The rocky hills of Trondheim, Norway were under a foot of fresh snow, and I found myself on a biodynamic veg farm filming with the Cook It Raw Norway team. I’d filmed a lot of veg farms, but none this picturesque, and certainly never in winter. Pretty tough to find something interesting to talk about on a veg farm in winter that isn’t a greenhouse – unless you’re into root cellaring.
It wasn’t long into the interview with farmer Elin before we were talking about how vegetables change in texture and flavour through the winter, and most interestingly, about the gift that are the sprouts that roots produce. Shortly thereafter we were under her beautiful european farmhouse, exploring the contents of her cellar. Despite the snow outside, she had bins of root veg, sacks of potatoes, and even some soil with chard plants growing in the dark. Fascinating. I left inspired to explore shoots more at home. But it wasn’t over. Later in the trip we’d visit a couple different extremely well respected restaurants that would present me with an elegant dish featuring only a vegetable, using the shoots as an element on the plate that used the root, usually 2 or 3 different ways. It made so much sense it hurt, and the finesse they could apply to vegetables dishes was embarrassing.
This rutabaga is from my garden. I learned in Norway that 1] they call them ‘Swede’ and 2] they don’t let them get this big, because the texture gets compromised, they’re hard to work with, and they’re just not as nice. The win. So now, when something like this emerges from the cellar, rather than the shoots being discarded, they’ll be thoughtfully dressed or otherwise prepared, and go atop or aside whatever preparation the root is destined for – offering a different texture, flavour, and experience utilizing precisely the same plant. Perhaps most beautiful of all: whatever dish that might be speaks entirely of the late cellar season, something entirely not duplicable at other times of year. So exclusively pedestrian. I adore it.
Earlier in the week I was cooking a few courses of wild game with Jeff Senger for Knifewear’s annual manager’s meeting in Calgary, and I hauled along my field cookery kit – I was in a hurry and know this kit will bail me out when it’s time to feed people. It needed some repacking and restocking so I figured I’d empty it out and share a photo of what I take into the field. A breakdown:
- THE BOX – Mine’s an open topped posh wine case [far left]. Everything fits in it. Pros: it’s the right size, and looks nice for film. Cons: it’s a bit under built (surprisingly), and there’s no top so when packing a vehicle it has to go on top of things.
- ENAMELWARE – We’re normally a crew of 3 in From The Wild, so we carry plate/bowls, cups, and a small pot. Pros: they don’t break, look nice, and you can warm them up next to a fire to keep food hot when it’s freezing out. Cons: you have to wash them in the field. The pot top-right ended up in the kit because the solo-stove pot is only one pot, and sometimes you need to make 2 elements to a plate.
- BLADES – the santoku on the left is my first-ever japanese knife back from when my brother lived there almost 20 years ago. If there’s one knife I have in the kitchen kit, that’s the one. I use the white knife guard on its left. The black Kurosaki knife is my default big game skinning knife – it’s often in my side bag, not the kitchen box, but it’s always in the field. The small Moritaka blade far right is my favourite prep knife at home – doesn’t always make it into the field, but often does. The hatchet. At one time I thought it useless in the bush, far too undersized. Until the day we used it to break down grouse. It’s great for all bird butchery. It’s handy when you need a cleaver for fish. It now lives in the field kitchen box.
- FLAVOUR – I carry nalgenes of Vancouver Island sea salt, Malabar black pepper, canola oil, and a tiny bit of apple cider vinegar for when something desperately needs a touch of acidity (not often found in the field). I always carry a spice blend – I have one for big game, one for waterfowl, one for white meats, some others in development. I love ‘Epices de Cru’ but in this case its my own blend in their handy tin (non-breakable). In the baggies: dried shaggy parasol caps [for when you need umami], dried garden thyme/sage/savory, and organic wheat berries from @goldforestgrain. I normally also carry lentils and wild rice – all 3 of which would be pre-seasoned into just-add-water high energy staples to go aside the ubiquitous proteins. For allium, freeze dried shallots in the jar [silk road], and some garden garlic.
- EATING – I’m a big fan of my light weight cutlery on a carabiner, but often we’re using chopsticks. Fashioning chopsticks in the bush is fun, but when you just want to eat or are on a frozen lake, or in the grasslands, grabbing from a $1 bag of wood chopsticks and throwing them in the fire after the meal is super satisfying. They’re mixed in with some bamboo skewers, for when you need to get small bits – say mallard hearts or fish cheeks – onto the grill.
- CLEAN UP – nalgene of dish soap, a scrub pad as things cooked over the uneven heat of wood fire can be unkind to pans and pots. A major omission from this photo that I hurriedly resolved after taking it: paper towel. Paper towel is essential. I often carry the tough blue variety, both in my kitchen kit, in my vehicle, and pretty much stash it everywhere. Also infinitely handy are wet wipes of any variety. My only criteria is that they come in a small pack [red plastic far left]. There’s also a black dish towel, that honestly, doesn’t get used a lot [paper towel], but it’s there in a pinch, and serves the useful function of preventing the solo stove and pot clanging around in the kit – annoying, and we drive a lot to locations and back.
