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Archive for May, 2010

For me, eating sustainably or locally or whatever you want to call it, seems to be one steps forward and two steps back. So, for example, on  Saturday morning we went to the Farmer’s Market in Inwood. Then when we were done, we went to Costco’s.

The case of the missing wheat berries
Last weekend, when I got home from the market, I unpacked only to find that I was missing the wheat berries and black beans I’d bought. I was pretty upset, and wracked my brains wondering where they could be, until I realized that I’d probably lost  them or left them behind. So, this week, I was super psyched because the girl form the CP Organics grains and flour stall remembered that I had been so busy talking about recipes that I’d forgotten to take my black beans and my wheat berries. We also picked up some Freekeh, roasted green spelt, apparently used in Middle Eastern cooking.

I was happy to learn that what the  containers that held the grains and beans were actually not plastic but were made out of corn and were compostable. In fact, I was told they would disintegrate in the sun. And, I was really happy to learn that Hudson Valley Farmhouse said they would take back the plastic containers after my kids demolish their tri-colored pasta.

“Great,” John said. “That’s more garbage we can hang on to.”

“No, that’s more garbage that we don’t  have to put in the landfill.”

When we were done with the Farmer’s Narket, we went to Costco’s.

I know that it seems odd and maybe even slightly deranged to hit Costco’s since I am obsessing about garbage, but since I have not given up the kids food  and I needed kids food — mostly grated cheese and bananas —  and cleaning supplies.(Costco’s has some Kirkland brands that claim to be environmentally friendly.)   My justification was that there has to be some value in buying in bulk — even if that bulk creates garbage, the amount of garbage has to be less.

Lots of samples, lots of garbage
When Costco’s first opened my parents used to joke that they went there partly for shopping and partly for lunch. Well, it was around noon, and as my belly rumbled, I heard my mother’s words of wisdom. We walked the aisles of the store and as we weighed the environmental impact of watermelon from South Carolina (which we bought) or  a 25 lb bag of Basmati rice from the Himalayas in the super cool burlap bag (which we didn’t), we nibbled.

By the time we had made it to the middle of the store, we had accumulated 3 sporks each. Then, when we got to the sample of the coleslaw with dried cranberries, I asked the sample lady.

“Would you mind not giving me a fork with my sample?”

She looked confused, but she was happy to comply — for both of us.

By the time we had reached the checkout, we had accumulated 6 flimsy white plastic, sporks, and close to 20 little paper cups. We were full. but we had made a whole lot of garbage. And true to Costco’s brand promise, it was a bargain — in fact it was free.

Just say no — to baked beans

We’d skipped the baked beans sample since it came in styrofoam.

“Tell your distributor that they missed a possible sale,” I said to the boy handing out the baked beans. “Because I didn’t taste their product because the sample was in styrofoam.”

The boy stared blankly back at me, wondering if he should even bother to pretend to care about what I was saying. Eventually he nodded, and I moved on.

Here we go again. The kid food issue.

I’ve built kids who are used to eating a certain way. They like that way. They have no interest in changing.   Last night for dinner, John and I had grilled tofo with asparagus pesto on a bed of quinoa. The kids had pasta.

I said, “I can’t believe I have kids who will only eat kid food. If I had fed you what we ate from the beginning, I wouldn’t be a short order cook.”

“You should have done that Mommy,” Blaise agreed.

“It’s not too late,” John said.

“Well then we just wouldn’t eat,” Zane said.

“You’d get hungry,” I pointed out.

“It’s illegal not to feed your kids,” he tried.

“I am going to feed you. I’m just going to feed you good, healthy food.”

Blaise looked anxiously at me trying to figure out if I was serious. But Zane was ignoring me. He  took a happy bite of his Hudson Valley Farmhouse pasta. It was made with beets, spinach and pastured eggs. It was even local.  It was our common ground food.

“Can I have some more?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said. And we changed the subject. At least for now.

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My pack of string beans cost a lot more than two bucks, when you figure in the cost from the impact of the petrolium oil industry.

