Will Work for Food

June 10, 2010 § 1 Comment

To catch you all up, Friday was my last day at Sweetgreen.  There’s no need to go into all the details here, but we parted on very good terms… I just felt like it wasn’t quite the right fit for me.  Though this does leave me in quite a new position… unemployed!  I decided that I’d like to take some time off to visit family and friends, and just generally clear my head for whatever is coming next.  It’s pretty exciting actually. It’s the most thrilling feeling to have no idea what comes next- every day is a pleasant surprise.  I am confident that something great awaits me, so now the fun part… waiting!

For the past week I have been doing a lot of cooking, napping, reading, and lots of writing… though clearly not in this blog.  Whoops.  After such a long hiatus it felt like I needed some grand entrance back into my posts. But then I decided to screw that and just throw something up here to get myself started again.  Eh voila! Here is my lackluster post! Bask in the glory of its mediocrity.

I realized the other day that it is JUNE already, and this means that I am rapidly nearing the 6 month mark for the year of local eating.  With so many country songs devoted to the theme, it’s amazing how I’m still surprised at how time keeps slip, slip, slippin’ away like that.  In any case, Summer has arrived and my eating habits are about to get a lot more interesting. And a lot more cost conscious (read: I’ll be broke if I keep eating at restaurants the way I have been).

I’m trying to come up with creative ideas for getting restaurants to give me free food. My latest best idea is to freelance my sustainable sourcing skills in exchange for a free-dinner pass. I feel like it’s a pretty sweet deal.

*Dear Restaurants- Want to have the most bad ass, delicious, sustainable food on the block? Give me a ring. I will work for food. Seriously. Xoxo- your own personal sourceress*

I do have money saved, so I won’t starve (I know you were worried).  But I’m trying to save as much of it as I can because I may need to transfer a rather large chunk of it into an account for grad school.  I’ve decided that I am going to finally fulfill my dream of getting my Masters degree. I used to want to get it in Critical Film Theory at USC (oh how far I’ve come…), but now I am looking at a one-year masters in… get this… Food Culture and Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy.  Um, yeah. That does in fact sound like the most perfect and wonderful formal education of all time. So fingers crossed I get in! I won’t know until December though, and the program starts in March… so I need things to do until then to keep myself in sustainable food and drink (good food is non-negotiable, no matter how little money I have).  Ideas are welcome.

I have lots of other things I probably should tell you guys about… this awesome local seafood seminar I went to, the RAMMYS (Oscars of DC Restaurant scene), this bomb Shrimp and Grits I made last night… but all in good time.  More posts are coming. Double secret promise.

January- A Local Food Month in Review

February 4, 2010 § 7 Comments

I can’t believe my first month of local eating has already passed.  I had great success, and a few failures. 

One of the biggest rookie mistakes was my primal fear that I would starve to death.  This caused me to buy an inordinate amount of food that I did not need.  Did I eat well? Absolutely. Did I need that much food in my fridge? Probably not.  I’ll be keeping a much closer eye on my spending this month, and tracking my total weekly food costs. 

It’s not that what I was buying was terribly expensive on its own, it’s just that everytime I saw anything anywhere that was made in the Chesapeake Bay watershed I bought it…. regardless of whether or not I actually needed it.  This may have also been because it was the first month though.  Stocking my pantry is a necessity, and nothing makes me happier than a full refrigerator and a bowl of fruit on my table.  I did to well with not wasting food though.  Working at DC Central Kitchen as made me hyper aware of wasting anything, and it physically pains me to have to throw away food I’ve let spoil.  I saved tiny bits of everything and made soups or pizzas with it; I even used the chicken bones left on my plate after a meal for stock (Oh stop with your germaphobia, I’m the only one eating it!). 

Overall, I feel healthier and have much more energy.  The best thing though, is that I have a greater connection to my body, and am in tune with what it craves and needs.  I can acutely tell when I’ve eaten too much meat, or dairy, or need to add more fiber to my diet, or green leafy vegetables.  Meal by meal, I assess how I feel, and it helps me consider what I’ll eat next.  I’m sure this is something most health-conscious people do, but for me, it’s pretty new.  Before this experiment, my menu choices were based solely on taste and what sounded good.  Now I go for what feels good.  I listen to my body.  What it craves changes based on the weather, and I fully expect that as certain foods come into season, I will suddenly start to crave them.  I don’t crave strawberries or asparagus right now, all I want is dark, nutrient rich kale, and warm, filling meals.  Come May, I imagine I won’t even be thinking about kale, but instead trying to figure out how to include as much asparagus as humanely possible into my diet.  That’s the good thing about eating seasonally, you stuff yourself with what it’s seasons to the point where, once it’s gone, you don’t even want to look at it for another year.  I don’t think I could ever feel that way about kale… but ask me again in April.

