She pulled from her purse
a two pound grapefruit and a
bowl of steamed green kale.
I was excited today to find a review of Bottomfeeder in the recent, what do you call it, issue?, of Culinate, the online sustainable food magazine, which lands in my mail each Wednesday. I read and reviewed the book last year and have been a champion of it since. Funny how some books have that effect.
Culinate's review of Bottomfeeder - How To Eat Ethically In A World Of Vanishing Seafood is by Twilight Greenaway. She works for the Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture, better known as the people that put on the Ferry Building farmers' market, which makes me believe this book is slowly getting the audience it deserves. And it gives me hope that even though we can't see what's going on underwater in the ocean, we really do care.
The Culinate review is a good one, although not as good looking as the Chewy Chocolate Cookie recipe right beneath it. They're wicked.
I'm not one for fancy kitchen gadgets but the cute guy and I received a new Knife for Christmas that has changed my kitchen life. We have an average assortment of knives that previously got the job done but now, now I'm an artist.
Three nights ago the Kyocera Knife cut effortlessly through a butternut squash; a job that used to involve stabbing said squash, whacking it against the counter with eyes half shut and then cleaning up the seeds planted about the kitchen. (The Knife actually cut out some of the excitement as I think about it.)
Last night I made dimes from a frozen jalapeno I added to a pot of beans. I couldn't stop smiling. And for the first time in my life I cut thin slices of sourdough with no tearing. The possibilities are endless.
We're eating carrot sticks because they're easy to make. I topped a salad with apple slices thin as a ten dollar bill. I stand in the kitchen and cut things simply because I can; because I have the Knife. Walnuts, dates, roasted chicken, onions, cilantro and I've not cut myself once.
I reach for a potato in the bottom drawer with visitors. "Cut this," I say, handing them the knife wishing I had two so I could be slicing au gratin too.
My best friend in the kitchen used to be an impossible smooth can opener, also a gift. I miss the fast and easy charm it offered but eating local means produce and produce means preparation, which elevates the status of a good knife. I don't know how I've made it this long without one. The Knife is definitely my new best friend in the kitchen.
Do you have a best friend in the kitchen?
The first time I heard someone say that nine out of ten of all the big fish in the ocean are gone, it was James Gustave Speth speaking at the World Affairs Council. But I didn't believe him. I tried to convince myself I'd heard him incorrectly. That he was a kook. I looked at his bio again - Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale.
Then I looked around the room. No one, well, other than Mr. Speth, seemed too concerned. I left confidant that I'd missed a clarifying precursor to the nine out of ten missing big fish. I often miss things.
Then I read Bottomfeeder, How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood. The author, Taras Grescoe, wrote about the missing big fish but he also wrote about the little fish still plentiful that he loved to eat. I focused there and tried fresh sardines and then stayed away from seafood for the most part. Eating it was too overwhelming to consider; the mercury, the way it was caught or grown, where it came from. I needed to let the ocean settle before I put any part back on my plate.
Last night I saw Ted Danson talk about acting and his work with Oceana. And I heard that line again, "Nine out of ten big fish are gone from the oceans as a result of over fishing." He was literally on the edge of his chair, a posture he never took when reminiscing about acting. He looked ready to spring up and pace the stage. He gave more facts but I was still repeating the first one and then the lights were turned up for questions.
A young woman asked, "What can we do to help the ocean."
"Become activists," he replied. "Eat sustainably caught fish that's low in mercury."
There were more questions about his twelve years on Cheers, other roles he'd played. Not another question about the ocean.
I wish I'd stood up, taken the microphone and asked Ted Danson to repeat the first line one more time, "Nine out of ten big fish in the ocean are gone as a result of commercial fishing." Maybe then I would believe it. I'm still reasoning that it must be some other ocean. Not my ocean. Ha.
I could write about the robust bunch of chard I bought this morning at the farmers' market. The new recipe I picked up from AVA restaurant; a quick braise with slow cooked onions, reconstituted yellow raisins and slivered almonds. It's sweet, crunchy, green. Completely satisfying.
