Tuesday, December 18, 2007
For the purposes of my first local eating challenge, I defined local food as completely grown and processed within a 100-mile radius. Why 100 miles? As Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon of 100 Mile Diet suggest, “It's an easy way to start thinking local. A 100-mile radius is large enough to reach beyond a big city and small enough to feel truly local.” I determined that a comfortable variety of foods could be found in this range for my inaugural attempt at local-only eating.
I focused sincere attention on adhering to this definition – even in the face of my partner’s greasy taco urges. Minor and infrequent exceptions occurred for a few cups of tea, for three restaurant meals (though I did always attempt to choose the “most local” menu item and/or restaurant), and for benevolent acceptance of a couple of ingredients that others put in homemade communal meals without my input.
Because there is such an amazing variety of fruits and vegetables grown in and around Sonoma County, I found local eating outrageously delicious as well as easy. Only on a few rare occasions did I eat the same meal twice. I just let my cooking creativity go! I connected fully with a style of cooking that I love to do but usually only partially engage, in which I buy a riot of potential ingredients and then see what I think of to make with them. My first trip to stock up on supplies was to Tierra Vegetables where I spent a whopping 93 bucks! Most of this sum went towards buying approximately twelve pounds of dried sangre de torro (bull’s blood) beans – little Mexican red beans introduced to the farm by an employee who brought the seeds back from his hometown – which I shared with friends and classmates doing their local eating challenge at the same time.
One of my first meals consisted of these same delicious red beans suspended in a chili with Tierra’s torpedo onions and sweet corn, Quetzal Farm’s gypsy peppers, basil and oregano grown in my housemate’s backyard garden, and heirloom brandywine tomatoes purchased from Bob Cannard himself at his Petaluma-based operation, Green String Farm. Might I just say, “Yum!” The scrumptious menu options only flourished from there. I savored localized versions of garlic mashed potatoes, rosemary roasted vegetables, pizza, and even babaganouj.
Trading staples and sharing meals proved to be a delightful way to broaden everyone’s ability to eat a vital variety of foods, to encourage each other’s commitment, and, of course, to have fun in the process. I traded beans for whole wheat flour and homemade yogurt, and was the bean supplier for others who paid cash. 100% local pizza (and classic rock) night, rocked by four committed local eaters and two sympathetic guests, held a place as one of several communal meals – sometimes amongst fellow locavores and sometimes exposing the unconverted to a deliciously community version of garlic mashed potatoes or simple roasted corn.
Inspired to think longer-term by the Eat Local Challenge folks of the web world who are focusing their 2007 campaign on food preservation, I cracked into the food dehydrator that I had inherited from an old housemate and had never used. I am pleased to report that the results satisfied not only my taste buds but my burgeoning love of food preservation – first came freezing, now dehydrating! I filled every available food storage container with chewy dried figs, pears, apples, and hot peppers. It is surely only a matter of time before I find myself the owner of a raw foods cookbook delving into the realms of sprouted flax crackers and the like. Perhaps this phase will then be followed by a fermented foods frenzy or a canning obsession. Oh, the possibilities!
Resisting the desire to slurp down tacos at the farmers’ market while Reed was drooling over them proved much easier than I might have expected (thanks in large part to his gracious declination to actually consume the corn-wrapped delight). Besides, I had bigger challenges to face. Grains seem to receive little attention from growers in the 100-mile region though we did (through collective efforts) eventually come up with whole wheat flour, brown rice, and corn flour. Additionally, eating with others occasionally tested the integrity of my personal version of eating completely locally as some made exceptions that I would not. At the same time, I consider communal meals an integral part of what local eating means and as such, will always seek to include them. Another interesting effect occurred with regard to my generally vegetarian diet in that I ate meat (gasp!) in the forms of abalone and chicken.
To cap off my two-week commitment, Reed and I discovered a black walnut tree in central Santa Rosa whose nuts languished on the ground, no one seeing fit to harvest them. Nuts had been another tricky item to find so I was excited to have found this supply. The black stains on our fingers endured long after our evening of processing our find.
