Monday, September 23, 2013

A Paleo Adventure Part I: Save Your Bacon Weekend

I love to enter contests.  Recently, Paleo Comfort Foods had a contest that had several prizes, the grand prize being two premium tickets to the Save Your Bacon Weekend in Staunton, Virginia by the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.  I entered the contest because I think one of the prizes was a bunch of cookbooks.  You know how I love cookbooks.  One morning in mid-August, I had just sat down at my desk at work and there was an email from Julie Mayfield- I'd won the tickets.  My co-worker and often food taster friend, Martha, had just left my office and she heard me squeal.  After a little PTO juggling, I was on my way!

I flew into Staunton the Friday before the event.  I cannot say how nice it was to step off that plane into 70 degree weather.  This is the prettiest little airport I've ever been to.  Its nestled in a bunch of farm land.   

Before leaving, I consulted with Amy Kubal for some food guidance.  In essence, this was vacation for me.  As this was a food event, it really didn't make any sense for me to adhere to my goal oriented strict paleo template.  She had two easy to follow guidelines for my weekend.  The first, don't eat any gluten. The second, enjoy anything gluten-free but if the fist bite isn't awesome, don't eat anymore of it.

Friday Night:  Dinner at Zynodoa 

Armed with those words of wisdom, I had dinner on Friday night at a local restaurant, Zynodoa. Zynodoa's menu is full of high quality food from local producers.  I love restaurants that post where their ingredients come from. 

I decided to start with a braised short rib for an appetizer.  It was served over polenta that didn't look appetizing to me at all so I didn't touch it.  The rib was super tender and tasty.  

Next, a beautiful side salad that had some crispy (gluten free) onions, carrots, hard boiled egg and ham. 

And for my main dish, scallops.  Next to the scallops were fried potato slices with a carrot puree sandwiched in between the potatoes.  That carrot puree was probably the best carrot dish I've ever had. It tasted like carrots should taste.  They were earthy and salty with just a little sweetness.  Did I eat the potatoes? I had one slice and I cannot deny it tasted of heaven.  I savored every bite.  

I will admit that I had dessert, but I'm not going to post pictures of it.  Just like the slice of potato, I savored every bite.  It was special and really that's how desserts it should be.

Saturday:  Celebration! at Polyface Farms

Polyface Farms is a short drive from Staunton in Swoope, Virginia.  Cellular reception is not good out there.  If you ever go, you will likely feel lost in the middle of no where right before you arrive.  

After parking, I walked up to get my tickets and there was Joel Salatin.  He has got to be the most personable and photogenic guy around.  I am evidently much less photogenic, especially early in the morning.

Breakfast was being served, so I got in line.  I got there about 15 after the event opened and they had already run out of many of the breakfast offerings.  I managed to get some breakfast sausage and coffee.  I didn't take a picture.  I found Charles and Julie Mayfield so I could thank them for the tickets. I decided to take Julie a Cavegirl Couture apron as a small thank you for this once in a lifetime experience.

After breakfast, we all loaded up for a hayride farm tour.  Joel took the lead trailer.

Our first stop demonstrated the moveable enclosures for the broiler chickens.

This farm and part of the country is just beautiful.  

Just to give you an idea about what Joel's commentary was like through out the tour, here's a short clip of our first tour stop.  

Next up were the turkeys.  

They had brought an egg-mobile over across from the turkey enclosure.  

These chickens were not shy.  As Joel stood in front of the turkey enclosure, these chickens started wandering amongst the trailers.  What healthy animals.  I don't want to spoil all of these pretty pictures, but go search the internet for chickens at a CAFO and compare them to these birds.  I don't see how anyone can argue that its not healthier to eat a chicken that looks like a Polyface Farm chicken over a CAFO chicken.  

From there, Joel led us over to where the cows were grazing.  Check out that cow pasture.  

