Alice Waters and Eric Schlosser

Last night I saw Alice Waters on a panel of speakers moderated by Eric Schlosser. It was a packed event in an old and overly ornate room at the Fairmont to kick off the How We Eat speakers series, presented by the Commonwealth Club. All of which is a precursor to the Labor Day event in San Francisco, Slow Food Nation.

In addition to Alice the panel members were the Executive Director of Slow Food Nation, Anya Fernald, Executive Director for the Center of Public Health Advocacy, Harold Goldstein, and the President and Director of Medical Research at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Bertram Lubin. All strong, knowledgeable speakers.

The primary focus of the evening was how do we feed our children and make real food versus manufactured food available to communities on the edge. Each panelist held a piece of the puzzle towards creating a healthy food system.

Ms. Fernald's answer was making food a higher priority in our lives by spending more time and allocating more resources towards it.

Mr. Goldstein's response was to get politically involved, to incite policy to insure real food and corporate responsibility.

Mr. Lubin's answer was to begin addressing the issue of a healthy diet at the prenatal stage with education as well as allocating our health care dollars to prevention to decrease illness liability.

Eric Schlosser got in some good lines. He's entertainingly quick on his feet and wickedly smart.

But the best line of the evening, of course, came from Alice. It was in response to a question along the lines of, how can we best eat well. She replied loosely, "take some olive oil and a little salt and go into the garden." In that moment, she won me over. I can eat anything with a little olive oil and a good sea salt.

The discussion left a flavor of hope that we are waking up to the health risks of manufactured foods to ourselves, our children and the planet. And that we all have the ability three times a day to make changes towards a healthier system. But there's work to do to accomplish that.

Grab some olive and head to the garden (or the refrigerator produce drawer). And eat well.

The evening was recorded and will be available via audio stream or radio broadcast. I'll include a link when it is.

Edit: Here's a link with video and transcript of the talk!

Tomato Salad

Last fall I romanced every winter squash on the market. Every shape and size caught my eye. The irregular, bulbous and most weathered came home with me to be oohed and awed about, but yes, eventually eaten.

This summer I'm having a fling with tomatoes. And my desire has changed. In the summer heat I want perfection. Every crooked seam, disjointed nose is cause for rejection and I move on to the next. I look for a tomato with cheeks, a tomato that could have grown in the curved palm of my hand and gives the width of a dime when I squeeze. And the tomato should be bright, lit from an ethereal source within. I look for tomatoes that grin. And when they do I nestle them in my canvas bag for the short ride home.

And then I devour them.

Wednesday Night Tomato Fling Salad - For 2

1 Early Girl Tomato
10 Cherry Sized Chocolate Tomatoes
2 Generous Handfuls of Home Baked Herbed Croutons
1 Cucumber
2 Fingers of Andante or Your Favorite Chevre
Sea Salt

Dice the early girl and quarter the chocolate tomatoes. Fold in the croutons.

Peel, dice and introduce the cucumber. Crumple the chevre' on top and add salt to taste. Fold gently and serve immediately.

Leave the dishes for tomorrow and enjoy. Summer only lasts so long.

Free Fruit for the Food Bank

Melinda at One Green Generation was the first person I'd heard of planting a portion of her garden for the local food bank. The idea was revolutionary and Melinda has been a Superhero of ingenuity to me ever since.

More recently Audrey at Eat Local Northwest has planted a portion of her community garden space for the food bank. I love reading of her trips delivering her donations and most especially the man who greets her and accepts them.

Until last Friday I'd counted myself out of being able to participate in the goodwill of sharing fresh food with our local food bank. That is until I remembered the plums in our yard. There are a lot of them and they're good.

I made plum jam last weekend determined to not let the free fruit go to waste. Two jars of plum jam. It took forever. The plums are small and had to be pain stakingly separated from their skin and pit to the point I don't want to make more. But we can't eat all the fruit on the tree.

I called the food bank. They would love the plums. The delivery times are impossible; exactly during working hours but that's not going to stop me. I've got ideas; one of which I'm sure will work.

Haiku Friday

local dinner

new potatoes and
yellow tomato salsa
with avocado

Van Jones

Tonight I saw Van Jones in conversation with Senator Darrell Steinberg discussing green jobs and a green economy at the Commonwealth Club. Senator Steinberg did his best to hold his own. He seemed like a good, caring guy; he's got passion, but Van Jones was the star.

A smart, gracious and passionate star. Anyone on the stage with Van has an up hill climb but what was so beautiful was Van kept reaching out his hand to the Senator, agreeing with his points, acknowledging his good work, strengthening the partnership. He knows he can't build green jobs alone.

