Welcome To the Enchanted Valley!

 

Hello Friends!

What do you know, here I am back at this blog again!
Life has been kind of insane lately. Things that I never expected to happen are happening. It’s scary, it’s painful, it’s raw, it’s real, it’s beautiful… and it’s totally Wild..

I always thought that someday I’d be the old woman of the canyon, stirring pots of soup and making pies in my beautiful wood stove oven, my kitty cats climbing on my shoulder. Drinking tea in my outdoor kitchen while I watched the sun rise through the mist. Gazing at those cliffs every day of my life, feeling like the luckiest lady in the world. Walking the same paths, noticing the same plants, seeing the same birds and lizards and bugs and skunks hopping and crawling and waddling around, and feeling so glad to see every little creature that shared the canyon with me.

But what was starting to happen there in the canyon is that I was feeling too lonely, and a little bit restless. Maybe it’s just a typical mid-life crisis. But for the past year, I’ve been fighting it. I’ve been trying so hard to make everything ok, and convince myself that if I could just love myself enough, maybe I could quit feeling like I needed to be around more people, and NEW people, singing and dancing and sitting around outdoor fires. Shopping at farmer’s markets. It might seem silly, but these are the things I felt like I was missing the most. But also, just being around little kids, and old people, and feeling like I was part of a larger community than just my family.

But, I tried as hard as I could. I really, really did. And I just couldn’t shake it.

So, to make a very long story short, I’ve ended up here, in this beautiful valley in Southern Oregon that is truly some kind of magical oasis. It’s just 16 miles from the border of Northern California, so it has the weather of California along with the fertility of the North West. When I walk the streets here, I see chestnut trees and blackberry vines, wild rose bushes, and acorns that are about 4 or 5 times the size of the ones in the canyon. There’s rosemary flourishing in so many yards, spilling over practically onto the sidewalks. There’s grape vines bearing really fat grapes that I can smell from many yards away.

I really, really love it here. It’s totally magical, but in a very different way than the enchanted canyon. I miss New Mexico hugely though. I miss the crazy blue of the skies, the feeling in the air, the weather there, the lay of the land and the very unique kind of wildness that that place has, where it’s really easy to feel like you’re in some kind of old Western movie. And of course, I miss the canyon.

I miss my enchanted kitchen and its perfect, curvy countertops that Wolf made with his own, beautiful hands. I miss the river and the cliffs, and my little dock patch, and the wild mustard and the tiny acorns we have there that are so much more flavorful. Really, I miss every little thing there so much. I miss my giant school bus closet with its ridiculous amount of clothes, I miss my solar refrigerator, I miss my knives and my wooden spoons and my 12 bins of fabric for the sewing projects I hardly ever seem to be able to make time for. I miss my Singer treadle that used to be Wolf’s grandmother’s. I miss the rocking chair that I sat at the table in the outdoor kitchen. I miss my darling kitty cats… sooo much.

And it kind of goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, how much I miss my family. It’s really hard to even go there in my mind without tears welling up in my eyes. Even in my happiest times here, already, at any point in time I could go to the park and bawl my eyes out at how hard it feels to be separated from them. It’s crazy to love and miss people so much, and yet to know that it really is better for all of us for me not to be there.

It’s just not right for me to be with people I love so much, and yet to feel the least bit ambivalent about being with them. It doesn’t honor them, and it doesn’t honor me. It’s really hard to deal with this. I want to have my cake, and eat it too, but life just doesn’t work like that. We have to make choices. And for every choice we make, there is a price. Sometimes the price just seems to difficult or high to pay. But what is the alternative?

More than anything, I don’t want to become the old, bitter, resentful woman of the canyon. Really, I can’t allow it. The canyon doesn’t deserve that, and neither do I, and neither do my most beloved ones. But I think it was seriously in danger of happening, if I stayed.

