Reconnection and Colorado Sunshine

For a few weeks, our class has officially traded the heat of gas burners and convection ovens for the warmth of a Colorado sunshine. I’ve also inadvertently traded a working internet for a non-working one, but that little challenge has finally been resolved. Grateful to be reconnected.

As much as I love the kitchen, I’ve found my own little heaven weeding row upon row of three-inch fledgling cucumber plants. There’s something innately satisfying with removing obstacles and encouraging life. It sounds melodramatic. But I’m finding it incredibly fun.

We’ve spent time at two local farms which have completely different approaches to agricultural production both within ethical and sustainable parameters. It’s fascinating. Mornings can be early and days could seem endless, but how often can I say “we planted 100 thousand lettuce seedlings today?” We did. And in about three weeks they’ll look like this.

I’ll continue to get my hands dirty for the next few weeks on a larger scale, and they’ll surely stay somewhat soiled playing in my patio garden for the rest of the season.

And amid the recipes and farmers’ market photos I may just drag you back onto the farm and into the sunshine another time or two…

Captivated by a Squash Blossom?

Markets of fresh local produce are completely captivating. And a sunny Colorado Saturday piled high with greens and seedlings, flowers and sprouts was definitely welcomed after what my neighbor has wittingly dubbed “Cake Week 2012.”

And I’ve heard rumors that he’s made quite an incredible cake this week himself, so I’m feeling lucky to be living where I do. And I could probably squeeze in one more bit of cake this week. You know, if I had to.

But to be honest, a market can lure me in no matter what I’ve been eating. Or what else I probably should be doing.

Last October, I spent an entire day wandering through Mercato Centrale– a mind bogglingly huge and well-stocked farmers’ market in the center of Florence, Italy. As the first time I’d really traveled anywhere on my own, I had the leisure to do exactly what I wanted. And change my mind on a whim without consequence.

I’d planned to take a quick stroll through the market and consume most of the day in the Uffizi Gallery, as any self-respecting cultured visitor on her first trip to Florence should.

But I was fascinated in the market by whole chickens with their talons stiffly and eerily waving from the cold cases. All parts of cows and pigs were available to turn into dinner- snouts, tails, organs, tongues, ears, tripe.

Cheeses made from sheep, cows and goats from farms I’d ridden by on my bicycle just two days earlier were neatly stacked around a hanging scale. Red currants, plump and fresh, were still lined up like little soldiers on their tiny branches. Heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruits so unique I couldn’t even place them all were around every corner. Squashes and zucchinis still had the blossoms attached. Incredible.

I never made it to the Uffizi. I stayed at the market that day until it closed. And I left with a mildly unsettling confusion. And cheese, and oils and fruits. But I also left knowing something in me had changed. For the first time in far too long, I’d unconsciously chosen to do what captivated me instead of what I thought I should be doing.

So I’m a different person because of a market. Yesterday as I bought arugula for dinner and red onion starters for a few patio pots, I couldn’t help but also leave with a reminder to do what captivates. And somehow, I think everything else will fall into place~

Food: Six Steps to Eating More Sustainably

I must admit as I begin this post that I’ve debated on exactly how to approach the subject of eating sustainably without loosing most readers within the first line. This seems to be an issue which evokes a full spectrum of responses: red hot passion on one end, and a complete laissez-faire response on the other. If you fall in the latter, thank you for making it through an entire paragraph.

And wherever you fall in the spectrum, I’m simply hoping this post will make you think. If it  provokes you to learn more, educate someone else, or change something small about the way you live, then that’s even better.

One short definition to get us on the same page, and then six simple changes you can make. Choose all six. Or choose one. Or just choose to become more aware…

Sustainable agriculture involves food production methods that are healthy, do not harm the environment, respect workers, are humane to animals, provide fair wages to farmers, and support farming communities.” This quote is taken directly from SustainableTable.org, an incredible resource for education on eating and living more sustainably.

1. Plant a garden. It can be huge or it can be tiny. I live in a 600sqft condo and my patio is full of pots just waiting for the last frost to pass. Find a Community garden or a neighbor with a garden and offer to help. This is as fresh and local as it can get.

2. Support your local CSA. Fresh food for you while supporting local farmers and building community: to learn more about Community Supported Agriculture read this. To find a CSA near you check out this Department of Agriculture page.

3. Visit and buy products from local Farmers Markets. Many markets offer not only local fruits and vegetables, but also surprisingly affordable partial animal purchases, fresh eggs, and dairy products that are produced sustainably. Find a farmers market near you with this easy search tool.

4. Dine and shop sustainably. It’s easier than ever to find stores that sell and restaurants that serve food that has been grown or raised with sustainable methods. Click here and simply enter your zip code. By choosing to support these vendors, you are in essence casting your vote to maintain sustainable food for all of us.

5. Read labels and ask questions. Begin to discover what you’re eating, where it comes from, and how it is produced. Unfortunately, an organic label or picture of a happy farm on a food package does not necessarily equate to wholesomeness. Learn what to ask here and how to shop here.

6. Watch a movie or read a book about the actual state of food in our nation. After watching Food, Inc last week in class, I cried on the drive home. And have several times since. But that’s exactly why I’m compelled to sneak this post in between the fresh pastas and close-up cookie shots. This truly matters. Food, Inc is available on Netflix and is about ninety minutes. The Meatrix is a bit hokey, but has a good message and can be seen in less than four minutes by clicking here. Any book by Michael Pollan, such as The Omnivore’s Delimma or In Defense of Food, will make you think.

And thinking is the first step. Think. Act. Enable change.