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Tag: farming

Cashews

Biking on a day in the mid-90’s, the water stop couldn’t come soon enough. After pulling off the road, I drank half a bottle and poured the rest down my back to cool off. John, one of our guides in Vietnam, planned water stops at places of local interest. We’d watch men mend fishing nets one day and we’d talk to a local farmer the next. Once we walked through a shady grove of latex trees. Breaks meant drinking water, finding a WC, and taking a few photographs. At this stop, young women were hulling and skinning cashews.

If I’d thought at all about how cashews were produced, I would have guessed groves grew somewhere in California and Kraft Foods operated processing plants that hulled, roasted, and packaged them. But that’s not so. We import them. Our imports primarily come from Vietnam. They’re processed, at least in part, through forced labor or under harsh conditions.

One fan under the corrugated tin roof hardly moved the air. The hullers wore masks and long sleeves because oil from the husk is caustic and burns the skin. These women might make $5 a day, according to John. He didn’t say how long the days were.

I walked back out into the mid-day sun and biked away. Pouring more water down my back didn’t make me feel cleaner.

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Milking Eleanor

Weather-worn doors slid open on Pop Printy’s Indiana barn. Light shone through cracks between boards and dust would suspend in each slant of light. Spider webs shrouded the windows.

The cow’s name was Eleanor. Barn cats clustered when Eleanor was milked, hoping for a shot at warm milk. Pop would pour a little milk into an aluminum pie plate for the cats, or sometimes squirt a bit right from the cow into a cat’s mouth. Milk was stored in pails in a milk house, down a hole in the ground to keep it cool. I wasn’t allowed to play in the milk house, for fear I’d fall down the hole.

In the house, Mom poured fresh milk into bottles and let cream rise to the top. She skimmed off the cream and made butter and sour cream. She made buttermilk, too, for biscuits. Not much was on that farm that wasn’t homemade.

I still make buttermilk and sour cream like Mom Printy:

  • My sour cream jar holds around a cup, I’d say. I pour about a quarter cup of buttermilk in the jar and then fill the jar with cream. I stir it a bit and then cover the jar with a clean cloth and set the jar in a warm place for a day or so.
  • My buttermilk jar holds two cups. I pour maybe a half cup of buttermilk into the jar and fill it the rest of the way with milk. Buttermilk needs to sit in a warm place for a day or two just like the sour cream. You can start with buttermilk from the store, but be sure to buy the kind that has actual cultures in it.