Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday, August 31: Day 31

Wow! A whole month has gone by! In case you missed the Wisconsin State Journal article, we were also featured in the Isthmus this week. Check out this wonderful interview by Terese Allen.

This marks the official end of the experiment, but we all feel like we've only begun to learn about the food we eat. The question we've been asked (and have been asking ourselves) is. . .

What's next?

We will continue to update the blog—we'll aim for a minimum of twice weekly. In addition to any meaningful discoveries regarding what we're able to find locally, we'll keep our eyes open for references to the topic in the media—news stories or interesting new research. We'll also be sure to post on any events we hear about, hopefully in advance, but after the fact if that's the way it works out. And we will post producer profiles from farms we visit in the coming months.

In that spirit, here are a few upcoming events where we will be participating:
Food for Thought Festival, September 14 & 15. Look for our booth on MLK!
Westside Community Farmers' Market, September 8th at the info booth


From day one this has been a project about trying to spark interest in local eating in as many people as possible. With that in mind, we invite all readers to submit comments with experiences of their own—triumph or tragedy, success or failure. If you have something big to say, email us and maybe we can dedicate a whole post to it.

Was it worth it?

Heck yeah! It wasn't always fun, but it was fascinating, not only for what we learned about our food supply, but also what we learned about ourselves. The biggest thing, though, is what we learned about other people. The number of people who took an interest in this project was far greater than we anticipated, and most of them expressed some interest in local eating themselves. So we'd like to wind up the project with a challenge of sorts: if you have been reading this blog, take stock of where your food comes from and challenge yourself to find a little bit more of it from local sources. Going 100% local isn't for everyone, but you can always do just a little more. So give it a try, and let us know how it goes.

As Ming Tsai says, Peace and good eating.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday, August 30—Day 30

Day 30? Can that be? Well, we knew that the month was nearing its end when we were presented with the following gifts:

Yep, we're right back where we started: coffee and chocolate. Many thanks to Laurie, who correctly discerned all of our preferences (dark roast for Jen, dark chocolate for Scott, and milk chocolate for Evie). We are starting to get questions from people about what we're going to eat on Saturday. Tune in and find out. . .

Our menu today:

Breakfast: Pancakes with butter and maple syrup, plus bacon and cider.

Lunch: The normal mid-day miscellany, a combo of Jen's tortilla creations featuring whatever vegetables she could find, plus salsa and cheese, hot dogs, and cut up fruits and veggies (finally finished that watermelon).

Dinner: Cheese pizza. We polished off the last of the 100 mile flour. Homemade tomato sauce with garlic (Harmony Valley Farm) and basil (grown in a bucket in our driveway). Topped with Farmer John's Provonello, which is a wonderful cheese that melts smoothly like mozzarella but has a little bit more assertive flavor. We've all agreed that we've fallen in love with his cheeses all over again.

I predict tomorrow will be an anticlimax--as a practical matter we will be ending the project early because there is a cookout to celebrate the end of Evie's logrolling class. As usual for a Friday, we'll all be in different places for lunch, which will be the last real meal of the experiment. We'll all try to have some deep thoughts for tomorrow.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wednesday, August 29: Day 29

Who is on your team?

Your doctor? Your accountant? Your lawyer? Your kids’ teachers? Maybe even your mechanic? Your team is those people who understand your needs and take them into account when they provide services to you. You trust your team to look out for you.

Are your food producers on your team? I think they should be. Food producers are the only people whose service you use every single day—the rest of your team you see when something goes wrong (sickness, audit, cracked radiator) or for preventative maintenance.

Throughout this project, we’ve campaigned for people to ask questions of their food suppliers. We've come to accept that we should ask questions of our doctors, to be active participants rather than passive consumers of health care. Are we willing to educate ourselves and become active participants in our food procurement system?

Fine, you say, but what questions do you ask?

It depends what you care about. I'll throw out what I see as some of the issues I have heard people express, just to stir the pot, and I'll also add some questions that have come up in discussions about this with consumers and with producers.

What are the issues? Everybody has their own, but here are some common ones:

1. Chemicals/Toxicity in food
2. Ecosystems and wildlife
3. Genetic diversity/heritage breeds/genetically modified organisms
4. Food miles (distance traveled) and other energy inputs (fertilizer, etc).
5. Small business versus agribusiness
6. Food safety and security
7. Humane treatment of animals
8. Human rights/treatment of workers/immigration

Without trying to create a list of questions specific to each point (because there are certain to be more that I have not thought of), here are some ideas for questions. And I should add that I recommend asking relatively open-ended questions both to avoid suggesting the answer you want to hear, and also to give the farmer the chance to demonstrate how much thought he/she has put into the process.

How do you choose what varieties to grow?

How do you promote soil fertility? (fertilizer, cover crops, rotation, etc).

What are your major pest/disease challenges and how do you deal with them?

Do you participate in any certification programs, such as Certified Organic or Integrated Pest Management?

