Monday, June 20, 2011

Five Questions for a Farmer: 6/12/2011 - Interview with Palouse Pastured Poultry's Allen Widman (aka the guys with the green eggs)

Welcome to my weekly interview sessions, Five Questions for a Farmer.  Each week, I will chat up a different farmer/food developer from one of Puget Sound's local farmers' markets, whether from near or far.  My family tries to leave as little a carbon footprint as possible, but some things are worth the mileage it takes to get to Seattle.  Palouse Pastured Poultry is one of those exceptions.

First off, I wanted to let Allen Widman, owner of Palouse Pastured Poultry, know that I admire their family's farming philosophy - true free-range, even fed with feed that they grow themselves.  You can't get anymore humane than that on a farm.

Palouse Pastured Poultry got me to try colored eggs for the first time.  Not Easter eggs (I'm a Jew, people), but real, colored chicken eggs.  I have no idea why, but I've had an irrational fear of brown eggs my whole life - all 37 years.  I have been on a mission this year to experience, taste, create, and love everything there is to love about natural, local foods.  Palouse Pastured Poultry was one of my first steps...

To give you an idea of the farm philosophy, I pulled this from the Palouse Pastured Poultry website:

"We can trace our family origins back to 7:45 a.m., Hulbert Hall, January 2000, Washington State University, Natural Resource law taught by Ray Huffaker.  That fateful morning, I saw the skies part, a ray of light shine down, a chorus of angels began to sing (or was it Barry White) at the first glimpse of the then Emmy Sunleaf.  After at least five rejections, Emmy finally agreed to a date chaperoned by her kick-boxing, combat-boot wearing friend.  Two years later we were married and can now boast 3 children, 1300+ or - chickens, 130 ducks, 200+ or- game birds, a donkey, mule, horse, 4 dogs, 4 cats, and a large food bill."

Where can you go with an opening line like that?  Allen tells me that I can go much, much farther.  During our interview on Sunday, he enticed me into buying a whole chicken for roasting.  Me.  Roast.  A.  Chicken.  A whole chicken.  Apparently, he's never seen me on Thanksgiving morning, shoving turkey guts in my husband's face, ordering him to do something with it, because I'm incredibly squeamish about violating body cavities without a formal invitation.  When I make chicken, it's boneless, skinless breasts - you know, nothing that looks like an actual animal.

I've never been the girl to get schmutz under her nails, but I remade my "food self" last year, trying everything (except mayo), even planting an extensive vegetable garden, so one little chicken can't be too hard, right?  I just have to not think about the poultry assembly line.  I can't imagine that it's too gory at Palouse, though.

The meat sold in farmers' markets in Seattle isn't from the slaughterhouses of SW Arizona (don't ask - it's Upton Sinclair-worthy).  These are caring, loving families, producing quality, healthy, and humane products for our tables.  At least for those of us carnivores who bother to take notice of animal welfare before it ends up on your plate, the Widmans are to be admired and respected for the love that they give their animals and the way they teach their children and customers.  Sure, it's a bit more expensive, but, for me, knowing that the animals have been treated humanely and aren't full of chemicals and hormones that end up in my family's bodies makes it worth the extra few dollars.  And I have to say, after tasting the Palouse chicken that my husband and I cooked, it was completely worth it.  Juicy, tastful - it just pulled apart, and I will admit that I was stripping pieces of chicken off of the leftover bird all night.

Anyway, back to my interview with Allen, I had only a few questions.

I love their eggs.  Tasty, as colorful on the outside as on the inside (you can tell the difference between their green eggs, their tan eggs, and their dark brown eggs by the yolks!).  So, just what is it that gives those beautiful, mint green eggs that vibrant yolk?  I've never seen those anywhere else.  His secret?  Trial-and-error cross-breeding different chickens and roosters.  He also attributed their thicker-than-average shells to this.  Let's just say that these eggs travel very, very well.  Now, I'm a pro at the one-handed, absolutely not paying attention while reading a trashy romance novel in the other hand egg-cracking, but these guys whip my ass into dropping the book and watching what I'm doing.  Okay, I don't read trashy romance novels, but I have doused a copy of Speaker for the Dead into French toast batter more than once...

Palouse Pastured Poultry's Farm is located in Eastern Washington, a rarity at Seattle's farmers' markets, and when asked why they only have a booth at one market (Broadway/Capitol Hill market), I was told that the markets were "locked down," - full - and that they are looking for a spot in another weekend market, to make their long trip more economic.  What a shame, considering what they (literally) bring to the table. 

I asked where his farming philosophy came from, and was told that he'd grown up on a game farm.  This sounded like something very important to pass on to his children, and theirs.

I told him that Palouse sounded like nirvana for chooks, and he laughed, hopefully in agreement.

I asked how they felt about farm visitors - if someone was out their way and wanted to have a peek around their farm, he told me that they were more than happy to let folks tour their site, but because of the amount of work, especially this time of year, they tended to give a few highlights, and let people loose on their own, because the all of the hard work that has to be completed by the staff.  I, for one, am very interested in getting a tour of Palouse Pastured Poultry Farm.  As Allen told my husband and me, we could stick around longer, but we'd be issued a bucket to help.

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Scram, bitch, I'm on a break.

Recent Meals

  • Grilled (in the rain) marinated top sirloin w/my Steak Frite and London Pub Sauce
  • Fried chayote
  • Roasted aubergine, zucchini, and yellow squash
  • Soft garlic sandwich rolls, and we made meatball sandwiches
  • Sirloin rubbed with cardamom-laced Turkish coffee
  • Chocolate truffles w/rum and bourbon
  • Petit fours
  • Florentine cookies drizzled with chocolate
  • 13-Bean soup w/parmesan rind and leftover ham
  • Apple spice cardamom muffins
  • Guinnes-injected pot roast
  • Cran-blueberry corn muffins
  • Spaghetti and meatballs - basic, but always a hit in this house
  • Hummus w/roasted garlic, olive, red pepper, and smoked paprika
  • Veggie stirfry w/julienned baby carrots, green peppers, garlic, chickpeas, and balsamic, served over Chinese Black Forbidden Rice
  • Ginger-carrot cake
  • Ginger cranberry mojito
  • Lime-cranberry-mint-strawberry seltzer
  • Lavender-mint iced tea
  • Trip to Beirut: Shish taouk, shish kebab, halvah, garlic naan, rice pilaf w/figs, raisins, and pecans, w/my famous lemon-mint-garlic Lebanese potatoes
  • London Broil w/a wilted spinach and mustard green salad with a bacon, balsamic, and mustard dressing
  • Sweet and red potato pancakes w/zucchini and peppers w/chicken apple sausage
  • Italian wedding soup w/homemade croutons and meatballs
  • "Rock the Casbah" Cardamom, Ginger, Apple Pork Roast w/Armadillo Rice (for you fans of The Clash who remember the cover of Combat Rock)
  • Individual Quiche Lorraine
  • Prosciutto-wrapped beef cubes w/mustard pan sauce
  • Chicken Sausage w/garlic naan and dijon mustard - Lou and I were really drunk.
  • Salt potatoes, mixed fingerlings, lightly mashed, with lot of butter
  • Focaccia w/garlic, onions, mozarella and cherry tomatoes
  • Rosemary and lavender bread
  • Spicy greens and spinach salad w/fresh mozzarella pearls, strawberries, and a strawberry vinegarette
  • Polenta casserole w/cheese and squash baked IN acorn squash halves