If Josh Alberg of Rubinette Produce has any advice for the height of the summer produce season, it's don't procrastinate.
"When the season starts, get your favorites early," he said. "Because if you wait, they'll be gone."
The time is now to get your heirloom tomatoes at the farmers' markets, and there's a plethora of peppers, eggplant, beans, corn and peaches tumbling in from local farms. Strawberries and cane fruit like raspberries and blackberries are nearly done, as are summer squash and cucumbers, so if you haven't got around to making your grandma's favorite dill pickles yet, you'd best get cracking.
Alsberg shook his head when talking about this summer's weather.
"It's been kinda strange," he said, recounting cooler temperatures early in the summer that got everything off to a late start, with some early crops experiencing a short, not-very-robust season. Tomatoes were delayed early on, and then 100-degree days like those we've had lately "put the kibosh" on some varieties that are normally prolific in midsummer, so expect a slightly shortened season.
He may have caught my sharp intake of breath, since he quickly reassured those of us who might be expecting to preserve a couple of hundred pounds to last us through the winter. Late summer and early fall cooking varieties like Romas and Astianas should be fine, as long as temperatures remain moderately warm and we don't get early rains. Whew!
Ground vegetables like carrots, beets and turnips are plentiful, as are greens like kale and chard. As mentioned above, pepper people will find piles of Jimmy Nardellos, bell peppers in all colors and Italian sweet peppers at the markets for the next month, and peaches, nectarines and corn should be around for that long, too.
Plums and table grapes are just getting started, as are local melons, and kiwi berries and ground cherries should start appearing soon. We can also look forward to freshly dug potatoes and onions by the end of the month, as well as winter squash like delicata and butternuts. Local apples and pears will be arriving from orchards by the end of September, though Alsberg said he's seeing a few local Gravensteins listed on his farmers' hot sheets, along with Zestar, Ginger Gold and Pristine varieties.
As usual with apples, though, Alsberg—whose social media handle is "fruit monkey"—warns that most of the varieties you'll see at the big grocery store have been in storage since last November or imported from places like Australia, Chile or Argentina, so make sure you check the country of origin if you want fresh, crisp apples for your table. He winced when mentioning one in particular, called Williams Pride, describing it as "mushy and mealy." Blech!
Apparently rumors are flying that Portland is rife with bomb-throwing terrorists, the air is thick with tear gas and the city is practically in ruins. But that's so last week! (Just kidding. Any damage was limited to a tiny area south of downtown.) Though like other U.S. cities, the out-of-control pandemic—thanks a sh*tload, GOP—has hit our food community hard, and there have been notable closures among longtime institutions and newcomers alike. My friend Leslie Kelly, a fan of PDX who is a contributor to Forbes.com, wanted to let folks know the city's vaunted restaurant scene is still alive, if not as thriving as it once was, so she asked me and a few other food writers to discuss our favorites.
Here's my list:
Grain & Gristle’s new owners Heidi Whitney-Schile and her husband Jeff Schile bought the restaurant from founding chef Ben Meyer, Upright Brewing's Alex Ganum and Marcus Hoover, maintaining the original owners' focus on house-made cooking showcasing locally sourced meat, charcuterie, produce and baked goods, along with a rotating selection of local brews. Quality ingredients, affordable and approachable, it never disappoints. Takeout dinners Wednesday through Saturday and limited patio seating for weekend brunch.
Tastebud got its start in 1999 when former farmer and pizza maven Mark Doxtader towed his wood-fired mobile pizza oven to the Portland Farmers Market where he sold his fresh-baked bread, bagels and pizza. He opened his first brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Multnomah neighborhood in 2014, selling the same farm-sourced, sourdough crusted pizzas and his legendary fresh locally sourced salads and other offerings with hand-crafted drinks and local wine and beer. Open for takeout only.
Burrasca chef/owner Paolo Calamai and his wife, Elizabeth Petrosian, moved to Portland direct from Paolo’s native Florence, Italy, in 2013, after visiting friends in the city and falling in love with its casual style and the fact that it was an affordable place to realize their dream of starting their own restaurant.
