More MooTV than MTV, this riff on the pop hit “I’m Sexy and I Know It” is great entertainment for the farm-to-table set. Don’t miss it…Leandro and I have been watching it nonstop for a couple of days now and we just love these boys. Leandro is singing it in the bath right now, even as I write!
Last weekend I did something totally for myself. (But for you, I will provide relevant informational links below! I will also include random, only loosely related photos, because I can’t stand how dense the text is and I bet you wouldn’t read to the end where the juicy stuff is!)
I attended the Small Farm Summit 2012 at Hofstra University (that’s Hofstra, not Adelphi University, which campus I drove around in error and confusion and dismay followed by self-recrimination and self-flagellation, until I realized I was only about ten minutes from Hofstra anyway – thank you GPS – and settled back to enjoy driving through how the other half – the folks who work and study at private universities — lives. Wow, that is definitely not the cement block public university horror architecture I am so intimately familiar with in my other life as a lecturer. They’ve got rolling landscapes, trees, stately brick buildings, lush landscaping…but I am meandering around the way things aren’t; let me get back to business).
The Summit was so inspiring – especially for someone like me, who is looking at her son entering kindergarten with some trepidation, not because he is not ready or I am not ready — we are ready. It’s because I’m afraid of what he’s going to eat! School lunches are notoriously unhealthy, and food “choices” are kind of laughable, unless you think that your divine right to tater tots and a bagel every day constitutes freedom of choice for the consumer. Or a five-year-old. Oh yeah, and now that he’s leaving our beloved Greenhouse, nobody’s going to be reheating lovingly homemade foods for H.R.H. Leandro, Prince of My Heart at lunchtime. How am I going make sure he gets healthy hot meals in the dead of winter? Yikes.
To be fair, I have yet to truly investigate the situation — we’ll have to wait until the end of my semester for that. But I want to be armed and ready for action, should the need arise. And really, I just want to be involved with food. It’s not just about my kid. It’s about all of us.
Since I didn’t even take pictures at the event (part of the self-flagellation on my circuitous route to the conference was realizing I forgot my camera) and I can’t seem to pull even a logo off the Small Farm Summit website, I am just going to reference some of the inspiring folks who spoke and provide links to the amazing things they do!
Former NBA player and son of sharecroppers, Will Allen and Growing Power are greening Milwaukee with intense urban farming that serves to feed people better, improve soil, reduce the waste stream and teach folks farming skills. Wow.
The Green Bronx Machine is a high school project by teacher administrator Stephen Ritz, who is a dynamo who took forgotten, abandoned and given-up-on students and, through garden projects, is creating high school graduates with marketable skills earning living wages. See pretty much the same hilarious and moving lecture I did here: TEDx
Chef Ann Cooper The Renegade Lunch Lady has transformed the way many public school districts feed kids: no processed foods, no defrosted foods – just locally sourced, fresh ingredients and simple, kid-friendly good stuff. See how it can be done with the free tools at Lunch Box.
For more on greening school food and all things organic (and really really tasty) especially on Long Island, visit Bhavani Jaroff at iEat Green LLC
Jan Poppendieck’s book Free For All: Fixing School Food in America (one of many she has written) traces the whys of subsidized school lunches from their inception as a way to use up surplus!!! In her talk she helped make sense of how we got here and where we are going (and it is not necessarily to hell in a handbasket…)
Brooklyn Food Coalition‘s Beatriz Beckford helps schools and families learn to eat better from the grassroots (this is a terrible pun, I know, but sometimes I lack impulse control). They have a conference coming up…click on the link for more information!
Leonore Russell is an educator at Crossroads Farm in Malverne, part of the Nassau County Land Trust. A former Waldorf teacher, she presented a lovely workshop on getting kids into the garden. We’ve been cuddling up with Peter Rabbit books ever since and I have to say, Leandro is very jazzed about doing the watering of the beds by himself.
And Susan Simon, a social worker at the Hicksville School District, gave a terrific little presentation about how she got raised beds into her district. I got so many ideas about incorporating gardening into the curriculum from her!!!
I was so exhilarated by the end of my day at the Summit (I had to go home at 2 pm because of other obligations, but the goings-on went on!) that I could barely stand it; I was and am all ready to take on the world…but I must admit to terrible pangs of some unpleasant emotion that accompany my desire to move forward. I can’t quite describe it in a word (mid-life crisis being just too damn pedestrian to want to apply to myself), but it’s that wondering why I didn’t prepare better for the grown-up I was going to be? Why did it take me so long to figure out where I really wanted to be immersed? And the ever-present questions of balancing good sense and responsibility with the desire to launch: can one do both? And…
HOW DO I FIND THE TIME??????????
