As an American traveling during this time of year there are holidays that I will miss back home. Last week was Thanksgiving and I had the opportunity of a lifetime to cook a fully farm to table Thanksgiving meal for friends and their families here at Taino Farm in the Dominican Republic.
On this day we had owner, friends and family present. All guests were able to come to the farm, go on a tour of our fully organic permaculture and aquaponics systems, as well as led on a river float that shows them the serine side to living in this remote location in the tropics.
Now while not everything from the traditional American Thanksgiving is available here in Los Brazos or on the farm, I was able to make extremely similar variations of the meals I grew up eating for this heartwarming holiday. Below I will list all the dishes that I made for the holiday with a few of the basic ingredients that I used for each; I apologize ahead of time for not having a picture of all the dishes. I got a bit caught up in the cooking and entertainment of my guests, after all it is a holiday to surround yourself with friends and enjoy their company.
Turkey: Organic free range, raised here on the farm, was cleaned and broken down into a stew that I simmered for 8 hours with potatoes, carrots, onions, and herbs (all from our garden here). Lets just say it melted of the bones!!
Stuffing: Turkey broth mixed with local dried bread, carrots, celery, and herbs. Cooking for this many, I had to make the stuffing in batches outside of the turkey rather than having the whole birds stuffed.
Salad: Collected greens from our garden and made a mix available. I used kale, arugula, lettuce, mustard greens, hibiscus, basil and mint.
Dressing: Topped the salad with a STAR FRUIT MANGOSTEEN VINAIGRETTE!!!
Cornbread: What kind of holiday would it have been had I not made Cast Iron Cornbread served with our blend of local honey and local butter.
Green Beans: A simple dish using the beans we grow in the garden with our onions and sweet peppers to create a refreshing side dish that still brought green beans to the table.
Deviled Eggs: Used avocado and yolks as the base and added spicy mustard greens, basil, and topped with fresh tomato.
Mashed Yucca: For a dominican play on mashed potatoes I used local Yucca, a starchy tuber grown all over and consumed by all dominicans, and mixed with garlic, butter and chives.
Pumpkin Pie: What would this holiday be without PUMPKIN PIE to finish everything off. From scratch making the crust as well as the filling. We grew the pumpkin, ginger, clove, cinnamon, and rest of the spice blend, and I aquired local sugar cane and local honey.
To put it bluntly, this holiday rocked. Everyone had a great time and I was able to showcase an exorbitant amount of organic foods all grown here at the farm to one of the best groups of friends around.
A special thanks to Matt and his family for collaborating on this event with me. Truly thankful for all your help and support.
When I am back at school, I am plugged in. I can picture myself so vividly – crouching over a little cubicle desk. I am staring at my computer – working on a paper or maybe a problem set. I am distracted from my work only by other things popping up on a screen in front of me – a facebook notification or a text message. But nothing around me draws my eyes away from my thirteen inch computer screen. My headphones are playing some genre of music into my ears, masking the sounds of the world around me – of people flowing in and out of the library. Maybe a friend has passed by…I wouldn’t notice.
When I am back at school, I am plugged in. I am using tangled headphones connecting my phone in my pocket to my ears as I walk to class. Sometimes, if I am in a “loving life” type of mood, I will listen to country. Isn’t that ironic? I am loving life yet so definitively severing myself off from it.
When I am back at school, I am plugged in. I am lying in bed with my white noise machine on. It blurs all the sounds around me. I can’t even hear my breathing or the soft and steady beating of my heart, just the white noise that fills my ears and dulls my senses.
It is different here.
When I run in the morning in Los Brazos, the small Dominican town in which Taino Organic Farm is located, I don’t use my headphones. I can hear my breath, the soft gallop of Piggy–the loyal farm dog of Finca Taino, the roosters talking to each other across the valley, the moos of the various cows we pass, the occasional “hola” from the early risers sitting on their porches enjoying the first yellow light of the day, the squeals of pigs (they didn’t sound particularly happy to be waking up), the sound of the wind and the subsequent elegant sway of the green that surrounded me. There are an infinite amount of sounds at any point in time, no matter where you are in this world. We can’t hear all of them–we couldn’t possibly. But that’s not a reason to miss the beautiful ones that we can hear.
When I go to bed at night at Finca Taino it seems that everyone around me is having their bedside chat with each other. I fall asleep to the occasional heehaw of the donkey who lives a floor down from me, to the chitter chatter of the chickens, the wind, the insects enveloped by the dark sky, the sound of far-away bachata dance music, a moto zooming by – a night just beginning or ending.
When I wake up at Finca Taino it is early – 5:50 typically. It seems the world is wide awake and the light is just beginning to illuminate the world. I think it would be wrong to be frustrated by this, to be mad at the light and and the creatures for waking me up. It would be sad for these early morning sounds to anger me.
“Wake up grateful”; I read that somewhere recently. It is so easy to do that here.
At home I wake up to my alarm clock as well. It typically goes off around 6:15. In the winter, it would be dark still. It’s not the early morning blue kind of dark, but a black – an endless thick black – dark that makes the morning feel so far away. Even still, there were so many reasons to be grateful to be jolted awake by the alarming noise coming from my phone.
Here, waking up to the sound of the rest of the world, to the light streaming through my window–that is such an easy, obvious, and accessible reason to be grateful. It is so easy that gratitude is becoming a habit – almost an instinct. That is what nature can do; that is what can happen when I am no longer plugged in.
I think that when I return home, back to school, back to the “grind” after two months here in Los Brazos and Cabarete on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic, it will be hard not to wake up grateful. A hard habit to break.
What are plantains? This Caribbean staple is a member of the banana family. Green plantains are lower in sugar and starchier (read: not sweet!) than the traditional banana. They are a great source of dense carbohydrates, soluble fiber, vitamins, magnesium and potassium – nutrients that are essential in tropical climates as they help to restore electrolyte balance.
There are many ways to get plantains on your plate – grilled, baked, or fried. At Taino Organic Farm, our favorite combination is to serve garlic mangú topped with spicy scrambled eggs on a bed of freshly picked greens. The best part about this meal is that all of the ingredients can be found within steps of our sustainable farm’s kitchen!
Ingredients- Serves 4
- Green Plantains (2-3 per person)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 Cup chopped red onion
- 1/4 Cup chopped garlic chives
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 Cup raw milk
- Salt to taste
- Slit sides of green plantains
- Boil plantains with the skin ON for 10 minutes or until skin is tender
- Carefully peel skin off plantains and slice into 1/4 inch pieces
- Continue to boil until soft
- Add garlic, onions, garlic chives, salt, butter, and raw milk
- Using a potato masher, blend all ingredients together to a creamy consistency
Serving Suggestion: Top with local Dominican cheese and crispy onions. Enjoy your meal!