Recipe: Forking Delicious Pâté with Forks Farm pork – Orangeville, PA

If you haven’t stopped by Forks Farm in Orangeville, I suggest that you make the visit. I’ve been to the farm three times since arriving in Pennsylvania three months ago, and I’m addicted! I can’t get enough of the positive feelings and fresh foods I always bring home from the farm. My new favorite is homemade pâté. (I’ve nicknamed it “Forking Delicious Pâté,” because I make it with Forks Farm pork liver and tallow.)

The first time I heard about Forks Farm was at a farm workshop, where I met Row, Forks Farm’s current intern. She invited my husband and me out to the next market. What we saw was incredible! People bringing their baskets and filling up not only with meat from Forks Farm, but with perfect flower bouquets, imperfectly hand-shaped bagels, hardy loaves of bread and mountains of fresh produce from other vendors. The phenomenal thing about Forks Farm is that they don’t just promote their own products; they really create a community where people can come together and learn about each other and the food they consume.



I recently went back to Forks Farm to talk more with Row about her internship. I was lucky enough to visit on chicken processing day. In case you didn’t know, if you buy chicken from Forks Farm, chances are great that your chicken was out in the field the morning before. Talk about fresh! I arrived around 8am and watched people trickle in and out until nearly 3pm. My husband and I hopped in and tried a few steps of chicken processing. (If you have a feather or two still on your bird this week, that’s my fault.) Everyone there was working hard, chatting with their neighbors and enjoying the beautiful day on the mountain. The animals weren’t stressed and neither were the people.

We finished by lunch, which was a great time to catch up with some of the others involved with Forks Farm. DA has been helping out with processing since she was 7. Now at three times that age, she’s working toward her own career in culinary arts. When asked whether chicken processing was part of her motivation toward a career in food, she’s not so sure. “But being on [Forks Farm] was definitely part of the reason.” Another employee, a mom of two, credits Forks Farm as “the best job ever.” I haven’t heard that from anyone working in industrial chicken processing! I also talked at length with Jo and Joan who are working to find the ways people make the connection between their food and their health. It was so restorative to chat with these folks.

After lunch I asked Row about her favorite animal at Forks Farm. I thought she might try to be diplomatic or give me the classic, “All my kids are my favorites.” However, Row didn’t hesitate- she loves her pigs! Most people don’t think of pigs as friendly, but Row knows better. She took me out to their woodlot (while making sure to pick up fallen apples for them along the way) and pointed out the differences in some of the pigs. “This is Monica. She’s the daughter of Raffi, a pig I didn’t get to meet.” The way she talked about the pigs was akin to pointing out family members in old photo albums.

There are some truly incredible connections happening at Forks Farm, both those you see at the market as well as those behind the scenes. I hope you take a look at their upcoming schedule and make some time to visit. And if you buy your meat from Row, be sure to ask which animal is her favorite—I’ll bet you can’t say it before her! When you’re there, be sure to buy some tallow and pork liver for the recipe below. And let me know in the comments section how your “Forking Delicious Pâté” is!

Forking Delicious Pâté

Because I’m lazy/efficient, I usually make a triple batch. It takes just as long to caramelize two onions as it does to caramelize six onions. I can’t do more than a triple batch because I don’t have a pan big enough.

This freezes terrifically when covered with tallow. Defrost in the fridge overnight and you’ll have a great treat all winter long. This also makes an excellent gift, especially for those who don’t crave sweets as much.

The recipe calls for tallow, which is beef fat (pork fat is called lard). You can replace that with a combination of oil and butter, but I like both the flavor and stability of tallow. Because of its stability, tallow is also perfect for deep-frying.

Prep time: about 10 minutes
Cooking time: about 1:40 minutes
Yield: about 3 cups (3 small mason jars)


1.5 lbs pork liver
~2-3 c milk
4.5 Tbsp tallow
2 large, thinly slice onions
½ tsp kosher salt
4 minced cloves garlic
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp kosher salt
~2-3 shots of brandy
¼ c – ½ c cream
Additional tallow (approximately 1/8 cup for each wide-mouth mason jar)


