There was a very good article, A Life Without Plastics?, run on the front page of the Chicago Tribune yesterday (yes, I have the tiniest of mentions in it) about attempting to live plastic free. It is laugh out loud funny and heartwarming in it's sincerity.
The author's struggle, chronicled over seven days to do away with plastic, is easily recognizable for all of us who have given a second thought to plastic. It's not easy. As Beth@FakePlasticFish is quoted as saying, "No one can do the whole thing in a week."
But the author, Trine Tsouderos, mother of two, does try and becomes more aware in the process. "It's like I can smell it," she writes of plastic at the end of the week.
And I felt like I could smell it to.
Is there one thing you've done to reduce the plastic at your house?
There was a very good article, A Life Without Plastics?, run on the front page of the Chicago Tribune yesterday (yes, I have the tiniest of mentions in it) about attempting to live plastic free. It is laugh out loud funny and heartwarming in it's sincerity.
I've no idea how the kale took root at the Rock Garden Tour but it is way too good not to share. It's Prairie Home Companion meets the Grateful Dead with a dash of the Car Talk guys at the community garden without the industrial ketchup.
Yeah, you've got to hear it to believe it. A rock and roll plant show. From South Dakota.
The music is good and they really do talk about gardening. And haiku.
We're hooked. It's crazy.
Have you ever ate a meyer lemon? I mean the entire lemon? Okay, maybe not all of the peel but some of the peel?
I didn't plan on eating the lemon. It started with a tentative lick to determine the sour factor. It was a scientific lick. But the sour was far away so I licked the lemon again; more information was needed. I took a bite. Skin and all. Another bite and I was ripping away the peel, eating drinking, biting until the lemon was gone. And yes, the sour stayed at a distance even though I kept anticipating it. I could have eaten three but I'd only purchased one.
Broccoli and Meyer Lemon
One Head of Broccoli
One Meyer Lemon
Steam the broccoli until it screams green and is still crisp. Dress with olive oil and sea salt to taste. Top with a small squeeze of meyer lemon juice, toss broccoli and sample again. Repeat adding lemon juice as necessary keeping the taste of it faint as a lick.
I promise an empty of bowl of broccoli when the meal is done. And enough lemon left over to eat later.
The Muse has begun collecting cardboard off the street during our after dinner walks. She carts it like a Tiffany's bag through town. "What's it for," I asked the first time.
"Cardboard mulching," she said. "The kids love it."
The next time I offered to help.
The Muse works with third graders in the garden and helps tend their worm bin. She's one of my sources for what's going on in schools. Her daughter takes lunch in a cloth bag, with no plastic packaging and only cloth napkins. And she's not alone in doing so.
The Muse's school has a green team to set goals for sustainability in the near and far term. As part of the team she visited other schools, one with a living roof and full time employee responsible for implementing sustainability goals. Another, this one a public school, had a first class award winning garden. Each school was an inspiration.
But this bit of school news came from one of the Cute Guy's friends. Her daughter came home from a school visit to the Recycling Center and told her mother, "That's not garbage, it's landfill."
In relaying the story her mother said, "Now we have a recycling bin and a landfill bin. It makes a difference to how we think about what we're throwing away."
I'm not sure who should get the award for that one; the people at the Recycling Center, the teacher, the student or the mother for listening. But I do know I now call the garbage beneath our sink, landfill and not garbage too.
What's going on in the schools you're familiar with?
Or what bit of sage sustainability information have you learned recently from a teacher in a small body disguise?
The Ethicurean was the first I saw to post it.
Green Bean explained it beautifully.
Donna and the farmers' daughter signed it.
The Yale Sustainable Food Project posted about what you can do.
Green with Envy, Riddled with Guilt pasted it right on their blog. And Groovy Green is all over it too.
Nebraskans for Peace are supporting it and so is the sustainable farmer.
Slow Food LA is on it as is the Local Food Research Project.
Culinate the food people, wrote about it too.
Now it's your turn.
Send it to friends. Shit, send it to people you don't like. Who cares.
Post about it on your blog.
Talk about it.
Please do it now.
12/14/08 Update: There are currently 40,000 signatures on the petition. Please consider passing the petition on to friends and family, linking it on the bottom of your emails or posting it on your blog if you have one. We have a rare and beautiful window to let our voices for change be heard in the arena of food policy. Let's celebrate it and tell everyone we know.
In the event you haven't yet read the Ethicurean, The New York Times or received an email from Michael Pollan letting you know about the circulation of a petition regarding Obama's appointment of a new Secretary of Agriculture, let me be the first to point you in its direction. The petition is right here.
I don't pretend to know who a good Ag Secretary would be but I do have trust in many of the original signers of the petition who have endorsed six sustainable choice candidates.
It's a crazy time of the year and who the next Agriculture Secretary is going to be is not on the top of most lists. But it will likely effect what you eat, what your neighbors eat and what the next generation eats. Please take a minute and sign the petition.
There's a chance we can make a difference. Really. We can.
I'm not sure the reason but there's a certain shine to a lot of the produce at the farmers' market right now. As soon as I say that though I remember the summer squash I saw today. It had a greyish quality and the dry farmed tomatoes still being harvested have black spots too. But aside from those there's some pretty produce.
