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Argentine Cheeses: Are We Getting Someplace?

Could the supreme deliciousness of grass-fed Argentine beef have stunted the urge for other flavorful foods here?  Now that it’s gone …could foodie-culture flourish?

My darling wife and I were strolling las callecitas de Buenos Aires today on a few errands …and we found ourselves in the San Nicolás neighborhood, right across the street from Recoleta.

There’s a municipal market there that is a diamond in the rough.  Literally, you could step right by it and dismiss it as nothing special.  Two or three steps in the door, however, and your radar tells you that you are onto something special.

http://www.homestayba.com/#!mercado-municipal-san-nicolas/zoom/c1wln/i44e7v

 It’s old and it’s wonderful and is protected by the city and the prices can be astonishingly low.  It’s right on the Callao subway stop on the D line and eminently walkable from about anywhere in the city’s central area.

A lot of the market stalls are empty if you don’t get there early …but even the closed ones are beautiful in a “living museum” way, close spaces with ancient glazed tiles, big refrigerator doors from a by-gone era, old scales and machinery, great thick cutting boards worn inches into their original surfaces by operators in their favorite places.  Old signs advertise things that you just can’t get anymore.

Mamon is veal …which is illegal in Argentina …but not for any anti-cruelty reasons.

It’s open until a little past 7pm and, right up until closing, it is a shopper’s delight for fruits, veggies, meats, grains, spices, …and CHEESES.  I just happened to be looking for a nice melty cheese and my sweetie reminded me of this market.

Wow.  I was dumb-struck, gob-smacked and oh so pleased by a cheese I found in the cheesemonger’s case (I even forgot to write-down the name of the stall or take a picture!  No worries, it’s on the right, immediately inside the main lobby, forward and to your right.)

https://lodepepe.wordpress.com/portfolio/quesos-rebleusson-de-alta-saboya-a-suipacha/
Queso Rebleusson from Fermier

It was pretty.  It looked like it would melt nicely.  I told my wife that I wanted some and, while I had my back turned, she had finagled a big sample slice for the two of us. Wow, it was good.

The cheese lady told us that it was a type of camembert; it wasn’t but I could tell from the smell that the inspiration was there!  It was firm but with a little gooeyness.  So far, so good …but the taste!  There was real flavor in this Argentine cheese!

I don’t trust my taste buds after over a decade in The Argentine.

People are always amazed that I emigrated here from the US; people are always amazed that I’ve stayed here so long …I’LL TELL YOU WHAT AMAZES ME: of all the countries on earth, how did I pick the one with the most bland version of western hemisphere food?

At least we USED to have the best beef on earth …now even that’s gone.

When I bit into that cheese I wasn’t really sure if I was a good judge of cheese anymore.  So I ran it by my friends in the Argentine facebook group, “Buena Morfa Social Club.”  Sure enough, the feedback fed-back immediately.

While “the foodie” may be ready for burial in the US (à la the hippie,) awareness of food is just now blossoming in Argentina.  The Buena Morfa Social Club is a group that started here about a year ago …it now has well over 12,000 members with no end in sight.  Within an hour, the group sent me enough links and references to the cheese in question to satisfy me that my tastebuds had not atrophied, lo these many years.

Even the cheese lady told me the story of how this particular cheese factory had sent its sons to study in France in order to bring back interesting cheeses.  This is not the Argentina that I grew to love back in 2000.

For example, here’s another Argentine website devoted to food, Planeta Joy …the link was sent to me by the group and, sure enough, it mentioned the cheese I found today.  Not only did the post mention my cheese, it raved about it and how strong it tasted:

Extreme Cheeses: The Strongest of the Shopping Cart
There is a minority of dark palettes that worships mature, aromatic, tasty and powerful cheeses. For them, this post: a tasting of the best examples produced locally.
 Rebleusson: for the audacious
Originally called Reblochon, but the manufacturer, respecting French appellation laws, changed the name to Rebleusson. The crust has a pale orange color, is oily, a semi-soft cheese and when ripe is extremely aromatic, to the point of being stinky in some cases. But this stench is not consistent with its flavor, since taste is less aggressive and has notes of butter and nuts. This shines in the cheese and goes very well with fruity white wines. Perfect gift for a foodie friend or to avenge someone who owes you money by hiding it in a trunk. It is the only example of this cheese in Argentina and Fermier makes it with whole milk from their own Jersey crosses in the town of Suipacha in Buenos Aires province.

