Power Food 2022 article by Marty Gallagher

Power Food 2022

Behold the power food bounty, $59 for everything: seasonally appropriate, locally sourced, organic proteins and produce

Stacy needed eggs. I volunteered to make the two-mile trip to The Green Shed. We have gotten our eggs, baked goods, jams, vegetables, fruit, pickled concoctions and other power foods at this culinary goldmine for the past 22 years. Stacy and I relocated from inside the Beltway to south central Pennsylvania in 1999. We live in a small village nestled next to the Catoctin mountains. Camp David sits on the mountain I look at out my front window.

The Green Shed is a 15x20 square foot building with a green tin roof that sits on the front corner the Thomas Waybill farm, a working farm located on a lonely road from nowhere to nowhere. You would never find the Green Shed. Over the years, in spurts and sputters, the shed has undergone renovations. Now totally enclosed, the one room is now air conditioned in the summer. On this mid-October day, I pulled into the tiny gravel parking area and unwound from my car. Not a soul in sight.

As you walk into the shed, your eyes adjust to the darkness as a wondrous, collective smell assails your nostrils. Dozens of different fresh fruits and vegetables mingle together to create a single, fragrant, pungent perfume. Along the right wall stands three different sized refrigerated glass cases that await inspection. A card table with tablecloth is laden with freshly baked loaves of rustic bread, dense spice cakes, cupcakes, cookies of all types and kinds (six cookies to each plastic bag,) small fruit pies. The card table sits in front of a small wooden counter. Prices are written on a chalkboard hung on the wall behind the counter. Prices are on post-it notes stuck on the walls above the produce.

The Green Shed’s shelves were overflowing with nutrient dense power food, the refrigerator cases stuffed full of fresh exotica. Time for me to assemble the bounty. At the top of the list: four dozen eggs. The local free-range chickens produce eggs with orange-colored yolks. $2.75 a dozen, Stacy consumes two dozen a week. Me, not so much. Not lately. I love eggs and I am a good egg cook, but periodically I fall out of love with them.

Next to the glass case with nothing but eggs is the middle cooler reserved for spoilable vegetables. I extracted a large handful of beets. Later, when I showed Stacy the blood red beets (dirt still on them) she gasped, “These are the truffles of beets.” I saw and passed on the fresh lima beans in the cold case, but loaded them up in my mind: what future dish could I construct using extremely fresh lima beans? A soup? Include them with root vegetables and garlic when braising a lamb shoulder in the Dutch Oven? Sous vide the lima beans and serve them with butter and sea salt?

I carefully examined the custom pies and cakes in a third glass case, the desert case. I stared at the homemade delicacies like they were artwork: berry pies handcrafted by Mennonite grandmothers, blueberry, apple, peach, cherry, on occasion the best cheesecake I have eaten outside of Ferrara’s in Manhattan. I love the little tarts with fruit centers in pastry shells…I wanted to eat everything in the cabinet.

I tore myself away. I am attempting to abstain from guilty pleasures, i.e., sweets and alcohol, as much as possible. Buying a whole pie is not abstaining. Rather than purchase what I wanted, a 9-inch blueberry pie with glazed crumble crust ($9) I semi-abstained by selecting a mini-loaf of homemade pumpkin spice bread. It had the density of plutonium. The little cake was $2.55. I bought a pint of homemade potato salad for $3.50.

The six-foot wide shelf next to the three refrigerator cases held pickles, relishes, fresh fruit jams and jellies. A table held potatoes, corn, cabbage, and squash, the “rough” vegetables. The short back wall was open. A long table ran the length of the left wall and depending on the season, is strewn with onions, carrots, celery, bags of mint, kale, spinach, blueberries, peaches, apples, cherries, radishes, ad infinitum, the cast of fruit and vegetable characters shifts, week to week, season to season.

Fifty percent of the time during the week, during the day, there is no one there to wait on you. If none of the Waybill clan arrive, it is self-serve, using the honor system. A round tin with lid sits on the counter. It has on the lid a hand-written label, CHANGE. You serve yourself, pick your produce and baked goods, add up what you owe, open the lid on the change box. There will be a hodgepodge of $1s, $5s, $10s, a $20 or two, lots of change on the bottom of the tin. Leave your money in the box. Make your own change. Close the lid.

The first thing that caught my eye walking down the long produce table were the out-sized, wonderfully misshapen carrots. Sorted by size, I picked a bag full of medium sized carrots. Carrots appear twice a year. Later that day I paired the carrots (left whole) with lardo-like bacon ends. I sauté the carrots with bacon, low and slow (covered) till the carrots are bacon drenched and fork tender. Incredible.

