Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Message from Chief Seattle

Someone recently shared an excerpt with me from a book called The Young Rockhound's Handbook. It is an unlikely name for a book containing the excerpt I am about to share, but it is a message that still needs to be heard and reflected on.

"The following is a letter written by Chief Seattle of the Duwamish Indian Tribe. The Duwamish lived in the Puget Sound area in Washington State. In 1854 President Franklin Pierce offered to buy much of the Duwamish land from the tribe, promising them a safe reservation somewhere else. Here is part of what Chief Seattle said in reply."

- Rockhound's Handbook

"How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, ever sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us. We will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

Our ways are different from your ways. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring, or the rustle of an insect’s wings. But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand.

We will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition: the white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers. I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage and I do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo we kill only to stay alive. What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

- Chief Seattle

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Nectar: Charming Palouse Cusine

During the last half of July, I traveled through eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, thus all the recent posts from this part of the world. It is surprising how many cafe jewels I've come across in this region! So, here's another one I'd like to share. Read on!

If gastronomy is the study of the relationship between culture and food then Nectar, a small restaurant located in Moscow, Idaho, is the place to study it. Why? Nectar specializes in classic dishes made from local food. At Nectar you can experience the art of cooking (with a really good bottle of wine) and the food culture of the Palouse region.

Many in Washington and Idaho know the Palouse as wheat country, where in July rolling hills are golden. The rich, fertile soils of the Palouse grow many crops including wheat, barley, lentils, garbanzo beans, and peas. This agricultural area is home to big farms, but more and more small scale farmers are farming here, especially in and around the town of Moscow, Idaho. When I travel around the Palouse, I relive the history of my family, many of which grew up in small farming towns nearby that were once bustling with activity. Today, these small towns have only a fraction of the people once living there. Through the decades as farms grew bigger so did farm equipment, which has meant fewer people employed, fewer people farming, and fewer small businesses. There are some signs, however, that Palouse food culture isn't only about big agriculture. Take one trip to the Moscow Farmer's Market and you will find a suite of area small farmers selling vegetables, honey, cheese, and grain. You don't have to travel too far beyond that to visit Moscow restaurants that embrace local food and make a business from it. Nectar is such a place.

So let me set the scene. My boyfriend and I wandered in one fine summer evening and were shown to a small table in the back of the restaurant. The lights were dim and the wine glasses were sparkly. To start we ordered a bottle of wine. For an appetizer we ordered ceviche, which was wonderfully fresh, tart, and flavorful. I could of kept eating the ceviche, because it is one of my favorite dishes, so thank goodness for the small portion. For my main course, I had the best slice of meatloaf ever. Want to know why? It was seared around the edges with a slice of bacon, was perfectly moist and flavorful in the middle, was topped with a chipotle barbecue glaze, and was placed on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with carrots on the side. Wow, heaven.

For dessert we had strawberries and cream and the last few drops of our delicious red wine. Nectar is a must if you find yourself in Moscow, Idaho. Nectar also has an extensive wine list and a rotating menu to keep up with the seasons. It is a restaurant I've wanted to go to for the last two years and finally made it there. Yah me and yah to my boyfriend who was so sweet in taking me there.

Photo credit: Peter Roise Photography

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Grandmother's Home

This past weekend I took a trip down memory lane, but they weren't my memories. They were my Grandmother's. She grew up on a homestead that her grandparent's built in the late 1800's in the wheat farming region of Washington State. A young family lives on the homestead now and they have done a wonderful job at restoring this old farm house in this golden place.

We stepped up the stairs onto the front porch. At a distance on the horizon you can see the once bustling wheat town of Ralston, where my Grandma walked through fields to take her piano lessons. Now it is but a sweeping glance of forgotten buildings. Stepping inside the house, the wood floor boards are still original, but were stripped down through many layers of paint. My Grandma was born in this house. It is where three generations of my family members lived and loved. How could this be? I suppose such is the sentiment of history, knowing who breathed or battled in a particular place all the while trying to pinch yourself to believe it so.

My Grandma told me stories of how her family cooked during harvest time; cherry pies, homemade bread, German sausages, and fresh eggs. These were homesteading meals. Hard work wasn't something that was defined it was done daily through chores, farming, and hard labor. Joys were simple such as the taste of a ripe peach off the tree, a nap in the shade, or fresh curtain linens hung on a bright window. Sorrow often appeared too, in quiet and not so quiet places. Times like these seem grand, difficult, and humbling even to the distant observer.

"Would anyone like a watermelon milkshake"? My head turned in anticipation. Sure enough the woman of the house opens the door and walks out with dixie cups and a beautiful pink pitcher. This is hospitality. The sun was beating down and we were drinking watermelon milkshakes while the family visited on the lawn and learned about the improvements that were made to this lovely home. The house was raised three inches on one side to account for decades of subsidence. Sixteen feet were added to one end of the house, but much of the house still claims its original layout. The room where my Great Grandfather played music on his beloved organ and the horse barn where my Grandmother brushed her favorite horse were still in tact. The old trees on the property still stand. The summer house where my Dad played as a little kid on vacations to the farm and the root cellar no longer exist except for the remnants of the rock foundation now surrounding a bed of flowers in the front garden.

