I have a guest post
at Limes and Lycopene, on
local food, of course.
(Thank you, Kathryn.)
I bought tickets months ago for the Food For Thought speakers series of Slow Food Nation happening this weekend in San Francisco. All my favorite speakers will be there plus some I've not heard before.
But the fun and inspiration has already begun. Yesterday, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Anya Fernald, Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan did a Slow Food hour on the Forum with Michael Krasney.
Here's a link if you'd like to hear the show.
The group touched on everything Slow Food is about; social justice, fair food, environmental sustainability, democracy, the importance of voting with your fork, sitting down at the table and yes, the pleasure of taste.
I've listened to it twice.
Wherever you are this weekend be a part of the Slow Food Nation; enjoy the story and taste of your food, the people at your table and make a vote with your fork, your butter knife, tablespoon and every teaspoon in your drawer for a food system that is healthy for every living thing -
Choose food with the least amount of packaging.
Plant one thing that you will be able to eat.
Go to the farmers' market.
Buy local organic when you can.
Taste your food.
Say, "I won't buy it!" to industrial and manufactured foods that imitate the real thing.
Enjoy a food in season.
No one thing will solve all the challenges of our food systems but every one thing is a step in the right direction.
Let's leave no waste behind and make each step delicious.
I've always thought all jalapenos were created equal. That it was a pepper to slightly fear. And then I would have a jalapeno mild as a bell pepper. The next time I'd pile them on and damn if I wouldn't have volcano mouth. It was confusing.
I'd think back to where I bought the peppers. It must be the grower, I'd conclude. They were either doing something right or wrong. But the theory didn't hold. It must be the season, was my next idea. Then, where the pepper was grown, if they buried milagros beneath the plants, planted them under a new moon, picked them young, mature, at noon under a devil red sun.
Finally, in a weak moment and unwilling to gamble with what will be our winters storage of frozen peppers, ala Yankee Food, I asked a grower.
"There are different varieties of jalapenos," he said. How logical. He named several. All I remember is he had dimples when he smiled. "These are hot," he confirmed weighing the bag I'd handed him.
He was right. I've had fire-mouth all week.
From now on, he's my pepper man, but if I do find myself buying jalapenos somewhere else, I'll be sure to ask. I don't want to risk a single meal with peppers to having them be mild.
Have you ever ate kohlrabi?
A German woman I knew grew them when I was a kid. She would cook them in an onion and butter sauce and they were my favorite vegetable. Although it's debatable if I enjoyed the butter sauce or the vegetable more. In any event, I haven't ate one in decades, until yesterday.
A farm hand from Paradise Valley Farm in Bolinas was the demo cook at the Pt. Reyes farmers' market. He picked what was available at the farm that morning and prepared it a couple of hours later with an audience. He was my kind of a cook, making it up on the spot with the ingredients in front of him.
He stuffed male squash blossoms with a leaf of basil wrapped around a triple cream cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery. He made a summer squash salad. And he made kohlrabi salad.
We were all skeptical. I'd never eaten raw kohlrabi before, but everyone liked it. I couldn't wait to make it today. The salad tastes fresh, as if by eating it I could sprout upper arm muscles or petaled blossoms from the palms of my hands.
Here's the recipe for two.
1 Peeled and Chunky Diced Kohlrabi
1 Minced Garlic Clove
1 Handful of Chopped Parsley
Olive Oil to Taste
Salt and Pepper
Using your hands, turn over all the ingredients until mixed thoroughly, adding olive oil, salt and pepper to your liking. Serve at room temperature.
The farm hand/cook recommended the salad be eaten with your fingers and he's right. A fork is too impersonal for such a clean and fragrant salad. And plus, it's more fun.
(Check out my review of an Unreasonable Woman at the Bookworm Blog.)
This week I'm a wormer; a Blogging Bookwormer. It's my week at the other blog. Come on over and check it out.
There's a review from Fix on A Year Without Made In China.
And I reviewed Lost Mountain, A Year In The Vanishing Wilderness, Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation Of Appalachia by Erik Reece, forward by Wendell Berry.
And let me know what you're reading before summer vacation comes to a close and all the gold medals have been awarded. There are never too many good books.
