The Barter System

Tonight’s dinner was the result of ways old and new: the barter system and social networking. Last fall a friend of mine on Twitter, Corky Luster, back-channeled me with a request: might I have some wild mushrooms to trade? As a matter of fact, I did. I set aside vacuum-sealed freezer bags of porcini and chanterelles. In return, he would give me a package of wild duck breast fillets.

Corky, besides being a duck hunter, is also a bee keeper and the proprietor of Ballard Bee Company. In the small-world-that-is-Seattle, his bee’s wax was an ingredient in a medicinal balm made from cottonwood bud that my friend Melissa Poe gave to me in exchange for a jar of my Oregon grape preserves. For his part, Corky got some of the cottonwood bud in addition to the mushrooms.

And so it goes. We’re physically connected by our diverse appreciation and use of nature’s  bounty, and those connections spread out through society and loop back to us with the help of technological connections and associations. Is that too much for some believers in the American mythology of go-it-alone rugged individualism?

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Dylan was thinking about close-mindedness and the social change of the sixties when he wrote those lines to “Ballad of a Thin Man,” but we might as well flash-forward to today and consider all the Joneses who scoff at any idea that doesn’t fit into their narrow box. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, unknown and unheralded, there are committed folks trying to make their own small repairs to broken institutions such as our food system (corn subsidies, anyone?).

As the world continues to spin off into increased turmoil, I believe it’s instructive to examine old ways and make them new again. The barter economy is just one example—and if such a seeming anachronism is nudged back into vogue with a little help from Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other gizmos of the New New Age, so be it.

Back to those wild duck fillets. They got lost in the freezer for a while, but I found them the other day while inventorying my stash of frozen razor clams and immediately thawed them out. I took Corky’s advice and did a quick grilling over high heat. First, I made a teriyaki marinade and sauce.

Teriyaki Marinade

1/3 cup aji-mirin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp hot oil
1 tsp black vinegar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced

Bring aji-mirin to boil, then reduce heat to low simmer for 5 minutes. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, hot oil, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and ginger. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

I used about half the teriyaki to marinate the duck fillets, along with 2 chopped scallions and heaping teaspoons of minced garlic and ginger. Next I added a couple teaspoons of corn starch to the remaining teriyaki to thicken it into sauce. This got poured over the grilled duck fillets along with a quick sauté of chopped scallions, chanterelles, and more garlic and ginger.

It was nice to see my boy, with his inherited trait of thalassemia beta minor, devour his iron-rich duck and ask for more. His world will hopefully do a better job of reconciling new ways with old.

One thought on “The Barter System

  1. Trixi

    I just bartered 7 lbs of chanterelles for: onions, potatoes, herbs, wine, spicy peanut satay sauce, oysters, a dozen fresh eggs, and Filipino cake called bibinka. All homegrown/made. Score!

    Reply

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