Touring a local organic dairy brought up an important question that I had not previously considered: What about the origin of agricultural inputs? This particular dairy was definitely within my range (within 30 miles, in fact) and used organic practices to boot but, as one astute tour participant uncovered, they do get some of their feed grains from far off sources both national and international. Though I chose not to use this factor as a constraining consideration in food selection (for now), one must wonder how sustainable organic agriculture really is when it relies on such far flung resources if one is to view local eating as a way toward a more sustainable food system. It seems clear that if achieving this sustainable food system vision means that we must eventually constrain ourselves to entirely local cuisine, so must the dairy cows not to mention the goats, chickens, hogs, and beef cows.
All in all, I found my brief commitment to all fare regional a gratifying experience. I enjoyed learning what farms were closest to me (Tierra Vegetables, Laguna Farm), how to access their food (farm stand, work trade, farmers’ market), and then getting to interact with the farmers themselves – great people, farmers. I learned that I like abalone and that salt, while tasty, is great to omit sometimes allowing you to savor the natural flavor of fresh ingredients. Given that Sonoma County is home to many wonderful small, organic farms, I came to realize that I could have chosen an even tighter radius and still found myself eating quite royally. As it was, I estimate that 90% of what I consumed came from within Sonoma County or within about 30 miles. Better yet was the food that I participated in growing or gathering myself or that my friends made, grew or harvested including sun gold tomatoes, sweet peppers, rye bread, homemade raw yogurt and the aforementioned abalone. The fresher and closer to home (the closer to my heart) the better.
Ironically, eating only local foods seems a great way to begin to question and understand the larger food system. What foods are we eating out of season? Where must they come from? One begins to recognize the systemic ignorance of the industrial food system illustrated in the lack of transparency in most food products – even those coming from ostensibly “natural” or “organic” sources. And you wonder, where does one obtain guar gum or evaporated cane juice? Should I even be eating these ingredients at all? Looking forward, I see my trajectory of more local, more organic and more relationship-oriented food continuing. Growing more of my own food is a definite future endeavor. A scheme has already been devised to plant perennial fruit at my parents’ farmstead to get them and the rest of our family eating more locally too [conspiratorial snickering and hand rubbing]. Once they get a taste of those fresh raspberries, blackberries and gooseberries, I’m hoping that they won’t be able to resist coming back for more. As for me, you can find me next summer working in my garden, pruning berries, or preserving like a madwoman.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Yay! I finally was able to bite the bullet & spring for wireless internet access at home. Even less commuting to find internet access at school, libraries & coffee shops. Yippeee! Now I just need to work on my habits while behind the wheel. I’m going to try what the Europeans call “soft driving.” It will be a change from my rather assertive driving style (ahem...) but I’m hoping that it will make me feel much better about the driving that I do have to do while also being more fuel efficient. What is soft driving? Wow! It’s really hard to find out online. I only found one article that actually details the approach. Hmmm…..
- Use the highest gear
- Drive smoothly, keep a consistent speed
- Don’t idle (if stopped longer than 30 seconds)
- Keep to the speed limit
- Reduce drag by keeping windows closed & eliminating unnecessary racks, etc.
- Remove clutter from the trunk & other extra weight
- Keep tires properly inflated
- Keep car well-tuned
- Reduce car use, plan to do a number of errands in one trip, car pool
- Use biodiesel (no can do for me as my car is of the unleaded petrol persuasion but perhaps you can try it)
- Invest in an electric or hybrid car (not so sure this is so very efficacious if you are ditching one car to get a new one but if you're already carless & in the market.....)
Monday, September 03, 2007
Reed & I found these walnuts under (& on) a tree near downtown Santa Rosa last week. Unsure of the results of such random pickings, we were pleasantly surprised to find delicious nutmeat inside. We shelled them & then dried them in the sun for an afternoon.
More recently, I've become obsessed with my food dehydrator. Pears, apples, figs, & hot peppers have all found their way to dehydrated goodness.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Finally, someone is forcing me to do a local eating challenge! Today, I started my two week foray by purchasing $90 in vegetables, $65 of which went toward 13 pounds of dried Sangre de Torro beans (a Mexican red bean brought to Tierra Farm by one of their Mexican employees). The woman, Evie, who sold me the beans was stunned asking, "Are you SURE you want all these beans?" Don't worry. They aren't just for me as I'll be sharing them with my classmates (I hope!).
