A Personal Note: Your Vaccination Status is My Business

Normally I don't bring up personal issues on Good Stuff NW. It's here to help me understand and then explain to you the issues around our food system and how it works, and how we can support our local farmers and producers by eating seasonally from the bounty our region offers. But then something came up that needs to be addressed.

Over the weekend Dave had an accident and was loaded into an ambulance and whisked off to Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU). I haven't seen him since that moment.

To its credit, OHSU has forbidden visitors, even family members, from the hospital, due to the danger of COVID-19, especially the surge of cases from the Delta variant that is burning through the country. This surge is primarily among the unvaccinated, who account for more than 80 percent of new cases in Oregon and nearly all of the deaths.

So your vaccination status is directly affecting me.

I can't be there to hold Dave's hand, to stroke his cheek, to arrange the covers on his bed, to give him a cup of water, to call the nurse if he needs assistance. I can't get to know his nurses; I can only be his advocate from a distance.

This is because there are people out there, and I'm hoping my readers are not among them, who refuse to get vaccinated against the virus. They are causing it to spread and filling up our hospitals and ICUs, exhausting our already strained health care system, not to mention the essential workers in that system. (Obviously I'm not talking about those few who can't get the vaccine for health reasons, or about children under 12 who are not yet eligible. They're victims, too.)

And those unvaccinated people are keeping me from caring for my husband.

If you have a relative or friend who is unvaccinated, share this story with them. They're the reason Dave is lying in a hospital bed alone with only overburdened hospital staff to make him feel loved and cared for.

Locate a vaccine provider in Oregon here. Locate a national vaccine provider.

A Gazpacho of a Different Color

Tomato season is at its peak, cucumbers still hang heavy on their vines and peppers of all colors are finally getting the long hours of sun and heat they need to fully ripen their fruit. Cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins posed the perfect solution when I found myself with all those ingredients just the other day:

"What better excuse for a bowl of chilled gazpacho for lunch? Or dinner, or an afternoon snack for that matter? In Andalusia, where this healthy bowl originates, they keep a big pitcher of gazpacho in the refrigerator at all times, ready for anyone who feels the need for a quick pick-me-up."

Peak tomato season means making a big pitcher of gazpacho.

The tomatoes I had from my neighbor Bill's large garden were large and perfectly ripe, begging to be savored fresh rather than cooked, while their juices and flesh were at their sweetest. Bill had also gifted me a cucumber at the same time, and I had a few peppers from my CSA share.

Call me unimaginative, but those perfect tomatoes were golden yellow, so the idea of making a gazpacho was a slap-my-forehead revelation since I'd only had it with the usual red tomatoes. Of course it was divine, and couldn't have better suited the moment. Nancy has a recipe that I'll be trying soon, but here's a slightly simpler version based on Jim Dixon's from years ago.

Tomato Gazpacho

5 to 6 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled
1 mild green chile (Anaheim or, for a little more kick, poblano), seeded and chopped
1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
1-2 Tbsp. white or red wine vinegar, to taste
1/2 c. olive oil
Salt to taste

Put tomatoes into the blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until the ingredients begin to emulsify, stopping to push the tomatoes down if they aren't moving. When they're mostly blended, add the vinegar and salt and blend until very smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil until completely emulsified. Pour into a glass or ceramic container and chill for one hour. If it's too thick to pour, add a little water, though it should be served fairly thick, not runny.

Petition Seeks to Prevent State from Permitting New Mega-Dairy

A coalition of community, small farms and environmental groups is collecting signatures on a petition demanding that Governor Kate Brown deny Easterday Dairy a permit to open a 30,000-cow mega-dairy on the site of the disastrous Lost Valley Farm just outside of Boardman, Oregon.

Pools of sewage and chemicals on property Easterday bought in 2019.

Their timing may be fortuitous, since last month the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) released a finding that the property was found to have elevated levels of nitrates in the soil, a dangerous pollutant known to cause methemologlobinemia, or “blue baby syndrome,” in infants, as well as the risk of elevated heart rate, nausea, headaches, abdominal cramps and an increased chance of cancer, especially gastric cancer, in adults.

So far the group Stand Up To Factory Farms has collected more than 1,400 signatures on the petition it plans to present to Governor Kate Brown tomorrow. (If you are interested in signing the petition, you can do so here.)

Cody Easterday's permit was put on "indefinite hold" by the ODA.