Foodie-ism took a long time to take root here …but it is now here in force.  Now, just like in the US and Europe, ordinary people who have no idea what they are talking about will challenge each other to cyber-duels over foods they have never tasted!

“It’s a good thing,” as Maya Frost Martha Stewart would say.  We are on our way here in Argentina to more authentic and mindful versions of foods with more of the original flavors of the myriad of immigrants to this bread-basket of the world.

It used to be just beef here. While I lament the passage of that great grass-fed patrimony into history, if its disappearance has resulted in a sudden national craving for other foods with deep distinctive flavors, I’m all for it!

Provecho a todos!

VPN for Expats in Buenos Aires

Solve Your Content Issues with a VPN

News happens everyday, and there are various media outlets that report on this news. However, depending upon  your location, you may find that you cannot access other views of the same news story. This is common in areas which may have limits on what citizens or expats in the area can view. In addition, there are several Internet sites that are geo-restricted. Meaning, if you do not have an IP address of that country, you are not gaining access.

There are also times in which certain television shows come on, and you cannot access them since you are not in the country. For example, shows on the BBC cannot easily be accessed if you are outside of the United Kingdom. However, there is a way to solve both of these issues.

A VPN, or virtual private network,  is a method that many people are turning to these days so that they can watch whatever they want, from wherever they are, and ensure that they can access any website they desire.

How Does a VPN Work?

The main question that users ask is just how is this VPN going to work? It is simple, when you go with a best VPN provider, you gain access to their network of IP addresses that are available. These IP addresses allow you to gain access to information that is based on your IP address. For example, while in Argentina, a person could connect to the Internet with an IP address that is based in the United Kingdom. In doing so, he or she, is going to have access to the BBC and other UK shows or Internet sites.

Other Benefits of a VPN

Besides gaining access to content that you would otherwise not be able to get, which for many is the main reason they use a VPN, there are other benefits that a VPN offers. For example:

  • The IP address you utilize is anonymous, meaning you can avoid security threats that linger on the world wide web
  • Some people have stated that when they use a VPN, they actually see an increase in the speed of their Internet
  • If you have a VPN, you can save on your phone bill as well since you can use a VOIP to make calls, and with a VPN, you can avoid long distance fees

If you are tired of living a life that is full of Internet restrictions, one sided news casts and the inability to watch the shows you wish to watch, then a VPN could be the solution to your issues. There are numerous providers on the market, that all offer a way to get your very own VPN.

Yanqui’s Southern Cornbread

Yep.  Here’s the yanq with his recipe for good ol’ downhome Southern cornbread …adapted for all y’all in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Now the yanq is a Northern boy …but I’ve always preferred Southern cornbread.  What’s the difference, you ask?  Well, although you will find quite a bit of cross-over, Southern cornbread is baked without sugar and with a scant amount of wheat flour.

Careful, though.  Other than how to make “real chili”, questioning what constitutes “real cornbread” has caused more fists to swing on more than one occasion down South than anything (culinary) I can think of.  This is further complicated by a lot of Southern grandmas who actually put sugar in their cornbread …you don’t want to get your ass kicked by Bubba or his grandma …or both.  Like religion and politics, keep your cornbread opinions to yourself south of the Mason-Dixon line.  Up North, we really don’t care how you make your cornbread.

Northern cornbread is described as “cake” down South.  It’s fluffier and sweeter than its Southern counterpart  That’s probably due to the greater availability of hard wheat bread flour up North (some Yankee cornbread hardly has any corn in it at all.)  The sweet part probably comes from the molasses and sugar that was our part of the sugar/rum/slaves triangle.

Being a fanatic for grains of all kinds, not to mention the lack of a sweet tooth, my favorite is the savory stuff that Southerners consider one of the icons of their cuisine.

Like I said, this recipe is adapted for use in Buenos Aires …with the exception being a cast iron skillet is essential.  Essential.  No, your cast aluminum Essen (a SUPER product) will not do.  I have heard, however, that there is an enterprising Argentino who is beginning to cast some very fine iron skillets here. I’ll let you know what I hear; I’m on the caper.

Step 1.  preheat your oven to 450° F (230° C)

You can go hotter but you risk blackening your cornbread.  My wife likes that!  Me, not so much.

Step 2.  combine the dry ingredients: 
 2 cups of polenta, 4 tablespoons of 00 white flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Put all of it together in a nice big bowl and mix thoroughly. Mix, mix, mix.

