Sustainable Ballard

I skipped yoga tonight and instead carted home ten pounds of produce from the Ferry Building market I ran to this morning. As I was carrying back my overstuffed canvas bag, complete with leaking nectarine and flat lettuce I realized I've crossed a threshold as I was also carrying five pounds of tomatoes, a dozen figs and a basket of candy like cherry orange tomatoes in a clear plastic bag as if it were a Sunday morning in Marin and I always shopped in a skirt and high heels. People left and right were checking out my tomatoes. I returned their smiles up California Street loving the day. Come to find out I had a blue stud like sticker on my upper ear. A co-worker said, "I thought you were getting racy on us."

Stocking up today was a relief after visiting the Ballard market in Washington on Sunday and having to restrain from getting anything beyond blueberries, which I couldn't stop eating. I loved the Ballard market with hillbilly musicians, flourless chocolate torte, the sweetest lavender man anywhere, ever, period and mushrooms straight from an episode of a Saturday night thriller. There was salmon jerky, blackberry honey, worm casting soup. There were funny finger radishes, runny cheeses and for the first time ever at a farmer's market, a belly dancer.

I met a woman from Sustainable Ballard and promised her a mention here about their 100 mile eat local challenge starting tomorrow. Her enthusiasm was contagious, we shared a high five, instant sisters and today I checked out the bay area locavore site to make sure I wasn't missing anything for our September 1, start date and then I started to worry and list all the things I won't be able to eat.

Worry aside, I'm going to watch how Ballard does it. They're leading the way!

Another Farm Bag

Tonight I picked up, washed and packaged another farm bag from Canvas Ranch and because I'm leaving on Friday for a long weekend I also felt compelled to prepare and have the cute guy and I eat everything in it before Im gone.

I started by feeding him strawberries one at a time from the basket and then I made salads for lunch tomorrow using all the dark lolla rossa lettuce, baby spinach, white corn and sugar snap peas. I cut up half the carrots into stix along with a few florets of gypsy broccoli.

But there was too much to use everything. "Sweetie?" I asked, using my, I love you voice mixed with a little I want something.

He lifted his head from his book, something about sharks in the bay. "Um."

"Do you think you'll eat the rest of this broccoli while I'm away?" I held it up. It was half the size of a buoy.

"Broccoli?" I knew that tone of voice. It was his, I want to give you what you want but you want me to have my teeth pulled with pliers and no novacain voice. He paused then said really quick, "I'll be on the boat," and went back to his book.

I wondered if I could turn the broccoli into something for breakfast but realized we don't eat breakfast. I put it in the fridge. "Well, if you're here and hungry there's also summer squash. The newsletter says it's either raven, costata or romanesco." I waved one in the air. He didn't look. Turned another page. I should draw jaws on them, I thought, but added them to the fridge instead.

Down to the fruit, I cut up the haogen melon, tossed in the remaining strawberries. I was already missing him. "Sweetie?" I said again. He looked up. "There's also turnips from last week and collards in the fridge if you want to eat them." I tried not to smile. He didn't notice.

"I'll be on the boat," he said again but this time with punctuation and without hesitation and dropped his head back to reading.

"Sweetie?" He closed the book, lifted his head, looked at me.

"I wouldn't want to eat broccoli or turnips by myself either."

He started breathing again and grinned. "Thank you. Now can I finish reading my book?"

I gave him a kiss already planning the menu for when I get home.

Farm Bill Reform

Two days from now the House will vote on the next Farm Bill and while there has been some progress made, I can't tell you what in this moment, in many ways the new Farm Bill is two steps backwards -- commodity subsidies are higher than ever, conservation funding has been spread thin and funding to develop access for real food in low income communities has been cut.

I've sent the following letter to House Speaker Pelosi at the link above. Feel free to copy and sign your name and send it too. Or give her a call. The number is there too. It can't hurt.

Dear House Speaker Pelosi,

I am writing in a last effort to ask you to seek major reform in our current farm bill.

I believe that we need to transform the current farm bill, which makes a huge business of subsidizing commodity crops that result in falsely inexpensive, empty calorie foods on our grocery shelves and which subsequently lead to high numbers of obesity and diabetes in our country, to a farm bill that supports real food. We need to support a farm bill that weighs heavy on the conservation of our land, air and water. A farm bill that encourages sustainable farming, young farmers. A farm bill that works to make available real food in all of our communities, across all socioeconomic lines and in our institutions and school lunch programs.

