Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Where I've Been Lately: Donut Binges and Kitchen Remodel

An old friend with an updated name, Katherine Wilder, sent me the general, "what have you been up to, haven't seen you blog in while" kind of email last night. And I know I feel like I've been slacking in the blog department. But I assure you, it has not been for a bout of relaxation, but for other whole-hearted pursuits.

As we left off in September, I was hoping to hear about a Federal Stimulus grant that would enable me to start a micro-farm on a piece of land in the city of Cleveland's Land Bank. As October waned and leaves fell, my opportunity to build the soil with tilling, cover crops, and composting also fell due to uncertainties regarding the grant and legal access to the land.

I cover cropped my home plot with rye and hairy vetch, got the oak piles of leaves slow, cold composting in various places in the yard. So, it's November, and I haven't received the grant yet. At this point, I realize that I don't have a backup property, which was the old, "all my eggs in one basket," adage and that kind of freaked me out.

I reminded myself to breath through the nose and decided to add value where I could in this depressed job market and to add another notch to my already amazing repertoire of cooking skills. The value-addition came in the form of a kitchen remodel that I've almost completed: Corian counters, Moen faucet, single bowl sink, water filter, Ikea cabinets, yeah baby. Thanks to Scott, Mike, and Kevin who helped on the kitchen, and foreshadowing aside will be helping on the farm.

As some of you know, I can throw down on cooking, whether it's making Caribbean coconut cabbage curry, tempeh wantons, shoulders jerked or pulled, or ceviche from the top of my head. Obviously, I love food AND variety. Now, it was time to become a donut maker! The inspiration mostly being from necessity and a feature I saw on the travel station or HGTV.

I bought my mini-fryer. Then there was a flurry of about five weeks of donut frying binges. I was trying everything: cake, raised, vegetarian, vegan, chocolate. I was mixing, kneading, rolling, cutting shapes with a pint glass and shot glass, frying, glazing, changing oil, repeat. I was trying any recipe I could find, seeking the perfect donut, when I stumbled on a mighty peculiar donut: a vegetarian sweet potato donut (pictured) with real maple sugar glaze. To double foo-foo the donut, I toasted walnut pieces for a post-glazing dipping. Righteous for sure, and then I upped the ante again by substituting vegan margarine for the butter, thereby frying a vegan donut!

Of course in the midst of this donut frying, kitchen deconstruction/reconstruction, I was awarded the Re-Imagining Cleveland Grant to develop an Urban Market Farm. There were 54 grantees total, receiving this Federal Stimulus money through the city of Cleveland as part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Finally, I got part of the Stimulus Pie.

Now that the kitchen's almost done, I can think/dream/plan/implement my bigger picture: Old Husher's Farm. Right now in addition to the grant, I am taking a "Market Gardener Training" Program. I've had Cleveland artist, Stephe DK, design a graphic that will both serve as my business card and a t-shirt design (pictured). I am working with Loop and Bela Dubby coffee shops to compost their grinds. The to-do list is huge and getting bigger, and I hope to enjoy every minute of it. Anybody got a small tractor?

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