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!