We must move away from a farm bill that threatens our family and small farms, here and in our neighboring countries. We must move away from a farm bill that threatens our national food security by encouraging mono-crops by a few industrial farming corporations and instead we must encourage our local farms and their markets all across America to cultivate native and sustainable crops that naturally thrive within their environment.

The Agriculture Committee's proposal as it now stands is not real reform. There is still work to be done.

Please continue to work towards reform for a bill that supports family farms and not corporate subsidies. A bill that supports food and not commodities. A bill that supports conservation and not the further pollution of our farm lands. Please continue to work towards a bill that supports a healthy generation of young people.

Thank you for your time and hard work.

Best Regards,
Katrina D.

Marin Organics

After a visit with a friend this morning I'm thinking I might have too much time on my hands and should get a second job. Or something. My friend was full of excitement for new work she is doing using EMT and talked on about this afternoon when she would be experimenting with observing people's brainwaves generated onto a laptop as they were instructed to think about different experiences.

It was all very interesting and near the end of our time together, after I wouldn't prematurely scare her off, I wondered if brainwaves would be affected by eating small farm local foods versus industrially farmed foods and started collecting food for her to take home to experiment with.

"Here," I said, handing her a bag of strawberries. "I bought them this morning. They are grown in Tomales by a man who has lived there all his life. He looked serious until I mentioned the warm ginger scones I had in Pt. Reyes from the Tomales Bakery." She nodded. I went on, "And then he would have talked all day with the customers lining up down the center aisle if someone hadn't interrupted. His smile was as big as the berries," I finished.

"You have to have an apple," I insisted. She took a step closer to the door. "They're grown in Novato. Red gravensteins. First of the season. The man wears a dusy hat. Needs a haircut but smiles with everything he's got."

"And an onion. Here have an onion." My enthusiasm was growing. "These are from Rumsey. Near Davis. I don't know if they are organic but this guy was so cute," I continued. "He was a like a sunflower with dimples."

I looked around for more. "These are from Novato too," I picked up a pear but sensed I was loosing her. "A fig? Do you need a fig?" I didn't want to stop. "These are the only figs on the market right now. I buy them every week."

She had her hand on the door knob. "Thank you," she said, pulling the door open. "I think this will be enough."

I refused to be stopped. I held out a potato. "Petaluma. Yukon Gold. Spring Hill Road."

She started down the stairs. "Bye," she said. "I'll call and let you know how it goes."

"The farmer has a goatee and ...." She wound the corner and was out of sight.

"And he's really nice," I said to myself.

I'm not sure if I'll hear back from her or not.

Replate It

A couple of months ago I began seeing an old woman everyday as I stood in line on Sansome Street to catch the bus. We've all seen her before. The layers of gray clothing, a knotted scarf, frayed cuffs, men's boots, one shoe lace short. She was going through the trash, opening containers, eating food from the spoon of her fingers. I tried not to watch but there I was, watching, stomach twirling and then I hopped on the bus really quick so I could make believe I hadn't seen her.

One day I had a banana in my purse, back when we were still eating bananas, and I stepped out of line to give it to her.

"Would you like a banana?", I offered, holding it out.

The woman paused. The bus line was quiet. She considered the banana. My heart started beating, thathump, thathump. I thought she was going to say, no. "Okay, I'll take it." she said and took the banana. I was so relieved.

I repeated the scene above with the old woman a number of times. She never said yes right away but I got used to it and then I didn't see her anymore.

I think she may be the reason that I was so touched this morning though when I went to the website which was mentioned in Leah Garchik's column.

Two young men are promoting leaving leftover food generally tossed in the garbage on the tops of the trash cans instead. It's so simple. It's brilliant. Read the FAQ's on their website. I did and their outlook made me cry. They are taking the pretending out of the fact that people eat out of the trash and offering a compassionate solution. I applaud them. They made my day. Help spread the word. Replate it.