But what's thumping about inside of me is the pre-inauguration concert that happened in Lincoln Square yesterday. I listened to it on KQED driving home from the city. James Taylor singing Shower The People as I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge. Crying.
Listening to Tiger Woods, Tom Hanks, Queen Latfiah; too many musicians to name, I wanted to start waving at the people in other cars, blowing them kisses. I wanted us to get out of our cars and hold hands.
Instead I went home and wrapped the unbagged chard in a damp flour sack towel for the fridge. I put a cloth bag of baby gem lettuce and midget kale in the fridge crisper covered with a damp towel. The greens stay just picked fresh for a week this way.
I kept the radio on, dancing while I worked, happy to be alive in this particular moment with the enthusiasm and hope of so many. Yes We Can, seemed more true than ever.
Tomorrow though, watching the inauguration I won't be in my car and I will offer my hand to the person beside me. And maybe I'll give them a cloth produce bag while I'm at it too!
Do you have plans for watching the inauguration?
I'm a Starbuck's coffee drinker. There are times, months even, when I abstain; when I require even my coffee to meet local standards and I drip single cups next to the office sink. And then something slips, work gets busy, I forget to bring milk, I need a treat and I'm back in the coffee line.
To justify, I work down the street from a Starbuck's; but then who doesn't? And the people who work there are nearly as familiar as co-workers.
For a long time I didn't give a thought to the paper coffee cup, the paper sleeve, the lid. It all went in the trash. I appreciated the convenience.
Finally I started saving the sleeves in my top desk drawer. Throwing them away seemed unnecessary. I'd arrange them in identical stacks, band and return them. The baristas would look at me funny and I'd feel funny but they'd return the stacks to inventory. Eventually I requested no sleeves.
This next piece is embarrassing. It was only recently that I realized the lids on the cups were plastic. I mean really registered that the lids are plastic and will end up in landfill. And I was adding one a day. I used the lid for five minutes and into the landfill it went.
So I asked them to not use lids. They made hearts of frothy foam on the tops of my drinks instead.
I was down to a bare paper cup. But it was still going in the landfill. I'd do the math on the way to the office; five days, five cups times four weeks, okay, 20 times 12 months, minus holidays ..... It was a a lot of cups.
I committed to buying a thermos cup. I had one in my hand to buy. It was green with swirls. I liked it. A lot. The line was out the door. I got in it. But with only two people left in front of me I realized the cup was plastic. I put it back on the shelf and went to the end of the line for coffee. I'm crazy, I thought.
The cute guy restored my sanity though. "I have a cup for you," he said. "It's in my truck." (Everything is in his truck.)
"It fell off someones car," he announced holding a blue thermos cup up like a trophy. The cup is dented with a plastic shell. There are no swirls unless I count the road scratches but the cup isn't in the landfill. And neither are the five paper cups, times four, times ten that I was adding every day, month and year either.
The final bonus? There's a ten cent discount for bringing in my own cup. I'll do the math on that later.
I don't often look to buy flowers but occasionally at the farmers' market there are those that look for me and then without a question I'm taking them home. That was the case with the bunch of china lilies above. There were two buckets of them calling my name. I wanted them all.
I have a soft spot for old fashioned field grown and small plot cut flowers. They have a character that hot house flowers have lost along with their natural growing seasons. I may be delusional but I swear I can smell the difference.
It's not hard actually. Imagine a hot house rose and then one from your neighbors front yard. Pick the neighbors that could be your grandparents. Their roses will smell the best. Can you tell the difference? Yeah. That's what I'm talking about. One has history and sunshine. The other is an industrially grown resemblance of a flower, likely grown to fit a marketing plan for color, size and shipping convenience.
The difference goes beyond smell though. Flowers show everything on their face. Those grown as industrial commodities reveal it as surely as a bunch of laughing organic china lilies.
Don't believe me though. Check it out for yourself and see which calls your name.
And then bring them home!
