Monday, September 15, 2008

Market Work

Working the market has been interesting. People in Seattle are dedicated enough to eating organic that they just don’t think about the price… but wow. Our stuff is SPENDY. $2.50/lb for potatoes (damned good potatoes which are COMPLETELY worth it, but until you spend the money to try them, who would know?) $1.50/lb for the biggest cauliflower you have ever seen (and they are pretty and delicious too) but that means spending $6 for a cauliflower that is three times bigger than you really wanted, and then of course, $4/lb for the best green beans and peas you have ever tasted. What it means to be beyond organic is pretty amazing. The industrial organics can sell the ¼ of their stock (which are probably the ones that don’t quite fit into the mainstream idea of what the veggie is supposed to look like….) And they sell them to soup companies that want to claim ‘organic’ and still have plenty for every single whole sale order they have. We don’t have that luxury. We have to sell the 5lbers, right along with the 2lbers that we know everyone will buy.

Anyway… it has been interesting.

Yesterday I came home with a big box of food from the farm. I had one huge cauliflower, a 2lb bag of green sugar snap peas, 5 cukes, two bunches leeks, 5 onions, 4lbs potatoes, a bunch of carrots, a bunch of red chard, two tiny romenesca, two bunches cilantro, one bunch dill, one bunch mint, and a half lb wild Chantalle mushrooms. At the end of the day, the guy next door to us at the market traded for two half pints of fresh local ice cream, (one of which will be gracing my kids bellies after lunch), another neighbor traded for some bone broth for me and some fresh cows cream cheese which Hannah took home. And yet another neighbor traded for pastries for a snack. And on top of all of that, I got sent home with an entire case of sunflowers that we had left over, and wouldn't last until the Tuesday Market, which Cyan graced all of our neighbors with bouquets before we ate dinner.

This is an abnormal weekend. I normally get about half this much... but even so... I got paid on top of that (considering the time I spend and how long it takes to get there, my wages work out to under $7 an hour), but when you count all of the trades/veggies from the farm on top of it, well, it is a really good deal. I feel strange when people complain about jobs like this. I feel as though I have a special advantage as I can get as much as I want for my family for a week… and I guess when you are a single gal, the appeal of a weeks worth of veggies isn’t that high because you don’t need near as many of them. The veggies and trades I got were worth quite a bit more than I got paid in cash. I work my menu for the week around what we have at the market. This means that we have had potato-leek soup twice in the last two weeks and I am going to make it again this week. It means that I have peas the entire season, and by now, my kids are sick of them and I am forced to freeze whatever we are bringing home. But it also means that nothing has ever sat anywhere (no truck, fridge, box or shelf) for more than a day. I don't know... maybe I am weird... but that just has to be good for you.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Local Living can be easy

It isn't always. But in September, local living is easy. Farmers markets are packed to the brim with ways to get everything you need, from fish, veggies and fruits for dinner, to toys for Christmas, and flowers for your dining room table, along with other necessities like soap and fresh baked bread. The amount of local bounty I see go past my stand every Sunday just amazes me! I got a lot of my things local before. But I had no idea how much was out there, processed or grown within 200 miles of my house is everything I need from home baked pies to fresh peanuts from just over the mountains.

The omelet above? Eggs from my chickens (of course) with Pico De Gallo made from tomatoes from my garden, onions, garlic, and cilantro from the farm, and a token jalapeno pepper from the neighbors farm stand at the market.

The above is not 100% local. The organic, single ingredient pasta that I have come to depend on for my husbands dietary 'needs' comes from Italy... and the balsamic vinaigrette came from California, but the rest? The goat cheese, the tomatoes (my gardens only real produce this year), and the beautiful golden beets from the farm are all amazingly from within 40 miles of my house.

Sweet and Tangy Pasta Salad

1/4 lb golden beets (red beets will do, but I don't like the way they stain everything pink)

1 lb tomatoes (plum or cherry work best)

2/3 cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing (I use Paul Newman's)

4 oz soft goat cheese

1 lb rotini pasta (WW would work well here)


Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and douse with cold water reduce sticking.

Steam beets until fork tender. Slice tomatoes into bite sizes.

Add in the cheese and dressing, saving veggies for last. Toss with veggies (feel free to add others too! Baby spinach would be good tossed in, as would a host of other greens).

Eat cold.

Serves 4


A surprise in the garden! You remember that volunteer pumpkin that I was ranting about a few months ago? Well, it looks like we may actually get two jack-o-lantern pumpkins out of it!

Gardening is always a journey.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In Defence of Food by Micheal Pollan

I am becoming a die hard Michael Pollan fan. He is a wonderful writer (as most journalists are), but the information he gives answers SO many questions!

In the book "In Defense of Food" he attaches on to something he only touched on in "The Omnivore's Dilemma"... What to actually eat.

Oh yes, you can look at a food pyramid or an FDA guideline, based on sketchy facts, and supported by the industrial food industry. But when you know enough not to trust that 100%... where do you look to know what to eat?

This is the question he tackles. The rules he gives are not based on scientific evidence, but by the thousands of years that people have survived without the current eating disorders of the 'Western Diet' and the diseases that go along with it.

The 'rules' are fairly simple, once you understand what is meant by them:

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

By "eat food", he means 'eat food that your great-great-grandmother would recognise'. There are not many industrial food products that would pass that test. Oatmeal? Corn meal? Yes. High fructose corn syrup? Go-gurt? Not so much.

"Not too much" is pretty self explanatory.

"Mostly plants" is the rule that is backed up by literally hundreds of years of meat being a side dish, or condiment instead of the main course and how our health has deteriorated from meat pushing the veggies right off our plates. This part also talks about the way our food chain has moved from 'leaves to seeds' and how this has effected every bit of that food chain, from the health of our meat cattle, to the health of our hearts.

Notice how he didn't go into vitamins, or 'nutrients' in his rules? In fact, in the book, he goes into those scientific specifics in great detail.... but not to the expense of the rules. You don't need to know how much more vitamin C is in your gardens romaine lettuce than the lettuce shipped from a thousand miles away to benefit from eating it. Taking food rules out of mom's kitchen and into the laboratory did more harm than good.

All in all, it is a light, if a bit scientific, read that has answered all sorts of questions I had about our culture and what the years of scientific nutrition study have done to our food habits. And, as with most of his books, In Defense of Food brings to the forefront a need to think about food differently. Bringing it from a place for overindulgence and nutrient specifics, to a cultural artery, so to speak.... to a place where eating is a relationship that will last a healthy lifetime.