The State of Your Bacon

The Renaissance Woman sends me articles and comics she cuts from magazines. I love their torn edges, the off center folds. I love getting an envelope with a handwritten address and a postage stamp.

A couple of days ago she sent an article from Time Magazine titled Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food. The first paragraph, which was placed solo in the sky portion of a full page photo, a black cow grazing in a brown field, read like a little farm fairytale. Except it was even scarier.

Here's it is, by Bryan Walsh:

Somewhere in Iowa, a pig is being raised in a confined pen, packed in so tightly with other swine that their curly tails have been chopped off so they won't bite one another. To prevent him from getting sick in such close quarters, he is dosed with antibiotics. The waste produced by the pig and his thousands of pen mates on the factory farm where they live goes into manure lagoons that blanket neighboring communities with air pollution and a stomach-churning stench. He's fed on American corn that was grown with the help of government subsidies and millions of tons of chemical fertilizer. When the pig is slaughtered, at about 5 months of age, he'll become sausage or bacon that will sell cheap, feeding an American addiction to meat that has contributed to an obesity epidemic currently afflicting more than two-thirds of the population. And when the rains come, the excess fertilizer that coaxed so much corn from the ground will be washed into the Mississippi River and down into the Gulf of Mexico, where it will help kill fish for miles and miles around. That's the state of your bacon — circa 2009.

Like all good fairytales there is a happy ending to the article though. It's this; the opportunities we have, three times a day, to choose better food. For ourselves, our neighbors, the pigs, fish and for our pretty planet.

Haiku Friday

A gnarly quince tree
twisted around the brick wall.
Crows caw heading home.

Grilled Peaches

I had an awakening last weekend. It happened after dinner, after the sun had set and dusk had settled in. Dishes were still on the table but we served the final course around them. Maybe they were moved to the side. I don't remember and honestly I'm sure no one noticed. The lake was pink, the air warm, the big dragon flies had come and gone. We were intoxicated on the sky and everything it touched.

I enlisted the cute guy, gave him a plate of halved peaches, a spoon full of olive oil and asked him to grill. He acted like he'd done it before, this cooking of fruit, pulling the peaches from the heat as they frayed at the edges, their skins slipping off. I sliced them into bowls, juice everywhere. And covered them with cream.

The only sounds were our spoons against the bowls, the unseen crickets and then someone asked, "Is there more?"

And I appreciated for the thousandth time and the first time again the sheer beauty of simplicity.

Haiku Friday

Eating figs on the bus
I trash the stems in my purse;
heavy as the fog.


Every canvas bag I own is packed with books and a pantry of food for a few days away.

In a spontaneous moment however I purchased a plastic container at the farmers' market. Olives. I had to have them but managed to convince the seller I didn't also need a plastic bag.

He was skeptical.

I was firm.

And he was right; the container leaked. The cotton bag will come clean though.

Not to worry.

The Cove

Dolphins are like ice cream; most people love them and seeing one is as good as dessert. I've always wanted to hug one. Which is why the movie we saw last night, The Cove, was so disturbing. The movie uncovered and documented the hidden slaughter of dolphins in a cove of a Japanese city that upon first glance appeared to also love dolphins.

The city however was ground zero for the capture and sale of dolphins to the big business world of theme parks. It's the thousands of dolphins that don't make it to the stage that are packaged as meat, high mercury meat, and often labeled as whale, which commands a higher price. Unbeknownst to the public a good portion of dolphin also found its way into school lunch menus.

The film plays like a James Bond movie. There's bad guys, good guys, high tech cameras, cameras hidden in rocks; there are jagged cliffs, guarded tunnels and tails everywhere. I had to remind myself to breathe more than once. The sailor guy and I rotated between slouching lower and lower in our seats to sitting on the edge of them. One couple walked out.

Eating dolphins is one thing, depleting the oceans another but battling for first place in the list of disturbing was the politics that cover up the dolphin harvest.

Taking a broader view the film was a microcosm for many arms of our food system that are hidden and guarded; protected from view. It was about the world and not only Japan.

The good news however was the film itself. The effort, experience, community, commitment, knowledge and technology that went into making it were amazing. And when the crew wasn't running undercover they found time to laugh.

I love that. It gave me time to sit up and breathe.

Is the movie playing near you?

Haiku Friday

Three gems of lettuce
unused on the bottom shelf;
the week nearly gone.