This is the second permit application the Easterday agricultural conglomerate has made to the ODA. The first application was withdrawn by Cody Easterday after the ODA put it on "indefinite hold" when Easterday pleaded guilty in federal district court to defrauding Tyson Foods, Inc., and another company out of more than $244 million over a period of six years by charging them for the purchase and feeding of more than 200,000 cattle that existed only on paper, a scheme dubbed "Cattlegate." Many of the other Easterday family holdings subsequently declared bankruptcy in court.

In July, a permit application naming Cody Easterday's 24-year-old son, Cole, as the applicant was filed with the ODA in a move widely seen as a desperate ploy to keep the property that the Easterday's bought for $66.7 million in 2019. An article in the Capital Press at the time said Easterday had plans to invest another $15 million in upgrades, including completion of a wastewater treatment system that was never finished, as well as bringing the farm into full environmental compliance.

According to a Stand Up To Factory Farms press release, “a broad swath of community, environmental, animal welfare and public health organizations have raised concerns given the Easterday family’s financial distress, the outsize impact mega-dairies have on drinking water quality, climate change, and the enormous quantities of water they use.”

The coalition notes that the mega-dairy, located on a federally designated Groundwater Management Area (GWMA), would use “20 million gallons of water per day in the midst of a historic mega-drought and generate 128 million gallons of manure-contaminated waste water in an area with dangerously high nitrate levels [already] in the community’s drinking water.” (See my article, "Big Milk, Big Issues for Local Communities" about the problems these industrial-scale factory farms present.)

Read more of my coverage of the Easterday Dairy story.

Top photo from Stand Up to Factory Farms.

Fermentation Fascination: Try It, You'll Like It, Guaranteed!

"Foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha increased the diversity of gut microbes and led to lower levels of inflammation," according to an article in the New York Times describing a new study from researchers at Stanford University.

My summer, in a nutshell (or a pickle jar).

This is welcome news considering the pounds (and pounds) of cucumbers and beans I've been getting from our CSA this summer and turning into pickles. If you've read past posts about my methods for preserving the hundred-plus pounds of fabulous Astiana tomatoes from Ayers Creek Farm that I roast every summer, you'll know that I'm not big on huge messes or laborious processes.

Which is why pickling vegetables by lacto-fermentation is high on my list. First, it's ridiculously easy…all it takes is salt, water and time, often a week or less. You can use herbs to flavor it—I'm partial to traditional dill, garlic and mustard seeds for cukes and "dilly beans"—but plain is just fine, too. Second, it requires no special equipment, just a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, and no cooking or heating, a godsend on hot summer days when fresh vegetables are cascading in from local farms. Third is the health aspect, outlined in the study linked above.

A paper coffee filter, a canning ring, and your pickles can "breathe"!

But really, I wouldn't bother with it if these pickles didn't taste great. Crunchy, briny without being overly tart, they have a freshness and snap that you don't get from water bath or pressure-canned methods. The only drawback to this method is that because the live bacteria hasn't been killed by cooking, these pickles aren't shelf-stable and will need to be refrigerated.

So far this summer I've made sauerkraut, the aforementioned cucumber pickles and dilly beans, and will soon be making a couple of quarts of Hank Shaw's sour corn to have with tacos, relishes and salads. After that, who knows? I'll definitely keep you posted!

Just click for recipes for sauerkraut, garlic dill pickles, quick refrigerator pickles, and Hank Shaw's Southern Sour Corn.

Lacto-Fermented Garlic "Dilly" Beans

2 clean wide-mouth quart jars
2 lbs. green beans
2 qts. water
6 Tbsp. sea salt
4 dill flower heads
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled

Make a 5 percent brine solution by adding the salt to the 2 quarts water in a saucepan or bowl. Stir until the salt dissolves completely.

Push one dill flower head into the bottom of the quart jar along with two cloves of garlic. Holding the jar on its side, start packing the beans into the jar along with half of the garlic cloves. The tighter the beans are packed, the less likely they'll be to float up to the surface during pickling. Make sure the beans stay 1" below the rim of the jar; if they're too long, simply snap them off.

When you can't jam any more beans into the jar, take a second dill flower head and push it into the upright beans, again trying to keep it 1" below the rim. Stir the brine to dissolve any remaining salt crystals and pour it into the jar of beans until it rises to 1/2" below the rim.

Pickle pipe airlock for pickling.