The cauliflowers have been fairytale white. Every perfect head I see I want to buy. And the spinach; the spinach has been gleaming. No dirt, no sand, just pure emerald leaves to be rinsed and barely cooked. There are bunches of rainbow chard that could be enjoyed in a vase as thoroughly as on a plate for dinner. The potatoes are even pretty this December.
Fortunately for me the winter squash are also attractive this year. It's the ugly squash that pinched my heart last winter and fall until I brought so many home I had to bribe friends to relieve me of them. That and I thought there wouldn't be a local thing to eat in December and January but winter squash and I was afraid we would starve.
On Sunday I bought cilantro, I know it's way too late for cilantro, but the smell; it snapped it's fingers and I carried a bunch home with a crisp head of cabbage. I displayed the cabbage on the kitchen table for hours, admiring it before giving it refuge in the fridge. The appreciation made it taste sweeter when it arrived at the table again.
Maybe it's the newness of the winter crops that make them pretty or maybe it's the warm falls days we had. Maybe it's the farmers sincerity, a good year of compost or the lack of rain. I'll likely never know and it's okay. I'm simply enjoying the harvest now because the next one is sure to be different.
What's your farmers' market like this December?
Yeah, I'm a geek. Instead of blogging I'm watching Bill Moyers conversation with Michael Pollan from last Friday.
As much as I've heard some of the information before it wears off. Being in the world every day I begin to believe that local food doesn't matter, that industrial food is fine. I mean, processed food is everywhere. If there were something wrong with any of it, monocultures and crowded feed lots included, wouldn't someone do something about it?
Michael Pollan is doing something and encouraging all of us to do something too, starting with voting with our forks. It's like Wendell Berry wrote, and this is my paraphrase of it, every act of eating is an act of agriculture.
I don't know about you but I've eaten some bad agriculture and I know we can do better.
Check out the interview. It's inspiring.
One of my favorite holiday moments ...
Being told the brussel sprouts were delicious by someone who had never liked them before.
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Halve six to ten brussel sprouts per serving. Toss and coat completely with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Crowd without heaping onto a cookie sheet.
Roast at 400 degrees and turn at eight minute intervals until outer leaves have browned and sprouts can be easily pierced; approximately 35 minutes.
What was your favorite moment?
Many years ago, after the U.S. went into Iraq, the cute guy and I joined a peace march in San Francisco that began at Justin Herman Plaza and ended at City Hall. We finished on Van Ness for Thai food with friends.
My favorite sign of the march was carried by a boy of three who swayed contentedly on his father's shoulders. His sign read, Don't Push.
I consider the child's message often and again as we enter the holiday season. Don't push.
Simple words to remember.
My egg lady wasn't at the market on Sunday. She was harvesting her walnut crop so we haven't had eggs. It hasn't been a problem. I welcome the change.
A real problem was several weeks before when the coffee trailer hitch broke and the market was caffeine dry. People were not the same.
But that's how the market is; it's rarely the same place twice and never as reliable as a grocery store. Eating seasonally requires fluidity, letting go. It requires improvising, substituting, a bit of creativity. And then sometimes it requires none of those things. Just eat the damned local apple and enjoy it.
But I've gained more letting go of grocery store reliability than I ever had with it.
I found three varieties of eggplant on Sunday; violet, lavender and white. More art than food actually. I bought stemmy coarse parsley that tasted as strong as it smelled. And the purple torpedo onions I carried home tasted like candy. I was going to add cauliflower to a dish of fried rice tonight but I ate it all before I could. I wouldn't have bought these foods at the grocery store but at the farmers' market they're a must have, almost a challenge when presented by my favorite growers.
I never know what I'll find to buy or how it will actually morph into a meal. But I'm rarely disappointed and we seldom have the same meal twice.
No eggs is simply a chance to eat something else.
I'm not green. Sure, I eat seasonal local food. We barely produce trash. I take the bus and we are hard pressed to turn on the heater. But I still go to the dry cleaners. I know. I'm going to hell.
But if I were a business I could call myself green on the mere fact that I buy local when possible. Once a year I could buy lettuce from Marin Roots Farm and my greeness would be qualified. You could pull up a chair in my restaurant, read the blurb on the front of the menu: locally and organically sourced when possible. And then you could turn your brain off. I have.
It won't matter that it's November and there's asparagus on the menu or an heirloom tomato salad. Peaches for dessert? Terrific. Locally sourced will be lodged securely in your brain such that you won't give the season a second thought. It won't matter if your leftover foreign and industrial food is packaged in a styrofoam container with a handy plastic bag to carry it home in. It won't matter that you are sitting outside under a propane powered heater; the front of the menu clearly states in capital gold letters that this is a green business. Everything is cool. Make that green.
I can't tell you how many times I fool myself or how many times I'm fooled by the green spin.
My corner grocery advertises their Greeness on their website. Maybe they qualify themselves by the fact that the lettuce they sell is in 25% less plastic than the roasted chickens. The webiste lists a dozen ways to reuse a paper bag. But they bag groceries in plastic. I'm missing the green.