If products contain other ingredients (such as sausages, jelly, or cheese, for example), what are they and where do they come from? Are any ingredients required by law to be in the product?

Who does the work of harvesting?

Where is your operation located?

Here are a few that are more specific to animals, and these are a bit less open-ended:

Are your animals able to move outdoors? Do they have access to shade and shelter in case of bad weather?

What type of bedding/nesting material do they have?

Are antibiotics or hormones routinely added to feed? If so, for what purpose?

What are the animals fed? Does the feed contain any animal by-products? Where does the feed come from?

How far must the animals travel for slaughter?

Kay Jensen of JenEhr Farm offered me the following recommendation: Write it down. There is bound to be more information than you can remember, and even if you can, you may not know what it all means. So go home and look it up.

On a busy market day, a farmer may be busy and have a hard time getting into specifics with you—please respect that. Maybe you can come at a different time next week, or perhaps you can email your questions (check web sites, many such questions are already answered there). But also realize that if you feel farmers are less than forthcoming with you or are being evasive, you can always find someone else who will shoot straight with you. I recommend finding team members who have sound reasons for doing what they do, and who don't mind telling you about it because they are proud of the work they do. And well they should be—they have chosen to use their work to nourish us, which is the greatest give we could ask of them. And to the farmers out there, my deepest apologies if you are bombarded by a zillion questions as a result of this!

What we ate:

Breakfast: "the usual", toast with butter (running out of peanut butter, yikes!), maple yogurt, cider.

Lunch: Jen had tortillas with Farmer John's cheese and homemade taco sauce and sauteed red onions. Evie and I had hot dogs. We shared watermelon and red pepper.

Dinner: We were invited over to enjoy a 100 mile meal at the home of friends: Summer vegetable ragout, sauteed Jordandal Farm pork, and yummy whole wheat rolls with Brantmeier Farm wheat flour. For dessert, homemade yogurt with Gentle Breeze honey.

Those of you who saw the newspaper article about our project will recall that we said that if we went to a birthday party we would have a piece of cake. Well, happy birthday, Maddie!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tuesday, August 28: Day 28

Lots of activity today. The biggest thing is probably that the Wisconsin State Journal ran a front page article about our experiment. They came to the house to chat about what we've learned and to take some pictures of us working in the kitchen. The article includes many of the resources that inspired or informed us, and we're hoping some more people will give this a try in whatever way makes sense for them.

Jen made tortillas this morning. In a very uncharacteristic move, she read the instructions carefully, and it was well worth it--by far the best tortillas we've made so far. I am officially fired as tortilla maker. Here she rinses the corn after it has soaked overnight in the lye bath to dissolve the seed coats and soften the kernels.

Later in the morning we went raspberry picking at Blue Skies Berry Farm. We learned from the owner that, "if you take care of your soil, your soil will take care of you." What she meant was that thanks to the many improvements they have made to the quality of their soil and their drainage, they were able to withstand 16 inches of rain in 2 weeks and lose nothing more than a few rows of beets and carrots.
We got a mix of orange and red berries. We're drying some, eating some fresh, and putting up some puree to fight off scurvy in the dark of winter.

In the afternoon, Jen and Evie, along with some neighborhood friends, stomped the grapes we gleaned from the neighborhood. Jen then made them into delicious grape jelly—for consumption after the experiment due to its refined sugar content.

Today's menu:

Breakfast: Toast and cider.

Lunch: Tortillas with cheese and a red chile sauce I threw together with tomato, jalapeno, onion, garlic, herbs, and vinegar.

Gnocchi with italian sausuage and swiss chard. The gnocchi were a bit dense due to the fact that I have not found any starchy potatoes yet--mostly still seeing waxy boiling/roasting potatoes. And the whole wheat flour probably contributed, too. But we did have real-live sheep's milk ricotta to make them with. Dessert was (what else?) raspberries and whipped cream.

We made a great new friend while berry picking at Blue Skies:

Frogs are considered excellent indicators of toxicity in the environment because they absorb everything through their skins. This guy was perched way up near the top of the foliage in a shady spot—I can't imagine how he got all the way up those prickly canes without getting cut to ribbons. But I will take him to be a sign of good things happening at Blue Skies. We nestled into the rows along with so many honeybees and bumblebees that the buzzing was constant (and soothing). With happy wildlife, robust and resilient soil, and a plentiful and delicious crop, I'd say they are onto something.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday, August 27: Day 27

Today the blueberries were finished drying so the poblano peppers went in. We boiled more corn for masa and are letting it soak overnight. I plucked the grapes off the stems in preparation for stomping tomorrow, sewed a jelly bag and made peanut butter. NOTE: The jelly will require non-100 mile sugar so it won't be eaten until after Sept. 1 but I am preparing some things for winter.