A few weeks ago I heard a program with Michael Pollan in which he mentioned that Trader Joe's was selling organic strawberries from China. But they weren't really organic. So tonight I had a bit of time, the cute guy was sailing, and I went to Trader Joe's to check it out as if they were going to have one of those clever chalk boards advertising fruit from China after the whole dog food scandal. Or was that toothpaste? My only regret is that I didn't have a pencil with a spy camera in it and magnified Jackie O sunglasses. I've always wanted to go undercover.

I didn't find anything from China but here's what I did find and remember. The tomatoes packaged in plastic sets of three were from Canada. The peaches packaged in plastic sets of four scared me and I didn't want to touch them. The cucumbers were from Mexico, organically certified by Quality Assurance International. I don't know who they are. QAI. Sounds fishy. The berries, raspberry and blackberries were from Bristol Farms in Southern California which produces huge amounts of berries shipped all over the country. If you are interested, locally grown berries are actually less expensive at the farmer's markets right now.

I thought Trader Joe's was doing an okay job of labeling where their produce is from. They're making an effort. For the most part if an item is labeled organic they specify a country of origin and if it's not labeled organic they don't. Items grown in California are likely labeled as such in large letters near their logo. Grown in California sells. At minimum one half of their produce items don't specify where they originate but that isn't much different than my corner store. There is room for improvement everywhere.

It still being early I ventured into the middle aisles and read more labels (this is a sure result of not having cable). The organic sugar was from Paraguay, the kalamata olives from Greece, damn it! The organic almonds were from Spain although California is one of, if not the largest producer of almonds in the world. There were two bags of regular almonds grown in the central valley left on the shelf. I threw them in my basket. The price was too good. The olive oil I looked at was a product of Italy, the rice dream from New York.

I set so many items back on the shelf I began to think management was watching me. A man with a clip board and a pencil kept appearing in the same aisle. I smiled in case he took my picture and lifted my head a notch to smooth out my neck. Then I added a Napa Valley Chardonnay to my basket of non-organic almonds and Tom's of Maine toothpaste and decided it was time to go home. Like I said, there is room for improvement everywhere.


The cute guy and I spent the past four days camping with four of his six kids, three with wives, one with a girlfriend, seven of their friends, eight of their friend's children and nine of his twelve grandchildren, seven of them under five. There were one of the kid's two dogs, the cute guy's brother and their dad, their dad's brother, a cousin and one large bear with her two baby cubs. And we still came home with leftovers.

This is what Saturday morning breakfast looked like. The oldest son contributed two flats of two and a half dozen eggs each that he had transported without one getting broken along with his four kids, one niece, six bikes, as many helmets, a pop-up trailer, an eight person tent for his eighty six year old, hundred pound granddad and a sleeping crib for Alice who is two today and can say everyone's name. He also made juice for breakfast from a powder concentrate in a two and a half gallon cooler with a handy pull spigot he set on the bear box. "I want to do it," the short children mimicked after the first one got picked up to fill their cup.

The next son heated three of the four Costco size packages of flour tortillas while listing the contents of his cooler which the bear and her cubs ate from the back of his truck the previous night. "Not the chocolate chip cookies!", I heard and mouth watering, repeated. The next son cooked four pounds of wild boar sausage. "I killed this," he said patting it with the spatula.

The youngest son cracked the eggs two at a time and the cute guy scrambled them. I made farmers market salsa in the biggest bowl I own and the girlfriend quartered a flat of Marin County strawberries. "Let's put some sugar on them," I told her nodding to a baggie on the table. "They're beautiful," I said right before I popped one in my mouth and spit it out. Doubled over laughing we spooned off the salty top layer. "Don't tell anyone," we whispered and then we told everyone anyway.

The four year olds, Canyon, Derek and Dylan were fed first. Canyon only wanted strawberries, Derek dropped as much food as he ate and Dylan left the table with hands as sanitized as when he sat down. The two year olds, Libby, Jack and Alice were next. Libby stirred her strawberries into the eggs, Jack fed his to the dog and Alice ate each one with her thumb and forefinger. Stanford bound Lily, still seven, must have got a salty strawberry and wouldn't eat them. "I'll take them," her older cousin, Kaia, shouted and then had another helping of everything else too.