Perhaps I should celebrate that there's great market potential for being green. Perhaps I should be optimistic that we're moving in the right direction. Some days I am. But other days it seems like brandishing about the buzz words - green, local or organic is just another way to dumb us down and make a sale.
Thank goodness you can't fool all the people all of the time though or however that saying goes.
I've been wanting to post the new Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood watch sustainable seafood guide for sushi for awhile. Say that five times fast! Finally here it is.
It's interesting to note that many of the items on the Best Choice list are farmed. What happened to the wild sources?
There's eye candy information on the aquarium's website about trying new flavors. Be daring, they write, explore new flavors.
I've avoided sushi since reading Bottomfeeder, How To Eat Ethically In A World Of Vanishing Seafood. But with the guide I'm going back informed. At least to give something new a try.
Smelt roe, giant clam or Canadian sea urchin anyone?
At breakfast in a big market outside of Oaxaca one morning I kept hearing the women from the different kitchens, there were eight of them in a row, clap. Not the kind of clap you use for a birthday celebration. I'm talking an I-mean-business kind of a clap that riccocheted from the high cieling to the cement floor. A clap that beat out the mole machines that ran constantly 20 feet away. And after the women would clap they'd return to the stove or the sink or the cutting board and calmly continue cooking.
After this happened six or seven times and I'd craned my neck around the people near me, nearly spilled my coffee and stepped on a few toes to watch the clapping I figured it out. Or maybe one of my table mates did, but let's say I did.
The clapping was the call for a tortilla lady. Any tortilla lady that was near by. There were many. They wore aprons with rickrack trim and carried baskets of tortillas lined with flour sack towels. At the clapping woman's counter they made their transaction. A stack of fresh tortillas for the exchange of a few coins. No plastic packaging. No garbage. It was a beautiful thing.
I miss the tortilla ladies.
Don't you wish we could have tortilla ladies at our markets? Or a booth that made fresh tortillas so you could buy a stack for a few coins?
My first morning home I picked this handful of tomatillos and made a pot of Rancho Gordo pinto beans. I appreciated food cooked in my own kitchen all over again although I hardly went hungry while away.
I traveled for ten days with Global Exchange to Oaxaca, Mexico to celebrate the Day of the Dead, learn about the effects of GMO contamination on native varieties of corn and the challenges created by migration to the indigenous people and their land. I had no idea however I was in for so much more.
We toured the ruins of Monte Alban and Mitla; visited a healer, a third generation artisan mescal farm, a public radio station funded by the people and markets that rivaled any I've visited. The earthiness of the markets alone was worth the trip.
We ate as guests in private homes, one mole after another. My favorite was the chichilo, served at a long white clothed table in the midst of a forest at the base of Monte Alban. If I could speak Spanish I would have talked with Noemi Gomez Bravo, a member of a United Nations work group for the human rights of the indigenous people. Instead we smiled and ate chapulines (grasshoppers), from one of many shared bowls for snacking.
The evening of Dia de los Meurtos we were the guests of a family in Xoxocotlan for a traditional meal prior to the vigil, or in our case a visit, in the cemetery. We drank hot chocolate and ate tamales that were without a doubt from out of this world, made by two Grandma's I wanted to bring home. The meal finished with a warm pudding like horchata that took a minute to get used to but then only another to reach the bottom of the cup.
Instead of the Grandma's I smuggled home a pound of frijoles negro, a sugar skull and half a dozen sugar angels, between layers of dirty socks and a handwoven wool rug from Teotitlan del Valle.
We also ate at tiny kitchens in near by markets, an ecotourist restaurant run by an indigenous community on the bank of a crystal clear river. We ate at the end of an alley in a restaurant unlocked just for us and cooked by a single woman with what seemed like eighteen arms. "Can I help," I asked in broken Spanish.
"No, no, no," she answered. And for the hundredth time I was sad I didn't have the language.
But I knew how to say gracias and repeated it a million times. I was humbled by the generosity and spirit of the people we met. I despaired at the challenges of their country which so closely mirror those of ours but I also recognized our shared optimism that knows no borders.
Si se puede, they seemed to always say and I silently responded, yes we can. I couldn't have been happier to hear those words, yes we can, echoed loudly Tuesday night. They were an even better homecoming than a pot of beans.
My bags are packed. I have dried apricots and almonds packed for the plane in reused plastic bags I bought before I joined the plastic posse at Fake Plastic Fish. I'll add a sliced apple before I walk out the door and figure out what my plastic alternatives are when I get home. Waxed bags? Are those better?
While I'm away check out the a year of eating locally feature in the CUESA newsletter. It's me. While you're there sign up for the newsletter. It's year round and always has good goings on, not to mention seasonal recipes by a variety of San Francisco's best chefs, farmers and all around good cooks.
For more good reading check out bloggers in other parts of the world participating in the Eat Local Challenge this month. Finland. Belgium. Sweden. The word is spreading.
And for a good laugh about the challenge catch up on Food on the Food, a locavore with kids. She's wild. But she can cook too.
I'll be back in time to vote with fingers crossed that there will be a strawberries and tomatoes still on the market. But if not I'll find something just as good.
