Being divided is easy. I can prove it. Just give me five minutes of conversation, sitting comfortably, over a nice cup of coffee, and I guarantee you that I can find a topic that puts us completely at odds — you, dear reader, and me, diametrically opposed.
It may be something as simple, and inconsequential, as the age-old debates between lovers of Pinot Noir and those who prefer Cabernet Sauvignon. It may be that you are one of those people who prefer to slice pizzas pie-style, into triangles. I, on the other hand, prefer the square cut for reasons that I am happy and well-prepared to defend. Or we may disagree on something more serious, more dividing, more complicated, like the terrifying and ugly debates in Washington, D.C., of late.
Don’t worry. This is not a political column, and I am not about to rehash the discussion of our divided nation.
This is a food column, and I am going to unabashedly celebrate the culture of food, of our agricultural heritage in Napa, and of our Napa Farmers Market. I am going to suggest that it’s difficult to insist on being divided when we get to know each other and when we celebrate the ways in which we are dependent upon one another.
When I wander the stalls and aisles of the Napa Famers Market, I enjoy the sheer variety of colors, flavors, shapes, sounds, aromas. I enjoy the unparalleled agricultural diversity of our valley and of the surrounding valleys and areas. I relish the fact that behind each fruit or vegetable offered for sale in our market stands an individual or family who labored to grow, care for, raise and harvest the product.
I love that I can do business with immigrants, with established Californians, and with more recent arrivals like myself. More than all of that, I am impressed by the sight, every Tuesday and Saturday, of fellow Napans gathering in groups between the stalls and aisles to greet, shake hands, hug and talk to one another.
Afterward, I love to take home the bounty of produce and products that I have purchased at the market and prepare something delicious to share with my family and friends. Moreover, while sharing a meal, and probably enjoying a bottle or two of wine made by a friend or neighbor, I’ll not only be serving the food but will also be stoking the debate. What is a good meal without good conversation? Ideas, debate, conversation are ingredients as essential as fresh-picked produce.
To me, the point of sharing a good meal is not only to nourish my body. it’s also to share time, love and experiences with those around the table. The point of going to the Napa Farmers Market is not only to secure the ingredients for a meal. Rather, it’s to participate in the comings and goings of our community and to share time and interact with those who labored to produce the ingredients that you will take home. And the point of debate is not to learn how we differ from one another, but to learn about what we share on a fundamental level.
Give me five minutes and I’ll find out how we differ. Give me an entire meal, and we might just learn about how superficial those differences really are. We all need the same things to survive and to thrive.
For the record, I enjoy Pinot Noir as well as Cabernet Sauvignon. I hope to see you at the Napa Farmers Market.
Harvest Fruit Crisp
Adapted from “The White Dog Café Cookbook” by Judy Wicks.
This is a great harvest celebration dish to serve warm or at room temperature. You can substitute other fruits in season.
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup rolled oats (not instant)
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1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of salt
1 cup coarsely ground pecans
¼ lb (1 stick) of cold salted butter, cubed
6 large tart apples, cored and sliced
4 ripe pears, cored and sliced
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.
In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine all the topping ingredients. Mix on low speed until the topping is the consistency of coarse meal.
Prepare the filling: Toss the apples and pears together in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch and spices. Add the sugar mixture to the fruit and toss to coat evenly.
Spread the fruit mixture in the prepared baking dish. Cover with the topping. Bake until the juice is thick and the topping is browned, about 50 minutes. If the topping browns before the fruit is cooked and the juices thicken, cover with foil and continue baking until the fruit is tender.