by Jen Maiser, Editor
The story of this week's Dark Days meal begins in October.
Greg Massa of Massa Organics -- our local amazing brown rice farmer -- announced that he would be selling ducks at the farmers market and I panicked because I was scheduled to be in Southern California during the weekend that they would be sold. Greg's ducks held the promise of something special. The October sale would be the debut of his ducks -- I wrote about Greg and the role that the ducks play in his farm for Serious Eats.
I'd been dating a man -- E -- for a little while. Things were new and fresh and interesting, and I enjoyed spending time with him. When the duck sale was announced, I called E. "Would you mind going to the Berkeley Farmers Market," I asked, "and picking up a duck for me?" I explained that I had reserved the duck and that it would be under my name. He happily did the favor and I returned from the Southern California weekend to find my duck awaiting my return in E's freezer. I began to make plans for it.
As these things sometimes go, we broke up a few weeks later. As I took stock of what things we needed to return to each other, I remembered the duck. The other things that I'd left at his apartment were replaceable -- a cookbook I love but could repurchase if necessary and a couple of other odds and ends. But I couldn't leave the duck.
We arranged to meet one cold night at a BART station, and swapped possessions and I took ownership of my three-pound, sustainably-grown duck, wrapped in a canvas bag and frozen solid.
I didn't have a chance to do anything with the it until this week. I had never cooked a whole duck, truth be told, and decided to use a very simple Mark Bittman recipe to roast it. It came out decently for a first attempt, and I can't wait for the next time that Greg sells them. The next time, I will try a confit or something a little more adventurous.
I ate the duck for my dark days meal with a side dish of sauteed shredded brussels sprouts, and another of wheat berries tossed with walnut oil, parsley, satsuma mandarins and feta cheese. I later used the duck carcass for stock, and rendered out some of the fat.
As I enjoyed this eat local meal in the "dead of winter" (a ludicrous phrase, I realize, from a woman sitting in San Francisco), I reflected on what's really important in my life. Some relationships are fleeting, and end abruptly. But others -- like my relationships with my farmers -- are lasting, important and steady.
The farms who helped make my dark days meal perfect this week are: