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January 2009

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Western region bloggers

Leslie AllenLeslie Allen
Reno, Nevada

I was born in California, and have fond memories of homegrown tomatoes and freshly caught crawdads. My family moved a lot when I was growing up. I even lived on the East coast for a while. More about Leslie


Laura SolorioLaura Solorio
Salinas, California

I am third in a line of strong Yaqui women. My grandmother was from Baja California, from the town of Santa Rosalia. She came to the United States as a young woman, with her first child, escaping an abusive husband. More about Laura


Scott SwendsenScott Swendsen
Boise, Idaho

I am in my late 40's and single and a bit selfish. Having no children and no spouse has allowed me to pretty much explore life in a much different way than most families would. More about Scott


Paulette ThompsonPaulette Thompson
Seattle, Washington

I, P. Thompson, also known as Paulette, love food. It should not surprise you that I love to cook and eat good food. I also love talking about it, thinking about it, and reading about it. More about Paulette

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Last day

Today is officially our last day blogging for Locavore Nation. I believe no one will be able to make comments on any posts after today. I have enjoyed participating in the conversation with the other bloggers and with those who read, thought about, and/or made comments on what I wrote.

There are various places to join the conversation in all of our communities. You might have to create the opportunity to have this conversation. It is my hope that we continue talking about the food system that we have. Monoculture vs. diversity?
Check out the Eat Local Challenge site : http://www.eatlocalchallenge.com/

Check out http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/344/locavore.html when NOW (on PBS) did a show on locavorism. The blogger on the Eat Local Challenge includes a 10 step list to becoming a locavore. They also have a list with reasons for becoming a locavore.

It is nice to have common sense answers for why to attempt to do more locally.
How can we assist local farmers who are providing us with more actual food choices than we see in the stores? Does buying produce from South America really assist family farms there?
There is a nice article in Grist called "Eatin' Good in the Neighborhood: Why "the market" alone can't save local agriculture"
http://www.grist.org/comments/food/2006/08/16/local/index.html
Check out the blog "Eat Local Northwest" where two ocavore friends, one in Seattle and the other in Anchorage, try to do their best to feed themselves and their familes as best they can.

It seems to me that the message for several decades now has been that once we have arrived, we don't have to really cook any more. This tells us that cooking is a bore and you don't need to deal with it. Save time by buying these mixes. Get that frozen food food. Now I am not saying that people will stop buying mixes or prepared foods. Some are good and well priced while others are not. I have students who have never eaten a cake or macaroni and cheese made from scratch or seen a raw carrot with the green leafy parts on it.

There is a passage in a book by the anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateman (daughter of Margaret Mead) where she talks about the labor intensive foods of her Armenian husband's heritage. What she did not realize, she explains, is that those particular dishes are not to be made by one person. Her mother also tells her that on a weeknight, a pot of soup with bread or a salad also says love for nuclear families.

There is a cost both financial and cultural to be paid.

What are people doing during this economic downturn to feed themselves and their families? I definitely see that people will go to several places where they believe their needs will be met. It might not be in one place. What options exist by going to the farmers' market or co-op?

I live in a neighborhood where there were no grocery stores (In fact there were no Starbucks in my neighborhood either!) As gentrification has occurred slowly but surely, changes have come. There are still communities without grocery stores. There are convenience stores and liquor stores, though.

In the way that people had victory gardens during wartime, people can have have a recession garden! If a whole garden in untenable or scary, you can do what I do and grow some food in a few pots on your patios and balconies or window boxes. You can grow some items and your friends might grow something else. Share!



What's in season?


Winter is upon us. There is little to find at the store as a result of the bad weather. If you go to the farmers' market or the local food co-op, you'll find the cabbage family in full effect along with root vegetables galore.

I like turnips and rutabagas. Kale salads, cabbage salads (grate the cabbage, make a vinagrette with citrus juice and oil, then throw in a chopped chili pepper or red pepper flakes. Toss with toasted nuts) and other dishes made with greens are on my list for table time.
Potatoes are there, yes indeed. I am going to try parsnips; I saw a recipe for pureed parsnips in our Sunday paper. I love carrot salads. There is a cooked Moroccan carrot salad I love at this time of the year.

