Monday, February 23, 2009

Community Sponsored Agriculture: Investment with visible returns

Steve and I bought into a local Brooklyn-based CSA last summer for several reasons. Firstly, I was spending way too much money at the farmer’s market. I’d see all the beautiful vegetables and go crazy, buying things ‘cause they looked cool, or because I couldn’t wait to shove them through our juicer (we’ve gotten rid of that). Or because I had elaborate dishes dancing around my head that all too often got lost in the busyness of life, combined with a regrettable amount of laziness on my part when trying to recover from chaos and stress.

In spite of all my fruit and veggie purchases, we didn’t eat nearly enough of them. So Steve crunched the numbers, and we committed to a weekly pickup of seasonal harvest: fruit, veg, 6 eggs, and a bunch of flowers each week. I committed to not buying any additional fruit or veg unless completely necessary, something I was able to stick to for the most part. And we were happy to be investing directly in local food production. The farm we got our produce farm was on Long Island, so the carbon footprint of our food was reasonably low.

I have to admit, I didn’t always get around to cooking everything we got—we got a lot of food. For 2 people I think a 2-times-a-month pickup would’ve been sufficient for us. But we ate a lot of it, we ate seasonally, ate a little healthier, and we tried a lot of new things I never would have thought to pick up otherwise. And we ended up saving some money over the long run, which is always a bonus.

There’s a lot of CSAs across the country. I encourage you to look into it, see if it’s right for you. This is one good link that can direct you to CSAs across the country:

Some of them do fruits and veg, some also have eggs, some even have free-range meat (I would love to find a good CSA with a meat share!). It all depends on the availability of CSAs in your area.

Clara's Kitchen

This is pretty cool. A 93 year old grandmother whose grandson has shot a few videos of her creating Depression-era recipes out of her little New York kitchen. She's articulate, funny, and hands-down adorable. Gives a person pause too, to think of a family living on these recipes. But hey, they're filling and reasonably nutritious, so why the heck not?

Also love her chitchat about the family garden and keeping chickens...looks like things are going full circle, or at least starting to.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Tide: A spokesperson for conservation?

This is interesting. Tide has a new product that claims to make your clothes stay like new longer--that's the thrust of their ad campaign. Tim Gunn did a series of videos for their website, and keeps plugging the "use what you've got in new ways" line. Yet another example of industry shifting to meet customer concerns. I wonder how effective it'll be.

Take a look.

Just saw after posting the link that this goes to the main ad site. Click on the right-side icon to see Gunn's vids. Nothing revealing per se, just interesting that conservation of what you've got is the spin of this campaign.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wake and Bake: The lure and fear behind bread baking

When I was little my mom made bread once a week. She did the requisite 2 sandwich loaves on Tuesdays, she made dinner rolls and French bread. She helped my dad to make a cinnamon swirl bread for my sister’s preschool bake sale and made special sweet breads at Christmas and Easter.

The homemade sandwich bread was a constant in my childhood. I’d wait for the loaf to cool so we could have a fresh slice with butter on it. When we were low on cereal she’d toast a couple slices, break them into pieces in a bowl, sprinkle a little sugar, pour milk over it and call it breakfast (which I loved, since it was the only time we were allowed sugar on our cereal). If we wanted a snack, we were given peanut butter on toast.

But although I watched her bake bread every week for at least a decade, once I was an adult I caved and bought mine at the grocery store. Bread baking just seemed too mysterious, too fraught with the risk of failure. This was brought home to me when I first tried to make bread on my own, and ended up with pale, loaf-shaped bricks that fell onto the counter with a thud when I turned the loaf pan over. They smelled great, but they were inedible. After all the kneading I’d done and the 3-4 hours I’d spent mulling over the instructions in the Joy of Cooking, I figured I’d be better off letting Key Food give me bread when I needed it.

I got good at cooking other things, but the spectre of bread kept nagging at me. I finally did some reading and realized that my mistake last time was almost certainly in mishandling the yeast. After a little digging I found a very easy recipe—if you follow the temperature specifications. A thermometer can make all the difference between bread or a brick—I didn’t have one the first time I made bread, and behold—bricks!

So anyway. Here’s a link to a decent, relatively easy bread. It’s pretty pedestrian, but it’s tasty. No doubt real bakers out there will have issues with it, but it’s a good “starter” bread. Enjoy!