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protein procurement, box elder syrup and more

January 29, 2012

1) I got this text from Dan last week at 8:00 am: deer backstrap tonight, which made me think of a 1950’s father celebrating his raise by calling home to announce, “filet mignon, tonight.” But in our house this can only mean one thing: the roadkill fairies have smiled upon us again! I told the kids the good news and Col immediately asked, “who’s coming over to share it with us?” Because what’s not to celebrate about free, fresh wild meat? Although, when I got this sweet e-mail from a reader recently, “The way you write makes me smile, whether it’s about something beautiful, gross, or frustrating, because it is so real and easy to relate to,” I figured the “gross” part might refer to this certain style of protein-procurement.

It’s the name isn’t it? Roadkill. There must be a better term, like, I don’t know…highway steaks. I mean, just wait until the hipster foodies catch on. Until then I’m taking suggestions.

deer backstrap, pink sauerkraut, greenhouse chard and white rice (the family weakness)

2) My friend Natalie suggested that I read Ann Patchett’s book, Truth and Beauty, about Patchett’s deep, wild and frustrating friendship with poet/writer Lucy Grealy, who developed a Ewing’s Sarcoma at 9 which led to 1/4 her jaw being removed, chemo, radiation and numerous surgeries before she ever hit puberty. I promptly devoured that book and am now 1/2-way through Grealy’s own book, Autobiography of a Face, which is heartbreaking and beautiful all at once and peppered with such gorgeous metaphor that you will want to pause, letting the taste of her words linger in your mouth like a fine wine. (note: just finished Grealy’s book, second half is a bit vague and repetitive).

3) Not sure if smuggling pineapple peels out of Kauai is unethical or just weird, but look: pineapple vinegar, vinegaring in a headscarf!

4) When I was 23, and had recently moved to Durango, I called my mom up to say, “guess what mom? Good news!” My mom thought for a moment that maybe I was going to take the GRE’s after all, or perhaps got a job interview. But no, Dan and I had tapped a box elder tree for syrup…and the sap was FLOWING. Box elders are native to Colorado, in the same family as maples and produce some delicious sap in their own scrappy right.

enchanted box elder grove on the Dolores River from this trip

We’re looking for some local box elder trees to tap this spring. Perhaps you have an big, old box elder on your property and you would like some people to come tap it and share some syrup with you? Telltale identification characteristics: deeply furrowed grey bark, big knobby protrusions on lower trunks, box elder bugs present in warmer months.

5) Finally, on Wednesday, I’m going to post a step-by-step tutorial for making fermented ginger ale, so we can all have ginger ale together for Valentines Day, or maybe that other holiday, Feb. 21st (read about it here). So, go get your ginger and sugar and stand by.

just for the swoon of it: kraut and chard from the greenhouse

Dan and Cinder-rosella cleaning the cabinets (sorry honey about that hole in your sock)



25 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2012 11:04 pm

    Please write a cookbook called Roadkill Fairy’s Approach to Meat. Pineapple vinegar? Do tell your plans, please.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 30, 2012 11:27 am

      Uses for pineapple vinegar: 1) marinate roadkill 2) hair rinse


  2. January 29, 2012 11:26 pm

    Of course you smuggled pineapple peels out of Kaui! And that’s why we love you :)

    If you’ve already written it, please direct me to where I can find the story of how you and Dan met. I’d love to know the story behind your match-made-in-heaven union. (Or if you haven’t written about it, what are you waiting for??)

  3. abozza permalink
    January 30, 2012 6:28 am

    I realize there was a lot to this post, but I can’t get over the fact that Dan and Rose are cleaning your cabinets! I’m so envious!!! :)

  4. Nasha permalink
    January 30, 2012 8:48 am

    Big box elder in our front yard u r free to tap anytime! Just give us a taste!:)

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 30, 2012 8:51 am

      Sweeeet! (so to speak).

  5. January 30, 2012 8:57 am

    GRE’s – so funny! A lesson for this mom of soon-to-be-college grads that would like me to get off their back! Happy Box Elder tapping and Feb. 21st preparations from Vermont!