So here I am, taking the leap of faith. Of all the places in the world I could have gone, I picked this place because I trust Wolf so much. From all his years of traveling and performing in his Deep Ecology Medicine Shows, he felt strongly that this town I am in, Ashland, Oregon, was the place where I would feel most welcomed with open arms, and feel safe enough to be myself to my fullest– singing and dancing and finding my own way through my days. A place where people often leave things unlocked, where folks you talk to on the phone that you haven’t even met yet, call you “Love”. As in,”Thanks for calling, Love!” It is a place full of sweetness and kindness, open arms and open hearts. Singers, dancers, artists, and musicians. People that, even after only 5 days here, I am starting to feel really are my tribe.

Where to Find Me

Dear Friends,

For more recipes, art, sewing projects, rants and rambles, photos of canyon life, storytelling and probably more! come see me over at the Anima Center blog!

I hope you’ll stay tuned!

Anyone with recipes for the International Recipe Round Up, please email me at enchantedcanyonkitchen@gmail.com.

Thank you!

May you be nourished.

Love, Elka

 Rhiannon, Elka, at Kiva Ukrainian Birthday Tea-72dpi

wolf and pixie

Letters of A Woman Homesteader

One of my all-time favorite books is “Letters of a Woman Homesteader,” the missives of Elinore Rupert Stewart, a widowed wash-lady from a small city in Oklahoma, who, upon recovering from the “grippe”, decided she needed, more than anything, “the mountains, the pines, and the clean fresh air” and “wanted to homestead”.

So, in 1909, she up and left with her then 4 year old daughter Jerrine, and filed a claim on a Wyoming homestead adjacent to a bag-pipe playing Scottish bachelor, who would play “The Campbells are Coming” for so long that Elinore said she wished profoundly “that they would hurry up and get here”. That was when she worked for him as a housekeeper. Eventually they married. If I remember correctly, he later expanded his repertoire. Read more

International Recipe Round-Up

I find it so interesting to think about different cultures and how we all affect each other– value systems, food traditions, religion, society expectations, the sharing of stories, role models and and so much more! I’ve been so happy to see that so far this blog seems to attract a wonderful diversity of readers across the world, and I want to help encourage this by engaging input from other places.

So far, this blog has had views from

UK 

Canada

Ireland 

Indonesia 

Germany 

Finland 

Netherlands 

Australia

Read more

baking day salmon

I’ve been baking for so long now with a woodstove oven that it’s second nature. But baking bread using my horno (my clay, wood-fired bread oven, see picture below) is always an adventure. Even though I’ve had it for at least 4 years now, I’m still far from mastering the fine points of the perfect fire, the perfect heat, and knowing when to do what. But, the challenge is part of what makes it fun!

Yesterday, I baked in the horno–and then, made a small feast!

IMG_8111

I baked 2 dozen bagels and 2 loaves of bread (rosemary and plain wheat). Also grilled red peppers, salmon and steak with the coals I swept out of the oven and into the kettle grill. The salmon was the best I’d had in ages– very fresh and flavorful, and thick enough that it was easy to not overcook it. I took it off the grill when it was only about half way cooked, and then let it sit in the kitchen with a big bowl turned over it. The good little kittens didn’t dare to disturb the arrangement, while Kiva and Rhiannon went to town to take care of a lot of mail orders. (“the kittens” are all fully grown, but I still enjoy calling them all kittens…)
Read more

Simple Joys of a Wild & Messy Life

I want my blog to be a fairly accurate reflection of the person I really am.

An important part of who I am a devoted kitchen tender, who much prefers to go to bed at night without any dishes left in the sink. Harmony and beauty are things I value very much, right up there with joy and satisfaction. Focus is another thing that’s important, but very hard for me to accomplish.

My original vision was to keep this blog focused on the food, and not so much on me, or my life, or the way I see and experience the world. But I’m seeing that I want it to feel more playful, more true to the imperfect person that I am– and less “I’m trying to be a serious food writer that shows nothing but pretty pictures of perfect food”.

The cookbook I’m writing will be focused on just food. (at least I think so!) But this blog, starting now, (actually I think it started with my last post, and I just didn’t know it yet) will include all kinds of other stuff, along with the food.