- SOLID FUEL STOVE – although we don’t use it all the time, the Solo Stove can be the only option much of the time. Backcountry when you want to leave no trace. When you’ve run out of propane. When you don’t want to start a campfire to boil water. When you’re on the ice. The solo stove takes wood/grass/any combustible, so you always can start a fire and cook. It’s well built [aside from the grill inside wanting to pop wires often, thankfully easily sorted out]. I normally carry a small bag inside it with birch bark and a lighter. Another omission I need to sort out. There’s also a 1L container of charcoal – this is a luxury item that stays in the kit. Sometimes wood isn’t handy, or is wet. Sometimes charcoal needs to flavour a dish. Sometimes you just want the Solo Stove to burn a long time at low heat without refuelling. Another omission is that I now have the charcoal container nested into a few other empty 1L plastic containers, with lids. Sometimes you make too much food in the field, and need somewhere to put them. Sometimes you’re butchering a fish or bird and need a container to hold pieces. Super handy.
- PARACORD – far more handy than you’d guess. Don’t have a rotisserie? No problem, ‘a la ficelle’ it. Need a tripod to smoke or hang meat from – no problem: paracord. Butchering an animal that needs parts hunt in a tree? Need to wrap a handle on that black skinning knife? A lash on the prospector tent broke or missing? Endless.
This kit has evolved, will continue to evolve, and items are added/removed depending on the trip. But as of this week, this is where it’s at. Any must-haves you carry? Any questions about any of the kit?
I recently got the chance to see a very innovative solar home being built near Bridger Montana by Andrew Ray of Rational Design/Build.
Andrew (and his frequent conspirator Clint Wicks of CW2 Construction) have been building homes for fifteen years, with Andrew getting his start with Steve Loken in Missoula. But, this time its a really special home in that its for his own family. He is a very innovative builder and careful planner, and on this home he has taken out all the stops and included all of the best energy efficiency, solar, and material saving features he has used and studied over the years. Its a fascinating home.
Low Thermal Mass Sunspace (LTMS) — provides high solar fraction solar space heating with better control and more efficiency that conventional passive solar heating.
|The Low Thermal Mass Sunspace provides 213 sqft of glazing optimized for solar space heating.
Inside-out Mooney Wall — provides an R34 with near zero thermal bridging. A low cost, high performance wall. The walls are also very efficiently framed with continuous top of wall header and with metal bracing in lieu of sheathing.
|The inside-out Mooney Wall with metal bracing instead of sheathing, and continuous top header.
Crawl Space Plenum — serves as a well sealed plenum to distribute the heat from the Low Thermal Mass Sunspace and the wood burner to the house. It is constructed from Insulated Concrete Forms with a unique integrated footer design that requires no forms.
|Sealed crawl space that serves as plenum to distribute solar heat from LTMS
The house uses many innovative techniques to minimize material use and labor. There are only eight sheets of OSB used in the entire home!
|Note the minimal framing that reduces material use and thermal bridging.
While the home has about half the heat loss of an conventional construction home, the cost is no greater than conventional construction.
A lot to be learned from this house.
What an intense journey. Getting to season 3 means 38 episodes, about 130 days in the field. I’ve already greyed in the beard since the early episodes, and the project is doing exactly what I’d hoped – it’s documenting and diarizing a crazy amount of life experience memories that would be impossible to cram into a single person’s head. The more we do the series, the more the series becomes our life. The poster artwork and thumbnail are of the old house in southern Alberta, one of two places I grew up hunting. Season 3 included a personal journey for Senger and I towards family heritage, appreciating our elders, and connecting with personal history. You can tell we’re getting middle aged.
It was also a season of ridiculous bounty. When we started the series we weren’t sure whether we’d be able to make anything dead or into food every episode. In S3 we were drowning in abundance, every time. Fish, birds, ungulates, bears, you name it. It was crazy.
It’s hard not to be overwhelmed with gratitude when wrapping a season. We’ve had so much support and love from so many people that participate, share, and watch the show. If you’ve had any part in any of it, THANK YOU.
Brazil's cuisine often features smoky, grilled meats, but this healthy vegetarian bean soup recipe is completely meat-free. Instead, blackened jalapeños, fire-roasted tomatoes and smoked paprika provide the Brazilian flair. A little molasses adds a sweet-toasty note, and the kale, while not traditional, bumps up your daily veggie count.
In this healthy cauliflower soup recipe, roasting the cauliflower first adds depth and prevents the florets from turning to mush. A little tomato sauce and coconut milk give the broth a rich, silky texture. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, if desired.
The burst-in-your-mouth juicy sweetness of red grapefruit is a great partner for the slightly briny and chewy bite of cooked shrimp. In this healthy salad recipe, we use romaine lettuce and red cabbage, but a handful of peppery arugula or watercress would be a nice addition.
Goi buoi is a Vietnamese salad typically made with pomelo, a thick-skinned but super-sweet citrus fruit. In this healthy salad recipe, we use grapefruit because it's easier to find. Plus, it lends a tangy, acidic flavor to balance the vegetables.
This healthy chicken fajita recipe gets a fresh spin with a sweet, tart and spicy grapefruit salsa. If you like, skip the fajitas altogether and serve the salsa on fish, steak or even with a bowl of chips. Adjust the amount of jalapeño to tailor the heat level.