Symphony grapes from Edna Valley Vineyard’s test garden. I harvested seven pounds of it, with permission, and made some spectacular jelly from it. My food trend for 2011? Getting friendly with farmers and then sending them the final products of our combined labor.
Ah, the end-of-year trend lists. Ana and I can get behind this one though. Grist.org (a beacon in the smog, gosh I love them) put out their sustainable food trend list for 2011. Check it out yourself and see where you fall in line. Here’s where Ana and I sit in the list…
Felicia: A few of the restaurants in our ‘hood (Maxamilliano’s, Good Girl Dinette) are already offering good ole L.A. tap. And we also use metal refillable bottles in the house and on the go. Still, completely eliminating bottled water purchasing has been…problematic. Steve is constantly whisking from one interview/rehearsal/performance/writing group to another and if he didn’t buy bottled water, I wonder if he’d ever drink any at all. Convenience is hard to knock, as are old habits. But we’re on track. I do still buy cases of glass-bottled Pellegrino for my office. I am diligent about recycling there, and my employer has actually banned the purchase of all disposable bottles for on-site events and meetings as part of an agency-wise sustainability plan. We also do a lot of road trips and I’ll be retooling pre-trip organizing to include sustainable in-car refreshments.
Ana: I just moved to a magical place called the Pacific Northwest. Legend foretold of highly potable tap water and ‘lo, it was true. The tap here is de-freakin-licious. Whether it’s from the McKenzie or other tributaries it is a Sasquatch-sized leap beyond anything I dared to get down my gullet in Southern California. You get bonus points pretty much everywhere for bringing your own bottle, mug, or take out containers. My personal struggle comes with preparing for team practice. Admittedly poor planning on my part is more often the culprit for the purchase of disposable/recyclable bottles from the local Co-Op as I wing it to two hours of endurance skating. But what about your fizzy bevvys? Making your own soda from home or from your desk is now in reach, too (not an endorsement, just saying). And not to caress the ego of my local First Alternative Co-Op too much, but they have some of my FAVORITE kombucha on tap. I just bring my resealable Grolsh-style bottles and leave with tasty slightly fermented tea. Yes, I make my own too. But the lady likes variety.
Green garlic at the Pasadena Farmers Market. The roots actually fry up nice into little garlic fries.
Felicia: Even in a good week, I’d say I’m fully utilizing the vegetables I buy maybe 75% of the time. And not entirely for our own consumption. Kale stems, sweet potato and squash peels, and other worm-safe foods go directly to my hard working ranch of invertebrates. Where it gets hazy is with the alliums – onions, leeks, chives, and garlic to be specific. Worms no likey. And frankly, neither do I. The leftovers, I mean. I buy from the farmers market so a lot of what I get has dirt-encrusted roots, especially this time of year when the soil is more frequently muddy. Stock is regularly on my stove, simmering away, so what can be used there often is, but only if it’s fresh and of a high quality. Stock isn’t just whatever-is-leftover water. It’s elixir that demands respect, which means good water, fresh, quality ingredients, and time. The whole point of root-to-stem cooking is to reduce food waste, which is out of control in this country. The biggest thing you can do to reduce waste? Buy only what you will eat. You’ve been eating all your life. You should have an idea of what you can reasonably consume. The next biggest thing you can do? Learn to preserve. And not just canning. Dehydration. Fermentation. Proper freezing.
Ana: Sure worms freak out sometimes, but just try mixing it up with more coffee grounds or even tobacco and you’ve got yourself quite the energetic (and not-that-discerning) mass of worms doing your digestive bidding. That being said, I’ve run into a lot more folks who choose to eat the entirety of the plant lately. While I respect their devotion, I will not eat strawberry tops. I think Felicia is on the right path here as she heads towards preservation proselytizing. I, like many of my peers, don’t have the facilities to cook and preserve (yet!) and tend to spend more of my energy controlling what I purchase and consume.
Via lunch.com. Nom?
Bugs on your plate! (not the kind that will get you your money back)
Felicia: So not on board with this. Ana is the forerunner here. I fully expect her to be feeding me homegrown crickets and grubs when I visit her next year.