  1. Clean the liver, removing any of the stringy connective tissue. Dice the liver into ~1 inch pieces, place in a bowl and cover with milk. Cover and place in the fridge.
  2. While the liver is marinating, heat the tallow over low heat in a large skillet. Add the onions and ½ tsp. salt. Cook until the onions develop a deep caramel color. This will take at least thirty minutes (usually closer to 45 minutes) and can’t be rushed. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook for about two minutes.
  3. Drain the milk off the liver, discard the milk, and add the liver to the pan. Sprinkle with the other ½ tsp salt and the black pepper. Stir occasionally until the juices from the liver run clear.
  4. Scrape everything into a food processor. Add the brandy and cream and blend until pureed. Taste the pâté and adjust seasonings to taste.
  5. Using a wooden spoon, press the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. This will make your pâté extra smooth. Spoon the finished mousse mixture into a piping bag (or gallon-sized food storage bag then cut off the tip) and pipe into your glass storage jars. Piping in makes the finished product look beautiful, helps prevent air pockets, and keeps the jars from getting messy. Top each jar with a layer of tallow to prevent air from touching the pâté. Refrigerate up to a week. Freeze for up to six months. Serve chilled or at room temperature on crackers or vegetables.

Restaurant Review: Eat 2 Live Bistro – New Paris, PA

I LOVE to try new restaurants! I teach culinary arts at a local vocational school, and summertime is the perfect time to try out recently opened restaurants. The beauty of being unencumbered by school bell schedules allows me to enjoy the local farm markets and even do some cooking demonstrations, to show folks how to use some of the farmers’ beautiful and organic bounty. Last Friday, my sister, my colleague, and I finally made it to Eat2Live Bistro. It’s very easy to find: going South on I99, you want to take the Cessna exit, continue going right, go about two miles, and it’s on the right!

Chipotle Chicken BBQ Flatbread

I ordered the soup trio of Creamy Mushroom, Tomato Bisque, and Roasted Corn & Red Pepper Chowder along with a ton of spoons, so we could all sample! We tried the simple yet beautiful preparations and were not disappointed. The sample was very generous for the price. We shared an appetizer of Chipotle Chicken BBQ Flatbread- I didn’t detect much of the smoky goodness that is chipotle, but it was seasoned very nicely with a crisp finish from the flatbread.

burgerNow for the main lunch items… My sister ordered the Sirloin & Smoked Gouda Melt, my colleague ordered the Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, and I requested the Bistro Burger. Each menu selection offered grass-fed beef, local cheeses, and nitrate-free bacon. There was a smoky flavor to the meatloaf that was very flavorful; it was one of those notes that made your eyeballs roll, and the Red Onion Jam on my burger gave the whole dish a nice tangy note. It’s prudent to add that the sandwiches are served on a choice of housebaked breads- they were very good. There is something about eating grass-fed beef that feels so good–knowing that one has not ingested synthetic growth hormones and antibiotics that ultimately change the structure of such a beautiful protein. Beef has gotten such a bad rap; if those poor animals were fed their natural diet of grass for their ruminating stomachs, then we could enjoy a much more natural food source.

MeatloafAnyway, I digress…
So we move on to dessert and coffee. We shared a Peach Cobbler Crisp and Chocolate Truffle Cake, which was so moist and with an icing made with avocado! Keith tried the cobbler and truly seized the moment!! We witnessed a true “shock and awe” moment when he tasted the cobbler. What was nice about both desserts was the lack of extreme sweetness. There was just enough sugar added to bring out the best of summer fruits and chocolate goodness.

Trying all of the foods required really tasting the true flavor of the food and not just the seasonings, and I think the true message here is about eating foods that are unadulterated and are just good. The server was able to answer our questions as well; nothing irks me more than a server who has no idea what he or she is even offering.

It has taken me many years to learn the beauty of “less is more” when preparing good food. I have to say, it was at least five hours until I began to feel hungry again. It is my belief that a nourished body is a satisfied body, and this meal demonstrated that. I also believe it’s our responsibility to support these local establishments who truly embrace the “Buy Fresh Buy Local” mantra. It’s all relative to sustainable farming, where the organic journey begins and culminates into food that just feels good to eat!

Please take time to check out their web site; it’s worth a visit, and I know there are many other yummy menu options I just can’t wait to try! I enjoyed reading Lisa’s review of Revival Kitchen in Reedsville. That’s my next destination! A person cannot beat the feeling he or she gets when eating such “clean food.” It’s so wonderful to see these places opening, where “clean eating” is truly the norm. Be sure to support them in their endeavors!!

Heather MccloskeyHeather is an Instructor of Culinary Arts at Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center.  She loves to tend her own gardens and truly appreciates the hard work of local farmers, who provide us with beautiful produce through organic and sustainable farming practices. (Thank you!)


50 Foods, by Edward Behr


If you were just browsing a list of titles and descriptions you might skim past 50 Foods, by Edward Behr, and file it away in your brain under “Hmf”, relegating it to the category of books about things you should do or try before you die. That’s not what this book is about. I’ll tell you what this book is about, and then, I’m going to tell you what it’s really about.