Today I bought a pack of string beans. They were fresh. They were trimmed. They were not organic. And they were wrapped in plastic. I was in the bodega buying a few last minute items for Blaise’s sleepover party (Yes, there are 10 10 year olds not sleeping in my living room as I write this).  The last minute items included snack foods . I bought Sun Chips and felt less guilty, although I’m not sure  that’s just not greenwashing. I also bought a big bag of pretzels and cheese puffs — I just gave into the impulse to indulge Blaise’s for his Bday.

Those big bags of snack foods was as far as I would go. I resisted the urge to buy seltzer — finally remembering that I had pledged not to buy water bottles. I made home made lemonade instead. The kids drank it happily along with water. Ironically, when I unwrapped the string beans, I realized they were packed on a styrofoam tray whichI had pledged not to buy. (Does it count that I bought it without realizing?) It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to buy styrofoam. Styromfaom is made out of petrolium.

One of my things is that I don’t understand money. I mean, I don’t get money in the big sense of how much there seems to be now a days. In my own lifetime, I have seen the world and the people who inhabit it, earn, spend and in this case collect more money than it seems humanly possible to spend.

$270 Million dollars is one of those obseenely large numbers that mean nothing to me — like the trillions they talk about in the news when they talk debt. But it is an obscene amount. And According to this post on Care2.com, the Gulf Oil Spill: 10 Horrifying Facts You Never Wanted To Know by: Beth Buczynski the he owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP is actually profiting from the biggest oil spill in US history .

“7. Transocean Ltd., the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP, has been flying under the radar in the mainstream blame game. Because of past experience with Gulf Oil spills, Transocean decided to insure the Deepwater Horizon rig for about twice what it was worth. In a conference call to analysts earlier this month, Transocean reported making a $270 million profit from insurance payouts after the disaster.”

Ethics aside, how is that even legal? But the scariest thing, (and we’re back to those big meaningless numbers here) according to a BP press release from yesterday, so far the cost of the spill to BP is aobut $930 million. This includes the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the Gulf states, claims paid. That’s excluding  consideration the other potential costs and liabilities to come associated with this travesty. It’s too early to figure that cost out.

An old consultant friend of mine once told me, “money is just a score card.” If that were true, than BP is definitley losing. But unfortunately so are the shrimp fisherman in Louisianna and everything that used to live in the sea and along the shores of the gulf.

What will it take to change how we define value with some other system beside money?  There’s got to be a better scorecard.

Meanwhile, we can sign petitions and fight legislation that protects the oil industry, but the biggest impact I think we can make is to vote with our dollars to not buy products or food that are a part of the petrolium oil chain.


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I am a working mom who wishes she could be more of a PTA mom. In fact, I feel pretty guilty that when work meetings conflict with PTA meetings, the client wins.  So when Zane’s school had a teacher appreciation lunch on Wednesday, I wanted to help.

“We need food.” Normally, I love that.
The email request for dishes and volunteers came in last week. I couldn’t take any more time off for school stuff, but I could cook. In fact, I had had  such great success making no  knead bread on Sunday, I offered to do it for the luncheon. The PTA vice chair came back with,” We really need an entree. We have a lot of salads and desserts, but no entrees. Something like ziti or lasagna that serves 20 people.”

Did I mention it was Ziti for 20?
Ok. It didn’t sound like such a big deal. My impulse was to say of course. I wanted to say, of course. And I did quickly write back, of course.  But, I’m not really a ziti person. Sure,  I’ve made it before. I just have never made it when I was committed to only buying locally. And as soon as I sent the email,it suddenly dawned on me,  how am I going to make ziti without making garbage?

When in doubt, Google a recipe
I found a recipe on the Muir Glenn website which sounded ok. It included fire roasted tomatoes and  zucchini.I love fire roasted tomoatoes. And zucchine seemed like a nice touch, something to make the dish less of a boring pile of carbos. These were my kid’s teachers, I wanted it to be a little special.