Breakfast was toasted baguette with peanut butter and cider. Lunch was a variation on my usual tortilla lunch. This time it was cheese curds, hot hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, jalapenos and onions. We were invited to dinner at the home of friends, they were excited to try cooking a local meal. We had wonderful chicken from Ken Ruegsegger courtesy of the Paoli Local Foods shop. We also had potatoes, corn and bread with yummy chevre cheese. We had local wine from Weggy Winery and watermelon for dessert. We also had whole milk and black raspberry smoothie from Blue Marble Micro Dairy . It was a wonderful evening and we so appreciate those who have invited us over and taken the time to think about food and buy it locally.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday, August 26: Day 26

Lots of delicious happenings here today. With our neighbors' permission we gleaned both apples and grapes from our neighborhood today. We may have an old fashioned grape stomp here tomorrow! I am drying blueberries (thank you Ruth!), when those are done the poblano peppers will go in. There are peanuts waiting to be shelled and smashed. Evie came up with a brilliant way of collecting the seeds off of some dill plants given to us by friends. I think some sauerkraut is in our future! I heard geese honking this morning in that "south flying" sort of way, I have made my list of foods I still need to preserve--it is long and this week will involve canning and freezing to be sure.

was fresh wheat bran muffins with raspberries and whipped cream on the side (it is Sunday after all). For lunch I baked some of our older corn tortillas in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes (having already cut them into wedges) and we made nachos! Delicious! For dinner we have the answer to "what do I do with all this summer squash?" It is a Japanese dish that was introduced to us by friends many years ago amidst another zucchini tidal wave. Okonomiyaki means, basically, "things you like, cooked the way you like." Or the way our friends used to explain it, "things you like, fried!" Tonight our okonomiyaki has red onions, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, bacon and cheese, bound together with egg and flour and fried up with bacon fat. Lovely green beans on the side.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Saturday, August 25: Day 25

The markets were a bit subdued today as farmers figure out how much has been lost to the floods. Several of the usual folks were not there, maybe that was on their schedule, maybe not. Richard de Wilde of Harmony Valley Farm looked haggard and sad, other farmers were expressing their relief that their crops and animals were okay.

I found out today that our wonderful peanuts are being grown by Silvan and Avis Disch THANK YOU!!!!

We purchased a wonderful array of things today, the apples are really starting to come in while corn is beginning to wane. Fall raspberries are showing up, we are hoping to go pick at our favorite raspberry farm on Monday.

Breakfast was the last of our bread (Scott comes home tomorrow, thank goodness) with cider and milk. Lunch was eggs with cheese curds, salsa, carrots and the first of the season's pears. Dinner was a thrown together number by me that was fabulous! I made a cheesy flatbread with some leftover dough and then I made broccoli romanesco. The crazy crucifer is delicious raw but tonight I sauteed it in butter, garlic, chicken stock and salt. Evie kept exclaiming, "MMMMM! This bite was even better than the last one!!" She and I both dearly love anything from the cruciferous family. The whole meal took maybe 15 minutes to make (having preheated the oven) that's a keeper!

Last day of remote posts from Massachusetts. . .

. . . and it was a good one. As is the case in so many places, Saturday means Farmers' Market in Maynard, MA. There is no question that by our usual standards it is tiny—just a few vendors. But those who do show up can have so much impact on what you eat. Here is an overview:

We were there more for research than to shop, but we did get a few things. Balance Rock Farm has a wide selection of meat and dairy: beef, pork, chicken, milk, cheese (cow's milk and goat), plus eggs and butter. A real find! We bought some bacon, sausage, and eggs. We also visited Applefield Farm for some veggies and fruit: tomatoes, melon, and onion. They have a great selection of produce, including these:

I was thrilled that the Maynard Farmers' market, small though it is, could provide so much. And it is interesting to note that both of the vendors we bought from employ organic methods but don't feel they can justify the cost of organic certification.

We brought that goodness back home and made up some pizzas. Here are two:

The foreground is a pizza caprese: olive oil (not local, of course) with heirloom tomatoes, mozzerella, and basil. The background is local potatoes, local caramelized onions, local rosemary, and imported proscuitto (it was left over from something else) and parmesan cheese. Not shown was a tomato and cheese pie with the local sausage we bought at the market.

So as my trip comes to an end, I am in a position to draw some conclusions. Local food is available, even here in the east-coast suburbs. Maybe not quite as many things as we've been accustomed to in the bountiful midwest, but if you want to, you really can buy a considerable portion of your food from local producers, which is pretty cool. Most of the farms in these areas are being coveted by real estate developers and are potentially worth millions of dollars as building lots. So if you like looking at farms near where you live, find out what you can buy to help support them and keep those farmers on the land. Otherwise you may find that beautiful pasture will someday soon contain a crop of McMansions.

Fresco Restaurant Farm Dinner Benefit

Click on the image to read the details or check out Fresco's website. Then go eat!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday, August 24: Day 24

I never get tired of the taste of freshness. For breakfast this morning I made tortillas with cheese, eggs, jalepenos, onions and tomatoes--again. Always delicious, always satisfying. For lunch I was working so I made a lunch I could eat on the run. I cut up half a head of napa cabbage (thanks Vermont Valley Community Farm) and some red peppers Then I made a dressing from peanut butter (big surprise), cider vinegar, honey, hot peppers and garlic--very yummy. I drank a blueberry smoothie (yogurt and blueberries) and ate an apple.

