Monthly Archives: May 2009

Our (not so secret) Garden.

There are 25 tomatoes on this plant. She counted; twice. Other plants include basil, arugula, bell peppers, beans, onions, cucumbers, lettuce, bok choy, chives, kale, chard, and cherry tomatoes.

There are 25 tomatoes on this plant. She counted; twice. Other plants include basil, arugula, bell peppers, beans, onions, cucumbers, lettuce, bok choy, chives, kale, chard, and cherry tomatoes. Photo by Christopher Greenslate.

Every time I walk out the front door, I have to stop and examine what is going on in my garden. It seems that every time I look, something new is happening. Yesterday I found a fully grown green bean on a plant that I did not even know was producing yet. Aside from arugula, that was the first thing that I have ever grown from seed to something edible. I ran in the house to show Christopher and he laughed at how excited I was by a bean. Despite the fact that our lives do not resemble Walden Pond, he invoked Thoreau to tell me that I now “know beans.”

It is almost magical to see something come from such a small seed. We miss this when buying our produce from a grocery store. I have had the great fortune of having a few relatives with green thumbs who I can look up to.  My grandpa was a fantastic gardener.  Every year he used all the space in his small backyard to grow his favorites corn, tomatoes, strawberries and beans to name a few. Just last year he planted a peach tree that he said should start producing in a year or two.  I’m sure those will be turned into one of my grandma’s famous peach cobblers or turnovers that my grandpa’s sweet tooth couldn’t resist.  Several times through out the summer months grandpa would just drop by to bring a bag of beans or tomatoes.

My mom’s aunt, my great aunt Lily, has one of the most amazing yards I have ever seen, including a small orchard where she grew apricots, kiwi, oranges, and pomegranates among others. Dinners at her house included an abundance of fresh vegetables from her garden. I remember a particular soup that she made with beans and an assortment of greens. It was delicious. However, she frightened my sisters and me away from eating it by claiming in her booming voice that it was good for us  and would put hair on our chests; not something little girls want to hear.  We ate her home canned jams and jellies all year long. At 85 years old, she does not do quite as much as she used to, but she has not stopped yet.

As I look at my small garden with high hopes, I realize that I have not quite reached the heights of my family gardeners, but I have something to aspire to. My seventeen pots don’t create too much work, but I find my self finding reasons to check on the progress several times a day. We got some much needed rain it last night so now I don’t get to water today; it’s a little disappointing.

It has cost me a little bit of money to start up my garden, but now that I’ve got it going the seeds are not expensive. I’ve even gotten to the point where I am starting seeds to give to friends who are also planning gardens.

In other news, an article in the New York Times came out yesterday that discusses how “Real Food Can Be Cheaper Than Junk Food.”  The author mentions two websites worth checking out, cookforgood.com and lavidalocavore.org. Christopher and I are looking forward to trying out some recipes from Cook for Good.

Have a great week!

Kerri

P.S. For some reason Christopher thought the film festival was this weekend, but it is next weekend. It will be in his post next week.

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Real Time, Real Food, Real Change.

Real change in the cost of healthy eating.

Real change in the cost of healthy eating.

Kerri has had a birthday. As a surprise, her family has come down to visit for the weekend. Last night we had tickets to be part of the studio audience at CBS Television City in Hollywood for “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Not only was it neat to be on set in the same studio where “The Price is Right” was filmed for most of its’ television history, it was fantastic to see Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and the micro-credit model. This is a man who has changed the world. He has worked tirelessly to bring people out of poverty, mainly through providing women with a way to be economically self-sufficient.

It was also great to see grammy nominated rapper M.I.A. speak out about what has been happening in Sri Lanka with the Tamil people (she escaped in 1984).

After the show we went around the block to eat at Real Food Daily, a wonderful restaurant in West Hollywood that serves organic vegan food that is both hearty and elegant. However, I fretted as the bill approached our table. This was the first meal that Kerri and I have eaten out since we finished our most recent experiment in the economics of eating. It was not cheap. For what we paid to eat, we could have bought groceries for two weeks. But it was her birthday, her family is visiting (which is rare), and the food was exquisite; a special occassion that let me justify the expense.

This morning while Kerri is making breakfast for all of us, McVegan Muffins, the herbivore’s equivalent of a fast-food legend, I found myself both exhiliarated and overwhelmed by the enormity of this conversation about food. When we started this journey, with the challenge of eating on a dollar a day, we had no idea that this dialogue would become our lives. We had no idea how changed we would be. The very rituals of our life have been re-shaped by our experiences.

