Archive | Garden RSS feed for this section

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.

Advertisements

Food & Farm Update – Fall 2009

28 Nov

Garden:

Oddly enough, the Marvel Stripe tomatoes keep appearing even though I have stopped watering the plant and it is half dead. A couple weeks ago I collected all of the green tomatoes from the plant and have been pickling them – but I will talk about that a bit later. The herbs are still doing just fine in the shady spot that they are in and I have been using my most of our food scraps to start on the compost for next spring. I also discovered that some plants that I originally thought were some sort of beans (not because they had any pods, but because they were growing where I planted a bunch of beans) turned out to be sunchokes! Hurray for unexpected edible things!

Food:

I’ve had some success and some failure over the past few months. first, I had another unexpected find a few weeks ago – but this time it was at the farmers’ market.  As I was stopping by the Massa Organics booth to pick up some rice,  I noticed the farmer was there! I had not met him before and we chatted a bit. I found out that he was there because once or twice a year (litterly, two days a year – once in fall & once in spring) they have Peking duck to sell.  As an organic farmer, ducks have become an important part of his pest and weed control. So, I bought one. I had never cooked duck before and knew full well that I might totally destroy it but it seemed too good to pass up. A couple weeks later I had a small dinner party and cooked it up and it turned out great. Thanks to Australian chefs Corrine Evatt and Mary-Jane Craig!

I also took a class on making kimchee and sauerkraut. The kimchee turned out great and I even managed to trade some for a beer at my favorite local bar! The sauerkraut that I made a few months back turned out well, but this one somehow went all haywire. It may have been because of the juniper berries that were added (a flavor I am not accustomed to in sauerkraut) or there’s some new and special kind of mold or bacteria, but it had a weird, almost detergent-like flavor and left a very dry taste behind – like a really dry red wine. It smelled strange too. Since I was a bit too uncertain, I decided to compost it. It’s a pity as I was really looking forward to eating that kraut as it had a variety of interesting ingredients that I never would have thought to use. The pickled green tomatoes are working out very well! I am not sure what I will use them with yet. with all of this pickling that I am doing, I had better figure something out! I find fermentation interesting and exciting but the reality is that we never ate anything other than dill pickles when I was growing up.  So, I’m not entirely sure what so do with all this pickled food. Suggestions are welcome!

Food & “Farm” Update – Summer 2009

19 Sep

This summer has been very interesting and busy! Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Garden:

  • Two tomatoes plants (out of the original 4 varieties that I planted in March) have produced fruit – the Tomatoberry and the yellow Marvel Stripe heirloom – those most are still green.  I have one (color TBD) bell pepper still growing, a row of too-tiny-to-mention purple carrots and a handful of fava bean plants that may or may not be unhappy. All but two of the other plants that I bought as seedlings have survived in pots for months and are now happily residing in a big pile of soil enriched with the compost I’ve been preparing for months: oregano, sage, mint, strawberries and two kinds of lavender. The 3rd kind of lavender was trampled by a construction worker and the basil – well, so far I cannot get basil to work in the clay and debris filled soil back there. See garden photos here.

Events:

  • Eat Real Fest – held on the weekend before labor day in Oakland, CA. It was hot. No, I mean HOT – like nearly 100 degrees and for the Bay Area… that is HOT.  But it was much more interesting that the Slow Food Nation event in San Francisco last year. Eat Real Fest was all about food for the masses – not just the people who could afford to spend hundreds of dollars for exclusive tasting events.  The food was great – local, organic and inexpensive. Street food vendors and taco trucks filled Jack London square and sold a variety of dishes – all $5 or less. The also had a large indoor farmers’ market. I’d definitely go again.  See pictures here.
  • Ghost Town Farm tour – This was held on the same weekend as the East Real Fest as both were in Oakland. Novella Carpenter and her partner Bill are essentially squatting on a lot next to the apartment in which they live and have turned it in to a little urban farm. Novella has since written a book, Farm City, about her experiences with developing the farm and raising plants and animals in such an urban environment. It’s a great read and a great inspiration. I think what I love most is how they put something together pretty much out of nothing and created not only a garden, but a community as well. Her blog is here and my pictures are here.
  • A reading from the book, Cooking Beyond Measure,  by cultural historian, hippie, cook and writer Jean Johnson.  The reading was a joint venture between the Culinary Historians of Northern California and Omnivore Books in San Francisco. I have been to a few CHoNC events now and usually feel a bit out of place since most of the other members are professional chefs, food writers and culinary historians and even though Jean is a bit of all of those, I feel like she could make anyone feel at ease. She came of age in the 60’s, lived for a decade on Native American reservations in the Southwest and is just a genuinely nice person. When the reading was over I went up to her and said “You’ve just written the book I was planning on writing in a few years after I got my act together.” Somehow, I’d love to grow up to be the combination of Novella Carpenter and Jean Johnson! Jean’s blog is here.