Yep, polenta.  That’s not as strange as it might seem …good cornbread needs a relatively fine grind anyway and polenta here fills the bill.  I wish I could recommend non-instant polenta …but I don’t think that exists here anymore.  Instant polenta could actually help this recipe, though …I think it absorbs the wet ingredients quicker.

The white flour is important.  Cornmeal has little to no gluten and you need gluten to get your cornbread to rise.  If I can’t find good bread flour, I keep some pure gluten on hand (you can find it pretty easily here in natural food stores) and I add a couple of teaspoons to the wheat flour.  You get more effect and still get to keep the flour down to a respectable minimum.

If the amount of baking soda seems a bit over the top, just wait.  It’s essential and it keeps your salt down to 1 teaspoon.

Step 3.  beat 3 eggs

That’s more eggs than most recipes recommend …but eggs also give the corn meal a structure it can use like the high gluten flour to make your cornbread rise and become fluffy and stay a little moister.  Good Southern cornbread should be dense …but too dense can interfere with your enjoyment.  Grandma was probably lying about only adding 2 eggs, anyway.

Step 4.  make 2 cups of “buttermilk”

Now, if you can find buttermilk in Argentina, good on you.  However, even if you can find it, you might want to “make” it yourself.  Buttermilk adds two things to a cornbread recipe: acid and that cultured/fermented flavor.  The most important thing is the acid.  The acid of the buttermilk will react with the baking soda and cause your batter to foam.  This foaminess, along with what the heat will do to the eggs and baking powder will leaven your cornbread and people will think you’re a magician …or will suspect you have an old family secret recipe.  Stick with the old secret family recipe story.

To “make” buttermilk take your 2 cups of milk and add 3 tablespoons of cider vinegar.  Wait 5 minutes then add the beaten eggs.

Step 5.  preheat your cast iron skillet with 3 tablespoons of grease/oil for about 5 minutes but not enough to make the skillet smoke.

If it smokes a little, that’s ok …but no more.  Since your skillet is black, it’s hard to tell when you’ve burned your oil.  That burned fat could contribute some bad flavors …of course, if your grandmother always burned the fat, maybe it’ll just bring back pleasant memories!

Bacon fat would be the preferred grease …but that’s hard to find here.  Vegetable oil of any kind is fine.  I use pork lard (grasa porcina comestible) but beef fat would be fine, as well.  Butter is problematic because it burns too easily for this recipe …if you’re going to use butter, clarify it to help it handle the high temperatures.  Sometimes, I add a very little liquid smoke to my lard to try to approximate bacon fat.

Step 6.  pour the egg/buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients 

Mix the wet and dry ingredient together very quickly …but not brutally.  Don’t beat them together like you were whipping cream, just mix them gently so that there are no clumps of dry ingredients.  You may notice some foaming …that’s nice.

Step 7.  pour the batter into your hot skillet

Don’t let this step baffle you.  The skillet is not there to cook your cornbread.  You only want that unbeatable thermal mass of the cast iron to give your cornbread a head start on baking.  Don’t try to “fry” your cornbread on the stove top for a while before placing it in the oven.  That won’t achieve anything except to increase your chances of cornbread burned on the bottom.

This recipe assumes a 10 inch (25cm) skillet.  What you’re trying to do here is fill your skillet almost to the top …so that your cornbread won’t look so much like a tortilla or fallen souffle.  Cornbread doesn’t rise like wheat bread; it won’t overflow your skillet in the oven.  The batter’s depth in your skillet will be about the height of your result.

If your skillet is larger (lucky you!) you may want to augment this recipe.  If your skillet is smaller, you’re also in luck …any left over batter can go back into your hot skillet, with a smidgen of oil, to make deelicious pancakes, hoe cakes, johnny cakes, journey cakes …whatever you wanna call them.

Step 8.  place your hot, batter-filled skilled into your preheated oven

Careful, now …that skillet is hot and your oven is hot.  Goof up and you could hurt yourself or others around you.

Leave it there for 20 minutes.  That seems to be the magic number of minutes.  The already HOT iron skillet starts helping it to bake immediately.  You’re looking for the careful balance of making sure that the center of the batter bakes solid …and to making sure that your cornbread doesn’t burn on the bottom.  Your oven rack placed half way up seems to give the best results.

Don’t get paranoid, corn meal can take a lot of heat …and there really isn’t much else in this recipe.  Your cornbread should not be a pale color on the outside.

