As my husband Mark and I get closer to our project where we eat nothing but local food off the bus for a year, I am trying to make our meals as much as possible from food Off The Bus, or grown on our own land. Last summer I managed to can, dry or freeze and preserve a lot of vegetables to use this year until the harvest comes in. Inevitably my husband will look at the food, look at me and suspiciously ask, “Where’d you get THIS!” and I will smugly respond, “Off The Bus! Last year!”
We have a lot of things to still work out on this project. We are reading Barbara Kingsolver’s thought provoking book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” Hopefully she will answer many of my questions. I know that once we start this, we’ll get very creative in foraging. If other people make it, and it is on the bus, then we can eat it.
For instance, there are a few staple things I really love to cook with, and they might be off the bus in the Mediterranean, but definitely not here in Virginia. Olive oil, lemons, olives, peppercorns…. I need to work out using them, or learning how to give them up. We have yet to find local vinegar, although I know fine local vinegars exist.
Last year my mother and my mother in-law each gave me books on making vinegars, and I could work with that delicious, unpasteurized apple cider we had for a few weeks last year. I can figure out how to make vinegar, and not applejack! We also have table grapes that grow along the fence in our garden. I might not give so many up to our neighbor for his winemaking this year. But vinegar takes time, and we have salads to make now from the lettuces, cress and kale and other greens on the bus. I need to plan for those salads later on in the season.
Another big problem to surmount is the fact that gluten makes me sick. Like many people these days, I’m allergic to wheat and its gluten. I’ve made my peace with gluten, mostly, but substitutes I use for it, along with the lemons, are not likely to make it on the bus anytime soon unless Mark finds a great local source of almonds and coconuts.
We have delicious flour and baking mixes from Wade’s Mill, fancy family flour since 1862. We have the most glorious bread you can imagine – it tortures me when I go and pick it up from the bakers, fresh from the oven, warm in my hands. Foccacias, baguettes, sourdough rounds, honey wheat loaves shaped like babies, cinnamon loaves, and banana nut bread. Not to mention the cookies and pies. The aromas fill my tiny car, teasing me to … just take a bite. But I resist, and tell people how good it feels in my hands and how wonderful it feels. I know good bread when I feel it. (-: Our search for a gluten free baker continues, because we have many shoppers on our bus, and members of our CSA who just feel better without wheat in their lives.
I am slowly learning that it takes planning to eat Off The Bus. Planning pays off when quick dinners are needed, which they often are in my house with a hard working hungry husband and a full time working wife. One of my favorite quick meals is the following:
Polyface Italian Sausage with Tomatoes and Rice
Handful of spring onions, with green tops
¼ cup multi-colored peppers (frozen, off the bus last year)
Olive oil – 2 tbs
Polyface Italian sausage links
Hot peppers, pinch or two (dried, off the bus last year)
Herbs – dried or fresh – I usually go out to the garden and grab a handful, or check out what I’ve dried from earlier. Oregano and thyme go well, but be adventurous.
Quart of tomatoes – (Hanovers, canned from last year. They are glorious.)
2 cups rice – I like brown basmati (not off the bus, but I haven’t figured that part out yet)
Salt and pepper to taste.
Chop vegetables and sauté in olive oil. Cut sausage links into pieces and add to sautéing vegetables. Prepare rice – 2 cups rice to 4 cups water, with a little olive oil, and boil.
Crumble hot peppers into the pot, use according to taste, and how hot the peppers are (make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling any kind of hot pepper.) When sausage is done, add the tomatoes, and stir in herbs, salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with bread off the bus, and a salad. Today I used the 3 types of lettuce we currently have, Bibb, red leaf and romaine. I also used watercress, radishes, tomatoes (hydroponics from the Mennonite farmer), spring onions and left over roasted asparagus from the other night. Top with dressing of your choice.
Dessert was fresh strawberries…Off The Bus!