If you picked the book up in a bookstore you’d be more inclined to give it its due. You’d see that it is subtitled “A Guide to Deliciousness”, and who doesn’t want to be guided to deliciousness? You’d see that Edward Behr is the Founding Editor of The Art of Eating, and doesn’t that sound inviting? And once you opened the book and flipped the pages you’d be sold on how well-designed the insides are. Book design is a lot like cooking, in my opinion. The challenge is to take the same elements available to everyone else and to produce something that is original, aesthetically pleasing, and at its best goes unnoticed because the job of both is to present, to support, not to take the spotlight.

Each chapter covers a different food, some as specific as a particular kind of soft-rind cheese, some as general as Apples. Each chapter follows the same general format. First there’s a few pages of general overview that covers history of the food, where it’s found, how it’s used, a sort of typical encyclopedia-entry kind of run down—but each is filled with very well-researched and entertaining information. Where there are specific varieties with particular positive and negative characteristics, those are noted. I’ll come back to that, it’s in many ways the best part of the book. This overview section is followed by a section on “how to buy” the food, which includes details on how to determine you’re getting the best possible version, what to look for, and what to avoid. Next are notes on how to best store the item (if storage methods vary for that item). Next comes notes on what foods work as complements to the food being discussed, what to serve with it, what different cuisines choose to pair along with it. The final section of each chapter covers what wine to pair with the food.

This is a book that teaches you how to become a discerning taster of a range of foods from things you’d consider “common” and can’t be taught anything new about (you’d be wrong) to things that aren’t available for purchase in this country (raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days are currently illegal in the USA; several of the world’s greatest cheeses fall into this category). This is a book that teaches you that there is a huge range of diverse foods out there that the industrial food chain is simply not making available to us. Foods offered in big box produce sections are varieties that have been bred for yield, bred for resistance to pests, bred for hardiness in transport, bred for speed of growth. They are bred for profitability. They are not bred for flavor. Not ever.

This book is really about teaching us something more profound than which varieties of food taste better than which other varieties (though it is certainly about that). This book is about opening up your mind, through your palate, to the notion that there are vast amounts of food variety available to those who are willing to go in search of it. There are something like 7500 varieties of apples grown worldwide. Less than a hundred are grown “commercially”. I bet I’ve had more types from the stand around the corner from me in the past two months than the big box store will have all year.

The chapter on strawberries leaps to mind.

“Some flavorful varieties to look for: in the northeastern US, Sparkle (the conventional variety I grow, introduced in 1942 and sold at some farmers’ markets); in California, good though not tip-top varieties are Chandler, Gaviota, and Seascape (introduced in the 1980s and 90s by the University of California); in the Pacific Northwest, look for the everbearing Quinault (1967, Washington State University); in Florida, look for Oso Grande and Selva (1980s, University of California). A modern French variety with an excellent reputation is the early, somewhat small-fruited Gariguette, created at Avignon in the 1970s. From it has come the fine four-way cross Mara de Bois (though in my garden, Sparkle beats it), which is raised by a number of US market gardeners. Besides all those, you may be lucky enough to find a grower selling good alpine or musk strawberries, at a price. In the future keep an eye out for a revival of Fairfax (1922, USDA, a parent of Sparkle), which has a top reputation but has been out of commerce, and of Marshall (1890, Massachusetts), which not long ago was all but extinct. Marshall was raised on a commercial scale in Oregon into the 1960s and in the US was widely considered the best strawberry ever grown, which didn’t prevent it from being replaced by higher-yielding varieties which more durable fruit.”

Imagine how our food landscape would change if everyone was armed with this kind of information. With a few exceptions–driven by trademark protection more than anything–consumers are not told what variety of tomato, potato, apple, or strawberry they’re buying. There are a few reasons for this. One reason is that these items are now treated as commodities, as interchangeable widgets in the business of making more and more profit. You don’t need to know what kind of potato this is, it’s the potato we’re selling you, and that’s all you need to know. Another reason is because knowing the variety would tell you which superior variety it isn’t. It’s a strawberry, buy it, don’t ask if it’s a variety grown for flavor or for its ability to withstand thousands of miles of transport.

What this book is really doing is pointing at the parade of profit-driven produce passing by and saying the Emperor has no flavor. When you buy from a local source, be sure to ask them which variety it is. “Heritage breed” and “heirloom” are not specific enough. Get the details, so you can learn which of the heritage breeds, and which of the heirloom varieties you like best. Then ask for them by name wherever you go. That’s how positive change happens.