Place a lid on the jar and screw it down until it's finger-tight, then back it off about a half turn to give the bacteria room to "breathe" and for any brine to escape during pickling. You can also use a commercial pickle pipe secured with a canning ring for the same purpose, or simply take half a #4 or larger paper coffee filter, place it over the top of the jar and screw it down with a canning ring.

Repeat with second jar.

Place both jars on a plate or in a small baking dish to catch any liquid that escapes and keep them in a cool, dark place (like a basement) for several days. In a couple of days you will notice the brine getting cloudy, and it will have a distinctly vinegar-y smell. This means your brine is working! After five days you can test the beans to see if they're to your liking or leave them for another couple of days and they'll continue to get more pickled. (I usually leave them at least a week to 10 days.)

Because this method does not kill the (healthful, probiotic) live bacteria in the brine through processing in a water bath or pressure canner, the pickles are not shelf stable and must be stored in the refrigerator. If you used a pickle pipe or coffee filter for the pickling process, simply remove them and replace with a solid lid or canning lid and ring.

Don't panic if this is floating on your pickles. Just lift out and toss.

NOTE: When you open the jar you may see a spongy, grey mass floating on top of your pickles (photo, right). As Douglas Adams wrote in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," DON'T PANIC. This is perfectly normal and your pickles are not affected.  The spongy mass can be easily lifted out and disposed of. Your pickles are good to go!

A Restaurant Asks You: When Are We Opening Back Up?

I met Mark Doxtader of Tastebud when I wrote the Market Watch column for the Oregonian's FoodDay section, and he was running his wildly successful wood oven pizza business—one of the city's first mobile oven businesses at the time—at the Portland Farmers Market. He has consistently offered Portlanders the highest quality handmade breads, bagels, pizzas and salads—not to mention that heavenly porchetta—made from locally grown produce and meats. Like Cory Carman's essay from last week, I felt this message from his newsletter was invaluable to understanding what the people who make up our food system are dealing with.

For continued safety and precaution, we ask that everyone continues to wear masks when picking up orders. With the confusing “progress” we have made in the pandemic, playing it safe and remaining cautious has served the community well and allowed us to stay open. It has only been a couple weeks since we moved our pickup table from the doorway to just inside our shop. It felt like a baby step forward, although mainly spurred by the extreme temperatures outside.

We are tired and a little weary but still in a holding pattern. But we are committed to waiting out the pandemic and and are hopeful for some additional government assistance to make the changes we are in need of to adapt to a modified service style. Doing to-go only for the last 18 months has been a temporary solution to our global crisis. Although we have all adjusted, modified and survived thus far, we continue thinking about and focusing our intentions towards our next iteration. We remain patient and dependent on the health and safety of our staff and community.

We are a very small crew. In the last year we have had two fulltime employees who have been with us five years each. In addition, we have three people who are part time, who also live with me, and a sprinkling of friends that have dependably pitched in. And last but most definitely not least, we have my two daughters who have been integral and vital to the last year, in keeping our doors open and me "sane." These are the vaccinated folks that are keeping us running.

At this very moment, we all are nervous and not so comfortable with “opening up," especially as we existed before the lockdowns. It is really hard to imagine how it all used to operate in such a small space—can’t imagine how we used to squeeze 11 staff and 40 guests inside. As we can see in the world, and now with the dramatic domestic COVID uptick, this pandemic is really not over. Not even close.

We enjoyed the short “loosening," but we just don’t see a path that takes us back to how things were. The old way of our industry has revealed its cracks. And we are not comfortable just plugging those holes and moving on. Working in the service industry will not be the same, nor should it be. Late nights, low wages, rampant substance abuse, unfair, unpredictable and misguided tipping systems, and more entitled and rude customers who just seem out to make overt political statements when going out for dinner.

After non-essential services were mandated to close, I explained to my youngest daughter that I wasn't sure if another customer would ever set foot in our dining room. I was not sure if we would go out of business or if our operation would fundamentally change to survive a new world. My goal when this all went down was to stay consistent and dependable as much as humanly possible. Not changing hours, not changing service style, trying to keep my family, staff and community safe. Trying to stick with what folks know us for, pizza inspired by the farmers. I am so thankful for the community that has supported us through all of this. 

So, ultimately, we are spending days and nights trying to imagine and plan what Tastebud 5.0 will be, in what is our 21st year of operation and 6th year in Multnomah Village. Ideas range from more pizza, more bagels, more breads, chicken dinners, lunch sandwiches, bakery, coffee, private dining, mutual aid, and how we can support disadvantaged communities. We are waiting for a committed pivot to fulfill our goals and not continuing this temporary setup that is keeping us afloat. We are hoping the restaurant revitalization fund will come through, but we are not holding our breath.