I'm creating monsters. First there was the Muse telling a friend she couldn't order the farmed salmon. Now it's the Blond telling everyone they should be using cotton and mesh produce bags instead of plastic. She can actually quote the ratio of plankton to plastic in the Pacific gyre from nearly two weeks ago at the talk by the couple from the Algarita Marine Research Center. (My jaw dropped.)
I work at being subtle about these things. I smile, breathe, laugh. Turn blue. Start again. I share stories, provide information, refer to experience. These ladies armed with information, "Education works," the Blond said, are slamming down the law though. They get away with saying words like can't and should. Words I step back from.
The Blond took her new cotton produce bags to a shopping center farmers' market today and called me tonight. "I asked the guy selling the potatoes what kind they were. He couldn't tell me." Had she been standing up instead of in her car she would have been kicking dirt. "Do you know who runs that market?" she asked.
I didn't laugh out loud or miss a single beat. "No one," I told her. "It's a shopping mall. Think about it." But I wanted to jump up and down that she suddenly cared about the variety of food she was buying.
"I think they're selling food from the grocery store," she continued.
I did laugh then though, because she cared about where her food came from. I've been talking about local food until I'm orange and violet, sienna and cotton candy in the face and it never phased her. But put enough plastic in the ocean that it outnumbers the plankton and where her potatoes come from becomes an issue.
I don't understand how that connection works exactly but I'm glad it does. And really everything is connected. Right?
Terry Gross did a terrific interview with Michael Pollan today regarding his letter to the next President that was in the New York Times weekend before last. I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read the letter. I mean, have you seen it? It's long. Even one of the campaigns (he didn't say which) asked if he could write an outline for the aides. The outline of his answer was no.
I've been listening to Michael Pollan for several years and he's on fire right now talking about solutions for the changes that need to be made to food policy at the federal level to our own backyards. He's the only guy that can talk about the farm bill and laugh at the same time. And he is laughing a lot. He made the idea of a vegetable garden on the White House lawn (it's apparently in the letter) sound completely reasonable. He made the fact that there isn't a vegetable garden at the White House seem ridiculous.
I know I'm a how-does-food-get-to-the-table geek but this is an enjoyable interview. It's 40 minutes and you can listen to it here while you're doing something else. I promise you'll smile more than once and you may think a little differently about the food on your plate or how in the world it got there.
A few days ago Kendra at A Sonoma Garden smartly listed 11 ways to eat locally in her town of Sonoma. I'm considering my own list for San Anselmo.
How about you? Wouldn't it be great if every town had their own list at the Chamber of Commerce, Town Hall or posted in a public place? Or found on line at the town's local food blogger? And then we could all eat local and save so much fossil fuel we'd have world peace forever. What have we got to loose? Nothing else has worked.
Or, how about posting 11 ways to eat locally because it would be fun to share with friends, provide a resource for people thinking about eating locally and it would support local business. In any event, it's a smart idea.
My first way to eat local would be a secret. It would be the persimmon trees at Robson Harrington Park. The park hosts a riot of community garden plots but the persimmon trees are unfenced and loaded with fruit this year. It's far too soon to consider eating them but not too soon to admire. Their leaves are still hanging on and the fruit looks as if their pointed bottoms were dipped in an early sunset. Already delicious.
Let me know if you post 11 ways to eat locally in your community or, shh, what your one local secret is.
And let's keep working on that solution for world peace.
The moon is already waning and I've yet to post an eat local challenge story that isn't mine. I've had voice mail messages about local food but aside from that the month has been an extended bit of summer with only fleeting reminders of sharing the challenge.
The Takeout Queen visited a farmers' market in New York. "They cross pollinate their summer squash," she exclaimed over the phone and then more than likely went out to lunch. But her enthusiasm was appreciated.
My mother called too after discovering chard at the farmers' market near her. "It's red," she said. "Delicious." Which had me investigate chard at the grocery store the other day on a trip with the Muse. I didn't remember ever seeing it there. There was some bunches on the shelf, anemic and barely pink. Probably because it was the end of the day. Buying a bunch of chard is like buying a bunch of already opened lilies. The petals, or leaves in the case of the chard, get bruised if they're handled or set upon hard surfaces. I can understand why grocers would be hesitant to carry it.
Emily, a pioneer mother of four, emailed she was going to fix a local meal for her family. But really, if she doesn't get to it, well, can I blame her? I had one of her four and one of another two overnight; I fed them a can of refried beans and flour tortillas. They loved it and in an abbreviated bit of time that was all that was important. I did throw in sauteed buttery corn I'd froze earlier in the summer. They each had seconds and I was quietly elated I got something local in their meal.
Do you have any local food stories this month? If you're doing the challenge, how's it going? And if you're doing it with kids, extra green stars to you!
I got the chance to use our downtown independent drug store today. It was actually the cute guys idea. I suggested a chain store.
Here's what happened. I started buying local honey for our kitchen at work in a big jar. And then I bought a syrup pourer so people could, you know, pour it. The honey stuck in the spout instead. The lid had to be unscrewed to get to the honey except the lid would stick because it was caked with honey.
That was the case today. Hot water didn't help. I twisted harder. The glass syrup pourer shattered in my hand. A plastic honey bear was sounding like a better idea until this evening. Bandaged I went to see Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins from the Algarita Marine Research Center on Beth's suggestion at Fake Plastic Fish.
