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SmugPoints, locavores and my new friend the cow | Manolo for the Big Girl

SmugPoints, locavores and my new friend the cow

So you know how much we all hate those people who bang on and on about being a “locavore” and are constantly talking about how life changing their CSA box has been, and then post photos documenting their every meal because surely nothing fascinates more than an instagram of your first attempt at braising Swiss chard?

The people who drool at over-designed urban chicken coops the way normal, decent people look at porn or that the first half of that Spanish National Team shirt commercial? Don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with eating locally-produced food or having a few gentrified yardbirds, it’s often the ethical and gastronomic ideal, but am I the only one thinking these folks are second only to Miss Have I Told You About My Totally Made Up Gluten Sensitivity when it comes to horrifyingly tedious food conversations?

I tried to explain the concept of SmugPoints and how living on an organic farm is like the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket of privileged white kid smugness to our new friend Beto who gave us an impromptu tour of his fields last week. He looked at me like I had lobsters growing out of my head. Down here people just get on with it. The farm is cheap and close, the grocery store is expensive and far away.

They’re locavores by necessity, and now so am I. Why? Because the farm is cheap and close and the grocery store is expensive and far away. Plus people at the grocery store stare at me, like they’ve never seen an incandescently white fat girl in archival Yves Saint Laurent wandering adrift and confused in the “miscellaneous animal feet” section of the local supermarket. Whatever.

Plumcake Cottage lies wedged in a sleepy village between the Pacific (which is all fun and games until barking sea lions wake you up at three in the morning or you see a NatGeo show illustrating in vivid seal-destroying technicolor exactly how far killer whales can project themselves up a beach) and a small but picturesque mountain range positively covered in organic farms, including Beto’s.

Local produce I can deal with. Give me a kilo of blackberries the size of my thumb still warm from the vine and I’m a happy fatty. Eggs come from the woman with the hand-painted sign and the magnificent smile unsullied by teeth, but milk. Milk is my final frontier.

After Beto showed us around his farm, we met some cows at a miniscule ranch a few minutes down yet another dirt road.

There were about fifty head of cattle, including Number Ninety-three. This is a picture of her trying to act innocent after she licked my head. Do not be fooled.

Ninety-three was hanging out with her cohort, eating alfalfa and waiting to be milked by hand by Carlos, who is also apparently my friend now. I guess that’s what happens when someone’s cow licks you. It took me several minutes to realize Ninety-three was going to be the source of my dairy for the foreseeable future.

So now I’m making cheese.

Whole milk ricotta, which isn’t really ricotta but a sort of fresh farmer’s cheese, is delicious and ridiculously simple.

I’m giving a go at mozzarella tonight and queso anejo tomorrow. I don’t have any cheesecloth so I’m using a damaged-beyond-repair vintage Hermes. Necessity is the well-accessorized mother of invention.

I’m not intimidated…not really. The worst thing that’ll happen is I’ll ruin three gallons of raw organic milk that set me back fifty pesos (about three bucks) but any words of encouragement, or stories of your own kitchen (mis)adventures would keep me mightily entertained over the weekend!

 

20 Responses to “SmugPoints, locavores and my new friend the cow”

  1. Gryph June 15, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    Important advice. The cheesemaking instructions I got when I first made mozzarella were for pasteurized milk. For raw milk, your temperatures should be about 10 degrees lower. If you make it to hot, it does NOT work right, trust me.

  2. Rebekka June 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    I also want to see a picture of someone making cheese literally in a vintage Hermes.

    Also, jealous.

  3. Thea June 15, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    Plummie I’m with Rebekka, we really need pictures of you straining cheese thru vintage Hermes….in fact I’m seeing a whole new cottage industry (pardon the pun) and a new meaning for ‘designer cheese’. Good Luck!

  4. cedarg June 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    Does any of your flour/cornmeal/rice come in thin cloth bags down there? Because I’ve made yogurt cheese by straining through my oldest flour sack towels. Just in case the Hermes doesn’t work out for you…

  5. Thinposter June 15, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    I don’t need to see pictures of you making the cheese, I will settle for pictures of the cheese.

  6. cadpig June 15, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    there is a correlation between organic and locavore eating and being a jerk

    http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/05/14/1948550612447114.abstract

  7. Margo A June 15, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    The Hemes may be too finely woven to substitute for cheesecloth. Should you need something more open, pantyhose (or, I suspect in your case, full fashioned seamed nylon stockings) will do the trick.

