Monthly Archives: September 2009

Thinking Outside the Pod.

This Asian-infused lima bean appetizer prepared by the Scripps Memorial Hospital Executive Chef was one many innovative entries in this weekend's cook-off challenge at the Lima Bean Faire in Encinitas, Califorina. Photo by Christopher.

This Asian-infused lima bean appetizer prepared by the Scripps Memorial Hospital Executive Chef was one many innovative entries in this weekend's cook-off challenge at the Lima Bean Faire in Encinitas, Califorina. Photo by Christopher.

There’s nothing like lima beans to bring the community together in celebration of local heritage. Pulling into the dirt parking lot just north of the San Diego Botanical Gardens, we could see the large red and white striped tent, and a huge homemade sign listing the happenings of this weekend’s 2009 Lima Bean Faire. Seated at about two dozen round tables, local residents tasted a variety of lima bean based dishes, deciding which one would get their vote in each category of the weekend cook-off challenge.

“You want people to eat healthy, but you can’t force it down their throats,” said Scripps Hospital Executive Chef E. Dennis van Rummond. His entry into the “ethnic” category of the cook-off was an Asain infused lima bean appetizer. He marinated his beans in a blend of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and crystallized ginger, and sat them next to a bite-sized salad of red bell pepper, green onion and water chesnuts, all elegantly laid across the top of a baked wonton wrapper.

While his eye-catching presentation stood out from the “savory soup” and “classic” entries, competition from local restauranteurs and community members was fierce.

On one side of Rummond was a representative of When In Rome, a well known Italian restaurant with 23 years of experience satisfying patrons. When In Rome, an affiliate of Slow Food San Diego, and winner of a local Reader’s Choice award, served their Italian marinated beans as a bruschetta imbued with a pecorino cheese.

However, the most palate satisfying, and practical lima bean innovation, was a simple and delicious hummus created at the last minute by local resident Christopher Quicker at the request of Inn of Moonlight Beach owner Ann Dunman.

“I used red, orange and yellow bell peppers and roasted them over an open flame and added them for the color,” Quicker said. The bell peppers however only made up 10 percent of the ingredients. While he used roasted garlic, olive oil, sea salt and pepper, 80 percent of his creation were pure lima beans provided by the California Lima Beans Growers Council, a legume that used to grow abundantly is this coastal area as they require no irrigation, and are a great source of protein.

Each contestant was given a 10 pound bag of dried lima beans in mid-September, allowing them ten days to perfect their entry. While the hundred-dollar grand prize, and the People’s Choice Lima Bean Trophy were enticing, participation in the event for local businesses meant free advertising and connection to the community in a family-friendly setting. A few folks played lima bean bingo, and lima bean poker while awaiting the announcement of the cook-off winner, and the children’s fashion show.

Hildegarde, a volunteer with the San Dieguito Heritage Museum, selling dried lima beans to attendees of the faire. Photo by Christopher.

Hildegarde, a volunteer with the San Dieguito Heritage Museum, selling dried lima beans to attendees of the faire. Photo by Christopher.

Outside of the tasting tent there were several vendors of local crafts, a caricaturist, and displays of local artifacts, and old photos of Encinitas from the late 1800s and early 1900s provided by the San Dieguito Heritage Museum. Today’s festivities however were just part of the weekend long event that included a talent show the night before, and a “follies” program on Sunday including magicians, singers, jugglers and Mr. Balloon Man.

On our way out of the Lima Bean Faire, we stopped by a small booth and spoke with a woman named Hildegarde, who convinced us to buy a bag of dried lima beans for a dollar. Her enthusiasm for the event, attended mostly by people closer to her age than ours, left us feeling thankful for our community, and inspired us to try creating a lima bean dish of our own.

– Christopher
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Zucchinis

A small sample of our zucchini harvest.

A small sample of our zucchini harvest.

With the school year in full swing. I have little time to spend in my yard. Before I take off in the mornings I run outside to quickly water and see how many zucchinis have doubled in size overnight. We have had such an abundance that last we were able to have a much lower  grocery bill by eating zucchini in every meal. I am, however, excited to start learning about what will thrive in the fall and winter (as much of a winter as we have in San Diego) for my next round of planting. A trip to the garden store yesterday prompted an employee to come over to tell me about a class on cool weather plants that she will be teaching next Saturday morning. I am looking forward to it.

While I play in my garden,  people continue to  struggle with real food issues. On September 12th Norman Borlaug passed away. He was a scientist who created high-yield wheat that was to save the world from famine. However, the New York Times reports that despite his discovery,  and due several factors, the number of people living with hunger is larger than ever.

Meanwhile, the UN states that investing in agriculture alone is not going to solve hunger issues. There still remains for many people around the world a lack of access to food or the resources to grow their own.

It seems odd that in a world where there appears to be so much to eat, people can be hungry. During the dollar diet project we did not accept food that was not available to everyone and due to that we had to turn down several free meals that were available to us through our jobs or social events.

I was at a baby shower for a good friend yesterday and at the end, her mother, who had hosted the party, sent me home with a grocery bag full of quiche, pasta salad, fresh veggies, and chocolate cake. It was nice to not have to cook, but at the same time, I was confronted by the fact that I am not in need and  because of that, I have access to an abundance of freebies that others are shut out from.