My tried and true pasta dish for a crowd is tortellini in sun dried tomato pesto.
Tortellini for twenty is actually easy — as long as you have time for a trip to Costcos, which I didn’t. Besides, I don’t think local means that buying an over-sized  frozen bag at the Costcos in Yonkers. Yonkers may be local, but who knows where that tortellini comes from.

Sun dried pesto is both  delicious and beautiful
It wasn’t that the sun dried tomatoes I love from the Turkish market on 40th street are imported, it’s just that  it didn’t occur to me that pesto was an option. Which was ridiculous. I’m good at making pesto.  Pesto is in my culinary comfort zone. But the request for ziti or lasagna through me into a panic.  I couldn’t think straight. So on Tuesday night I found myself back at  Whole Foods.

Shopping consciously? Or just being neurotic?
Ok. You may think my issues are more neurotic than environmental. But when you see what’s in my muddled brain, you’ll see the two do actually intersect — how  every time I face a consumable potential purchase, I feel like I’m stuck in a life-sized version of Suduku. There is no relationship between price and quality and safety and sustainability . Sure I have a tendency to over think things, but lack of clarity makes choosing anything really hard. You really have to dissect and analyze every little decision.

A strawberry is not a strawberry,
For example, the small pint of strawberries I bought at the Farmer’s Market last week were ridiculously delicious. There were also the sustainable choice, although they probably had a trace amount of pesticides. The strawberries I bought at Whole Foods in the middle of my Ziti crisis tasted ok and they were organic. But they came on a truck from California.  They were about the same price as my Farmer’s Market beauties, but the box was twice as big. Was the gas they cost the environment worth the health benefit to my kids — especially since right now the only fruit I have been buying for them is apples (local) and bananas which I try to buy organic but have decided to allow despite the fact that they are flown in from Ecuador since they are one of Zane’s staple foods.

How many worried moments does it take to make a ziti?
Organic zucchini from California or conventional zucchini from Mexico? That one was easy. The organic was only a few dimes more and California is closer, right? Organic whole wheat pasta? Store brand white pasta? Or artisan local?

“How come?” John asked, “the pasta from New Jersey is three times as expensive as the pasta from Italy?”

Good question. I bought the cheap stuff. A lot of it. And for the record, 3 pounds of pasta makes a whole lot of noodles.

When we got to the tomatoes, I actually skipped the Muir Glen. Even thought I love fire roasted tomatoes, I was worried, in light of the recent presidential report on the prevalence and potential harm of BPA, that  Muir Glenn cans might contain BPA,. (When I got home, I did a quick internet search, and it seems likely they do.)For the mozzarella, I bought fresh local, made in Brooklyn. Was it made from what Blaise calls  pus milk — milk that’s not from grass fed cows? Maybe. But it was local, a buck less a pound than it’s Italian counterpart and it was outstanding.

Why did I buy that broccoli?
My final irrational, panicked purchase was a bag of frozen organic broccoli. Don’t ask me why? It wasn’t in the recipe. It made garbage and had the environmental impact from it’s processing. (I could practically see it sweating crude oil like a bloody corpse in a horror movie.)

The best ziti ever. Not.
Despite all my worry and my good intentions, I don’t think it was the best ziti ever.  Still, it wasn’t the worst.  And according to the PTA moms who went to the luncheon, along with everything else, it got eaten.

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In light of my last post chastising the world for not jumping on my green bandwagon (now that I finally woke up and smelled the garbage), I thought I should blog about something fun and inspiring.

The bottle boat sails to Sidney
The Plastiki is  a boat made from t2,500  plastic bottles,  reclaimed aluminum and a proprietary  100 percent re-use cashew and sugar glue.  Inspired by Kon Tiki, the
raft used by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl in his 1947 expedition across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands, the Plastiki mission is to sail from America to Australia, raise awareness, and “beat waste.” It looks like they are about 3/4s of the way to Sidney, but you can track their voyage at the Plastiki control center.

