Wow. A lot of stuff is going on! I’ll get to local celebrations, my Green Gal anniversary and my husband’s special dinner in a few…. For now, let me share with you what I’ve been reading…
The National Parks System: Creating America’s Mythology
For a couple of weeks, I have been preoccupied with the centennial birthday of our nation’s National Parks System. As a member of The Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy, I receive periodicals from both organizations, which are always brimming with amazing photography and eloquent, inspiring and passionate prose. Their August issues are almost entirely devoted to the history, beauty, preservation, controversy, competition and value of the more than 400 parks, historical monuments and sites, battlefields, and riverways that make up our National Parks System.
According to Nature Conservancy contributor Amy Crawford, 307 million people visited the parks in 2015. A record-setter. These people came from all parts of the globe and from all walks of life–all of them drawn to, searching for, yearning to discover, needing to define…. Something.
As I read about John Muir’s journey from awed sheep herder in the Yosemite Valley to staunch environmental champion and Sierra Club founder; as I learned the tumultuous history of America’s public lands—a history of battles and treaties, of power plays and powerful visions—as I reveled in the personal stories of people touched by the magic of nature in places sacred, breathtaking and fragile, I realized something: the National Parks System does much more than oversee and protect public land; it preserves our evolving mythology.
The parks contain our doors to the Underworld, our stairways to Paradise, our craggy shores where sirens sing and mermaids sleep, our voyages down mystic rivers, our giants, legends, magical beasts and terrible gods. They touch us as not only as scientists, hikers and conservationists but also as musicians, artists and writers. They are, as is often said, our national treasures. But they are not secure.
Did You Know?
Voter-hungry politicians and independent militia groups are waging a political battle to return the jurisdiction of protected public land to citizens—or more accurately to large corporations that want control of the land for profit and gain.
A business man wants to build a resort on Navajo Nation land adjacent to the Grand Canyon National Park that would include restaurants, hotels, a trailer park and “a 1.4-mile tramway that would shuttle up to 10,000 visitors a day down to the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers. There tourists could enjoy a restaurant, a gift shop, a visitor center, and an elevated river walk so they would never have to get their feet dirty or wet,” according to Tom Valtin, managing editor of the Sierra Club’s Communications Department. Really?
Oil drilling still threatens some areas–especially the Everglades. And then there is the ever-present Climate Change.
What Can We Do?
Begin with a visit. There’s nothing like becoming part of the magic to inspire action. Besides, getting out in nature and engaging in physical exercise top the lists of get-healthy strategies these days.
Become informed. I know it is time-consuming, but the Internet gives you access to great resources, including The Nature Conservancy and The Sierra Club online. Becoming members of these organizations will keep you up to date.
Donate time and money. Again, I know. Everyone wants your time and money…. Mine, too! But think about what truly matters to you and maybe get creative with your donation—turn donated time into a little vacation, make it fun and involve your family. Give the kids an out-of-the-classroom lesson they will never forget. Consider taking the holiday money you were going to spend at a mall or with a big online retailer and make a family donation—a gift for all. Then plan a special meal where everyone is encouraged to bring a favorite “camping” dish and share their best memory of the great outdoors. Nothing like smores in the fire pit, eh? Holiday fun really doesn’t begin in a cardboard box, anyway. It begins in your heart.
Ah, we arrive at food, finally. You knew I’d get there eventually. To celebrate the 100th Anniversary of our National Parks System, I promised my hubby a Pikes Peak Roast. While the name “Pikes Peak” makes a cute tie-in to the national parks theme, it really refers to the cut of meat, not the national forest icon (Although, I could swear there’s an urban legend out there about strapping this roast to your car engine and having a fully cooked meal by the time you reach the summit of Pikes Peak. Oh well.).
To be honest, there’s not a lot out there on how to prepare a Pikes Peak Roast. In fact, it might be difficult to find this cut of meat in your local grocery store, and it’s doubtful the neighborhood butcher will have it, unless you special order. I found two sources that I think are worth sharing: The blog site My Kitchen in the Rockies and Bastrop Cattle Company. According to the folks at Bastrop, “the Pikes Peak is from the back hips of the calf and is a very dense piece of meat. If you try to cook it too quickly at a high temperature, you will end up with a tough piece of meat.” Noted.
