Thursday, August 9, 2007

Thursday, August 8: Day 8

What did we eat today?

For Breakfast: Toast with butter and/or peanut butter and Raspberry Yogurt smoothie from Sugar River Dairy (probably a bit of a cheat as I think it has sugar in it, but it was a gift from a very supportive friend)

For Lunch: Grilled cheese (hooray, the king is back!) with tomatoes from the driveway.

Dinner: Leftover roast chicken, sweet corn, boiled potatoes with herb butter, green beans sauteed with tomato sauce, shallots, and some other goodies (they were getting a bit old), and Jen's signature beet slaw (grated beets sauteed with jalapenos and shallots). They were chiogga beets, which is why they look sort of putty-colored in the photo. Fresh they are spectacular. If you cut one it reveals concentric rings of white and bright pink.

As you can see, we now have sandwich bread, which Jen and Evie are thrilled about. I myself have turned into the bread grinch. I think it is too crumbly and both too bitter and too sweet at the same time. Instead of rising and doming in the pans, as soon as it cleared the top it oozed over the side so I had to flop it back in. I'm glad my family is happy with it, but truly there is no accounting for some people's taste.

Now for the lecture. . .

Someone asked recently what we normally eat. I think that the underlying question is, how much of a departure is this for us, really?

In terms of menu, in a typical week (where we are home all 7 nights), I would guess that 1 or 2 nights we make something super-fast because we have to be someplace. Examples would be grilled cheese or breakfast-for-dinner (pancakes, french toast, or scrambled egg sandwiches). Basically something with zero prep. Then we have a bunch of "routine" meals that we make so often that they go together quickly, such as pizza (we know how to time it so well that even homemade crust seems quick), stir fry, burgers or sausage on the grill, any of several noodle dishes, etc. These cover us for probably 4 nights a week. Then once or twice in a week we'll have something more elaborate. Often it's something new we saw on a cooking show, sometimes it is an old favorite that takes a lot of elbow grease. Mexican flavors are a favorite, roast chicken or turkey, onion soup gratinee, and any number of dumplings (dumplings are something of a specialty of mine), such as potstickers, latkes, meatballs, samosas, steamed pork buns, pan-fried gnocchi, and some others. Not that the finished meals are always elaborate--they seldom are--but I like to fuss over things in the kitchen, and if you've ever made samosas, you understand the time commitment.

In terms of the substance of what we eat, there are some things that are off the table with a 100 mile radius in effect. The list of kitchen staples I normally rely on but am currently without is a bit grim—olive oil (how about "all of" oil, as I have no liquid fats at all), black pepper, balsamic vinegar, curry powder, cumin, coriander (could probably get this if I could figure out how to harvest it from a cilantro plant), white and brown sugar, citrus, and on and on. As Jen noted previously, at this time of year there is so much in season that you can eat fresh and do just fine--but this project does give an increased understanding of where the stuff in all those little bottles comes from. The modern kitchen is like a United Nations in a cupboard. I guess there's a reason people were willing to pay someone to sail around the world and collect the stuff for them as far back as the 1600s (1500s?).

But back to the question. Most of the mass of what we eat is normally procured from local sources--the meat, eggs, milk, cheese, and vegetables in season. Dry goods are the big exception--sugar and flour (and man, do we go through flour). For most of the year, we have 3 food shopping destinations—a farmers market, our natural foods co-op (the excellent Willy Street Co-op) and a mainstream grocery store. This felt weird to me, but I just heard a story on NPR that it has become typical for Americans to hit 2 or 3 stores to get everything they want, so I guess at least in this respect we are somewhat typical. At the grocery store we normally get some dairy (still local!), stuff like orange juice, and some prepared items like crackers, plus household supplies like garbage bags, toilet paper, and soap (and our beloved Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips which they have at a great price--oh how I miss them). As the selection of fresh stuff at the farmer's markets falls off we shift more to the Willy Street Co-op (non-local organics out of season, of course). By mid-winter the farmer's market is pretty much down to meat, potatoes, cheese, eggs, maple syrup, and honey (heaven for me, but I am told you can't live on it, so we are forced to shop elsewhere to supplement).

So that gives you a picture of what our food life is like most of the time. We are all eager to see how much our shopping, cooking, and eating habits change as a result of this experiment.


Out to Lunch

There are two takes on the above phrase, this post will address both.

1) What if you are really committed to supporting local small farms, what if you love fresh local flavors AND what if you want to go out for lunch? Luckily there is an exciting new campaign out there called Buy Fresh, Buy Local. Buy Fresh, Buy Local is the brainchild of the FoodRoutes Network which creates partnerships with community-based nonprofit organizations across the country already involved in nurturing strong regional markets for locally grown foods. Each local organization creates and implements a Buy Fresh, Buy Local marketing campaign to bridge the gap between community farmers and consumers. Thanks to REAP (Research, Education, Action, and Policy on) Food Group you can click here for the Buy Fresh, Buy Local participants in Madison. Click here for a list of all the local organizations (nationwide) involved with Buy Fresh, Buy Local. Don't see your favorite restaurant? Give them the above Madison (or national) link and ask them to contact the local coordinator!

2)The other meaning of "out to lunch" is checked out, uninformed, uninterested or not paying attention. Someone left a comment a few days ago that they enjoy our blog but feel it should be reaching people who don't already know about benefits of local eating the, "HCFS devotees," or people who may not have easy access (for whatever reason) to local food. One of the best ways to reach people with these ideas is to feed them. Here in Madison we have Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch: A Midwest Farm-to-School Program. The mission of Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch is:

"To introduce healthy foods grown locally and sustainably to Wisconsin schoolchildren while developing stable markets for the producers and processors of those foods. By building respectful, working relationships between school educators, the school food service and our local food producers, we will establish a Midwest farm-to-school model to grow and thrive into the future."
Again, REAP is leading the way. Can you tell I love this organization?

So, it all comes back to eating. Choose restaurants that participate in Buy Fresh, Buy Local. Introduce the idea to restaurants that don't know about it yet. Feed people fresh, local, sustainably raised food, get them involved in the growing and preparation and the devotion will follow.