It has been one week since we landed at Charles de Gaulle and returned to the French life, after ten days in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I find my mind is still back there in that beautiful spot, reviewing mental images of our time and our class.  

Cooking in the kitchen at High Prairie Lodge photo by Cathy Arkle

I love teaching in different spots in the world, despite – or because of – the challenges each presents.  Fitting into a gorgeous kitchen like Teri Ciani’s at High Prairie Lodge was a breeze; her frequent laughter and constant “Don’t worry about it.” made life easy! Her mother, Judy Schraver, kept me in stitches with her terse and funny comments, and her abundant breakfasts were a joy.  I will always and forever make my blueberry pancakes as Teri does, by plunking the juicy berries on top of each pancake, instead of mixing them into the batter!

Teri and those gorgeous pancakes, early in the morning!

Procuring predictably seasonal, local ingredients, though, was a challenge.  It’s always the hardest part of the job.  It can be tough in France, too, when the weather doesn’t cooperate.  In an unfamiliar place, it can feel as complex as planning an invasion.  This summer in South Dakota a drought has plagued the area.  Corn is hardly knee-high, and the tassels were barely formed, let alone the ears.  Despite my research and phone calls before I got there, not every ingredient in the menu was available.  I nearly cried when the promised peas were too small to harvest, the tomatoes I’d planned on absent, the fresh onions not quite ready.  

I’ve done this enough to know, though, that no matter the “deception” of not being able to find what I expect or need, there is always a solution. We found it in the Black Hills at a tiny little farmers’ market in Deadwood.  There, gorgeous bundles of Swiss chard took the place of peas; purslane substituted for green beans, which were beautiful and local, but few and far between.  Surprisingly, fruit was no problem, nor were herbs because, thanks to Teri’s forethought, her beautiful garden was full of them.  

Carol and me in Teri’s garden, in a stiff wind. photo by Cathy Arkle

 

MJ Adams, chef and owner of the Corn Exchange in Rapid City, was vital to the success of the class, too, as she pointed me in all the right directions for so many different and local ingredients.  Through her, I learned that local on the Great Plains includes a vast area; through her we had beautiful lamb, pork, and chicken.  

By the time everyone pitched in, we had some of the most beautiful ingredients on earth!  Carefully handled and prepared, our meals were sumptuous.  

Everyone in the High Prairie kitchen. photo by Cathy Arkle

Cooking, and teaching cooking are both unpredictable occupations, even in the best of times. One must think on one’s feet, adapt to what is best and most flavorful, change the menu at the last minute to accommodate.    In South Dakota we did better than that, and our meals were delicious, each and every one of them!  Thank you, class!

 

 

 

Share →

4 Responses to A Few Thoughts on South Dakota, and Local and Seasonal

  1. cathy bennett says:

    Dear, sweet Susan,
    What a wonderful experience we had with you in SD. I know we all felt so lucky and privileged to share time with you. Your great experiences and recipes will be come part of our lives, I’m sure!! How lucky we were……….Thank you for coming to SD…….Cathy Bennett

  2. What a FUN class this was. I loved learning about how to improvise with what food is available. Susan, your creativity in the kitchen is inspiring. I am enjoying recreating our meals we learned how to make at home. Thanks for such great recipes.

  3. I leave early in the morning to go to a girls camp for a week in a place with a different climate. I am heading the kitchen, and I know exactly what you mean about the produce procurement being the biggest question mark and challenge. It almost, only almost, makes me want to serve canned veggies! I can’t, though — I just don’t cook that way. I’m excited to take on the challenge, and I keep reminding myself to stay flexible and creative.

    • nutsin says:

      Lori,
      You will do fine – you just have to be creative and persistent. It might take you awhile, but you’ll find the right sources!

      Good luck.

      Susan

Leave a Reply