The Channel Islands – Our Backyard Sanctuary

Channel Islands, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Catalina Island, Santa Barbara Island, Anacapa Island, San Miguel Island, San Nicolas Island, San Clemente Island

 

There are so many reasons we are lucky to live on the Central Coast of California and the Channel Islands are one of them.

The Channel Islands are part of one of the richest ecosystems on the planet and are often referred to as “The Galapagos of California”. They have a long history of human occupation and the oldest remains date back 13,000 years ago. The first native populations to inhabit the islands were mainly Chumash. A true maritime culture, the Chumash hunted and gathered natural resources from both the ocean and coastal mountains and maintained a highly developed way of life.

I was fortunate to be part of one of the archeological trips organized by The Natural History Museum of Santa Barbara a few years back, that was working on radio carbon dating of the Arlington Springs site. I was hired as the group’s private chef on the excursion. We loaded up coolers with all sorts of local organic ingredients, my knives, and a few other essentials and jumped on board the Island Packers boat.

The journey to Santa Rosa that day took about 3 hours. Crossing the channel to the islands is an adventure and the boat always comes with a naturalist on board. The ocean surrounding the islands is teeming with wildlife and is part of a protected marine sanctuary. Twelve miles off shore, the sea floor abruptly drops to create a rich deep water ecosystem. Whales, seals, and pelagic fish are everywhere. It is common to see pods of dolphins of a hundred or more. They are super curious, playful, and love to surf the wake of the boat.

After landing on Santa Cruz Island and dropping off day trippers and campers we continued our journey to Santa Rosa Island. Skirting the western end of the island, we passed numerous sea caves and sweet little harbors. Santa Cruz Island is a great place to go kayaking; there are outfitters and guides to take you to the most epic spots.

We landed on Santa Rosa and unloaded our huge amount of gear and headed up to the lodge. Back in the day, before Santa Rosa was part of the National Park, the island was privately owned and used for ranching and hunting. The historical buildings we were staying in had a lot of history!

We immediately set out to explore the many beaches and surf breaks in the vicinity. After a fun surf session, we headed back into the kitchen to prepare the evening meal. It was early fall and our menu for the evening was: A fig and La Nogalera walnut salad on greens with caramelized balsamic dressing and ricotta salatta with olive flat bread, seared scallops with a fennel relish, Bistecca California with pepperonata, garden eggplant, heirloom tomato and smoked mozzarella bake, and creamy heirloom corn polenta with rio grande beans. For dessert, we had a rich dark chocolate and coffee bean cake with Carpinteria berries.

We were blessed to spend a solid week on Santa Rosa Island. It was so exciting to be a part of the excavation and also to explore the island. The Channel Islands are an incredible place to go for the day or a week to take in the rich heritage of California history, ocean culture, and coastal environment.

Sticky
October 14, 2017

Kim Redman in Oaxaca

Oaxaca was one of those magically intriguing places for me when I moved there in my late 20s.

 

 

It is a state in southern Mexico known for its cultural diversity as well as its environmental & agricultural biodiversity. Oaxaca has one of the most rugged terrains in Mexico with mountains that abruptly join the sea. Oaxaca’s central valley region is surrounded by the majestic Sierra Madre Mountains and is home to many indigenous cultures. The coastline is home to the famous “Mexican Pipeline”, Puerto Escondido. This place brings many of my favorite things together: excellent culinary traditions, the arts, beautiful mountains and the ocean.

 

Mexi-Pipeline, Oaxaca surfing, oaxaca surf, puerto escondido surf, zicatela surf, surfing

Puerto Escondido, Mexico

I fell in love with Oaxaca immediately.

 

I had just begun to experiment with cooking when I moved to Oaxaca City and it was there that my passion for the culinary arts blossomed. The Central Market is the heart and soul of the city. Farmers and vendors travel from all over the state to come and hawk their wares. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to travel for days (on foot) down from the mountains with their crops to sell. Wild mushrooms, heirloom corn varietals, Nopales and Verdolago. The woman from coastal Tehuntepec would come with her coconut treats and seafood. Each week as I walked to the market, I would be engulfed in the intoxicating smells of the chocolatiers stone grinding cacao with cinnamon and spices to create the famous Oaxacan Chocolate.

 

Each day, I would set out to buy as many new ingredients that I was unfamiliar with and take them back to my apartment to experiment and play with dishes.

 

 

The Oaxacans are diverse and resilient. I am grateful to all the kind hearted and generous people I met during my years living there.

My landlady at the time was a Zopotec and an herbalist and she schooled me in many herbal remedies. I also befriended the indigenous herbalists in the market and would study with them each week. I learned how to incorporate some of these powerful plants into my cooking.

One of my favorite places to go on my weekly trips to the market was the Casillda juice stand. There they created a plethora of homemade “aguas” and juices. My favorite was horchata (rice milk) with toasted walnuts and cactus fruit mixed in. I also indulged in the spinach, pineapple, lime and orange juice. The family that ran this popular business took me under their wing and included me in all family gatherings at their home from Day of the Dead festivities to the Christmas posadas. There would always be huge feasts with traditional mole and lots of mescal. The mole of Oaxaca is famous all over Mexico and is a very complex culinary sauce with chocolate, almonds, seeds, chili varietals and spices.

My experiences as a young woman living in Oaxaca shaped my life and who I am today.

Sticky
October 12, 2017
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