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I just learned this word while reading a magazine article about a local foodie. A jag is apparently an obsession, or as dictionary.com put it, “a period of unrestrained indulgence in an activity; spree; binge.” This seems to describe me quite well – much to the chagrin of many of my loved ones. I get on jags, I collect them, I circulate my jags and give them time to breathe. Like shoes. If I stick with a jag too long, it loses some kind of magic for me, but coming upon a fresh jag (or better, coming back to a pleasurable old jag) keeps things lively.
So, my local-food jag isn’t necessarily gone, it’s just getting freshened. I’m proud of the local-foods movement for taking the prize as Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year. I’m still keeping an eye on where my food comes from, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find that most of the food I buy is already local – as long as I shop at the co-op, the farmer’s market, and my CSA, it’s quite easy actually. Trips to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s or (eek!) Safeway throw the whole local-food thing out of whack – it’s nearly impossible to find things made locally and, even when I do, I know that it can’t truly count as local because even if the food was made by my next-door neighbor, it’s still traveled an average of 1500 miles to a distribution center in Austin or Monrovia or Salt Lake City before coming back to my neighborhood.
But back to my point about jags. Because folks, Mama’s got a brand new jag. And it’s an old one, one you might remember me blogging about this past spring. But I believe I have finally found my knitting legs, so to speak, after many attempts. I credit Debbie Stoller and her awesome book, Stitch’n Bitch, for me finally understanding how to tangle yarn artistically. And I thank Lisa and Martha for inspiring me.
Reconnecting with knitting has reconnected me with the deep feminine urge to create useful things, and to do it beautifully. And to do it for others. I can’t stop thinking of things I’d like to make for people close to me – right now I have no plans to keep any current projects for myself, and this is a really pleasurable departure from my usual narcissism. Thus, I have decided to make as many Christmas gifts as I can this year, given my schedule (in rehearsals for maybe the best play ever and preparing to go tropical for the holidays with Descartes) and how quickly my fingers can work. There will be sewing, baking, slicing, dicing, and yes, knitting. None of it can be displayed here until after gifts have been given out (who wants to spoil the surprise?) but believe you me, my camera will be busy documenting the fun. Isn’t it lovely when a gift can bring pleasure to the gifter and the gifted?
What’s your latest jag?
I’m a few weeks into my 100-mile food challenge, and I am nowhere near eating 100% local. But my awareness is growing keen, and for better or for worse, I am ten times more conscious of my food-miles than I was before I started.
Descartes is overwhelmed at work and feeling sick and tired all the time, and I want to help him at least hang onto some health, give him lots of options for quick, healthy foods that he can pack with him, or eat in front of the fridge when he’s in between jobs. If I can stave off his recent habit of downing boxes of Cheez-Its, sandwich cookies and pizza, I do believe he’ll feel a little better.
So last night after he’d gone to bed (at 9pm) I made a list of foods I planned to buy, and I emailed it to him (yes, I really did) for approval, which he gave. I thought of every good/quick food I could, being mindful of foods he won’t eat – like meat or bone broth, or most things containing coconut – and foods I won’t buy – soy and sugar. Here is my list:
apples, pears, oranges, bananas
raw veggies – sliced peppers, cherry tomatoes, celery and carrot sticks, cucumber slices, etc.
nuts (will be soaked and dried)
smoked salmon (Descartes makes this every year for Thanksgiving and it’s delicious! we’ll make extra this week)
spicy bean dip (homemade)
veggie soups (homemade and packed in single-serving tupperware)
(After much hemming and hawing, I removed “smoothies” because these actually take time to prepare, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon, and because the way I make smoothies nutritious drinks (rather than liquid sugar) is the addition of coconut oil, raw milk (yogurt, kefir or coconut milk will also work), raw egg yolks, and both veggies and fruit. This will probably not go over well, since Descartes is still very much afraid of raw dairy and raw eggs.)
Anyway, you can bet I was a happy girl when I got the OK for this list, and I set out today to fill the kitchen with healthy fast food. I quickly realized that this trip would be a real departure from recent trips to the store, in that buying local wasn’t going to be my only priority today. So far, if I’ve wanted something that can’t be found locally, I’ve gone without. But going without for Descartes means leaning back on Cheez-Its and the like. So my priority was 1) local, 2) organic, 3) the best version I could buy, preferably from a small company. I ended up buying probably 25% local (but probably 50% in-state), and maybe 65% organic. All in all, it wasn’t my ideal trip to the store, but if I can help get Descartes back on his feet, well, I suppose that’s one of my highest priorities.
As I was looking for a picture to go along with this post, I found a cartoon of the earth with a heating pad on its head and a thermometer in its mouth…I wish all my priorities could be happily met without feeling that one has sacrificed another.
This week I spent more time at home, thus more time in my own kitchen, therefore more time preparing food the origin of which I could know and control. This turns out to be a boon for someone who cares where their food originates. On Monday night I made dinner for a plumb-tuckered Descartes: salmon, green beans, and mashed potatoes. The salmon was a pre-commitment buy from Trader Joe’s, originating in Chile or some crazy far-away place like that. But the rest came from our CSA or the co-op. To the mashed potatoes I added coconut oil, Clover butter, salt & pepper, local thyme, and both yogurt and cheese from my new raw milk suppliers in the foothills. The result was tangy goodness if you ask me; Descartes isn’t partial to the very-sharp cheddar, but I love it.
On Tuesday I learned, while buying an onion at the co-op, how important it is to know the geography of your foodshed in order to stay in it. Was Hollister within 100 miles? Surely, no. How about Malaga? I didn’t know. Taking a chance, I went with the Malaga onion…sorry to say, but it turns out Hollister is closer by 27 miles or so. These are times when I could use my Dad’s new GPS device, which he has named Bitchin’ Betty, both for its coolness and for the annoyed tone that the female voice takes on when he misses a turn…”Recalculating…”
Wednesday was Halloween, and a doozy of a day if you’re looking for local treats that a) aren’t chock full of high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated soybean oil, and other outstanding food-like substances that just belong in a child’s body, don’t they??? And b) aren’t homemade, since I don’t know a single parent who will allow their child to eat a homemade treat from a neighbor they don’t know. After much deliberating, I decided not to include Halloween candy in my 100-mile diet challenge…after all, I wasn’t going to eat those treats, was I??? (I plead the Fifth.)
Instead I focused on what I was going to eat that night…that afternoon I had picked up my CSA box to find a bunch of radishes with greens intact for the second week in a row. An internet search to figure out clever ways to use radishes turned up an intriguing Radish Greens Soup, which was highly-rated by the one person who rated it. I decided to give it a try – off-the-cuff inspiration from Descartes turned it into a Coconut Curry Greens Soup…delicious. A friend dropped by for a minute, and when he came in he said, “It is your house that smells so good! I can smell it from the street, it smells amazing out there.” I was proud. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the finished product. My friend found it amusing that I take pictures of dishes that turn out well (especially since I’ve recently recovered my camera). I guess I used to think it was weird, too, before I got a blog.
The rest of the week has gone fairly well…not perfect, but better. I think I’m getting the hang of this. More soon!