I hope we all stay safe, heathy and vigilant and that we see you soon.

Mark

A Tall, Taciturn Guy from Maine

"Forty years ago, on August 1, 1981, I married a tall, taciturn guy from Maine. We’d lived together for four years after dating briefly, as was the custom at the time, and he’s credited with getting me kicked out of my parents house when I called them late on a Saturday night to let them know I wouldn’t be coming home so not to worry. Acquaintances would still occasionally ask if he ever talked, so quiet was his demeanor back then (and so chatty was mine that he had a hard time getting a word in edgewise)."

So begins an essay I wrote for my friend George Rede’s blog, an appropriate kick-off to this end-of-summer-proper month.

Summer Cocktail 2021: The Daiquiri

A year ago, when we were all sequestered at home and evenings spent sipping cocktails at our favorite bar were eschewed in favor of staying home—and alive—the cocktail of the summer was a Negroni packed with ice and a sliver of lemon zest. This summer, again choosing to imbibe on our front porch due to the risk of the Delta virus, the cocktail of choice is the Daiquiri, accompanied by Dave reading me the weather report from Rivière Blanche.

I've always thought of daiquiris as being big, slushy tropical drinks laced with rum and decorated with tropical fruit, more often than not served with that prerequisite decoration for tropical cocktails, a tiny paper umbrella. Which may be a misperception, at least according to my 1981 reprint of the original 1946 Trader Vics Book of Food & Drink.

Constantino (standing) at La Florida Bar; Hemingway is on his right.

Various sources, including Trader Vic's book, lay its origin to Cuba. Not unusually in the history of cocktails, credit for creating the drink itself seems to be clouded. Wikipedia claims its inventor was "an American mining engineer named Jennings Cox, who was in Cuba at the time of the Spanish-American War" and that it was introduced to clubs in New York City by "William A. Chanler, a U.S. congressman who purchased the Santiago iron mines in 1902."

Trader Vic's sidesteps the issue of the daiquiri's creator, but refers to "Constantino of La Florida Bar in Havana perfected this one and it is to his credit that this one rum cocktail competes in popularity with the old standbys such as Martinis, Manhattans and Old-Fashioneds." The book goes on to give four of Constantino's variations on the daiquiri, numbered 1 through 4 in turn, numbers three and four of which have instructions to "serve frappé." Though there's no mention which one Hemingway preferred, it was his favorite cocktail and legend has it that on occasion he downed a dozen in a sitting.

From "Who’s Who Havana Cuba" magazine, July 14, 1938.

It then gives a recipe for the Trader Vic's daiquiri, which bears the special insignia of a tiny palm tree with a T on one side of the trunk and a V on the other. The front of the book quaintly states that "recipes so marked are original and may not be reprinted without permission from the author." So, much as I would love to share it, I won't.

Luckily for me, though, like Constantino, my husband Dave has created his own version of the daiquiri. A classic three-ingredient cocktail, it substitutes dark rum—we prefer Mount Gay or Plantation over Bacardi or Myers's—for the usual light rum and uses demerara sugar for the simple syrup rather than cane sugar. Shake one up and see if you don't agree with Papa that it makes other people much more interesting.

Good Stuff NW House Daiquiri

2 oz. dark rum
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 oz. simple syrup (stir equal amounts demerara sugar and cold water until dissolved)

Shake with ice; strain into cocktail glass or coupe. Makes one cocktail.

Drought Plus Fire: A Devastating, and Potentially Deadly, Combination

Cory Carman of Carman Ranch is a pasture-based rancher on the land in Eastern Oregon's Wallowa County that her family has passed down over four generations. Her story brings visceral meaning to the words "drought" and "fire."

“Dry” was the word we used at the start of the growing season. The plants barely grew, their normally vibrant colors signaling spring and early summer strangely muted. The land I know so well felt completely unfamiliar. 

It didn't rain. We began to say “drought,” a word that invokes a certain level of anxiety and urgency. It was time for action, but what to do? And when to do it? Our ranch manager, Sam, and I spent hours revisiting our grazing plan and forage budget. Should we sell cattle? Which ones, and when? If we did, would we be able to serve our customers? Pay our bills?

