Both sides of my family have a very rich heritage throughout Northern Utah, and I spent a lot of time there growing up. Melissa and I have worked to make the relationships with those relatives as strong as possible, and think it is of the up most importance especially for our boys. While some people take their children to Disneyland, we think a road trip to Utah is more important. We just returned from a week long trip to celebrate my grandmothers 80th birthday, and all of my siblings and families were able to attend. We also got to see some cousins on both sides of the family, some of which I haven't seen for 10 or more years. I was also able to spend some time in the kitchen with Grandma, an honor to say the least.
This woman amazes me, at over 80 she is content to work all day long in the kitchen to prepare meals for her loved ones. The idea of a meal out is ridiculous to her. She has a very elaborate garden, and a few fruit trees, and is a master preserver of foods. Freezing, and canning the summer and fall bounty to get her through the winter months. I realize that while some of us and others are getting into food preservation as if it were trendy, and allows us to eat locally year round, she on the flip side does it for different reasons. While I will search out organic, local raspberries and make jam for the year from them, she will plant, grow, water, and harvest her own raspberries, and turn that into a jam that blows mine out of the water. From a humble upbringing on a small farm, this is how she was raised. There was never enough to waste, and the things you ate were direct reflections of your hard work. There was an attachment to everything that was eaten, an attachment that is missing in almost every household in the country now. An attachment that when not in place has led us to "factory farming", un-sustainable practices, over worked land, and what some consider the basis of all of the problems that plague our society.
Grandma is the poster person for sustainability. I am extremely fortunate to have her experience on my side. Some of her cooking practices absolutely crack me up. For food storage in the winter months she keeps things outside, or in the garage, a practice that makes perfect sense in that it never gets warmer than 30 degrees or so, but I wouldn't have thought of in a million years. On more than one occasion I put things on the back porch or on top of the truck in the garage to "cool down" for her.
In all honesty I find the fads that most states have recently found for eating already in direct action in Utah. Family meals and values take a higher meaning. Produce stands are everywhere. Putting food by is the norm, almost everyone has a garden, almost everyone bakes, almost everyone cans. But, at the same time I found an absolute lack of fine dining restaurants, and somewhere the two are related. Because people eat, and cook like this I was able to track down a few great finds, stores that couldn't exist in my local. My grandmother was making rolls one morning and I noticed the flour she had was absolutely gorgeous. She said she bought it straight from the mill about 25 miles up the road. We sought out said mill later that day, and were able to pack home a 50# bag of bread flour, and a 25# bag of AP flour. Then we stopped by a small supply store and I was able to buy some dried potatoes for use in breads, some tomato powder (grown by the company that sells them, dried and then ground into a powder- perfect for soups, sauces, etc) and a few other items. All of them without preservatives, all of them yielding produce that was grown just down the road, never leaving the company's hands.
All in all we had a great trip. It was great to see family, get on the open road, and learn. I am back home now and am not working again until the 11th of February, so after a fortune worth of grocery shopping yesterday, I plan to spend most of that time in the kitchen at the house. If your in the neighborhood feel free to stop by, I will be cooking, most likely trying to figure out how my grandma does it.