Dinner was at The Roman Candle a Buy fresh, Buy Local participant. We talked to the owner, Brewer (his name not his title). He said reliability and availability are the biggest obstacles for restaurant owners when it comes to buying local. They do go over to the Eastside Farmer's Market to buy tomatoes for their caprese salald, and they are trying to source all local basil for their pesto. They currently buy fruits and veggies from a local purveyor but not all the food is grown locally.

It seems the connections are not yet easy enough for restaurant owners to take advantage of what is grown here. Here's an idea right from the Farmers Diner Scott posted about a few days ago: How about a central commissary where fresh, local food can be processed and then delivered to local restaurants in the same form they can get from Sysco or other big providers? The chicken can be broken up the same way line cooks are used to, cheese can be shredded, veggies prepped--an idea like this would provide jobs and make local food a viable and reliable option for local restaurants. Something to pursue?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thursday, August 23: Day 23

We are still reporting on our eating adventures from two locations. Scott's Massachusetts musings follow my Madison meanderings.

Today life conspired to make our day a busy one. The rain that has devastated farmers also crept into my parents' basement so we worked to get that cleaned up and ate was at hand for lunch (yummy french toast by the way). Breakfast had been dryish bread because our electricity was out and we couldn't toast. Dinner was wonderful calzones made with dough I actually made! (Scott's recipe of course.) They came out really well. Mine had broccoli inside, Evie has her broccoli on the side. Tomorrow will be our one "eating out" adventure this month, Fridays are always crazy and tomorrow will be no exception. We will be picking a restaurant from the Buy Fresh, Buy Local list. Not all the ingredients in our meal will be from within 100 miles but we will be making a choice to support a local business who is buying local food. None of this is about 100% compliance to a dogma 100% of the time. It is about thinking about where your food comes from and keeping it close to home.

Eating locally: hard to start, but easy to do.

As we’ve noted elsewhere, once you track down your sources and get into a routine, getting even a large proportion of your food locally is not that difficult. For the past week I’ve been out of town, visiting my mother in Massachusetts. It’s been a struggle to locate many local resources in the short period of time I’ve been here. There are several farmstands nearby that have fruits and vegetables, but eggs, meat, and dairy are more difficult. The state department of agriculture does maintain a website to help locate local products, but most of the providers are in a different part of the state. If we lived here, it would not be a difficult decision to make a trip a couple of times a year and stock up on things that will keep. And there is a local chicken producer, but they are sold out for the year. To me, that demonstrates that the interest is there.

Yesterday I went to an outpost of a large national chain specializing in natural and organic foods, hoping they might have some local meat. Despite the fact that our checkout cashier was sporting a “buy local” pin, most of the veggies were from California and all of the meat came from “the middle of the country”, and to top it off, the beef was corn-fed. Very disappointing.

New England is a small region. A 100 mile radius from where I am could blast you right through New Hampshire and deep into Maine, so boundaries are not a good tool for determining what is local. And while eastern Massachusetts is getting very urban, there is still a lot of agriculture in the western part of the state, and plenty to choose from in the northern part of the region. If you do your homework and are willing to learn where the stuff is, there is a lot to choose from.

But the fact remains that if you breeze in for a short while, it is hard to just slip into local eating. It takes a good amount of research and a fair bit of legwork to track it all down in a new place. Our way of life (that's the big "our") is just not set up to make this easy. And you don't want to spend all your travel time chasing down food. Or maybe you do—could this be a new kind of tourism?

A highlight: we did have dinner at a great restaurant called Stone Hearth Pizza. The menu is mostly pizzas, both classics and interesting new combinations. They take a lot of pride in sourcing ingredients locally, and in fact have a sheet that names their key suppliers and even spotlights one on a rotating basis. There are lots of local beers to choose from, but it looked to me like most of the wines were from elsewhere. All in all, it was a great experience: good local food prepared well and enjoyed in the company of friends.

Tasty pizza:

And a view of the open prep area and the gas-fired oven:

If you find yourself in the Boston area, give Stone Hearth Pizza a try: they have 3 locations to choose from. And either way, visit them on the web to learn about what they are doing. Producer profiles are under the "Community" tab.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wednesday, August 22: Day 22

I wish we had a fabulous new recipe to post or exciting news about a recent find. Instead it continues to rain here and we are just sick about the farms that are now under water. It is interesting to note that little attention is being paid to food with Scott away, Evie and I are fairly easy to please and would rather play than cook. I am sure we will both be craving some more elaborate dishes by the time he gets home, but for know we are back to the old standbys: Breakfast of peanut butter toast, lunch was grilled cheese and dinner was noodles and broccoli. Nothin' fancy but all delicious. I am amazed at how easy this month has been. Of course there are things we have missed, but eating 100% local has become routine. I know we will shop differently after this month is over. I know I will preserve more food this year and I am more grateful than ever to the farmers who live and work here, allowing us to eat in place.