Dan Waber is a poet, playwright, publisher, and digital artist whose work is almost (but not always) text-based ( His professional life has been in food and sales and marketing. His life was well and truly changed by reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, and he has committed the next stage of his life to supporting sustainable food by all means possible. He can be reached at

Affording Better Food – Looking to the One Percent

These days, the words “One Percent” are charged with lots of emotion and meaning. When you’re struggling with too much month at the end of your money, blaming the One Percent is natural. But are you focused on the right one percent?

It’s easy to rail at corporations and politicians, and it is important to be informed and actively participate in bringing about positive change. But while you’re at it, be sure you’re also taking care of your own, personal one percent. The one percent improvements you can tackle right now. Today, all by yourself. And, by focusing on doing our part, we become victors, not victims.Pantry jars

A good place to begin is in our pantries. We all say we’d like real, wholesome food on the table instead of processed, highly commercialized grocery store fare. But, commonly we find that organic artisan groceries just aren’t affordable so we do nothing but complain and resign ourselves to the powers that be.

But, that belief is only true if your method of comparison is to simply swap, item for item, your typical grocery order with its equivalent in artisan, organic goods. Then you are absolutely right. The Organic, Artisan produced Standard American Diet is unattainably expensive for most of us.

But you see, there is one ingredient you can’t buy at the store that changes everything. That ingredient is you. Let’s put our egos on hold for a minute and seriously ponder why we do buy the things we do.

Once you’ve thought it through, you’ll realize there are lots of mindless habits you can certainly change that will bring better food within reach.

I know – it sounds like a major life overhaul which is overwhelming and exhausting. But trust me, many of these items are painless and simple – we’re just not in the habit of thinking about them. If you level up as little as one percent each day, the end result will be game changing.

What areas yield the greatest results from a one-percent improvement? Ask yourself:

1. Are you buying ingredients, or are you buying processed food?Chicken Chili

2. Do you plan the ingredients for a later meal to be repurposed from what’s left of your dinner tonight?

3. Are you making good use of your freezer?

4. Are you buying food in its simplest form and proper season?

5. Are you throwing food away?

6. Do you often purchase one use-seasonings and ingredients to follow recipes?

7. Do you buy mainly processed meats like lunch meats, pre-cut stir fry and chicken tenders?

8. Are your meal portions appropriately sized and well balanced?

9. Are you following overly complicated and random recipes, or have you mastered some workhorse everyday techniques?

10. Do you have systems in place for quick meals and snacks?

Freezing food for later 11. Could you stock and rotate your pantry more effectively?

12. Have you considered your use of fats like butter, shortening and oils?

13. Are you making use of free sources of information like blogs, websites and your public library?

14. Where does the revenue from your food purchase go? To a centralized national or international location far from home, or do those dollars stay in your local economy?

By stretching the limits of your thinking, you’ll find it doesn’t take any longer to cook a meal from your pantry than it does to call for take out, drive wherever to pick it up and bring it back home.

Is there work involved? Certainly. But I find it’s more of a swap than an increase. Behind every quick and easy dinner there may be a simple project like gardening, canning, or freezing leftovers for future meals. But trust me, the planning factor is not a big deal. I’m a die-hard meal plan resistor. If I can do it, anyone made from scratch

This would all be a waste of good words if the food was a hair shirt kind of sacrifice. Fortunately that’s not the case. The greatest payoff of all is pure selfishness. The deliciousness for the money – that’s why I do it. A pantry stocked with peak of freshness, simple and well grown items is a luxury that that cannot be bought for any price. I’m far from rich, but the pleasures of my table are delightful.

So, don’t get mad, get busy. I know what I’m working on, how about you? Where will we begin?

Butter & Jackie

Jackie Cleary is a cook, farmer and writer eating her way around her small farm in Western Pennsylvania. Like all old fashioned farmsteads, Auburn Meadow Farm is constant source of humble pie and local deliciousness. Visit Jackie and her quirky livestock anytime at

Western PA Celebrates Local Food Month

I have to say that I love to eat avocados. And we all know that avocados are not grown in Western Pennsylvania. With the worsening drought in California, where most U.S. avocados are grown, and the rising oil and energy costs for producing and transporting food in our modern agricultural system, it is increasingly evident that Americans will need to turn towards more regional and local food sources.

To celebrate local foods and raise awareness of local food sources, the Western PA Buy Fresh Buy Local® Chapter has designated September as Local Food Month. Every September, Local Food Month inspires a variety of events that offer ways for people to connect with their food sources and enjoy the bounty of local foods produced here in our own region. Events change each year and may range from cooking demos, gardening and homesteading workshops, talks about food regulations, local food dinners, and the chance to meet your local farmers.