He also knows that he and the Senator can't build green jobs alone. That's it's going to take everyone's best thinking. And this is where I get frustrated. Because I want to help. Sure I eat fancy carrots and save shower water but it doesn't make a difference if my neighbors don't have access to fresh, sustainable food. If they aren't all working to save water. If we aren't all speaking up for social justice.

Yeah, I've got the bug. But damned if I know what to do with it.

Check out Van Jones. But watch out, you might get the bug too.

Name That Food

I've started naming my food.

Sunday morning I didn't buy tomatoes, I bought a Pink Lady and a Tangerine tomato. Last week I bought two Cherokee and one Pineapple tomato.

The farmers market has done this to me. Food is no longer generic. It's not one of three varieties bred to withstand a summer road trip from farm to grocer to table.

Now it's Rainbow and Purple Haze carrots. It's Cheddar Cheese or Purple cauliflower. Danish leeks, Freckles lettuce, Cranberry beans. Food grown naturally to be eaten close to home.

I know the names of hundreds of flowers, plants I would never stick in my mouth, but the food I've eaten has been as generic as Kleenex. I've been more particular about the brand of toilet tissue I selected than the variety of potatoes I served.

Now I ask, "What kind of onion is this?" I often forget but eventually the name will adhere.

And it's not only the poetry of the names that calls to me but the fact that there are so many names. Names that call to the diversity of the seeds, to the places they originated, the people that grew them.

Grocery stores are limited by industrial agriculture that have foresaken diversity for profit. That's their job. But I'm no longer buying it. A tomato is no longer cherry, beefsteak or roma. It's Brandywine, Zebra, Early Girl.

Calling food by it's name is my contribution to maintaining diversity in the food system. As soon as the diversity of foods are forgotten so is our ability to choose. And our choices are so delicious I don't want to loose a single one of them.

Sonoma and Occidental Farmers' Markets

Most people have vacations and go camping, visit new cities, beaches. I go to farmers' market. At least that's what I did on Friday.

First I went to the farmers' market in Sonoma, right off the tree lined square. The market is in a gravel paved parking lot, one row of farmers and vendors. It's an old town market without polish. Character outweighs the dust however.

There was a young man selling fish from the tailgate of his Chevy truck. He was unimpressed that a guy had written a book called Bottomfeeder that I mentioned he might be interested in. (I know. I couldn't help it.)

I squeezed and smelled succulents per a hand lettered sign that were potted in everything but the kitchen sink. Each one, one of a kind. Then in conversation with a woman selling worm tea, she explained the way I make worm tea doesn't leach out the worm urine, which her process does. Urine? Worms have urine? I'm still thinking about that.

I moved on and caused a stir buying four pounds of jalapenos. And had I been going home I would have bought a box of the prettiest Petaluma strawberries I've seen all year, but I resisted. I visited with a young woman selling garden roses from her uncle's ranch near Bennett Valley. Over fragrant buckets of hand gathered bouquets we shared flower names back and forth, english phlox, butterfly bush. Echinacea, godetia.

There was a mandatory baker with bread and scones. Women making drip coffee by the cup. There was one farm truck, from Fresno I think, that I see at every market. The woman selling is always smiling. I was right at home.

Traveling back roads I was astonished at the wine country's far reaching monoculture; from Napa, Sonoma, to Petaluma, Penngrove. There were endless rolling hills of vineyards. A mass patchwork quilt of land in emerald green and golden that would be called brown anywhere but California. "This used to be empty fields," I kept saying.

Further west the vineyards disappeared and I drove through redwoods to Occidental and a late afternoon market. This was the foodshed of my great grandparents and it's still primarily open land, people living far apart, small farmers, a smaller town.

This was a local market where everyone knew each others name. Where no one sold a lot but what they sold was valuable because of it. I bought rainbow carrots from young men with dreadlocks, blackberries picked that morning. I drank juice poured from a mason jar made with nettles, plums and rose geranium. And I went back for seconds.

A young woman displayed a variety of red potatoes I'd never heard of. There were white agrostema and buckets of sunflowers that told stories. There was a man with shiny skin selling baskets in woven colors of which I thought I should bring one of each home. And a lavender lemonade stand run by three giggling girls that seemed to spill more than they sold.

The trash cans were just that, trash cans. No fancy recycling with monitors testing on what could and could not be recycled. Only a dented lid to be lifted, trash deposited, lid replaced. Recycling either happened because you took responsibility, or it didn't.

This was a town where the hydrangeas grew blue, summer squash grew quickly and time left alone. I sat at a picnic table, petted a dog, admired a baby, laughed with a local. I ate blackberries and listened to the music.

Vacations should always be this good, I thought.

Free Apple Juice

The Cute Guy and I made apple juice last night. I have to share the recipe.

One friend with an apple tree
Hundreds of ripe and not so ripe apples too small to peel
Rose Geranium Leaves

Quarter apples. With apple quarter fruit side flat, slice diagonally to remove core. Cut quarter in half to fit in juicer. Move fast; there are a lot of apples.