It has been raining off and on in Wisconsin for almost a week now. There is heavy flooding closer to MN and further south from Madison. Many farmers are hard hit, some will never recover and the farms will be gone. Harmony Valley has had 17 inches. Click here to read more.

Please continue to use your dollars to support local farmers, if you have the time and proximity pull on a pair of boots and help out.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tuesday, August 21—Day 21

A short order revolution. . .

That's what it says above the counter at The Farmer's Diner in Queechee, Vermont, which is where I had lunch today. It is a real live diner—it's even in an old railcar, see?

Still not convinced? Here's the inside:

What's so revolutionary about a diner? This one happens to source all of its bulk ingredients (meat, dairy, produce in season, and baked goods) from within a 60 mile radius. That's big. They had to make a lot of special arrangements to get this to work, but it's working. They are putting finishing touches on a second location.

As I've noted elsewhere, I am not so much a fancy-food kind of guy. So a place that dishes up diner classics done very well that are also local to their area is perfect for me.

You have to love a place that that has Wendell Berry's The Mad Farmer Liberation Front reprinted on the front of the menu!

The food? I'm pleased to say that it is everything you would hope for in diner food: quality and taste were great and portions were generous but not insane. Here is what I ate:

That's half of a bacon cheesburger and half of a pulled pork sandwich, with fries on the side. When you can't decide what to eat, you go halfsies with your dining companion (thanks, Mom). Not shown is the milkshake that came a bit later.

Here is how this stacks up relative to our dietary guidelines: All the meat and dairy are fully compliant. The bun (which was one of the best sandwich buns I've ever had) was baked locally using some imported ingredients. The fries were from local potatoes, and the shake was made from local milk and cream but contained some non-local ingredients (sugar and—gasp—chocolate. Really, what would you have done?). The garnish is local, but we forgot to ask about the pickle.

The pulled pork rocked: succulent and tender, it just melted in your mouth. The burger was also first class—really as good as you can do without going to open-flame grilling (it's a diner, so that means it is constitutionally required to cook burgers on a flat-top grill). 100% grassfed beef, of course.

In the entryway they have a map that identifies where it all comes from, and the back of the menu proudly identifies their key suppliers:

They didn't have a T-shirt to buy, but we did get the bumper sticker:

'Nuff said!

Not much to report from the WI front. Food is no longer utmost in our minds since Scott left us with plenty of bread and sifted flour. Breakfast was peanut butter toast and cider. Lunch was tortillas, eggs and toppings for Jen, hot dog and carrots for Evie, blueberries for both.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday, August 20: Day 20

Today we went to Troy Gardens on the north side of Madison.

"On 31-acres of urban property, Troy Gardens integrates mixed-income green-built housing, community gardens, an organic farm, and restored prairie and woodlands."
It was glorious! A friend has three plots there but we hadn't been in over two years. We visited the kid's garden, picked tomatoes, gathered eggs, walked the prairie and took in the smells and sounds.

This is the chicken

that gave us these eggs

to make this sandwich.

We were forwarded an interesting report regarding the US Food Supply Chain, please read through it if you have the time. It is an analysis of the question of Local vs. Organic From Far Away. It is quantitative and looks at individual food products not just broad generalizations about all foods taken together.

Breakfast was peanut butter toast and cider.
Lunch was egg sandwiches, carrots and apples.
Dinner was JenEhr chicken, edamame and roasted potatoes with herbs we got from Troy Gardens.

We also made mint tea today from Chocolate Mint we are growing in our driveway. We made peanut butter and honey cookies too. I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me to make peanut butter cookies before, they adapt to our mileage requirements perfectly. They are delicious! We added a little whipped cream tonight because whipped cream makes everything better.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday, August 19: Day 19

It has been a rainy, cozy day filled with yummy food and inspiration. For breakfast we had toast made with the delicious bread Scott made in the wood-fired oven yesterday--even he grudgingly admits it came out "okay."

Lunch was tomatoes with onions and basil, green beans from our driveway garden and pork burgers.

Dinner was homemade pasta (2 cups flour to three eggs) with onions, summer squash and tomatoes and pork sausage with garlic bread on the side. For dessert Scott whipped up some little shortcakes and we added blueberries and whipped cream for a real treat!

You may have noticed that almost everyday includes something from Willow Creek Farm. I can't say enough good things about Tony and Sue Renger. We love their philosophy, we love their products and we so appreciate their hard work. I wish I could call out every single person who is making this project possible. Thanks to all the farmers that grow the food here in southern Wisconsin, we are lucky, lucky eaters.

For inspiration we watched The Endless Feast and Chefs A' Field. We love seeing how other people are eating in place!

Scott will be out in Massachusetts this week and will be doing some remote blogging. He will still try eat locally and has some cool field trips that he will blog about. Check back often . . . we are always eating!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Saturday, August 18—Day 18

Market day today—a good haul. In addition to most of the usual staples, we had a pleasant surprise: Sugar River Dairy is experimenting with sour cream. Based on our initial testing, it's a big success.