Art Food

I don't think anyone has left on vacation this month. The farmers' markets are jammed. And with good reason. Forget carbon bites or food miles, forget taste and local economies; the markets this month are a visual destination.

I stopped on Sunday before I left the market to consider if I'd bought any food at all or if it was all impulsive food for my eyes.

I had handfuls of candy pears, three in each one. "Have a taste," the vendor insisted. I didn't care what they tasted like. They were miniature sculptures, Rodin's with a stem.

There were french prunes in my bag that inspired a vision of pheasant feathers, the whole bagged bird, burgundy roses, falling petals, hydrangeas and grapes so heavy on a table it sagged.

I had one pink lady apple, the first, chosen in a scented cloud of lavender. The basket of figs I'd filled myself was already almost gone. I'd bite into one, study it, the maroon and purple of it, and because it was prefect, picked before it was too soft, but only moments before, I'd stand in the center aisle, people coursing on either side and I'd practically pour the rest of those colors, their winey sweetness into my mouth. I should have bought more.

There were the tomatoes; sungold tomatoes, beads of sugary sun, a rope of summer jewels. And a musky red Russian tomato with deep green cheeks, "Paul Robeson, it's called. He was an opera singer," the grower sang. I wanted them all.

There were Gravenstein apples I couldn't resist for their freckles, eggplants purchased for their purpleness. I carried a rainbow of radishes, blue potatoes, orange cauliflower, raku stained Asian pears, elephant heads of garlic bursting from their seams. And three hand held squash blossoms. Three twisted, concubine orange squash blossoms.

All of it art but only temporarily so. We're eating it all way too fast.

What's beautiful on your table this month today?

Haiku Friday

Smiling, she says,
"So hot, we picked past midnight."
Lucky moon, I think.

Bee In The Borage

Do you ever have moments in the garden when the things you usually think about go away? And you don't notice that they've gone away? 

I had one of those moments last night. At the community garden. I was on the ground studying the one violet blossom on a plant of blue borage thinking about what I should make for dinner.

And a bee literally dropped into the frame. Maybe I heard the approaching buzzing but I couldn't tell you for sure.  I was on top of the good luck mountain - a bee in the borage. I clicked for another shot. The card was full. Ecstasy to despair in less than a second. 

The miracle though, the bee hung out collecting honey.  I made room on the card.

The bee buzzed from one flower to the next, repeatedly going upside down in each one; uninterested in the other 100 volunteer borage plants in the garden.  He seemed to be inviting me to witness his slow dance on the flowers.  

And I was lost in the music of it; the buzzing the quiet, the buzzing. The world was one half bloomed borage plant growing in a cement crack and a honey bee.

Which is likely why I didn't the hear the big dog that came up behind me until it barked. Jeez. I jumped, the bee flew away and the little woman on the end of the leash drug the dog away.

It was time to think about dinner again.

Urban Bird's Nest

This would have never happened if I hadn't been riding my bike. Or needed milk from the store. Or happened upon the sidewalk as the landscape worker reached into a trellis of bougainvillea and pulled out the nest.

He reached in, grabbed the nest in his heavy gloved hand. He'd done this before, I could tell; he threw the nest to the ground. Continued his work of pruning.

"Can I have that, please," I pointed. "Can I have the nest?" He bent down, held it out. "Thank you," I said putting it in the basket of my bike.

The nest is constructed the way I dream of nests with twigs, some mud, a single stem of redwood tree. But it's also made with street trash, a gum wrapper, straw wrapper, a bit of plastic and the cottony butt of a cigarette. There are three colors of printer paper edgings laced and sewn with twist ties, threads, yarns and a mysterious amount of string.

And there is a dead baby bird, beak, feathers and down still in the bowl of its urban made home.

I'll not dream of nests the same way again. I'll look for them instead in the litter on the walk, the small pieces of trash discarded on the street. And I'll wonder if I'm happy the birds are reusing what they find or if I'm so sad I look away and throw the nest to the trash too.

Local on our Table - August

Farmers' Market
Armenian Cucumbers
Asian Pears
Blue Potatoes
Freckles Lettuce
French Prunes
Gravenstein Apples
Green Beans
Lemon Cucumber
Pink Lady Apples
Red Onions

Back Deck Harvest
Black Cherry Tomatoes
Serrano Peppers

(From Someone Else's Yard)
Lemon Cucumbers
Meyers Lemons

3 Medium Jars Brandied Peaches w/Rum
12 Small & 3 Medium Jars Peach Jam
11 Small and 3 Medium Jars Strawberry Jam