Recently, I finished listening to a food memoir. “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” by Barbara Kingsolver is a look at how one family (Kingsolver’s family, that is) made a commitment to eat only local food (with a few small exceptions) for one year. Much of their food they grew themselves, but what they couldn’t grow they bought from local farms.
For some reading this, that idea of eating food you grow and food grown within a reasonable distance of your home falls more into the category of “normal, everyday life,” than “something to write a book about.” And if that’s the case, that’s awesome.
But it’s not like that everywhere, or for everyone.
Hearing their experience — from cutting the first stalks of asparagus in the spring to canning tomatoes in late summer to eating from the freezer in the dark days of winter — reminded me of years past when I put up jar after jar of pickles, tomato sauce, salsa and relish. And it made me look forward to planting a small container garden on our back porch again this summer. Last summer, my daughter Paige, now 8, and I planted tomatoes, basil, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Some of the plants thrived, while others produced only a single mealy tomato.
We’ve already decided to focus our efforts this summer on sun gold tomatoes, a favorite of ours for snacking on. And perhaps a cucumber plant — though we haven’t yet agreed on variety. My son, Will, who’s 10, wants me to plant pickling cucumbers so I can make pickles this summer. Paige, whose love for cucumbers is vast, wants a bigger variety she can snack on.
Who knows … Maybe we’ll plant both.
In the meantime, while we wait for the weather to warm and the last frost to pass, we have so much opportunity to buy delicious local foods here. This past weekend, I made a trip to the winter Bangor Farmers’ Market, held on the first and third Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sea Dog Brewing Company in Bangor through the end of April.
It was my first time at the winter market. I’ve intended to go ever since I heard about it nearly two years ago, but just hadn’t. Walking in, and seeing so many farms with their familiar signs and tables overflowing with produce, cheeses, breads and more, was like coming home. Before long, my reusable bag was heavy with purchases.
This visit netted me eggs, locally grown and milled rye flour, ground beef, apple cider, carrots, bread and yogurt. I could have, if we needed it, also stocked up on frozen blueberries, tea, milk, cheese, onions, beets and more. There’s so much fresh, local food available, and I love taking advantage of it.
The eggs, coupled with an avocado from the grocery store, went atop slices of the bread, toasted, for breakfast a few times already this week. And the bread also was the base for my son’s roast beef and barbecue sandwich today.
The apple cider was a tasty dinnertime drink for my daughter and I. And the carrots have already made their way into a stir-fry.
One of the eggs is also a perfect base for making these pancakes. You only need one, but the key is to beat it until it’s frothy. That gives the pancakes a wonderful lightness.
An overripe banana is mashed and mixed into the basic pancake batter, along with milk chocolate chips. Delightfully banana-y, and dotted with sweet chocolate, this is a breakfast that always draws cheers. These are pancakes I make when I want to treat my family to a fun breakfast. It’s certainly not for everyday — but once in a while, it’s a nice treat.
There are several local flours available that you could also use for this recipe — both at the Bangor Farmers’ Market and at Tiller & Rye in Brewer, among other places. I always make these with all-purpose flour, but you could probably use pastry flour (which I saw at the farmers market) as well.
While these are cooking, I leave a baking sheet in the oven. Heated to about 225 degrees Fahrenheit, it keeps them warm while I cook them all up. And then we can all dig in together, with a drizzle of fresh, local maple syrup.
I love that we have so much access to local foods here.
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 banana, mashed
- ½ cup milk chocolate chips
- Break the egg into the bowl of a stand mixer, discarding the shell. Using the wire whisk attachment, beat until frothy on Medium-High speed (about 2 minutes).
- Add the flour, milk, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt to the bowl of the stand mixer and mix until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the banana and mix briefly until just incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Meanwhile, heat a nonstick skillet on the stove on a burner set to just below medium heat. Drop the pancake batter onto the skillet by the ½ cup full. Cook until bubbly on the top, and dry-looking at the edges, and then flip. Pancakes will be golden brown on both sides when done.
- Enjoy with fresh maple syrup.