I'm a slow learner with a bad memory. I have no idea how long it took to realize that eating local food meant primarily eating food without throwaway packaging. That should have been the first thing I noticed.
There's still packaging in that I carry reused bags in my purse for spontaneous markets. And I have a canvas bag especially for reused bags and a collection of smaller and mesh cotton bags. (All of which makes a nice nest when buying peaches.)
I bring home yogurt in mason jars that I keep or return for the deposit depending on my mood. We reuse the zip lock bags the rice comes in, return the green berry baskets, the almond butter and jam jars. The dried beans do come in a cellophane bag but are so good I can't give them up.
I don't refuse eggs cartons but borrow them for a week at a time. Our cheese has a bit of saran wrap around it and local meat is wrapped in plastic too. It's impossible to break away completely.
At the grocery store I buy milk in returnable bottles although our butter still comes in a box wrapped one cube at a time. I buy flour in bulk, yeast in a jar, baking powder in a crisp plastic bag. And then I leave the store. Okay, sometimes with a bag of tortilla chips too.
There have been several times I've come home from the farmers' market and pulled a purveyors plastic tub of goods from the bag. "What was I thinking?" I always ask. Not that I mind an occasional plastic tub, I reuse it, but generally speaking what's in the tub isn't as good as the logo its branded with.
I'm learning. Packaging that isn't returnable or reusable often means I'm being impulsive. I may want to walk away, reevaluate.
Although being impulsive has it's joys too. Like the day I accepted a taste of dark chocolate covered organic almonds. I'm still using that container.
In case you may have missed it, the Eat Local Challenge blog announced this years Eat Local
Challenge. It starts October 1.
I'm telling you now, in case you wanted some time to think about signing on.
Actually don't think. Just do it. One meal, two meals, a week. The full month. Make the challenge your own.
You'll like it. Money back guarantee. (I'm making that part up. There's no charge to join in.)
I've wanted to save the world since I was in third grade. Save it from what has always been hard to pinpoint; until I discovered the eat local movement. Then I wanted to save the world from manufactured food and the unnecessary use of fossil fuels. I still do.
I read an article today that broadened my perspective though. It was a moment of ah-ha. The article argued that even if everyone in the U.S. tore out their lawns to plant gardens it wouldn't make a significant difference to world hunger. The people rioting for food don't want cucumbers, they want rice; wheat; commodity crops grown in monocultures. The article went on in that vein repeatedly making the point that we can't get sedated in our gardens but must press for policy change in the world beyond tomato cages and bean poles.
I'm not in a position to debate world hunger but I do believe that tearing out our lawns or planting a backyard garden makes more of a difference than the author gives voice to. And he does give voice to it. He tore out his own lawn several years ago.
It's my experience that something bigger happens when we begin paying attention to our food, where it comes from, how it's grown. Read any of the bloggers in my sidebar. They garden, eat local food, but they do not have their heads stuck in a gopher hole. They're writing letters to Washington. They're canning, reading books to learn more. They're questioning where their water is going, biking, building community, connecting their kids to the natural world, teaching themselves and others how to live with a lighter step. They are talking about how to make a difference.
Saving the world or not I was going to have my local dinners and call it good. I had no idea. Now I want to save the oceans and save the world from Monsanto. I want to ban plastic bags, plastic water bottles, halt mountaintop removal for the mining of coal. I worry about water and the people in Haiti, the farmers in India, tomato pickers in Florida. And I continue to make changes at home to be more respectful of the world around me, to learn beyond sound bytes what the hell is going on in the world. I'm not alone.
All of which began with a meal grown within 100 miles of home. From there bigger change can and does happen.
Hopefully change big enough to sustain and feed the world.
The farmers' market has become routine. There's a plus side but Sunday the routine was on her head. I was three hours late.
I went to the cheese guy first. "I'm selling the last chevre," he said as soon as he saw me. He looked almost guilty accepting the money from someone else. I ran to the egg lady.
"I only have a dozen left that someone hasn't come back for. They're yours." She went to the truck to grab the carton. I pulled out cash.