It’s kind of scary, feeling like I’m opening up other aspects of myself to potential criticism. It’s like inviting my mother for supper in the middle of monsoon season, when I know there will be flies in the kitchen and I will be running around like crazy with buckets of water and she will be shaking her head, wondering what she did to deserve such a strange creature for a daughter, and what she might have done wrong. Read more

Raspberries and Pepper: Green, Black & Red

An Inspired Food Moment- July 19, 2016

It’s late. I’m sorting fresh raspberries, and put a few of the mushy but still good ones on my favorite tea saucer. Some cream yogurt, maple syrup… and then reach for the peppercorns, and then the green ones, too. Grind quite a few of them into the yogurt. Mash the raspberries into the pepper, then squeeze the juice of a cut lemon end, sitting on the counter. I could swear that it winked at me… then a pinch of red chile, not that it needed it.

It’s so good I contemplate saving the last lick for the morning…

nice idea!

(I get green peppercorns from mountain rose botanicals- they are the bae!)

Coming soon– meet a wild “green pepper” plant!

Read more

Preserving, Drying, and Cooking Lamb’s Quarters- aka. Quelites

To be honest, it took me quite a while to fall in love with lamb’s quarters.

But once I learned how to make “quelites”, a traditional Mexican dish, I became very attached. Maybe I even need them, like I “need” cheese in my life. Certainly, my enchanted pantry would be a sadder, less magical place without them.

This month, I’m attempting to gather up enough to see us through the winter. Many an evening I’ve been spotted by the local wildlife running barefoot upriver to the lamb’s quarters patch, piling up my greens for the night in an old sarong, then wrapping it up and slinging it over my shoulder for the mile walk back to the kitchen.

I have three ways I like to preserve lamb’s quarters or “goose-foot,” Chenopodium album, a plant that is known in the US Southwest more often as “pig-weed” or “quelites”. The Spanish word “quelites” refers to the traditional Mexican dish or the lamb’s quarters plant itself. It can also refer to amaranth greens, and they are often prepared the same way. Most often, they are boiled and then sautéed with minced onions and red chile, sometimes adding mashed beans near the end of the cooking time.

The first easy preservation trick is pesto. Lamb’s quarters pesto might sound odd, but its flavor is wonderful! I don’t love all herbal pestos, and I was skeptical, since I’m not a huge fan of raw lamb’s quarters…but this is one that makes me very happy. 

The second is to boil it and freeze it, which also works very well. Of course this takes up precious freezer space, however, so my third and favorite way to preserve lamb’s quarters is to dry them.

Read more

Homemade Ras El Hanout

My new favorite spice blend!

Ras el Hanout (which means “top of the shop” in Arabic) is a Moroccan spice mixture used in their cuisine to flavor everything from grilled meats, vegetable tagines, to a hashish candy called majoun. Traditionally the number of spices used is at least sixteen and up to more than a hundred.

In her amazing book, The Food of Morocco, Paula Wolfert, one of my great culinary heroes, (more about her another time!) has pared down the number of spices to make a delicious facsimile of the real deal. I’ve become rather obsessed with it, putting it in everything from bowls of yogurt and peaches to lamb’s quarters stir fries with goat milk. I’ve been mixing it with honey and butter on toast, and even sprinkling it into my Earl Grey tea with cream! You will be seeing it as an addition, or a suggested “optional” addition in some upcoming recipes. Any of these spices are available online from Mountain Rose, if you don’t have them handy.

After assembling the spices, doing the actual work only takes about 15 minutes, and less if you’re using a electric coffee/spice grinder. Here’s her method and one of her recipes for “Faux Ras el Hanout”, along with my notes as to a few changes I made, and a few more I will make next time I make it, along with the reasons why. Read more

How to Get Out of A Food Rut, #1

The thing is, I really like my food ruts.

Because a lot of the things I most love to eat, I cook all the time. There’s hardly two weeks that go by in which I haven’t made nearly half of my favorite things having to do with potatoes, tortillas, acorns, eggs, mushrooms, and wild greens. But I don’t want to make these wonderful things, slowly, become less fun to eat.

So, number one in my Getting out of a Food Rut series is to:

Cook for just ourselves, once in a while.

Maybe you live alone, and this doesn’t seem very helpful. But even if you do, are you really cooking for yourself? What I mean by that, is, are you really paying attention to your very own, particular, strangest food preferences and paying some homage to them, as you’re cooking for yourself? Read more