CUESA Newsletter and Local Food Blogs

My bags are packed. I have dried apricots and almonds packed for the plane in reused plastic bags I bought before I joined the plastic posse at Fake Plastic Fish. I'll add a sliced apple before I walk out the door and figure out what my plastic alternatives are when I get home. Waxed bags? Are those better?

While I'm away check out the a year of eating locally feature in the CUESA newsletter. It's me. While you're there sign up for the newsletter. It's year round and always has good goings on, not to mention seasonal recipes by a variety of San Francisco's best chefs, farmers and all around good cooks.

For more good reading check out bloggers in other parts of the world participating in the Eat Local Challenge this month. Finland. Belgium. Sweden. The word is spreading.

And for a good laugh about the challenge catch up on Food on the Food, a locavore with kids. She's wild. But she can cook too.

I'll be back in time to vote with fingers crossed that there will be a strawberries and tomatoes still on the market. But if not I'll find something just as good.

Be well.

Haiku Friday

Slicing an apple
I remember the fruit tree
and all the spring bees.

Plankton, Potatoes and Plastic Oh My!

I'm creating monsters. First there was the Muse telling a friend she couldn't order the farmed salmon. Now it's the Blond telling everyone they should be using cotton and mesh produce bags instead of plastic. She can actually quote the ratio of plankton to plastic in the Pacific gyre from nearly two weeks ago at the talk by the couple from the Algarita Marine Research Center. (My jaw dropped.)

I work at being subtle about these things. I smile, breathe, laugh. Turn blue. Start again. I share stories, provide information, refer to experience. These ladies armed with information, "Education works," the Blond said, are slamming down the law though. They get away with saying words like can't and should. Words I step back from.

The Blond took her new cotton produce bags to a shopping center farmers' market today and called me tonight. "I asked the guy selling the potatoes what kind they were. He couldn't tell me." Had she been standing up instead of in her car she would have been kicking dirt. "Do you know who runs that market?" she asked.

I didn't laugh out loud or miss a single beat. "No one," I told her. "It's a shopping mall. Think about it." But I wanted to jump up and down that she suddenly cared about the variety of food she was buying.

"I think they're selling food from the grocery store," she continued.

I did laugh then though, because she cared about where her food came from. I've been talking about local food until I'm orange and violet, sienna and cotton candy in the face and it never phased her. But put enough plastic in the ocean that it outnumbers the plankton and where her potatoes come from becomes an issue.

I don't understand how that connection works exactly but I'm glad it does. And really everything is connected. Right?

Terry Gross and Michael Pollan

Terry Gross did a terrific interview with Michael Pollan today regarding his letter to the next President that was in the New York Times weekend before last. I'm embarrassed to say I haven't read the letter. I mean, have you seen it? It's long. Even one of the campaigns (he didn't say which) asked if he could write an outline for the aides. The outline of his answer was no.

I've been listening to Michael Pollan for several years and he's on fire right now talking about solutions for the changes that need to be made to food policy at the federal level to our own backyards. He's the only guy that can talk about the farm bill and laugh at the same time. And he is laughing a lot. He made the idea of a vegetable garden on the White House lawn (it's apparently in the letter) sound completely reasonable. He made the fact that there isn't a vegetable garden at the White House seem ridiculous.

I know I'm a how-does-food-get-to-the-table geek but this is an enjoyable interview. It's 40 minutes and you can listen to it here while you're doing something else. I promise you'll smile more than once and you may think a little differently about the food on your plate or how in the world it got there.

Eat Local For World Peace

A few days ago Kendra at A Sonoma Garden smartly listed 11 ways to eat locally in her town of Sonoma. I'm considering my own list for San Anselmo.

How about you? Wouldn't it be great if every town had their own list at the Chamber of Commerce, Town Hall or posted in a public place? Or found on line at the town's local food blogger? And then we could all eat local and save so much fossil fuel we'd have world peace forever. What have we got to loose? Nothing else has worked.

Or, how about posting 11 ways to eat locally because it would be fun to share with friends, provide a resource for people thinking about eating locally and it would support local business. In any event, it's a smart idea.

My first way to eat local would be a secret. It would be the persimmon trees at Robson Harrington Park. The park hosts a riot of community garden plots but the persimmon trees are unfenced and loaded with fruit this year. It's far too soon to consider eating them but not too soon to admire. Their leaves are still hanging on and the fruit looks as if their pointed bottoms were dipped in an early sunset. Already delicious.

Let me know if you post 11 ways to eat locally in your community or, shh, what your one local secret is.

And let's keep working on that solution for world peace.

Haiku Friday

Van Jones' book made the
New York Times best seller list!
Very good, good news!