Ana: EATING BUGS WILL SAVE THE WORLD! True story. We all (of a certain age) seem to have come across the novelty cricket/ant dipped in chocolate or tequila worm encased in an adult lollipop. This “newbutnotreallyifyoulookintoit” notion of insects as a protein source clearly goes beyond that. What are crabs and lobsters, but large sea-dwelling bugs? And look how centuries ago they were treated as low-class “throw away” food. The great thing about insects and bugs (apparently they’re different) is that the sheer VARIETY that already exists means that we are only limited by our own lizard-brained notions of what equals food. The impact on our world agriculture/climate/food equity once this takes off will be a total game changer. Think of plump little grubs like plump little prawns and we’ll be well on our way!
Felicia: I love this idea. But I’ve never participated in one. And it makes total sense for someone like me who has twenty-million jars of marmalade from my backyard Washington navel tree. Goal for 2012 – participate in these and maybe even organize one.
Ana: Love, love, love this. I did this in San Diego a little during the holidays and because of that it ended up feeling more like a gift exchange. Not quite the point, but a valuable lesson nonetheless. Timing and expectations tend to make or break these swaps. I’ve done more crop swapping with people who have different CSA boxes. Apparently my new housing community does this sort of thing on a regular basis. All reports are positive and give me great hope for my future involvement.
A good thing to note: Ask a lot of questions of anyone you’re getting preserved goods from. I once found out post-swap that the young man who put up my new onions did not adhere to commonly held notions regarding the value of sanitation. I will not EAT ALL THE THINGS if Death Is On The Line!
By Graciela from Los Angeles. A shot of her South Central Farmers’ Cooperative Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box.
More types of CSAs, more often
Felicia: I visit farmers markets every week for my column and grow other foods in my backyard. CSAs don’t really make sense for me. But I can definitely see how they would for others. I would only reiterate that in order to reduce waste, you should learn how to properly preserve your food, since you don’t have much direct control over what is delivered in your box each week. The CSA I REALLY want? A meat CSA. Preferably one that includes lamb, pork, and maybe duck.
Ana: I am a very lucky lady. I will be saying that a LOT this year. I moved from a verdant CSA-rich micro-climate in San Diego, CA to a verdant (albeit slightly more damp) CSA-rich micro-climate in Corvallis, OR. One of the things I was wholly impressed with upon moving here was just how many meat vendors we have at the local farmer’s markets. Not only that, but they offer a pretty decent variety of animal based products. I’ve tried living without meat and my body disagrees with it. However, it also disagrees with poor quality, hormone pumped, antibiotic ridden, cruelly raised meat trucked in from Mars. Imagine my sustainable heart joy when I found that most of my local meat vendors also do CSA style Meat Boxes. I’m working with a local cheese maker to see if she’ll consider offering something similar on an every other month cycle.
Note: If you Google Monthly Meat Box you will get the information you want…annnnd some NSFW info you may not want.
CicLAvia. When LA starts to act as awesome as it looks.
The bike-powered foodscape
Felicia: Just unearthed my bike from storage this past week. Despite the inconvenience of a very large hill in between me and my local market, and the slothy condition of my out-of-shape ass, I am intending to use it rather than the car to get our mid-week comestibles. Heading to the local bike shop this weekend for a tune up and to fix the flats. Don’t know of any local food businesses that do this though. Our ‘hood is about as hilly as some parts of SF. It’d be a challenge.
Ana: I too came from a hilly place. California canyons are a pain in the ass! I currently live about five miles away from Downtown Corvallis (sprawling metropolis that it is) via a super awesome multi-use bike path and two substantial hills. Not to brag, because I had nothing to do with it, but Corvallis is ranked as one of the bike friendliest cities in the US and has a super high walkable score. You even get points/credit at the Co-Op for using alternative transportation. My new co-housing community is crazy closer to downtown/work and a completely flat topography. They also encourage de-emphasizing the automobile. I will be walking, skating and biking a hole into that path this year.
Fermented don’t foods scare people. As much.
Felicia: This warms my heart. Saurkraut for everybody!
Ana: Hmmm. Angry Kombucha Motherbeast? Still room for fear.