We hear so much these days about heirloom tomato seeds, melon seeds, and cucumber seed for the crispiest pickles ever just to name a few, and now there is even a flour mill in Arizona that mills flour from heirloom grains that promises a loaf of bread that is reminiscent of days gone by.
What is this heirloom movement we keep hearing about? I have just begun my seedlings and I marvel at the choices I now have. It’s not just the run of the mill varieties anymore. You have to really do your homework. And careful to start a conversation at the local seed store if you aren’t up on your heirloom growers because they are the new rock stars among the Mother Earth magazine readers out there.
What is it we actually hunger for when we think of our grandmother’s fried green tomatoes or our favorite aunt’s black eyed peas and cornbread? Could it be that it’s not really the spoon full of black eyed peas that we miss as much as the time spent on the back porch shucking the peas and visiting and telling stories?
I’m certainly not a youngster myself but even I can just barely remember when we actually slowed down long enough to visit around mealtime preparation. What a concept, visiting. Visiting is more than a cursory, “How was your day? Oh, fine, and yours?” It is back to that mindfulness I spoke of last week, taking a breath and being present. It marries well with the idea of heirloom cooking since our ancestors took the time and effort to share love in their cooking, from planting the seeds, to harvesting, to preparation to the actual cooking then serving the meal.
I believe this is why our food was far healthier than much of our food consumption is today. Although our food is more readily available and cheaper now, we have compromised much of the quality and certainly the experience of eating has suffered.
Sounds a bit disheartening doesn’t it. You should know I am never without options and solutions. At the Women on Fire event I attended two weeks ago I met an amazing woman, Carole Murko. She started a food movement called Heirloom Meals. She has a website, recipes, videos, heirloom cooking products and utensil sources, just about everything to bring back that feeling of connection to hearth, home and to family. And one of my own heirloom favorites:
My Mamaw Minni’s Heirloom Lemon Loaf
1 ½ c. unsalted butter, melted
1 c. sugar
3 T. lemon extract
2 large farm eggs
1 ½ c. sifted, all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
½ cup milk
2 T. grated lemon zest
¼ c. lemon juice
½ c. sugar
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x5x3 – inch loaf pan.
- In a large bowl, mix together butter, sugar, lemon extract. Beat in eggs with a mixer.
- In a separate bowl, sift together, flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternating with milk, beating just enough to blend fold in lemon zest and pour into prepared loaf pan.
- Bake at 350 for 1 hour until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pan.
- Icing: Mix together lemon juice and sugar and heat slightly to dissolve. Pour over still warm cake that has been placed over a wire rack and pan to catch drippings. Continue to re-pour into cracks two more times. Wrap cooled cake in foil and store in refrigerator overnight. Serve cold the next day with sliced strawberries and whipped cream.
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