Wow. I don’t even know where to begin.
Fritter is a wonderful place for me to share stories and food from our kitchen with like-minded folk from around the country and the world. It offers me a challenge every month: to reflect on the past weeks, to pick a recipe that I think others might actually cook on their own, and to write, even when writing feels like the last thing I want to do.
It feels especially hard this month. Not because I don’t have things to say — if you know me outside of this context then you’re well aware that I have plenty to say — but because the standard “pick a recipe and then write a story connecting that recipe to your feelings right now” just doesn’t feel like enough. There literally is no recipe that makes sense this month. I’m still going to share one, because we can’t fight the good fight if we’re not feeding ourselves, but my words are going to digress. Indulge me, if you will.
I was born in Alabama, a state that has historically been dragged kicking and screaming into contemporary standards of civil rights, and was raised by racist parents. But life offered many chances to catch a glimpse of the other side: being educated in the bombed-out remains of Alabama’s (supposedly) desegregated public education system, reading the autobiography of Malcolm X at 13, and leaving the church altogether when “black people wouldn’t be comfortable here” wasn’t a good enough answer for why our church lacked diversity. I questioned and I studied, and ultimately I left, because the burden of correcting over a century of injustice felt too great for my tiny shoulders. I enrolled in art school, moved to San Francisco, and never looked back.
Art school is a haven that draws in people from all walks of life, and there my world expanded to include a variety of people that I would have likely never crossed paths with had I stayed in Alabama: Latino people, Asian people, Middle Eastern people, Muslim people, Hollywood people, LGBT people, descendants of royalty, politicized hip-hoppers from Detroit, and people with an array of mental heath disorders. I learned to embrace all of our differences, I learned that there are more forms of injustice than just racial oppression, and I learned that there’s more to being a badass than being a punk rocker in a depressed Southern town.
I go home twice a year, to visit my grandmother who did most of my raising, to see my niece, who I hope will find her path and continue to break the cycle of poverty and ignorance that is rampant in our family, and to check in with a few friends who stayed behind to fight for a better South. Other than that I have lived a comfortable West Coast life, filled with all of the geographic, social, and economic riches that we have at our disposal. I have found a home in a beautiful corner of the PNW, and opened a community kitchen that has filled me with more pride than I could ever deserve. I am thankful for this life, and thankful for the range of experiences that have allowed me to see the many dimensions of America. But I am also aware that I have become complacent, and that simply growing up as an antiracist teenager doesn’t mean I’m doing enough now to stand up against injustice in all its forms.
The act of cooking for another is one of humanity’s most beautiful gestures. At the Pantry we see this as key in our goal of building and strengthening our community. It starts with thoughtful consideration for who is growing the food we purchase, extends to building a staff that feels respected and supported, and culminates in carving out a space that allows our guests to connect with neighbors at our table. It is our greatest hope that what we do carries forward, encouraging everyone to continue cooking and sharing meals at their own tables.
No meal feels more significant than the upcoming holidays, where family members from all across the political spectrum will come together to continue old traditions and make new ones. For many of us, this year the intrigue at the holiday table has a few extra layers, with the election having drawn sharp lines in the sand. I don’t have answers for this. In fact, long before Nov. 8th, when I still held hope that fear and anger would not win the 2016 election, I cancelled my trip to Alabama for Christmas. It will be my first year missing it, but even then I knew that I wouldn’t be up for it.
I’m grappling with the paradox of owning a business that celebrates difference and encourages dialogue, while refusing to break bread with my own family because of who they voted for and what they believe. I don’t know how to reconcile my reality — one steeped in acceptance, curiosity, and a lot of privilege — with the large swaths of the country that are angry, fearful, and suffering in the age of globalism. And I’m struggling with how to love and respect those who had a hand in raising me into the compassionate fighter that I am today, but who ultimately chose their white economic privilege over the dignity of others. No matter how “woke” you considered yourself on November 7th, this election was a punch in the gut to those who’ve spent their lives fighting for social justice — for those who have been celebrating how far we’ve come in the last 60 years, and for those who saw just how far we still have to go. I have spent many hours wallowing in the loss, overwhelmed with shame for not fighting harder, and crying for my friends and neighbors who are now afraid because they are not white, because they are muslim, because they are not here legally, or because they are LGBT.