Step 9.  take the skillet out of the oven and let it cool slightly

I’m always afraid of letting the cornbread cool too much in the skillet …a little bit is needed for it to release but too much and I’m afraid it will stick.  If your skillet is well-seasoned, it might just pop out like it was teflon once turned upside-down.  If it doesn’t, just gently pry it from the upside-down skillet with a small fork.  That’s probably just me being paranoid …I’ve never had any problems.

Step 10.  eat some cornbread!

Cornbread and buttermilk, country-boy’s delight
I eat in the mornin’, I eat it noon and night.
Some peoples like fried chicken
And others likes the HAM
But cornbread and buttermilk makes me what I am.

If you are lucky enough to have buttermilk, go ahead and dunk it and dip it in a cold glass.  Otherwise, just slather some sweet cream butter on it right out of the oven (it doesn’t need to cool like a cake.)

I think chili always tastes better with cornbread …or you could do MY favorite and serve it with YOUR favorite bowl of beans.  Way yum.

Once you’ve gotten comfortable with this recipe, don’t hesitate to play around with it.  Adding cheese and hot peppers and maybe a little cumin to the batter is a great variant.  Bacon (of course!) or any smokey meat would be welcome just about anywhere with any sense.

Don’t forget what I said about making pancakes from the batter!  Just do the same skillet/oven routine …but cut back the baking time to more like 10 minutes …and keep the oil/fat/grease to a minimum.  No more boring pancakes!  And if you’re a dyed in the wool Yankee, some butter and maple syrup will stoke you for heading out to work in the cranberry bogs (hmm… some cranberries, too?)  These pancakes rival fried cornmeal mush!  You might choose to forget about making cornbread.

Well, that’s it.  I made only sucky cornbread all my life.  The cast iron skillet is the key …and those are hard to get a friend to mule down to Baires for you.  On a serious note, however, I truly am following up a lead on a guy here who is forging black iron for our kitchens …if that’s true, I’ll be sending him a bunch of customers.

Provecho!
Mike

Yanqui’s Southern Cornbread

Yep.  Here’s the yanq with his recipe for good ol’ downhome Southern cornbread …adapted for all y’all in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Now the yanq is a Northern boy …but I’ve always preferred Southern cornbread.  What’s the difference, you ask?  Well, although you will find quite a bit of cross-over, Southern cornbread is baked without sugar and with a scant amount of wheat flour.

Careful, though.  Other than how to make “real chili”, questioning what constitutes “real cornbread” has caused more fists to swing on more than one occasion down South than anything (culinary) I can think of.  This is further complicated by a lot of Southern grandmas who actually put sugar in their cornbread …you don’t want to get your ass kicked by Bubba or his grandma …or both.  Like religion and politics, keep your cornbread opinions to yourself south of the Mason-Dixon line.  Up North, we really don’t care how you make your cornbread.

Northern cornbread is described as “cake” down South.  It’s fluffier and sweeter than its Southern counterpart  That’s probably due to the greater availability of hard wheat bread flour up North (some Yankee cornbread hardly has any corn in it at all.)  The sweet part probably comes from the molasses and sugar that was our part of the sugar/rum/slaves triangle.

Being a fanatic for grains of all kinds, not to mention the lack of a sweet tooth, my favorite is the savory stuff that Southerners consider one of the icons of their cuisine.

Like I said, this recipe is adapted for use in Buenos Aires …with the exception being a cast iron skillet is essential.  Essential.  No, your cast aluminum Essen (a SUPER product) will not do.  I have heard, however, that there is an enterprising Argentino who is beginning to cast some very fine iron skillets here. I’ll let you know what I hear; I’m on the caper.

Step 1.  preheat your oven to 450° F (230° C)

You can go hotter but you risk blackening your cornbread.  My wife likes that!  Me, not so much.

Step 2.  combine the dry ingredients: 
 2 cups of polenta, 4 tablespoons of 00 white flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Put all of it together in a nice big bowl and mix thoroughly. Mix, mix, mix.

Yep, polenta.  That’s not as strange as it might seem …good cornbread needs a relatively fine grind anyway and polenta here fills the bill.  I wish I could recommend non-instant polenta …but I don’t think that exists here anymore.  Instant polenta could actually help this recipe, though …I think it absorbs the wet ingredients quicker.

The white flour is important.  Cornmeal has little to no gluten and you need gluten to get your cornbread to rise.  If I can’t find good bread flour, I keep some pure gluten on hand (you can find it pretty easily here in natural food stores) and I add a couple of teaspoons to the wheat flour.  You get more effect and still get to keep the flour down to a respectable minimum.