My Pikes Peak roast came from a little older steer owned by The Family Garden in New Douglas, IL. I knew this little guy had been well cared for and lived a very good life before harvest day, but it really didn’t help make my roast any more tender in the end. So I would need to roast him for several hours at a very low temperature or end up with a leather shoe. Don did not have an appetite for the Boeuf de Chaussure.
However, with temperatures in the upper 90s, I was not in the mood to heat up the kitchen for three to four hours. The solution was my slow cooker (a.k.a. my Crock Pot for any of you from my generation—same thing as dried plums instead of prunes. Whatever.). If you do find a local producer with Pikes Peak roasts available, try it. It is typically a cheaper cut of meat and (Don says) makes a great meal. It took about an hour to get everything ready for the slow cooker, but after that I just walked away for eight hours and let it do its thing. So you can make your meal in the morning and it will be waiting for you when you return from climbing that mountain or fording that river. Feeds at least six hungry hikers.
- One Pikes Peak Roast, from two and a half to three pounds
- Olive oil
- Two large yellow onions, quartered
- Five or six peeled whole garlic cloves
- Four large scrubbed carrots, cut into one-inch chunks
- Four small whole potatoes or four medium potatoes quartered (red or white), washed but not peeled
- One to one and a half cups stock (chicken, beef or vegetarian)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Begin by heating two or three tablespoons of olive oil in a large chef’s skilled or Dutch oven. Rub your roast with salt and pepper and brown it on all sides in the skillet.
- Place all the prepared vegetables in a large slow cooker or crock pot. Place your browned roast on top and pour about one cup of stock over everything.
- Slow cook for six to eight hours, depending on the size of your roast and desired doneness.
Since I had all the ingredients for a nice vegetable stock, I made this up for Don’s roast and my dinner, too. Works great as a cooking liquid for rice or quinoa.
Green Gal Vegetable Stock for a Beef Dish
- Two cups cold water
- Herb sachet: tarragon, bay leaf, thyme and sage
- One teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- One cup mushroom stems and stalks
- One stalk of celery, chopped
- One onion, any variety, but green spring onions or yellow onions work well
- A sprinkle of Charnushka, a black, smoky seed also known as black caraway, nigella sativa or kalonji. Found in India and Slavic recipes. I get mine from Penzys.
Put all ingredients in your sauce pan, bring to a boil and simmer on low for about an hour and a half until the stock reduces a little and gains flavor. Strain to remove all solids before using.
Celebrations Close to Home
Well, there were a couple other celebrations this week. For one thing, it’s National Farmers Market Week, and I just can’t say how grateful I am to have the Land of Goshen Community Market right down the street from where I live. The market managers and all the vendors have opened the world to me in terms of cooking ingredients, sustainable farming, green living, and the importance of grassroots community involvement. They changed my life in ways no less meaningful than a visit to the Grand Tetons or Brice Canyon. Thanks, guys!
And why am I just a little gushy about all this? Well, it is my anniversary, too! Green Gal of the Midwest began on Aug. 13, 2015. Nothing in my life has been the same since. Of all the people I could thank for helping me dream this dream—and there are many, many people who have supported me, both family and friends—I really need to acknowledge one talented and wonderful woman: Debbie Ward. She is the brains behind the scenes, the person who held my hand at the start, guided me through the building of this site, provides the strategy for my SEO, advises me on networking connections and is one of the best friends I will ever have.
Debbie is the owner of Silver Tablet Marketing, and she spends her time building amazing websites and creating results-driven strategic plans for her clients. She does all this with one of the most positive attitudes I’ve ever encountered. She makes everything I do on my blog a pleasure. She really—no exaggeration here—makes your dreams come true.
So next week we’ll try to stay cool. With soup, of course. What? Trust me. Now, take a hike!