Hmm, time to go home to cook for the weekend!


Floods


As you have no doubt heard by now, the Northwest has been dealing with winter storms. We had several snow storms and now that the snow has melted, heavy rains have started innundate the region. Wind storms!
Eastern Washington. is buried under snow. In Western Washington has snow in the mountains. With the terrible weather and now floods, I - 5 is closed in areas. The mountain passes are closed so I - 90 is closed.

What does this have to do with locavore nation? Well, I'll tell you. Supply trucks have not been able to get through. Local products can.
So right now if you go to the grocery store, some items are missing or maybe just the brand you prefer.



Food, not grass

I thought I had entered my last blog, but we have a few more days. As a start to 2009, in an effort to increase my consumption of local food, I called my favorite local nursery, Bokay Nursery, for some help in redesigning my sprinkler system in the back yard. I want to replace my grass with a bigger vegetable garden. The big problem, though, is the cucuya grass. Most people roll their eyes and tell me that I have to use an herbicide. I don't like using any pesticides or herbicides in my garden. It's a haven for the birds and I have a dog. Everyone tells me that herbicides are safe, but I don't want to use any commercial products. Does anyone have any advice on how to get rid of or help to control cucuya grass?

Mil gracias, and this time spelled correctly: Prospero Ano Nuevo!!


Locavore? Say yeah!


One of the things I learned this year is that squash keeps well on the counter or table. They go from being ornaments for a few months to ingredients for dinner or dessert. The heirloom variety squash from our area I prepared for Christmas dinner was very nice (Mom prepared the rest of the meal. I just showed up with the squash and the almond butter cookies i made on Christmas Eve).

Here's how it played. After I hacked up the squash, I put it in a mixture which contained a little bit of maple syrup, a little cumin, a little sesame oil, a little hot sauce, plus a little balsamic vinegar and then some oil. Salt and pepper. No, I don't know the precise ingredients!
I baked it for forty minutes. I put a little bit of butter on the pieces as well. It was a winner.


I've enjoyed connecting with our locavore posse across the land. I was reminded of a friend I had not thought of in years. When I was in college I met Margo Morgan, a woman in her seventies. She was an elegant academically educated woman, the wife of a professor. Her children were grown and her grandchildren were on the West Coast. She still made the majority of her food from scratch. She kept a garden and preferred to eat foods in season. She exchanged grease with a friend who made incredible soap.
I asked her why she did what she did. In my mind, if you were academically educated and financially well-off, you didn't "have" to live that way. For Ms. Morgan it was a way of life with meaning.
I have seen a lot of changes over the years. Some changes are good. I still find it odd that I can now buy the same produce in a conventional grocery store when I visit my mother's family in Alabama as here in Washington State. What happened to seeing more of the local produce? They're in exile.

I was re-reading an article in Gourmet (August 2006) about Bryan Terry and Anna Lappe. In that article they were asked about their grub parties concerning sustainability and why it was that they getting together to talk with the choir, the converted. I really liked what the two of them had to say about it. Even if you are talking with the converted, you still need information. People have to understand why it is that they do what they do. In this case why it is that they are trying to eat as locally as possible. It's not about "I eat local foods and try to support local farmers because the cool people do it."
This is about real life and mindful choices. Seasonal eating whenever possible is good because......You have to be able to articulate this.


This project has been wonderful in that I was not alone in attempting to live this year. I made a lot of mistakes. I have learned a lot. I plan on rereading the blog throughout the year. Will I buy a banana or papaya from time to time? Yes. I probably won't buy them every week. I know what the costs are. Will I buy citrus? Of course. When they are in season, they arrive at the right time. Hopefully we can get our Locavore wiki project rolling so that we can continue the conversation.


I'll be making granola and gingerbread to start off the New Year.


Snowed in

I have enjoyed being away from the internet for nearly two weeks. We've had winter weather! Over the last two weeks we've had much more snow than normal for this part of the country. Three storms. Thursday, December 18th was the first time I have ever experienced thunder snow.
Yes, we even had a snowy week for Hanukkah along with a White Christmas. I did not lose power, but some people did. People were not prepared for the first storm so they headed to the store in time for the second one.

