Lawdy Lawdy!

Gawrsh it’s been a while…I got myself lost in the Lent-Easter vortex and am only now starting to pull myself out… didn’t help that I also became not a little bit attached to watching television on the web–I am officially caught up on more shows than I care to admit.

But seriously, it has been a pretty busy last few months!  I turned around on tax day and realized that A and I have been married now for 8 months, which just goes to show how time can fly when you keep yourself busy.  Before we know it, we will be edging up on a year….whew!

In other news, spring is in the air, and like many other amateur gardeners I have gotten a bit antsy to play in the dirt.  Up in Belvidere, the farmers started tilling the corn fields about two or three weeks ago, and that for me was a sure sign it was time to begin playing… add to that that nights are almost 10 degrees warmer on average in Philly, and I have been cultivating my own little strip of earth with joy.  As it currently stands, I have my row crops (carrots, beets, parsnips, radishes, kale, chard, salad greens) in the dirt, as well as some snow peas and cucumbers.  I was a bit nervous about the cukes but I have plenty of backup if something goes wrong.  I also splurged on some tasty looking strawberry plants, and they are going wild in the back yard in Philly.

Additionally, I have been starting to have fun with my sourdough starter–yes, I became one of those people with a weird jar of goop in my fridge.  A and I are really enjoying the bread we are getting, even though I still feel like a beginner at this.  I still have some slow downs and hold ups (like this Sunday when my sponge didn’t want to rise in time for a children’s sermon based on it!) but there are lots of classic church ladies in Belvidere to tell me what I am doing wrong and help me correct it when I do… ah i love those ladies 🙂

A and I are also considering a foray into cheesemaking and beermaking, so we shall see what the future holds.  I joked with him that my goal is to turn us into alternative “live off the land types,” but really I just want to be able to make the things I like best–aka, cheese, bread, beer, jams and pickled and canned veggies–on my own because it feels awesome to do so.  I really like the idea of putting up food for the winter, or caring for my own starter, or even–although A swears he will allow it–raising my own hens.  Something empowering about knowing how to manipulate seeds and food products.

So that is more or less what is going on with me right now.  I am biding my time with my ground cherry and tomato plants, but the warmer days are on the horizon, and before long I will probably be complaining publicly about all the pests bugging my crops 🙂  but until then, I am at least comforted by the notion that there are tasty things growing outside, and that I might get to eat some of em.

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I couldn’t resist…

The beginnings of a delicious BBQ creation
The beginnings of a delicious BBQ creation

I couldn’t help it; mom my and I are making BBQ for dinner tonight, and the recipe for the sauce called for a delicious bundle of thyme to be bound in bacon and cooked into the sauce.  We went ahead and borrowed from my mother’s monster thyme plan, and here we are…. my kind of barbeque, if you ask me!

 

To come, some awesome photos of my foray into fruit preserves, basically a second installment, given last year’s experimentation with loquat.  Also, some of my own observations and reflections regarding God, etc.; long overdue.

Could it be?

This morning I read in “The Well,” a blog on the NY Times, about Obama’s new White House chef, Sam Kass.  You can find the article here.  I was excited to hear of the selection, mostly because I had been thinking along the lines of Alice Waters, who had recently contributed her thoughts and opinions on the Well regarding this important choice… and you guessed it, she was lobbying for a local/seasonal chef who could “change the culture of food” from the top down.

Hopefully Alice Waters will be pleased, and I know I am, to learn that Sam Kass is quite passionate about healthy, wholesome food.  Only time will tell how it actually plays out, but so far, his lambasting of the school lunch program and advocacy of eating wholesome food like locally produced beef with barley soup is a step in the right direction.  And people seem so bedazzled by Obama, perhaps this selection might actually make a difference to some….

Crossing over to the mac side…

it’s official.  I have moved over to the mac side of the computer world.  it feels almost strange to leave behind the PC world, but there is also a sense in which I am embarking on a new technological journey.  And yes, I could go all “mac and cheesy” on my blog and write about how amazing and wonderful and gushy I feel with my new macbook, but I prefer to just note here, for posterity, that today I bit the bullet and actually got the computer that I wanted rather than one that was practical (and, somehow, I feel as though I have joined a community of bloggers here… seems like everyone has a mac these days).

 

Anyways, in other news, life has been pretty chill lately.  I am currently in CA, most specifically for my sister’s graduation from USC, which took place with a few minor hiccups last Friday (By minor hiccups, I mean that my grandfather’s heart went out of sync for a few hours, followed closely getting a flat tire on his car when he and my grandmother picked me up at the airport–I fixed the tire by myself, btw–after which my grandmother proceeded to fall headfirst onto a slab of concrete right before my sister’s graduation and spend the day in the emergency room and then an oral surgeon’s office.  Her upper lip is swollen up as a result, which makes me think of Larry the Cucumber’s song, “I love my lips” in which he spends a few weeks in what he calls ‘lip rehab’ after a tragic accident with a gate.).  Any-who, despite all that the graduation went rather well, I think.  My mom and brother and I had a wonderful drive back up the 5 to get back from LA to San Jose (my dad drove my grandparents back) and I have spent the days since our return reading (Lauren Winner’s “Real Sex” and Philip Gourevitch’s “We Wish to Inform you that Tomorrow we will be killed with our families” and part of a horridly disturbing book called “Diary of a Fat Housewife” which I do NOT recommend, even for academic purposes… I was reading it for my potential thesis topic.).  I also have spent some quality time running the old trails at Alum Rock Park.  I ran the South Rim Trail yesterday morning, and my legs are still feeling it!

