mn homegrown cookbook
By Heather Carlile
Jan Joannides thinks she knows what the perfect Mother’s Day gift will be this year: "The Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook," presented by Renewing the Countryside.
And a cookbook it certainly is. It’s filled with about 100 recipes from more than 30 food establishments throughout the state.
True to its title, the cookbook uses Minnesota-grown food in recipes, from a bed and breakfast’s buttermilk pancakes to beer batter walleye fingers with maple-mustard dipping sauce. But Joannides admits the real heart of the book lies in the stories that fill pages not used for recipes.
The stories celebrate the relationships between restaurant, cafe and deli owners and the farmers they work with to promote and sell sustainable, locally-grown food in Minnesota.
"A cookbook is a creative way to get a message into people’s hands without knowing what they’re in for," said Joannides, Renewing the Countryside’s co-founder and executive director. She served as the book’s project manager.
One story features Todd Churchill, owner and cattle buyer of Thousand Hills Cattle Company in Cannon Falls. Thousand Hills supplies grass-fed beef to Jim Kyndberg of Bayport Cookery in Bayport.
Churchill said being in a locally-grown food system takes away the producers’ anonymity, and that’s what he likes about it.
If someone eats Thousand Hills beef at the restaurant and doesn’t like it, they’ll let the chefs know. They, in turn, will let Churchill know. But he also hears when a customer really enjoys the product.
"That’s fun, we get a lot of that. Lots and lots of positive feedback, both from the consumer themselves and the chefs that use our beef. That’s why we do it," he said. "The food industry is supposed to be about raising healthy, wholesome food and feeding that to our neighbors .. there’s more and more consumers that want to know more about where food comes from and how it’s raised."
The book’s stories and recipes are supplemented with pictures that show who produces the food and who prepares it.
The cover alone showcases a piece of pie over drizzled sauce, cuddling with a scoop of ice cream; a woman holding the bottom of a bright blue dress in a way that cradles imperfectly-shaped red and green vegetables; a luxurious dinner on white tablecloth set before a cozy fire with wine and a full plate garnished with a bright orange flower; and a shepherd wearing rubber boots, with his flock in lush green pasture, holding a staff.
Inside, the book has plenty of pictures showing the scrumptious meals readers can hope to make from following the recipes.
Words from Minnesota native and author Garrison Keillor introduce the reader to the book, which is organized by region, calling each area by the name the locals are likely to use, like North Shore, Red River Valley and Bluff Country.
"A lot of the work we do is about sense of place," said Joannides.
In addition to delighting everyone who likes to cook, read, or dream about other people cooking the recipes for them, Joannides hopes the book will inspire other restaurants and school systems to start thinking about using locally-grown food.
She wants to get the book in the hands of policy-makers to reinforce the idea that small, sustainable farms are an important piece of the Minnesota landscape and that more work needs to be in support of them, as well as young or new farmers who are trying to get established.
She remembers a conversation with Chef Lenny Russo, of a Twin Cities restaurant called Heartland, who is featured in the book. He told her that when he became a chef, 20 or so years ago, the profession wasn’t respected.
Now, with the growing popularity of cooking television channels, chefs are respected like rock stars.
"We’d like to get to the point where farmers are rock stars," Joannides said.