I was impressed. The family living in the house now are such a joy and were so welcoming. Their house is a part of history, our history. They are embracing that, building it up, and are keeping a legacy alive. This trip to the farm got me thinking of the hard work of the past and how it has changed over time. It got me thinking of all the valuable skills we have lost over time as a result of convenience and increased mobility. It got me thinking about ghost towns that were once thriving local economies. It got me thinking about the value of place and how well a person can really know home. We can learn a lot from the past, especially when it comes to growing things and sharing things. Is there hope for the town of Ralston? I'd like to think so. I'd like to think that our small agricultural towns could once again flourish. I hope so.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vlad's Souvlaki: Greek Fast Food in the Palouse

It makes sense that someone would start up a small fast food joint in downtown Moscow, Idaho. Vlad's, however, is a lot different than your typical fast food experience. This new business features Greek fast food on its menu, also known as souvlaki. I know little about Greek fast food other than I like it so when Vlad's opened up, I made a point to stop by to try it.

First, let me describe the place. Think food truck without the truck. Vlad's is a small permanent structure on the corner of highway 95 (the north/south highway through town) and E 6th Street (the east/west road through the University of Idaho campus). Yeah, sure, there are parking lots nearby, but there is no drive through. Their space reminds me of a BBQ shelter you might see at your local county park meets trendy outdoor Portland cafe complete with tables, art work, and a chalkboard menu.

I looked up at the chalkboard menu and ordered their special. The menu isn't extensive, but that is what adds to its charm. They have a specialty and it's good. Pick from your choice of grilled skewers and sides. The prices are very reasonable too. Two and half dollars per skewer (Pork, turkey, beef, or tofu) and a buck in a half for their sides (romaine or cabbage slaw and "garbs"). Perhaps you have to be a local to know what "garbs" are, but I caught on because "garbs" is short for garbanzo (aka chickpeas), a delicious legume grown here in the Palouse.

The "Kolatso" special is what I ordered. I got two pork skewers, cabbage slaw, garbs, tzatsiki sauce (a personal favorite), and two slices of Panhandle bread. Sounds good, doesn't it? Here's how it tasted. The pork skewers were delicious. They weren't as lean as I'd prefer, but they were grilled to perfection. They were sliced into small pieces and the outer edges were charred golden brown. An oil based marinade was added at the end full of savory herbs. The skewers were placed atop of a bed of cabbage slaw with a tangy lemon dressing. The side of garbs was slow cooked with a hint of rosemary and the tzatsiki sauce, do I really have to explain? It was too good for words. Tzatsiki is a thick Greek yogurt marinade or sauce with garlic, lemon, cucumbers, olive oil, pepper, and herbs. It goes with just about anything in my opinion. It was a great compliment to each of the menu items and it ended up paired with each side dish on my plate. Did I mention I like tzatsiki sauce? Souvlaki would be nothing without it.

I highly recommend stopping by Vlad's for some souvlaki. For $6 I ate a delicious and healthy fast food lunch. My only complaint was that I had to wait 15 minutes for my order to finish. Yes, I was also in the hot noon sun (which didn't help) and this Western Washington girl can only stand outside for so long. It was their first week, however, so they will get faster as they get more experienced.

P.S. I took a hiatus from blog writing, but I'm back and will be more consistent!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Thrifty Tips: My Birthday Dress

Alas, Spring is finally here. And so it felt today.

The sun was out, the air was warm, and there was a bustle on the streets from all us vitamin D deprived Pacific Northwesterners. I spent the morning working from a coffee shop and then spent the afternoon attending a Red Cross CPR/AED training. After my class, since I just happened to be at the Goodwill of all Goodwills in the Seattle area, I stopped to see if I could find some thrift store treasures. I love thrift stores. I find all kinds of cool stuff. So, every once in awhile when I do, I like to show you. Mainly so you can be jealous and then go to a thrift store yourself to see if you can find yourself something awesome too.

It has taken a couple days to convince myself that I would splurge and buy a cute dress from Anthropologie, one of my favorite clothing stores that I hardly buy clothing from anymore. It's my birthday soon and I want a birthday dress. The reason why it took a couple days to convince myself was because Anthropologie dresses are a pretty penny. I can expect to pay a minimum of $150 for one. That is a lot for a dress! But, people buy them everyday. And so was I. That is, until I went to Goodwill this afternoon. I was browsing the aisles, sorting past one garment after another, while discovering patterns, color and an assortment of fabrics, when all of a sudden I stumbled on a familiar name. The dress I had stopped at was a beautiful dress full of spring time color that not only swayed in the gentle breeze of someone walking by, it was also from the very store I planned to visit and that I dearly love: Anthropologie! A thrift store find in the record books and a birthday present to me. Now what will I do with the rest of the birthday money I saved from this magical thrift store purchase?

I also found a lovely lace top (below) that I am hoping will go quite well with a certain pair of birthday jeans, as well as a butterfly tank top and a long cherry sweater (see again below).

Happy spring. Cheers to finding your very own thrift store treasures!