I love taking pictures of snow. It's a way of documenting the time. I wish I had some to show you all. Unfortunately I have been without a camera this year. I'll have to rely on others' photos.

If there ever was time for a comfort food, it has been these last couple two weeks. I had a great excuse to use the oven every night. The time was right.

What did I have in the house to prepare the day before the second storm hit? I had flat - leaf parsley, dried whole wheat pasta from last year, pumpkin seeds, delicata squash, kale, spinach, cheese, garlic, a little milk and a few other items. I knew that I had slightly less than a pint of cream I placed in the freezer right after Thanksgiving as the due date was Nov. 28. I put it out to thaw.
I decided that I would bake a creamed greens dish. Earlier this fall when I went over to Rik K. and Jill C.'s house, I tasted Jill C.'s divine creamed spinach. I knew this was the time to try to make it. I combined Laurie Colwin's creamed spinach with jalepenos recipe with another recipe I found and then came up with my own.
I cooked the greens with garlic, a little butter, and oil. I then added a little frozed cream. I put a layer of greens in a buttered baking dish. I grated a small amount of pecorino cheese (not local) and added it to the dish. I sprinked some red pepper flakes over it. I added a layer of chopped salami to the layer with grated cheese.
What else do I need to put on the last layer of greens? Breadcrumbs! Now I am not in the habit of using breadcrumbs often, but it seemed like a good idea. I toasted some bread and tried to grate it. I ended up tearing it into tiny pieces. I grated a small amount of white cheddar and mixed it in with the breadcrumbs. Then I put that on top with a little more butter and little hit of milk and baked the whole thing for 40 minutes. Whatever it was I made, it was good.
The squash I baked that night was good, but not that interesting. I baked it with balsamic vinegar, a little oil, a little fresh - squeezed orange juice and orange zest. It served its purpose as foil for the rich creamed greens.
The squash I made for Christmas dinner was better. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

On Thursday, the day the second storm hit I considered making a pesto with the parsley and pumpkin seeds and creating some sort of baked pasta. I decided that to boil the four potatoes I had. Two were local Yukon golds and I don't remember what the other two were. What should I do with them? I do like basil pesto on potatoes. How about parley pesto instead? No, my mind went elsewhere. How about scalloped potatoes? Potato gratin? Yes! I decided to use the recipe for potato dauphinoise from Nigel Slater's book Appetite even though he doesn't boil his potatoes first.

I buttered the baking dish and then spread the bottom with garlic. I then placed a layer of sliced potatoes and then sprinkled that layer with salt and freshly ground pepper. I added a little butter. Then I put the final layer of potatoes on top and poured the cream and a little 1% milk over the dish. It smelled so good as it was baking. It went well with the baked creamed greens from the day before.

The leftovers were wonderful. I had enough for a few days. I enjoyed the snow even more because I knew I had something good to eat at home!


Adios

It's December 26th and I guess this is the end of my Locavore year with the Splendid Table. I've been a fan of The Splendid Table for a few years and it was exciting to be part of their project. I don't think much will change in the coming years, in terms of my buying habits. I was raised in Hollister, California, at a time when the population was only about 8000. My family knew everyone and everyone knew us. (It was hard to get away with anything) Both my parents were farmworkers until their twenties and Sundays were spent taking drives in the coutryside with my parents pointing out the various field crops and orchards. My mother loved flowers and knew the names of local wild flowers. I extended my knowledge of wild flowers while at Stanford. I took a course from John Thomas who wrote the book, "Flora of the Santa Cruz Mountains of California." We had to identify 100 wild flowers and plants for our final. I'm still pretty good at identifying trees and plants as I drive by fields or go hiking. We cut apricots every summer until I was old enough, (eighteen,) to work in the local tomato cannery. This year has brought me closer to roots of my family and their connection to the earth.

Some of the farmers markets in my area stay open year round. Two of them are within walking distance of my home. I was talking to one of the growers at Alba Farms the other day. She grows broccoli and even cilantro in the freezing temperatures we've been having lately. A close friend of mine lives in Santa Cruz where I often travel. Whenever they're open, I stop by the Redman House vegetable stand on Hwy. 1 near Watsonsillve. They always have a lush supply of vegetables, eggs and flowers. They also have some delicious strawberry jam made from their delicious, organic strawberries.