So I have read, and I have mac-d, and I have run in the hills.  But there is more….. my mother and I experimented and made loquat jam yesterday, which turned out to be an amazing success.  My parents have a loquat tree, you see, and it was loaded with brightish fruit that was aching to be used.  So my mother and I determined that we had the time and interest (sort of) to devote to utilizing the tree’s bounty. The following photos represent the transformation, from tree to bottle.

 Ultimately, the jam was quite tasty, similar in many respects to marmalade.  I plan on bringing some, along with my mother’s apricot jam from the fall, back to Boston/Philadelphia with me… (btw if you want some let me know! There is a bunch to spare!)

Lastly, in the interests of experimentation and a virtually endless loquat supply, I tried my hand at drying some of the little suckers today.  They have so far been in the dryer for about 4 hours, along with blood-orange, lemon, and apple slices.  I look forward to the results.

I guess my conclusion here is that it has been a restful week.  I have caught up on sleep, finally gotten around to exercising again, found myself in my parents home and back in my home congregation for a weekend, and begun to recover from the semester.  Not bad, I say.

Economics and Ethics on Eating

When I was in college, my pastor (Ben) introduced me to the slow food movement. At the time, I was struggling with questions about the practice of eating intentionally, of what it would mean to engage in the food cycle and to eat well.  I was immediately taken in by the movement, loving the philosophy and ethics behind participating fully in the process from the fields to the table. 

Since then, in fact, I have found myself focusing more and more on what it means to be a ‘locavore’, exploring the ethics behind food production seriously as I try to sort out where I stand.  The arguments for and against different positions on how and why we eat what we do are as interesting, to be sure, as they are numerous.  And after much consideration and deliberation, I have found myself coming out of the process with an understanding of sustainable eating that I find to be not only healthy but spiritual as well.  I dream of a day when I might have the space to produce more of my own food rather than buying it from others, but because I cannot do that now I have made the decision to participate in buying local vegetables and local meat (I belong to a meat CSA located 65 miles from my house). 

 Lately, however, people have been introducing me to arguments against local eating such as this one.

Being that this argument is from the Economist, it of course focusing on the economics and efficiency argument against eating locally, claiming that the environmental cost can be just as bad if not worse when eating locally because non-renewable resources (aka gas/oil) that are used less efficiently by distributers but also by those who drive out of their way to get to local foods. 

Now maybe it is just me, but that argument doesn’t seem to fully address the issues relating to local eating.  First of all, the argument supposes that local food can’t get to you– personally, I have discovered that even in BOSTON, if you look for it you can find it.  Most grocery stores stock foods that are grown in local farms these days and label it, which means that you don’t always have to go far to find what you need.  Places like my Meat CSA have distribution drop-offs, meaning that there are fewer trips being made by individuals, not to mention that the CSA drops once a month, not every other day as in the case of people driving constantly to their super-market. Sure,  food might be transported more efficiently over long distances in the global economy, but that is also a function of genetic engineering that alters a vegetable so as to make it transport more efficiently.  Take, for example, the genetic manipulation of tomatoes which leaves them in uniform, almost boxy shapes and alters their composition to make them less prone to crushing (consequently also making them taste less like tomatoes).  Sure, it’s efficient, but if you put a tomato like that next to your average heirloom tomato, you can taste the difference as well as see it.  The conventional, heck even the organic varieties sold in the store, begin to have less appeal.

Barbara Kingsolver, author of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ ultimately makes the argument that some things are worth waiting for.  As the Economist article indicates, it DOES indeed take more energy to grow tomatoes in greenhouses locally–but that is because they aren’t meant to be growing there in the first place.  Eating locally ultimately doesn’t translate into just growing whatever you would eat from the store in your back yard.  It means educating yourself about what is supposed to be growing in your local landscape in the first place.  It means committing to a lifestyle that engages the place you find yourself in already rather than trying to transform it into a microcosm of the global food economy.  Its about inner transformation, transformation that includes giving up that which is not meant to be where you are (in my case, no bananas and avocados in Boston). 

 There are a million arguments on both sides beyond  the Economist, but until these arguments take up more than the economics, seriously considering the ethics behind the choice and the full implications of the transition, I think I will stick to my Kale and Collards and save the tomatoes for a warm June afternoon.