No Trash

It happened again last week. For the second time. And each time it has taken us by surprise. There wasn't any garbage in the outside can come time to take it down for Lance, the garbage man.

There was a small bag of trash under the kitchen sink, but not enough to go out and certainly too little to make a trip to the curb.

We saw it coming with the decrease in food packaging. We even invited it by getting worms. We've always recycled the ordinary stuff but now we buy yogurt and milk in crocks and bottles that get returned and reused. We take back egg cartons and fruit baskets to the vendors at the market. We rarely eat take out, the packaging of which used to add bulk to our weekly waste.

But still the no trash has taken us by surprise.

Now I'm working on alternatives to plastic produce bags, even though we reuse them constantly. I bought bio bags. The first one ripped getting it off the roll. The second one was more cooperative.

I'm considering cotton mesh bags after reading about them at Pondering the Myriad Things. I even saw them today at the Good Earth but at $3.99 each I hesitated and checked the price online. There wasn't any savings.

I trust we'll gradually distinguish plastic bags in a variety of ways with some combination of the above and ways I've not yet discovered.

And then one day I'll realize we've succeeded and be surprised again.

Haiku Friday

For Chris (Farmers' Market 101)

Look at everything.

Sample. Overlook a lot.

Buy what's in season.

Sustainability as Entertainment Too

I love to hear authors read and discuss their books. It gives another dimension to the work, adds a story beneath the story.

This week has been a field day of authors speaking in the bay area on topics of farming, sustainability and activism.

Saturday night at Toby's Feed Barn in Pt. Reyes Wendy Johnson with her new book, Gardening at the Dragon's Gate, Allstar Organics Janet Brown, and Sara Tashkar, the Organic Farm Manager of Green Gulch Farm spoke about Food, Farming and the Future.

There was a passionate discussion of the politics of the light brown apple moth aerial spraying. There were committed young female farmers, a raffle. There was a wild nettle and chard dip on fresh baked bread.

My favorite statement of the evening was that farming isn't sustainable unless it's passed on to the next generation. I know it sounds obvious but I'd never thought of it.

Monday night Bill McKibben was at City Arts and Lectures discussing his new book, Deep Economy. He talked about the power of people taking action across the country, his new project 350. He talked about being neighborly in every sense of the word. I loved that.

Tuesday night Michael Pollan's taped January appearance at City Arts and Lectures was on the radio. I'd been at the event but listened again because I always hear something new. This time I gave him much more credit for supporting local foods.

And tomorrow night Diane Wilson is speaking at the Dance Palace in Pt. Reyes about her book an An Unreasonable Woman, which I lived and breathed this week. I started talking like she writes. I laughed and cried and hid under the covers in despair reading the book.

And I finished with hope that persistence and truth can eventually save the day or in her case save the bay. I can't wait to see her.

The Tenth Muse

I recently read The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones, the editor for an array of cookbook and food writers, most famously Julia Childs. She worked with James Beard, Edna Lewis. She was friends with M.F.K. Fisher. And her own voice is quietly confident on the page. The woman knows food.

There is one particular passage that I dog earred in order that I could share it here. It's something I attempted to say a few weeks ago and that Judith Jones summed up in one sentence.

I certainly learned, as I made one inspired dish after another, how, when the seasons dictate what goes together, flavors and colors and textures play off each other and create a natural harmony that is always naturally delicious.

That is exactly what I was trying to say.

Which brings me to something that has been bothering me. A small thing really; it's the strawberries and tomatoes on the market. It's lovely to see bright red fruit after months of primarily green everything but somehow the red fruit seems wrong. Even in California. Okay, Northern California.

The insides of my chest pucker when I see the summer crops laid out across folding tables with my jacket zipped choking to my chin. Where did these fruits get the warmth to be big and red? In my backyard the dogwood has yet to bloom and I can't imagine cultivating a full grown tomato or strawberry through these last months of winter.

Last Sunday I bought Watsonville strawberries because my desire for citrus was waning and it was Easter. I stood in the front row next to the table loaded with fruit and I took a bite of the first fresh berry since last year with the memory of summer strawberries past ready to dance on my tongue. I expected a symphony or stand up reggae.

I got a junior high marching band practicing for the homecoming game. The strawberry had potential, it had notes that imitated summer but it was juvenile, filled out but unsure of itself. It didn't have its full strawberryness.

I eyed the tomatoes suspiciously. They were too perfect, too uniform. They looked like Hollywood plastic, painted smiles. If they wore shoes they would have fake stones and lucite clear heels. And what would they go with? Tomatoes and kale wouldn't pass even my liberal views of food diversity. Tomatoes and brussel sprouts? Tomatoes and carrots? With asparagus? I don't think so.

I'll wait until the season catches up with them. I'll wait until the tomatoes have had a chance to be seasoned with spring showers, to reach for the first ray of morning sun and to collect the still heat of long and hot afternoons. And then I'll be first in line.

The true taste will be worth the wait and the natural harmony that Judith Jones describes will happen. In the meantime I'll happily stick to citrus and greens.

