In the last six years, I'd like to think my gatherer (however not hunter) skills have improved. But skill has nothing to do with it. You show up at the market every weekend, get to know the farmers and next thing you know, your pastured turkey is just one facebook wall post from your table. Far more than poultry and potatoes, what I gathered has been people. Friends. Farmers. Fellow cooks and locavores. It's a bounty that ensures that neither my table or my life will be empty. As my family celebrates this holiday, we have much to be thankful for in our connections to our food, not just connections on facebook.
Like the farmers who see my child at the market each spring, after a winter apart. They've watched her grow up from a baby in a front carrier to her current four feet tall — and knew it was their food she ate to get so big. They've fed her cherry tomatoes and peppers fresh from the ground and encouraged her love of vegetables in ways I never could. A few of them have even, in the cold late fall market days, wiped her nose for her, just as if she were one of their own.
I've watched my child pet the forehead of a bull in a pasture and hold baby chicks when we went to get our chickens.
A few of the farmers have become good friends, showing up at our table, our kids playing together as we cook and drink wine. We've celebrated holidays now, and family outings to the pumpkin patch. We've cooked the lamb they raised, possibly even the once tiny ones they kept warm in their laundry room during a wicked cold winter.
Each winter, I wonder how they all are and look forward to the spring ahead when we will see them — not just their produce — again. I rejoice at new methods like high tunnels that extend the season a month in either direction. Not just because the food is so good, but it's two months less I will not have to miss all these people.
Which is a whole lot to gather into your life besides sweet potatoes.
Sweet Potato Souffle
2 lbs washed, peeled and diced sweet potatoes (start with a bit over 2 lbs. to allow for peeling)
3 tbs. flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tbs. maple syrup
1 tsp. orange extract
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 tbs. butter, melted
Steam the diced sweet potato for about 20 minutes until tender. Allow to cool before preparing the rest of the recipe.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the sweet potato in a food processor and pulse until pureed. Add the flour through the extract and pulse to combine. Add the sour cream, eggs, and butter. Pulse to combine well, scraping sides as needed. Pour batter into a greased souffle dish. Bake for about one hour or until edges are puffed and center is nearly set. Allow to cool for about 15 to 20 minutes before serving for the best texture. It really does get better cold the next day.
ExpatChef, or Beth Bader, is co-author of the upcoming book, The Cleaner Plate Club: Recipes and Advice for Getting Real Kids to Love Real Food.