Daily Archives: June 20, 2012

B is for Balance – Pagan Blog Project 2012

I was reading A Canadian Foodie yesterday – I’m quite the sucker for Local Food blogs in my own country, although I’m sure that’s no surprise to anyone – and I read her posts about the Winter Solstice and Summer Solstice feasts that she’d attended (and, in one case, hosted) in celebration of local food. Her winter solstice gathering didn’t actually happen at Midwinter (it happened, iirc, in January), but it got me thinking. This was a “solstice” party. Not a Christmas party or a New Year’s Eve party. It was a celebration of the land’s bounty and she tied it to the cycle of the seasons (whether or not she’s of a religious turn of mind that sees that cycle as holy).
And this got me thinking about balance; about what’s available, at any given time, when we eat what our ecosystem/bioregion offers us; and how that has its own rhythm, its own breath. So I wanted to talk about that a little bit, today. Thus:

B is for Balance

In winter, the foods that are available tend to be flesh and roots, along with the preserving agents of salt, fat, and vinegar. We eat meat, we eat cheese, we eat nuts – all heavy with oils; we eat vegetables preserved in vinegar, sugar, and salt (think beets in vinegar, sweet pickled onions, brined cucumbers, marinated mushrooms); fruits that have been stewed with sugar (think all those cakes and cookies featuring soft cheese and/or jam), or dried and reconstituted with wine (another way of preserving fruit in sugar, as it happens); we bring out the salt-cured sausages, the smoked fish, the pate made from liver or romano beans mixed with onions and garlic and dried herbs. We eat food that is rich – because the cold demands it of us, sure, but also because those are our options.

In summer – and Midsummer in Ottawa means that you might, maybe, have your first cherry tomatoes (if you started them early enough), and you’ll definitely have strawberries (YAY!), but you’re mostly still working with leafy greens and stalks or one kind or another – we eat fresh and, frequently, raw vegetables. Salads abound as we try to keep the heat out of the house. Grain is more likely to be couscous (or other quick-cooking pastas) or bread that’s been cooked outside of the house (these days, that means getting it from a bakery, but there are folks who build backyard wood-burning ovens, a bit like chimineas, out of Cob or other material) – rather than barley or other long-cooking grain that can be thrown into an all-day-simmering soup or stew.

When you eat locally, you take the rhythm of the land into your body in a visceral way. Winter vegetables – even when they’re preserved summer vegetables – don’t taste the same as summer vegetables do when they’re eaten fresh.

Winter, as I’ve said before, is Root Time. We fill ourselves with roots, but we also curl in on ourselves, we huddle around fires, tell stories, do things by feel, in the dark. this may be significantly due the secular holidays (Hallowe’en, Christmas, New Year’s, Winterlude and Valentine’s Day, even Thanks Giving and Easter if you want to sidle a little over the boarders of the dark side of the year) that fill the time between October and April, but I find that winter is also a time of traditions – another form of conserving/preserving, really, which is apt.

Summer is expansive – long days, freedom of movement (no more coats!), windows thrown open and the kitchen moved into the yard (BBQ season, anyone?). And everything, everywhere, blooming and growing, rising and broadening, deepening and ripening. If winter is a time when we gather in and wrap our arms around ourselves to keep warm, then summer is a time when we throw our arms open to the world.

Taken together, this inward, outward motion, root to branch to root and back again, this rhythm is almost like breathing: A constant and necessary motion. Balance.

Summer Solstice (and Honey/Strawberry Moon) – 2012

So, it’s Summer Solstice today. 🙂
It’s also (one day late) the beginning of Honey Moon, meaning that the bees are Doing Their Thing in force. (Though, granted, they’ve really been doing their Thing for months now… and the first honey harvest isn’t until August. Perhaps I need to rename this one? The strawberries are ripe now, so… Strawberry Moon?)

My garden is doing beautifully and, with any luck, I’ll be able to throw some rainbow chard into tonight’s dinner. 🙂

My plan is to slow-cook (I know, weird for summer, but – in theory – it’ll keep the heat down) a pork shoulder roast with some onion and garlic and the better part of a 2C jar worth of the savoury apple-service-berry jam[1] I made last year. I’ll probably add a little apple juice plus a handful of basil from the garden.

I’m going to serve it with steamed greens (I know – why am I cooking everything???) – dandelions and rainbow chard – with tomatoes (including our first ripe tomato of the year! What timing!) and asparagus tips (just the flowery tips – I want to try pickling the stalks the same way I would with cucumbers. My sister made them years ago and they were really good).
I’ll probably serve this all over rice – mostly because we’ve got some in the fridge from last night and I want to use it up – but it would go well with Very New Potatoes as well.

Dessert is going to be something made with rhubarb and strawberries, since that’s what I’ve got. I want to do a second batch of rhubarb-strawberry jam today (so I can gift some to the various hostesses who are putting us up over the next couple of weekends), as well as try my hand at a rhubarb chutney (which, as it happens, would also go well with a pork shoulder roast[2] next time I make one).

Currently, I’m working on another Pagan Blog Project post, aptly titled “B is for Balance”, so stay tuned for that one as it relates to the bright and dark halves of the year and how eating the seasons syncs our own, internal rhythms with those of the Land. 🙂 Whee!

So that’s my update.

Happy Solstice everyone! 🙂

Meliad the Birch Maiden

[1] I made this stuff almost a year ago – the service berries around here aren’t ripe enough to harvest yet, but they will be inside of about two weeks. I need to find myself some old (scrap) sheets at a second hand store so I have a ground sheet and can just shake the berries out of the trees this year).

[2] Or barbicued pork ribs, or polish sausages or – for that matter – baked sweet potatoes or buttercup squash, come next winter. (The days are drawing in, after all… ;-))