Breakfast: pancakes made with the aforementioned sour cream, cider, and the original manna from heaven, Willow Creek bacon.

Lunch: Jen made baked tortilla chips and combined them with some home-made salsa given to us by a friend.

Dinner: We fired the wood-burning oven today, so we roasted chicken and potatoes. The chicken was very good, and the potatoes were outstanding. We used the residual heat to bake 2 loaves of sandwich bread and a batch of crackers.

An exciting development today was that we were interviewed and photographed for an article in the Wisconsin State Journal about our project. We're hoping that getting some attention for the project will cause other people to think about the same issues we are examining. We'll post links once the story comes out.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday, August 17—Day 17

What did we eat today?

Breakfast: Toast with honey and butter

Lunch: Goat cheese and crackers, carrots, cider. (Leftover pork chop for Scott)

Dinner: Sausage and onions, green beans, cherries and yellow doll watermelon.

(no photos today—most Fridays we are on the run, and this one was no exception)

Very excited for farmers' markets tomorrow (2 of them).

I had an email from a friend today—she had been reflecting on an article she read about cutting down rainforests to provide cropland for soy production. It got her to thinking about how much soy she had added to her own diet as a lean protein source, wondering where all that soy comes from.

Well, I suppose it can be hard to know. After corn, I would guess that soybeans are the #2 commodity crop grown in the US. To the extent that people see problems with conventional agriculture, be it in soil conservation, pesticide and fertilizer use, broken subsidy systems, or genetically modified stocks, soy has them all in spades. And taken as a category, soy beans have zero traceablility, which is basically the definition of a commodity crop. When you read your food labels and see "soy protein concentrate", "soy lecithin" and a million other things, this is what you are buying. That's not to say that you can't buy soy products that are not part of the conventional commodity market—I assume that you can, though I'll confess that I do not know for sure. Certainly certified organic soy products are part of a different economy, but as big as industrial organic growing has gotten, that only assures you that some of the issues above are addressed, but not necessarily all. If you care, you have to do the homework and find out.

But another thing popped into my head, and I shared this with my friend—soy is turning out not to be the wonderfood we once thought. There are a lot of compounds in soy that are suspected of mimicing hormonal effects, perhaps causing gynecological problems, among others. I also had to point out that soy is not exactly as lean as we might assume: a 4 oz serving of firm tofu has 6 grams of fat. Compare that to 4 ounces of skinless chicken breast at 1.5 grams.

We eat tofu occasionally, but we normally opt for other protein sources, some leaner and some richer than soy. Why? I'll admit that I like meat better than tofu, but tofu is fine—I'm perfectly happy to eat it. The big thing for us is that we know where the meat comes from. We get chicken from people named Kay and Matthew, beef from Jim and Rebecca, pork from Sue and Tony. If I want to know how fresh it is or how it was raised, I will just ask them, or better yet, go see for myself. But I know for sure that the meat our family eats is not implicated in any way with destruction of rainforests or any of the other issues I noted above.

That's what we care about, so that's what we choose. What do you care about? Do your choices support that?


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thursday, August 16: Day 16

Breakfast: yummy tortillas made with corn from the Rengers topped with cheese, tomatoes, jalapenos and onions

Lunch: HONEY!

Dinner: Pork chops (See "Rengers" above), amaranth sauteed with garlic, veggie kabobs and flatbread

A wonderful friend gave us honey from her hives today--Evie ate it with a spoon for lunch! The same friend gave us salsa, popcorn and cauliflower! Scott got more flour today (still has to be sifted but we didn't have to mill this batch) and cider. We also expanded our 100 miles a bit to include Island Wheat Ale from Capital Brewery. Washington Island has a unique micro-climate and they are growing all sorts of interesting grain crops.

Today is the halfway point. I am glad we are not trying this in February! We are all amazed at how much time food procurement and preparation takes. We are eating well, feeling healthy and being amazed. We also really miss chocolate--we used a free coupon from Working Assets to get a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. The ice cream was good, but I felt a little weird eating it. Where did all the ingredients come from? Did the farmers get paid a fair wage? What impact does their manufacturing plant have on their environment? Can I recycle this package? Am I caving in? Can my money still do good here?

Wow! I thought about our food before, but never so thoroughly! I think we are renewed and ready to continue.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wednesday, August 15: Day 15

Today's theme comes from our observance of two little words seen on our journeys throughout Madison: "coffee chip." It was the flavor and Michael's frozen custard today and it had Scott and I thinking of two of our favorite indulgences--coffee (me) and chocolate (all of us). I think we were all feeling deprived today because we had not laid in enough supplies to accomodate anything but our planned menus. We are out of flour again so cookies or a cake were out, we are low on milk and cream so ice cream was out. Earlier today Scott wanted a salty, crunchy snack he could just grab. The usual popcorn wasn't doing it and we are out of peanut butter. We are eating fabulously, but truth be told it is a lot of work. There really are no convenience foods that fit our rules, so if we want to grab something fast, we either make do with something fresh and whole or we need to have planned ahead.