Here are the cows.  At every stop on the tour, Joel would explain how that animal fit into the grass-based farm.  Every animal has a job to do.  If you're interested in more specifics the farm website has a great explanation.

Can you spot the future bacon in there? 

Have I mentioned what a beautiful day it was and how simply gorgeous this farm is? 

When we returned from the farm tour, there was an awesome bluegrass band called Bourbon Barrel Congress Playing as lunch was served.  

I took a little movie capturing the music and the lunch crowd. 

What did I eat?  I had some lovely Polyface Farms chicken, a tomato salad, and a beet salad with a little paleo barbecue sauce.  Something special they had was raw milk.  I've never tried raw milk before and figured, if I was going to do it, Polyface farms was a good place to do it. Yum.  I've never had milk with so much flavor.  For dessert, they had some peach cobblers and vanilla ice cream made with raw milk.  They said one of the cobblers was "paleo" but none of the servers knew which was which, so I skipped that and had one scoop of the raw milk ice cream.  Yum.  

After everyone had a chance to eat, we had some excellent speakers talking about the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund's good works.  All of the speakers that afternoon had a common theme: Liberty & Freedom.

First up, was Sally Fallon Morell who spoke about the importance of grass-based farming.

Joel Salatin spoke a bit about the hypocrisy he sees in US food policy today and the importance of food freedom.  How can we help ensure food freedom as consumers?  He says to get in the kitchen and join the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

Laura Bledsoe, talked about how the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund helped her when the health department raided a farm to table dinner on her farm.  I'd actually seen the youtube video about it but its nothing like hearing her tell the story herself.  She talked about the fact that the FTCLDF isn't just for farmers, its for consumer freedom as well.  

Next up, was the speaker I was most excited about, Robb Wolf.  Robb talked about the successes he's seen time and time again when a person adopts a simple diet, gets adequate sleep and sunshine.  He believes the cornerstone to all of this success is food production. 

He says there's not enough good food out there.  He compared the robustness of Polyface Farms grass-fed model and the fragility of our current food system.  He talked about using gym communities as a way of connecting people to farmers.  

He then says he's a "paleo guy" so he's not so much interested in raw dairy or fermented grain, but when he sees people getting arrested for farming,  he becomes interested because what's most important is freedom.  He mentioned that we have some differences but those differences/tweaks are more like the different denominations of protestantism.  We are all under the same umbrella and need to work together and support one another.  

I'm sure some you saw that Sally Fallon Morell recently shared her feelings about eating a paleo template compared to a Weston A Price Foundation endorsed template.  Evidently, she's done this before in a very similar fashion and Robb Wolf responded to it then.  I only mention it because this is what was going through my mind as he spoke, having taken the stage shortly after Sally.  

His integrity and commitment to getting the word out about how eating a paleo template can improve one's health never ceases to amaze me.  He takes every opportunity to speak to those who need to hear about real food and how to restore one's health. The fact he was there and addressed the issue head on, whether intentionally or not,  only made me respect him more.  

If you joined the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund that day you received a free apron and a spot in a group picture with Robb Wolf.  Did I join?  Yes.  Why?  The free apron? No.  This isn't a political blog, so I'll just say, as a consumer, I want to maintain the freedom to purchase the food I want to eat produced in the way I think it should be.  The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund is working to help maintain that freedom for me and for you.

I was lucky enough to get a new picture with Robb. 

Sarah the Healthy Home Economist, who's website helped me with my kombucha experimentation and broth making, was also at the event and I was lucky to snag a picture with her as well.  

Once the presentations were done, we were free to explore the farm and visit the farm store.  I was so sad that I couldn't bring any of the awesome food home with me.  I did get a farm t-shirt and a cooler bag.

Freezers full of awesome food at the store!
Across from the store, you can see some of the hoop houses that they use to house the animals during winter.  During the summer, they grow vegetables inside them.  
Another pretty view.

Have any of you been to Polyface Farms? 

They even had my favorite flower.