After studying jars of collection samples from the Pacific gyre which they passed to the audience, think a dirty snow globe of plastic, buying throw away plastic stuff (except maybe medical supplies when you're bleeding all over the place), I'm convinced throw away plastic isn't worth the damage it's doing to the ocean. Plus we likely end up eating the plastic when we think we're eating seafood.
Bottom line, syrup pourers for honey and throwaway plastics are dangerous. Fortunately there are alternatives. Like regular honey jars, water from the tap and canvas bags to start with.
Does anyone have a non-plastic alternative to keep greens fresh in the fridge? That's a plastic alternative I haven't figured out yet.
My apologies. Really, I'm sorry, but my dog ate my eat local challenge that was due today and I'm going to have to start over.
I worked on the challenge for eight days and was doing great. I made fresh garbanzo beans, dropped them into a tomato salad with lime. I made fresh hummus, baked bread, mashed potatoes, sauteed broccoli with garlic chips. I baked squash, froze corn, scrambled eggs, tossed salads. I sliced apples, pears, halved figs, spooned melon. I snacked on walnuts, almond butter, licked my fingers of goat cheese that topped a mixed green salad. I dripped single cups of organic fair trade coffee and poured local milk from a methane powered dairy into them. I invited people to tell me their local stories, to go to the farmers market, to come on over for dinner. I did not want for anything.
And I didn't want the red velvet cream cheese frosted cupcake that a co-worker gave me today. I'm not kidding. There are new pants in the closet and they have no room in them for a cupcake.
"I brought this for you," my co-worker smiled, holding a smashed, triangle of cupcake out to me. "I had it in my bag," she explained.
"Oh, no problem," I said reaching for it, noticing with a watering mouth that it didn't stick to the bag. "Thank you," I coughed at the smell of sugar.
I still had a choice, after she left my office to save it for someone on the street. I knew I wouldn't throw it away. But those thoughts were fleeting, barely articulated. I ate the cupcake hurriedly before my challenge got in the way.
After that my farmers' market date cancelled. "I have to work," she emailed. It was the same time the sugar began going the way of the stock markets. Not pretty.
There was nothing to do but have a bowl of brown rice.
Brown rice is my answer to everything. Brown rice with a little olive drizzled over it after it's hot. It's better than a red velvet cupcake. Unless the person giving it to you is smiling and the cupcake is smashed within an inch of its life.
Then it's a toss up.
What's your local food answer to everything?
I live with a saint. All our friends will vouch for him.
He eats everything I put on the table. Except nettles after the quiche debacle last year. It was a slimy thing. He's not wild about kale, he's burned out on chard and will tolerate only small servings of broccoli. Other than that he'll eat anything. But that's about as far as his local food intake goes. Once he leaves the house the bets are off.
I've learned not to ask what he eats during the day while we're at work. Actually I haven't learned. I haven't asked for weeks and tonight I didn't expect to ask, but, well, that's where the conversation went, and there I was asking, and he was telling me, and I was being Miss Objective while the world sank deeper into irreversible climate change because he bought a chicken salad at the grocery store. All I could see were stationary hens unable to turn in their cages and the sterilized tasteless lettuce grown in an environment more sterile than any industrial chicken will ever enjoy and the next thing I knew we were defending ourselves.
Ahhh, the joys of love and passion. I've packed him a lunch for tomorrow to stem global warming. He has his choice of Iacopis cranberry beans I made on Sunday with roasted dry farmed tomatoes, leeks, onions, cayenne peppers and garlic or a bowl of calabacitas I made tonight. It's hotter than our 'conversation' was this evening with jalapenos, and packed with zucchini and fresh corn. There's even a leftover flour tortilla he made with Prather Ranch lard, half Full Belly wheat flour and half Guisto's flour too. They weren't the same consistency of the store bought tortillas I grew up with but they tasted better, which explains why there is only one left.
Or he could choose to go to the store. I'm not going to ask. Really, I'm not going to. Either way he's a saint because he does appreciate the local food I prepare and he makes a point to tell me often. I love that.
PS: I'm over at the Bookworm Blog this week too. Stop on by.
One of my favorite parts of any farmers' market is finding a treasure. That rare fruit, one of a kind, twisted vegetable that should have grown straight.
This morning it was the perfect paper blue basket of orange raspberries. I cradled them to the car for my Goddaughter's ninth birthday. She devoured them like candy.
Saturday morning at the Pt. Reyes market (my favorite and the last I'll make this year), I found membrillo, membrillo. I didn't hesitate for a second. When in the world will another opportunity to buy quince paste from a woman with a corner store smile selling it from a table in front of a 20 foot wall of hay bales present itself? It's as much art as it is food. And it tastes better than I could have imagined.
Last week the best market treasure was Ann from Brookside Farms in Brentwood. If you are in the area for the Thursday market at the Crocker Galleria stop and say hello to her. She's got her finger on the pulse of nature and the seasons. Everything she, her husband and son grow informs her as she'll happily tell you. And she wasn't just a treasure last week, she is every week.
It's generally the small growers where I find a one of a kind surprise, a piece of something that got to go wild, or was grown with extra affection. I know the markets aren't all strawberries and rose petals. I know the farmers work their asses off but if you ask me that's all the more reason to romanticize and appreciate them.