Paolo had worked in restaurants on both sides of the pond all of his working life, and decided to test Portland’s tolerance for the cuisine of his native city. They refurbished a food cart, which got so popular that they were able to open their restaurant in two years.
Known among the city’s fans of Italian food—including Beard-nominated chef Cathy Whims of Nostrana—for its Tuscan classics like pappa al pomodoro, gnudi, and the squid stew called inzimino, the homemade pasta Paolo rolls into tubes called pici or the papardelle he sauces with wild boar ragu have also found an admiring audience. This summer they’re currently selling out their socially distanced seating on the garden-like outdoor patio.
A devotée of the Mexican food scholar Diana Kennedy, chef Kelly Myers opened Xico on a little-trafficked stretch of SE Portland’s Division Street in 2012 with a dedication to serving the authentic food and preparations of Mexico. The street soon grew up around the 60-seat restaurant, though sadly, in 2018, Myers suffered a severe stroke. The helm was taken over by Myers-trained staff which still serves the organic, heirloom nixtamalized corn that is ground into the masa for its tortillas and the sauces made from native Mexican chiles. It is open for takeout only at this time.
The snug P’s & Q’s Market in the city’s up-and-coming Dekum neighborhood has evolved into a “corner deli” with a menu of cold grab-and-go sandwiches and salads plus snacks, drinks and locally sourced groceries and dry goods, and also serves weekend brunch. Its delightful, homey atmosphere is a throwback to small cafés you treasured. It’s open for phone-in takeout orders, patio dining (with cocktails!) and online grocery orders.
Read the rest of PDX Dining Recs From Savvy Insiders, with best picks from Portland food notables Ivy Manning, Jonathan Kauffman and Mike Thelin. (Note to Sarah Minnick: I listed Lovely's among my top faves, but Kauffman had already claimed it. Dang!)
My parents moved to The Dalles when I was in college, enabling me to explore the area of Oregon from Dufur to Tygh Valley to Maupin in the often blast-furnace temperatures of summer—one year it hit 112 degrees. I was enthralled by the high rolling hills of wheat, entranced by the wind that ruffled the waves of grain like some pale ocean stretching to the horizon. Contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm reminds us of the ancient rites of the harvest.
The Lammas or Lammastide, falls on the first of August. It is the English “Loaf Mass” celebrating the new grain harvest. The day falls about midpoint during the grain harvest. The loaf is made from the newly harvested grain and used in the Mass. The use of the new grain is symbolic, gratitude for the new harvest. The granary would still have months worth of grain in storage, a hedge against a poor harvest. It may be months before the new grain finds its way again into a loaf.
It is also notable that the Lammas falls during a busy time, so there is no time for a feast or festival, just a loaf of bread for a modest Mass to say thank you. The harvest feasts and festivals will have to wait until the Harvest Moon, the full moon closest to the autumn equinox. This year, the first of October.
Photos by Anthony Boutard. Top photo of wheat and scabland, Wasco County, Oregon, August, 1997
There are several homes in our neighborhood whose residents (current or former) planted grapes that, every spring, faithfully start producing leaves and vines that twine themselves around fences, trees or any stationary object, sporting clusters of teensy, pinhead-sized baby grapes. Most are table types, deep purple and seeded—contributor Anthony Boutard calls them "fecund"—with a few that are seedless, though their specific varieties have been lost to time.
So it was fortuitous that my friend, gifted cook and writer Denise della Santina, called and asked if I wanted to get together to make Greek-style stuffed grape leaves, the kind her mother used to make. Now, Denise's mother wasn't Greek, but she and Denise's father lived a peripatetic life, traveling extensively all over Europe with their three kids in tow, moving back and forth across the country as easily as they traversed oceans, eating and drinking and immersing themselves in the places they found themselves. It was almost the exact opposite of my own WASP-ish, Oregon-centric upbringing.