Here is where I went right (and wrong):

Eating More Fat, Losing Weight– No low fat anything here, what’s the point? I have been deliciously subsisting on butter, creamline whole milk, bacon, cheese, crispy roasted chicken, hamburgers and even pasta.  Obviously, I’ve also been eating lots of winter fruit and veg (kale, potatoes, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, apples, and the occasional hothouse yellow tomato), but I certainly haven’t been trying to limit my calorie intake.  And yet, from January 1st to February 1st, I have lost exactly 10 lbs.  Frankly, I had it to lose, but it’s not like I was drinking soda and eating fast food right up until Dec 31st, 2009.  My eating habits haven’t changed all that drastically, but I do know I am eating more fat, and because of that, smaller amounts of food fill me up.  Also, I haven’t seen the inside of a gym since August and it being January and rather frigid, I definitely wasn’t outside romping around, so truly the only thing I have done is focus on the food.  It’s quite remarkable really.  A traditional diet really is the healthiest!

Eating Meat– I have decreased the amount of meat in my meals, mostly because of the expense of sustainably raised animals.  One roasted chicken can last me for a very long time.  The breasts are generally so big that I can easily get two or three meals out of each one, as long as I use the meat as a component of the meal and not the centerpiece (which makes more sense anyway).  I will usually have one or two meals per week that focus on the meat as the center of the meal (like Friday roast chicken- leg and thigh, and a grass-fed hamburger at Cafe Saint Ex), but everything else will focus on vegetables and grains, or other protein sources like cheese and eggs.  Bacon has become a great source of meaty flavor for my meals, and gives you the impression of eating lots of meat when really it’s just a few tablespoons scattered in pasta or in an omelet.

Cutting out refined ingredients and preservatives– I believe this may have had the biggest impact on my overall health.  Nothing I eat has artifical preservatives, and I now eat very little refined sugar or flour.  I have about 1/2 tsp of raw, organic sugar in my coffee each morning, but I use honey and maple syrup to sweeten anything else.  Most of the bread and pasta I eat is whole wheat, and I’ve included new grains such as wheatberries and buckwheat (which is actually not a wheat at all, and therefore gluten-free!).  I don’t ever have rice anymore, but I do eat a fair amount of polenta/grits. 

Star Hollow CSA– I think everything went right with this one. I spent about $45 every 2 weeks on local, and often organic, fruit, vegetables (including mushrooms- a great meat substitute), cheese, butter, eggs, and a stew hen that I used for stock.  The fruits and veg I buy are usually used up within the 2 weeks, but the butter/cheese etc always last me longer.  Read about my first order here.

Stocks– Making a weekly batch of chicken stock has been essential for my success.  For the chicken bones, I’ll get a little stewing hen from my CSA ($5), or some cheap/free chicken backs from EcoFriendly, and always save the carcass from a roast chicken.  Then I throw in saved vegetable scraps, a few of the cheap “juice” carrots and onions from my CSA, and whatever herbs I have (dried or fresh).  Then just fill the pot with water, bring to simmer, and leave it all day (or overnight like I often do).  I freeze the stock in 2 or 4 cup containers, and just throw it in the microwave to defrost. Good chicken stock with random bits of veggies, meats, or noodles makes an easy, healthy dinner (and lunch the next day!).

Whole Foods Market– Surprisingly, WF proved to be a great source for certain items, but also a trap for overspending.  They carry Homestead Creamery milk in glass bottles, but you have to remember to bring the glass bottles back or you won’t get your $2 back! (just take them to the Customer Service counter).  The half gallons are about $3.50, which is about the same as the Organic milks (many of which are ultra pasteurized- yuck, owned by multi-national corporations, and not nearly as “organic” as one might think.) They also carry some local produce (for CSA-off-week emergencies), cheeses, beer, and my newest favorite find- bread from small local bakeries.  They also carry Bell & Evans chicken, which is a local, large-scale chicken processing company. As far as bigb meat operations go, they are one of the best… and they are located in central PA, so it’s local for DC and NYC.  When I want a chicken and can’t get one from EcoFriendly, I’ll get a Bell & Evans. It’s not the MOST ideal (the chickens are barn raised, not pastured), but it is a good company and, since it’s a big company, it’s less expensive than other sustainably raised meats.  I usually get 1 whole bird per week (or every 2 weeks) and can make it stretch a long time.