Peel all the ginger on hand. Feed through juicer too.

Harvest backyard mint while visiting with five year old neighbor. Wash and feed leaves through juicer. Repeat with rose geranium leaves.

Decide there isn't enough ginger and feed half the ginger skins through juicer.

Fill a quart jar with juice. Taste and exclaim. Fill another quart jar with juice. Admit that you were wrong, another jar is needed and get a third jar for juice. Repeat two more times.

Continue exclaiming.

Freeze all but one jar of juice to enjoy immediately.

Consider buying a freezer because your refrigerator freezer is already getting full.

Haiku Friday

Mt. Tam picnicing,
an orange moon rises minutes
before the sun sets.

Farmed Salmon

I had dinner with the Muse last night at a restaurant down the street; table cloths, big art.

She closed the menu. "I'll have the salmon."

I stopped breathing trying to remember the chapter from Bottomfeeder related to salmon. "Is it farmed?" I managed.

"It is," she said. "But it's organic."

I hid in the menu. "Where is it farmed?"

"I don't know."

I didn't lunge at her from across the table or pick up my purse and leave. Instead I reminded myself that I loved this person across from me and that she was not ecologically challenged. Her husband that evening was signing papers for solar panels to be installed on their house. I reminded myself that she cares about the environment. "I'll ask the waiter," I said.

His answer wasn't as bad as it could have been. It wasn't Chile. "British Columbia," he said in a hushed tone.

I bit my lip until he walked away.

The salmon farms in British Columbia are owned by Norwegian companies that have decimated the wild populations of salmon in Norway by salmon farming. They're now purchasing and setting up farming operations on the coasts of BC putting that wild stock at risk. Farmed salmon is treated with colorant to make it pink, it has sea lice, is fed antibiotics. It swims in cages thick with waste.

I apologized. "I can't help it," I repeated. "I'm sorry, but farmed salmon isn't even good for you."

At this point the Muse could have picked up her purse and left but instead she ordered pasta with morels. It was a lovely dish. I had a little gem lettuce salad with pumpkin seeds, a tomato soup with chick peas that was leagues better than it sounds.

She thanked me for the salmon information.

I took a drink of water and apologized again even though I knew she appreciated the information. Someone else would have been a different story.

What do you do when an ecological hot spot gets ignited? Do you go with the flow, let it go or do you speak up?

Five Green Reads

I posted my top five green reads at the Bookworm Blog. Check them out.

And let us know what your top one, two or five greenest books are too.

Haiku Friday

The Lady With The Pears

She gave me one slice
of the Asian apple pear
from her well worn knife.

Seventeen Tomato Sandwiches

I've been buying heirloom tomatoes one at a time. For sandwiches. These babies are an investment but they're also a meal. For two. Of course they're sweet, juicy, local. Plucked from the vine when they're ripe and not before.

Each sandwich is independent, spontaneous. It's different depending on the contents of the fridge, what I can pick from the backyard garden pots. It's informed by the weather and the farmers' markets.

In my mind a tomato sandwich is bread, tomato, mayo and salt, although I've yet to bite into that childhood tradition this season. I've decided to keep a list of this seasons sandwiches. To see how many local ingredients I can incorporate; to see how the sandwiches change as the summer races by and fall arrives.

I hope the last sandwich with the last tomato of the season will be as memorable as the first when the juice dripped onto my clean laundered shirt and I just didn't care. I suspect it will be, if only for the longing for just one more.

Let me know what you do with your local tomato sandwiches this season. I'll add them to the list and likely try it too.

Cherokee Tomato
Acme Ciabatta
Arugula and Shiso
Olive Oil
Sea Salt

Pineapple Tomato
No Knead Bread
Freckles Lettuce
Sea Salt

Cherokee Tomato
Grace Bakery Sourdough
Minced Jalapeno
Andanto Chevre
Bariani Olive Oil
Sea Salt

Big Red Heirloom Tomato
Penngrove Sourdough
Dark Edged and Feather Leafed Lettuce
Prather Ranch Bacon

Cherokee Tomato
Grilled Ciabatta
Jersey Milk Monterey Jack

#6 From Simple Green Frugal
Homemade Yogurt Roll
Local Gouda

#7 From Simple Green Frugal
Homemade Yogurt Roll
Roasted Zucchini and Eggplant

#8 From Chocolate Crayons
Cheddar Cheese
Salt and Pepper

#9 From A Sonoma Garden
Crusty Bread Sprinkled w/Dry White Wine
Gruyere Cheese
Dijon Mustard