Nearly the End of the Dark Days Eat Local Challenge

I'm cooking again after the big fever. Or more truthfully, I'm obsessed with local food again and my appetite is accommodating. In fact I can hardly stop eating. And there is so much good food.

I baked no knead bread twice over the long weekend and have fallen in love with the bubbly shaggy dough after it's first stage of sitting. I coo to it, "You are a good batch," I say. "Healthy, perfect."

"Who are you talking to?" the cute guy asks.

"No one," I answer.

And in the last stage before the dough goes in the oven, when it's doubled in size and is like a poem or a babies bottom I don't want to bake it. It's so perfectly pretty. But I do and we exclaim over each slice as if it were our first, or our last.

We ate salad this week made from back yard greens, one of which has gone to flower so we ate the flowers too. There was wild arugula and pea shoots from Bolinas, blue cheese from Pt. Reyes, walnuts from Mendocino.

And I steamed new stems of broccoli, mixed them with garlic toasted brown in olive oil. "This is the best broccoli I've ever had," the guy said and I knew life was good because he doesn't like broccoli.

I served asparagus prepared from a recipe at Orangette and his first words were, "It tastes like bacon." And I smiled because he loves bacon.

On the weekend I made fried rice from a recipe at Eat Local Northwest but changed all the ingredients to accommodate our season. I didn't have the oyster sauce the recipe called for and still I ate every last bite before I would have to share it.

On Easter Sunday we had breakfast after the farmers' market with eggs the color of orange Bauer plates, topped with Petaluma mushrooms, shavings of aged goat cheese and diced red serrano wildly spicy, pickled peppers from Happy Girl Kitchen. And toast with butter and jam. And strawberries. And sunshine and shadows. We ate forever. And then we napped.

Tonight because we were running out the door nearly as soon as we'd arrived we ate bean soup with chard from the freezer. I could not have been more appreciative of the ease.

Already I've planed tomorrow night's meal three times, three different ways with local food infused with spring. Infused with that impossible light that happens when the trees bloom. Even the bread has bounce.

I can taste the ground waking and warming, ready to get down to the big business of summer crops. And it tastes so good, so right, I can't get enough.

Haiku Friday

The Neighborhood

Screeching, the barn owl

glided high, making its

nightly supper rounds.

Our Carbon Bite

"Do you want to needlessly burn fossil fuel and increase our carbon footprint?" I asked a friend.

"Sure," she said. "Where are we going?"

Yeah, I laughed, but underneath was a consciousness I didn't have before. And I was able to share it in a way that it didn't have to be swatted away.

For years the guy and I have made note of different things we do that are less than healthy. "Watch out," one of us will say when we stick something in the microwave, "I'm going to change the molecular structure of this." As a result we rarely use the microwave any more.

The other night he brought home a local, industrial raised chicken that was roasted at the corner store and packaged in an inordinate amount of plastic. "I see we're having something close to a chicken marinated in petroleum products this evening."

"Yeah," he replied. "I was so hungry I couldn't help it."

I was hungry too and with some sea salt the chicken tasted damn good. But we choose to have chicken less and less and wax poetically more and more about pastured chickens we've had.

I love reciting the place and the story of the fruits and vegetables from the farmers' markets. I feel good making local and organic choices. That I can put cash in the hands of the actual people that walk the fields. But more importantly I note the ways I'm not green - long hot showers, Starbucks coffee, clothes from China.

Before we stopped going to the grocery store the produce aisle would be a noting and international blessing fest. "This is from our brothers and sisters in Chile," I would say choosing apples for lunch.

"And this is from our cousins in Mexico," the guy would continue, dropping in a bag of limes or jalepenos.

"Blessings on our cousins in Mexico," I would add.

"And Chile," he would finish.

And little by little we've been able to source our food closer to home. Point Reyes, I think now, green fields, red winged blackbirds singing, the smell of dirt. And I thank our neighbors that work the fields and get up early for the markets.

We continue to work to lighten our carbon bite and footprint, but first we've had to wake up to the less than stellar choices we're constantly making. And not make ourselves too wrong in the process.

It's slow going and a lot of laughter helps.

Seductions of Rice

One of my all time favorite books, and it's somewhat of a cookbook, although I've never cooked anything from it, is Seductions of Rice. I bought it off a sale rack for $5.99 at least eight years ago.

What I love about the book is that it's part travel log, part memoir; equal parts cookbook and coffee table photography. I've spent hours contemplating the work that went into it and the adventure. And I've wondered what happened to the couple that did it. Did they publish one book that ended up on a sale rack and then get office jobs?

Today my question was answered. There's a short interview with the couple, Jeffrey Allard and Naomi Duguid, on Culinate. I couldn't remember their names but after reading the first two paragraphs I was sure it was them.

Their eyes sparkle and they speak about food with a light hearted reverence that is what attracted and keeps pulling me back to their book on rice. They give a context to food beyond a list of ingredients and instructions. They care about where food comes from and they take their time. A lot of time.

They have a new book Beyond The Great Wall and have published several others about food and place, all of which I can't wait to discover.

Naturally Colored Dyes

I found this article at Plenty magazine today about using food products instead of dyes to create color for Easter eggs.

I told the cute guy about it.