If the amount of baking soda seems a bit over the top, just wait.  It’s essential and it keeps your salt down to 1 teaspoon.

Step 3.  beat 3 eggs

That’s more eggs than most recipes recommend …but eggs also give the corn meal a structure it can use like the high gluten flour to make your cornbread rise and become fluffy and stay a little moister.  Good Southern cornbread should be dense …but too dense can interfere with your enjoyment.  Grandma was probably lying about only adding 2 eggs, anyway.

Step 4.  make 2 cups of “buttermilk”

Now, if you can find buttermilk in Argentina, good on you.  However, even if you can find it, you might want to “make” it yourself.  Buttermilk adds two things to a cornbread recipe: acid and that cultured/fermented flavor.  The most important thing is the acid.  The acid of the buttermilk will react with the baking soda and cause your batter to foam.  This foaminess, along with what the heat will do to the eggs and baking powder will leaven your cornbread and people will think you’re a magician …or will suspect you have an old family secret recipe.  Stick with the old secret family recipe story.

To “make” buttermilk take your 2 cups of milk and add 3 tablespoons of cider vinegar.  Wait 5 minutes then add the beaten eggs.

Step 5.  preheat your cast iron skillet with 3 tablespoons of grease/oil for about 5 minutes but not enough to make the skillet smoke.

If it smokes a little, that’s ok …but no more.  Since your skillet is black, it’s hard to tell when you’ve burned your oil.  That burned fat could contribute some bad flavors …of course, if your grandmother always burned the fat, maybe it’ll just bring back pleasant memories!

Bacon fat would be the preferred grease …but that’s hard to find here.  Vegetable oil of any kind is fine.  I use pork lard (grasa porcina comestible) but beef fat would be fine, as well.  Butter is problematic because it burns too easily for this recipe …if you’re going to use butter, clarify it to help it handle the high temperatures.  Sometimes, I add a very little liquid smoke to my lard to try to approximate bacon fat.

Step 6.  pour the egg/buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients 

Mix the wet and dry ingredient together very quickly …but not brutally.  Don’t beat them together like you were whipping cream, just mix them gently so that there are no clumps of dry ingredients.  You may notice some foaming …that’s nice.

Step 7.  pour the batter into your hot skillet

Don’t let this step baffle you.  The skillet is not there to cook your cornbread.  You only want that unbeatable thermal mass of the cast iron to give your cornbread a head start on baking.  Don’t try to “fry” your cornbread on the stove top for a while before placing it in the oven.  That won’t achieve anything except to increase your chances of cornbread burned on the bottom.

This recipe assumes a 10 inch (25cm) skillet.  What you’re trying to do here is fill your skillet almost to the top …so that your cornbread won’t look so much like a tortilla or fallen souffle.  Cornbread doesn’t rise like wheat bread; it won’t overflow your skillet in the oven.  The batter’s depth in your skillet will be about the height of your result.

If your skillet is larger (lucky you!) you may want to augment this recipe.  If your skillet is smaller, you’re also in luck …any left over batter can go back into your hot skillet, with a smidgen of oil, to make deelicious pancakes, hoe cakes, johnny cakes, journey cakes …whatever you wanna call them.

Step 8.  place your hot, batter-filled skilled into your preheated oven

Careful, now …that skillet is hot and your oven is hot.  Goof up and you could hurt yourself or others around you.

Leave it there for 20 minutes.  That seems to be the magic number of minutes.  The already HOT iron skillet starts helping it to bake immediately.  You’re looking for the careful balance of making sure that the center of the batter bakes solid …and to making sure that your cornbread doesn’t burn on the bottom.  Your oven rack placed half way up seems to give the best results.

Don’t get paranoid, corn meal can take a lot of heat …and there really isn’t much else in this recipe.  Your cornbread should not be a pale color on the outside.

Step 9.  take the skillet out of the oven and let it cool slightly

I’m always afraid of letting the cornbread cool too much in the skillet …a little bit is needed for it to release but too much and I’m afraid it will stick.  If your skillet is well-seasoned, it might just pop out like it was teflon once turned upside-down.  If it doesn’t, just gently pry it from the upside-down skillet with a small fork.  That’s probably just me being paranoid …I’ve never had any problems.

Step 10.  eat some cornbread!

Cornbread and buttermilk, country-boy’s delight
I eat in the mornin’, I eat it noon and night.
Some peoples like fried chicken
And others likes the HAM
But cornbread and buttermilk makes me what I am.

