Monday, December 03, 2012

Butter & Honey

This weekend we stayed at friends' dairy farm in Langley. It simply made sense rather than commuting two extra hours to and from Vancouver for the double day Bloom Market in Fort Langley.

My friend Miriam (whom some of you met at my studio on various occasions - she co-hosted the holiday soiree this year with me and Jolanta) grew up there, and it was wonderful to get a glimpse into the life of a dairy family farm. It involves a lot of milking and very little sleeping. Just so that we can have milk and cheese and dairy. Wow.

It was also encouraging to see that the cows are treated so much better than anything I've ever seen elsewhere. And there are a lot of sustainable practices all around: the water used is from the family's own well; they grow most of the food for the cows; and they also fertilize the fields with the cow's manure (which is collected and processed as to not contaminate the underground water reservoirs).

I have an interesting book called "The Farmer's Wife" - it's a compilation of recipes from magazine of that name, mostly sent from farmer's wives across America, with their tips on how to feed a crowd of working hands on a farm. Anyone who thinks that being "just" a housewife is obviously out of their mind. It's basically like running a catering company, all day long, preparing 3 meals a day (at least) and very likely with no days "off" (not to mention that modern farmer wives also partake in the farm work, not just the kitchen and household). Somehow they just do it, and remain graceful and beautiful while they're at it.

An extra surprise were the 2 index cards I found in my jacket pockets with recipes for some of the treats my daughter got to bake with Miriam and her mom that weekend: Dutch Botterkoek (butter cake) and honey loaf. Surprisingly, the honey loaf contains absolutely no oil whatsoever. Also, a nice surprise (as Miriam almost frightened me with her description of Dutch cooking, as if they use no spices at all) - it is very fragrant, with the natural honey undertones, accented with anise. Simply divine. We also tasted raw milk for the first time - what an amazing experience! It's amazing how full of flavour and sweetness milk is. Next time I'm bringing chocolate chip cookies.

The botterkoek is something I will need to wrap my head around as it's quite different - it's surprisingly similar to Middle Eastern semolina cakes, as it is flavoured with almond extract which really complements the butter. It is also quite dense and has a thin "skin" of the cream glaze that is brushed on it before baking. But first of all I'm going to try the bran muffins recipe - they were extremely moist and fat free, relying entirely on homemade applesauce. It's amazing how much you can do with such simple ingredients.

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