  8. SongBird June 16, 2012 at 1:48 am #

    I’ve made yogurt, but only with pasteurized milk. The instructions should be similar, though – just a temperature difference. I was surprised at how different it was to have lovely silky smooth yogurt.

    I can’t wait to hear how your experiments turn out.

    SongBird

  9. Desideria June 16, 2012 at 4:49 am #

    Here’s hoping you achieve Quel Fromage! versus Quel Dommage!. I assume the Hermes you use for cheese making, Plummy, is different from the one you use for accessorizing your adorable sharpei, un chien exceptionnel?

  10. megaera June 16, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    I just want you to know that I innocently clicked the link to the ad of the pretty, pretty futbol boys, and, indeed, I was entranced by the first half of the commercial. And then they SHUCKED THEIR SKIN like some sort of Cthonic horror show. Oh, they can try to tell me that all that lurks underneath their chiseled abs is a new and pricier shirt, but I’ve read enough Lovecraft to know what happens when people start ripping their skin off. That ad may just have ruined the incredibly fine Spanish National Team for me.

  11. ChaChaHeels June 16, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    Oh, you can bet that I am jealous of your access to all that’s good, particularly the dairy, because I know how amazing the fresh cheese and yogurt and even the plain old milk can be. I can’t get the dairy here, but the rest of it–it’s really great, isn’t it? Enjoy it all.

  12. Lisa in SoCal June 16, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    Oh, please, just because some make a fetish out of whatever they do (another form of narcissism) doesn’t mean that everybody who keep chickens as pets or goes to a farmer’s market thinks we are Changing The World in Deep and Significant Ways. The problem is that people do go to extremes.

    And dangit, my commie-pinko garden box has changed my life! (Not really, but I do like it. People grow all sorts of weird stuff to put in there hereabouts, stuff I’d never think to buy on my own. I learned of Armenian cucumbers in this way.) One reason one might want have to whip up a bit a buzz about one’s Swiss Chard is that, in winter, one’s commie-pinko garden box comes with 18 different kinds of greens…

    My grandmother used to be that egg lady, btw.

  13. Lisa in SoCal June 16, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    Oh, and a kitchen misadventure:

    Last weekend I totally bought the whole “you can’t taste the difference between regular cheesecake and this tofu version.”

    Now, I actually like tofu in Japanese food. I really do. This? This was disgusting. I have no idea whether I screwed it up, which I doubt, or whether the recipe writers were high, or whether they are the type of people who have no palate at all and simply do not understand why you’d deal with the extra calories from cream cheese, but it was, hands down, the most revolting thing I’ve tried to eat in 5 years.

  14. class factotum June 16, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    But the milk! Is raw! That’s DANGEROUS!

  15. Miss Plumcake June 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    @Class Factotum: In case you weren’t joking, I do pasteurize the raw milk. It’s easy, just bring it slowly to 145 and you’re golden.

  16. Miss Plumcake June 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    @Megaera: that’s why I said the first half! The second half is horrifying!

  17. Daantaat June 16, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    “…stare at me, like they’ve never seen an incandescently white fat girl…”

    Haha, I get this all the time in Korea. It’s ridiculous. I had to give an old guy the finger yesterday because he stopped in his tracks to stare at me for the entire length of time it took for me to close the 20 feet between us as we were passing in the subway station, and he continued to stare as I passed. So I turned around and saw he was still staring, so I gave him the finger. I don’t usually do that, but the staring here can be so rude and judgmental.

    Anyway, that was off-topic, but that line just caught my attention.

  18. class factotum June 17, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    Miss P, I was being fascetio – I was joking! There has been huge debate in my state about legalizing raw milk sales. My mom grew up on a dairy farm and drank raw milk all the time. I don’t see the big deal, as long as you know the farmer keeps the cows clean. But – if you are not sure or are in a place where disease is more prevalent, then yes, pasteurizing is the way to go.

  19. dcsurfergirl June 17, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    Have fun with your new adventures in cheesemaking. Post all pics!

    I totally agree with you about your new neighbors’ just-do-it attitude about farming. Why? I know locavores (with foodie tendencies) that get way too excited about the local Wegman’s and farmer’s markets. Just get your shopping done or finish your gardening and enjoy your food!

  20. MrsBug June 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

    Ooo, raw milk cheese. I’m seething with jealousy!!