By JO ERBSKORN
Last Saturday Art and I took Nicholas, our son, back to East Lansing. He rode his motorcycle home to store it for the winter. I guess that beats having it in the living room of his apartment all winter.
While at his apartment, we looked over his small but diverse herb garden on his also small terrace. One thing that has been handed down father to son is a love of flavorful cooking. Nick is a very talented cook like his dad and learned early that fresh herbs give the best flavors. Soon he will need to bring the herbs in for the winter. Since the front of his apartment is pretty much all glass window he will have an excellent place for them to winter over.
Since we had to make this unexpected trip to mid-Michigan we decided to see the colors and do a little fall driving. Prior to leaving Lansing we went to a very nice café called The Soup Spoon. What I thought would be a cute little soup and sandwich shop soon surprised me.
This little gem in downtown Lansing about a mile from the capital is outstanding. The owner decided that he wanted a restaurant small enough to be personal and featuring food that is made from locally grown, in-season items. The variety of soups was overwhelming—French onion steaming in a crock with crispy cheese bubbling on top, squash bisque, chicken with root vegetables. How do you decide?
There is a full bar with local fall beers on tap and bottled and locally made seasonal wines, as well as non-seasonal offerings. It was very refreshing to see a business in the middle of such an enormous city featuring locally produced food.
Michigan farmers give us such a huge variety of offerings, and all we have to do is look. When you are preparing your meals, do you check out the local farm stands and orchards first? There is so much that you can do with squash, onions, carrots and potatoes. Our root vegetables are doing very well at present. Art harvested a pile of potatoes and the squash are just lovely. We both love squash, so it’s a plus to have it plentiful. With the increased price of meat, our vegetables are more important than ever. Root vegetables are best stored in a cool, dry, not too light place. This is why a hundred years ago they had root cellars. Big bins held the vegetables harvested in the fall for use all winter long. In our home there is a root cellar and also a very interesting pantry.
The pantry in our home is unique and if we have any say it will remain that way. It is along the east wall of our home. It is always a good 10 to 20 degrees cooler than the rest of the house if the door is kept closed. You can keep vegetables fresh in there for quite a long time. The old flour and sugar bins are still there as are the old cabinets for storing the mason jars of food. This is not a pantry like modern built homes; this is a huge room for the sole purpose of storing, and years ago for preparing food. It has amazed me how, without trying, this room remains cooler than the rest of the house.
Without all the modern day luxuries we have now, the Victorians were still able to find a way to keep their food from spoiling quickly. Can you imagine having to put up all of the food you would need to get through the winter? It wasn’t as if there were any green grocers then. Somehow I imagine the food they put up was as tasty if not more so than what we eat now. It was definitely free of all the chemicals and strange preservatives we encounter now without even realizing it. It’s food for thought, for sure, no pun intended.
The apple crop is also very tasty this year. Do you suppose it’s all the rain we had?