For this assignment at least, I define local food as entirely produced within the surrounding 100 miles. Looking at this map, I feel a seafood craving coming on! But I wonder.... Last week, we toured a local organic dairy. At first, I had no thought of whether or not to consider them local or not - they are only 20 miles away. On the tour, I learned that they often purchase internationally grown grains for their cattle feed. Wow! That's a lot of "food miles" going into those cows. This is just one example of how much we ship things to & fro & how something that seems local may rely quite heavily on this system. We could consider the same question for vegetable seeds, soil amendments, etc. I decided not to use this criteria in my selection of foods, however, as it would likely promote starvation or, at best, malnutrition. :(
Today, I ate a delicious array of fresh veggies & fruits starting with homemade yogurt that my friends made (they even milked the cow) & a big, juicy peach from Nik's tree. Then, I bought about a billion kilos of beets, potatoes, sweet corn, beans, etc. at Tierra Vegetables' farm stand in Santa Rosa & promptly began chowing on it. I wish I had taken a photo of my dinner tonight (it was pretty!) but I was apparently too ravenous to think of that before inhaling it. What I can tell you is that it was indeed delicious: garlic mashed potatoes, & steamed cranberry beans & roasted gypsy pepper with Anaheim pepper, red onion, garlic & marjoram sauteed in Napa Valley olive oil. I also made some tasty & refreshing lemonade this afternoon, which I very much enjoyed on this very hot day!
Some resources to help you take your own local eating challenge!:
* 100 Mile Diet - www.100milediet.org
* Local Harvest - www.localharvest.org
* Locavores - www.locavores.com
* Eat Local Challenge - www.eatlocalchallenge.com
* Local Foods Wheel (SF Bay area) - www.localfoodswheel.com
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
I'm currently contemplating the concept of "food as medicine" & realizing that a significant meaning in it for me lies in sharing food with others. This is the cure for my loneliness: invite people to dinner!
I wish that I had more time to keep up with the blog but, well, I don't. Everyone has probably stopped checking it by now anyway. Some day I'll be back in full force. Some day....
Monday, April 02, 2007
While you're there, check out Reed's workshop on biofuels & sustainability.
I have three jobs. Yes, three. Three jobs may sound like a lot of jobs to have at once but I must tell you that I've had more. Job #1 is Network Administrator for the School Garden Network of Sonoma County. Job #2 is doing administrative support for the consultant to the City of Petaluma's Green Team which includes work on their Going Green Expo (sound like something I've done before?). Job #3 is guest lecturing for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), which is a standardized test that many colleges require of foreign applicants for whom English is not their native language. The lecture recordings are used to give test takers the opportunity to show their verbal comprehension of college-level English.
On top of that, I'm also working on an internship with Petaluma Bounty, which is also my project for my Master's thesis. PB is a nonprofit that is working to create a sustainable local food system in Petaluma & is specifically working currently with people who are food insecure & hungry. My project is to coordinate the creation of a dashboard that will give users a snapshot of how PB's projects & the local food system are doing. What is a dashboard, you say? Think of how your car dashboard gives you a quick, easy-to-read display of the status of your car. Same idea. So right now I'm working on identifying stakeholders, data holders, & possible indicators to be used. I'm so excited!
I'm still dating Reed & while he does still live in Minneapolis, our relationship continues to be magical. He's been out to visit twice already & stayed for over two weeks in March. I feel very fortunate to have found such a like-minded, genuine & big-hearted person to love even if we are separated by 2000 miles of corn fields, Motel 6s, mountains, etc.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
This is for all you chronic soda drinkers out there. It's OK. Just put the can down. Put the can down....
Thursday, February 22, 2007
ENDING BOTTLED WATER ADDICTION WILL SAVE MONEY & ENVIRONMENT
BOTTLED WATER ISN'T NECESSARILY CLEANER: According to the San Francisco Chronicle and lawsuits from the Environmental Law Foundation, 40% of bottled water is really just repackaged tap water. Maybe that's a good thing, considering federal standards for tap water are actually higher than those for bottled water.
BOTTLED WATER AND OIL: Supplying Americans with plastic water bottles for one year consumes more than 47 million gallons of oil, according to the Container Recycling Institute. That's enough to take 100,000 cars off the road and 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Add in the additional amount of oil it takes to ship the bottles thousands of miles from extraction source to recipient, and your drink of H2O could be categorized with the "Hummers" of the world.