"We lived in Greece for five-plus years, so our Greek street cred is far better than elsewhere," Denise said. "Mom learned from the village ladies even before she could speak the language."
Am I envious? Why yes, yes I am!
Denise said she'd get the supplies for the stuffing if I could find some grape leaves. I said I'd do my best.
I arrived at her house the next morning with a shopping bag stuffed full of leaves of various sizes, which turned out to be helpful, since we could use the smaller ones for stuffing and the larger leaves for covering the rolls while they cooked. She trimmed the stems and softened them in a pot of salted water on the stove while I chatted from the doorway—pandemic, remember—then brought them out to the deck where I proceeded to separate and dry the leaves.
Ever the efficient project manager, Denise had cooked and cooled the onions the night before so she could combine them with the meat and spices just before I arrived. In proper socially distanced fashion we set up our work stations at opposite ends of the long table, scissors at the ready should we need to clip some tough leaf veins and a big pot of the meat-rice mixture each.
She showed me how to lay the leaf with the underside up and the stem end toward me, and to place a small amount—a tablespoon or less—at the stem joint, folding up the leaf ends to cover it. Then, like a burrito, the sides were folded in and the whole thing was rolled up tightly.
For the next ninety minutes or so we sat and rolled (and rolled some more), eventually filling up our trays with the shiny packets as we caught up on friends and family and summer events. It put me in mind of the kind of repetitive, calming work that women in my family did when I was growing up, sharing stories and gossip while snapping beans or doing dishes—you wash, I'll dry—or folding clothes fresh off the clothesline.
It was a gift of near-normalcy, a small break, a time out that I sorely needed. Not to mention that dinner was done, a bonus in itself! Thanks, my dearest Denise.
Della Santina Stuffed Grape Leaves
For the stuffing: 60-75 grape leaves, about 6" in diameter* 3 onions, minced finely (a processor works for this) 2 lbs. ground lamb (or a combination of beef and lamb) 1/2 c. uncooked long-grain rice 1/4 c. mint, chopped fine 3 Tbsp. dried mint (dried plus fresh gives added dimension) 3 Tbsp. olive oil (more if your meat is lean) 1 tsp. salt to start and generous grinding of pepper (see note)
For cooking the stuffed grape leaves: 1 c. water (or so) 1/2 c. lemon juice 1/2 c. olive oil
If you're using freshly picked leaves, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While it is heating, prepare the leaves by snipping off the stems and any thick vein ends. When the water boils, place the leaves in the boiling water and simmer for five minutes until softened and pliable (they'll turn dark green). Drain in a colander and run cold water over them until they can be handled.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onions until they're translucent and tender. Cool to room temperature.
While onions cool, take the blanched leaves and pat them dry with paper towels. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled onions with the meat, mint and olive oil and some salt and pepper.
NOTE: To test for salt, pepper and mint, heat a small frying pan over medium-high heat and brown a small amount of the meat before you add the uncooked rice; rice will dilute the saltiness. Taste and adjust salt.
Once you're satisfied with the salt level in the meat mixture, mix the uncooked rice into the meat.
Take one leaf and lay it with the shiny side down and the veined underside up, with the base of the leaf toward you. Place a tablespoon (or less if it's a smaller leaf) of the meat mixture at the base near the joint. Bring the bottom lobes up over the meat and fold in the sides (like a burrito). Then roll the packet up toward the point of the leaf. It should make a tight packet. Repeat until you've used all the meat. At this point you can store the stuffed grape leaves in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook them.
To cook the stuffed grape leaves, pour three tablespoons of olive oil into a large Dutch oven. Place the stuffed leaves into the pot, stacking them in layers if necessary. Pour the water, lemon juice and remaining olive oil over them. The water should barely cover the stuffed leaves. If it doesn't add more. Top with more leaves (fresh are fine, too) and cover with a plate to hold it all down.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour until the rice is done (test at 45 minutes and add time until meat is cooked, rice is very soft and the leaves are tender). Transfer to a platter, bathe in more lemon juice and olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
You'll also want to consider making tzatziki, a simple combination of yogurt, grated cucumber and crushed garlic.
