Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Minimalist Says It Better

There's not much 411 that's new here:

but somewhere near the middle of the continuum between vegan-PETA activists and Al Gore lies this articulate opinion piece by Mark Bittman.

local, seasonal citrus

Maybe it's that I was coming down with a head cold, but about halfway through this last week I found myself craving citrus fruit. If all California is your food shed, there are many choices. Around here I've seen a few orange trees, but by far the dominant variety is the Meyer lemon - that hardy cross between a lemon and a sweet orange.

I have a gift of lemons in my kitchen right now, from a very prolific backyard tree. Just to smell them and see them in their blue glass bowl is edifying. But I've been looking for some fresh ideas of what to do with them, so was pleased to find this article in the LA Times:,1,7792191.story

Now I need to say that some of these suggestions don't work for seasonal here, even though the lemons are. I doubt anyone is putting lemon juice in their children's hair and taking them to the beach today on the Sonoma Coast. It's not particularly cold today, but it is wet and blustery. My popsicle molds are put away until next summer, and the cold drinks don't appeal much either.

Some of the ideas are no respecter of local either. I hope no one here or in Los Angeles runs out and buys Maine lobster to go with their lemons. Getting some crab I understand, but finding that one of the best free things in life is backyard lemons, and then pairing it with 3000 mile seafood seems quite contradictory.

And would my dentist find using lemon juice as a dentifrice very smart?

I'm taken with the idea, though, of putting some meyer lemon zest in oatmeal bread or rolls, and even more taken by the pairing of meyer lemons and cardamom as seasonings in both sweet and savory. Or bringing back pomanders, and using meyer lemons for them. And I think when searching for ideas for using the lemons in baking, I am going to look at recipes for oranges, too, and just substitute the meyers.

And given this headcold, it's a lemon, juiced, plus local honey, hot water, and unlocal whiskey at bedtime for me tonight.

The only remaining dilemma is whether to do some preserving or not. Marmalade or limoncello? I told myself I needed a break from the too many baking and preserving adventures of summer and fall, and am rather hoping, giving the press of my several jobs and commitments, that I can stick to simple cooking of meals for a while.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

There is much I want to say

springing off this interview with Michael Pollan about his new book.

But I'm in Berkeley, too, this week, and overwhelmed with teaching and preparing.

Thanks to the Food Museum Blog for linking to this article, and, as they say, later....

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A new season

The season of cookies and fruitcake has passed, and the wave of diet ads and promos has crested. Time to get back to serious wintry eating. And to some serious food related reading. I note that the articles in papers and magazines are more interesting, less sentimental.

One of my resolutions for this year is to try to pay more attention to concerns and interesting stories of food and culture.

Who knew that fortune cookies were Japanese in origin.

Be sure to check out the photos and video that accompany this story. I love the 19th century Japanese illustration of a baker making fortune cookies.

I have two favorite fortune cookie memories. One is of those years between college and seminary, when working for the Bank of California in downtown San Francisco. A few blocks away was a small cookie factory. Rather than the individual cookie irons shown in the Japanese illustration, they had a rotating apparatus, where the batter was poured, the lids went down, the cookie passed over flames, and on the other side a worker removed the hot flat cookie, and folded it and inserted the fortune in one deft movement. Actually, I used to buy the bags of almond cookies. I'm sure they were loaded with trans fats - and were they good!

My other fortune memory is of receiving one at restaurant in Reno which read, "A once in a lifetime adventure awaits you in the South Pacific." I'd been toying with the idea of a trip to follow up with colleagues in New Zealand, met at the Pacific Basin Roland Allen Conference - so I went home and started planning the trip that day.

On that same trip I did some consulting in Japan and then became a tourist in Kyoto. Now I wish I had known about the bakeries there - I would have made a pilgrimage, out of thanks for the impetus of a fortune.

I also plan, this year, to do more reading of fiction where food, eating it and/or preparing it and/or growing it, is a strong theme. I welcome suggestions.

If they are this conflicted about lunch

no wonder they can't come up with a better farm bill.

Nancy Pelosi has taken the House in hand, with an eye toward greener and healthier food, the New York Times reports.

Here's the site of the group they are contracting with - who had to change some of their claims to satisfy the industrial food side(s) of the aisle.

I note they could move toward greater sustainability if they would get rid of some of the menu items that are not seasonal, but all in all this seems like a pretty good effort.

The Times article reports that no such strides have been made in the Senate. Interestingly, for the most forward thinking and best developed food policy among presidential candidates one needs to look to an ex-Senator, John Edwards.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

But I digress - or do I?

I've been trying to keep this blog focused on the topic I intended, but once in a while another environmental issue creeps in.

Today, Alan Scarfe had much to say about climate change, and the role faith communities have in addressing it, in an op ed in the Des Moines Register.

One of the things that interested me most about this article (other than it being written by a dear friend who has only recently become engaged with environmental issues) was the idea of a coalition of energy and farm interests. Too often climate change has caught the imagination of church folks, but without the understanding of its connection to other issues.

The Iowa Farmers' Union - one of the partners of Iowa Interfaith Power and Light - has some interesting things on energy and agricultural issues on their site.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Energy use implications

I found this article on heat in the NY Times kind of a teaser

but it does have some implications for how we use energy in cooking - a sustainability issue related to food.

Seems like most of our emphasis is on the impact of growing and distributing food, but we do need to consider the environmental costs of food preparation and storage in our homes.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Feast of Peace

I've been reading Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan's "The First Christmas". The last two Sundays I have drawn on what I've learned in my preaching.

The central message of the book seems to be the way the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke announce the contrast between the Pax Romana and the Peace of God - a tension that climaxes in the passion narratives in the gospels.

The contrast between peace through conquest and peace through justice couldn't be more current or persistent.

One little paragraph in the book really caught my imagination. The gist of it is that the peace of the Roman Empire and its successors would culminate in The Great Final Battle. But the telos of peace won through non-violence is The Great Final Feast. I've been living with the latter image - that the end of all our peace seeking is The Big Meal, where all are gathered around the table, and all have enough.

This sustains me and inspires me when the world news is so discouraging, and I despair over the distance between the Pax Americana and the Christian vision of peace.

Happy Year of the Potato

Who knew? I didn't, until I got the feed from the Food Museum Blog:

One of the things I've learned as I've tried to become more versed in global food issues, and in the impact of environmental issues on the rest of the world, is to appreciate the work of the United Nations.

Now I learn that they have declared 2008 the year of the potato. Only the year of the winter squash or the year of the asparagus could have made me happier.

I've been feeling for some time that potatoes are getting a bad rap. Used to be that people thought they were fattening. Then we realized that it was the butter, sour cream, oil, cheese, etc. that we cooked and adorned our potatoes with were the big culprits. When I was working in Winnemucca two decades ago, convinced of the value of vegetables and grains in the diet (as opposed to the Atkins greasy meats) I threatened to write a potato diet, complete with lower fat recipes.

Then a few years ago the glycemic index hit the news, and potatoes fell from grace again. Now moderation seems to be creeping back in to dietary recommendations for the affluent - go ahead and eat that potato - just balance it with other foods higher in fiber and protein to slow digestion. Makes sense, doesn't it? I can't imagine anyone eating just potatoes.

Or maybe I can.

The authors of "Plenty" seem to have gotten into the potatoes pretty heavily, starting their 100 mile diet in late winter in Vancouver, B.C. (I am finally reading the book, having waited long for it from the library.)

And potatoes can be a major source of calories and vitamin C for folks who have fewer food resources than those of us living with more than plenty. Plus, if you grow them vertically, you can produce a lot in a small space.