Kerri

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Food Safety, Healthcare, and TeaBagger Experiment?

 talk of "big government" is cliche. The government has to be "big" in order to serve 300 million people. Both sides are guilty of big spending. Image courtesy of McClatchy News Services.

All this talk of "big government" is cliche. The government has to be "big" in order to serve 300 million people. Both sides are guilty of big spending. It's our country, we have to pay for it somehow, even when the economy is in the toilet. Image courtesy of McClatchy News Services.

Last week when Kerri went to collect our produce from our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) pick-up point, it simply wasn’t there. Our name was on the list, but our box was missing. I put a call into Be Wise Ranch (our farm) and left a pleasant, but uncertain message wondering where our food had gone. It’s been a week and we still haven’t heard back from them, and our vegetable drawer remains empty. However, with school starting, and plenty to witness in the public arena, we’ve been more relaxed about (or at least distracted from) the disappearance of our lettuce.

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services launched a new website for the public to learn more about food safety issues, and while we’d like to see some type of new agency dedicated specifically to these issues, for now an online resource was the least they could do. We’re not complaining, in fact, we’re very pleased by this new site, but it doesn’t suffice in the face of our fractured food safety system. Yet, while food safety is one of the most important concerns of our day, the launch of this site was easily overshadowed by the on-going healthcare debate, the centerpiece of President Obama’s domestic agenda.

While the “teabaggers” (or mostly right-wing anti-Obamaphytes posing as “real” Americans) marched on Washington today with a grab bag of conservative talking points (I saw signs proclaiming “Jesus Saves”, “Say No to Socialism”, and even a few confederate flags), the most important thing that Americans can do to take a stand on issues of healthcare is to start eating well, and to get involved in the struggle for food justice.

Regardless of where you stand politically, what you eat plays a larger role in your overall health than who provides your healthcare, or how much it costs. Healthcare is important. That being said, Michael Pollan also had an interesting piece in the New York Times a few days ago further strengthening the link between these two issues.

This march on Washington, while cathartic for the folks involved, will do little to shape the national debate on healthcare. Obama’s speech in Minneapolis had a more focused and memorable ring to it with his “Fire it Up!” and “Ready to Go!” What I’m waiting for is for one of these “teabaggers” to ante up and stop paying taxes altogether. I secretly hope that they document it in a blog, and write a book, as that seems like a great way for others to connect with what the issues are for those involved.

I wonder if this hypothetical experiment would include not using any government services paid for by taxes (that would only seem fair), which would mean: no mail, no driving (your license, and your streets are managed by the government!), no flying (darn that FAA!), no t.v. or radio (down with the FCC!), no sending the kids to get a free public education (no more liberal indoctrination!), no federal student aid, no medicare or medicaid, no eating food that comes from a place that is safety checked by the government (hunger strike!), no calling the police or fire department in an emergency, no use of national parks or monuments, no food for the needy (let them starve!) and of course, no supporting the troops. DOWN WITH BIG GOVERNMENT! I think a blog and book of this nature would be far better than ours. At the very least, it would be more interesting than hearing about our missing produce…

Any takers?

– Christopher

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Back To School

Smart-Choices_logo_04After a busy, but enjoyable summer, Christopher and I headed back to work last week. The first day students returned coincided with the one year anniversary of the start of the One Dollar Diet Project. In contrast to last year, I have made it through the first week well fed, but I was still exhausted by Friday.

The first week of school is a blur of  going over syllabi, learning the names of roughly 100 new students (I am pretty good, I knew them all by the third day. Christopher will take a little longer), students coming and going as they change their class schedules, and getting back into the patterns of the school day. I wonder how we had the energy to face our students each day with rumbling stomachs. Of course the current financial situation of the state leaves us with slightly larger class sizes. But, while we are once again eating well, the problems of the economy are continuing to leave many Americans in need. The New York Times reports that the number of homeless school children continues to grow. While we are asking them to read and work on homework, many children are worried about where there next meal is coming from.

Tuesday will mark another anniversary from our project. September 8th was the day that Christopher declared to be our own holiday which he named “National Beans and Rice Day.” He wanted us to celebrate the simplicity  and beauty of what had become our staple  meals. We still appreciate the meals we make entirely from scratch. Just last night we had polenta, another common item during our month-long project, with tomato sauce and zucchini  from the garden.

We are grateful that we have the time to prepare meals like this, something that is hard to remember when we get home from work exhausted. On the first day of school we ditched the homemade food for the convenience of Rico’s, our favorite burrito shop. delicious, but perhaps not the best choice in terms of health.

A better choice would have been to make dinner at home from the whole grains in our cupboard and veggies in the fridge.  Items such as these don’t come with packaging that works to entice us to buy them or the convenience of quick preparation. Processed foods, in their brightly colored packages are appealing, but many offer little in terms of nutrition.  It is interesting what products will be labeled as healthy in an effort to get consumers to purchase them. There is currently a food labeling campaign that is working towards indicating items in a grocery store that are “Smart Choices” for healthy options. This campaign is supported by some of the largest food manufactures and is receiving quite a bit of criticism  for the packaged “food” it is claiming to be good choices. Many of the items are a far cry from simple ingredients and include items such as Froot Loops and fudgesicles. An article in the New York Times reports that the FDA wrote a letter to the managers of the program and “the letter said the agencies would be concerned if the Smart Choices label ‘had the effect of encouraging consumers to choose highly processed foods and refined grains instead of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.'”

We share the same concern.

Kerri

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