My Most Memorable Meal: Sabrina Artel

The best meal of all, the meal that I still remember the flavors of, is one that was created by my friends Amy and Wes Gillingham in their home. It was a cold snowy winter night and I was suffering from fresh food deprivation. I live in the woods outside a small town in the Catskill Mountains. It is gorgeous here but we definitely lack food choices. The only time I can cook with locally grown foods is during the summer and fall season when wild strawberries, ramps, watercress and blackberries are abundant in my garden. So that winter night’s meal at Amy and Wes’ was a total surprise. The meal began with plates full of home-grown carrots, beets and rutabagas lightly salted and served fresh from their root cellar. These weren’t ordinary carrots but thumb carrots, oddly shaped but very sweet and crunchy. Then the dilly beans and kimchi were brought out for tasting with fresh sourdough bread and fresh-made sweet butter.

Photo by Ted Waddell

As we feasted on the succulent root vegetables and the picked salads, Amy was kneading the pizza dough. Did I mention that my friends live off the grid, are organic farmers and are committed to living with a very small “footprint?” This pizza dough was absolutely smoky delicious as it was pulled from their Finish brick oven. The raw cheese came from a cow down the road, the sweet onions, oregano and garlic that topped the pizza came from their garden. The dessert was an amazing carrot cake made with fresh-laid eggs and milk and yogurt from Susie the cow.

It was a simple meal eaten with friends topped with laughter in the dead of winter when the temperature drops to the single digits. That meal helped me remember spring and its bursting greens; and reminded me why breaking bread with friends is an essential part of my life. Sabrina Artel’s radio show Trailer Talk has been described by the New York Times as “an unusual blend of theater, activism and broadcast journalism.” Broadcasting from a vintage trailer, she is “live on the road,” encouraging the democratic tradition of public dialogue on issues of importance to all Americans. Her program originates on WJFF Radio Catskill, the nation’s only Hydro-powered radio station. Podcasts are available on her website (http://www.sabrinaartel.com/) and on iTunes. She is the recipient of the NYSCA 2006 Individual Artist grant for her project, “In These Mountains” focusing on the complex and diverse community surrounding her hometown of Liberty, New York and a 2007 Puffin Foundation Grant for her project, “Liberty and Justice for All…?” exploring ideas around animal rights and advocacy.

***Photo by Ted Waddell

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