Nebraskaland Jan/Feb 2019

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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Page 45 of 63

46 Nebraskaland • January-February 2019 W inter is a time for reflection, and if you've been following along with the Nebraska Table you have a lot to reflect on. You've foraged morel mushrooms and stinging nettles. You've watched the sunset from a deer stand. You've felt the rush of a covey of quail as they burst from a fencerow. The best meals capture these moments. They contain the essence of a place, and each bite is made sweeter from the memory of how it ended up on your plate. It connects you to the land and gives you a better understanding of Nebraska. Clayton Chapman of Omaha's The Grey Plume restaurant has spent a lifetime working with and exploring the flavors of our region. No other chef offers such a striking and emotional representation of Nebraska. The menu at the Grey Plume is always in flux and demonstrates Chapman's nuanced understanding of seasonality. If you've cooked any of Chapman's recipes from the previous three installments, you know exactly what I'm talking about. I was happy to interview him and learn about his approach to working with local ingredients and producers. How did you first become interested in working with local food and ingredients? I was looking for a way to reconnect, explore and evolve the way I was cooking. There was a growing realization from those first interactions with local farmers and growers that the ideals of "local food" encompassed so many of my own personal beliefs and attitudes. I enjoyed the fact that there was a mutual curiosity between the farmer and the chef. I was drawn to the challenge of sourcing and cooking with the seasons and creating a menu that highlighted such thoughtful collaborations. Opening The Grey Plume rooted in the philosophies of sustainability and stewardship felt like the most natural next step for me. These have become the cornerstone of how and why I cook. What are the benefits of working with local foods? Working with local food presents the opportunity to align ourselves with the state in a different way. It can provide a shift in perspective. A different perspective not only through a deeper understanding of where and how our food is being produced or how we can support our local economy, but it also can cause a shift that translates through the ways we want to engage and participate with each other. We live in a world of such disconnect, and it sometimes feels like we are moving further and further from the source and authenticity of many things. Working with local food evokes meaning and it's a powerful way we can connect to our land, culture and community. Whatever you buy "local," it always has a story behind it and these food stories can help us to connect, relate and learn from each other. Isn't that at the heart of sharing a meal? What are local ingredients that home cooks overlook? Two ingredients come to mind: 1) Stinging nettles can almost be found everywhere in Nebraska and they are really versatile. You can braise them like collard greens, wilt them like a spinach, wash repeatedly in cold water for use in a salad, make tea, and soups. 2) Paw-paw is the midwestern version of a tropical fruit. Native to Nebraska, the paw-paw tree grows in southeastern Nebraska and its fruit has a very short harvesting time, ripening in September or early October. It has a creamy flesh with big seeds and it tastes of pineapple and bubblegum. It's delicious as an ice cream or custard. PHOTO BY RYAN SPARKS By Ryan Sparks Part 4 Winter The Nebraska Table

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