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My favorite things about San Francisco…

27 Mar

Yesterday was Cesar Chavez Day,  a California state holiday and luckily, a day I did not have to go into work. I love having weekdays off and I decided to take an early morning walk. As I was wandering around, I saw many of the things that remind me of why I really love San Francisco. At least on days like yesterday.  Though one thing I encountered yesterday I found quite shocking! A parking enforcement officer  was driving around and instead of just ticketing everyone, was giving everyone an opportunity to pay the parking meters and even calling into some local shops to say “If this is your car, you better come and pay the meter!” Astonishing!

The Elders of the Community

One of the things I enjoy most about San Francisco are the older generations. Watching them congregate in the many parks dotted around the city teaching each other how to waltz, practicing Tai Chi or just enjoying the day gives me a sense of calm and community that, frankly, I wouldn’t mind having now.

Hidden Treasures

San Francisco has many hidden treasures; staircases, gardens, courtyards and tiny neighborhoods that few people have heard of.  It always feels like a privilege to catch a glimpse of one of these or like I’m in on some great, local secret.

Telegraph Hill

In its own right, Telegraph Hill is a bit of a hidden treasure and rarely visited by anyone that’s not a tourist or resident. The hill is covered with gardens, steps and a surprisingly large variety of wildlife including wild parrots, mice, skunks, raccoons and the mosquitos and bees that the rest of San Francisco is oddly free of. Whenever I see this hill from a distance, it always seems quite exotic and lush.

The Quiet and the Waterfront

I love being close to the water and I love the docks and piers and, once again, some of the hidden spots to sit and watch the bay. this photo was taken near Fisherman’s Wharf which is probably the largest tourist area in San Francisco. It is much nicer to visit at 8:30am and in my opinion, the morning and the sea are perfect companions.

The Fog

aka The Weather

I don’t think there is anyone that can convince me that the weather in San Francisco is anything less than wonderful. Of course there are cold days when there should be warm days and warm days when there should be cold days and each neighborhood seems to have its own micro-climate but I really enjoy these parts of Bay Area weather. In fact I think we are really quite lucky here. Fresh, local produce is available year round and within driving distance there are mountains, temperate rain forests, beaches and deserts.

And the fog? Simply beautiful.

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What, Where, Why and How?

21 Feb

Recent conversations with others have made me think again about why I decided to start this blog and naturally that led me to think about where I was, where I am now and of course where I’d like to be.  When I started writing here in 2007,  my life was quite a bit different. I was starting over again in many ways due to the end of a relationship, the end of running a business, and the brink of financial disaster.  Running a small business was one of the most challenging and stressful situations I have ever been in (and not one that I intend to repeat) but working for myself did give me the opportunity to do things like teach myself to be a better cook than my mother and go to events and farmers’ markets on days when I would normally be working if I’d had another job – not to mention time to read and do other interesting things while I was working from home.

It was during this time when I went into Survival Mode and I did whatever I could to keep our costs down to a minimum. I was feeding two people on a budget of around $50 a week. Of course this sounds like a ridiculously small amount, especially for the Bay Area, but I learned that if you cut out all of the processed food, reduce consumption of meat, and make everything yourself, it really can be done.

After the business closed I decided to try a vegan diet – but not just any vegan diet – this one would be without any processed food and yes, that included all meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh or any similar products. Of course I must be honest here and remind the reader and myself that I did use some processed food products such as salt, sugar, flour and olive oil, but tried to keep them to minimum and if at all possible, I made sure these produced were locally produced.

So there I was:  single, broke, vegan-for-financial-environmental-health-and-various-other-personal-reasons, and looking for a new life and new friends with whom I might share my interests. I really had no idea just how difficult that would be. You see, being vegan-for-financial-environmental-health-and-various-other-personal-reasons (and don’t forget: not eating meat or protein substitutes) not only confused the hell out of people, but made it practically impossible to socialize.  And THAT is why I started this blog. I wanted to have a place where I could discuss my thoughts and ideas as well as lament the fact that, even in progressive San Francisco, people’s heads would catch on fire if you even suggested that they may want to learn more about the soda they were drinking or the candy they were eating and, heaven forbid, consider not buying it!

It just seems very sad to me from a cultural perspective that many of our parents would reminisce about the days when people in their family would make pies from scratch but my generation and those that are younger tend to remember cookies, cereals and candy bars. These are our shared food experiences? In more ways than one, we are a manufactured culture.

So What now? Well, it has been more than two years since my first post and though I still consider myself the same food activist I was, I find it very difficult to maintain the momentum.  With a full-time, challenging job, a relationship and debt from the business (not to mention various family issues) I often do not have the energy to cook my own dinner, nevermind making everything from scratch or tending to my neglected garden.