Then the storm clouds rolled in, not with rain, but with lightning. It struck in the dense timber north of where we were running 320 pair.  We watched the fire grow, traveling across the gnarly country toward the cattle. To gather and keep them bunched together would make it easier to evacuate them, but to do it too soon would mean leaving them for a period of time that would stress the land.  To wait too long might put us in danger.

I reached out to Ed, a public information officer from the Lick Creek Fire, as it came to be called. Ed was from a very competent national team sent to help manage the blaze. We discussed the location of cattle, the progress of the fire and devised a plan.

He told us the fire crews were attempting to hold the southern line of the fire (at that point 50,000 acres) along two forest service roads. If we could consolidate the cattle into one large pasture, we would be able to gather them in a day. If the fire crossed the road to the steep, rugged terrain, thick with timber, they wouldn't be able to stop it until it reached the cattle. It would take more than a day for the fire to travel the 7 miles to the cattle, leaving us time to get them to safer ground. We had a plan.

So last Monday  (7/12) night, Sam, my 13-year-old son Emmett, and two other riders hauled the horses two hours to the ranch house where we lease the pasture. They set up cots, slept a little, and were at the pasture at daylight. I met them that morning with food and water. Together, we gathered the cattle until late afternoon.  

Back at the ranch house, Emmett fell asleep before he could finish eating his sandwich. While he slept, we checked the rest of the cattle and headed back, feeling like we'd executed the first part of the plan.

The Elbow Creek Fire on July 20th.

The next morning, I called Ed to see what the fire did overnight. For two days, the crew held the southern line through back-burning and we began to breathe a sigh of relief. Then, on Thursday (7/15) afternoon, we heard rumors that another fire had started to the west and it was moving quickly toward the cattle. The fire (later named the Elbow Creek Fire‚Äč), was gathering speed, burning on both sides of the Grande Ronde River. 

Exceptionally dry conditions and the steep terrain overwhelmed local fire crews quickly. With four active wildfires in the region, not including one of the largest in Oregon history—the Bootleg Fire in Southern Oregon—there was very limited help to send. Ed called after his briefing. His tone had changed and, reading between the lines, it was clear he didn't know if they would be able to stop this fire. He suggested we move our herd of cattle closest to the new fire out of the area.

That evening, Sam went home, saw his wife and 2-year-old son, and  loaded up the horses. I grabbed food and water and headed out, this time leaving Emmett home. We called Marvin, one of our favorite truck drivers, and asked him to meet us at the corral in the morning.  

When we gathered at daylight, it was beautiful and crisp, but the huge columns of smoke to the north and the west made what would have otherwise been an enjoyable task surreal. At 6:30, Marvin arrived and we loaded the truck with 33 pairs, then traveled several miles to the next group of cattle, to consolidate them into a smaller pasture.  We took a break in the heat of the day, when the cattle were so deep in the brush we had to walk right into one to find her.  

We came back in the evening, finishing up by moonlight. We did the same thing the next day. When Marvin arrived at 6:30, we loaded out the last of the smaller herd, before we finished collecting the cattle we missed the day before. The timber was so dense that it sometimes felt like luck to find any at all. I glanced at a wolf pup and kept searching. The smoke made the temperature more bearable, and we were able to gather all but two of the cows in a 200-acre pasture, with good water and enough feed to allow us time to see what the new fire would do. 

It’s been five days now, and the Elbow Creek fire hasn’t moved much closer to our cows, instead heading west and—almost ironically—south, towards the ranch where we brought the first two truckloads and where my kids and I live. When I look out our front window, there's a sea of tents and porta potties, and a helipad two fields in the distance. During the most recent briefing, we were told that there were over 1,000 firefighters on this fire, more than doubling the Wallowa's population of 805.

The drought set up the conditions for these fires, each of which has caused us to consider our relationship to our animals in a new context: In times of stress, we forfeit good management and a grazing plan in favor of being able to leave quickly. When there's no rain, we have to compromise our goal of constantly moving cattle to green and lush pastures, and think about how many animals the land can support.

This isn't over yet, but I've come to realize along the way that we can't control or obsess over the financial implications. Every time I worry about how we’ll make our budget work, or if we'll be able to pay down our operating loan, I go down a path that ends with decisions that are ultimately detrimental to our people or our land. And those are relationships that can't always be repaired. Digging out of a financial hole can be time consuming, but it’s possible. And in a year like this, something has to give.