Unfortunately there are no take-backs for this one, so that means we’ve got a lot of work to do to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. Here at the Pantry we’ll be spending the next few months studying up on how we can help locally, through political engagement, community outreach (it’s time to leave the kitchen!), and partnerships with local schools. We’ll also be looking for ways to help nationally, through donations to organizations like the ACLU and SPLC, and through scholarships for underprivileged students of social justice. At our first post-election staff meeting, I wept when I realized that everyone had an item on their discussion agenda on how to reach out, get involved, or protect each other. We are all ready to fight, and we welcome any ideas that you have.
So for anyone out there who feels alone, scared, threatened, or intimidated because of your race, religion, sexuality: please know that you have a place at our table. We welcome open and honest discussion, but have zero tolerance for intolerance, and are more than ready to remove anyone from our kitchen who engages in hate speech, bullying, or any other behavior that makes our guests feel unwelcome. And we’ll continue to do what we can to foster community through education, through sharing, and through eating.
Take care of each other, and maybe I'll see you in DC on January 21st.
Photo by Aran Goyoaga
- Farro Cakes
- 1/2 cup small diced onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
- 1 1/2 cups semi-pearled farro
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 5-6 cups hot vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons mascarpone, room temperature
- 1/4 cup fine bread crumbs, plus more as needed
- High-heat oil for frying
- Duck Confit
- 2 bay leaves
- 3/4 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 whole clove
- 3/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 cardamom pods
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 shallot
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 2 inches rosemary
- Zest of 1/4 medium orange
- 2 duck legs
- 2 cups duck fat
- Pickled Cranberries & Cranberry Puree
- 4 ounces cranberries
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 2 each allspice berries
- 1 whole clove
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Make the farro cakes:
Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven until just below medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until they are translucent and barely brown. Add the thyme and farro and stir to combine.
Add the white wine and half the stock to the farro mixture and bring to a brisk simmer. Lower the heat to keep at an even simmer, and stir frequently. As the stock dips below the farro, add more hot stock to cover. Continue this process until the farro is tender and bathed in just enough stock (now slightly thickened) to coat, around 40-45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir to combine.
Spread the risotto on a sheet pan and place in the refrigerator to cool and thicken, at least 2 hours. Once completely cooled and thickened, add in the mascarpone, egg, and breadcrumbs. If you used whole farro instead of pearled farro, you may need to add an additional 2 to 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs a to form the cakes. Test one farro cake before continuing with the recipe.
Scoop up small balls of the farrotto and flatten them into 1/3 inch thick discs. Cakes are best fried when cold in order to keep them from falling apart, so it might be necessary to chill them in the refrigerator again after they have been formed.
Fry in 1/4 inch deep oil over high heat until nicely browned on both sides and hot. Top with the cranberry puree, duck confit, and pickled cranberries and serve immediately.
Make the Duck Confit:
Toast bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, and cardamom in a small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Be sure to constantly move the spices to prevent them from burning. Use a spice grinder to coarsely grind spices. Combine the ground spices with the salt in a medium bowl.
Finely chop the garlic, shallot, thyme, rosemary, and zest. Combine these with the spice mixture and toss the ingredients until the mixture is uniform.
Place the duck legs in a deep oven proof baking dish, skin side down, so that they sit snugly together. Spread the spice mixture evenly over the legs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. After the legs have cured for at least 24 hours, remove from the refrigerator and rinse off the spice rub under cool water. Place the legs back in a large baking dish, skin side up, so that the legs are not crowded.
Preheat the oven to 270 degrees F.
Melt the duck fat in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Pour the fat over the legs, being sure to cover them completely. Bake for 2 hours, then lower the heat to 225 degrees F and bake an additional 2 1/2 hours, until the duck is fork tender.
Remove the duck legs from the oven and cool without removing the legs from the fat. The legs will begin to sink and submerge themselves in the hot fat. Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate.
Before serving remove the duck from the fat and let it come to room temperature. Remove the skin from the duck and shred the meat, discarding the bones and skin. Simply re-warm the duck in a medium-low pan with a teaspoon of the duck fat until hot, browning if desired.
Make the Pickled Cranberries & Cranberry Puree:
Bring the water, sugar, and apple cider vinegar up to a simmer. Wrap the spices in cheesecloth or use a tea ball and add them into the pickling liquid. Add in the cranberries and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the cranberries chill to room temperature in the liquid.
Strain the cranberries, remove the spices, and reserve half. Put the other half of the cranberries in a food processor and puree them, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Strain the puree through a fine mesh sieve, and whisk in the olive oil to form the puree.