I'm reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our Year of Seasonal Eating by Barbara Kingsolver for the Kitchen Reader book club later this month. I won't spoil the whole book, but, in one sentence, the book is about a family that decided to eat only locally grown and produced food for a year. It's fascinating, and at the end of the month you can expect a full review.
Locally grown food is a difficult idea for me at the moment since Hong Kong is a city that doesn't produce (much?) of its own food. Everything is from elsewhere. My milk frustration is one example of trying to find a local solution that works for me. (*Milk update below.) With vegetables I have been turning the local challenge into more of a fun game. There are plenty of local vegetables, though they are not all vegetables with which I am familiar. When I shop at the "wet market" that is a short bus ride away, there are rows of stall holders all selling mounds of green things, not all of which I recognise. I have taken to buying several veggies I recognise and then picking a few I don't. This has been a very successful strategy; with the help of The Visual Food Lover's Guide and The Vegetable Bible I usually manage to identify them in English.
Take, for example, this summer squash, a large brown thing I found on one stall.
At the market I picked it up, smelled it, and chose it. I am not sure what the stall holders think of me. I can't talk to them and they can't talk to me. When it's time to pay, they use their calculator to show me how much I owe. I have no idea if I am being charged the same as the little Cantonese lady next to me is paying. But they are kind to me and I return week after week to investigate a bit more. After smelling this largish, brown orb, I was none the wiser about what it could be, so I bought it. I determined it was a summer squash from my books, but not one that was named there. So I gave it a wash and decided, I'll just cook with it and see how it goes! (Does anyone actually know what this is called? I still have no idea!)
When I cut it open, it became clear that it is definitely a relative to the courgette. The flesh was watery, crisp, and very light green. I scooped out the seeds and shredded the flesh. Then I drained it in a sieve. I wanted to make vegetable pancakes, described by Mark Bittman as "a surefire way to get anyone to eat any vegetable." (The recipe is from Food Matters, that I was reading in June.)
After squeezing out the water, I grated some carrots, too, so I had enough veggies to make the pancakes. The summer squash tasted exactly like courgettes and could easily be substituted by them or any other summer squash you find at your local market. That's the beauty of local food, after all, it's different for you than it is for me! These veggie pancakes can be made with any vegetable or a combination of what you have around you.
adapted from Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes by Mark Bittman
makes about 15 pancakes; serves four as a side dish or three for lunch
about 3 kg (about 3 c packed) grated vegetables
1/2 small onion, grated
1 egg or 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/4 c (30 g) whole wheat flour, or perhaps a bit more
salt and pepper
oil or butter for frying
Squeeze the water out of the vegetables and place the veggies in a large bowl.
Add the onion, egg or egg whites, and the flour. Combine until the mixture comes together. It should not be too wet, otherwise the pancakes will not hold together. Add enough flour to make sure this happens.
Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a frying pan with oil or butter over medium heat.
Drop by spoonfuls into the pan and use a fork to press down into flattish rounds about 1 cm high.
Cook until browned, then flip and cook the other side, about four minutes on each side.
Work in batches, removing the finished pancakes to a plate in the oven to keep warm.
Serve on a bed of salad, or with a thinned garlic mayonnaise sauce.
*Update on the milk situation. I studied the powdered milk, as Friedel suggested, at my (large, international) grocery store and found that it is imported from abroad, mostly Australia and New Zealand. I am trying to avoid foods that are flown here, so that didn't seem to be the solution. And then I looked for UHT milk, but found that it was full of additives and stabilisers. This mystified me further; I thought the whole idea of UHT was that the heat treatment meant it had a long shelf life. I am not sure why there are stabilisers.
So for the moment Ant and I have decided to drink whole milk, the red carton I showed you first in my earlier post; it may have more fat, but it is only fresh milk (nothing added) and it's made in Kowloon, a part of Hong Kong. I just don't think there is a local, healthy solution if we want to drink semi-skimmed or skimmed milk.