The organization that oversees the Western PA Chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local is PASA- The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture.  This year, PASA will once return to the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA, September 18-20. Every year, PASA hosts an information booth and stage, featuring workshops presented by PASA members on topics like healing herbs, cheese making, and mushroom cultivation.  PASA’s Western Region will also host a regional workshop on Preparing for Fall and Winter Gardening.  Take the chance to learn more about the most local food option possible: growing your own!  Held on September 10 at Garden Dreams Urban Farm & Nursery, this workshop will provide information on extending the harvest of a variety of hardy vegetables.

Events like these and others sponsored by our Buy Fresh Buy Local Partners and organizational partners provide the chance for consumers to deepen their love for, knowledge of and connection to local foods so that they might choose local products more often.  Sample local foods from area producers while shopping for your groceries at the East End Food Co-op or Sunny Bridge Natural Foods in Pittsburgh.  Dine in style and grandeur with foods from Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus Farm.  Attend a Fall Festival or learn to make an Herbal Paper Collage at Quiet Creek Herb Farm & School of Country Living.  Local Food Month can be fun… and very tasty!

So while you don’t necessarily need to give up the avocados or other exotic, non-regional foods that you love, we hope you will incorporate more local foods into your diet. Our choices fall along a continuum, and we can all move along it by starting with something small and gradually incorporating more practices into our lives that lead toward greater sustainability. For instance, you may start to shop at farmers markets or join a CSA, or select in-store items that were produced locally. You can also begin looking at labels, and asking questions that will help you purchase consciously. Local Food Month is just the beginning of the journey, but hopefully a fun and interesting beginning!

Find the full calendar of Local Food Month events here!

Jessy Swisher is PASA’s Western Region Program Coordinator and Coordinator for the Western PA Buy Fresh Buy Local Chapter.  For more information, visit  More information on Local Food Month events can be found at

Join us next Monday on the BuyLocalPA blog, where Jackie Cleary will challenge us to answer simple questions to make big change.

Restaurant Review: Revival Kitchen – Reedsville, PA

Revival Kitchen Logo

I had high hopes for a delightful dining experience at Revival Kitchen during their opening weekend, but I had no idea what kind of treat awaited us!

Revival Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant in Reedsville, PA (equidistant between Lewistown and State College) opened to the public July 31, bringing a burst of culinary creativity and artistic passion to the hills of central Pennsylvania. Staying true to their name, Revival Kitchen is committed to strengthening and restoring local economy by partnering with Pennsylvania farms, bakeries, butcher shops and general stores. I had been anticipating this visit for a number of weeks and couldn’t wait to experience the culmination of values and skills!

Pork Belly

Pork Belly

My dining companion Mark and I began our evening, rather appropriately, with a couple starters. First up was a Crispy Pork Belly with a Peach Caramel, Thai Herbs and Mung Bean Sprouts. The beauty of the plate was just a foretaste of the sweet, tender pork and fresh, minty salad.

Beef Bone Marrow

Beef Bone Marrow

We followed the pork belly with Beef Bone Marrow with Bacon Onion Marmalade, Preserved Lemon, Herb Salad and Grilled Sourdough. Nourishing and mouth watering, this dish was the perfect spread for hearty slices of sourdough.

I may have demanded more as I savored my last bite of the marrow, except for the Roasted Balsamic Beet Salad that came next. Accompanied by house-made Greek yogurt and topped with puffed wild rice granola, also made in-house, the balance of textures and tastes was bold but by no means overdone.

Beet Salad

Beet Salad

At this point, we were sold on this place, and we hadn’t even made it to the entrées. Not only were we speechless with nearly every bite, but the service and atmosphere was warm and welcoming. Staying true to their name, owners Quintin and Liz became masters of repurposing as they designed and decorated Revival Kitchen. Their creative use of old rope, mason jars, tractor seats, barn wood and the like give the space the simultaneous feeling of coming home and moving forward. A chalk board gives a shout out to all the local farmers and food producers that have contributed to the menu. Each name on the board represents a relationship formed around local food—a testament to the ever-growing and strengthening local economy in central PA.