Eat Local Challenge

The moon is already waning and I've yet to post an eat local challenge story that isn't mine. I've had voice mail messages about local food but aside from that the month has been an extended bit of summer with only fleeting reminders of sharing the challenge.

The Takeout Queen visited a farmers' market in New York. "They cross pollinate their summer squash," she exclaimed over the phone and then more than likely went out to lunch. But her enthusiasm was appreciated.

My mother called too after discovering chard at the farmers' market near her. "It's red," she said. "Delicious." Which had me investigate chard at the grocery store the other day on a trip with the Muse. I didn't remember ever seeing it there. There was some bunches on the shelf, anemic and barely pink. Probably because it was the end of the day. Buying a bunch of chard is like buying a bunch of already opened lilies. The petals, or leaves in the case of the chard, get bruised if they're handled or set upon hard surfaces. I can understand why grocers would be hesitant to carry it.

Emily, a pioneer mother of four, emailed she was going to fix a local meal for her family. But really, if she doesn't get to it, well, can I blame her? I had one of her four and one of another two overnight; I fed them a can of refried beans and flour tortillas. They loved it and in an abbreviated bit of time that was all that was important. I did throw in sauteed buttery corn I'd froze earlier in the summer. They each had seconds and I was quietly elated I got something local in their meal.

Do you have any local food stories this month? If you're doing the challenge, how's it going? And if you're doing it with kids, extra green stars to you!

Honey & Plastic In A Jar

I got the chance to use our downtown independent drug store today. It was actually the cute guys idea. I suggested a chain store.

Here's what happened. I started buying local honey for our kitchen at work in a big jar. And then I bought a syrup pourer so people could, you know, pour it. The honey stuck in the spout instead. The lid had to be unscrewed to get to the honey except the lid would stick because it was caked with honey.

That was the case today. Hot water didn't help. I twisted harder. The glass syrup pourer shattered in my hand. A plastic honey bear was sounding like a better idea until this evening. Bandaged I went to see Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins from the Algarita Marine Research Center on Beth's suggestion at Fake Plastic Fish.

After studying jars of collection samples from the Pacific gyre which they passed to the audience, think a dirty snow globe of plastic, buying throw away plastic stuff (except maybe medical supplies when you're bleeding all over the place), I'm convinced throw away plastic isn't worth the damage it's doing to the ocean. Plus we likely end up eating the plastic when we think we're eating seafood.

Bottom line, syrup pourers for honey and throwaway plastics are dangerous. Fortunately there are alternatives. Like regular honey jars, water from the tap and canvas bags to start with.

Does anyone have a non-plastic alternative to keep greens fresh in the fridge? That's a plastic alternative I haven't figured out yet.

Haiku Friday

Standing at the sink
eating tomato salad,
nothing else matters.

Eat Local Cupcake Challenge

My apologies. Really, I'm sorry, but my dog ate my eat local challenge that was due today and I'm going to have to start over.

I worked on the challenge for eight days and was doing great. I made fresh garbanzo beans, dropped them into a tomato salad with lime. I made fresh hummus, baked bread, mashed potatoes, sauteed broccoli with garlic chips. I baked squash, froze corn, scrambled eggs, tossed salads. I sliced apples, pears, halved figs, spooned melon. I snacked on walnuts, almond butter, licked my fingers of goat cheese that topped a mixed green salad. I dripped single cups of organic fair trade coffee and poured local milk from a methane powered dairy into them. I invited people to tell me their local stories, to go to the farmers market, to come on over for dinner. I did not want for anything.

And I didn't want the red velvet cream cheese frosted cupcake that a co-worker gave me today. I'm not kidding. There are new pants in the closet and they have no room in them for a cupcake.

"I brought this for you," my co-worker smiled, holding a smashed, triangle of cupcake out to me. "I had it in my bag," she explained.

"Oh, no problem," I said reaching for it, noticing with a watering mouth that it didn't stick to the bag. "Thank you," I coughed at the smell of sugar.

I still had a choice, after she left my office to save it for someone on the street. I knew I wouldn't throw it away. But those thoughts were fleeting, barely articulated. I ate the cupcake hurriedly before my challenge got in the way.

After that my farmers' market date cancelled. "I have to work," she emailed. It was the same time the sugar began going the way of the stock markets. Not pretty.

There was nothing to do but have a bowl of brown rice.

Brown rice is my answer to everything. Brown rice with a little olive drizzled over it after it's hot. It's better than a red velvet cupcake. Unless the person giving it to you is smiling and the cupcake is smashed within an inch of its life.

Then it's a toss up.

What's your local food answer to everything?

Eat Local Spousal Challenge

I live with a saint. All our friends will vouch for him.

He eats everything I put on the table. Except nettles after the quiche debacle last year. It was a slimy thing. He's not wild about kale, he's burned out on chard and will tolerate only small servings of broccoli. Other than that he'll eat anything. But that's about as far as his local food intake goes. Once he leaves the house the bets are off.