The My Plastiki Pledge
I took the Myplastiki pledge to not use plastic bottles, bags or styrofoam. And since I have been feeling so desolate about whether my drop in the bucket is making a difference, I found these statistics really heartening:

According to Myplastiki.com, the Pacific Ocean alone is polluted with about 100 million tons of floating trash, 80-percent of which came from land-based sources. But they promise that my individual effort directly affects that number by stopping its rise.  By pledging to stop using bottled water, plastic bags and styrofoam containers, they say I will eliminate an average of about 170 plastic water bottles, 330 plastic bags, and 20 pounds of polystyrene foam containers, cups and packaging.

Frightening fact from the site
Nearly every plastic bottle made still exists today.” I wonder about that as a scare tactic. All those years when I was putting my plastic bottle into the recycling bin, did they not  get crushed up and reused? Or by “exist”, do they mean floating around in some way or another — maybe in landfills, maybe floating in iceberg like chunks in the oceans, maybe in the bottom of rivers,  maybe in made from recycled bottles. I wonder. I guess I need to put it on  my list of things to find out which I am now formalizing into a page.

This raises an ethical question. I haven’t bought a bottle of anything since I started the CalibansKitchen blog. But I have from time to time grabbed a bottle of  water, especially during work. Often there will be bottles of water bought for a meeting and from time to time I have grabbed one. My thought was, they were bought already, so why not drink them. But maybe if nobody took those bottles of water (or complained about them), catering would stop bringing them.

Plastiki Reggatta
I think Blaise and Zane would be super psyched to create mini Plastiki boats that they could sail. It might be fun to get build boats and get them ready to sail in the boat pond in Central Park on or around when the real boat hits Sidney Harbor. Anybody interested in joining in?

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Not having eggs in the house was really freaking me out. So, Friday I was determined to get to Union Square. Of course I didn’t.

The Union  Square Farmer’s Market is becoming like Shangri-La to me. I just can’t get there, no matter how much I try. Yet I can practically see it through the clouds, just 30 odd blocks down Madison.

Why didn’t I make it to the Farmer’s Market on Friday? I’d like to say meetings. But the real answer would be lack of boundaries. And an inability to prioritize myself. I said to K. something about how hard it was to get things done. She thought I was talking about work. I said that no, I was talking about buying eggs. She said yes, the way I was doing things was hard. “I don’t know how someone with a job like you is going to keep this up.”

But my question is, why do people feel like making less garbage and trying to have less impact on the planet is optional?

Today at the Inwood Market I asked the recycling guy what I could do with all my other plastics — not the ones the city recycles and not the #5s that I can take back to Whole Foods. He shrugged, “I dunno.”

“Why doesn’t the city recycle the rest?”

“A majority of people don’t even recycle what they city is set up to take.”

(I’m not surprised. Until recently I was one of them.)

“But what about the rest of us? We would recycle.”

He just shrugged again. “It doesn’t make economic sense. Why would the city invest in programs people aren’t going to use?”

Ok, I just don’t know what to do with a statement like that. If people ran traffic lights, would they just take them down. I thought the way it worked was that we make rules based on societal beliefs of right and wrong. Isn’t  poisoning the planet a wrong. It seems that it’s optional.

There are so many people in New York. Now that I have begun to try to stop making garbage, I have had to face just how much I make. I have bags and bags of plastic that I don’t know what to do with. I’m staring at a Hudson Valley Farmhouse pasta container; I bought the pasta at the a Farmer’s Market. Is that pasta I bought greener than the pack I used to buy at Whole Foods? The eggs are pastured. That’s better. It’s locally produced. That’s better. But I still have  piece of plastic that I don’t know what to do with.

“Can you reuse?” the recycle guy asked me.

“Sure,” I said. “But I have too much.”

On a happy note, the pasta was delicious. I believe that since it was made with pastured eggs, it was more nutritious too.  And, we bought an box of strawberries that were unbelievably yummy. I brought them to brunch today and everyone agreed that the quality was well beyond what we normally get in our supermarket flats. As M’s husband accurately described: “They taste like candy.”

And they did.

When I asked the farmer before I bought them, “Are these organic?”

“Nah,” he said.

“Do you spray them?”

“If I need to,” he said.

“Did you spray these?”

“Nah. But I used a nitrogen based fertilizer.”