Revival Kitchen House

Revival Kitchen


Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables

Next came the large plates—Corned Pork Shank with Gruyere Cheese Potato Puree, Caraway Pepper Slaw & Natural Jus and House-Made Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables, Ricotta Cheese and Sage Brown Butter. First of all, the pork shank was the tenderest pork I’ve ever had. So tender, in fact, that the meat fell from the bone with the first gentle stab of Mark’s fork. The potatoes and slaw were the perfect complement, making me feel like I was celebrating St. Patty’s Day in a renowned Irish pub. Neither did the gnocchi disappoint. The gnocchi and vegetables were fresh and firm, perfectly seasoned and buttered so the summer flavors were center stage. And did I mention the gnocchi is made in-house?

Speaking of house-made, we finished with Revival Kitchen’s homemade Bourbon Maple Cheesecake with Blueberry Jam and Lemon Verbana. How do you describe the perfect dessert? Because this was it–the perfect ending to a phenomenal dining experience.

Quintin and Liz’s attention to detail, focus on originality and commitment to local food came through every aspect of the Revival Kitchen experience–in each dish that came across our table, in the ambiance created through the décor (pro tip: check out the bathroom’s penny floor when you visit!) and even in their creative twist on comment cards.

Welcome to central PA, Revival Kitchen! We’re glad you chose us!

Revival Kitchen serves dinner Wednesday through Sunday, 4:30-10pm.

Lisa Hershey owns and operates LeFevre Bakery, a bakery in Huntingdon County that specializes in naturally fermented, locally sourced and wood-fired breads. She chose to start the bakery after witnessing how food builds community, from the field to the farmers market to the table.

Local Food as a Human Connection

Christina Kostelecky and husband Halston

Christina Kostelecky and husband Halston

For me, local food conjures up so many images. Among the happy memories are winter prunings, spring plantings, summer harvestings, and fall picklings. The unifying theme in each, though, is the friend beside me. So for me, local food means an intimate connection with people.

I’m lucky enough to have farmer friends around the world. In South Korea I met dozens of Seoul dwellers eager to trade city life for a weekend of hard work in the countryside. I’m still in touch with many of them.

Walking home from work one evening I met a family making their fall batch of kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage that Koreans eat with every meal. They invited me to join this very family-centric activity and they won me over! Laughing while bent over barrels of salty cabbage is a great way to make friends.

I was also lucky enough to meet a very talented farmer who apprenticed under Eliot Coleman. “THE Eliott Coleman?!” I asked when we first met and then proceeded to have a forty-minute discussion about our favorite types of tomatoes. I miss her dearly and love seeing shots of her fabulous veggies that she caringly cultivates in South Korea still.

In France I ate so many local farm-made cheeses, meats and veggies. Each farmer was incredibly patient as I asked questions in my kindergarten French. “When this milk getting from her cow?” “How old is happy cheese?” They didn’t mind and were happy to talk about their craft. I can still taste the freshness of the nettle soup I made. The conversations I had with my French farmer while picking were well worth the sting of the nettles.

Now I’ve been in Pennsylvania for nearly four weeks. Already I’ve been connected to more than a dozen helpful and friendly individuals. I’ve done as Lisa Hersey recommended in her last blog post and used local foods as a map to the area. I’ve visited farmers markets and chatted with the vendors. From the vendors, I’ve learned about restaurants supporting those vendors and other local foods. From the restaurants I found networking and volunteer opportunities. From one such event, I’ve started making friends. So, in a very real way, local food has connected me with friends in such a short time.

In the coming weeks there are more volunteer opportunities and more good food to be eaten. My benefits of connecting to local food are friendship, appreciation for the complexity of my meal, and great food. These are true no matter where in the world I happen to be.

We’d love to hear where you’ve made connections with local food. Please feel free to comment below.

Christina Kostelecky and her husband recently relocated to the Lewisburg area after nearly four years of living in South Korea. While in South Korea she was at the forefront of developing and organizing local and sustainable markets and organizations.  She is dedicated to supporting and furthering local sustainable food. 

This is who I am, who are you?

I was a professional chef for the first ten years of my working life. Whoever said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” was definitely not a chef. Every chef I’ve ever met was insatiably curious about ingredients and always looking at not just how other people were cooking but what they were cooking with. Whenever we travel outside our own area we always eat at local places, and the first questions are always: What’s good here? What are you known for? What shouldn’t we miss? Great (and often spirited) conversations always result.

Pride of place is strong in people who are passionate about food. By asking the questions What’s good here? What are you known for? What shouldn’t we miss? you begin with respect for the uniqueness of the other which I find is always returned. You tell me what’s good here, and you’ll be interested when I tell you what’s good where I’m from. We both gain from the exchange.

Local food, to me, isn’t a closed community serving itself to the exclusion of others. It’s the realization that everywhere is local for someone, and exploring the variations inherent in a healthy diversity. Local food isn’t just a way of saying, “This is who I am.” it’s a way of saying, “This is who I am, who are you?”