So, the next day I planted some more vegetables with my dad in our new raised beds — OMG the beets are bursting through! — and resolved to dedicate my summer to gardening a lot and seeing what comes up.
BTW – shout-out to Restoration Farm our CSA, and TWBarritt, a blogging and farming buddy who was ably manning the table and whose blog Culinary Types, is a personal favorite. And to Donna Sinetar who I only saw through a conference hall window, but who presented on chickens after I had to leave!
As regular readers know, I am a member of Restoration Farm CSA. This month you can read my article about the farm, On Good Land: Restoration Farm, in Edible East End magazine, either by clicking here, or by picking up a copy if you live in Eastern Long Island.
It’s a gorgeous magazine – Edible Communities family of magazines just won a James Beard Award for Publication of The Year 2011 — so I am quite pleased to be a part of what they do. If you do go and have a look, please comment on the article, as I believe that will encourage the publisher to continue recognizing and supporting good food efforts in my overpopulated part of NY!
This has been a rough week for blogging, for cooking, really for anything outside basic workweek survival – I’ve been so damn tired that I’ve been going to bed at the same time as my four-year-old and only waking up when the alarm jangles me most unwillingly back to my body.
I suspect it is due to some sort of vague mid-life angst, coupled with a pretty strenuous reality, what with full-time work and the whole single-mom-by-choice thing (in my darker moments I call it single-mom-no-child-support) and making three meals a day, dishes and laundry and the rest. Then the awful, dank, depressing nature of current events – if it isn’t the dismal economy, it is the petty irresponsible politicking, or any number of crimes against humanity and Mother Nature (and then of course when the nightly news focuses on something a bit less earth-shattering or relevant — like, say, the Michael Jackson murder trial — with the strange perversity of humankind and folks with graduate degrees in journalism, I rail against the infotainment that passes for news today….really, sometimes I can’t even stand myself! Lighten up, Frances, as they say).
Then I heard a radio program today in which a scientist began ground-breaking studies of the Naked Mole Rat of East Africa because someone just happened to be talking about it at a dinner party and I wondered why I don’t go to dinner parties where incredibly smart and passionate people just happen to be talking about Naked Mole Rats of East Africa that turn out to hold the keys to curing cancer or some such incredibly important contribution to the betterment of our world. I do remember living in the world of ideas once; it was a very fun place of smoky rooms, lubricated with wine and heaps of good food — not always godly, but good just the same — and populated with all manner of interesting people doing interesting things (or perhaps just planning to do them, but it sounded marvellous and important and stimulating at the time).
So, obviously I am overtired and not at my rational best, but I considered giving up the blog today as a way to reduce the pressures, until I remembered that I had already uploaded the pictures for a new post, so it wouldn’t be too much work, since I am not even including a recipe. And I wanted to remind myself why I love food so much and why it is worth the effort to locate, grow or purchase good food, real food, meaningful food, sustainable and sustaining good food, regardless of whether I feel compelled to write about it (don’t even get me started on whether this blog is an act of exhibitionism, desperation, compulsion or flat out absurdity at this stage of my life).
So the meal.
Simple. Deceptively so.
Scrambled eggs. Smoky bacon. Sliced tomato.
Eggs. The eggs were from Donna’s laying hens at Restoration Farm and she gave me this dozen in a wonderful gesture of friendship and complicity in the sustainable food chain and because Leandro is one of her chickens’ biggest fans.
He was thrilled to get them and we made them together, me holding each egg while he cracked them open with a fork. We admired the vivid orange yolks from all the bugs and good stuff they eat. We added a tiny bit of milk, a grating of cheese and oregano from my container garden in the backyard.
Smoky Bacon from Old Ford Farm in New Paltz, where we had just spend three lovely days renewing my Seminar (Lang) College friendship with Hatti Langsford (the first vegetarian I had ever consciously met; I still remember her dogged — and somewhat bewildering — hunt for virtuous ingredients) and meeting her daughter, Emma, and husband, Chris. She is still a virtuous eater (though not a vegetarian) and we toured a number of local farms, as well as hiking around a lake. The bacon was from her CSA out of an old freezer in a trailer surrounded by mud from the recent floods. There was no one there to take the money; you just leave it in a little box and write your name on a list. And, as it happens, she gave a dinner party with smart and interesting people!
Tomato. The last delicious ripe tomato of the season from our successful Earth Box, the one Leandro and I planted together and which brought us a lot of pleasure (and which I have to take down now, but nevermind thinking about all the shit I have to do).
