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Saranac Lake cooking columnist publishes "eating local" cookbook

As a beginner at cooking locally and seasonally, I needed some expert advice on how to work with what you have and make the most of summer. Luckily, I was able to talk with Yvonna Fast last Thursday at Nature's Storehouse, where she was holding a book signing about her self-published cookbook, "Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your North Country Garden, CSA, or Farmers' Market."

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Natalie Dignam
NCPR Intern

Fast describes herself as "just a local gal from Saranac Lake," and her new book compiles over a decade of recipes, research, and wisdom from her column, North Country Kitchen, featured in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Fast said that when she started her column, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise asked her to keep it seasonal and local. "I've been doing that for more 10 years," Fast said, "and people kept on asking me, 'when are you going to come out with a book?' So I was like, 'okay, it's time.' So I was trying to do it the traditional way and get an agent and get a publisher, but it just wasn't working. They kept telling me that I don't have enough of a platform… I'm not a world famous chef, I don't have a TV show… so I just went ahead and put it together myself."

But Fast's book isn't just a collection of recipes. It also includes descriptions of the seasons, as well as research inspired by her former position as librarian, including the history and health benefits of her recipes. The book is organized with a chapter for every month. In the introduction, a table shows what foods are in season each month. For new local foodies like me, this cookbook could not be any easier to navigate.

Fast also helped me out with a problem I've encountered recently; when cooking seasonally, you can't control all of your ingredients. You need some flexibility (and creativity) to make it work. For a lot of new chefs, straying from the recipe can be intimidating, but Fast's says that experimentation is what it's all about;

"Cooking is really an experimental science. I have a hard time doing the same recipe twice because even if I look at a recipe in [my book] that I put in here so I obviously made it before, but maybe I go to do it but I don't have a piece of turnip or a wedge of cabbage or whatever it calls for. So I'll figure out something else to substitute."

And even when you can save or freeze ingredients, fresh is always best. Not just for taste, but also for the anticipation that comes with growing and cooking with seasonal foods. "I think that's the thing about cooking by the seasons," Fast explained, "you look forward to [fresh produce]…there's just something about going blueberry picking and coming about with all those blueberries."

You can purchase "Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your North Country Garden, CSA, or Farmers' Market" online here or at Nature's Storehouse in Canton, NY.

Natalie Dignam's internship at NCPR is supported by the Stan Macdonald Journalism Fund

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