* You can also use the preserved grape leaves that come in a jar. There are approximately 55 leaves in a 2-lb. jar.
In a moment of synchronicity, I got Jim Dixon's newsletter from Real Good Food within minutes of coming home from picking a bunch of beans in my neighbor's garden. (And, yes, I did get his permission!) Not only is this salad deeply delicious and satisfying, the story of Michael Twitty and his passion for correcting the myths regarding the origins of our foodways is equally filling. Thanks, Jim, for sharing this.
Michael Twitty’s green beans are loaded. The handful of ingredients add flavor, but these green beans also provide a historical link to Twitty’s enslaved ancestors, who grew vegetables to survive and used whatever they had to coax out flavor. Delicious food brings joy, and Black joy is resistance. There’s a lot to think about when you make this salad.
Twitty is an author, teacher, and culinary historian. He explores culinary injustice at Afroculinaria and, in the Washington Post, described himself as “four-time blessed: large of body, gay, African American and Jewish.”
His 2013 open letter to Paula Deen over her long history of racist practices at her restaurants brought him national attention, but Twitty’s work toward a deeper understanding of Black history and the way we eat makes his voice even more important.
There’s not enough room [here] to cover it all, but this article provides a good starting point.
Michael Twitty's Green Bean Salad
1 1/2 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped 1 1/2 tsp. salt 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 4 Tbsp. lemon juice* 2 Tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped 2 cloves of garlic, sliced into thin slivers 1 Tbsp oregano 1/2 tsp. Okinawan brown sugar [or plain brown sugar] 4 Tbsp. red and orange bell peppers cut into small cubes
Place green beans in a large pot of boiling water seasoned with sea salt. Have at the ready a colander and a large bowl full of ice and water. Cook for 5 minutes then immediately drain and plunge into the ice bath until the beans are barely warm.
Make the vinaigrette while the green beans are in the ice bath. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, garlic, herbs, salt and sugar.
Place the green beans in a non-reactive mixing bowl, add the chopped peppers, splash on the vinaigrette, mix well for a minute or two, and then allow the green beans to marinate in the dressing for about an hour or so. Toss well before serving.
We're heading into the height of summer and, along with an avalanche of fruit and vegetables cascading in from local fields, we're also going to be hitting some mighty warm temperatures in the coming weeks. Gorgeous weather? You bet! But 100 degrees is not the time to be pulling out the braising pot or turning on the oven.
And while grilling is a good solution to beating summer's heat when you need to put dinner on the table, it's good to vary the rotation, too. Which is where a back-pocket selection of simple dinner salads can come into play.
You don't have to heat up the house with hours of cooking, since most grains only need a half hour or so to get tooth-tender. Even soaking a pound of beans overnight then simmering them for an hour first thing in the morning can give you enough for a week's worth of meals.
I've put together a list of my favorite summer salads to keep your cool during the upcoming summer weather. Any would make a filling dinner all their own, and a couple could be a terrific complement to whatever you've got grilling.
Leftover Salmon Salad
2-3 c. leftover salmon, flaked 1/2 med. bulb fennel, sliced thinly 1 Tbsp. fennel fronds, chopped 2 med. plums, halved and sliced thinly 1-2 Tbsp. capers 2 green onions, sliced thinly 3 Tbsp. pine nuts, toasted 2 Tbsp. olive oil Juice of 1/2 lemon, added to taste Salt, to taste
Put salmon, fennel, fennel fronds, plums, capers, green onions and pine nuts in large mixing bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the ingredients and add half of lemon juice. Toss gently to combine but don't break up the salmon too much. Adjust lemon juice and add salt to taste.
This would be a great lunch salad or light entrée served on a bed of fresh-from-the-garden (or farmers' market) lettuce. It would also be terrific combined with pasta or a cooked grain like farro, barley or parched green wheat (frikeh).