"That makes sense," he said.

It sounds fun to me.

First Asparagus

After a week of feverish sleeping I have woke up in spring.

This morning at the farmers' market I did my best to not breathe on anyone but I kept gaping, mouth wide open, at all the new produce.

The cute guy carried the canvas bags that I filled with wild arugula blossoms, pea shoots, asparagus, blue broccoli.

There is so much good food and I have so little appetite but it's good to be on the mend.

Ginger, Lemon and Honey Tea

After a few days away from home a monster bug gripped me in its steel jaws. This is one bad bugger.

Fortunately I have local ingredients for one of my favorite remedies, ginger, lemon and honey tea.

I make it by the tea pot full. Here's how -

3-5 Tbsp. Ginger
2 Lemons
1 Tsp. Honey Per Cup

Boil water.
Slice ginger (peeled or not) and add to steeping pot of water.
Squeeze lemons into tea pot.
Let sit for fifteen minutes.
Pour and add honey to taste.

The tea hasn't cured me but it does calm the bug temporarily.

Haiku Friday


Visiting Portland

with the farmers' market closed

I eat everything.

Berkeley Farmers' Market

Saturday I visited my friend, the demographer, in Berkeley. We went to a movement class down the street from her loft, because that's what you do in Berkeley, and then we went to the farmers' market. Because that's what I do wherever I am.

At the farmers' market I filled my pockets with the best kumquats I've had all year, carried away a pound of Santa Rosa pecans and a dozen brown eggs. And after sampling Bariana balsamic vinegar I came home with a bottle of that too.

I picked up potatoes for dinner from a central valley farmer, which weren't as tasty as the Petaluma potatoes I've gotten used to. Although how I could tell is debatable as the aloo gobi I'd put them in suffered from way too much fenugreek. (So much for following a recipe!)

The demographer and I drank Indian chai in the sun listening to a bluesy trio. Small children danced.

On the way out I chose a brown bag for home recycling from the box of bags that sits in the middle of the market for the taking.

All of which was enjoyable but the two best things about the market weren't its food.

The first was we left our cars at a car wash run by Options Recovery Services and walked the few blocks to the market. Only if you've experienced parking for this market will you fully appreciate that statement - that we left our cars there. No endless circling for a parking spot. Even better than the kumquats.

And the men at the car wash made our cars shine. I would have paid the $15 tax deductible donation just to park there or hang out for a while. The parking lot was a carnival of buckets, hoses, soap suds, grateful guys and good will. The clean car was a bonus.

Nearly as good was the group at the market creating buzz and selling subsidized worm bins. Enthusiastic, young guys with earrings talking up vermicomposting to a constant parade of marketers. People were peering into bins, kneeling down and picking up worms, asking questions. Taking away pamphlets.

As much as I love the farmers' markets for the local and sustainable food, the commerce and community that springs up around them is a big part of the story.

Worm News

The Valentine worms arrived a week ago Saturday and to be honest, they didn't look like much.

I expected a pound of worms to be the size of a bag of sugar. Instead the woman at the nursery handed me a paper container the size of Chinese hot and sour soup for two. That was only two thirds full of dirt.

I lifted the lid as soon as I got in the car expecting to see worms crawling around. What I saw was dirt. I shook the container. More dirt.

At home I emptied the contents out sparingly. The first guys looked dead. Towards the bottom was a clump of worms; skinny red and pink anemic looking worms. "Great," I thought, "I got leftovers."

But I spread them out, a few showing a hint of life and I covered them in a layer of dirt. Then I ran upstairs to get their food I'd been saving in the fridge.

I read to not initally feed them too much but it was hard to hold back. I layered an inch of carrot tops, broccoli trunks, leek skins and assorted greens on top of their mango mulch home. I patted it down, talked to them. "Okay," I said. "Time to eat." I smiled. Nothing.

Over the last week I've opened the lid a couple of times. There's increasingly less green matter, more brown. Sunday, day 8, I checked again and brought a fork to dig.

The box smelled, but not bad. There were a couple of ants and the top was covered with an airy white mold. A result of my enthusiasm more than anything. As the worms start eating, the smell, ants and mold will go away.

The worms were getting busy, tunnelling and working. They looked healthy, like they'd gained weight, added color.

I'm holding back on giving them more food while they get acclimated. But I'm continuing to save produce scraps. Everything that goes to the worms is not going in our trash and will end up as fertilizer in our garden.

And that is a sweetheart deal.

Eric Schlosser

Last fall I wrote about seeing Eric Schlosser being interviewed by Orville Schell at a City Arts and Lectures event.

That talk is being aired Tuesday night, March 4, at 8PM on KQED, 88.5 fm. The station is also available online for audio streaming through your computer.

I heard the program yesterday, as it's broadcast twice in the same week, and enjoyed it as much as actually seeing the live recording in November. I still think Eric Schlosser is a national and local food awareness rock star! Extremely articulate, warm hearted and hotly passionate.

And City Arts and Lectures is fabulous too but for the fact that their recorded talks are not available to the general public except at prescribed times and venues. So it's likely this talk won't cycle around again for awhile.

And I so wish everyone could hear it.