BOTTLED WATER AND BIODEGRADABILITY: Buddha's bones turned to dust a long time ago. But if he had been a bottled water drinker, that plastic would still be laying around. It takes two minutes to drink a bottle of water, but it takes thousands of years for that piece of plastic garbage to go away.
SOLUTION: Buy a water filter and a non-plastic water container of your preferred size. Fill it up in the morning before you go to work or school. Do a quick online search, and you can also find affordable portable water filters for when you are traveling. You'll save yourself and the environment a lot of expense.
Reprinted from Organic Bytes, newsletter of the Organic Consumers Association - February 22, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Being the independent child that I was, I hid my paranoia for days until I finally admitted it to my mother who gently pulled out the encyclopedia to quell my fears with facts. So for those of you that might still be afraid of randomly falling into quicksand (I don't know anyone who has actually fallen in it but you never know...?), here's how to escape.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I've been reading about Gandhi today & his example for a higher standard of leadership - being & acting according to the principles of truth & nonviolence. When we consider these principles even in their most obvious interpretations, we can do nothing but oppose this war & all wars as they are rife with precisely the opposite of what we truly want (lies, destruction, intolerance, ignorance, greed, etc.). The Buddhists say that hatred, lust & ignorance are the basis for all human suffering. Clearly, everyone affected by this war has suffered enough.
These readings are from my first class, History of Resistance & Alternative Movements, & are divided into three sections. I've pointed out some favorites as you shall see. Enjoy!
History & Frameworks
Edwards, Andres. The Sustainability Revolution: Portrait of a Paradigm Shift. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2005. (Intro, Chapters 1, 2, 7).
These chapters cover the roots & evolution of what Edwards (a New College graduate) calls “the Sustainability Revolution.” Also included is a listing & analysis of a wide selection of sustainability principles, which shows the shared values of the movement across organizations of different types, sizes & focuses.Flinders, Timothy. “How Nonviolence Works.” In Gandhi the Man, edited by Eknath Easwaran, 149-172, Petaluma, CA: Nilgiri Press, 1978.
The author gives explanation & examples for Gandhi’s practice of satyagraha (obstinate clinging to truth) & ahimsa (lacking any desire to kill). Both are ways of being, more than mere tactics, for resolving social issues. They are to be practiced (to the best ability of the individual) throughout one’s life – personally, professionally, as an activist, etc. They work because they come from a place of love & the practitioner is unfaltering in his/her adherence to the principles. Given time, the adversary has no choice but to sympathize with the vision offered by the satyagrahi because the adversary comes to recognize the untenable nature of their position in the face of the satyagrahi’s chivalry, courtesy & compassion.Holloway, John & Alex Callinicos. “Can We Change the World without Taking Power?” A Debate at the World Social Forum, January 2005. http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=41&ItemID=8520.
Holloway asserts that taking power of the inherently exclusionary state (pro-capitalist by design) will not work, that creating the alternative that we want in the spaces & cracks of the capitalist state is the most direct route to the world we want. Callinicos presents the opposite argument saying that we must take power, that the state with its military & market forces & divide-&-conquer strategies cannot be ignored because it will not leave us alone.McNally, David. “Freedom Song: Liberation & Anti-Capitalism.” Another World is Possible. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2002. (Chapter 7, 229-267).
McNally provides history & analysis of anti-capitalist movements & strategies.Shi, David E. The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985: Introduction (3-7); The Puritan Way (Chapter 1, 8-27); Republican Simplicity (Chapter 3, 50-73); Transcendental Simplicity (Chapter 6, 125-153); Prosperity, Depression and Simplicity (Chapter 9, 215-247); Affluence and Anxiety (Chapter 10, 248-276); Epilogue (277-282).
In my & others' opinions, the most memorable reading for this class. The author covers the history of the American quest for & cultural relationship with the simple life. From the Puritans’ enforced social hierarchy in which the lower classes are admonished to maintain pious lives without luxury to the “trickle down” gluttony of the 1980s, Americans have had a pendulous relationship to simplicity. A great majority of experiments in practicing simplicity have failed. It is clearly much easier to talk about living simply than to actually do. The author concludes that the simple life will remain both a mythic & attainable ideal (though only for the few).Shiva, Vandana. “Reversing Globalisation: What Gandhi Can Teach Us.” The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No. 2 (May/June 1999): 224-225.