15-Minute Ramen Noodle Salad with Kimchi
For the dressing: 1/3 c. canola or peanut oil 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar 1 Tbsp. garlic 2 tsp. tamari 2 Tbsp. white miso 1 tsp. gochugaru (optional) 1 tsp. roasted sesame oil
For the salad: 12 oz. fresh ramen noodles (not dried) 1/2 c. kimchi, chopped 1 Persian cucumber (can substitute 1/2 c. chopped English cucumber) 1 Tbsp. chopped chives for garnish
Bring a pot of water to rolling boil.
While the water is heating, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed until well puréed.
When the water comes to a boil, gently pull apart ramen noodles while adding them to the water. Tease the strands apart with chopsticks while the water returns to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally to keep noodles from clumping. When they're done, drain them in a colander and rinse in cold water to stop them from cooking further.
Chop kimchi into bite-sized pieces. Quarter the cucumber and slice crosswise into 1/8” slices. Place noodles, kimchi, cucumber and dressing in serving bowl and combine. Garnish with chives.
Corn Salad with Avocado Crema
For the corn salad: 1 15-1/2 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed 4 ears corn, kernels sliced fresh off the cob 1/2 red onion, halved lengthwise and slivered crosswise 1/2 large cucumber, seeded and diced, or two small Persian cucumbers, chopped 1 large ripe tomato, chopped (about 2 c.) 1 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice 1 Tbsp. olive oil Salt to taste
For the avocado crema: 1 c. milk 1 clove garlic 2 avocados 2 Tbsp. lime juice 1 c. sour cream Salt to taste
In a large mixing bowl combine the black beans, corn kernels, onion, cucumber and tomato. Pour in the lime juice and olive oil and stir gently to mix.
In the bowl of a food processor pour in the milk and add the garlic, avocados and lime juice. Process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary to incorporate all the ingredients. Add sour cream and pulse until just mixed, then add salt to taste.
The crema makes nearly four cups, which is more than enough to serve a small amount alongside the salad, but it is also spectacular as a dip for chips or in tacos or burritos. It'll keep for at least a week stored in the fridge, so don't be afraid to make the whole batch. (It can also be halved if you don't want to make the whole amount.)
Nectarine and Cherry Salad with Roasted Hazelnuts
1 1/2 lbs. nectarines (yellow or white) sliced 1 1/2 c. Bing cherries, pitted and halved 1/2 c. roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Combine all ingredients (reserving some chopped nuts) in a bowl and toss. Garnish with remaining hazelnuts.
For the salad: 2 c. stale bread, cut in 1" cubes 4 oz. sliced bacon, cut crosswise in 1/4" pieces 3 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped in 1" cubes 1 small head iceberg lettuce or 1 medium head romaine, chopped
For the dressing: 1/4 c. mayonnaise 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar 2 Tbsp. olive oil 3 Tbsp. buttermilk or whole milk 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard Salt and pepper to taste
To make this more-than-just-a-tomato salad-with-bacon, start by cooking about a quarter pound of good bacon until it's crispy. Set the bacon aside and add a couple of handfuls of cubed bread to the bacon fat. If there's not enough to really coat the bread, add some extra virgin olive oil. Toast the bread until it's lightly browned.
Add dressing ingredients to a large salad bowl and whisk to combine. Add salad ingredients and toss well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Kale, Lentil and Nectarine Salad
3 c. lacinato kale, sliced into chiffonade 2 c. cooked lentils 1/4 red onion, chopped fine 1/2 cucumber, seeded, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise 1 red bell pepper, roasted and thinly sliced into 1" long pieces 2 nectarines, chopped into 1/2” pieces Juice of 1 lemon 1/4 c. olive oil Salt to taste
Combine ingredients in large salad bowl. Toss. Adjust seasonings.
Contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm was raised in the wilds of Western Massachusetts; his father, Cecil Boutard, was the Horticultural Director of the Berkshire Botanical Garden. So it's not a huge surprise to learn that Anthony decided to study forestry at university, then was lured out west to work for 1000 Friends of Oregon, a conservation organization. Here he recalls a trip to Bavaria as a graduate student.
