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Cookbook focuses on foods from the Valley

By Lori Szepelak


Andrea Davis had an ambitious goal -- publish a cookbook that would help to continue the efforts being made to create a sustainable, local food system in the Pioneer Valley.

Her goal was realized with the publication of "Local Delectables" which is available at Collective Copies, 93 Main St., Florence. The retail price is $19.95, and a portion of the proceeds from each book benefits CISA (Community Involved In Sustaining Agriculture).

"The concept for the cookbook started with my senior dissertation at Hampshire College," said Davis during an interview with Reminder Publications. "I wanted to develop recipes that supported the concept of eating a local and nutritionally balanced diet year round in the Pioneer Valley."

In an effort to distribute the information to the public, Davis decided a cookbook would be the best form.

From her home now in Sonoma, Calif., Davis explained that she realized eating a local and nutritiously balanced diet was possible and could occur in most regions of the country.

"I believe it is important for people to try to eat locally," she said, adding, "it helps the local farmers and the local economy and is a healthier way of life."

Davis emphasized several times during the interview that agriculture is important for humankind.

"It is how we are able to feed ourselves and still have time for other activities in life," she said. "With that said, agriculture is disappearing across the country and our food is being outsourced. With food traveling at least an average of 1,500 miles, there are many natural resources being wasted and plenty of chances for our food supply to be tainted or cut."

Annie Cheatham, executive director of CISA which is based in South Deerfield, echoed those sentiments.

"Local food is fresher, greener and more nutritious than food shipped halfway across the country," said Cheatham during an interview. "As we become more aware of health benefits of good food, it is critical for us to sustain the farms that surround us. If we lose the land and the farmers, we won't have any choice but to buy food from far away."

Cheatham noted that area residents still have a chance in Western Massachusetts to protect and sustain the farming communities who work hard to meet the growing demands for local food.

"Andrea has made it easy for us to eat seasonally by giving recipes that follow the harvest," added Cheatham. "The cookbook makes a great addition to any cookbook collection in the Connecticut River Valley, and makes a great gift for anyone who wants to eat seasonally more often."

"CISA was a helpful resource for me when I was in college studying sustainable agriculture," said Davis. "They are an excellent organization providing much-needed support for farmers. Part of my belief in eating a diet of as many local products as possible is that it keeps money in the local community."

Davis noted that because the Pioneer Valley was her "adopted community" for four years while at college, she wanted a part of the proceeds from her cookbook to stay in the community.

"The Pioneer Valley will always have a place in my heart," she said, adding, "it's such a wonderful place."

Davis currently works for The General's Daughter Restaurant as their edible gardener and general landscaper.

"I have a couple of vegetable and herb beds around the restaurant but most of my production is located in 21 raised beds at Benziger Winery, a certified biodynamic winery," she said. Davis also works part-time at Canvas Ranch in Petaluma assisting the farmer with vegetable growing.

Davis said that the experience of writing "Local Delectables" truly demonstrated to her how important it is to get information out to the public.

"So many people do research and work on studies but the findings, if released, are only put into professional journals where most people probably never see it. I believe that the general public desires to have relevant information that enables them to make informed choices about all aspects of life. The most difficult and extremely important part is making information accessible to all people."

Whether Davis is sharing her expertise with others or sharing recipes she truly relishes the opportunity to share what she has learned with others. Davis agreed to share some of her recipes to give Reminder readers a flavorful sampling of what they can expect from the cookbook.

When asked if she had any particular favorites, she singled out her Lavender Pound Cake.

"I really like the Lavender Pound Cake," she said. "It was hard to find a subtle flavor to replace vanilla, but I think it tastes heavenly."

Davis also noted that the hamantaschen recipe is special because her grandmother would make apricot hamantaschen every Easter.

"Since my grandmother's passing I have continued to make them and it wouldn't be Easter without hamantaschen," she added. "I changed the filling to peaches since apricots are not available in the Pioneer Valley. I know hamantaschen at Easter sounds weird considering it is a traditional Jewish pastry for Purim, but long ago my Catholic grandmother found a hamantaschen recipe and decided to make it for her Jewish husband on Easter as a way of celebrating both religions on one day."

Davis added that after her historical research on diet and nutrition in the Pioneer Valley, she then developed the recipes for the seasons herself. There are 112 recipes featured in "Local Delectables," and all are divided by seasons.

Here is a sampling of recipes from "Local Delectables," complements of Davis:

Pumpkin Waffles

11/2 cups white flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup toasted wheat germ

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons low-fat yogurt

2 cups 2% milk

15 ounce pumpkin, cooked, pureed

1/3 cup safflower oil

Combine flours, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, milk, pumpkin and oil. Pour yogurt mixture into flour mixture, blending until smooth. Heat nonstick waffle iron. Pour ? ladle full of batter per waffle. Cook until golden brown. Repeat until batter is completely used. Serve with maple syrup, powdered sugar, and/or butter. Makes 16 waffles.

Davis notes that to make vegan waffles, replace yogurt with soy yogurt and replace milk with soy milk.