With a five still in my hand I headed for the avocados. They've been five for five as long as I can remember. Not Sunday. Six for five. I pulled out another dollar.
There were still as many greens as there were people. And the people were in my way until I reminded my hurried self that this is what I've been shouting about, for everyone who can to support local food. They all showed up.
I bought another dozen eggs from someone else. There were green eggs in the mix, which led to a you-had-to-be-there kind of a story. I walked away happier to be one of the crowd.
There was plenty of yogurt still available and a minute to exchange camping stories. And even this late in the market the peaches were still kissable. I scored the one remaining loaf of sourdough from the Brickmaiden Bakery and filled a bag from boxes of potatoes, tomatoes and too many peppers to take home. I shared a rainbow chard recipe with two men and returned to the cheese guy.
"Okay," I said. "Surprise me." He didn't hesitate.
"You're going to love this," he said with a grin, putting a round of cheese in my hand. "If not, next week, the cheese is on me."
That wouldn't have happened if I'd been on my routine schedule. But then again, it happened because I have the routine to begin with.
I'm going to make a point of being late now and again because the way I see it, either way is a win.
The first time I visited my father in law he made calabacitas, a combination of zucchini, corn and jalapenos. And he's made it each successive visit since.
But this is the first time he's made calabacitas at our house.
"How many ears of corn do we need?" I asked him at the farmers' market.
"I don't know," he said. "I've always bought the corn in a can." We did a generous approximation and bagged six.
"How many jalapenos do you think it will take?"
"Can we just get them in a can?" he asked. "I use two cans." I bought five fresh jalapenos.
"Do you use garlic?"
Can you use fresh?"
"Oh, I guess so," he said. The canvas bag he was carrying, potatoes bulging in the bottom, corn husks sticking out the top, was beginning to take him sideways. He looked like he would agree to anything to be free of it.
"I've got garlic at home. We'll use that."
The cute guy prepped the corn and garlic for the calabacitas. They added grass fed ground beef my aunt had given us. And at dinner, we swooned. Well, I swooned. TCG didn't stop eating long enough to swoon. And truth be told, my father in law seemed non-plussed with the fresh ingredients. But he had seconds.
Two nights in a row.
Maybe he liked it a little.
(If you use Brita water filters and haven't checked out the Take Back The Filter Campaign, please do. After meeting Beth, of Fake Plastic Fish I've signed on to be a collection point for used filters in Marin County and/or for friends and family that would like to contribute their filters (email me from the sidebar to coordinate). The filters will be returned to Clorox, the owners of Brita, to encourage them to initiate a filter recycling program, which Europe already enjoys.)
Time has slowed down at our house. The cute guy’s Dad is visiting and the beauty is he has nothing to be in a hurry for. He naps a lot. He’s 86, plays Scrabble with me and together we worry over the production of ethanol and alternative fuels in America. And then the whole house takes another nap.
We also talk about food because, well, because I always talk about food. He’s been telling me stories. His Grandmother would make oil soup with onions, noodles, parsley and olive oil. “It was good,” he says laughing because my face is skewed in disbelief.
He remembered buying peaches in Auburn on his summer trips to Tahoe where he was raised. “And then we’d stop in Tahoe City and buy cream.” He paused, remembering, a new smile in his eyes. He looked like he could still taste the combination.
I stopped because I recognized something new. I know taste is linked to memory of a place. What I ate is most often the first thing I remember. His memory of the peaches revealed another layer though. It wasn’t only a memory of food and place but also of season.
His annual trips to Tahoe as an adult were in the summer, when the Auburn peaches were in season. Not peaches brought from somewhere else to Auburn but the peaches grown in Auburn. The year was charted not only in time and place, but season and taste too. I've not noticed that before.
This morning at the farmers’ market I bought a generous bag of yellow peaches from Parlier. And stopped at the store for a bottle of fresh cream from West Marin. For the first time all weekend I hurried, to get home, unpack the car, to quick get in the kitchen. The peaches could hardly be peeled fast enough.
Once on the table though, peaches spilled with too much cold cream, I slowed. Still the peaches and cream were gone too fast. And then the whole house took another nap.
We're going to remember this summer visit.