Parts of this quest have been greatly enhanced by a few different factors. The first is the amount of reading that we have been doing. We read about food every day, and I finish a book on the subject once a week. As result, I would like to share with our readers a couple of blogs that I find helpful. The first is “Food Politics” by Marion Nestle (where I found today’s graphic), and the second is from Food First (an institute for food and development policy). Both are updated frequently with top notch information for those who find themselves strung-out on the ever changing menu of topics related to this subject.

In fact, as a result of the work done by Food First I would like to encourage you to click here to sign a petition that advocates for stripping the biotech research provisions component from bill SB 384. According to Food First, “This attachment to SB 384 is a stealth giveaway to agribusiness in the name of feeding the world’s poor. What it will really do is destroy the ability of poor farmers to feed themselves throughout the global south.”

Next week look forward to our take on a couple new films that will be screened at the Encinitas Environmental Film Festival. Both are about food. The first is called “Homegrown Revolution” and the second, by Sofia Joanes, is called “Fresh.” Thanks to one of our readers for the suggestion.

For now we’re off to the beach.

– Christopher

P.S. There was an interesting artcle in the New York Times today about college students who are headed off for organic summer jobs…

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Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks?

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Christopher has lived in the San Diego area for most of his life. During that time he has been to countless Padres games and swears he has never seen them win.  Yesterday, which happened to be the day after we ended our second project, we headed down to the park once again to root for the Padres. They won.  I think I was more excited than Christopher was.

The tickets were free, so we saved some money there, but we had an emergency with our kitty (that led to a trip to the vet and now the joy of tackling her twice a day to give her oral and topical antibiotics), and ran out of time to eat before we had to leave the house.  Leaving when we did, we still missed the the top of the first.

We decided to eat at the park, knowing that it would be an expensive meal. We were right.  I went to get us food during the top of the 3rd. Christopher handed me $15 and I laughed. He forked over another $20. I figured I would be bringing back change.

As I approached the counter I debated what to get. Due to the economy and the Padres low attendance, the stadium has a meal deal: 5 for $5. With that you can get a hot dog or veggie dog, peanuts, popcorn, a cookie and a small soda (16 oz). For $10 you can substitute a draft beer for the soda.

I knew I wanted a beer, which is always overpriced at games, and we both wanted two veggie dogs, because they are so small. Neither of us would eat the cookies and Christopher had told me twice that he wanted a pretzel, so I figured that was an important item. I felt silly as I agonized over what to do. How much would it cost to get two extra veggie dogs? Would Christopher still want a pretzel if  I came back with all the rest? What if I brought back the goods and he didn’t want popcorn and peanuts? Did I want peanuts?

We were both pretty hungry and I didn’t want to mess it up.  I left my phone in my purse which Christopher was watching, so I couldn’t phone a friend (Christopher) for help. Despite the low attendance (which was still over 27,000 people), the line was long and I was almost up to the front. Did I really want to trek back to the seats and get in line all over again?

In the end, I made the choice that I thought would be best. I stuck to our original plan. As soon as the cashier finished ringing me up I wished I had gone with the deal. I am pretty sure that when I handed Christopher his $1.50 in change he felt the same way.

Despite the fact that the stadium is offering reduced prices, an article in Friday’s New York times claims that  wholesale food costs went up in April, while a second article by the same reporter discussed the fact that consumer costs have held steady.  Another article in the business section, also from Friday,  points out that even though prices to the consumer are steady, there are several large food manufacturers which, “concede that they cannot ensure the safety of items -from frozen vegetables to pizzas- and that they are shifting the burden to the consumer.”  It is unclear which ingredients may be responsible, and several items have been recalled this year including six tons of frozen egg rolls.

This made us consider the food from the game.  These companies probably played a role in most, if not all of what we ate, which is probably the case at most ball parks.  It  hit home that  price shouldn’t be our only concern when buying  food.

Kerri

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“Stamp Out Hunger” Today!

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Calling all humans. If you’re a terrestrial being that is spending today in the United States, I’m calling on you to go to your kitchen right now and pick out a couple of canned food items, put them in a small sack and place them in your mailbox. Do it right now, before your mail carrier delivers your next batch of junk mail. Do so because today is the 17th annual National Association of Letter Carriers “Stamp Out Hunger” day; the largest one day national food drive. This is a small gesture that you (most likely) have the ability to take part in. So do it.

