Posts tagged locavore
Posts tagged locavore
No Supermarkets in January - Week 1 of Self-Imposed Challenge
I started off with such enthusiasm. I had made up my mind to eschew supermarkets for the month, and I was ready to get this thing started. January 1st of this year conveniently fell on a Sunday, which meant the beautiful and expansive farmers’ market out in Mountain View was open for business. Hurrah!
Armed with about 25$ and a few bags, I was on the look-out for the most seasonal foods I could find. Sure, you can find strawberries at a farmers’ market in California in January, but how natural and tasty that is is an entirely different question. Instead, I filled up with a variety of organic apples, kiwi, pears, cauliflower, green onions, fresh eggs, cabbage, carrots, nearly a pound of pork from Full of Life farm and some other stuff I’ve since likely forgotten about.
So far, so good.
After I cooked up a random vegetable cornocopia in preparation for my first day back at work, I arrived at the office on January 2 only to realize it was a holiday. Oh. Who shows up at work on a holiday? This woman, apparently. So… Back at home with the whole day ahead of me, I then had the opportunity to prepare for a few other work lunches as well. With all my other competing New Year’s resolutions, I definitely welcomed the extra time. Jackpot!
That day and for the rest of the week, I tried my hand at creative cooking. Try, try, fail again, my friend. I really do need to begin planning my food shopping with recipes in advance, and then actually follow them. Week two? Yeah.
Left to my own devices, I made rather mediocre:
And then, a few days into the challenge, I realized I had greatly underestimated the amount of food you need to buy at the farmers’ market if it is your sole food source. Oopsies.
Enter rule #1 for my personal challenge - “It’s ok to shop at local stores if you must”. This may seem like a cop-out, but a girl’s gotta eat. I ended up hitting up both Sigona’s and the Milk Pail Market. I also added a stop at Mayfield Bakery and was finally set with a borderline-farmers-market-worthy-list-of-extra-stuff to carry me over until the weekend: organic whole milk, 1 greek yogurt, kiwis, California olive oil, parsnips, beets, dark Levain bread, and, of course, both 70 and 90% chocolates. Yum.
As best I could, I stuck to rule #2 is - “If you go to a food store, buy only what would be available at a farmers’ market.”
Yep, that’s except for rule #3of my personal challenge - “It’s ok to eat chocolate with 70%+ cocoa levels and drink coffee/espresso concoctions”. Within limit, of course. For the safety and sanity of those around me, this exception is a purely preventative measure. You’re welcome.
I topped all of that off with a trip to Williams-Sonoma which is, as I learned, a much more entertaining store if you actually cook. I walked out with a yogurt maker I had been eyeing and got to work on it. This morning, I woke up to creamy, tangy splendor. The deliciousness exceeded anything store-bought that has ever hit my lips. Well, ok, that’s a lie, but that is what I had envisioned, of course. Instead, I ended up with a less tangy product that tasted more like a clumpy version of the whole milk I had used than the yogurt I am used to, but ok. The great news is that I have a whole week worth of the substance left. Mhhh! I’ll have to work on the flavor and consistency a bit next week. Nothing some fresh kiwi, local Ollalieberry honey and chopped walnuts as topping cannot fix.
Does anyone have any tips for better results?
So, here’s the round-up of week 1 of my supermarket-less adventure:
Well, on to week two!
Disclaimer: I used other staples I already had, if few, in my meals as well. Lots of raw almonds, some sea salt, lentils, beans, etc. No need to waste that $! :)
My January Food Goal: Supermarket-Free Zone
I remember during my college days, which if I wanted to be cute I’d say weren’t too long ago, my roommates and I would carpool to the grocery store. Moving from the sweltering humidity of central Florida through the doors into the frigid air-conditioned cold, I felt like I was entering an alternate world. My eyes would light up: Disneyland!
Yes. You read that right. Moving to the US from Germany, my experience of American supermarkets was akin to a theme park visit. As my roommates patiently waited by the cash register, I combed through what felt like endless aisles of prepared foods. Deep-fried, brightly-colored, caramel-covered, frozen something on a stick. Super-natural ingredients that should come with their own cape. Bold lettering, cartoon figures left and right. An entire aisle of esssentially identical toast bread in different shades. What wonders! Wheee!
Now, mind you, despite my fascination, I standardly walked out with only a few products I knew from home that elicited the question: “Where did you find that?” It made me wonder how the Pumpernickel (dark bread) I had bought was, to my roommates, the strangest product in the store, but the moral of the story is —- there’s a lot of questionable things in American supermarkets that, while highly entertaining, should probably not be consumed.
Of course, to say I’ve always lived a healthy life would be a lie. I did end up indulging in the delectable stickyness that is Nutella by the jar-full, made meals out of a package of cookies or magically made a whole tub of ice-cream disappear. Ta-da! Such habits resulted in a hefty 20 pound weight gain that took intensive training for a few half marathons and eating a clean athlete’s diet to undo.
My mother still likes to tell the anecdote of how, as a child, I would somehow spy some non-organic food in the kitchen and spontaneously break out into tears. According to her, I would then refuse to eat the food. I find this organic robo-vision hard to believe given other streaks of genius in childhood such as hiding a candy stain on my sheets by preemptively cutting a giant hole into the sheet before handing it over for laundry. Nonetheless, it makes for a wild story.