Me: "I didn't know cherries were in season."
Friend: "If you shop at Costco cherries in Chile are in season."
We laughed because she knows I would never buy them and because I knew she would enjoy them.
Aside from the fact the cherries are shipped from halfway across the world, packaged in single use plastic that even if recyclable is not going to return to the natural world in the life time of any generation I'll ever know, I wouldn't buy them because I'd miss out on what's in season right here. I live in California and can only eat so much fruit. Why eat fruit from Chile?
It's big citrus season right now. Today I had the first grapefruit of the year from the Capay Valley. I've never known one to be so smooth. Eating it was a well rehearsed choir. There were no sour notes, no puckered moments that I expect from grapefruit.
And the same grower has clementines. They're great for work because they can be peeled without getting sticky fingers. And yes, they sing too. Bright voices with perfectly high pitched notes.
There are kumquats in season that I'd never trade for imported fruit. Kiwi that are actually grown locally (I thought they were all imported). And there are limes in our back yard, meyers lemons in everyone else's.
As soon as all this citrus becomes repetitive it'll be over I'll be on to the next season. And maybe it's just me, but the fruit tastes sweeter when I eat what's grown in the same season I see when I look out the door. The local season for cherries is worth waiting for.
I have a new favorite thing.
It's an ecobag, produce bag, being sold at the Marin Farmers' Market. They're made of unbleached organic cotton and weigh less than a handful of arugula. I feel decadent filling them with clementines or dropping a bunch of dirty carrots into them. And it feels natural using the soft cloth, foregoing the plastic, reused or not. I swear the spinach let out a sigh of relief as it went into the bag this morning. "Thank you for not suffocating me," I imagined it saying.
The ecobag website recommends putting the cloth produce bag into plastic as a way to keep produce fresher longer in the fridge. At first I balked at the advice but it makes sense. The plastic bag won't have to be washed given it's only an outer cover and therefore can be reused forever. Unless of course the produce turns into a science experiment and then, well, then the zucchini will eat the cotton bag and the plastic bag will save your life from the ooze and a proper burial blessing should be chanted before the entire mess is mummified into the landfill for generations to come.
At $2 each the produce bags sold at the' market are less than the online price at ecobags unless you buy 50 or more. Which would be an investment but not a bad idea. They're a great gift on their own or filled with some local flavor. They're also clever gift wrapping that won't go straight to the landfill.
I've been looking for a good alternative to plastic produce bags for some time. The bags made from old t-shirts were good for tree fruits but too heavy for lighter more delicate foods. The ecobag net sacks and organic cotton bags were heavy too and pricey to the point I didn't enjoy them.
The new produce bags are just right.
Have you seen them or do you have another great alternative to the plastic produce bags? I'd love to know.
A group of friends and I have a New Years tradition of speaking our appreciations of the last year. There's always a few tears, more laughter and an easy camaraderie from the years we've known each other. Last night I found a new appreciation though. It was for each of their efforts towards lightening their carbon footprint and taking care of the local community.
I get wrapped around the whole food thing, eating local and avoiding plastic food packaging that I forget to appreciate the other ways to step lightly. I have a couple of friends who buy their clothes primarily at consignment shops. Another is considering a Prius. This is as good as local lettuce.
The Takeout Queen who hostesses the yearly dinner had the restaurant put the food into her own serving bowls to carry home. And the fish she served for appetizers was from the Seafood Watch best choice list. On top of that her new guy gardens and has a network of neighbors that share their harvests.
Another couple volunteers to deliver food to people who can't get out and another works with children from broken homes. And yet another friend works in the solar industry, while another faithfully carries canvas sacks to the grocery store and requests her summer and fall papers not be delivered in plastic.
Can we do more? Tons more. But I'm appreciative for the variety of actions we are taking and that's the half a glass I'm carrying into the new year. That and a new resolve to check out consignment stores and do something different about how I get the newspaper. Progress will be made.
Happy New Year. Thanks for being here and for doing what you do.