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Of the Earth: Local food experience often requires an open mind

  • To cook razorbill Wellington, served at Koks on the Faroe Islands, a “seabird is wrapped in a pancake and served with a sauce made from beets, elderberry and rose hip.” Courtesy photo/KOKS Facebook page

  • BLIXT



For the Recorder
Tuesday, November 06, 2018

They had me at “fermented lamb intestines.”

As I noted last week, not everything local is local to here. Locavores travel great distances for food that is intensely and authentically local to other folks in other places. That, of course, was Anthony Bourdain’s mission.

If you happen to be in the Faroe Islands, halfway between Scotland and Iceland, then “local” just may include a restaurant called Koks, “the world’s most remote foodie destination,” according to Rebecca Mead of The New Yorker.

Mead writes that an absence of firewood means that fish and meat must be cured in the cold, clear wind. Oddly, natives pass up much of their abundant shellfish — lobster, clams, mussels and so on — as being, well, a little crude.

Cod or haddock, Mead writes, “is suspended from the eaves of a house, like wind chimes on a porch, where it dries and ferments. After it is sufficiently decomposed, a process that takes several weeks, it is boiled, then served alongside boiled potatoes. A condiment of fermented tallow, made from lamb intestines, is poured on top.”

Of the lamb, she writes, freshly butchered joints “are hung in a wooden shed, known as a hjallur, that is chinked with drafty gaps, allowing the islands’ incessant winds to blow through it. Wind and time bestow on the meat a layer of greenish mold, and a pungency somewhere between Parmesan cheese and death.”

Before you say yuck, know that the Michelin-starred Koks promises fresh local food in a way that fills its 24 dining slots every evening at about $220 a setting, plus $170 for a carefully paired wine. An 18-course locavore tasting menu may include “razorbill Wellington,” for which a “seabird (a razorbill) is wrapped in a pancake and served with a sauce made from beets, elderberry and rose hip,” according to Koks’ Facebook page.

I love this stuff. It dwells in a place where poetry meets palate; where unfamiliar words evoke tastes that couldn’t have existed had they never been spoken; where place and ingredient names, and the syntactic oddities of recipes, spin off in strange jazzy rhythms. The less I know going into a story like this, the better. I love a recipe for the ineffable.

Once again, I am inviting you to send me your most wonderful, exotic and ineffable food experiences. Sublime recipe, kitchen and dining experiences are all welcome. Disasters are even better.

Next week, we will return to recipes with a special tribute to Grandma Pond’s apple pie, followed by an in-depth look at home-scale vegetable fermentation, courtesy of Real Pickles and Hosta Hill (the free workshop is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Green Fields Market).

After that, however, all bets are off. Unless I get some new recipes and/or exotic food stories from our readers, I may have to offer you a very detailed and graphic account of the preparation of razorbill Wellington, seabird and all.

I’m just saying ...

The Cutting Board

Back to the 80-Acre Forest: You may remember that back in May, I wrote that nearly 400 people had signed the Save the Brook Road Forest petition, initiated by Wendell’s Jim Thornley. It reads, in part, “We, the People of Wendell, state that we want this 80-acre, 110-year old oak forest placed in reserve status,” meaning that it not be logged.

The number of signers has now grown to more than 1,000, as negotiations with the Department of Conservation and Recreation to prevent logging appear to have broken down. The cut is scheduled to continue.

What’s the Story?: Don’t forget “Field Notes: An Afternoon of Storytelling,” Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture’s all-star “glimpse into the lives of the people who grow and cook the local food we love, as they tell true stories from their life experiences.”

The program, hosted by WRSI’s Monte Belmonte, features familiar faces from our agricultural community. It begins Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. at Northampton’s Academy of Music. Tickets, at $15, are available at ticketf.ly/2AR5WoR.

Wesley Blixt lives in Greenfield. He is a longtime reporter and is the author of “SKATERS: A Novel.” Send him recipes, stories and suggestions at wesleyblixt@me.com.