#10 From Chile Chews
Nice Sourdough

#11 From Live Green Wear Black
Acme Seeded Baguette
Smoked Tofu
Squeeze of Lime

Beefsteak Tomato
Brickmaiden Sourdough
Cress and Mizuna
Sea Salt

Cherokee Tomato
Wildflour Seeded Wheat Bread
Slices of Jalapeno
Olive Oil
Sea Salt

#14 From Melissa at Better Living
Local Sourdough
Olive Oil

#15 From Melissa at Better Living
Full Belly Farm Heirloom Tomato
Toasted Sumano's Sourdough
Rouge Et Noir Brie

Azoychka Yellow Tomato
Seeded Whole Wheat Sourdough
Cilantro Pesto w/Walnuts & Bulgarian Banana Chile
Sea Salt

Early Girl Tomato
Brick Maiden Sourdough Toasted w/Ghee
Bacon (Optional)

Food Waste

Paul Roberts, the author of The End of Food did a radio story this afternoon about Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaking up about food waste. Paul Robert's voice sounds like Michael Pollan and as I'd missed the first part of the four minute segment I thought he was.

I've been wanting to read The End of Food and after hearing the author talk on the radio it has moved higher on my list. If Paul Roberts is half as good a writer as he is a speaker the book will be terrific.

And I was happy to hear a world leader involve everyone in the solution of food security by starting at our own tables. I know big solutions are necessary but it makes sense to start at home.

All of which got me thinking about the ways I've learned to waste less. Throwing food away from the farmers' markets is much harder than when I used to go to the grocery store. The food has a face now instead of a brand. It's not filler, it's personal.

Here's a few things I do:

- Make croutons with the ends of old bread.
- Freeze leftover rice for fried rice another day.
- Make veggie broth with the bottom drawer odds and ends and freeze it for a soup base.
- Try to buy less.
- Package leftovers for lunch.
- Substitute recipe ingredients with what's in the fridge.
- Strip a roasted chicken and cook the bones for broth.

None of these ideas are earth shattering but they're far more satisfying than filling a garbage bag.

What do you do to shop wisely and waste less? I could use some new ideas or to be reminded of old ones long forgotten.

Worm News

I've learned some new facts about the worm bin; decomposing food creates liquid matter and worms can drown it.

Saturday morning I found some of my worms belly up in the bin. And the box was eerily quiet. My ear was an inch from the dirt before I detected the worm effervescence I've come to expect.

I started draining water into a water bottle I had in the car so I wouldn't have to go upstairs. Filled it. Grabbed the second water bottle in the car. Filled it too. (I put the water bottles in the dish washer later but let's not mention any of this to the cute guy). In the end there was so much water I finally did have to get the bucket.

The good news from the beginning however, was all the new threadlike worms that were on every carrot green, avocado peel and little green apple on the top layers of the bin. They'd lived through the rising water.

And because I'm a new worm farmer that hasn't read more than a quick list of worm bin facts it took me a few hours to come up with the idea, actually it felt more like divine intervention with a wormy voice, of adding dry dirt to the bin to help absorb the moisture.

I lifted layers of produce scraps in various stages of decomposition with a hand held garden fork. I dug into the muddy parts too and introduced the new dirt. And there I found worms. Mature pinkish red worms, worming around. I wanted to kiss them.

I'm keeping a closer ear on them for awhile but they're doing fine. Thank goodness.

Haiku ... Saturday

Food Independence

Voting with our forks
to celebrate local foods,
the party goes on.

Cherry Plum Picking

Saturday morning I bought a fruit picker; eight foot pole, wire basket, six fingers, foamy fruit cushion. I carried it to the car as if it were the Olympic torch.

And that's not the best part. I found the picker in the dusty corner of an independent hardware store on the main street of a one road town. I swear the lights surged when I pulled it from the box. It will likely grant me three wishes if I whisper its bar code under a star lit laden tree of figs.

This was a hardware store with wooden floors that creaked with girls working the counter. I was so drawn in with the place I don't know what the price of my new favorite tool was. Probably not enough considering the magic of finding it there though.

I've toyed with the fruit picker once to glean cherry plums from the neighbors yard. Cherry plums that plummeted me in the face repeatedly. And I can't wait to do it again.

My neck hurt from craning and swinging the eight foot pole in the air, plums ricocheting off my nose and each time I laughed harder. "This is ridiculous," I thought.

I foraged until there was an over flowing bowl and retrieved the powdery new fruit I'd knocked to the ground too.

For years these plums have rotted on the walkway, been kicked into the bark, tracked into the entry way. This year I consumed them until my stomach ached. I ate so many I ate my plan to make Kendra's jam too.

The cute guy has sourced the next tree. The owners are enthusiastic but I'm a bit concerned. It's an apple tree and I'm not sure my nose can take it. Not that I can be stopped at this point. I've got the fallen fruit spell.

Thanks Chile for recommending the fruit picker and Christina for telling me about They've got a good idea.