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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!

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MindfulCast #1 – Fermentation: The Final Frontier

19 Jul

After years of thinking about it, I have finally created a podcast call “MindfulCast”. The goal of this podcast series is to discuss the rewards and challenges of living a balanced life in these modern, urban times. The first episode, Fermentation: The Final Frontier, focuses on a recent Pickling Party workshop hosted by UrbanKitchenSF and Happy Girl Kitchen Co. To subscribe to the podcast feed, check the box at the top of the sidebar!

The workshop was held on a pier under the Bay Bridge…

From left to Right: Todd Gonzales and Todd Champange from Happy Girl Kitchen

Chopping and filling jars

and adding salt water…

Pickled Cherries, Lemons and Spicy Carrots

mmm.. Pretty Pickles…

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

Feeding a World in Crisis

6 Dec

NPR Weekend Edition Saturday, December 6, 2008 · For the United Nations’ World Food Program, it’s never easy trying to feed the world’s hungry. But in times of soaring prices and global financial crisis, the business of getting food to those who need it most becomes an even more daunting task.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97905044

Reporter’s Notes: Food Safety

6 Dec

Reporter’s Notes: Food Safety

“Here’s another item for President-Elect Barack Obama’s to-do list when he takes office in January: food safety. Especially imported foods. Recent scares over melamine-laced cookies from China and salmonella-tainted Mexican jalapenos have raised stark questions: Who’s monitoring the safety of imported food? And does the system work?”

http://www.kqed.org/quest/radio/food-safety

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Eaten by the Chronophage

22 Nov

It’s been months since I’ve written anything of any interest, and much has happened: Slow Food Nation, an unexpected move, the presidential election and the Green Fest. All of which I will touch on at some point in this post. It’s been a tumultuous 3 months and I now feel that I am finally settling down a bit and after some periods of stress and worry, disappointment and disillusionment, I am now feeling hopeful and more inspired. Thank goodness.

Continue reading

Health, Food and Human History: The All-American Banana?

7 Aug

As part of my move toward eating locally produced food, I have cut out certain fruits and vegetables from my diet. In an attempt to have some sort of balance, and in cases where they are available, I will purchase organic and fairly traded varieties of coffee, chocolate, tea and coconut products but have nearly cut out the consumption of all fruit that cannot be grown within California. This includes pineapple, papaya, mango, and of course: bananas.

I’ve recently become somewhat fascinated with the banana. I often wonder why it is so popular. Perhaps it is because the banana is so easy to carry and eat. But the banana is not a local fruit. Not unless you live in South America, Hawaii, or parts of Asia. How did it get here and when? And how have banana prices remained so low, even though the fruit travels thousands of miles to reach our markets and tables?

Not just Organic, but Fair Trade!

Most of us have seen organic produce varieties popping up in supermarkets across the United States. Though knowing how food is grown is extremely important, so too is knowing how the farmers and workers are paid and treated in the process. Finding Fair Trade coffee, tea and chocolate is becoming easier and easier and I find it interesting that there doesn’t seem to be as much of a movement to engage fresh fruit producers and distributors. I have no doubt there are many challenges with storage, shipping and USDA guidelines though I have not found any specific information as yet. Fair Trade fruit is available now, though can be difficult to find and I have not seen any form of labelling system to indicate that the fruit is in fact Fair Trade.

Below are some resources about the Banana and Fair Trade Fruit:

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World

Yes, We Will Have No Bananas

The Banana

Banana.com

Fair Trade Banana Cooperative

Fair Trade: Fresh Fruit Program