Classes:

  • UrbanKitchenSF is my new best friend! With one-off, 2-3 hour classes that are fun, informative and inexpensive. They are all about slow food and cooking styles for the urban dweller. My first podcast was about their first pickling class and I plan on doing an interview with the founders of UrbanKitchenSF in a future podcast. I’ve taken all but two of the classes – one I had already taken and one I missed – including kombucha, pickling, butchery, cheesemaking and bread baking. I have pictures of most of the classes here. My kombucha and homemade pickles have turned out quite well!

Books:

  • Occassionally, I lament the fact that I never got my undergrad degree. While the study of food history and culinary anthrolopogy are becoming more well known and wide spread, it is a challenge to find classes for the beginner or hobbyist. So, instead of allowing myself to pine, I finally got myself a Library card. Seems a bit sad since I’ve been living in San Francisco for 7 years now. My first two books are Food in the USA and The History of Taste – both a relatively large collection of essays and heavier than most of the school and college books I’ve had over the years. It does make me happy to know that there are others like me – who are fascinated by the evolution of food and its impact on human development, society and culture and who can explain it a heck of a lot better than I can.
  • Wild Fermentation – not only a cookbook but a really good read as well. As the title states, this book is about fermentation and not only provides many, very approachable recipes, but talks about the health benefits, taste and history of the craft.  I have successfully made a bright pink sauerkraut and am now trying a batch of kvass which seems like a lovely way to use up stale bread!

Food:

  • Ah, well, I am always trying new experiments and recipes. Lately, it has been all about sourdough and some of my favorites of late I have found online and am happy to share them!
  • I have also just tried my hand at sprouting grains and as I type, they are slowly toasting in the oven. Studies suggest that sprouts are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet and the act of sprouting (as well as fermenting) breaks down the harmful but natural enzime inhibitors present in seeds. My first try was with some local red wheat berries which, when sprouted, kinda tasted a bit like grass.  But since wheat is a grass, this makes perfect sense.

Ok, well that’s all for now!

Good food & friends!

May Food Events

1 May

Below are events that I find both interesting as well as likely to attend!

Urban Farming Basics: Grow Your Own Food Session 1 May 2nd 2-5pm: http://events.kqed.org/events/index.php?com=detail&eID=6318

Urban Farming Basics: Grow Your Own Food Session 2 May 9th 2-6pm: http://www.bapd.org/n0976.html

Michael Pollan: Deep Agriculture May 5th 7pm: http://www.longnow.org/projects/seminars/

Tomales Bay Oyster Company &
Straus Organic Dairy 5/14, 7/16, 8/20: http://www.malt.org/programs/index.php#may

Kitchen Garden at the White House

27 Mar

First lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to break ground Friday on a new garden near the fountain on the South Lawn that will supply the White House kitchen.”

Great news! I am still working on my own kitchen garden and it is good to see such a high profile garden!

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090319/ap_on_go_pr_wh/white_house_garden

Urban Farming in San Francisco

28 Aug

A couple of years ago, I was listening to one of the Deconstructing Dinner shows about Urban Farming and one of the guests was discussing the use of city backyards as a way to use the existing green space to grow crops. I have been fascinated with this idea ever since and have been trying to find information about a similar project in San Francisco. Today I stumbled upon Victory Gardens which, according to the website, is a pilot project funded by the City of San Francisco to support the transition of backyard, front yard, window
boxes, rooftops, and unused land into organic food production areas.

It is still early days yet, but I am very interested to see where this goes.

3 interesting events in 3 days…

29 Mar

1) Earth Hour. No doubt many of you have already heard about the move to turn off all lights from 8-9pm today, March 29th 2008. We’ll be taking part tonight – lighting some candles and spending time with friends. More info at http://www.earthhourus.org/

2) meatpaper,  a new magazine with ideas about and art inspired by meat.  It does sound a bit strange – but they are celebrating their 3rd issue  in San Francisco tomorrow night on March 30th 2008. More details at http://www.meatpaper.com/news/index.html

3) Environmentally Conscious Food Choices – a discussion with panelists from Bon Apetit, UC Davis, the Ethicurian and more. March 31st 2008 in San Francisco. More info here: http://tinyurl.com/2s4vxu