That means the strawberries were fertilized with an industrially-produced compound. Industrial produced fertilizers have an impact on the environment in both the fossil fuel used to create them and the way their toxic run off messes with surrounding lakes and streams and the creatures that inhabit them. Philosophically I’m not supposed to buy that kind of produce, but the Farmer’s Market surrounding messes with my head — sort of lulls me into a pastoral denial.

The sun was shining. The park greenery was all around. I swear to god, the birds were chirping in the background. There was even a couple in the line in front of me — the classic young beautiful Manhattanites — finishing off the picture. Their toddler rode in the shopping cart, standing next to 21$ worth of grass fed milk (3 bottles) and the mom, blond, thin and delicate as spring Ramp carried the baby in a front pack. They were chit chatting with their neighbor about the dad’s tv show which had been moved from NBC to some cable channel – Lifetime maybe? Apparently it was doing wonders for their viewership. . They were buying strawberries — so they had to be safe, healthy and green, right?

I want a simple equation. Farmers Market equals safe, supermarket equals evil. Unfortunately it’s not that easy.

Why does it have to be so complicated?

The bottom line  —  I’m not always sure that what I buy at the Farmer’s Market is perfectly organic or free of pesticides, but it certainly tastes a whole lot better.

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May day. May day.

I lost it on the subway this morning.

“Holy fucking shit. I forgot the bags.”

We were climbing down the long steps to the subway platform and my harsh words echoed nastily off the dome-tiled ceiling. Even though I could hear the harshness, I couldn’t contain myself. My blood was boiling and John looked distressed.

“What do you need bags for?”

“Eggs.” I spit out. “We need eggs.”

“I’ll bring you bags before lunch,” he said.

He hates it when I boil over. It makes him anxious. It throws him for a loop.

“No you can’t,” I said. “I have a meeting at 11:45. You won’t get to me in time.”

He knew to back down and let me just stew for a bit.

Before I had left, I had found an Internet recipe for no-knead bread I wanted to try.  I just finished Michael Pollan’s Omnivores Dilemma, where I learned that you could actually harvest your own yeast.  The recipe talked about it.

Harvesting yeast sounded like metaphysical magic to me. The idea that yeast lives in the air is a bit unbelievable. It feels like a metaphor for what’s going on with me right now. There’s so much available to us – it’s literally in the air – yet we, or maybe just I, am oblivious.  Is it just me? It sort of feels like it.

My search for no-knead bread lead me to a recipe on website called Culinate – an online enclave of beautiful and happy people who make slow eating look easy. The website version of the slow eating, or sustainable food, world is glossy, polished and styled.  But that doesn’t feel like my experience. For me I’m not breezing by. Not by a long shot.

By the time I reached work I had cooled down and realized that forgetting the bags, was an obstacle, but not one I couldn’t overcome. Right before we left for Union Square, I scoured the office, an voila I found an old  plastic bag under my desk. E. had a few more. We jumped in a cab and went downtown.

It was another bright beautiful Spring day. And Union Square is lovely. Plus, I have really been jonesing to check out this Farmers Markets of  Farmers Market with my new perspective. Plus, at home the larder is bare. Not only do we not have eggs, we don’t have apples. And Blaise had requested a cheese sandwich with the organic cheddar I had bought near T’s house in Jersey. Finally, a point of intersection between his kid tastebuds and my food values. I wanted to encourage that.

The cab dropped us off on the north east side of the park. There were no trucks or stalls. Then I suddenly realized, Thursday, is one of the few days there is no Farmers Market in Union Square.  Shit.

I called John.

“You have to go to the green market in Port Authority.” I said with the gravity of a secret agent sending her compadre on a mission. “We need eggs.”

“Ok. I’ll go now. What am I asking for?

“Pastured eggs. And a few apples.”

“Organic apples?”

“No,” I said feeling the mixture of guilt and confusion swirl around in my stomach. “ I know they say I’m suppose to feed the kids organic apples, but I have been buying local.”

There was silence on the other end of the line.

“You can call me.”