  6. January 30, 2012 9:20 am

    I made hubby promise that if he saw a deer road kill to bring it to me at once ..I figured I’d put my ambition where my mouth is and skin it good for winters meat :o)

  7. January 30, 2012 10:33 am

    i wish i had a box elder for you, i do. love the kraut and roadkill, too. it really is just a matter of time and some keen marketing on behalf of CDOT before we’re all scrambling for the errant deer or coon. In Georgia it’s the armadillo, and we called it possum on the half shell, and our maid would demand my dad to stop and scrape them up for her. He kept a shovel in his trunk and I have memories of him, all dressed up in his coat and tie, standing in the headlights gathering up dead armadillo, when i would ride with him to take her home late at night after babysitting. She boiled it down in the backyard for something or other.I would beg her for the shell. thank you (and dan)for keeping my modern day life colorful!

  8. January 30, 2012 10:36 am

    Here’s my post from last year on how to make box elder syrup with lots of pictures. This is the first post. The second one is immediately following. SO fun and rewarding. XO

  9. Melissa permalink
    January 30, 2012 1:05 pm

    Damn, Rose is getting tall!

    PS. Forgot to mention how much we love Portlandia too . . .makes me laugh til it hurts (do you watch the vignettes too? Like Put a bird on it? we are constantly saying that to each other in that dorky/inside-jokey/couple way)

    Happy Monday!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      February 2, 2012 1:08 pm

      wish I could put a bird on my parenting somedays. xo

  10. melissab permalink
    January 30, 2012 5:04 pm

    seriously about the box elder? wow! i’m excited.
    ~from a devotee of maple syrup living in western co.
    in the northeast you can get something called birch beer (a soda), in which, i’m assuming, someone’s tapped a birch tree. we have those, too..i think??

  11. mwieser permalink
    January 30, 2012 6:38 pm

    Recently spent an enchanted afternoon tasting flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars at a place in Santa Fe, and also truffle salt (mouth epiphany). There were dozens of essence flavors on tap. I brought home a bottle of honey ginger balsamic, and have since started putting that or regular balsamic generally on everything that seems sufficiently salted but still not flavorful enough – things like swiss chard/nut/garlic low cheese white pizza. I wonder how your pineapple vinegar would do for such things. Pretty great, I bet. What is it about salt+sweet+fat that’s so irresistible?

    I just finished “Marriage Between Zones Three, Four and Five” by Doris Lessing, who you can see on Youtube reacting to notice of her Pulitzer Prize. It’s the first thing I’ve read by her, and it won’t be the last. I bought my copy via web and will lend if you like.

    I would say that I’d tell you if I spot an box elder, but the truth is that unless it is outfitted with a label and perhaps a megaphone that shouts its name on some kind of tape loop, I am unlikely to recognize it.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      January 30, 2012 7:13 pm

      Molly, have you checked out the oil and vinegar place downtown (might be connected with the santa fe place)? My mom bought me a bottle of the aged balsamic vinegar for my birthday and now I’m completely addicted, which is upsetting because it’s $18/bottle. I love it on pasta with steamed greens, chevre and sun dried tomatoes.

      Maybe I can trade out EB White’s book for Doris Lessing. xoxo

  12. January 30, 2012 10:26 pm

    Imagining a day in your household is amusing, to say the least. Love that text message, and I think highway steaks is perfectly apt, name-wise.

    I’m eagerly awaiting that fermented ginger ale recipe! And box elder syrup? Yum! I harvested some chard myself yesterday, and am about to cook it up, so I’ll think of you.

  13. Bree permalink
    January 31, 2012 8:16 am

    What you write always makes me smile too :-) Highway steaks…. ha!

  14. January 31, 2012 1:01 pm

    Would you believe I have a pile of socks to sew sitting right next to my computer? I do, I really do. And your chard? Looks magical.

  15. January 31, 2012 3:04 pm

    not gross!!!!!! jealousy-inducing maybe!!!!!!!!

  16. February 3, 2012 1:52 am

    1) You and Dan text. We’re still not there yet, so I impressed. (Or, surprised?)
    2) Box elder syrup!!!!! I had no idea.
    3) You have a way with words; find another one for “roadkill” I know you can do it. And then, you can buy the domain and cash in.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      February 5, 2012 12:13 pm

      Dan is a reluctant texter and just learned how to insert spaces between words, which helps.

  17. Christal permalink
    September 2, 2014 12:06 am

    Highway Harvest is the substitute name for roadkill.


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