This morning, I helped my fourth grader memorize the preamble to The Constitution, and I guess it proves what a nerd I am that reading that document and really listening to it makes me a little teary. The phrase that resonates most strongly for me is, “the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” These words are a reminder that at the very core of our democracy is a responsibility to think about the well-being of future generations. We are not just in it for us. Our founding fathers were philosophers and statesmen, but they were also farmers.
“In his own eyes, Thomas Jefferson considered himself first and always a man of the land. He felt that “those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God….” What made Jefferson unique in his time was his understanding of the interrelationship between humanity and the environment and how they shaped each other. This wisdom and his subsequent practices, such as crop rotation, use of fertilizer, and contour plowing, characterize him as one of America’s early agronomists.
Jefferson was one of the first Americans to realize that the bounty of this continent was finite. If the nation and its citizens were to continue to enjoy the fruits of the New World, then its resources must be husbanded with proper stewardship.
At the center of Jefferson’s vision of the United States stood the educated, yeoman farmer. An enlightened citizen, trained in many fields, was the only force that Jefferson felt could maintain our democracy and the land upon which it was based. This natural educated man was the basis of stability in government, the basis of true morality, and the basis of the country’s freedom. Proper stewardship of the land was vital if the infant United States were to survive.” *
Those of us who enjoy the bounty of this great land are no less stewards, so think about that when you sit down to dinner tonight, know that the farmers you support work tirelessly every day to preserve the happiness of future generations, and be proud to be a citizen of this great nation.
*excerpt from Thomas Jefferson: Agronomist
Paneer & Tomato Curry
8 oz. paneer (a compressed Indian cheese, available in the dairy department of most well-stocked grocery stores–firm tofu can be substituted), cut into 1″ dice
1 T grapeseed or neutral vegetable oil
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut into paper thin slices
1 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into paper thin slices
pinch red pepper flakes
2-3 t tumeric
1 t coriander seeds
2 cardamom pods, outer husk removed, small seeds only
8 medium tomatoes, three chopped into 1″ pieces and five halved crosswise (core if cores are large)
1 can coconut milk
small handful cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
toasted naan or warm basmati rice to serve
Heat oil in a cast-iron dutch oven. Brown paneer cubes, in batches if necessary, salting lightly as they cook. When they are brown, remove to a plate and set aside. Add a little more oil to the pot if necessary, and add the garlic, ginger and pinch of red pepper flakes. Fry briefly over medium heat. Meanwhile place coriander and cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle or spice grainder and grind to a coarse powder. Add to the pot along with the tumeric and continue stir-frying until spices are fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes, cover pot and cook until saucy. When tomato pieces are cooked down into a thick sauce, add browned paneer cubes back to pot, and cook 1-2 minutes. Add tomato halves, cut side down, cover and cook until tomatoes are beginning to soften, but still hold their shape. Uncover and add coconut milk (start with 1/2 can and add to taste). Stir gently to combine, then remove to a serving bowl or platter, top with chopped cilantro, and serve with naan or warm basmati.