I work with amazing colleagues. Not only are they intelligent, interesting, vibrant, beautiful people in their own rights, but they are also whole-heartedly committed to their work. They believe in a world where land is treated as a precious resource, small farmers earn a decent living, and wholesome food is available for all...and they live out that belief every single day. They shop at the farmers market, purchase CSA's, grow their own gardens, manage their own farms. And they celebrate food as it should be celebrated, with friends and family.
For the second year in a row, my colleague Lindsay and her sister Marnie will be hosting a celebration out on their farm entitled Basil Riot. The theme, of course, is basil, and all those invited are encouraged to bring a basil-inspired dish. A pesto bar, music, and games are also on the list of shenanigans to be had. I am thrilled to be attending this year and was even more thrilled to find out that in the spirit of fun and friendly competition, they've upped the ante by promising a prize to the most-loved dish. After much thought, I've got a little something up my sleeve that I think will give me a sure-fire shot at the gold. And at the risk of ruining my element of surprise, I'm going to share my recipe with you now.
No, it's not a "dish" per se, but it fits within the basil theme, and with all of those other basil dishes floating around, I'm going to need something that stands out from the crowd, something with a little wow-factor, and something that tastes absolutely tongue tingling. Peach-Basil Sangria has that all .
4 cups peach nectar (You can purchase this or make it yourself)
½ cup white sugar
1-1/12 cup basil leaves, separated
¼ cup lime juice
1 750ml bottle of sparkling white wine
2 peach, sliced
1 limes, sliced
¾ cup vodka (optional)
If making your own peach nectar, you will need 10-15 peaches, the riper the better. Cut off the flesh and throw them into a food processor or blender. Strain the mixture through a cheese cloth to discard the peach skins and pulp. You will be left with peach nectar.
In a medium size sauce pan, combine the peach nectar, sugar and lime juice. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the sugar is dissolved, just 1 or 2 minutes.
Remove from heat, and add in 1 cup basil leaves. Crush and muddle the basil leaves in the mixture to release the flavor. Pour the peach basil mixture into a heat proof container, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 4 days. The longer it sits, the more basil flavor there will be.
When ready to serve, strain the peach basil in large pitcher, discarding the used basil leaves. Combine the strained peach basil mixture with the sparkling wine and vodka (if using vodka), then add in 1 sliced lime, 2 sliced peach and ½ cup basil leaves. Stir to combine. Serve in a tall glass with ice and garnish with a wedge.
While the basil competition is one aspect of the evening, it is really only a small part of the larger idea that we should celebrate good food grown with love with the people we love. To remind us all of this belief, Marnie wrote a beautiful manifesto to capture all that the Basil Riot encapsulates.
The Basil Riot Manifesto
By Marnie Record
The Basil Riot celebrates the joy of food and the pleasure of sharing a meal with friends, old and new. Joys like the feeling of eating something that you grew from a seed, nurtured with water and love until a miracle occurs and a vegetable ripens, ready to eat. Joys like finding an unusual variety of pink tomato at the farmer’s market that you won’t ever find at a grocery store because it won’t withstand the treacherous 1500 mile journey from the other side of the world. Joys like listening to your kid talk about candy carrots that taste so delicious because they were harvested the day they were eaten and they were grown for flavor, not uniformity. Joys like knowing the story of the food being eaten such as Corsican basil from Napoleon's island birthplace off the French and Italian coasts. We believe that when people are present to sharing a meal together, we also share laughter and stories, we find common ground, and we find kindred souls.
The Basil Riot honors the people who work hard for a thriving local food system while recognizing the fabulous food comes from the gifts of soil, sun, rain, air, and precious resources humans did not create. We honor the farmer harvesting fresh produce under headlamps at midnight and getting up before the rooster crows to bring the harvest to the market. We honor the cooks who slave over a hot stove on their feet for fourteen hours a day for minimum wage. We honor the truckers spending long hours on the road, packers making sure our food is safe, kids creating bight futures, elders passing wisdom and land, non-profits connecting farmers to consumers, and all those who craft a community based food system. Each part of the food system relies on the other, like gears on a bike or a 100 piece orchestra, so we see value in all the roles equally.
The Basil Riot respects the land that provides nourishment to our food and in turn, our bodies. We believe a direct link exists between thriving soils teeming with life and the vitality inside us that comes through the blood red beet, the blindingly bright green lettuce, and all the food we eat thanks to billions of microscopic organisms working below our feet, our houses’ foundation, and our parking lots. The soils feed the plants and the plants feed the people so we value farmers who care for the land to grow healthy food by creating a balanced ecosystem by adding nutrients to the soil rather than killing the soil with pesticides, fertilizers, fungicides, and herbicides.
The Basil Riot observes people living complex lives with immense responsibilities, seemingly moving at the speed of light, bombarded with stimulation. We believe that experiencing a meal mindfully on open lands with direct contact to the earth can help bring us back into balance to create space for peace and gratitude, and maybe even a remembering of what matters most to us. Maybe even awakening something inside us.
The Basil Riot is not about heroes and villains. It’s not the only way or the best way to do a food event. It’s one way that we hope feeds a lot of people’s souls as much as their bodies.
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh
While this Manifesto was written for Basil Riot, it could really be a manifesto for our own lives. Take out the Basil Riot and replace it with "I" and re-read the manifesto. Then ask yourself are you living out this manifesto? How so? And if not, what needs to change? Maybe its as simple as setting time aside for a family meal. Or dedicating a little money to spend at the farmers market. Maybe it's going to a nearby orchard to pick fresh apples or buying a pot and some soil to plant a seed. Maybe that seed will be basil.
The world needs more Basil Riots. I hope you become a rioter with us.