Bread– I came to the decision that it just wasn’t feasible for me to be baking all my own bread (though I do buy only local flours from Wade’s Mill for other baking) so I’ve decided to compromise and buy my weekly bread from local bakeries.  There are rules though- no obviously exotic ingredients (like kalamata olive bread or something), and no weird modified corn or soy based ingredients (like soybean oil, which is usually genetically modified, or HF corn syrup).  I try to buy from Atwater’s Bakery at the Dupont market, but sometimes I just don’t make it on Sundays.  Whole Foods has been great alternative source- I buy organic whole wheat pitas and barbary bread from local bakeries right in their bread aisle.  Barbary bread is a fantastic pizza crust, and a flatbread pizza with whatever I have in the fridge makes for a delicious and quick supper.

Rules to Live Buy

January 15, 2010 § 2 Comments

My colleague Lauren, the Healthy Returns Coordinator at DC Central Kitchen, gave me this great little paper she received from Jews for United Justice.  Now, I am not Jewish, but I have this (not so) secret love of awesome Jewish organizations that are doing things like fighting poverty and hunger, or holding queer latin dance night (thank you, DC JCC).  I grew up in a Methodist church, and nice as everyone was, we were not the most engaged people when it came to fighting for the poor and disadvantaged.  It wasn’t until I got to DC and went to Church of the Pilgrims that I even realized there were churches out there who were actually doing such things (actually living and loving the way the Bible says we should? WHAAAAAAT?)

Anyway… this really isn’t a post about religion. It’s a post about this great little piece of paper I have that has some things to think about before you spend your money.  Some of them could be adapted to buying local food and supporting sustainable farmers, but really, one should think about these things before buying anything at all.

Before Buying, Ask Yourself…

  • Is this something I need?
  • Can I borrow one, find one used, or make one instead of buying new?
  • Was it made with fair labor practices?
  • Was it made with environmentally preferable materials?
  • Is it made well enough to last?
  • Will using it require excessive energy?
  • Will this purchase enhance the meaning and joy in my life?

Especially in this economy, we should be thinking about every dollar we spend, and who it is going to support, and if we feel comfortable with that.  Every dollar that leaves your hand goes to support someone else’s business, and therefore their livlihood.

Who are you supporting with you spending?

First Day of a Locavore Life

January 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

I went to bed in 2009 feeling a bit sick from my over indulgence of all the delicious lobster, pasta and prosecco.  Perhaps it was the shedding of a decade of coming into myself, and my body was expelling the unnecessary parts.  At the turn of the Millenium, this day 10 years ago, I was a very hung over 15 year old waking up in the basement of a friend’s house in my hometown of Sarasota, FL to find a variety of people I knew (and one’s i didn’t) strewn about on couches and pool tables, crushed cans of Miller Lite and half empty bottles of Arbor Mist slumped guiltily next to their heads.

This morning I woke up feeling renewed, refreshed, next to the person I love in a warm and familiar bed.  My first thought was the same as most days- I need coffee. and food. stat.- but today was different.

I was excited to get up and make the choice that the coffee would be Santa Lucia Estate Coffee, and that I would have eggs from a farm in Maryland, and some butternut squash from the local farmers market.

I passed on the steak (though it looked pretty inviting) that my partner was having with some blue cheese and squash, but felt very satisfied with my decision overall.  As I’ve mentioned, diets are not really my thing… and the seeming deprivation of this experiment reminds me of bad fad diet when my Nagging Voice gets my ear.  But its not a fad, or a diet, and I’m not depriving myself of anything I don’t want to.

I don’t want CAFO meat anymore, or produce ripened in a truck by ethylene gas that comes from half way across the world.  I imagine at times I might be tricked into thinking that I do… but deep in my belly, I no longer desire such addictions.  I am going cold turkey on high-fructose corn syrup, and cord-fed hamburgers, and bananas.  I’m trading up for a healthier life. Healthier for my body, my conscience, my community, and my planet.

I’m grateful to have a community of people supporting me, and that others have done this and succeeded and that I can learn from them.  I’m grateful for the last ten years, for the mistakes and triumphs, for leading me to this point in my life.  I’m grateful for the will to change, in many areas.  I’m grateful for my appetite, for food and adventure, and I’m grateful to have a partner who pushes me and explores life with me.

And I’m very, very grateful for those who grow my food and keep true American agriculture alive in the Chesapeake Bay foodshed.  I’m proud to call many of you friends, and look forward to knowing many more.  Saying grace before meals takes on a new meaning now.  There is just so much more to be thankful for.

Welcome, 2010.  Bring on the next ten years.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Existential Musings category at Sustainable in the City.