When we reach for a snack, there are normally just one or two choices. When you eat "normally" there is typically a much greater diversity of choices. Takes some getting used to. And the planning is different, too. When you have fewer choices from which to pick, your consumption of the items you do have goes up as well. With no lemonade (a summer favorite), we are going through a lot more cider (which is also our replacement for orange juice) and milk, our consumption of which is up about 50% since the experiment began.

Today's meals:

Breakfast: Wheat bran cereal, toast with butter and/or peanut butter, cider, milk.

Lunch: Edamame, watermelon, open-face grilled cheese.

Dinner: We ran out of wheat flour, so we had Rhode Island Johnnycakes with edamame and pork breakfast sausage from Willow Creek Farm . The sausage was particularly delicious. Jen admitted that she was considering licking the fry pan, and Scott allowed as how he was thinking of sucking on the paper towel on which they were drained.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tuesday, August 14: Day 14

How deep do you go? By that, I mean how deep into the food production process do you look to determine what is "local"? For example, we have several good ice cream companies here in town. The ice cream is made here. Most of the milk probably comes from within our radius, but the sugar and many of the flavorings undoubtedly do not--chocolate, coffee, coconut, and many others. Can this still count as local? Sure, if you want it to. For the purposes of our experiment, we decided it did not. But we've always given special status to locally owned companies over national chains.

So how deep do we go? I think we're going pretty deep. We're basically buying pure ingredients for almost everything--we have bought almost no "value-added" foods, or foods which are prepared in any way. The exceptions are yogurt, which is a value-added milk product. We are eating plain yogurt, so we don't face the question of added sweeteners, etc. But our yogurt does list powdered milk as an ingredient. This week I will find out where it comes from. The the elephant in the room for us is certain meat products, specifically sausages. They have a bunch of seasonings in them that we have not accounted for—pepper, fennel, coriander, and some others, depending on the type of sausage. Some of these may be local, but some certainly are not. This kind of snuck up on us—it didn't really occur to us until we were underway, so we have opted not to make an issue of it.

The question of "value-added" foods is an interesting place to study the modern food system. What we have learned is that the realities of business make it nearly impossible to have a prepared or value-added food item that can be 100% traced back to a single local area. There is of course the question of salt, but what if we overlook that? Cheese is probably the closest we can come, but my recollection is that the enzymes and cultures the cheesemakers use are purchased from elsewhere (another one to research this weekend). This is why we like to buy directly from producers—if we want to know something we just ask the guy/gal who makes or grows it.

Of course any sort of baked item is likely to have flour from Kansas or North Dakota, maybe dairy (butter, milk, buttermilk, milk protein, etc) from Wisconsin (or New York or California), oil or shortening made from commodity crops (corn, soybeans, sunflowers, or others) that are grown all over and have no traceability at all, and perhaps sugar, which may come from Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, or any number of places (and those are just the ones inside the US).

I guess where I am going with this is that the way we conceive of something as basic as a recipe is a product of a very widely-spread agricultural economy. "The system" seeks out areas that have optimum conditions for a given crop and producers there specialize in that. So getting a 100 mile apple pie is a real trick—for the crust you need wheat that comes from a fairly dry place, and you need butter or lard which come from animals that need plenty of greenery—not much overlap between the two. And of course you need the apples, which can grow a lot of places, but not in western Kansas or North Dakota where your wheat came from. And you'll need a bit of sugar, as well. Cane sugar is a tropical crop, but beet sugar is grown in wide range of climates. But if you get sugar at the grocery store, there is only a 30% chance it is from sugar beets. Sure, you can use honey or maple syrup. Each will leave its own flavor imprint on your pie, which may be good or bad depending on your taste. One thing we can guarantee is that the pie will be really soupy, as both maple syrup and honey contain a lot of water. You could maybe add a bit of tapioca or arrowroot starch to thicken it up, but those are both products of the rainforest. . . So where where does this leave us? Nowhere in particular except to make it clear that there is no "purity" to be had, and that if you choose to learn the history of your food it is a complex plot that you may have difficulty following. But it sure is interesting, and you'll meet some great people along the way and learn a lot.

Menu for today:

Breakfast: Wheat bran cereal, yogurt with maple syrup, apple cider.

Lunch: Assorted things from the fridge (hot dogs, veggies)

Dinner: Pizza from the wood-fired earth oven. Whole wheat crust, home-made tomato sauce, Farmer John's cheese and Pecatonica Valley Farms Greenbush Italian Sausage. Yummy! Dessert of whipped cream and preserved rhubarb (probably with some sugar in it, but I am not sure, maybe honey).

Sorry,no pictures. We had good friends in from out of town and they have 4 kids 7 and under. Mayhem!


