There's a new food network in town, but it's not on television or the web.
This net is made out of things you can touch, taste, smell and read, in several Longview businesses that are selling or serving each other's wares.
Doug and Alice Dietz, owners of The Brit's cafe downtown, serve coffee roasted at ZoJo, a hop, skip and a jump away on 14th Avenue. They also sell preserves grown and canned by Dixie Edwards of Watershed Garden Works in West Longview, books written by local authors, paintings by John Henry and illustrated poems printed by Longview poet Joe Green and his artist wife Marquita Green.
"We want to fill the store with locally made things," said Alice Dietz.
The Brit's, which keeps a percentage of the profit from other's products, also takes part in the network by providing scones and other freshly baked pastries to ZoJo.
Over at that coffee business, owners Dan and Cindy Oullette sell their fresh roasted beans through Payton's Produce, Longview Produce, the Rose Valley Store and Country Village. Their coffee is brewed and served at JT's Steak and Fish House on 14th, which also carries wines from Capstone, a local winery.
The Oullettes fill their homey cafe with local, local, local.
Works by local artists hang on ZoJo's walls, and customers browse local newspapers and fliers and give or take from a shelf of free books.
Like The Brit's, ZoJo's also carries organic preserves made by Dixie Edward.
The idea of selling locally grown products is nothing new to Scott and Dixie Edwards. At their 7-acre nursery and farm, the Edwards raise chickens and cultivate shrubs, plants and trees native to the Northwest, including quince, gooseberries, blueberries and currants, and cherry, pear, apple, plum and fig trees.
"We grow odd stuff," Dixie said, "things you won't find at Wal-Mart."
Scott and Dixie sell seeds on the wholesale market and retail their plants, produce and eggs to the public.
After many years at the Cowlitz Community Farmers Market, they've taken a break to market Dixie's jams, salsa, dilly beans and dried pears and cherries.
"I enjoy cooking," she said. "I kind of have to have a reason to cook; otherwise, I'd get too fat."
They planned for 10 years before putting in a commercial kitchen and getting licensed by the Department of Agriculture last October, she said.
The big upstairs kitchen accommodates an office and looks out over the nursery property. It's lined with shelves and cupboards full of scales, strainers, pots and equipment of all kinds.
They searched for months before locating a "French jam pot," a heavy-bottomed, wide-mouthed pot perfect for slow-cooking fruit. (It's in the Lee Valley catalog, under the term "maslin pan").
Another proud find is from Bob's Merchandise - nesting stainless steel pots that steam fruit from the bottom up to distill intensely flavored juice. Scott likes a gargantuan electric canning pot that can be put outside "so you don't overheat the kitchen." The Edwards are not part of a back-to-the-land movement; they were born into it. ("they never left"? or "living off the land is a heritage they were born into"?)
Dixie remembers getting on a bus at 5 in the morning to go pick strawberries - at the age of 8. For nearly 40 years, she has been growing, drying and canning food.
Scott's parents once farmed the land he and Dixie now tend, and his 85-year-old mother, Ruth Edwards, continues to work three acres. "She's still canning and gardening as much as she can," he said. "Her fruit cellar is a grocery store."
Because they work long days all summer, running the nursery business with several employees, Dixie quickly purees and puts up fruit during harvest, and then makes jams and other products in the quieter winter months, she said. "I finish the process when I have more time."
She calls her organic preserves "Columbiana" and designed her own labels to include a photo of her mother, Julienne Jacoby, picking strawberries at the age of 16 in Winlock.
"She died of breast cancer when I was 17," Dixie said.
A consummate recycler, she includes information on the labels that tells customers they can return the jars and reap a deposit of 90 cents for each one.
ZoJo also recycles, giving their coffee grounds to the Northlake School Garden, Cindy Oullette said.
"We want to be as connected to the community as we can be," Cindy said. She and Dan will send people to other local businesses that carry things they don't have.
"It's a friendly atmosphere," she said. "We feel that it's the right thing to do."
When customers buy Columbiana jam, enjoy a Brit's scone with their cappuccino at ZoJo, or drink ZoJo coffee at the Brit's, they become part of the local food network.
When they meet with a book group at ZoJo, go to Word Fest gatherings at the Brit's or purchase a local painting or novel, the network becomes social and intellectual.
Ultimately, as people form bonds around their needs, they support a financial network, too. Said Alice Dietz of The Brit's, "It's good for business."
These recipes are from "Beans, Berries and Zinnias," a family cookbook bound and printed on the occasion of Ruth Edwards' 80th birthday.
4 pounds (or more) apples, washed, quartered and cored
Place in a pot with a small amount of water in bottom of pot. Heat to boiling; turn down and simmer until apples are soft. Don't drain.
Run apples through a food mill to remove peelings and make a smooth sauce. Mix every two quarts applesauce with 4 cups of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (optional).
Stir together and pour into a roaster pan. Cook slowly in the oven at 325 degrees, stirring often, until the sauce reaches a desired richness.
Ladle into hot jars leaving 1/4-inch head space.
Adjust caps and process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
- 2 pounds green beans, washed and ends trimmed
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 heads of dill
- 1/4 cup canning salt
- 2 1/2 cups vinegar
- 2 1/2 cups water
Pack beans upright in jars leaving 1/4-inch head space. About 20 beans will fit in a pint jar. Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 clove garlic and 1 head of dill.
Combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour over beans leaving 1/4-inch head space.
Adjust caps and process pints for 10 minutes in boiling water bath. For better flavor, leave for at least two weeks before serving.