Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pelé & Pickles

I've been a bit distracted from the food business, what with all the soccer and kittens and the dyke marches and hot days that require dipping in lakes, streams, baby pools, and oceans.

Yes, we've trapped some kittens at the Beacon train station that need homes, so if you know anybody interested and responsible, please have them email The three we've caught so far are all boys, all super playful and sweet.

One of the rescued kittens we're trying to find a home for got named Pelé. I was obsessed with Pelé as a kid, since my #1 soccer team was green and I was #10. Alas, I wasn't great at the sport. (I was obsessed with Muhammad Ali, too, but never inspired to take up boxing.) I'm not much of a sports follower, since I think they're much nicer to participate in than to watch on tv, but the World Cup is an exception. I was proud to be sitting under a magazine cover of Pelé while watching Ghana knock out the U.S. Thank goodness we had vuvuzelas, because we would have otherwise been unheard in that sweaty little bar of people chanting "U.S.A.". Rooting for other countries elicits funny responses from people: the Brazil flag hung outside our house got our neighbor to immediately put our her U.S. flag. She's not interested in soccer, only patriotism.
wintergreens is struggling to figure out its future (it's cool to be transparent about this, right?), since running a food biz or org these days is challenging. Other handmade food biz people talk about how amazingly time-consuming and expensive it is to do, and it's true, it is. It's outrageous! I shouldn't have, but I bought a huge watermelon this weekend that, of course, was shipped from far south, since our watermelons won't be ripe for a long time. All that shipping and handling, and all the effort to grow that melon, and it only cost $2.99. And it's one of those creepy seedless kind, so you can't even save the seeds to plant next year. How are small food producers to deal with this? It's hard for me to resist my frugal impulses, even, with all the information about food systems I have, and while in the middle of a struggle to promote food-done-right. Exhibit A: cheapo seedless watermelon from far away.

I looked at the wares of Brooklyn pickle makers Brooklyn Brine and McClure's in Whole Foods in the city. I support what they're doing, but would I have to can or vaccuum pack my pickles (kill off half of their good qualities) and sell them for $11 a jar to make it? To many, that price tag would be laughable.
Thinking about all this is a bummer. And I read this dumpster diver's blog and think that if I were truly brave I'd cut out some of my (personal, not business) costs this way. Back in college, when Dunkin Donuts instructed their employees to dump bleach on the donuts they threw away so that the homeless people wouldn't eat them, my friend invited all the neighborhood homeless people to the shop an hour before closing, gave them all the donuts, and served free coffee. She was fired, so her good deed and hard work doing outreach went unrewarded. How do you make good work rewarding enough that you get to continue it?

So let's just say I've been happy to be in kitten land and soccer land, and plot how and when I'll get to the beach. I have to get back to work though, so help me find these kitties homes, and send your hot tips for how to survive in the handmade food business.

I promise, new recipes, tales of prison food, and much more coming soon.

Friday, June 18, 2010

" '10 was a good year...."

If kombucha tastings worked like wine tastings, that's what the sniffers and swirlers would be saying about wintergreens' lastest bottles of kombucha. These are (left to right) bilberry, lemon ginger, and elderberry, and they taste fantastic.

We can't get local sugar or tea leaves, but we can use local flavorings, so watch out for forthcoming flavors: currant, mulberry, wild blackberry, rasberry, pear, lilac, and juneberry.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fresh Peas & a Home Haircut

A shrink I had many years ago told me I self-medicated by eating enormous amounts of peas.

I don't know if she was referring to all the sugar or if peas have some other magical happiness-boosting component. I can say that squatting and picking peas for hours this morning under the big sky felt great, and that I did consume at least a pound between the time spent picking and the trip home.

I gave myself a haircut this morning, too, which also makes me happy. When people cut their own hair in movies they're usually experiencing a break. Think Jodie Foster in The Accused or Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias. Actually, didn't that gorgeous actress playing crazy in Betty Blue chop her hair, too? Since I cut my own hair often, I'd like to think that my chops are not the result of trauma, instead, just plain cathartic. To me, it feels much like tidying up the kitchen. Clean, fresh, ready for anything.