Besides it makes the food taste even better.
What treasure have you found at the farmers' market recently? Have you ever had membrillo? Orange raspberries?
I know. It's no surprise that I'm participating in the Eat Local Challenge again. But I'm excited anyway.
The challenge last year changed how I eat. It turned me into a locavore with pointed green ears. So what more could I want to take the challenge again, I keep asking myself.
The truth is embarrassing but here it is. I want to make your ears pointy too. Really, the reason I started eating local was to save the world. And as naive as that is I can't let go of it. Eating food that is grown nearby is something I can do and I have the opportunity to do it three times a day. We all do. I believe every bite makes a difference. I know it tastes good. And, yes, there are challenges.
I can't do anything about the economy, bail out packages, the war in Iraq. I feel powerless over the negative political campaigns and a thousand other things but I can have a say about what I put on the end of my fork, how it got there and by whom.
I eat local food for peace. I eat it to support my neighbors so they can be the stewards of the streams. I eat local food so I can return the jars and cartons when I'm done. So I know the names and smiles and stories of the people who grow the food on my table. I eat local food because it's real, it's colorful, it has character and it tastes like what it is. I eat it because I can. Because fields of food are little bits of heaven and poetry and dirty hands and home. Because it's encourages biodiversity and wild things. Because eating local makes sense.
I'm participating in the Eat Local Challenge this year mainly for other peoples stories though. I'm inviting family, friends and co-workers to prepare a local meal, a local snack, a trip to the farmers' market, to a restaurant that serves local food; I'm inviting them to dinner, lunch, anything to get them to take a bite and tell me what they think.
Whether anyone takes me up on the offer or not I will continue eating local with a few exceptions: organic free trade coffee, salt, yeast and a bit of flour for baking. I'm looking forward to seeing if I'll notice a difference other than baking my own bread instead of loaves from Acme or the Brickmaiden.
In any event, I always look forward to enjoying my food.
The next time I take a friend to the farmers' market for the first time I'm going to ask her to give me her money before she gets out of the car. "It's for your own good," I will explain.
First timers to the farmers' market are an easy spot. They're the ones walking around with hibiscus plants and iris bulbs. They buy dark chocolate covered almonds, marmalade made from fruit that is as difficult to spell as it is to pronounce. They buy the handmade dishes from the woman with artisan honey, a lavender sack to rest upon their eyes. And they need the soothing fragrance once they realize they've spent their grocery money on a flower that won't grow in the fog, a jelly too pricey to eat on ordinary toast and a dish that is crooked. (Note: I love dark chocolate covered almonds and crooked dishes.)
First timers don't see the bunches of kale, rainbows of peppers, potatoes, apples or eggs the color of dirt. They are blind to cucumbers, carrots and cabbage. Who cares about cilantro, cauliflower and corn. What, there's watermelon? Radishes? Broccoli? Get out of my way, they seem to yell rushing past the produce and zeroing in on Swedish waffles, crepes with bananas. They jostle for position in the line for kettle corn, indian food, cheese bread, cinnamon rolls. They stock up on tamales and olive tapenade; taste cheese priced in double digits and buy candles made of beeswax.
The cute guy went to the farmers' market once to do our weekly shopping. I kid you not, he came home with granola, sausages and lettuce. That was it. "It was too overwhelming," he said. He's right. It is.
That's why I will take my first-time-to-the-market friend's money. I don't want them getting home with an empty wallet, nothing to eat and a bad taste. It takes practice to see the real food through the fair like atmosphere. To put on a grocery shopping hat when nothing about the farmers' market resembles what most of us are used to. Except the impulse buys to lure us away from buying plain old real food. Those exist everywhere.
If you're in the market for impulse buys, the farmers' market is the best. Just don't take your grocery money.
And if you're at the farmers' market for groceries, keep your hat on and buy real food first. Then decide if you need a jar of the calamondin marmalde. (It is delicious.)
Since I began eating seasonally I keep a piece of fruit on my desk in a nearly flat celadon green bowl. A bowl the size of my palm with a single painted stem of bamboo. It's the perfect pedestal for a late summer peach, a newly shined apple, one blood orange, three figs or a winter persimmon. The fruit is elevated to art, displayed as if it were still a flower on the branch.
I study the fruit as if I were going to draw it, paint it, as if someone else already committed it to canvas. I notice the places the colors fade, stretch, pull forward, the texture, stem. The places where the juice is held in its miraculous skin.
I consider the farmer that planted the tree. That waited moons and storms for the tree to produce, worried over it, watered and watched it as close I do at my desk. I consider the field worker who picked the fruit, boxed it, put it on the truck for market. And I consider the person I handed my cash to. A simple exchange of smiles, a balancing act of bags in a weathered market with a tent.
It's not until I've lifted the fruit from it's perch, one bite removed, that I reach back for the landscape from which it came. The apples that were barely formed during the California fires. Is there a flavor of the haze that hung over us for days and weeks? And the peaches, they taste like more sunny days then I remember the summer containing. How is that possible? The first fall figs are nearly bland, rushed somehow, hesitant to invest their sugar. What do they know that I don't? I suppose I'll have to watch and see.
