Friday, August 21, 2009

Pam Walker signing

If the dew-kissed produce on the back cover of Pamela Walker's book, Growing Good Things to Eat in Texas, isn't enough to whet your appetite, her signing at Houston's Brazos Bookstore Sunday ought to do the trick.

The store's Go Local signing and food party at 4 p.m. will offer cooking demos, beer samples, and local farmers' market fare.

Click here to read the excerpt of Walker's book that appeared in the fall issue of Edible Austin.

And, in the spirit of local food, Pamela dished to us about some of her favorite good things to eat in Texas:

Q: What Texas-grown pantry items are you eating in abundance this season? How are you preparing them?

PAMELA WALKER: At this time of year, especially in a year of extraordinary heat and drought, I'm eating vegetables that can take the heat -- eggplant, okra, and black-eyed peas and other southern peas. I like eggplant lightly dusted in flour and gently fried in olive oil. I like okra dusted in cornmeal and fried in canola oil, and I also like it sauteed with onions, garlic and tomatoes. Peas I love simmered many hours in water (until the liquid is dark and roux-like) with a ham hock or two or three smoke-dried tomatoes.

Q: Sounds delicious! When did you become interested in Texas fare and the producers making it?

PW: Since before I can remember, literally. My maternal grandparents were farmers and gardeners, and I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with them from my infancy until I was in my mid-thirties, when they died.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from Growing Good Things to Eat in Texas?

PW: I hope those interested in farming for a living to see that small, independent farming is an economically viable option for a livelihood. Not only can it be done, but it is being done, and the book provides a variety of successful, well established models.

And because we all eat, and I hope my book will help more of us to understand -- as the distinguished writer and farmer Wendell Berry puts it -- that eating is an agricultural act. With every bite we take, we involve ourselves in specific types of farming. The more of us who purchase food from farmers who nurture the soil and preserve natural resources rather than defile and deplete them, the greater our pleasure and nourishment will be and the healthier our natural environment. And not only that, but the likelier we are to preserve and expand good farming and good eating.

Purchasing from local farmers isn't enough, however. As my book's profiles show, policy and regulatory issues generally favor corporate farming over independent farming, to the point of thwarting, sometimes destroying, independent farming. We must change this. We need to make farming and food issues political issues and vote for or against people accordingly. And we need to actively support nonprofit organizations working to expand good farming and public access to good food.

Q: Writing about all this food must have made you hungry on occasion. Tell us about some of the yummy food you sampled on one of your trips.

PW: The simplest meal stands out, a cold, colorful lunch on a very hot July day on a North Texas vegetable farm. The farmers sliced three kinds of heirloom tomatoes -- red, gold, and green -- and served them on olive bread spread with fresh pesto. It was perfect, beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.

More Upcoming Events:

Book signing
Friday, September 11, 2009
7 p.m.
Hosted by BookPeople and Edible Austin
BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin

Book signing
Saturday, October 17, 2009
8 a.m.-noon
Austin Farmers' Market

Author appearance and book signing
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Texas Book Festival