Oh Precious Cabbage, What Do We Do With You
This week’s Crain’s Chicago Business asks a question we’ve been answering for years, “How to Eat Local in Winter.” The article is a lot of yes, without a lof of the how, the gist being that the Midwest is not a barren wasteland come polar vortex. There are, it notes, indoor grown items like microgreens and storage crops including beets, apples and potatoes. It also notes the existence of winter markets, specifically Green City. Finally, it quotes a few chefs who explain how they cope with serving local food all year. What the article misses is the actual coping.
What’s it like on the front lines of eating local in the darkest days. Are we giving up for the asparagus that’s always a-standin’ for sale at Fresh Farms? No, we cook from our stores, making this week, two turnip dishes and one acorn squash number. And with the benefit of having one of the Local Family also working at indoor markets, we grab what is available. Last week at the Evanston winter market, there was not a lot of produce to be had–in fact most of it was being sold by the Condiment Queen for Tomato Mountain. We did not need those carrots or turnips she sold. We needed something fresh, green, or at least the palest yet closest thing to green around this time of year. Yes, cabbages store. She scored a cabbage. Do not be fooled by a blackening outer layer. Inside, all is well and tasty. How to eat local in winter. Eat a cabbage.
What, however, do we do with our prized, singular cabbage. Since I am the master of cole slaw and other cabbage salads–my superpower–I immediately offering up shredding and dressing. The rest of the Local Family countered with a desire for sauteed, maybe with a little curry powder? As you can see from the pic, it sits in our fridge at present on top of some old thyme. Our window for decision looms, because storage-smorage, it won’t be that palatable soon. The thing about eating local in the winter is living with your choices. Make a mistake on that cabbage, there may not be another one to fool with for six months.
How to eat local in winter. Learn to prize what you can find. Learn to agree amongst your mispocha whether a salad or a saute meets your needs. As this family has shown for many years, the answer to how to eat local in winter comes not in possibilities but in working out the details.