Rettew’s farmstand

Local for me, right now, is a small farmstand that’s about a minute walk from my door (Rettew’s in Akron, PA). The John Boy peaches have just ended (I put up a small batch of jam before they were gone; you had to eat them over a sink and wash your chin when you were done), and the Red Havens are coming in now (smaller, redder, and a more concentrated peachnitude; I fell for the tang of the skin which really makes it). They’ve got Early Gold and Pristine apples that will make you want to go back through time and slap every apple you ever bought from a supermarket. The Early Gold is a yellow apple with a rich and complex flavor that includes a faint hint of the woodiness of its stem (in a good way), and a texture that is at times powdery soft without being mealy. The Pristine is a green apple, but only gently tart, with a texture that is firm without being freakishly ultracrisp. They are exceptionally juicy with a taste I can only describe as earthily fresh. There’s sweet corn now, and green beans, and lima beans in their pods, tomatoes of course, onions, potatoes, and quite a few other things. Every day it’s a little different.

Their produce is all so excellent in quality that it is changing my cuisine. I’ve begun to completely rethink the protein/veg/starch 50/25/25 plate and now think in terms of simplicity of preparation, simplicity of presentation, and methods of giving each individual ingredient its own moment on the stage.

Tomorrow we’re having guests for dinner. I plan to put out some Cowgirl Creamery cheeses (local to Point Reyes Station, CA and maker of my current favorite cheese ever, called Red Hawk, a soft, washed rind cheese made with wild bacteria—meaning its flavor is unique to its place of manufacture, which gives local another shade) for nibbling to start, and throughout. Then I’m serving the best chicken stock I’ve ever made (procedure available upon request), clarified, alone in a cup, garnished only with two or three freshly-bruised, freshly-picked rosemary leaves from a planter on my back porch. Followed by a dish made by cutting the green beans into corn kernel sized circular segments, blanching them, shocking them in ice water, then sauteing them in butter with an equal amount of corn cut from the cob, salt and pepper, just until the corn is heated through. The corn is so good right now it’s spectacular even when raw. Then, another course, freshly shelled lima beans, blanched and chilled, tossed with diced heirloom tomato, and drizzled with olive oil. Nothing I could do would improve the flavor and texture of these peak-picked items. I would like dessert to be a half of a perfect Red Haven peach, drizzled with Scottish heather honey (not local to me, but it’s made by bees in a single and singular place), and oven-toasted skin-on almond slices. I’m hopeful, but I don’t have final say on dessert matters in this kitchen, and I’m okay with that. The peach dish I hope for, which we named Peach Jennius, was put together by the love of my life as a lunch dessert a few days ago, and it’s what really triggered the thought process behind the whole menu.

Peach Jennius

Peach Jennius

I’ve thought of dozens of ways that I can do more to these dishes, but I keep checking myself with the realization that with the ingredients I have available to me now the prime consideration isn’t how can I make these better, it’s how can I be sure I don’t diminish them. This is not anything new. Restaurants everywhere are embracing the tasting menu, but I don’t think it’s the way most Americans cook at home. The French have considered the vegetable to be a course all its own for hundreds of years, the Japanese have a respect for simplicity and showcasing ingredient freshness that’s unequaled. But I’m not French, and I’m not Japanese, so a shift like this is, in a very quiet and personal way, radical.

I am curious how our guests will react. I wonder if they will understand or just consider me quirky. I wonder if what local food means to me will resonate with what food (let alone local) means to them. Either way, I know that conversation will happen, because the meal, and I, will be saying, “This is who I am, who are you?”

Dan Waber is a poet, playwright, publisher, and digital artist whose work is almost (but not always) text-based ( His professional life has been in food and sales and marketing. His life was well and truly changed by reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, and he has committed the next stage of his life to supporting sustainable food by all means possible. He can be reached at


When Your Meal Becomes A Map

I smirked as my dad predictably took us on a counter-clockwise tour around his dinner plate, telling us nothing we didn’t already know.
Farm fresh vegetables

“This beef was raised right here in our own pasture,” he points out the window where two Holstein steers graze serenely.

“The beans, potatoes and salad from that land there,” he says, referring to the plot of green adjacent to the pasture.

“Even the eggs in the salad are from our little corner!” he finishes with a flourish.

This was a commonplace litany in my childhood home, especially in the summer months when the garden spewed forth greens and tomatoes, potatoes and corn. Yet despite this most ordinary and life-long experience of knowing his food’s source, my father’s obvious delight at the land, work, and food connection has never waned.

