The Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock enjoyed a three day gathering with the Wampanoag Indians. They ate corn; waterfowl like ducks and geese, and maybe some cranberries. There is no evidence that they ate any turkey. I discovered this while listening to an interview with a historian from the Plimoth Plantation on the radio show Good Food. The original Thanksgiving was not about recreating the meals from back home in England but making do with and being grateful for the bounty on hand. Why not do the same with the wonderful local foods we have here in South Florida?
Lately, I feel even more excited than usual about the scavenger hunt that is eating locally in South Florida. I owe my redoubled motivation to Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon. I just finished reading the book Plenty: One Man, One Woman and A Raucous Year of Eating Locally and talking with the authors about their 100-mile diet (interview coming soon!) I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks eating locally is the purview of self-righteous ascetics. My new fervor coincides perfectly with the start of CSA season, and the arrival of my first box of farm fresh vegetables from Redland Organics.
Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon started the idea of the 100- Mile Thanksgiving on their website. Now, I’m not suggesting that we completely revamp the sacred Thanksgiving menu. The idea is to try to incorporate some of South Florida’s local bounty into your meal, to use some local ingredients in your Thanksgiving standards, or to support local vendors when you shop for your dinner.
Just because you don’t belong to a CSA doesn’t mean you can’t join in. It takes some rooting around to get at local foods in South Florida, but I’ve given some tips to make it easier. Also, it’s a good time to search because it is the beginning of our local harvest season.
Also, my apologies for not posting this earlier. Most of the farmers’ markets will be open this weekend, which is too late for Thanksgiving. However, you can inquire at your local supermarket, gourmet market (like Gardners), or organic superstore to see what local produce they have. Also, you can use these ideas for future Thanksgivings or other holiday celebrations. Please let me know what local foods you enjoy on your Thanksgiving.
What to make?
Incorporating local foods into your Thanksgiving meals can be as simple as using local vegetables to make a Thanksgiving farmers’ market salad. Find some fresh local greens and toss in cucumbers, beets, herbs, and avocadoes. Besides the farmers markets like Josh’s Organic Garden and the Coconut Grove Farmers Market, I have seen local greens at Gardners Market, Whole Foods and Wild Oats. You can also find local herbs at Publix. At several Publixes I have visited, the herbs come from Homestead.
Herbed popovers fit right in with a traditional Thanksgiving. Use whatever recipe you’d like for popovers. Right before you bake, sprinkle fresh thyme or chives on the top of each. Their savory and rich, and delectable with butter! If you are lucky enough to get eggs through your CSA, you can use these in your recipe too.
Green bean casserole is always a favorite and green beans happen to be in season. I haven’t seen these in the local supermarket, but the farmers markets should have them.
Yellow squash is a Thanksgiving favorite, and it’s in season right now. Publix has been offering yellow squash “from Florida” which is as local as they get sometimes. Simply prepared, sautéed in garlic and butter, they make an easy side dish.
Some local food folks’ ideas
I asked every food related person I encountered this week for their ideas on how to put some of South Florida’s produce on our table this Thanksgiving. I am thankful that they were gracious enough to help me out.
Nancy Ancrum, writer of the “Cultural Kitchen” column for the Herald’s Tropical Life, suggests taking a green, unripe papaya. Peel it, grate it and serve it as an Asian salad. Ancrum says, “Toss the papaya with some rice vinegar and oil (maybe walnut oil), salt and pepper and dried cranberries (not local, I know). I think you’d get a nice cool-crisp sweet-tart salad that’s a good foil and palate-cleanser after all those heavy, unctuous dishes we traditionally have for the holidays. It would be pretty, too.” You can hear more of Ancrum’s tasty food thoughts on her radio show, “Join Us At The Table,” which is on 1080 AM on Saturday mornings.
Kyra White of Theine Tea Salon recommends mamey and cotton candy fruit for dessert. Black sapote is another great dessert fruit; it has a sweet taste and pudding like consistency. White also suggests ripe canistel, which I find to be very similar in taste and consistency to pumpkin cheesecake. A carambola and avocado salad is a festive and healthy local dish. “Mustard greens are totally healthy and underappreciated,” White says.
Brendan Connor, of Whisk Gourmet Food & Catering, hails from Charleston, so he always adds a southern touch to his green beans. He recommends sautéing the green beans in butter with some shallots, adding bourbon and cooking off some of the liquid, and then combining with toasted pecans. Sounds delicious! He also suggested the intriguing combination of butter sautéed beets with goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. Now I know what to do with those beets from this week’s farm box!
If you’re not cooking…
If you’re not doing the cooking this year, but still want to bring something to share, consider one of our many local food vendors. Wine is always a great host/hostess gift, so consider bringing one of Schnebly Winery’s tropical fruit wines. They can be enjoyed as part of a dessert course. Or, if you are going the lechon route this Thanksgiving, their guava wine pairs beautifully with pork.
To make your farmers’ market salad truly local, serve it with a dressing from Glaser Organic Farms. You can varieties like Tomato Basil, Lemon Garlic Tahini and Honey Mustard at some local Whole Foods and Wild Oats, as well as the Coconut Grove Farmers Market.
Gaby’s Farm sells unique and utterly addictive tropical fruit ice creams at Milam’s and Whole Foods. Their canistel ice cream has a delicious, pumpkin/sweet potato flavor that satisfies Thanksgiving cravings.