If you are lucky enough to have buttermilk, go ahead and dunk it and dip it in a cold glass.  Otherwise, just slather some sweet cream butter on it right out of the oven (it doesn’t need to cool like a cake.)

I think chili always tastes better with cornbread …or you could do MY favorite and serve it with YOUR favorite bowl of beans.  Way yum.

Once you’ve gotten comfortable with this recipe, don’t hesitate to play around with it.  Adding cheese and hot peppers and maybe a little cumin to the batter is a great variant.  Bacon (of course!) or any smokey meat would be welcome just about anywhere with any sense.

Don’t forget what I said about making pancakes from the batter!  Just do the same skillet/oven routine …but cut back the baking time to more like 10 minutes …and keep the oil/fat/grease to a minimum.  No more boring pancakes!  And if you’re a dyed in the wool Yankee, some butter and maple syrup will stoke you for heading out to work in the cranberry bogs (hmm… some cranberries, too?)  These pancakes rival fried cornmeal mush!  You might choose to forget about making cornbread.

Well, that’s it.  I made only sucky cornbread all my life.  The cast iron skillet is the key …and those are hard to get a friend to mule down to Baires for you.  On a serious note, however, I truly am following up a lead on a guy here who is forging black iron for our kitchens …if that’s true, I’ll be sending him a bunch of customers.

Provecho!
Mike

How’s your other footprint?

Not the carbon one.  Other than climate change deniers, if the importance of your carbon footprint hasn’t been impressed upon you by now…

I’m talking about the footprint you leave by eating sustainably.

After a decade as a rancher, a sometime farmer, and an organic gardener for the last 3 or 4 years, I’m starting to feel qualified to ask a few questions regarding how food gets produced …not just factory farms but the stuff you and I are proud to produce and buy.

Here’s a question for ya: How’s yer farmer?

I wasn’t sure exactly how many legs a cow had when I got into agriculture …so I did a lot of general research while I was trying to find out what I needed to know.  As it turns out, I needed to know it all.

And while it might be too much to ask of you, you need to know it all, too.

So whaddya say?  Let’s get started.  Anyone who has educated themselves to the extent that they know how much we all need to avoid herbicides and pesticides and antibiotics and embrace food from techniques that guard the soils that produce the stuff of life …surely won’t be scared-off by taking it a step further.

Full disclosure: my wife and I make a fine living from our ranch and we provide a fine living for those who work for us, all without resorting to unsustainable practices.

We are, however, by far, the worldwide exception.

Would it surprise you that the vast majority of cattle ranchers in the United States are hobbyists?  Would it surprise you that most sustainable farmers can’t pay themselves the minimum wage?  Don’t take my word for it.  Ask the US Census, the USDA, and the IRS.

Would it surprise you that the fresh-faced, white, educated farmer at your local farmers’ market can’t pay themselves even the local minimum wage for their farming/market-gardening efforts?

How would you like to know that your favorite farmer from your favorite farmers’ market can’t live off that substandard income of their farming (nor fairly pay any employees) without off-farm income?  Even conventional farmers and ranchers struggle to live off of their on-farm income.

Last question: what does all that mean?

Mind you, these farmers are the core of sustainable farmers.  These are the true believers.  These are the people who have brought us to an age in which delicious, naturally raised produce is widely available …even if at a big premium over the supermarket’s earth-killing cheap veggie prices.

It’s surprising, even to me …but not THAT surprising.  Making a profit in agriculture is difficult even under the best circumstances …but it’s always has been that way.

But if you click Google’s link, “organic farmer career,” you’ll find scads of links that encourage young folks to enter organic/natural/unconventional farming.  Knowing what the statistics say, that career field doesn’t seem to be anything that you would recommend to family and loved-ones.

I’ve even read lots of press lately that speaks of programs to encourage and facilitate the homeless and unemployed military veterans from the latest attempted conquests to take up farming.  If you know anything about agriculture, you’ll know that it’s always been that way.  Getting off the farm was the original American Dream for a reason.

Since I already said that I’ve asked you my last question …I’ll just tell you what I think.

I think that it’s natural.

I think that it’s natural to propose to populate farms with the forgotten of our society. After all, it’s always been that way.

No matter how white nor educated those current farmers may be, farming is akin to slavery …it’s why you don’t do it.  (I only use the example of white market-farmers to direct your attention to how difficult it is for even the most privileged of us.)

Without incredibly expensive machinery, lots of poisons, and a cozy access to capital, you cannot farm with the hope of not having a job in town.  Even with all that, you are looking at fighting economic failure everyday.

