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Thursday, April 4, 2013 11:04 am

Frontier, FedEx and Gary


Chile and orange glazed country ribs.

My FedEx delivery guy’s name is Gary. I hadn’t known his name until a couple days after the blizzard that dumped 18 inches of snow on central Illinois last week. In fact, I hadn’t even realized he was my regular FedEx delivery guy or that I even had a regular delivery person.

But Gary has long known my name and address. Disconcertingly, despite my being barely aware of his existence, he’s also long known – and cared – about me.

The Friday before, I’d placed a large order with Frontier Natural Products Co-op. Frontier is based in central Iowa, so most packages arrive in two business days. Early morning orders sometimes even arrive the next day.

I’d phoned in my order late Friday, figuring it would arrive on Tuesday. But Tuesday morning I was still housebound, our long driveway still impassible. Peter made it into his office both days by shoveling a spot at the foot of our long driveway late Sunday night, after we’d returned from a morning/afternoon of helping at our daughter Ashley’s RealCuisine Sunday brunch and, later that day, prepping for a roots, blues duo house concert that, in retrospect more sensible folks would certainly have rescheduled.

By midmorning Tuesday virtually all roads and streets in and around Springfield proper were just fine. But our driveway was still mounded with snow drifts; deliveries would be impossible. So I decided to divert the Frontier delivery from my house to Ashley’s catering kitchen/café at 15th and Ash.

Changing the delivery location turned out to be a lengthy process. First I called Frontier for the FedEx tracking numbers and a phone number to connect me with an actual human being. But the excruciatingly polite FedEx hominoid quickly informed me that I couldn’t contact my local delivery office directly: only she could do that on my behalf. But I had to call Frontier yet again to ask them to approve a changed local delivery location and forward that change to FedEx.

The beginnings of a headache had begun making threats. But finally all requisite messages had been delivered and received. Although it would be an additional day until my order arrived, everything seemed back on track.

Late that afternoon, I heard a heavy thump on the back porch. Peering out I saw a huge box that could only have been part of the Frontier order. Glancing toward the driveway, I saw a stocky guy trudging through the snow drifts (now only at upper-calf height) with an even larger box.

“I guess you didn’t get my message to change the delivery of these boxes to my daughter’s kitchen in town,” I shouted. “Oh, yeah, I did,” the guy cheerfully replied.

Wow! Not only were both boxes huge, they were also extremely heavy, containing between them at least four gallons of liquid laundry detergent, a gallon of shower gel, five pounds of Dead Sea salts for making scented bath salts, more than another gallon’s worth of other liquid household cleaning, skin care and child-care products, baking supplies and extracts, multiple one pound bags/bottles/boxes of everything from herbs and spices to vitamin and mineral supplements. Not all of that is just for my husband and me. I have a small informal co-op of a few friends and family for whom I’ve been ordering from Frontier for years.

“Gosh, thanks! I can’t believe you did that!” I told the guy as he dumped the second box on top of the first.

He shrugged his shoulders: “I just know you’ve been ordering from this place for a long time, and it’d been quite a while since you’d gotten anything from ’em, so I figured you probably really needed it,” as he turned to plunge back through the snow to his truck.

“Well, Thanks again!” I said feeling somewhat inadequate. Then: “Hey, what’s your name?” “Gary,” he replied, giving a wave of his hand. “Have a good day!”

In this weary world of ours, it’s all too easy to be cynical; something I give in to far more often than I’d like to admit. But when we do, it’s good to remember that there are plenty of folks like Gary out there: Doing a good job and going a little above and beyond that job to help his customers out, just in case they need it.

Frontier sells to natural food retailers such as Food Fantasies as well as to individual co-ops. Some of the ingredients in the following are sourced by FF from Frontier.

Chile and orange glazed country ribs

•    8 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
•    1 tsp. vegetable oil
•    3 ancho chiles
•    6 guajillo chiles, or substitute New Mexico chiles
•    1 c. orange juice
•    Peel from 2 medium-sized oranges
•    2 T. cider vinegar
•    2 tsp. ground cumin
•    1/4 tsp. ground cloves
•    1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
•    1 T. dried oregano, preferably Mexican
•    1 tsp. ground cinnamon
•    1/3 c. honey
•    1 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt, or to taste
•    6 country style ribs, about 3 lbs.
•    6 radishes with green tops, for garnish

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Put the unpeeled garlic cloves in it and toast, turning them occasionally, until the skins are blackened in spots and the garlic is soft, 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, toss the garlic cloves with a teaspoon of vegetable oil, wrap tightly in foil, and roast in a 350 F. oven until softened 15-20 minutes. Peel the garlic and put in the container of an electric blender.

Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles and tear them in half so that they lay flat. Put them on the griddle one at a time and press with a metal spatula for just a few seconds until they crackle. Turn them over and press again for a few seconds. When they begin to change color they are done. Transfer the seared chiles to a large bowl. When all the chiles are toasted, cover them with boiling water, place a plate on them to keep them submerged and soak for 30 minutes. Drain the chiles and place them in the blender with the garlic. Add half the orange juice and peels, vinegar, herbs, spices, salt and honey to the blender and purée until smooth, scraping down occasionally and adding a little more orange juice if necessary. Taste for seasoning; add more salt if desired.

Place the ribs in a large resealable plastic bag. Add the chile mixture, close the bag, extruding as much air as possible, and squish around to coat the ribs thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least several hours and preferably overnight.

Wash the radishes and cut a thin slice down 4 sides of each, leaving the root end intact. Place in a container of water large enough to hold them comfortably and refrigerate.

Bring the ribs to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Wipe off and reserve the marinade from the ribs and place the ribs in a baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer. Drizzle the remaining orange juice over them, cover with foil, and bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the ribs are very tender, basting occasionally with the pan juices. Remove the ribs from the baking dish. Pour out the fat and juices from the dish into a small saucepan. Let the fat come to the top, remove as much fat as possible with a shallow spoon and cook over high heat until the mixture has reduced and thickened.

Increase the oven temperature to 450 F. Return the ribs to the baking dish. Brush the ribs with the remaining marinade and bake until glazed and slightly crusty, about 15-30 minutes. Remove the radishes from the water and dry on a dishtowel. Serve the ribs on a large platter, garnished with the radishes. Serves 4-6.

Adapted from a recipe by Rick Bayless in “In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs.”

Contact Julianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com.

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