The holidays are over and there's a lot of work to do but my mind and heart are not in the game. I think it's better I should look through my photos from this last year and do my year in review post. Like for many of you, it hasn't been a stellar year. In fact, it mostly stank. But there were some wonderful moments and meals and milestones and looking over these images, I feel like an ingrate. So maybe it wasn't so bad. The Californio Dinner My friends in Sutter Creek and I decided to do a pop up dinner. Chef Lucy Gore (who was camera shy) planned the menu as a tribute to the Californio era, before we became a state. The menu and food were inspired and Sutter Creek Provisions' Casey and Derek went all out with a beer pairing and decorations of their seminal establishment. I loved getting out of town and meeting so many Rancho Gordo bean people, especially Bean Club members. It was a fun night. More on the dinner.
Nancy Silverton's Mozza at Home and Tamar Adlar's An Everlasting Meal
I don't know either writer but both of these books changed the way I cook and eat. I think I've been a fine cook and as a student, I've been getting steadily better, but these two books really cemented things for me. Well, these books and an article in Mother Jones by Tom Philpott.
The main points are that not all food needs to be served piping hot. A huge platter of grains, with roasted vegetables and beans is always welcome. It can be warm or room temperature and all of a sudden entertaining becomes carefree. On Sundays, I roast a fridge full of vegetables (or steam or boil) and throughout the week I mix and match and suddenly home cooked food on a Tuesday is reality.
The original blog post.
My Cherry Tree Delivered
You'll think I'm nuts that this was one of my highlights but I've lived on my rural mountain for years and a normal year means plenty of cherry blossoms that get wrecked by the rain and cold snaps that can arrive just before spring warms up for good. This year, I had cherries, and lots of them. It made my year. I need to get out more.
A Trip to Puebla and Hidalgo
In May I took a trip to my beloved Mexico. A writer was going to meet me to see how things were done with the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project (and I can't wait to see this article! More on this later) and I left a few days early. Yunuen, Gabriel and I met up with Nuria and Fernando. They'd never met and were from two very different sides of my Mexican life and they became fast friends. I miss them all and I miss Mexico. I don't want to whine and I know I'm luckier than most but I love having a foot in each country.
I will say there was a lot of talk about politics and the proposed 20% surtax was not welcome in any sense but the Mexicans found the concept of The Wall to be incredibly offensive. I do, too.
Mostly we had good meals and it was a gas seeing the new Xoxoc store.
The Best Dish: Slow Baked Greek Garbanzos
It isn't often that a single dish gets people so inspired. Our Facebook page and the page for the Bean Club was full of everyone trying out this dish, inspired by the Blue Zones and the book Ikaria. It sounds very plain but it is really delicious and the vegetables and olive oil create nothing short of love.
The recipe and blog post.
I'm getting tired of The Fire but it was a major thing that happened. We lost about 6 acres of forest, plus a barn and a lot of junk but our houses were intact and everyone is safe. The best part? Slowly returning to normal and cooking for my son and my mother and having them make fun of me around our Sunday table. I appreciate it now more than ever and that's a fine thing.
A blog post about the fire.
OK, I am embarrassed to tell you that this stuff has become an obsession. William Spratling created a gorgeous style of handcrafted silver in Taxco, Guerrero. Most sterling is pissy and ornate. Spratling created pieces inspired by pre-Conquest motifs and styles. He also mentored a whole generation of craftspeople and wrote a very good book titled Little Mexico. I want to learn more about him in the coming year.
The Rancho Gordo Vegetarian Kitchen and Mexican Movie Poster Postcards
A new book and a new project of postcards, both published by Rancho Gordo Press. I'm very proud!
Two New Farmers
I've saved possibly the best for last. We have two new growers for our heirloom beans and they've both delivered, and how. They are also in my 707 area code, a goal I've had for years but have never quite been able to pull off until now.
Casual Rancho Gordo fans assume all of our beans are grown in Mexico when in fact most of them are grown in California. Only the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project beans are from Mexico. We also grow in Oregon and Washington and we're looking into Arizona and New Mexico. But having these two new farms right in my own back yard (virtually) is a dream come true.
So it's been a tough year, but in so many ways, it's been a very good year. I'm so thankful and I honestly am having more fun with Rancho Gordo than ever before in our 16 year history. Part of this is our staff and part of this is support from people like you.
Enough of this. Let's eat!
2017: Not My Favorite Year, or Was It?