The adults weren't much different. Granddad said, "no thank you," to everything but strawberries. His daughter-in-law scraped the kids leftovers into a used bowl with salsa and ate all of it. One of the friends gave every second bite to the dog and the third son's wife that came late asked, "What's wrong with these strawberries?".

"I'll take them," granddad said.

I began to tell someone that the salsa was locally grown and organic but the baby I was holding broke into a stage stealing smile, a friends oldest son that I had given newspaper and a lighter to earlier for the camp fire discovered the magic of starter fluid and the hammock full of kids came untied in full swing scattering them into the dust. I dropped the conversaton as we moved out of the smoke to kiss bumped heads and elbows while someone else retied the hammock and then I posed for a picture with that cute baby I had in my arms. The local food conversation better left for another day.

Wild Arugula

I have to say I wasn't too excited about our farm bag tonight. Sure, the mixed salad greens were stunning, the baby carrots perfect. We ate the strawberries in a heartbeat. But there were collards. I do not know what to do with collards. I rinsed them off and bagged them. There were two little zucchini's rolling around in the dirt at the bottom of the bag. Fine. I recognized the purple kolarabi pictured above although what I'm going to do with a solo kolarabi I have no idea. My German stepmother used to cook them a dozen at a time in butter sauce and they were great, but one? The butter sauce might not be a bad idea for the collards though.

The big white thing pictured next to the kohlarabi is still somewhat of a mystery. I understand it's a turnip but do I treat it like a potato or a radish? There were some in the bag last week too that I hid in a soup the cute guy insisted I put in the food processor. I could have put a sandal in there and we wouldn't have known.

But this is what put the farm bag over the top tonight. See that leaf on the left? The one with all the bug bites and all it's bug bitten brothers and sisters around it. I opened the bag of those, wild arugula, the list said and thought, they have got to be kidding. I'm not eatting them. I followed the cute guy out the door on his way to the trash. "Look at this," I said, holding the bag out to him. "What is it?", he asked taking a leaf. I stopped and watched him. He stopped. Looked at me. "Wow!". He reached for another one. I wasn't buying it. My nose was in a knot but I bit into a leaf too and it was my turn. "Wow!". I smiled.

Wild arugula. Looks like hell. Like it should be stopped from spreading. I have never tasted anything like it. Well, domestic arugula, which is a mere whisper to wild arugula. "Wow!", is all I can say.

And thank you Canvas Ranch for another great surprise.


I received my first acknowledgement in the blogosphere last week! The cute guy found it this morning while trying to subscribe to the blog with Feedblitz which doesn't seem to be working. Agh. And when it does work the second verification process isn't clear. "Respond to the verification email," I told my mother. "No," she said. "It says my subscription is verified." "I know," I responded. "But you have to respond again to really verify it." "No," she continued. You get the idea. She responded and now is a happy subscriber.

But I got EnviroLove from Amanda at the EnviroBlog for the blog A Drop In The Bucket about signing the Farm Bill petition to support organic farmers! You would think I won an Academy Award. I'm so happy I'm blogging the petition again. If you missed it the first time, here's your second chance to sign on and support organic farming. Be an EnviroLover. It feels good.

Marin Sun Farms

No. This isn't the big red hen from the last post. This is a Marin Sun Farms range free and fed organic chicken, bought with its head and feet intact.

The chicken was for a meal to celebrate friend's 11th anniversary and as we had once spent a long weekend together after I'd read The Omnivore's Dilemma I didn't bring up the source of our meal or the subject of corn. I didn't wish to have them roll their eyes, 'here she goes', while we only had an evening together.

The chicken was four pounds but cooked and cleaned off the bones with the meat on a plate it appeared we'd cooked a guinea hen. "Keep room for dessert," I said, placing the plate in the center of table. I collected the salad plates, we passed the chicken around with roasted red and blue potatoes and finger size yellow crookneck squash. The former groom, a well mannered man, nearly spit his meat onto his plate. "This is delicious," he said, more surprised than anyone that he was talking with his mouth full. "Is it free range?", he asked not waiting for an answer. "This is the best chicken I've ever had." I wanted to tighten my fist in the air and yell, Yes. And then we were done and there was still chicken on the plate. It was a miracle.

