Terroir-- the Taste of Place


terroir- a taste of place.JPG
Photo credit: Kelley Reber
Idea credit: Maggi Adamek

The buds burst yesterday. The first hints of green trees dotted around. I had this wonderful moment sitting on a 5-gallon bucket on the porch putting beeswax foundations into the frames for my beehives. Mike and Lake walked down the lawn and Jens ran to catch up- his determined little arms pumping in the air. They walked across the makeshift bridge over the intermittent stream that is full of spring water-- laughing, playing, on their way to the chickens.

It's planting time and our garden is going in-- we're (which means Mike) planting a big variety including brussel sprouts, parsnips (to Mike's objection), 5 kinds of edible dry beans (black turtles to great northerns), herbs, 3 varieties of potatoes, watermelon... Leona is gathering herbs for a tea garden. The bees will be arriving here in hours. I'm gaining an intimate sense of place-- the moisture in the soil, the way it works, the temperature of the soil (someone actually ASKED me the soil temp yesterday and I could say "it's only about 42 degrees"). This is the part of being a soil scientist that I hadn't experienced in class or text books. Good classes too. When I took Soil Morphology from Terry Cooper a whole new world opened up to me-- the beauty and awe of a soil profile.

One of the senses of place is taste. The French call it Terroir-- a taste of a place. This is the subtle taste that comes from a place-- why different regions in France have wines that taste differently because of the soil, the slant of the sunlight, the microclimate. Perhaps why a Colorado peach is so peculiarly good. I've been told that there is no place on earth where the vegetables taste as good as those grown in the Red River Valley-- and that maybe they are especially nutritious.

We are learning the taste of this place. Our chickens, eggs, the water. When we moved here I kept using the Britta water filter pitcher that my mother in law left us. Now we drink straight from the tap (and yes the waters been tested and is good). The water has a distinct flavor-- even strong sometimes of iron. But not consistently. I think I detect the taste of that water in the chicken meat-- really.

Over the years we Americans have lost that sense of terroir --a taste of place-- as the food industry succeeded in delivering the same consistent taste bite after bite, visit after visit. I think that people have actually become afraid of tasting something different—reticent to have variation and distinction. So now our family will find out the taste of Big Stone County—of a clay loam soil in the prairie pothole region. The taste of the water, the fruits of the soil, the pollen and nectar of the crops and prairie, the sunlight, and the moonlight.

Wow! That new espresso from the Valasquez family has really fueled my writing. New people bring new ideas into ones life. I'm pleased to work with Maggi Adamek who gave me the name to the taste of place- terroir.

I had sung about it before-- Greg Brown's song "Canned Goods." "She's got magic in her... she put the sun and the rain in with the beans..."

Well let the wild winter wind bellow and blow
I'm as warm as a July tomato

There's peaches on the shelf, potatoes in the bin
Supper ready, everybody come on in
Taste a little of the summer
Taste a little of the summer
Taste a little of the summer
Grandma put it all in jars

Well there's a root cellar, fruit cellar down below
Watch your head now, and down we go

Well maybe you are weary and you don't give a damn
I bet you never tasted her blackberry jam

Oh she got magic in her, you know what I mean
She puts the sun and rain in with her beans

What with the snow and the economy and everything
I think I'll just stay down here and eat until spring

When I go down to see Grandma, I gain a lot a weight
With her dear hands she gives me plate after plate
She cans the pickles, sweet and dill
And the songs of the whip-or-will and the morning dew and the evening moon
I really gotta go down and see her soon
Cause the canned goods that I buy at the store
Ain't got the summer in em anymore
You bet Grandma as sure as you're born I'll take some more potatoes and
a thunder storm


Mmmmm..I should have brought more eggs home with me, I distributed them all the next day. Also, that day (Sunday), I made myself two "over-easy" eggs for breakfast, they were the best eggs I've eaten in years, we forget how good things used to taste on the farm, or we attribute the memories to childhood. Eggs, fried chicken, Mom's canned peaches....yum..let's can peaches this year, OK? I turned over some sod to plant a garden sometime this year...at the rate I'm going, it will be 2009 before I get anything planted. Good luck with the bees, sorry I didn't get to help finish getting ready for them.

Well, you added something between the time I read the latest blog, and the time I added my comment. Isn't that crazy...I was thinking of Greg Brown when I mentioned the canned peaches..(the earlier, kinder,Greg Brown}

I love the irony of posting a picture taken at McDonalds along with a well-written essay on the different tastes of a place. McDonalds definitely has it's particular taste too, I guess. :)

That song by Greg Brown has always tugged at my heartstrings! Glad you quoted it!
Oh yes, I long for the taste of real, fresh chicken again...and eggs, too (hey, Sister, where are MY eggs??) And yes...must can our own peaches...maybe give them to some poor, deprived people who have never tasted home-canned food of the gods!
I plan to write an "Impressions of the British Isles" as soon as I can find time. Will title it "Beans for Breakfast". Those were available at all the breakfast buffets we took part in during our tour...looked a lot like they might have come out of a Van Kamps can. I winced and avoided them for the first days, then tried them, and found they taste great for breakfast!
And, of course, they must be a lot better for one's nutrition than fatty breakfast meats or sugar-coated cereal. Think the kids would go for it?? Love, from Carolyn

who took that wonderful picture of those beautiful kids.HA!HA!
After we talked about how cold the ground was and that we may not be able to plant from seed, I thought wow here you and i are both on farms and both raising chickens (well I will be soon) How proud our grandma would be of us. Thanks for all you do for me Love ya lots
Kelley The Picture taker

Hello Kathy - I read your wonderful writing on occasion while I am at work - when I need an escape from the routine of what I am doing. Your writing brings me pause and refreshment, and sighs, about the wonder and beauty you are creating for yourself and your family. Thank you, thank you. I miss you,

nice post, thank you

nice article, thank you

In the beginning just remember it was darked and then someone smiled! try this:

Quando omni flunkus moritati – when all else fails, play dead. :)

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This page contains a single entry by Kathryn Draeger published on May 8, 2008 4:43 AM.

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