Wednesday Walk: In Good Taste
The joys of seasonal eating, Semi-breaking my own rules, One less Sears, and Local hot sauce that's ready to grow
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As is typical every Wednesday, today I’m bring you a smattering of topics that I hope will make you a bit more curious about the world around you and give you something to think about later. I call these Wednesday Walks, as it’s the type of conversation we might have walking down a path in the woods. Shall we take a stroll?
Tasting the Season
For nearly two years now, my wife and I have been trying to source as much of our food as locally as possible. Of course, we occasionally buy things like lemons or avocados that simply don't grow in New England, but for the most part, we’re eating whatever is in season and available from local farm stands and small grocers.
In the winter, this usually means an abundance of storage crops and root vegetables, so our diet for the last several months has been high in things like carrots, sweet potatoes, radishes, and beets. Needless to say, by the time spring comes, we are ready for some fresh veggies!
I was thrilled to stop into Codman Community Farms earlier this week and see a delicious basket of green garlic, which was grown by Red Fire Farm (a farm that was on the brink of extinction when I wrote about them last year but seems to be thankfully thriving again).
For those of you who don’t know, green garlic are made up of the early leaves of the garlic plant. Often, they are pulled from the field when thinning out a garlic crop. The plants which stay in the ground will eventually develop into the familiar garlic bulbs. But the green garlic is also a tasty surprise that can be used just like any garlic or even chopped and added to dishes raw.
We ended up using some of the green garlic in a simple arugula salad, the arugula being another fresh spring vegetable from our CSA share last week at Clark Farm. We dressed it with lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, and served with shredded radish and shredded gruyere cheese.
Spring is often thought of as a visual and olfactory season when flowers are in bloom, but it can also ignite the sense of taste. Eating seasonally brings with it delights and surprises, in the same way that Christmas and Thanksgiving are special because they happen once per year.
And speaking of spring flowers, I just had to share a few more pictures from our RV trip to Lancaster last week. I’ve described Harvest Hosts before in the newsletter, which is a program that allows members to stay at farms, wineries, and other small businesses across the country in exchange for buying their wares.
We spent a night at Kauffman Orchards in Bird in Hand, PA (not far from Miller’s Natural Foods). It didn’t even occur to us when we made the reservation that we would be sleeping in an orchard during peak apple blossom season. It was quite spectacular!
By the way, if you’re an RV camper and are interested in joining Harvest Hosts, you can use my link to save off the regular price of your membership!
#NoNewClothes- Week 28 (I Broke Down…)
Well folks, I have an announcement about my No New Clothes challenge. If you’re new around here, last year I pledged to go an entire year without buying any new clothes, which was inspired by a newsletter I wrote about Amory Sivertson, who did a similar challenge last year.
I am now past the half way mark, and although the challenge was supposed to only limit the purchasing of new clothes, the shift in mindset that went along with shopping less meant that I ended up not buying any clothes at all in the last six months.
I am proud to say that I have kept the “no new” part going, although last week I did end up buying a used article of clothing from a thrift store, my first in a long time. While we were in Lancaster, PA (which I wrote about and even made a video about for members) we stopped into some of the outlet stores to browse.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t tempted by much in these stores, as the quality of new clothes has gotten noticeably bad. So many items that I looked at were made of cheap plastic fibers and didn’t feel good. One of the rules that I set for myself in this challenge was that if I was going to buy anything, it had to be unimpeachably good. The fit had to be right, the color had to be right, and the feel needed to be right. Nothing that was brand new fit that bill.
But then, we stopped into a Goodwill store in Lancaster.
My eye was drawn to a brown sweater with light blue accents and an argyle pattern. While it was labelled a size large (I’m usually a small or medium), I decided to take it into the fitting room to see how it looked on me.
I liked the style, I liked the color, and I liked the fit. But it gets better.
When I checked the tag, I realized that it was actually a vintage sweater made by Sears!
There doesn’t appear to be a lot of information online, but it seems that the “Kings Road” line of mens clothing was produced from roughly the 1960s through the 1980s for Sears. That means this sweater is at least 34 years old, but could more than 60 years old! (My guess is it’s likely from the late 1970s or early 1980s putting it in the 40 year old range, but that’s pure speculation.)