Some of my Christmas gifts this year included chocolates from Lula Lund's Chocolates. Scott Lund uses his grandmother's recipes for delicious caramels and truffles. His business is based in Monterey County. I have been buying Lula's chocolates at my local grocery store, Star Market, for the last year because they're local. My daughter and I were shopping on Christmas Eve at the Crossroads at the mouth of Carmel Valley and I noticed a little shop. It was a temporary shop set up by Scott Lund to sell his delicious chocolates for the holidays. We had a chance to chat with him about his business. Ana and I sampled sea salt caramels and a lavender truffle. Wow, they were outstanding. My family and friends are now fans of Lula's. You can visit their website at www.lulas.com.

It's amazing what little tidbits, one can pick up from a simple conversation. I was talking to the daughter of one of my patients about her husband. I have been seeing her mom as a doctor for over 10 years and I have never asked about her husband. He grows corn in southern Monterey County. Red corn for pozole!! For those of you who don't know what pozole is, just visit any Mexican home on New Year's and you'll either have pozole or menudo or both. I made a pozole recently with chicken, pork, and red chile sauce. I'm going to visit one of the local Mexican grocery stores and buy some of his pozole for New Year's.

My last comments will be about my friend's victory garden. My friend who lives in Santa Cruz has a brother who moved north from Los Angeles. He is only in his 50's and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He is a lifelong artist, living in the heart of L.A. Along with finding medical care for his cancer (few artists can afford health insurance,) he has started a vegetable garden in his brother's back yard. I like to think that my beautiful and bountiful tomato plants and the Locavore project were an inspiration. Either way, he did a terrific job creating a raised bed and putting up a 6-7 foot fence to protect his plants from deer. He and his brother were up late one night, in the rain, putting covers over the plants to protect them from the early frost and hail that occurred that very night. I am hoping to see his plants grow as his cancer vanishes. That is my prayer.

Lastly, I want to thank Locavore Nation and The Splendid Table for allowing me to participate in this project. I will always remember this year with fondness and a renewed commitment to Public Radio and local farmers. Thank you all. Propero Ano Nuevo!!


Locavores on Public Radio

I can't believe we're coming to the end of this grand experiment! It has been quite a year. I've learned so much and look forward to continuing to live as a Locavore. Here in Reno, being a Locavore has given me a platform and I have taken full advantage of it! Listen in to this interview, with my friend Shelley and I, on KUNR's Nevada Newsline. Yes, I say "absolutely" too frequently, but I discovered I like being on the radio! Dan Erwine, Nevada Newsline's host, said we received more phone calls than any other Nevada Newsline topic! They've even invited us back in the spring. Shelley and I are more inspired than ever to continue our outreach and education campaign on local eating, food security, and sustainable food systems. Won't you join us?


Food, plumbing, and the holidays


I was looking forward to the Thanksgiving holidays. I was set to get as locavore as I could. I made plans. I told my mother about the turkey I was going to order and all the rest. I love planning dinner parties and am usually quite successful with them (choosing the right mix of people and the right food).
It did not happen. There was trouble brewing at home.
I should not complain as I did not have the floods that some of our locavore blogger friends have had out East. Here's what happened: The plumbing of the units in the building where I live have started to fail. It was my turn before Thanksgiving and during Thanksgiving week.

I also had house guests right after the first plumbing incident. I fed them food from Trader Joe's even though I had plans to cook kale with sausage and sweet potatoes. Unfortunately I did not feel like cooking after cleaning up, moving wet stuff for hours and then trying to find a dry space for them.

I have become acquainted with the nice plumbers each time they had to come out. My house is still drying out. I ended up staying with my folks for a bit after the last watering event. The only thing I prepared for Thanksgiving was an apple salad. The apples were
from Washington State, different varieties.

Despite it all, I was cheered up by a really cool article in EAT magazine, a free publication out of British Columbia to which I subscribe. In the locavore column, the article about holiday cooking with local ingredients was just what I would have loved to have read before Thanksgiving. It'll do for the next round of holidays: http://issuu.com/garyhynes/docs/eat_issue.12-06.web
See pages 34 - 38.
Check it out and tell me what you think!