Recently I picked up this wonderfully, inspiring cookbook titled, “eat like there’s no tomorrow” written by Hans Rueffert. You may have seen him interviewed on TV shows, The Doctors, CNN, Food Network just to name a few. Hans also hosts a television program broadcast on the Georgia Public Broadcasting Channel, Hans Cooks the South.
In 2005, just after his debut on Food Network, Hans was diagnosed with stage 3 Gastric Cancer. Being that I rarely watch TV, I had never heard of Hans Rueffert nor have I had the pleasure of meeting him. It wasn’t until I came across this cookbook while in the gift shop in my favorite orchard that I learned of him and how close we live to each other.
I have however, stopped to eat at his family restaurant in Jasper, Georgia. Woodbridge Inn is a historical monument to North Georgia. A hotel built in the late 1800’s for Floridians to vacation during summer heat. Anyone who has driven north to the Mountains has seen the billboard advertising Woodbridge.
He has an appreciation and understanding to the plights of farmers. While wanting only organically grown fruits and vegetables, he agrees to the one time shot of pesticide to salvage an entire livelihood.
The cookbook was published in 2009 four years after having his entire stomach removed. Yet, Hans still maintains his quest for great foods. He shares this fondness teaching cooking classes at the Wellness Center at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta.
Storytelling and food go hand in hand. The book is filled with stories of family history living and working at Woodbridge Inn with his parents. Hans travels the state of Georgia taking readers from the Georgia coast on a shrimp boat, greeting the sunrise to the mountains introducing them to local resources. One becomes part of his journey.
Living in the great state of Georgia with its rich agriculture history, I’m captivated by all the places, I would never think to go. People he introduces you to like Retired Physician turned Southern Author, Dr. Ferrol Sams, Run with the Horsemen. During a taping of Hans Cooks the South, Dr. Sams and his wife, teach Hans the correct way to forage and cook Pokeweed, a wild shrub like, invasive weed.
The odds of beating this level of cancer are very low. Hans’s optimism to live life despite the uphill battle is amazing in and of itself. He explains just this in his Journal entry titled “Thin Ice…”
Having lost a brother to cancer last year, I’ve begun reading Hans’s journal of life with cancer. As sad as I may be over losing my brother, I’m captivated by the journey. I find the morbid details comforting. Weird as that may be, I never really comprehended the pain my brother endured until I began reading Hans excerpts. Somehow, his pain makes me feel that my brother was not alone. I’ve been drawn in to Hans’s life and feel I have come to know him. His latest “tweet” is that of going to ER for headache, nausea, dizziness. That was nearing three weeks ago and with anxiety, I check for his latest “tweet” for an update.
Until Hans or his wife, Amy, updates the journal or twitter feed, followers have been told, “no news is good news, please don’t call the Inn, as rumors spread fast in small town Jasper”. So…I’ll be patient and wait.
In the meantime, since peaches are in, I decided to make a Peach Salsa. While the definition of Salsa is Sauce, this is not saucy. My recipe is derived from Hans’s cookbook where he makes a salsa with fennel. My salsa does not call for fennel because I am not a fan of it. That said, Hans really believes fennel is under-used in recipes. Perhaps, if I can overcome the licorice flavoring, I might be able to enjoy fennel. In any event, as Hans says in his book, and I’m paraphrasing, throw it together your way.
Peach and Vidalia Onion Salsa, my way:
This is a make ahead recipe
For two people I used five peaches (four for salsa and one to purée), and half of a medium size Vidalia Onion.
Allow Salsa to marinate in refrigerator for at least half a day.
Note: All ingredients are locally farmed here in Georgia with the exception of lime and… that’s from Florida, sorta local.
Slice peaches in 1/8’s. Cut each in large chunks (I leave the skin on)
Roughly chop half of a Vidalia Onion or Sweet Onion Equivalent
One whole Jalapéno pepper, diced (one can use a hotter pepper)
juice from half of a lime
1/8 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (from Georgia Olive Farms, of course)
Cilantro, roughly and finely diced (use amount of cilantro to your taste, in this case one tsp of diced)
Peel the skin from the 5th peach and pull the meat from the seed. Purée until creamy, and pour over salsa.
Add the cilantro to the oil and pour this over the salsa.
Fold all ingredients together being certain to coat with olive oil and peach purée.
Ladle over any protein. In this case, Pan Seared, Farm Raised, Catfish Filet.