Friday, November 14, 2008

A Bouquet From Kaleng

Life has been busy these days. We spent 10 days in California at the end of October and just returned to Ann Arbor from a trip to Portland, Oregon. We were back in Michigan for only a few days in between, just enough time to get over jet lag...before heading to the west coast again. Portland is our home. Before moving to Michigan, Geoff and I lived in Portland. We were only there for four years but during that time, we made many close friends, including Kaleng Moua (pictured here). Kaleng is a farmer and vendor at the Portland Farmers' Market. He grows and sells fruits, vegetables, and flowers. We became friends with Kaleng and his family years ago. We first met at the farmers' market but we became friends while working together to try to improve farm direct marketing opportunities for immigrant farmers. I visited the Moua's farm years ago and was so impressed with the diversity of the products they grew, how hard they worked, and their care for their land. At that time, Kaleng mostly grew flowers, vegetables, and hazelnuts. Over the years, he has started growing specialty foods like figs and jerusalem artichokes. We visit Kaleng at the Portland Farmers' Market about once a year. The market is so busy that we never get a chance to talk for more than a few minutes. I always bring him one of my favorite Michigan foods and he always gives me something from his stand to eat during my stay. This time, he gave me a bag of perfect jerusalem artichokes, a bunch of bok choy, and a bouquet of dried flowers. "For your office" he said as he handed me the flowers. I turned away and pretended to look at his figs so that he wouldn't see the tears rolling down my cheeks. Kaleng. He is always so kind to me. I thought of Kaleng earlier this week as I cleared a spot on my desk for the flowers. They look beautiful and even though they are dried, they smell lovely. I thought of Kaleng again tonight as Caroline and I prepared the jerusalem artichokes for dinner. It was my first time cooking with jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes because they are the tubers that form under sunflowers). Caroline helped me to scrub them clean and after I sliced them into 1/2 inch rounds, we tossed them with our hands in sunflower oil and dried rosemary and roasted them in the over. They were delicious.

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