My relationships with the people who care for our animals are ones I hold most dear. And also the myriad relationships with customers and friends in the culinary community, who have texted and emailed and called. There's no doubt that this will continue to be a challenging year, and so we'll keep looking for different ways to make it work. As I have before, so many times in this business, I am finding all the solace I need from you, the people who support us and have our backs.

Thank you.


Read my interview with Cory Carman about why she chose to raise her animals on pasture, and how she sees it as a vital tool in reversing climate change and building a more resilient and vibrant local food system.

Nicoise Salad: The Definition of the Season

It's summer and the first line and troll-caught albacore of the season are being brought in by local fishing families right off our coast. Beans and cucumbers are being picked from their vines and potatoes and carrots are being pulled from the earth. Hens are laying eggs as if in competition with one another for the most prolific producer in the henhouse.

2021/julia _child_salade_nicoise.jpg
Julia Child with a Salade Niçoise at her home in France.

Summer also means  temperatures are climbing, and the less time you have to spend sweating over the stove, the better. Which all adds up to a big platter of Salade Niçoise for dinner, one of the most satisfying summer meals I can imagine.

Or, as my hero Julia Child noted:

“A bountiful arrangement in bowl or platter is so handsome to behold that I think it a cruel shame to toss everything together into a big mess. A careful presentation means more work, but it’s easily manageable when you ready each of the numerous ingredients separately, which you can do well ahead. Season each just before assembling and serving, and you will have the perfect Salade Niçoise.”

The recipe below is a guide, since the ingredients of your salad will depend on what's available and in season, and amounts will vary depending on how many people are at your table. Ms. Child recommends a simple olive oil and lemon dressing, with or without garlic, but I like to add fresh chopped herbs and Dijon mustard, which I like to think Julia would approve of, too.

Oregon Salade Niçoise

For the dressing:
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 medium clove garlic, crushed
1/4 c. chopped green herbs like tarragon, chives, parsley, lovage, oregano, etc.
Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:
Oregon albacore loin
Green beans (whole haricot verts or sliced romano beans of any color)
Potatoes (red or yellow or fingerlings)
Hard-boiled eggs
Cucumbers, sliced
Tomatoes, in wedges
Roasted carrots, if you have them, or julienne and blanch raw carrots with the beans

To make the dressing, take any tightly lidded container (I often use an empty, clean salsa container, or a lidded glass jar), put all the ingredients into it, put on the lid and shake like the dickens over the sink, in case, as once happened, the lid wasn't as tight as I thought and I ended up dressing the kitchen instead of the salad. Give one last shake just before serving and pour into small pitcher for use at the table.

Slice and blanch the beans and julienned carrots until almost tender (this is a salad, after all). Quarter eggs and arrange with other ingredients around the albacore loin.

Sear the albacore loin over a hot fire on all three sides; check the interior temperature with an instant-read thermometer and pull it off the fire when the interior reaches 90 degrees; cover with aluminum foil until it's time to serve. Cut into 1-inch slices and lay on your platter.

Drizzle dressing over the salad ingredients or have each person serve themselves from the platter and dress their own salads to their liking.

Note: Feel free to add or subtract ingredients with whatever's in season and use any leftover roasted root vegetables or peppers and the like. However, be aware that Julia insisted it wasn't a Niçoise without tuna, tomatoes and potatoes. (Just so you know.)

Farm Bulletin: Appreciating Henry

An appreciation of Henry Richmond by contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm.

In fall of 1989, a soft-spoken person called me and introduced himself as Henry Richmond from Oregon. He had a meeting in New York City at the Ford Foundation and hoped I could meet him afterwards and join him for dinner. It was my first dinner date with someone from Oregon, and he seemed very nice, so I accepted. I took the train from New Haven to Grand Central Station, and met Henry in front of the foundation’s headquarters. We enjoyed a stroll and had dinner at Mamma Leone's. He asked me to come to Portland and work at his organization.

A year earlier, the brutal murder of Seraw Mulugeta shone a harsh light on the Pacific Northwest where the Aryan Nation had found a safe haven. Portland itself had a reputation as the grubby, down-at-the-heels sister of San Francisco and Seattle. The revered James Beard had fled Portland for Europe in much the same way that Ernest Hemingway had fled Oak Park. It was a rough city trying to salvage its dying core under the expansive vision of Neil Goldschmidt, formerly Secretary of Transportation in President Carter’s cabinet. Carol and I were mindful of all this as I headed off to my assignation in New York.

