For some reason, my husband’s tomatoes were late this year, so although it’s October, I’m just now getting my fill of one of my favorite all-time concoctions, gazpacho. I was getting ready to make a batch last week when I came across an interesting feature about Joel Salatin, a third-generation family farmer from Virginia who appears in Robert Kenner’s 2008 film, Food, Inc. As its website states, this epic and alarming movie “lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies…Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment.”
Fast-forward to Joel Salatin today. Dubbed the “high priest of the pasture” by The New York Times, this folksy farmer has written a new book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal. It continues the call for a “saner food system” in America and, according to the feature, “bursts with advice for changing our eating habits, getting closer to the land, and learning about how food is grown.” It also offers practical tips on what each of us can do right now to eat, feel and live better.
“Never before in history has a culture routinely eaten food it can’t pronounce, eaten food that can’t be made in its own kitchen, and eaten food that travels 1,500 miles from field to fork,” Salatin says in the feature. “And never in history have we had a civilization in which we had food police who tell us that Twinkies, Cocoa Puffs and Mountain Dew are perfectly safe, but you have to worry about raw milk, Aunt Matilda’s pickles, and compost-grown tomatoes. These are absolute civilizational and historical abnormalities.”
Which brings me back to gazpacho, a delicious, easy and healthy cold soup that involves not a single food we can’t pronounce. I don’t specify ingredient quantities below because you can toss in whatever veggies you have on hand (preferably those purchased seasonally and locally). Leave out what you don’t like, spice it up with cayenne or jalapenos or not, roughly chop the ingredients or process them in a blender; just be sure to make a big batch. I might be offending gazpacho purists with my loose approach, but I’m confident Salatin would approve.
Start with six ripe tomatoes and build the soup around those. Bring a big pot of water to boil, let the tomatoes swim in for about 30 seconds, and then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a sinkful of ice water until cool enough to handle. Slide the skins off and roughly chop, retaining as much of the juice as you can.
Then add some or all of the following to suit your tastebuds and your eyes (gazpacho is pretty):
- cucumbers, chopped
- corn, cooked
- carrots, chopped
- onion, chopped
- peppers, chopped – red, orange, green and hot are all good
- freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
- a tablespoon or two of vinegar
- freshly ground black pepper
- a few garlic cloves, chopped
Mix it all up and chill. It only gets better the longer it sits, as the flavors are allowed to mingle and develop.