Shiva explains & makes relevant to current events the themes of Gandhi’s activism: Swadeshi, Swaraj & Satyagraha. Swadeshi is the spirit of regeneration, economic freedom. Swaraj is self-rule. Satyagraha is peaceful non-cooperation.Models & Practices
Kohn, Alfie. “How to Prevent Social Change.” No Contest: The Case Against Competition. 189-192. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.
In a deeply sarcastic tone, the author offers “five simple ways to perpetuate the status quo.”Macy, Joanna. “Dimensions of the Great Turning.” 1999. http://sevmedia.net/clients/gt/Main/Dimensions/expanded-def.html.
The author talks of “the great turning” in a similar sense as “the sustainability revolution” (Andres Edwards) or “the ecological revolution” (Lester Brown). She offers a “list of the [five] attitudes than can help us” as we go through it.Moyer, Bill. “The Four Roles of Social Activism.” Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements. 21-41. Gabriela Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2001.
Moyer outlines the four roles of social activists: the citizen, rebel, change agent and reformer. The citizen’s purpose is to present a normalized image to the mainstream so that they see the movement as representative of them & not as a threat. The rebel’s role is to vehemently oppose that which is wrong & to bring it into the public spotlight. Change agents work to create alternatives & promote the need for a paradigm shift. Reformers work within the system to support the other role players & to make incremental changes via traditional channels. These roles each have effective & ineffective way of being played & can all be played by the same individuals though each of us have a preference for one.Singing Our Way to Liberation
The author spends extra time on the ineffective version of the rebel, which he calls the “negative rebel,” as this particular activist can be highly detrimental to a movement. Violence, tactics over strategy, lack of responsibility to the larger group, & “do your own thing” mentality are some characteristics of the negative rebel, which can lead to alienation of the public, movement dissipation, legitimization of violence, etc.
Seeger, Pete & Bob Reiser. “Highlander/Prologue.” & “The Freedom Rides.” 3-12 & 43-69. Everybody Says Freedom: A History of the Civil Rights Movement in Songs & Pictures. New York: W.W. Norton. 1989.
A moving collection of songs & their stories, these chapters of Everybody Says Freedom profile two specific types of activism in the civil rights movement – the change agency of the Highlander Folk School & the rebellion of the Freedom Rides. Both stories offer an intimate & inspiring account of the people involved & the passion that drove them to succeed in the face of hatred & at the risk of death.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
9. The swiss chard & kale here is out of this world! Must be the climate. I sometimes just eat a big ol' pile o' steamed chard for dinner. Y. U. M.
8. Manfred Max-Neef's theory on basic human needs - I'm completely in love with it.
7. New Year's Eve was spent making a deck of cards with my new friend Lacey. This silly & lovable task was lubricated by White Russians & a viewing of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. As you may have guessed, Kenny Rogers is indeed the King of Hearts but what the hell is up with his face these days, people? Terrifying.
6. Volunteering in the gardens at Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. This was my first visit to an organization that is considered by many to be highly influential & completely awesome in the realms of sustainable agriculture & intentional community. My attire was less than ideal for the drizzly, chilly weather. In fact, some dude actually scoffed at me. Scoffed! I did my best with what I had since Eli had yet to arrive with the bulk of my belongings. The weather deterred nothing at OAEC, however, & the assembled group enjoyed one another's company convivially discussing everything from socialist t-shirt sayings to "deviant" sexuality. Based on the lively companionship & the amazingly delicious lunch, I highly recommend a Wednesday volunteering at OAEC.
5. Xmas in Davis with Janelle (from my tiny hometown on the prairie), her husband Neil & their friends from Italy & Japan. Lesson learned: Apples to Apples IS a good game to play with foreigners!
4. Eli arrived with my stuff the second week in January which resulted in me being able to sit on actual furniture in my apartment. More ergonomic sitting for everyone!
3. Hiking & hanging out in Pepperwood Preserve
2. Starting my grad reading & courses has brought me much joy. I love the faculty, the students, the chihuahua. Engage in clickage to see some examples of what I've been reading. A series of annotated bibliographies to ensue soon....
1. Love. Wow.