Not only has he maintained his joy in being connected to his food, he’s passed it on.

I, too, now delight in surveying my dinner plate—my physical nourishment extending into a map of places, people and memories.

Sweet potatoes from Micah and Bethany at Plowshare Produce, friends and spiritual comrades. The tubers are not only flavored with butter and salt, but with memories. Memories of weeding the sweet potato plants on a drizzly summer day alongside friends as Micah explained why this particular field had the best soil on the farm. Memories of digging through the dry and crumbly sod on a crisp fall morning like a team of archeologists, our treasure of bushels upon bushels of sweet potatoes a worthy reward. Imaginary prizes handed out to the largest potato, the most bizarre shape, one which most resembles a living creature.

Cheese from Clover Creek in Williamsburg, my weekly neighbors at the local farmers market. Each bite of cheese is the result of one family caring for and milking the cows, creating new cheese recipes, culturing the cheese and bringing the cheese to market. This is industriousness and creativity I am happy to support.

Bread from my oven made with grain I can picture growing at Small Valley Milling and slathered with honey from Andy of Tug Hollow Honey, who keeps me regularly informed about the plight of the bees in our area and country. Bees that have enjoyed the cover crops across the road at Plowshare Produce and dutifully pollinated our vegetables in return.

And in my eating, I am connected. For ultimately, eating locally is about connection. Environmental stewardship, local economy, individual health and all the other reasons we eat local work to restore connections and seek wholeness.

As Wendell Berry says in his essay “The Pleasure of Eating”:

“A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes. The pleasure of eating, then, may be the best available standard of our health… Eating with the fullest pleasure—pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance—is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.”

Choosing local food goes beyond physical necessity and nourishes our need for connection to the earth and to each other. And in restoring these connections, we become a bit more grateful, a bit more humble, and a bit more whole.

How does eating locally restore your connections? Please answer in the comments.

Lisa Hershey owns and operates LeFevre Bakery, a bakery in Huntingdon County that specializes in naturally fermented, locally sourced and wood-fired breads. She chose to start the bakery after witnessing how food builds community, from the field to the farmers market to the table.


Finding Connection In Local Food

by Roberta Cosentino

It’s June and my garden has been my obsession for several weeks. Each new flower on the chipotle pepper plant has me counting the days to fresh salsa. As always, ramp season was too short, but berries are ripening and summer is in the air. I am looking forward to the summer season and all of its wonderful spirit, energy, opportunity…and flavor!

A few years ago at a PASA conference I purchased a copy of Simply in Season – what would come to be my go-to recipe book. Organized by season and indexed by ingredient, I found myself at home with my first CSA share thumbing through pages of recipes with ingredients I actually had on hand. It was after my first rhubarb pie that I immediately started buying the recipe book for my friends and family.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, purchasing Simply in Season would eventually have the great effect of helping me connect my food to my surrounding landscape. As the seasons passed, I flipped through the book to the appropriate pages and started to realize that indeed, I had no reason to cook a summer dish in the dead of winter! There were other great recipes I could enjoy during those months, with seasonally appropriate ingredients. As the title of the book suggests, it was simple.

Eventually I would come to adopt something equally as simple: buying fresh and buying local. Without a doubt, this means different things to different people. What is local, anyway? Is it my town? My state? The east coast? The answer I choose is, simply, as close to me as possible.

Whether it’s my garden, the farm down the street or my favorite soap maker from Centre County, buying fresh and buying local is not a steadfast rule, it’s just a simple choice. At first it’s a choice about paying attention to where things come from until inevitably, one day, you enter a big-chain grocery store and feel like you’ve just taken a trip to strange, faraway land.

As a non-native Pennsylvanian I attribute my connection to my community with the Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign. Having moved here from a major city, my first months in PA were spent driving down gravel roads, giddy to find my dairy farmer. I met like-minded folks at the farmers markets, and generally appreciated the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of the area. I quickly found myself living peacefully – as a responsible and conscious consumer. And in this small, simple way, I started connecting my plate to my earth and my earth to my neighbors and my neighbors to the world around me.

In the coming months I’ll be turning this discussion outward, connecting with the Buy Fresh Buy Local community throughout the state – producers, businesses and individuals alike. In the meantime, I welcome input, questions, requests or musings.

Until next time, I wish us all a bountiful season and merry salsa-making. Cheers!

Roberta Cosentino is a native New Englander who now lives, works and eats in Chester County, by way of Washington, DC. Since becoming a PASA member, her passion for small-scale farming, food security, cooking and community have guided her academic, professional and personal goals for nearly a decade.