The Meat CSA

It started, innocently enough, when our regular CSA (Eating With the Seasons) offered some grass-fed beef. The results were extraordinary and we kept an eye out for future offerings.

Then they mentioned that Morris Grassfed Beef was offering “split halves”. That’s half a side of beef, delivered all at once or in 4 equal packages CSA-style. We opted for the whole thing — about 100 pounds — and stashed it in a freezer in the garage.

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It’s fantastic. Now I know that some people find grass-fed beef to be too “gamey”, but that appears to be a problem when it’s left to age too long. (All those wonderful Omega-3 fats go rancid quickly.) The Morris people age it for 14 days which is the optimum age.

(By the way, the hamburgers are made with about a pound of ground beef, 1t of Penzey’s BBQ 3000, and a little salt and pepper. Make 1/3lb patties, grill to medium rare, and don’t forget a napkin.)

My first taste of this reminded me of beef from my childhood (in the 1970’s) before factory farming had become a big thing. It’s also shifted our household cooking to be more like the cooking when I was growing up — meat was an accent to the meal, with a meat-centric meal being a special “Sunday dinner” occasion. We’re not really buying outside beef, but choosing when to pull another package of something from the freezer — mindful that once the single brisket is used for onion roast, it’s gone.

Ambar, being the silly sweetie that she is, started looking at other options via Craigslist — whole pigs, pasture-raised lamb, etc. She finally proposed we buy lamb from a fellow who raises them on his walnut orchard (as weed control) then finishes them on organic almonds. We took delivery yesterday.

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Her first bite of Parmesan-crusted Lamb Chops was a Tex Avery moment — her eyes grew huge and I bet they would have popped right out of their sockets if they could. The flavor on these is amazingly mild and sweet; we both noticed a hint of almond.

Parmesan-Crusted Lamb Chops

Take 8 lamb-chops, ideally pounded thin. Grate about 1/2C of good parmesan into a bowl. In another dish, beat 2 eggs. Take a plate and spread about 1C of fine bread crumbs on it. Heat about 1/4″ of vegetable oil in a fry pan on the stove.

Sprinkle the chops with the parmesan, pressing the cheese into the chop. Then dip into the egg, drain off the excess, and dredge in the bread crumbs. Fry in the hot oil — thin chops until golden, thicker chops until a rich golden brown. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper before serving.

Lamb chops are best served medium rare.

(I served these with some zucchini steamed with Penzey’s Sunny Paris seasoning and tossed with butter, mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, and a good glass of Pinot Noir.)

P.S. I’m off to cook at Witchlets in the Woods in the morning. Watch for new posts when I get back!

P.P.S. To give you an idea of cost, we’re averaging $6/lb for the beef and $5/lb for the lamb. With factory-farmed lean ground beef at $3.50/lb, offset by our shift in consumption, we’re paying somewhat less for groceries these days and definitely eating better.

Introduction

This is my first post on the Magical Eating blog, so I want to introduce myself: I’m Matt. I live in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, with my partner and two cats.

I also wanted to introduce my three chickens. After some deliberation and much planning, my partner and I acquired three Silkie hens last summer. We had two motivations for the chicken project: One, we wanted fresh eggs. Two, we wanted to have a sense of where our food comes from, and what is required to raise chickens for eggs. We were feeling that we didn’t have a sense of where our food comes from, or what it takes to get it to the table.

So we joined the growing “urban hen” movement. My father and I built a small coop and run for the ladies, and we purchased three pullets. (Chicken term for the lay person: a “pullet” is a female chicken older than a chick but still in her first year.) We chose pullets because we wanted to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we were getting female birds. It can be difficult to determine the sex of a chick, since they mostly are identical balls of fluff. Roosters are lovely, but they crow–and not just in the morning, either. Roosters are also not necessary: If you didn’t already know, hens will lay eggs whether a rooster is present or not.

I found that raising chickens is, for the most part, pretty easy. I check on their food and water at least once a day–usually when I gather whatever eggs they have laid. I usually pick them up a couple of times a week and give them a quick once-over, just to see if they are healthy.

Keeping chickens in the country is no big deal, I recognize. But we live in an urban area and my backyard is very small–about 25 feet square. And my neighbors have a clear view of the entire yard from their house, so they can see the ladies. And still, the chickens are no problem at all. There is no smell and they aren’t loud. If I can keep chickens in the space that I have, I really believe that almost any space is sufficient for a couple of hens.

Even though our girls are from a breed that isn’t know for being proficient layers, a good week means between 8 and 12 eggs, which is plenty for the two of us. And the eggs are fantastic. The chickens have also made interesting pets, which is something that I did not predict. One of them in particularly (“Thelma”) has become pretty tame, and will sit on my shoulder.

So, what does that have to do with magical eating? I believe that magic works through the building and tending of relationships–with Mysterious Ones, with the multiverse Herself, with my own soul. Magical eating, for me, is the tending of relationships through the food that I select and prepare. When I choose organic, or free-trade, or local food options, I am making a choice and tending my relationship with the Mysterious Ones of the Earth in a conscious way.

Each day when I go outside and check on the birds, I know that I am tending a relationship with the chickens–but also with myself and my partner because we are eating the eggs, and with my garden and the earth because chicken manure makes amazing fertilizer, and with the Earth because I am not requiring a refrigerated truck to bring me fresh eggs. This action builds a web of connection, and is part of a larger magic to build a sustainable life on this Earth. I remember once, during the creation of sacred space, being asked to call my allies, and I called my chickens. They feed me, and in return, I feed and care for them–they are my allies.

Keeping these animals solidifies my understanding of what magical eating is, and what “food activism” is. That is why I consider chicken keeping part of my magical life.

Blessings to you on this sunny Detroit morning.


All three chickens, eating.


This is Iola, right before she pecked at the camera. I believe that she thought it was some new kind of food.


Here is a bowl of eggs from the girls.