I've learned not to ask what he eats during the day while we're at work. Actually I haven't learned. I haven't asked for weeks and tonight I didn't expect to ask, but, well, that's where the conversation went, and there I was asking, and he was telling me, and I was being Miss Objective while the world sank deeper into irreversible climate change because he bought a chicken salad at the grocery store. All I could see were stationary hens unable to turn in their cages and the sterilized tasteless lettuce grown in an environment more sterile than any industrial chicken will ever enjoy and the next thing I knew we were defending ourselves.

Ahhh, the joys of love and passion. I've packed him a lunch for tomorrow to stem global warming. He has his choice of Iacopis cranberry beans I made on Sunday with roasted dry farmed tomatoes, leeks, onions, cayenne peppers and garlic or a bowl of calabacitas I made tonight. It's hotter than our 'conversation' was this evening with jalapenos, and packed with zucchini and fresh corn. There's even a leftover flour tortilla he made with Prather Ranch lard, half Full Belly wheat flour and half Guisto's flour too. They weren't the same consistency of the store bought tortillas I grew up with but they tasted better, which explains why there is only one left.

Or he could choose to go to the store. I'm not going to ask. Really, I'm not going to. Either way he's a saint because he does appreciate the local food I prepare and he makes a point to tell me often. I love that.

PS: I'm over at the Bookworm Blog this week too. Stop on by.

Membrillo and Orange Raspberries

One of my favorite parts of any farmers' market is finding a treasure. That rare fruit, one of a kind, twisted vegetable that should have grown straight.

This morning it was the perfect paper blue basket of orange raspberries. I cradled them to the car for my Goddaughter's ninth birthday. She devoured them like candy.

Saturday morning at the Pt. Reyes market (my favorite and the last I'll make this year), I found membrillo, membrillo. I didn't hesitate for a second. When in the world will another opportunity to buy quince paste from a woman with a corner store smile selling it from a table in front of a 20 foot wall of hay bales present itself? It's as much art as it is food. And it tastes better than I could have imagined.

Last week the best market treasure was Ann from Brookside Farms in Brentwood. If you are in the area for the Thursday market at the Crocker Galleria stop and say hello to her. She's got her finger on the pulse of nature and the seasons. Everything she, her husband and son grow informs her as she'll happily tell you. And she wasn't just a treasure last week, she is every week.

It's generally the small growers where I find a one of a kind surprise, a piece of something that got to go wild, or was grown with extra affection. I know the markets aren't all strawberries and rose petals. I know the farmers work their asses off but if you ask me that's all the more reason to romanticize and appreciate them.

Besides it makes the food taste even better.

What treasure have you found at the farmers' market recently? Have you ever had membrillo? Orange raspberries?

Haiku Friday

After Dinner

Walking unlit streets
the asphalt smells of new rain
and we hurry home.

Eat Local Challenge

I know. It's no surprise that I'm participating in the Eat Local Challenge again. But I'm excited anyway.

The challenge last year changed how I eat. It turned me into a locavore with pointed green ears. So what more could I want to take the challenge again, I keep asking myself.

The truth is embarrassing but here it is. I want to make your ears pointy too. Really, the reason I started eating local was to save the world. And as naive as that is I can't let go of it. Eating food that is grown nearby is something I can do and I have the opportunity to do it three times a day. We all do. I believe every bite makes a difference. I know it tastes good. And, yes, there are challenges.

I can't do anything about the economy, bail out packages, the war in Iraq. I feel powerless over the negative political campaigns and a thousand other things but I can have a say about what I put on the end of my fork, how it got there and by whom.

I eat local food for peace. I eat it to support my neighbors so they can be the stewards of the streams. I eat local food so I can return the jars and cartons when I'm done. So I know the names and smiles and stories of the people who grow the food on my table. I eat local food because it's real, it's colorful, it has character and it tastes like what it is. I eat it because I can. Because fields of food are little bits of heaven and poetry and dirty hands and home. Because it's encourages biodiversity and wild things. Because eating local makes sense.

I'm participating in the Eat Local Challenge this year mainly for other peoples stories though. I'm inviting family, friends and co-workers to prepare a local meal, a local snack, a trip to the farmers' market, to a restaurant that serves local food; I'm inviting them to dinner, lunch, anything to get them to take a bite and tell me what they think.

Whether anyone takes me up on the offer or not I will continue eating local with a few exceptions: organic free trade coffee, salt, yeast and a bit of flour for baking. I'm looking forward to seeing if I'll notice a difference other than baking my own bread instead of loaves from Acme or the Brickmaiden.

In any event, I always look forward to enjoying my food.