One interesting note is that the tag lists an RN number of 13884. The RN number is assigned by the FTC to apparel brands and is a way to denote who manufactured a product without revealing the company’s name.
In this case it seems, Sears was using a third party to manufacture its items. RN 13884 comes up empty when searching the FTC database for current manufacturers, but it turns up lots of results for vintage sweaters sold under names like Sears, Jantzen Golf, Hogan, and Lacoste.
I love being able to repurpose funky vintage pieces and I especially like the tie to Sears, a now mostly defunct retailer. I couldn’t make it an entire year without buying any clothes at all, but I hope to still make it without buying new clothes. Time will tell.
Have any of you undertaken a similar challenge or been more mindful about apparel shopping because of this challenge? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Another Sears Closure
Speaking of Sears, the number of remaining stores continues to dwindle. I recently learned that the last store in North Carolina, located in Greensboro, is in the process of liquidating and is set to be completely shuttered by May.
The store opened in 1972 and it sounds like the owners of the Friendly Center, where it is located, may be eyeing the parcel for redevelopment. Here’s a statement released by the property owners:
“The Sears closure is the first step of an active redevelopment plan, which provides CBL the opportunity to redevelop prime real estate at one of our top-performing properties. Once plans are finalized, we'll be excited to share more specific details.”
Here’s a short story from the local news, if you’re interested.
Closing sales are in effect now, but if the store in Greensboro is anything like the last Sears in New England which I visited earlier this year, there isn’t going be much worth traveling for. Still, it’s wild to think that this once ubiquitous chain is now hovering at around a dozen locations.
A Hot Cause
I probably don’t have to tell you if you’ve been reading this newsletter for any length of time, but I am a big supporter of local farmers and good agricultural practices. With that in mind, I wanted to share a little story about a company that also shares those values and that is in the process of expanding.
Craic Sauce (pronounced like “crack,” which is an Irish word for fun and good times) was founded by Brian Ruhlmann in 2017. Brian sources as many of his ingredients from local farms as he can, with Clark Farm in Carlisle, MA and Hutchins Farm in Concord, MA being two of his suppliers. Clark Farm is where we have our current CSA membership and Hutchins Farm is one of the first local organic farms that my wife and I discovered which set us on this journey of eating more locally more than a decade ago.
Since we started following the Plant Paradox diet more than a year and a half ago, we’ve had to limit our intake of peppers and hot sauces, although the plan does allow for hot sauces which have been fermented. We discovered that Craic not only uses local ingredients but that two of their sauces are fermented as well. Since learning that, Craic has become a staple in our pantry. They really are some of the best hot sauces we’ve ever tasted and the flavor is more complex than just simple heat.
I’ve gotten to know Brian a little bit and have been really impressed with the work he does and his overall character too. He is a champion of local agriculture, but perhaps even more importantly, he is somebody who likes to build community.
I joined a Zoom hangout that he hosted a few week ago for home hot sauce makers to share ideas and recipes that was really fun. Brian also runs the website crafthotsauce.com and hosts the companion Craft Hot Sauce podcast, which spotlights interesting hot sauce makers from across the country.
Craic Sauce is in the process of expanding the business and has turned to crowd funding to help raise some capital. Brian is looking to upgrade some of the kitchen equipment used to produce the hot sauces and purchase a delivery vehicle, hoping to raise about $19,000 in the next two months.
If you’re interested in learning more about the fundraiser (and hopefully make a donation), you can read more on their Patronicity page.
There’s also a short documentary about Craic Sauce that’s worth viewing if you have six minutes to spare:
I’m really a fan of what Brian has built and hope you’ll look out for his hot sauces and if you’re in a position, help contribute towards their goal. We need more people like him in our local food communities making delicious products from farm produce and spreading community spirit!
Thank you for reading! Did you get something out of today’s issue? I always love hearing your thoughts, so please drop a line in the comments.
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Other Wednesday Walks
If you’ve missed past issues of this newsletter, they are available to read here.