Monday, August 13, 2007

Monday, August 13: Day 13

Breakfast was delicious baguette, toasted with butter and peanut butter and cider.
Lunch for Scott was a hot dog with baguette and cider. Jen and Evie and some friends ate out today (more on that later).
Dinner was fondue made with cheese from Forgotten Valley Cheese. We dipped bread, steamed potatoes, raw summer squash and blanched green beans. We also had a cold veggie platter.

Three observations from the day:

1) We are generating almost no trash right now. The only packaging we are purchasing is milk bottles and yogurt containers which can be returned and recycled respectively. All our organic waste gets composted and office paper etc. also gets recycled.

2) Up until today we have been nearly 100% 100 mile compliant. Today, it was easier for Jen to take Evie and two friends to lunch than to come home and prepare a meal. The three young girls asked to go to a small, local place with excellent fresh food. They are not partcipating in Buy Fresh, Buy Local yet, but we can work on them. The girls specifically requested lunch at this place, knowing that they have yummy, fresh options--the next generation is thinking about their food!

3) Many people have said to us some version of the following: "I think what you are doing is great and we would love to eat like that but I could never give up X." Well, if there is only one thing maybe it is time to evaluate if you really can or can't live without it. Maybe it is time to investigate the most responsible way to obtain X (the big ones we hear about are coffee and chocolate, both of which are available in combinations of organic or fair trade or both, depending on what you value). Maybe it is time to live satisfied and happy with the amount of local goods you do buy. But spread the word. As with so many things, a lot of people doing a little is a far more powerful force than a few people doing a lot.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday, August 12: Day 12

If you walked into our house today you would be bowled over by the overwhelming feeling that you were walking into a giant tomato. I started making sauce at around 5:00 am and by the time I was satisfied with the thickness it was 3:00 pm and I had 12 quarts ready. Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year and it gives me such pleasure to put up food for the coming colder months. Luckily I have an extremely generous friend who lets me share her giant freezer--this means I can can less and freeze more! (Maybe I Can-can less too! Can you tell I have been breathing lycopene all day!)

Breakfast was a modest affair of leftover bread products and cider. Lunch was "things we can grab while we sweat" and included glorious local peaches that brought tears to my eyes with their deliciousness, tomatoes (shocking!), cheese curds, carrots, a tiny melon and apples. Dinner will be out at my parents' house and will be roasted chicken, potatoes, chard, kohlrabi, and our-of-this-world peaches and strawberries (thank goodness for the everbearing variety!)

Scott baked our bread for the week in our wood fired oven today--all 100 mile certified and delicious!

I am posting early today because we are headed out for dinner in the country and watching the Perseid meteor shower. We have been overwhelmed this week with people's generosity of time, knowledge and food. Thank you to all who are enthusiastic about our project, we are thrilled that so many people find this experiment interesting. Some of you eat like this already and want to know that there are "more out there." For others of you these ideas are new--thanks for coming along for the ride

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Saturday, August 11: Day 11

Today was, once again, food procurement day. Scott went to the Dane County Farmers' Market as usual. He also went to the Westside Community Farmers' Market (for milk and yogurt) as usual.

We also got food from two new sources today. First, we are lucky to have a friend who goes out of town at this time each year and we get her CSA box from Harmony Valley Farm (click the link for a list of what was in today's box). Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between a grower and a consumer whereby the consumer pays to cover the farm's operating expenses in exchange for a portion of the harvest. The business idea originated in Japan where the practices is called teikei, literally "putting a farmer's face on food." Belonging to a CSA is great for people interested in eating locally but who choose not to garden or who want more variety than one family's garden can provide. CSA is a relationship that provides a healthy business, healthy land stewardship and delicious food to eat! You can pick a CSA with with mostly standard produce or pick one that throws in the unusual occasionally. We had fresh amaranth greens in our box today and served them as a salad with a warm bacon and shallot vinaigrette (our vinegar is finally ready!) We also got two exotic melons (Butterscotch and Orange French) that we can't wait to try. For more info on local CSA options in Madison contact the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. Click here to find a CSA anywhere in the US.

The second place we visited knocked my socks off. It is a farm West of Madison called The Tree Farm (thanksKevin!) The place has been in business since 1973 and is a pick-your-own vegetable and tree farm. They have tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, potatoes, herbs, flowers--you name it! The quality is wonderful, the quantity is staggering, the setting is amazing and the prices and fantastic. You must bring your own containers and follow their rules (nothing onerous) and the joy of harvest can be yours. Honestly, after today I feel I never have to yearn for a giant garden again. I can go harvest every year and preserve for winter. We picked a few tomatoes (ahem!) and sauce is reducing in our kitchen as we speak.

It took the whole day and quite a few dollars to outfit ourselves for another week of feeding ourselves from our immediate surroundings. I appreciate the hard work of farmers more than ever and I marvel at the diversity and succulence of what grows right here at home.

Oh yeah--what we ate:
Breakfast: toast with peanut butter and cider and blueberries
Lunch: snacked on produce and cheese and crackers all day
Dinner: cornbread, amaranth salad with bacon, corn on the con, red peppers and cucumbers