I'd like to tell you what it tasted like with an earthy metaphor or quick comparison but the truth is, it tasted like chicken. Not a manufactured taste of chicken but chicken. It tasted like a 9 on the Richter scale of chicken. Not because it smelled like chicken or looked like chicken but because the actual taste was chicken all the way through. From the rough roof of my mouth to the soft insides of my cheeks. My teeth tasted like chicken.

I'd balked at the $6 price per pound when I first saw the birds. As my aunt would say, "Can you hear that?" Dramatic pause. "That is your Grandmother turning in her grave." So I have to justify one aspect of the higher than industrial raised chicken price a bit. So far we've served four meals. When our guests left the cute guy and I got our fingers into the crevices of the carcass and with the dinner leftovers we have plenty for lunch tomorrow. Maybe chicken burritos. The carcass stripped bare, I dropped it in a pot of broth I'd already begun with the neck, feet, heart, gizzard and liver. That will be another couple of meals. Eight meals, one chicken. That's about $3.50 a meal. Grandma would be proud!

Grocery List

I don't spend much time in grocery stores lately but there continue to be items we can't live without, lest we perish. Which has me inspired to start an ongoing grocery list of foods produced as close as possible, ideally organic and at minimum friendly that I feel comfortable buying off the shelf. The list is partly to share and partly to remind myself. I'm repeatedly standing in the same aisle, late for something, in someones way, glasses perched precariously on my nose comparing tiny print labels. I long for the day when a pretty package was the only basis for a decision.

The first item on the grocery list is rice.

For years the cute guy and I have been buying Lundberg long grain brown rice. The smell of a pot of rice simmering on the stove will generally smooth any rough edges we've carried home. Lundberg rice is, per their packaging, manufactured in Richvale, California, south of Chico. "What's to manufacture?", I say out loud. The cute guy puts down his book, (for the thirty eighth time) and explains they mean cutting and hulling, cleaning and the packaging and since he knows just about everything I believe him and he goes back to reading. In any event, it's certified California organic and they don't use genetically modified rice varieties. They make rice milk and rice cakes too, which we like a lot. We'll keep buying Lundberg but we've got a farmers' market alternative in the house now too.

Our farmer at Canvas Ranch, Deborah, offered us, her farm subscribers, bags of brown rice from a grower in Princeton, Massa Organics, near the Lundberg's in Richvale. I was all for it, something new, stock up for the winter. Give me three bags, I replied. And now we like it. I feel like we are cheating on an old friend.

A few days later I saw Massa Organics at the Sunday morning farmer's market. They were there for the first time. I introduced myself as if the young man should know me. He smiled, shook my hand, told me his name. He was selling big sacks of rice too, 20 lbs., that I entertained but calmly talked myself down from.

One of the things I like about Massa Organics is that it does have a pretty package in a homey kind of a way. A two story almost Napa looking house with an oak tree in the front yard. A trellis and a pond. There's a cloud in the sky and without my glasses it looks like three helicopters overhead. That threw me. They're ducks though. The bag of rice also makes a great hostess gift that doesn't require any wrapping. Just make sure your hostess has her glasses on.

Local Fruit Salsa

My intention yesterday was to make chutney but I ended up with peach and fig salsa. Sounds terrible even to a salsa freak like me but I assure you it's not. It was the first empty bowl at a friend's potluck. I served it with blue chips but people were grabbing the closest cracker or chip they could reach. I saw one person grab a fork.

Here's what I did.

Since this was party size I used ten soft freestone peaches, peeled and diced in uneven pieces. I added half a dozen figs that were succulently ripe, also diced.

The amount of jalapeno is up to you. If you are timid, half a pepper is probably good. If you are one of those guys or women that spin fire at the base of the man in September, then go for a couple. You can handle it. I minced one and a half.

Ginger isn't local and I doubt it was organic but I added a finger or two and one bunch of cilantro that was both local and organic. Each were finely chopped. The last item was mint, which I picked from the yard. About a dozen big leaves. I could have used more.

Lastly, I ground a bit of salt from the South Pacific on top, mixed it up and started taste testing. It was hard to stop. After a couple hours in the fridge the taste testing started again. The juice had jelled some and stayed on the chip. To my taste the peppers had mellowed weakening their bite. I would have added more but we were taking it to a mixed crowd, fire spinners and not.