So let’s pretend I really was destined to appreciate an organic, clean diet, and that my fatty processed foods phase was really just that - a phase. I still end up shopping out of convenience. My work day lunch, almost without exception, comes directly from the Whole Foods salad or hot food bar. All things considered, eating prepared or processed foods probably isn’t much healthier when they contain organic ingredients. I’m beyond sick of dissecting labels trying to find products with ingredients I can pronounce and envision before my inner eye. So…
This January, I will not shop at supermarkets.
One month of food sourced only from local farmers’ markets, or specialty stores like small, independent butchers and bakeries. I’ll run through the self-set rules later this week, but just know that though this goal will be a challenge to adhere to, I am giving myself a few sanity outs. Step 1 of good intention: Made veggie soup (above), so when I get up late on January 1, I don’t fail right off the bat. I even ended the year by learning something new.
And what are your food goals for the new year? Will you join me in this quest for health?
When did food become a required source of entertainment and excitement?
I must admit, I’ve often fallen prey to it myself. Recently, I found myself staring into my fridge lamenting that the wonderful, fresh selection of potatoes, lettuce, etc. was actually “boring”. At that moment, my mother brought me back to reality and kindly pointed out that food is not intended to be a source of entertainment. Duh. Yet, it had eluded me in that moment. I vividly remember my grandparents relishing a boiled potato or a slice of crisp bread with true and pure appreciation every day of their life.
So, what has happened to the times when having food to eat, let alone enough food, was a blessing to be thankful for? When the entertainment from food came not through bright packaging and the made-up stories it tells, but from family meals, conversation, culture, tradition, nature and all other factors that make up a healthy food system?
These days, colorful television advertisements sell happiness and lifestyle as part of processed foods that you can zap into a semi-edible state in seconds, though of course what you buy will look nothing like what you’re sold. Superheroes and toys elevate everything you really should be avoiding into a completely unrelated and unnatural dining experience. Eating has in some ways become an attempt at recreating fast food slogans in your own life. Are you lovin’ it?
Contrary to that very wide-spread problem, California in particular has seen a vibrant revival of an appreciation of real, slow food. With the abundance of farmers markets, excellent restaurants with locally sourced ingredients and the proximity to “America’s salad bowl”, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the US, it has been easy to be swept up in the enthusiasm for healthy eating.
The ironic part of it all is that as I move away from boxed supermarket purchases, I lose not ony the fake, industrialized foods and the fake entertainment they sell, but also gain real excitement about food. Turns out the sheer variety of real foods you can eat is much more exciting than anything a marketing department has made up. I stopped by the small Sigona’s market today, for example, as I missed the farmers markets this weekend, and walked out with a hop and a skip. Who was this person, excited to bite into her walnut-stuffed date, carrying baskets of nuts and fruits for snacking? Who was this woman, excited to take her life’s first bite of fresh fig, admiring its textures and visual beauty, sauteeing her own raw almonds in avocado oil and pink sea salt, marveling at the fun of squashing a ripe, red raspberry onto the ceiling of her mouth? Today, that woman was me, and it still shocks me every time I catch my pure enjoyment of handling fresh foods.In a way, discovering the foods I should have been eating all along makes me feel like an excited child all over again, and that’s a wonderful side effect indeed!
I never had any interest in cooking or how food grew or tasting new flavors unless they came wrapped in branding I recognized, but that’s all changed over the last year. Thank you, California!
What’s the latest thing you’ve tried that has expanded your mind and your tastebuds?
As part of CUESA’s Growing Inspiration Farm Tour, the afternoon found us at Swanton Berry Farm. The swift change in climate from Hollister’s heat to the cold wind of Santa Cruz county was noticeable, particularly for the strawberries that grew on earth at Catalan Family Farms but were engulfed in plastic to retain heat at Swanton.
To begin with, we were served a scrumptious salad made of romaine lettuce with pinto beans, grilled squash, corn, onion and poblano chile with tomatillo creme fraiche dressing, prepared by the CUESA market chef Sarah Henkin. As the salad was being mixed, I grew more and more excited. It looked absolutely delicious and I was not let down. I still surprise myself when I notice myself looking forward to vegetables, but it’s the truth. The salad was accompanied by a cauliflower soup made of Swanton produce and a sinful but utterly tasty strawberry shortcake. Mhh mhh mhh!
With our bellies filled to the brim with organic delights, we began receiving an intro to Swanton. The farm has a fascinating history proving the conventional wisdom that you can’t grow strawberries both organically and in a commercially-viable way wrong. Thank you for paving the road for the abundant organic berries we get to eat now! What a huge, historic achievement, particularly because strawberries are part of the infamous dirty dozen.
Faced with the difficulty of limited access to water on the California central coast, the farm continues to grow berries on self-sustaining land with reservoirs, a little waterfall, etc. We toured different plots including canopies of cane fruit such as blackberries, olallieberries, and loganberries, as well as kiwi trees, broccoli, cauliflower and mustard seed, and again were granted an inside look into the challenges of and lessons learned in organic farming. Who knew there were people an hour from San Francisco losing sleep over protecting their livelihood from wild pigs?
A few interesting take-aways from the afternoon:
If you’re in the area, you should check out Swanton Berry Farm and indulge in some u-pick action. This farm deserves special recognition for offering their employees a merit-based retirement plan option and addressing some of the physical hardship of manual labor, which has resulted in them retaining employees for 30+ years instead of the regular 4-5 year turn-over after which most individuals switch from farm work into a different industry like serving at a restaurant or washing cars. Swanton Berry Farm makes it a goal to humanize this very tough business and to make the faming business sustainable not only for the environment, but for the individuals choosing this line of work.
Kudos, and thank you for the tour!