Here are a few photos of the Iphofen community forest that I took as a forestry student in June of 1989. The Bavarian Forest Service led us on the ten-day tour. There was a foundation in New York that funded exchanges between Germany and the US for forestry and music graduate students, so all expenses for the field trip were covered except beer and meals. That said, on many of the stops, our hosts were eager to provide a fine board of victuals defining their region.
The walled Bavarian town of Iphofen maintains a community forest. It is managed in the manner described as "coppice with standards." The coppice provides firewood that is apportioned to each chimney within the walled city, as well as small wood used for firing bread ovens. The standards are large trees harvested for lumber, the sale of which provides funds for the town. The detailed forest records go back to the 14th century. The oaks grown in the region are on a 350 year rotation and are highly valued for making veneer. Traveling the area, you will see oaks at various points in their 350-year life.
The European practice of pollarding urban trees, a form of branch coppicing, or what some wags call “amputrees," arose from the insatiable need for small wood to fire bread ovens. People sometimes regard pollarded trees with their massive knobs as some misguided ornamental effort, but it originated as urban forestry. Sycamores are particularly well-suited to this treatment. The Romans likely introduced the practice.
The Bavarian tradition of parching green small grains gave us the inspiration to try our hand at the craft 18 years ago. Grünkern is produced in Bavaria and parts of Austria from green spelt. It is sold at Edelweiss, the German grocery on Powell. Seeing it, we thought to ourselves, maybe that’s something we could do.
The Bavarians parch the spelt ears on a large iron pan in a structure called a darre. During the first few years, we produced both parched wheat and spelt. The spelt had a caramel-like flavor and Greg Higgins [of Higgins restaurant] made a beautiful fruit compote with it. The spelt was very difficult to thresh and clean without special equipment, so we had to drop it. We continued with the wheat. Though memories of the grünkern years linger, building a darre is not in our future. In his book De Agri Cultura (160 BCE), Cato the Elder describes parching of grains.
The breads of Bavaria have a robust flavor and dense texture without feeling heavy. Carol makes a lovely sourdough bread from our soft red wheat and durum which reminds me of my travels in Bavaria and Switzerland. It is a lunch or evening loaf, sliced on the thin side and toasted with some sardines, herring, cream cheese or cured meat. Carol uses between 10 and 15 percent durum in all her loaves. The addition of durum improves the crumb of the bread.
"We are lucky to live in a state with relatively low numbers of COVID-19 cases, however, the recent increase in cases has shown us how easily that could change if we do not remain vigilant." Ginger Rapport
Oregon's farmers' markets are open and, as always at this time of year, over-flowing with strawberries, blueberries, cherries, summer squash, beans and all the incredible produce typical of early summer in the Pacific Northwest. What's not typical are the behind-the-scenes gymnastics that have been required to keep the markets open as Oregon officials and farmers' market representatives wrestled with establishing guidelines to keep both vendors and shoppers safe.
Local farms and ranches were hit hard by the closure of restaurants that bought in large volume and prominently featured locally produced meats, seasonal produce and grains on their menus. Many quickly pivoted to offering CSA subscriptions, online sales and home delivery to make up for some of the lost revenue. But the closure of the state's more than 120 farmers' markets would have been the death knell for many farms and ranches, not to mention a potentially crippling loss of revenue for communities, since farmers' markets return more than three times as much of their revenue to the local economy than do chain (grocery) competitors.
State guidelines for farmers' markets require vendors and staff to wear masks and practice safe distancing, as well as limiting the number of customers onsite and designating "social distancing officers" to enforce social distancing policies. The guidelines also require making aisles wider and spacing market booths six to 10 feet apart.
"I need to place vendors, particularly large farms, in a spot where I can give them enough space for a line that is safely spaced for customers," Molloy said, adding that, for the most part, vendors have been helpful and cooperative.
