You like it, you really like it!

by: Barb Randall, 
Here are some of the key ingredients for Amber Ale and Cheddar Rosemary Soup.

For the past several years I have been gently prodding anyone within fork reach to eat foods produced locally, to frequent farmers markets and to plant a garden. I've fed my family foods in their season and taught Sustainable Cooking classes, using only ingredients found within a 100-mile radius of Lake Oswego. I've reintroduced friends, family and readers to the all but forgotten earthly tastes of winter vegetables like kale, squashes and root vegetables - foods shoved off the dinner plate in favor of 'sexier' out-of-season vegetables trucked a thousand miles from sunny locales.

And you know what? You like it, you really like it!

Oregonians are embracing the Eat Locally concept. Need proof?

We've asked for it, and even national chain grocery stores are devoting shelf space to organic and local products.

The 100-Mile Dinners Classes I teach at In Good Taste and through Lake Oswego Parks and Rec have grown in popularity. My recent Fall Harvest Class at In Good Taste was completely full. People are eager to learn how to Eat Locally.

A survey of my co-workers in the Review and Tidings office revealed that without exception they were more aware of the food they were purchasing than they were a year ago. All of those surveyed either buy from farmers' markets, look for local produce at their grocery store or have access to a garden. They choose to eat organic when possible.

Though price is a factor in determining what goes into the shopping cart, half of the group is willing to pay more for organic produce.

Luscher Farm's Winter Shares for 2007 are sold out, with a waiting list. Subscriptions for the Summer 2008 season are selling fast, too. Once they have experienced farm fresh produce, they don't want to miss out on their share.

Both West Linn's and Lake Oswego's Farmers' Markets were heralded as being 'the best season yet' by vendors and organizers alike. These markets provide more than a shopping opportunity, they have become a community gathering place, just as they were 100 years ago.

Artisan producers feel well supported by our communities and find a welcome reception for their cheeses, breads, wines, ciders, sauces and whatever else they create for us to try.

And we are eager to learn more about the benefits of Eating Locally.

This next week, you have the opportunity to hear from two women who are passionate about local foods. I hope you will take the opportunity to listen to their stories.

Oregon writer Ann Vileisis will discuss her new book 'Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes From and Why We Need to Get It Back' on Nov. 5 and again on Nov. 8.

'Kitchen Literacy chronicles a history of our changing awareness - not only of food but of nature itself. It takes us to bustling city markets, school gardens, ad-packed women's magazines and home economics classes,' she said. 'While the distance between farm and table grew, we went from knowing specific stories behind food's origins to relying instead on advertisers' claims and government assurances.'

The Nov. 5 presentation, hosted by Ecotrust, will be held at its Conference Center located at 721 N.W. Ninth St. in Portland.

The Nov. 8 presentation will be held at Looking Glass Books, 7813 S.E. 13th in Sellwood.

Both presentations are free and open to the public.

The Lake Oswego Women's Coalition meeting on Nov. 7 will feature Katherine Deumling, chair of Portland Convivium of Slow Food U.S.A.

Slow Food U.S.A is an organization dedicated to supporting and celebrating the food traditions of North America. Slow Food Portland is the oldest convivium in the nation and, at 500 members, is one of largest groups. Members include home and professional chefs, caterers, growers, vintners, restauranteurs, food educators and ordinary folks like my husband Mark and I, who have a curiosity about food heritage, artisanal products and sustainable agriculture.

If you wish to attend the luncheon you need to make a reservation with the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce at 503-636-3634. Cost is $15.

My friend Cliff Newell, a fellow staffer at the Review and Tidings, calls me a Food Prophet. As much as I love a good title I can't claim to be the catalyst behind this monumental shift in our culture. I'm simply a passionate voice in the winds of change on the food front.

The recipe I share this week is one I included in my October In Good Taste 100-Mile Dinner class. Combining some of my favorite local products: Amber ale, cheddar cheese and rosemary from the garden, my Amber Ale and Cheddar Rosemary Soup is a fine example of how delicious Eating Locally can be.

Keep up the good work!

Bon Appetit - Eat Locally!

Amber Ale and Cheddar Rosemary Soup

Serves 6

Make a double recipe because it's even better the next day!

½ cup butter or margarine

½ cup diced celery

½ cup diced carrot

1 cup diced yellow onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon dry mustard

5 cups chicken stock or broth

2 cups firmly packed grated Oregon cheddar cheese (like Tillamook extra sharp)

1 bottle (12 ounces) Oregon microbrew amber ale (like Bridgeport's Ropewalk Amber Ale)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (remember cheese has a lot of salt)

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add celery, carrots, onion and rosemary and sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add flour and mustard and cook, stirring constantly for one minute. Slowly stir in stock. Bring to a boil and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add cheese, stirring until melted. Add beer, salt and pepper and simmer, uncovered, over low heat to blend flavors, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with short sprigs of rosemary.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at [email protected] .