I bought a big bag of salad greens for $3 and got excited when I saw fresh broccoli. British Racing Green and intensely flavorful, I added a big bag of florets ($4) atop my growing pile of freshness. The beets were ripe and bursting, Stacy loves them, I avoid them. I do however, love bell peppers. The Green Shed had giant multi-colored bell peppers, bigger than Sonny Liston’s clenched fist. I selected a multi-colored monster ($1) that I will dice and pair with shrimp and garlic; or make a sausage-ground beef stuffed pepper, topped with spicy pepper jack chesse.

Yellow and orange sweet potatoes were in. I selected a bag of “mini” sized orange ones. I sauté them in their skins (with more bacon) until they explode. I eat them like soft shell crabs: I douse them in butter and finish with kosher salt. I was sorely tempted to buy a big bag ($4) of homemade potato chips, deep fried in lard, I love these things – but again, I had my little cake – no more guilty pleasures. My bill came to $22.47. I left $25 in tin and left. I had been alone my entire time shopping.

Time to go to the butcher shop for some high protein power food. I have been a patron of Kendell, the Mennonite butcher, for 22 years. His father was the original boss. I snaked my way through four miles of back country from the Green Shed to Kendell’s butcher shop. My main task was to obtain raw milk. That was the main reason for my trip. Everything else would be a spontaneous binge purchase on my part. I love going to the butcher shop. Our butcher sells raw milk he gets “from the (church) community.’ Stacy and I go through a gallon a week. I use it to mix my powerhouse protein shakes, anabolic atomic bombs.

I pulled into the empty parking lot and headed inside. I walked to the first glass case and extracted a gallon of whole milk (cost $5.50.) I then open a second glass case and removed three smallish packets of Hungarian Garlic-flavored sliced bacon “ends.” This is the bacon equivalent of BBQs “burnt ends.” These are the fatty pieces trimmed away when sculpting bacon into squared-up oblong strips. Some sliced bacon ends are pure Lardo, pure high quality pork fat. Delicious bacon, that also generates the most wonderful cooking lipid. Three packets of bacon ends came to $9. I then remembered to purchase some moderate-grind black pepper. The butcher has excellent spices made also, within his community.

The boss and owner, Kendrick, is a super healthy looking, mid-thirties, fourth generation butcher. Raised in a butcher shop, he was manhandling a small pig when I walked in. I was intrigued to see a pro in action, wielding his knife like a commando. I stood ten feet away watching him break down the piglet with consummate ease. I ordered two long links of their famous maple sausage and a pound of 70% grass-started/grain finished ground beef. I will mix the ground beef with the maple sausage to make meatballs, big ones, fork tender, bursting with flavor. I picked a giant free-range chicken leg/thigh that caught my eye.

I asked Kendrick, what are the best pork chops on the pig on which you are working?  He suggested pork chops that most closely resembled a rib steak: on the bone, untrimmed (critically important!) and thick. I agreed. He went to work. I watched as he began wielding his wicked-looking Ginza knife. He used exactly eighteen knife strokes (I counted) before holding up two incredible looking chops for my inspection. As I gazed at their raw perfection, I said ‘Those are meat art – those chops are too pretty to cook!’ He laughed. The man is an artist.

I pulled everything out of my basket and set it on the checkout counter. The Hungarian sliced bacon ends, chicken leg, half pound of sausage, pound of beef, container of pepper, raw milk and primo pork chops came to $34 and some odd cents. Adding the Green Shed and Butcher shop expenditure together came to $59, leaving me one dollar left from the $60 I started the trip with. I was fired up to start cooking the minute I got home. I decided to unload my bounty and take a photo.

I went inside, put the groceries away and immediately began rendering the fatty bacon ends. I cleaned the whole carrots and added them to the skillet. I threw in a half dozen mini-sweet potatoes. I covered the skillet with a lid. After nearly two hours, low and slow, including a 30-minute cool down period, the bacon was succulent; the bacon grease lipid creating fork tender sweet potatoes whose skins burst open when touched with a fork. The carrots were caramelized, sweet as candy. I ate voraciously and had my spice cake, warmed up and slathered in butter, for my desert. Then I took a nap.

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About the Author - Marty Gallagher
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of multiple books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher Biography for a more in depth look at his credentials as an athlete, coach and writer.