Maybe it was the rich meal or the violinist spooling out Neapolitan love songs, or maybe the magic in Henry’s gentle eyes. One way or another, I returned to New Haven that night enthralled by Henry’s vision. The fact is, years earlier, Carol and I had worked for an organization call The Trustees of Reservations. The goal of The Trustees was to create a "museum of the Massachusetts landscape." As a warden of Bartholomew’s Cobble, I worked with the farmers who kept the working elements of the landscape. The vision Henry articulated was more extensive; his was the preservation of a working, livable landscape encompassing a whole state through careful management of growth. That vision drew us westward.

A month later, Henry and I travelled down to a Board of Forestry meeting in Eugene. On that trip I became AB and that is what called me henceforth. On the way down, he pointed out the Coast Range on right and the Cascade foothills on the left. The narrow, 150-mile long Willamette Valley offered some fine agricultural land and most of the state’s population. He explained how the valley’s Urban Growth Boundaries kept growth from sprawling into its productive farm and forest land, and orderly growth also facilitated the management and livability of its cities. It was not a formula for stasis; growth would and could occur, but it was a careful approach to growth.

The Board of Forestry exhibited a level of civic comity few public boards could even dream of. At the time, the law required that the board convene with a consent agenda. If any member had an objection to an item on the agenda, it was tabled until the next meeting and staff would work to address the member’s concern. No votes were taken; as long as all members consented, the agenda item was adopted. The forestry board meeting had a cerebral quality more in common with a Religious Society of Friends meeting than the normal rough and tumble of public board. 

On returning to Portland, Henry dropped me off at the Mallory with his endorsement: “It is a well-run hotel without being showy, and that is why ranching and farming families always stay here when they are in Portland.” Guests at the Mallory could count on an understated competence; a satisfying meal and a genuine smile. In the following years, we arranged for visiting friends and family members to stay at the Mallory.

From our first date in New York, I realized Henry was exquisitely attuned to the sensibilities of Oregon. He was like the Board of Forestry of the time, careful, deliberative and working to achieve good policies, and like the Mallory of the time, possessed of an understated competence that was used to build a better Oregon with his fellow citizens, and like that thin valley between the mountains, productive but vulnerable. For me, he was a mentor, teaching me how to advance legislation, build alliances and trust staff. For some reason, I was always AB to him. 

In advance of the legislative sessions and critical meetings of the Land Conservation and Development Commission, the conference room at 534 SW Third was aswirl with disparate citizen activists—a carrot seed farmer from Madras, a pig farmer from Hermiston, a bicycle and pedestrian advocate from Washington County, a Benton County grass seed farmer, a Coast Range forestland owner, a cut flower grower from Forest Grove, chief lobbyist of the Metro Homebuilders, Chair of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau—all working with staff to forge a better planned Oregon. 

This was Henry’s forte; he always stressed the need for “buy in” from a broad base of Oregonians. As professionals, staff could work on the nuts and bolts of the statutes and rules, but the underpinnings of policy were forged in that conference among people from different parts of the state and different sectors of the economy. Of the 19 Statewide Land Use Planning Goals, the first is "Goal 1: Citizen Involvement." Henry was also careful to keep the editorial boards updated and tracked the editorials diligently. The Oregonian had a box in front of their offices where, at 4:00, the 1-star edition was available. It was the first edition of the next day’s paper and, if an editorial on some critical issue was expected, a staff member was dispatched around 3:30 to grab it while the ink was still fragrant. 

“The proof is in the pudding” was Henry’s oft-used caution. This November, as we meander down the valley to make our preserves, we will pass through farmland that remains protected from non-farm uses and rural sprawl, spotted with vital towns and cities carefully contained within their urban growth boundaries. The proof of Henry's diligence at building community support for the protection of Oregon’s character is there as the miles tick by, as are the names of the people on barn sides and mailboxes who helped him along the way. 

As berry season approached, I thought of Henry and how nice it would be to see him when he stopped by for his flats of Chesters, which he shared with his friends and neighbors. At the end of June, his son Easton sent me an email simply saying “please call me.” Easton confirmed what I surmised upon seeing the terse note; I wouldn’t be seeing Henry again. But I will have plenty of occasions to remind me of the kind guy from Oregon who took me to dinner at Mamma Leone’s that crisp autumn day over 30 years ago. 

To Henry, with all my love,

AB


Photo of Henry Richmond from 1000 Friends of Oregon website.