It's a small pleasure this one of contemplating the fruit. But it feeds me well.
The Muse has done it again. Remember our dinner many weeks ago when she declared farmed salmon for her dinner with a determined hurrah fling of the menu. And then I spilled stories of farmed salmon I'd been reading and she ordered a lovely pasta dish. Well, the Muse has taken no-farmed-salmon another couple of steps.
First, not long after our meal she was at the same restaurant with a friend and before the menus were opened said, "You can't order the salmon!" No further discussion was necessary and I'm still laughing at the story.
Now the Muse has found the Farm-Free Salmon Pledge at Fish restaurant in Sausalito. The pledge encourages restaurants and retailers to remove farmed salmon from their menus and shelves. Individuals can take the pledge too and remove it from their carts and tables.
Fish has printed the Pledge on recycled 5x7 card stock for customers to take and/or distribute. The Muse took the Pledge herself and is taking the card to the restaurant of our not quite legendary no-farmed-salmon dinner. And she gave me several to distribute too.
It's exciting or maybe I'm naive. But I believe if people learn about the impact the farming has on the environment and the facts that farmed salmon is fake and dyed and bolstered up with antibiotics they wouldn't want to support farmed salmon. Let alone eat it.
If you know a restaurant(s) or retailer(s) you would like to have receive the Farm-Free Salmon Pledge card, or you would like some yourself, email me from the sidebar with the business name and address or yours and I'll happily put the Pledge card or cards in the mail.
Let's get busy. There's still a lot of hope to restore the runs of the wild salmon. Delicious wild salmon, I might add.
The Farm-Free Salmon Pledge.
In the spring of 2008, the Pacific Fishery Management Council announced the closure of both the commercial and sport fishing for wild Chinook and Coho Salmon for California and Oregon coasts and rivers. The immediate impact of this will cost the west coast over 200 million dollars and over 4,200 jobs. The long term effects could be much greater if we don’t act now.
Fish. restaurant in Sausalito, Ca. is taking the first step by introducing the Farm-Free Salmon pledge. Restaurants and retailers taking this pledge will remove farmed salmon from their menus and shelves using only wild salmon when it is available. By doing this, they will protect the marine food webs that are plundered to support farmed salmon, prevent the waste that open ocean pens produce, and eliminate the possibility of escape of non-native species into our west coast ecosystems while supporting the fishing communities that depend on healthy oceans and wild salmon populations for their future.
Today, rivers and streams on the Pacific Coast are dammed, degraded, drained, diverted, buried under silt or otherwise unable to support abundant salmon populations. Consequently, some salmon populations that once supported communities along our Pacific coast are severely imperiled to the point where numerous fish populations are now protected by the federal and/or state Endangered Species Acts.
The loss of Pacific salmon populations has damaged coastal and tribal communities all along our coast and inland to Idaho and Nevada. Across the country, families are faced with the choice of paying high prices for wild salmon (if they can be found), or buying farmed Atlantic salmon of dubious quality and nutritional value, or not eating salmon at all. Commercial fishermen have been forced to fish in unsafe weather in order to make boat, insurance, and related payments. Over the last couple of decades, the Pacific Coast commercial fishing fleet has declined from more than 10,000 salmon fishermen to 1,000.
Many of these remaining fishing men and women work second jobs in to order to make ends meet. Native American tribes can no longer depend on the salmon for sustenance as they always have; as a result, these people are suffering skyrocketing increases in heart disease and diabetes. As salmon populations decline, more and more of their food now comes from the grocery store – it is high in starch, fats and sugars.
But salmon are very resilient! If you restore healthy rivers and habitat and give them a half a chance, they will bounce back. Case in point: Sacramento River winter run Chinook salmon nearly went extinct in the early 1990’s; their numbers had dwindled to a mere 186 spawning adults.
Once they were protected under the Endangered Species Act, measures were undertaken to restore habitats in the Sacramento River. Dams were modified to provide cooler water for incubating salmon eggs. A nearby mine that was leaking acid into the Sacramento River was cleaned up. Another dam that was blocking salmon migration was opened. Within a few years of these improvements, winter run Chinook salmon numbers had increased to over 8,000 spawning adults.
The winter run of Sacramento River Chinook salmon is still imperiled; we can restore these populations if we choose to protect and enhance their freshwater habitats.
I received an email from Michael Pollan this afternoon. That was no surprise (subscribe here) but the content dropped my jaw. MP was on a panel this week with Hugh Grant, the CEO of Monsanto, the discussion of which is available on Youtube.
I delayed what I should have been doing and watched. I was ready for a showdown. And I was ready for Monsanto to say, no, everything that is being said about GMO's is wrong and here's why it's all wrong. That would have been good.
The panel is pitifully short at 36 minutes though. Michael Pollan does a great job of presenting facts. And Hugh Grant is likable. He makes the audience laugh and with his sleeves rolled up talks about how we all have to work together.
None of the big issues of world hunger, the future of seeds or the green revolution in Africa were solved, they were barely addressed in the minutes available but I have my fingers crossed that we can see more public discussions with Monsanto.
I need to know more. We all do.
I'd love to know your thoughts if you have the time to watch.
