Reminiscing, Revolution and Risotto

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I have always been an unrooted soul. As Simon Schama writes in his book Landscape and Memory, some people grow legs instead of roots; and my legs have always been stronger than my roots. However, for all of my wandering ways, some of my earliest memories revolve around the landscape and farming in my home state. I grew up roaming through all the nooks and crannies of the Kiamichi Mountains of Southeastern Oklahoma. Really, they are little more than tall hills, but to my flatland sensibilities, they were massive. It wasn’t until I entered into my twenties and beyond that I would meander through the Rockies and the Alps and discover the true definition of “mountain.”

My grandparents owned vast amounts of land in these rolling hills and no matter how far my steps carry me away from Oklahoma, my reminiscences of summers spent in the Kiamichi Mountains seem to always shadow my thoughts. It’s the summer garden that most possesses my memory. Every year, rows of corn, beans of all varieties, tomatoes, marigolds, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, flowers, sweet peas, and best of all watermelons—rows upon rows upon rows—of succulent watermelons were planted with tenderness and care. Flowers, bees, fruit, hummingbirds, worms and photosynthesis worked in tandem to manifest a work of art in its highest form in that garden. And the smell of the garden…even today, I can close my eyes and still breathe in the scent of fecundity that permeated the air in that grand plot. Earth, plants, bugs, blossoms and green, all mixed together in the hot, humid Oklahoma air to produce a bouquet that I could only smell once I passed through the garden gate. The food from that small piece of earth nourished my blood as well as my soul. To my eight-year-old self, it was nearly paradise.

I like to think that the times I roamed in my grandparent’s garden fostered my deep love (bordering on obsession!) of eating fresh and healthy food. I now realize my good fortune of being able to eat whole foods most of my growing up years. Many kids, especially today, are not so fortunate. The consumption of junk food among children is at an all time high—and that characterizes a travesty. All children have the fundamental right to healthy, whole food. It is time for citizens to stand up and revolutionize the food system. Collectively, we have travelled so far from our farming roots in this country, but not so far that we can’t reclaim some of our fertile past and rethink how we eat and provision our tables.

The following represent concrete actions you can take to help change the current corporate food mentality that pervades this country: Consider lobbying your local farmer’s market to take food stamps if they don’t already. Fresh and wholesome food should be available to everyone. If your kids are in school think about initiating a gardening program. Studies show that if kids actively participate in gardening, they consume more fruits and vegetables and less junk food. If you own a house, contemplate all the places you might be able to grow food. Go to a city council meeting and ask if there might be a park where a community garden could be planted. Try and start a gardening for kids program in your city. Seek out local farmers and ask if they will sell their produce directly to you. Find a community supported agriculture program and buy produce from them. Plant more flowers. Buy less stuff. Get your hands in the dirt. Get your soul outdoors. Your health will thank you and your heart will soar. Grow things. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

Reminiscing about the past always makes me hungry. I’ve made the following risotto dish on two different continents and in three different countries. It’s always a hit with whatever crowd happens to be gathered around my table. You don’t have to have a special rice to make risotto. It can be deliciously made with short grain brown rice. This recipe has no cheese or butter, but the creaminess of the final dish is astounding. It is time intensive, but that gives you time to visit with friends, think about all your travels or where you want to go and contemplate revolutionizing the world!

Reminiscing Risotto

8 Cups vegetable broth

½ Cup dry red wine (optional)

3-5 Cups mushrooms, any kind, sliced

1 Onion finely chopped

2 Cups short grain brown rice

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 Tsp dried thyme

4 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Freshly ground pepper

Sea salt to taste

Sauté the onion and mushrooms in a little bit of vegetable broth and red wine and set aside. In a separate pan, heat your veggie broth and boil. Reduce heat and keep broth warm. In large soup pan, add about half your onion/mushroom mixture. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable broth to the soup pan. Add rice to soup pan and stir over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the lemon juice and stir until juice is absorbed. Add around two cups of broth to rice/onion/mushroom mixture and stir constantly until liquid is absorbed. Keep adding broth one soup ladle at a time to the mixture and letting that ladle be fully absorbed before adding the next. Stir constantly and repeat until all the broth has been added and absorbed. This process will take around 50 minutes to complete (but it’s sooooo worth it!). When liquid is mostly absorbed, remove from heat and add in the rest of the onion/mushroom mixture, the nutritional yeast, fresh cracked pepper and sea salt to taste. If you have some fresh thyme, sprinkle it over the top. Enjoy!

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