate of environmental and social purpose slowly seeping into the global consciousness. Traditional foods are disappearing, right along with the farmers. Food production and distribution is big business now responsible for 70% of the planet’s destruction. 2010 has been named the International Year of Biodiversity by the UN. We need seasons, farms and farmers if we are to be cooking with produce from Morning Glory Farm instead of Monsanto.
The year 1986 changed the global food landscape. When a McDonald’s franchise opened near the ancient Piazza di Spagna in Rome a group of Italian bon vivants protested “armed with nothing but a bowl of penne.” Coincidentally, it was also the year of Chernobyl, the worst nuclear disaster in history, immediate deaths not withstanding causing the extinction of plants animals and wildlife with birth defects for generations to come. Nuclear rain fell as far as Ireland poisoning the soil.
The leader of the Italian gourmets was Carlo Petrini, a member of a fraternity that assembled to eat great food and drink great wine. It’s not hard to come by in Italy. Although as Mr. Petrini tells it, you can’t get a good Provolone del Monaco like you used to. This most delicious of the provolones harkens back to the 1500’s. Shepherds would wear monk-like cloaks to protect them from the mountainous cold and damp and when they reached Naples to sell their cheese the cry would go up “Uncle Monk is here to sell Provolone.” I’m sure the Provolone del Monaco is fantastic but but Mr. Petrini knows that three breeds of milk cattle, four breeds of sheep and two breeds of donkey have become extinct in his 60 years. Of pasteurizing milk he says, “When you pasteurize milk you deprive it of it's soul, can’t taste the breed, the grass the animal ate, if it came from mountain, hill, or valley. It doesn't defend people's health, just industry.”
The Slow Food Movement was officially launched in Paris in 1989 with an all-night dinner and a ‘39 Barolo, with the founding manifesto: "A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of the fast life. Fast life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes.. Slow food is now the only truly progressive answer." A prescient message. Mr. Petrini was sworn in as President, an office he still holds today. Slow Food now has 100,000 members in 132 countries. He goes on speaking tours to talk about biodiversity, the need to reformulate a paradigm for proximity agriculture and how we must take responsibility for what is on our plate.
There’s something magical about going in the kitchen and taking a bunch of ingredients and turning them into something aromatic and beautiful. There’s a line in the ‘Julie and Julia’ movie “If you add egg yolks to chocolate and milk it will get thick, what a comfort!" And it’s true! If you add boiling cream to unsweetened chocolate it will turn into a thick glistening chocolate ganache which magical things like Midnight Torte and Truffles are made. There is something next to Godliness about making wonderful things with fresh produce. It’s good for the soul. It makes everything alright, at least forawhile. And that’s all there ever is, awhile, so we must make the most of it.
The ceremony of respecting food, holding hands and saying grace is lost when eating mystery food from the microwave. People are much nicer when cooked for. It’s a fact.
The end of deer season was the last day of December. Freezers and food pantries are full for the winter. Hunting season was extended for a week this year due to the large deer population. Venison is delicious, healthy, and versatile. It’s also a responsible food choice, it’s a quick humane kill and contributes to the efforts of tick control .
It’s a win-win all around. As it happens this is a slow recipe, it marinates for days, and can meld for a day after all the cooking steps are done.