"Social distancing remains our biggest challenge," said Ginger Rapport, market master of the Beaverton Farmers Market. "Managing the lines that form with customers standing six feet apart, and managing the flow of traffic is something that requires our constant attention."
The need to maintain distance between booths and allow customers room to social distance while shopping has decreased the number of spaces available at markets, most of which operate within a limited footprint. This means that many markets have seen a decrease in stall fees—being forced to pare down to "essential" vendors, or having some at-risk vendors choosing to skip this season—which has created challenges for markets in terms of generating income for paying staff and overhead, according to the Oregon Farmers Market Association's Melissa Matthewson.
As one of the largest markets in the metro area, Rapport said that her market has had to reduce the number of usable spaces for vendors by about a third, a significant number in a market of that size.
"This means a loss in income to the market which, as a 501(c)(4) [nonprofit that promotes social welfare], doesn't operate on large margins," Rappot explained. "It's a balancing act to reduce expenses while trying to be understanding of vendors needs at such a difficult time."
"The market is one of the few outlets for income for many of our small businesses and farms whose wholesale outlets (i.e. restaurants) have dried up, or whose fairs and festivals have been cancelled," she said. "For many we are the only game in town. There's a lot of pressure to keep the market functioning while trying not to completely drain our reserves."
In the pandemic's early days back in March, it wasn't at all certain that markets would be allowed to stay open at all. Strong advocacy on the part of the OFMA and the state's farmers, along with a willingness to collaborate with state regulators and remain flexible as policies shifted, turned the tide in favor of keeping markets open.
As for the rest of this season, Hillsdale's Molloy is cautiously optimistic.
"We are playing it week to week. We know how to run a pre-order market and are ready to turn it on if we have to do that," he said. "As long as customers comply with our mask rule and we work at keeping safe physical distancing, we will be running the way we are now."
The OFMA's Matthewson said the public will play a big part in helping markets survive. "The best way that customers can support these markets is to continue to shop there if they are able, and also to consider donating to the market as an investment in their long term viability," she said.
Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been common at food processing and meatpacking plants across the country, sickening and killing emplyees working shoulder-to-shoulder in enclosed buildings, often without the personal protective equipment (PPE) or proper air circulation needed to keep them safe and prevent the spread of the disease.
In the latest outbreak here in Oregon, the Oregon Health Authority reported on Tuesday (7/7) that 22 people were sickened at the Columbia River Processing plant that produces cheese and dairy products for the Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA). The report said that number may include household members and other close contacts to employees. An outbreak is defined by two or more cases linked to a common place.
The OHA's Joell Archibald said the agency was notified of the first positive test from an employee at the Tillamook plant on June 16th, almost three weeks ago, and began working with county and municipal public health staff in the area. She said that prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the names of employers would not normally have been released, but that under pressure from media and the public, state leaders decided on publicly releasing the names of companies where 5 or more cases were linked to a single employer; when the case count (including contacts) reaches 20, the company's name goes on a list in the OHA daily report.
OHA public information officer Timothy Heider said that an employer is notified by the employee when the employee receives a positive test result for the virus. Heider said that when the Oregon Department of Agriculture visited the plant on June 17, it was determined that there was adequate PPE and at that point "the company implemented containment control measures such as physical distancing and face coverings for employees." He also said that no deaths from the outbreak at the plant have been reported as of July 9th.
According to the procedures agreed on by state leaders, though, neither the employee's co-workers nor the community at large were informed until the 5-case threshold was met and the employer's name was released publicly. In short, this means that those workers and their contacts could be circulating in the community—shopping at the same stores and touching the same door handles, for instance—for days until the threshold is met.
Stand Up to Factory Farms, a coalition of local, state and national organizations concerned about the harmful impacts of mega-dairies—Tillamook is dependent on giant factory farm dairies for its milk supply—issued a statement today that said this outbreak “underscores the vulnerability of the factory farm system and the workers in it. As cases continue to increase, it's unconscionable that Oregon is moving forward with permitting a new mega-dairy, Easterday Farms, that will exacerbate the extreme consolidation putting workers at risk. Oregon needs a mega-dairy moratorium and meaningful protections for food and farm workers now.”