Now, don’t tell me how YOU fight economic failure everyday …farming without those machinery, poisons, and capital is a losing proposition from the start.  Start thinking that this is different.  That’s crucial to your understanding of how food is produced.

Since the dawn of agriculture, farmers have never been part of the middle class, let alone the ruling class.

Although rich farmers may disagree with me, without slaves or expensive machinery and its adjuncts, there has never been a rich farmer.

Even moderately successful farming is an accident of birth.

I remember reading for the first time the phrase, “land dependent” in regard to farmers and ranchers.  “Of course!” I said.  “You have to have land to farm!”  Nope, that’s not what the term meant.  It meant that you already had to OWN land to even think about farming.

Other than factory farms that are able to pay for more and more land …you only farm if land has been left to you by your forbears.  Even then, if you farm it in a non-mechanized way (slavery being technically illegal,) you will probably sell to a larger, more conventionally farming concern.

Your favorite farmer from your favorite farmers’ market is most likely renting a piece of land …and working in town to pay the rent for it.  That farmer’s spouse is probably shouldering most of the weight of the actual farming operation.  Not exactly liberating, is it?

Your fantasies of a more rewarding life, in the open air denied to your office or cubicle, with that “good kinda tired” instead of your off-farm exhaustion are just that: fantasies.  Current sustainable farmers have “both kinds of tired.”

OK.  Now.  So what?

Personally, I think we are living in a golden age of healthy food.  That particular kind of food, mostly unavailable since the advent of mechanized agriculture, is being produced by well-meaning people who got into farming with the same zeal as we got into eating.

That current crop of farmers will not, contrary to fantasy, stay farming for long.  Ask them.  Make them tell you the truth.  Nobody is naturally inclined to tell you that their business is unsustainable and on the verge of failure.

So what so we do now?  (OK, that’s my real last question.)

I don’t know.  Maybe you can help me think it through.  Maybe I can help you, too.

Produce and meat, sustainably produced and without poisons, is already very expensive.  Can we pay more?  That doesn’t seem likely.

What I want to happen …is what YOU want to happen.  I don’t want this current crop of healthy food and healthy food producers to disappear in the inevitable crash of young motivated farmers finally giving up.

How do we do that?  (my real, real, last question.)

Yanqui Mike on the BBC

A little teaser from the BBC series, “A Cook Abroad.”  I got to play a small part in the Argentina episode and

"A Cook Abroad"

A little teaser from the BBC series, “A Cook Abroad.”  I got to play a small part in the Argentina episode and I’m really pleased at how it turned out.

I even ended up on camera for a few minutes!

MasterChef John Torode really got the feel of preparing and eating good Argentine beef. I was with them all the way to Mendoza and I was astounded at their professionalism and attention to detail.

It’s too bad that this series is so difficult to view outside the UK …but here’s a little teaser.  The episode really gives an accurate idea of the state of Argentine beef.

Please let me know if you find an easy way to view this series outside the UK.

Raicilla! Ay! Qué Rica!

http://firstwefeast.com/drink/raicilla-the-secret-mexican-spirit-hiding-in-tequilas-shadows

This one goes out to my Uncle Dick.  He and my Aunt Susie are probably the biggest reason I emigrated to Latin America.  Back in the 80’s, they took up the expat life in Jalisco, Mexico …with the big difference being that they tended to stay away from foreigners and cultivated beautiful relationships with the locals.  After their arrival in Mexico, I went toe-to-toe with my then-intense fear of flying and escaped the Chicago winters for two weeks every January.  Through them, I visited homes of their friends in the hills above Puerto Vallarta and came to love Mexico as much as them.

One morning, while preparing a late breakfast, I remember (I’m cursed with total recall after alcoholic bouts) there was a knock on the door.  My Uncle Dick went to answer it and, after a brief discussion at the door, he came into the kitchen with a quart bottle of something that looked like water.

“Hey!  You know about this stuff?”
“No.  What’s that?”
“That’s raicilla, baby.  You ever heard of it?  You want some?”

I’m pretty sure I’d swallowed some of the freshest eggs and butter in the world …or I would have begged-off.  As it was, we poured some shots and I sliced-up some limes.

 “Careful, now …it’s strong,” he told me.  This was from a man who I’d never seen advise caution to anyone regarding a distilled spirit.  If YOU couldn’t take it, that was just tough shit on your part.

“What is it?”

“Raicilla.  Moonshine tequila from up in the hills.  It’s good but it’s not easy to get.  You got to know somebody.  This stuff is particularly good.”