I'm having dinner with the Muse tomorrow night. And I know she'll ask me, "What is one green thing you've done recently?"
I'll have to stop and think. I mean, I've gotten in a rut recently with my one green things. I've begun to justify the actions I take that aren't green as a result of the green habits I do take on. Let me be cliche', one step forward and two steps back. The pendulum of change keeps knocking me in the ass and pushing me in the wrong direction.
Diet coke has tempted its way back into my occasional drink of choice. "Medicinal," I explain to the heavens if no one else is around. Out of the corner of my eye I see the village in India though, with its water supply depleted by Coke. I rehearse the numbers; calories to make, can and distribute the soda compared to the energy calories in the soda. The numbers don't lie - I'm going to hell.
And yes, okay, since I'm already doomed, I'll admit it. I'm back on Starbucks too. Jeez. Is nothing sacred? Double tall lattes'. Put me in jail. They are delicious. I know. I met the tall Guatemalan God who advocates fair trade coffee beans without a middleman. He looked me square in the eye. And I've read about the bean farmers who can't get a fair price for their crops while our corporations grow richer. But, what can I say? Okay, I'll find fair trade coffee in the neighborhood if I'm going to continue to drink coffee. ButinthemeantimeI'mhavinglattes.
See what I mean. I've become petulant. Maybe it's the caffeine.
How are you doing with taking action on a green thing or two? Let me know. I need some momentum to move this backlash in the other direction. Hopefully before tomorrow night.
When I wasn't spooning chocolate sauce from the jar this weekend, I was cooking tomatillos.
Last year I tossed them in a pot with jalapenos, turned the heat on and spooned the resulting sauce into ziplocs for the freezer. I didn't know what I was doing but the bags were in the drawer for reuse by November 3 with a note to put up a lot more this year.
The first tomatillos of any merit I've seen this year showed up at Happy Boy Farm last week. The price was good at a dollar a basket so I smuggled four baskets back to the office in my purse.
Melinda must have read my mind because the next day she posted a roasted tomatillo salsa recipe. The recipe promoted my quick pot of tomatillos and jalapenos to salsa verde muy bien. And muy bien without it being a terrible chore.
I roasted the tomatillos slower than Melinda's recipe but only because the flames from the broiler freak me out. And I put the jalapenos in the oven to roast with the tomatillo believing myself clever until I found pepper skins like corn silk in the finished salsa. The skins didn't effect the taste but they did remind me that occassionally it would be wise to follow directions.
The salsa was so good though I bought more tomatillos on Sunday to repeat the recipe. The biggest problem with eating seasonally however is it tends to not stick to a strict script. The tomatillos were called for instead in a soup of pinto beans along with a mariachi band of jalapenos. We ate them without a thought of the winter ahead, as if summer would be our personal fiesta filling my purse and canvas bags forever.
Hopefully tomatillo harvest will continue a bit longer because I'm only getting started with this juicy green fruit. Or is it a vegetable?
Either way, it's delicious.
I'm moonlighting at the Bookworm Blog this week. Come on over and check it out.
There's a new review by Audrey at Eat Local Northwest of one of my favorite books, Uncertain Peril.
I wrote about seeing the author, Amy Goldman, talk about her new book The Heirloom Tomato, From Garden to Table.
And there's the weekly call for new green reads, reviews, new bookwormers.
Get a few green reading ideas or share some of your own.
I was born with chicken farming in my blood. My Great Grandparents were chicken farmers on one side, mixed farmers on the other. And my Grandfathers were both poultry farmers, one chickens, the other turkeys. All relationships with poultry ended there though. KFC is the chicken I remember.
But this weekend my ancestral roots grew arms. The cute guy's son, Jeremy, taught me how to harvest chickens. He seems to have been born with an innate knowledge of animals and he did the parts his wife, sister-in-law, and I didn't have the muscle for.
I arrived in my Vote With Your Fork t-shirt, a generation removed from the land but with good information from El at Fast Grow the Weeds. She recently wrote her process of harvesting chickens that gave me not only front row information but confidence too.
It sounds odd to say we had fun but we did. The women, yes, me too, got a little choked up at first. Then we got to work in a rhythm accented by the sounds of scattering chickens, the spray of the hose and the smell of wet feathers. There was respect for each new bird, we harvested a dozen, but it was equally matched with the laughter of working together.
The little kids were in and out too; curious but non-plussed by the operation. They pulled a feather here and there, touched the pimply skin, asked a few questions then ran off half way through the answer.
Jeremy dissected a stomach for his son to see what the chicken had recently eaten. To every one's surprise there was a free range screw.
We had the luxury of working in the barn kitchen for the final step of cleaning the chickens for the freezer. Everyone but Jeremy exclaimed that running water made the job easier. We were able to harvest the necks, livers, hearts and most of the gizzards for stocks or dressings.
It's safe to say I won't take eating chicken for granted again. Something different happened being intimately involved in the process of taking the animals life. My appreciation for the chicken multiplied. Not just for a meaty breast or juicy thigh, but for every part of the bird. Also for the workers that harvest chicken for a living. It's a smelly business.
Have you every hunted, raised and harvested or prepared an animal for food? Was it a good experience? Would you do it again?