“Ok,” he said, ” I’m off.”

Ten minutes later the phone buzzed in my pocket.

“This green market is not what you’d expect,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

He hesitated.

“It’s small?” I asked.

“You could say that.”

“Did you find eggs?”

“Yes. But they’re free run.”

“What’s free run?”

“I don’t know.”

“Ask.”

I heard him mouthing my question

“It’s better than free range.”

“Why?”

“They run around more.”

“Do they eat organic feed?”

“Free run or free range can’t be organic. They’re pecking at the ground.”

“Do they eat vegetarian feed?”

I heard John asking the question.

“She isn’t sure. She doesn’t think so.”

I could picture him in some dark corner of Port Authority. Two months or so ago, when I asked the lady in the TerraCycle store had told me there was a Green Market every Thursday in Port Authority I couldn’t believe I hadn’t known. I felt bad that week after week I was walking by an opportunity to shop with a conscience.

“Don’t’ buy them.” I said.

So now we still have no eggs, we don’t have bread because I haven’t had time to bake. We don’t have any fruit at all.

“Why don’t you go shopping Mommy?” Zane complained later. “Why don’t we have food in the house?”

Well, it’s a good question.

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It didn’t hurt that it was a brilliantly sunny day — the kind of day when everything is sharp and in focus. The sky was as blue as a story book. The grass was as green as blanched asparagus. Even the stream  gurgling out by the back patio sparkled as it ran past a bank of pansies.

We were killing time between a Bat Mitvah ceremony and the Bat Mitvah party. It was serendipitous that we passed the rough wooden sign that read “Organic Farm Stand. Open between 10 and 2 Saturday.”

I had been worried how I was going to get food for the week. Saturday was becoming my Farmer’s Market day since we needed to be in Washingtonville, about an hour and half outside the city, by 10:30 am. I thought about getting up at 6 to run to the Farmer’s Market in Inwood. Right.  Running to the Farmer’s Market in Union Square during lunch has pretty much been a pipe dream. I had already conceded that maybe I would need to go to Whole Foods and find the few things that hadn’t been flown in from Mexico. Then we passed Bloominghill Farm.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as we drove down the dirt driveway. To our left the landscape was uninspiring and expected — just a few  run-of- the mill suburban back yards.  We saw a  swing set, a man mowing the lawn on a ride-on tractor, and a bit in the distance, a pool.  In front of the road turned to a path that led to a few structures — an old weather- beaten barn in the front, and beyond that a series of long greenhouses.

Inside, the barn was large and airy. Along one wall, there was a bar were they were selling baked goods, coffee, charming mason jars of lemonade and iced tea. A chalk board advertised delicious breakfast treats.  Out in back by the stream, there were tables where you could enjoy your delicious breakfast in a calm, tranquil, pastoral setting.

John pointed to a row of daisies in milk bottles decorating a shelf between two of the rooms, and commented on how beautiful the art direction was. Then we saw a notice that they were filming a documentary about organic food that day. But, they couldn’t have just set the stage for that day — the place was lovely. I would drive up for breakfast in a minute.

And in the middle of the room, there was a cornucopia of beautiful veggies. We bought big bags of spinach, organic potatoes (and sweet potatoes), onions, garlic, delicious baby greens, leeks, mushrooms — even broccoli raabb. Everything looked beautiful. Everything was affordable. And there was variety. I was especially excited about the garlic. The Inwood Farmers market has not had garlic for weeks — I have a really hard time living without garlic.

At the end, when I was checking out, I noticed a jar of corn meal. It was only a dollar a pound, but the woman selling, through a bag in for free. It’s thick and chunky and last night I used it to  make a super flavorful polenta which I topped with a ragout of mushrooms and leeks braised in red wine. Yum. Tonight,  I grilled the leftovers and ate it with a spinach soup which I topped with a spinach and walnut pesto. Can’t wait to eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Bloominghill Farm:

Saturdays 10:00AM to 3:00PM, Sundays 10:00AM to 2:00PM
1251 Rt. 208 / Blooming Grove, NY 10914
(845) 782-731

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