Now, I know the “Star Trek” folks out there, whether they’re Romulans, Orions, or Vulcans will probably want to include their favorite foods on this day to help others see the value of their cultures since they’ve been included in the latest film, but please let’s stick to the foods that humans will actually want to eat. Please Klingons, especially you, I know you are probably upset for not being a part of J.J. Abrams’ latest installment to the “Star Trek” franchise, but no cans of worms. Put your hostility aside for one day, and place a can of tomatoes or canned fruit in your mailbox.

Today’s drive, always the second Saturday in May, will happen in 10,000 cities in all 50 states and the food that is collected will be distributed within each respective community. While Kerri and I are nearing the end of our next experiment, which is connected to this issue of food assistance in the U.S., we looked in our cupboards (which are looking pretty bare) and found the two cans that we could part with. We’re running low on funds, and are hoping to make it to the end of this experiment, but we had to do something to help, even on our limited budget. If we weren’t doing this latest experiment would could have given more, but hopefully you’ll make up for our shortcomings. Right now. Do it. STOP reading this post and put some cans in your mailbox.

Last year 73.1 million pounds of food were collected, and now more than ever we need to participate as the number of people who need assistance is on the rise. More people are looking to the government for help during the recession, which is why the cost of these programs has increased, and for all their trying to increase sales, restaurants who are giving out free food aren’t going to help a substantial number of people. For those of you looking for free food, you’ll probably benefit from the “chicken” wars between El Pollo Loco and Kentucky Fried Chicken. However, our hope is that you’ll stay home and prepare a low-cost healthy meal instead. When we had finished the dollar a day challenge, Oprah’s people called us to see if we would come on the show. We were very excited. Oprah is a smart and powerful woman, and when she talks, people listen, which is why we’re with Sean Croxton from Underground Wellness when he calls her out. Oprah, we’d also like you to re-think your recommendation of KFC.

Lastly, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the city of Columbus, Ohio is studying the possibility of a “food recycling” program. Curbside composting could be a great way to both reduce waste, and create soil for local farms and landscaping. Apparently Seattle, and some cities here in California already have a weekly pick-up program for food scraps.

Again, if you haven’t done so, go put some food out for pick-up!

– Christopher

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Dancing “Food Justice”?

The Stone Soup Storytelling group dances out their version of how convential produces makes it to our plates.

Appearing at the Cultivating Food Justice conference in San Diego, the Stone Soup Storytelling group dances out their version of how conventional produce makes it to our plates. Photo by Christopher Greenslate.

Christopher told me a few weeks ago that he had signed us up for a conference on gardening this weekend. I have decided that maybe it was good that my first attempt at gardening became a snack for the dogs because my latest attempt is looking a little too yellow. I figured that I could benefit from some tips. What I did not realize, was that when he said “weekend”, he meant that it started on Friday night. The last thing I wanted to do after working late nights all week was drive almost an hour in traffic to a conference. But I went. I knew that once we got there I would be fine, it was just difficult to get motivated.

I was right, and I am glad we went.

The conference was not about gardening as I thought it would be, but instead about Food Justice. Throughout the conference, community gardens were one of the solutions offered to start making progress. The two speakers on Friday night were impressive. Rufina Juarez, a woman who was a part of the South Central Community Garden in Los Angeles, spoke about her community’s struggle to keep their garden, and the need for healthy food options in low income areas. The 30 tons of produce from the new location of their farm is taken to farmer’s markets in South Central. The fight to keep the community project was chronicled in an Academy Award nominated documentary called “The Garden“.

LaDonna Redman from Chicago spoke of how she learned about food and became active due to her son’s food allergies. A common theme from the conference was that many people seem to feel that people in need deserve food, but it is less common for us to think that they deserve healthy food.

Additionally, due to the current economic situation, more people are struggling and  trying to find less expensive ways to eat. In fact, the New York Times reported yesterday that restaurants are starting to offer menu items such as the cleverly named “Bailout Package” and other reduced price meal options in an attempt to draw customers into their restaurants, many which are trying to stay open.

The Conference was organized by the San Diego chapter of a group called Food Not Lawns. We went to sessions on traditional farming, local food stamp participation, and nutritional racism. One thing that struck me was the dedication of the community to trying to solve some of these issues.

However, the dancing and singing vegetables at lunch stole the show.

– Kerri

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