For Tillamook's part, CEO Patrick Criteser issued a statement on the company's website assuring investors and the public that the pandemic has not disrupted their manufacturing operations or supply chain. In a statement the company said that three of the employees have already recovered and been cleared to return to work, while the rest are recovering at home, according to an article in the East Oregonian. "Those who are recovering at home or are quarantining after being identified as a close contact are receiving full pay and benefits," the company said.
The health authority's latest statewide weekly reportshowed that from June 29 to July 5, COVID 19 continued to surge with 1,910 new cases, an increase of 51 percent over the previous week.
The Morrow County Health District, Pioneer Memorial Hospital, the Morrow County Health Department, Morrow County Emergency Management and the Morrow County Sheriff's office—all public entities involved in responding to the outbreak—were contacted with questions about what procedures were followed at the Columbia River Processing plant when the county learned about the outbreak. They referred all questions to the Oregon Health Authority, which is quoted above.
I'm gonna lay it all out on the line here. I am not a happy camper when I cannot see my friends, as the kids say, "IRL"—in real life; to hear their stories, watch their faces erupt into guffaws, or catch the tiny nuances at the corners of their mouths or the glint in their eyes (talking to you, Anthony Boutard).
Facetime or Zoom meet-ups are not the same as those face-to-face, real-time moments. I get that it's necessary if your family or friends live across the country and electronic connections are better than once-a-year, holiday trips. But a pandemic's a pandemic, especially when cases are spiking, and no one wants to get sick or make their loved ones or communities sick, much less kill them.
So how do you socialize in person and still keep yourself and others safe?
Some recommendations are obvious: Stay outside.Wear masks. Keep at least six feet between each other. Or, as Melissa Clark said in a recent New York Times article on entertaining in a pandemic, "the only way to bring people together is to figure out how to keep them apart."
While admitting that there's no way to host a gathering that is 100 percent safe, Clark said it is possible to reduce risks. I agree with her advice to use the comfort threshold of the most anxious person in the group as your guide, since the point is to spend quality time together, not give someone PTSD.
This takes communication with your guests, both in the planning and setting of expectations for the gathering.Clark goes so far as to discuss appropriate bathroom protocols with her guests, but we've chosen to solve that problem by limiting the length of time spent at the handful of happy hours we've had with good friends and family. We have yet to break the dinner barrier, but will be doing that this weekend, again with lots of planning and discussion of comfort levels.
My best advice is to keep it simple. Dave has mastered the art of making cocktails while wearing a mask and gloves, and I've managed to cobble together our meager collection of trays so each party has their own individual appetizer serving. Dips and salsas are easy to spoon into cups or bowls, cheeses can be divided into individual wedges and crackers or chips can be parceled to avoid the problem of reaching into a common serving bowl.
Wine is easy, since one person can be the designated "pourer" so multiple people aren't handling bottles. Paper napkins and sanitzer have become a part of the tablescape, with bleach wipes available as well.
Below is an easy white bean spread that makes enough to be divided, and has been a hit at a couple of our cocktail hours. I'm just happy to be seeing friends again!
And if you've got some bang-up suggestions for entertaining in a pandemic, e-mail me your ideas and what you've learned. I'd love to do a follow-up post!
Tuscan-style White Bean Spread with Capers
1 15-oz. can cannelini beans, drained (or use 2 c. cooked white beans) 1 medium clove garlic 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste 1 tsp. dried thyme 1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice 3 Tbsp. olive oil 1 Tbsp. capers (or more if you adore them like I do) 1-2 Tbsp. parsley, minced (optional)
Put beans, garlic, salt, thyme, lemon juice and olive oil in food processor and process until smooth. Using a spatula, scoop bean purée into medium-sized bowl and add capers and parsley. Stir to combine and adjust salt. Serve with bread, pita or crackers.