I sniffed the shot glass and it smelled good …but strong!  I squeezed a wedge of lime into mine in the hopes of …I don’t know …and steeled myself …and took a slash.

I didn’t taste too very much but what impressed me was that, for all it’s strength, I didn’t cough or choke …it was barrel proof and had numbed, anesthetized my throat.  It went down smooooth.  That freaked me out.

“Well!  Whaddya think?”

Neither good tequila nor mezcal was available in the US in those days.  José Cuervo, this weren’t!  Like any good cactus whiskey, the perfumes of the stuff started to swirl up around the back of my pallet and into my sinuses and into my lungs for the next couple of breaths.

“Gimme a second,” I said, trying to take it all in so unexpectedly there with the sun streaming in on its way to the yardarm.  “It’s good.  Really good.”

“It’s about 140 proof, give or take.”

I told him that it didn’t really taste that strong …then it hit me.  I’d never downed a shot of anything that affected me in the tips of my toes before any place else!  Pretty soon, my whole huaraches were tingling.

A couple two three shots later and the afternoon began to dissolve into sun, sand, ocean, and palmtrees.  Beautiful day.

Just a few years later, I read that the actor Richard Burton had become a big fan of the stuff just a few blocks away from my denouement. Ten years later, I was introducing a generation of Chicagoans to mezcales, albeit at a more civilized level of the active ingredient.

Great article!  If you can get it in your city, take a slash and think of the Ol’ Yanq and his Uncle Dick.

Salud!

Eat the Can

(from The Awl)

 “The king of canned plant products is the canned tomato. Tomatoes are the ideal use case for canning: a product with a very minimal harvest time is picked at its peak and preserved, so I use canned tomatoes ten months a year, happily. The only time I opt for fresh tomatoes is during the tiny window in summer when the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania fruits are at their peak. There are lots of variation in canned tomatoes. They usually come in either whole, chopped/diced, crushed, and pureed/sauce. Go for the whole ones and cut to your liking. My favorite trick for turning whole canned tomatoes into a puree is to jam my immersion blender right down into the can and go nuts. No extra cleanup!”

Get Your Full List Here

Aguja – Chuck, Chuck Roast from immediately in back of neck (cogote)
Asado / Asado de Tira – Rib Roast, Short Rib Roast
Azotillo – a Shoulder cut
Bife Ancho – Rib Eye Steaks, Prime Rib, Rib Eye Roast,
Bife Angosto – Strip SteakPorterhouse Steak
Bife a la Rueda – Round Steak
Bife de Alcatra – Sirloin Steak
Bife de Costilla – T-Bone Steaks
Bife de Chorizo – like a Strip Steak
Bife de Lomo – Tenderloin / “filet mignon”
Bofe – Lungs
Bola de Lomo – Sirloin Tip Roast
Carnaza – Stewing Beef
Carne Picada – Ground Beef
Chinchulín – upper segment of the Small Intestine
Chorizo – Spicy Sausage
Cogote – Neck
Colita de Cuadril – Rump Steak
Corazón – Heart
Costilla – Rib
Criadilla – Testicle of young beef
Cuadrada – Bottom Round-Stewing or Strogonoff Beef
Cuadril – Rump Roast, Rump Steaks
Entraña – Skirt Steak
Escondido –
Falda – Skirt Steak (diaphragm)
Falda con hueso – Skirt steak with bone
Hígado – Liver
Lengua – Tongue
Lomo – Tenderloin
Marucha – Short Ribs
Matambre – Flank Steak
Milanesa – Minute Steak
Mollejas – Sweetbreads
Mondongo – one of the stomachs
Morcilla – Blood Sausage
Nalga – Round Stewing Beef, standing rump
Ojo de Bife – Ribeye
Ossobuco – Shin
Paleta – Shoulder Roast, blade steak
Palomita – Butterfly Cut near Shoulder Roast
Peceto – Round Steaks, Roast Eye of Round
Pecho – Brisket
Rabo – Oxtail
Riñones – Kidneys
“Ros Bif” – Roast Beef (you’ll sometimes see on menus)
Sesos – Brains
Solomillo – Hanger Steak
Tapa de Asado – Rib Cap Roast
Tapa de Nalga – Cap of Round Roast
Tapa de Cuadríl – Cap of Rump Roast
Tortuguita – a portion of the Rump
Tripa Gorda – Large Intestine
Ubre – Udder
Vacío – Flank Steak