My goal for 2010 is to be a bit more in balance and bring back some of the things I was doing a couple of years ago. I had more head space for it at the time so some serious mental spring cleaning is needed. I must remain mindful of my own actions, intentions and what makes me happiest. From here on I’d like this blog to be more about discovery and sharing those discoveries with the people I care about most. And yummy food.

So those people at RenFaire were right?

28 Sep

Renaissance Faire can be a lot of fun – and a bit silly with all the jousting, drinking, bodices and the oddly ubiquitous turkey leg.

Recently I had watched Episode 10: “The Good Ol’ Days” from Penn & Teller: Bullshit which reminded me of something I had read just a few days before about the changes that took place in European cuisine after the New World was encountered by Columbus. In “The Good Ol’ Days” Penn & Teller discuss the cultural nostalgia of the Renaissance Faire with James Given, professor of Medieval History at U.C. Irvine who states “If you go to Renaissance Fair and you see someone gnawing away om a turkey leg that certainly has no real baring on reality. There were no turkeys in the middle ages.” But wait, isn’t this the Renaissance Faire?

According to Brian Cowen in his chapter New Worlds, New Tastes (Food Fashions after the Renaissance) from the 2007 book  The History of Taste: “Thus both the guinea fowl, introduced in the early sixteenth century from West Africa, and the American turkey were quickly and enthusiastically praised by Renaissance dietitians and banqueters alike.” Although likely available only to the upper classes, it appears as though turkey was indeed available in Europe as early as the 1500’s and was certainly written about at the time.

But was that during the middle ages or part of the Renaissance? According to wikipedia, the Renaissance spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, and the Middle Ages (or medieval period) began in the 5th century and ended with the beginning of the Early Modern Period in the 16th century. So.. both?

I don’t exactly think that Professor Given was incorrect as culinary history and the study of gastronomy hasn’t always gone hand in hand with standard historical curriculums. But what I found most interesting while watching this episode (aside from the fact that I actually knew something about turkeys in the middle ages) was the thought that the somewhat ridiculous practice of eating giant turkey legs at RenFaire may actually not be entirely ridiculous after all.

How strange and interesting!

A Very Thoughtful Article About Agricultural Sustainability

22 Sep

Mother Jones:  Spoiled: Organic and Local Is So 2008 by Paul Roberts

This is a great article from ths March/April 2009 that discusses the reality of what we need to consider when it comes to the idea of sustainable agriculture.

…Fred Kirschenmann, former director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Real sustainability, he argues, is defined not by a food system’s capacity to ensure happy workers or organic lima beans, but by whether the food system can sustain itself—that is, keep going, indefinitely, in a world of finite resources.”

Spotlight: Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market: A Photo Story

9 May

Though the farmers’ market I usually shop at is the Heart of the City, I stop by the Ferry Plaza a few times a year. This is not so much for the produce, as I find that the fruit and vegetables at the Heart of the City are quite fabulous and much less expensive, but for the items that are harder to find, The Ferry Plaza Market is great!

Since today was such a lovely San Francisco day, I decided to head out early to see if I could get to some of the market goodies that tend to vanish before 10am, beat the lunch crowd and take some photos.

I am also starting to keep a list of the farms that I learn about and how far they are from San Francisco. To see a map of North California farms that travel to or sell in San Francisco markets click here: Northern California Farms

http://www.massaorganics.com/ Chico, California

Massa Organics

Massa Organics

I have been a fan of Massa Organics since I first encountered them. They are one of the few grain producers in the area (currently brown rice and red wheat berries) and their almonds are wonderful too! You can even follow them on twitter now @MassaOrganics and get updates direct from the tractor. Which, if you are an agro-nerd like me, will make you giddy. But maybe that is just me. ..

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An interesting discussion about being “Green”

9 Apr

The Fur Council of Canada has recently started a new campaign called “Fur is Green!” I am really quite torn about this idea simply because I believe that if we are to kill animals for food, we should be doing our best to ensure that they are treated as well as possible during their life and use as much as possible of the animal and avoid any waste. I have personally never been against the use of leather as it tends to come from animals that are also part of the food supply, but fur often comes from animals that are not used for anything else.

Some are protesting this campaign and I am curious to see what the outcome is.

Fur is Green! Campaign
http://www.furcouncil.com/furisgreen.aspx

Matt & Nat: Speak Out Against Fur
http://blog.mattandnat.com/?p=161

Have you heard of the Right Livelihood Awards?

8 Dec

This morning I was listening to DemocracyNow.org‘s War and Peace Report and heard that the founder and host, Amy Goodman, was broadcasting from Sweden as she is being given a Right Livelihood Award.

What a fabulous idea.

Learn more here: http://www.rightlivelihood.org/