Friday, June 4, 2010

No Tofu

Alert to regulars—there will be no fresh tofu tomorrow at market.

I am sad to report that our friend Mickey, our regular tofu-talking delivery guy, has passed away. I'm kind of glad there will be a gap in tofu sales—it seems only proper that Mickey's death should disrupt us!

Please forgive our soy pause while our thoughts are with Mickey's family and friends, and we'll be back to our regular programming soon. We'll have plenty of other goodies available at the Cold Spring Market tomorrow morning, including seitan, cashew cheese, spicy beer mustard, and a bunch of varieties of pickled veggies.

"Responsible" Meat Eating

I went to a kitchen store in Brooklyn over Memorial Day weekend. They started up in the last couple of years, gave interesting classes in their tight space, and sold vintage cookware alongside the new. I loved this store. Not only did they have nice tools, they had good aesthetics, and were a small player who gave helpful individual advice. They seemingly had good politics: people rode their bikes there, they taught customers about preservation and reuse, and talked about locally produced food. They sold old school tools like pickling crocks. It seemed like they were a part of the movement to take things back into our own hands, and do them better than big business would.

They still exist, yet I write about them like it's over. That's because they've moved into a big space with a proper kitchen classroom and joined up with another business, a butcher. There's a full deli counter, barbeques big enough to roast whole pigs, and a room that I never fully looked at, because I was convinced it is where they butcher animals, and teach other people to kill animals themselves. I had no evidence, just a vibe. A strong, awful feeling, that came from more than just the smell of the place.
If I think about Brooklyn Kitchen's move from a purely business perspective, I get why they did it. The new space is huge, they can now sell all kinds of foods and conduct proper classes, and the meat will be a draw for a lot of hipsters, who think local bacon is the new black.

Seeing this, acknowledging this, really set me off in a spin.

I meet ex-vegetarians every day who now eat meat because they can get it from a local farmer at the farmer's market or specialized shop. Coffees are being made with bacon, my popsicle guy put bacon in one of his new flavors, Beacon's most popular buying club (traditionally for bulk grains and beans) is centered around local meat. I went into a shop for a vegan cookie the other day, and boar soup was on the menu.

Twenty years ago I went to brunch at a Seattle vegetarian restaurant on April Fool's Day. Their menu for the day included "easter" rabbit, spotted owl, sea turtle soup, all in fancy preparations. Gullible, I got upset before getting the joke. It didn't seem farfetched enough to me, I guess, and seems even less so now. These days, it seems practically everyone thinks it's okay to eat animals.

Except that we know better. We've read the China Study and the new U.N. report. We know how animals raised for food affect the environment, hunger, and our drinking water. We know that free range doesn't equal being outside, that humane is used all over the place for all kind of practices.
Because I live in a small town and know the farmers who sell meat and the people who buy meat, I know that most often people buy a small fraction of the meat they eat from local farmers. The grossest cheap meat on a styrofoam tray has risen to new heights in hearts and minds: people want to believe it's right and good to eat animals, and that their palettes are king. They get the expensive farmer's market stuff for the cred.

Food is important to me, too, very important. When I took St. John's wort for a stint and lost my appetite, I thought I'd be glad to have lost so much weight. Instead, I missed food, missed eating and tasting and all the pleasure and socializing that came with it.

I'm the worst person to talk about meat-eating because as a long-time vegan and animal rights activist, I won't be seen as level-headed, or looking at all sides. But I swear, if I had an intern, I'd have them research this:
- How much food is produced in the Mid-Hudson Valley that is consumed locally?
- How does that food break down in categories? What percentage are vegetables, fruit, grains, animals?
- How do the resources to produce those foods break down?

It seems to me that there are a lot of farmers who grow tons of veggies, a little bit of fruit, and have enough animals for a few eggs, some goat's milk, and send the occasional animals to slaughter. (Right, send them to a slaughterhouse. It's illegal for them to do it themselves.) My guess is that it would be something like a 90%, 5%, 3%, 2% breakdown. Shouldn't this mean, then, that people concerned about eating local foods eat an (at least) 90% vegetable diet?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pardon our Dust

while we reorganize ourselves a bit...