So we had this monster breakfast me and him, and it was so honest and delicious and homey, and talked about Donna’s chickens: “You know why they laid these eggs, Mom? Because they want to say thank you for all the vegetables we gave them.” And Emma’s house: “We have to go back there really soon. I want to hike that other trail. And Emma wants to play with me.” And the tomato: “You can have it, Mommy.”
So I did. And it was good.
Just before this week’s visit to Restoration Farm, we went out into our yard where Leandro picked the very first pea pod from a plant he himself started from seed! We were very pleased, even though the peas weren’t so tasty raw. This was a random variety from a garden show craft, so we have high hopes for the others we planted – Burpees Garden Sweet (organic). His eyes reflected the magic of a seed transforming into food.
Then at Restoration Farm, we visited that other transformation into food; Trisha tells us that the pastured chickens are a week away from our cooking pots. They will be seven weeks and one day, and — we hope — about five pounds. She had initially planned to go to eight weeks, but due to the window of opportunity for processing and the fact that they are getting slower and heavier and more prone to disease, she figures next week is it!
Leandro still finds the chickens stinky (and really, they are pretty pungent at this point) and was more interested in drawing sweet beads of nectar out of the honeysuckle blossoms that are exhaling seductive breaths of fragrance all over the farm these days. He learned the art of drawing out the style from Farmer Steve and then taught me! Delicious.
So now I am planning what to do with my first bird. As I expect it to be less fatty and moist than a factory bird or even an organic chicken from a large facility, I am thinking about dishes that will help contain the moisture and make the most of the added flavor that a slightly more muscular bird will have. I also want to do something that is already in Leandro’s growing list of delectable foods, so as not to risk some refusal. And then there is the desire to honor my Caribbean forebears who lived off the land (some still do, at least in part).
So… I’ve got two ideal candidates from the criollo* canon: arroz con pollo: chicken and rice,or asopao de pollo: soupy chicken and rice. Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on which one it should be!
*Criollo or Creole refers to the generations of colonialists actually born in the colonized place. In the case of Puerto Rico, the Spanish were the first Europeans to settle. They remained Spaniards, but their offspring born on the island (in many cases, half European and half native) were known as criollos – not quite European, but not quite native, either. Criollo cooking (like Creole in New Orleans, for example), reflects the meeting of different worlds of cooking ingredients and techniques.
We headed over to Restoration Farm, our CSA, today to put in a little work and visit the chickens.
Leandro was a champion snap pea picker (he remembered his skills from last year) on this bright sunny day that showed hints of what a sweltering hazy, hot and humid Long Island summer can be.
Many peas didn’t make it to the basket, as they ended up in his mouth. He won’t yet eat the pods, preferring to open them up and eat the tiny peas inside, edamame-style. It’s a start. And at least he knows they grow on vines, not exclusively in the frozen food section! Mommy gets the pods, which are wonderfully crunchy and bright.
The boy was also introduced to the delights of picking strawberries, but won’t get a chance to pick his own quart until our pick-up day, later this week. Whether any berries he picks will actually end up getting home is doubtful. I will have to make sure he doesn’t get out of hand. He can devour a pound of strawberries at a sitting and since they are amongst the most chemical-laden of fruits when conventionally-grown (see http://ewg.org/) and very expensive to buy organic, I hope this is a good year for strawberries in our neighborhood!
We visited the chickens, of course. He still loves Donna’s future egg-layers and their roving chicken coop (now painted a proper barnyard red), but the now five-week-old eating birds, not so much.
“Ew! Stinky!” is all I got out of him today, as he ran away to see what he could spirit out of the berry patch. As we get closer to our first installment of locally pastured chickens, I am starting to think about what irresistible dish to concoct for him….
We are getting into gear for summer bounty by starting some seedlings indoors.
We’ve got beans that Leandro started at a garden show, already big enough to require supports. We’ve started arugula and sweet peas that we hope to put in the ground after the last frost danger (April 30 in our Zone 6B, although I have alwaus thought it was Zone 7!?!) . Next up, we’ll start basil (Leandro loves pesto) and lettuces directly in the ground.
This makes me sound like I know what I am doing, but of course, I don’t. We have only recently had to take down or trim some of the many trees in our yard, so we are hoping that this will result in more sun for veggies…but this is purely experimental.
Our real vegetable source will be our CSA (Restoration Farm) in Old Bethpage where we will pick up organic vegetables each week. We just spent a great day helping out there, splitting dahlia bulbs and breathing fresh air.
I’d love to know what you are doing for Earth Day and whether you will be growing vegetables this year. I know some of my subscribers are fire escape gardeners, while others are real farmers and still others are herb kitchen gardeners like myself. Let’s hear about it! Please comment….
Happy Earth Day!
Natalia and Leandro