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January 2nd, 2008

Toddler Fun: Pens

T. loves pens. And when I say love, I mean instant, total, deep, abiding. He's poly when it comes to pens in that he loves them all, but not in exactly the same way.

Over the holidays, R. took T. to a hallmark and was browsing a rack of pens with people's names on them. They were looking at the T's. R. was slowly scanning from the start of the T's (he's dyslexic, and skipping ahead won't help) when T. reached out and grabbed one. Figuring he'd have to swap it for the correct pen once (if) found, R. looked. Lo and behold, the pen said, "Ted".

Go figure.

Hoppin' John: Beans!

Yesterday, I made hoppin' john. They were not done before noon, so at least some versions of the good luck thing say I blew it, but whatever. While some say you don't need to soak black eyed peas, I did a quick soak anyway (boil a couple minutes, then soak for a while), then cooked them for an hour. I used Aliza Green's recipe for Hoppin' John (mostly), except I didn't throw out the water at any point. I figured, these are Old World Beans, and recent crop and I was going to cook them thoroughly. I figured the gas wouldn't be a problem. And it was not, for whatever reason.

I left the salt pork/bacon out, so it was a vegetarian recipe, possibly vegan (that is, I don't remember putting anything in that would make it not vegan, like, say, honey). A little garlic, a little onion, some fresh thyme (which I had!). I didn't measure the water at any point and was making a half recipe so I was a little concerned about whether it would match up correctly, but the water did eventually absorb and it was very pretty. Sprinkle a little chipotle on top and it was good. The rest is in the fridge, so we'll see how it tastes on days 2, 3, etc.

Happy New Year!
Here's the short form:

Over my adult life, I've flirted with v-food patterns (vegetarian, vegan) repeatedly. Not on purpose, more a matter of (a) vegans don't consume milk products, and they do make donuts (at least in Seattle) and (b) who/where I was hanging out (with).

Over the holidays, I read Robbins' _The Food Revolution_ and was repeatedly annoyed by a couple of in-laws (sister- and mother-) who are eating low carb (sort of), for reasons that strike me as silly at best. After several days of eating way, way too much meat, I started thinking seriously about heading a long ways down the path of the plant based diet. And hey! It's New Year's! Just the time to make rash commitments.

Over the last few days, I've been doing a bunch of research, because I don't actually feel good about making rash commitments and then not following through on them. Also, the bean obsession is assuming truly epic proportions (it remains possible that this is pregnancy induced craving; I will note that I _do_ supplement folic acid, if you were wondering).

I've said for a long time that exercise is a U shaped distribution: there's a bump at the "animals" who are out there running marathons, and another bump of people who are happy that they walked all the way around Green Lake without having to stop more than a half dozen times; the middle seems to be thinly occupied. With books, there are a small number of people who buy and read dozens or hundreds of books a year (some of whom are on my friends list!); everyone else is more onesies and twosies per year. With food, similar: there's a small number of people who try to eat vegetarian/vegan, non-GM/E, organic, biodynamic, blah, blah, blah. When you go track groups of these people down, you rapidly discover all the other current trends you didn't know about before.

I had stumbled across the term localvore recently, so encountering the 100 mile diet wasn't entirely surprising. But boy, that's raising the stakes. My first response was, no way am I doing that this year. My second was to put together some food lists (impossible/easy/unknown) for what we eat and whether it was available in the area. After that, it dawned on me that the plant-based-diet and the localvore thing were, shall we say, not perfectly compatible. Here's what they have to say on the subject:

http://100milediet.org/wanted-a-perfectly-local-chicken

100 mile diet musings (no beans)

I realize I said I'm not doing this this year. It's possible, altho not likely, that I lied.

For those still catching up: a couple of wacky journalists in Vancouver, B.C. decided one year to eat only stuff from within 100 miles of where they lived. There are two sides to this. One side is, oh, Canada. The other side is, hey, Vancouver. There's some amazing produce available, not to mention fish and so forth. I've now done several passes over the idea of doing this here in southern New Hampshire. On the down side, oh, New England. On the good side, hey, Holland Farm is doing CSA this year and payment is due Feb 1. And we already buy some stuff locally whenever possible anyway.

I think I've already commented that there's an issue with the plant based diet vs. buying locally, which is touched upon in this article.

http://thetyee.ca/Life/2006/11/03/WinterMenu/

I found that article googling "freezer 100 mile diet", because I had concluded after the second or third pass on the idea that if we had a freezer, this might actually be mostly do-able, especially if the people growing organic feed grains in MA might also have available organic grains that were suitable for feeding humans instead of, say, organic turkeys. I even had this wonderful realization that we could have sugar, because you can buy maple sugar around here. Heh. Heh. Heh. Heh. Sure, it costs more. A lot more. But it's really good. Like, as good compared to ordinary sugar as grade B maple syrup is compared to that grade A crap everyone has been deluded into thinking is worth bothering with.

I was a little startled at the small size of the freezer our intrepid locavores thought was suitable. I was also really startled that they went into this project with an inaccurate understanding of when farmer's markets and spring foods become available in their area. When they said they were doing this to re-establish relationships, they so were not kidding.

Anyway, I'm currently looking at a 15 cu ft freezer, because I'm still doing the plant based thing which means I need more room, especially if I'm going to freeze enough fruit and veg to get me through six months. I got the Energy Star spreadsheet and after stumbling around, discovered that W. C. Wood's makes a lot of the other brands' chest freezers. If you are wondering, I'm not going with an upright for energy efficiency reasons. You can run a decent sized chest freezer for the cost of a single 100 W bulb (not that you have any of those any more. Right?). Needless to say, an upright is, um, more. Like 2+ bulbs. I figure if I can't get my act together enough to keep that sucker organized, I should just give up now. However, if would be nice to know if anyone else has purchased a freezer of any sort in the last 5-10 years, and has any comments they'd like to make about what to look out for. In the name of energy efficiency, this will be a manual defrost (I bet you know when we'll be doing that: when it empties out in late spring, in time to start loading it up with the early summer strawberries) and drain. Yah, it sucks.

I did not take the Y2K food storage thing that seriously, because it was clear by the fall of 1999 that it just wasn't going to be that bad, so my detailed understanding of how much food we'll go through during the Nothing Local To Buy months (about 6) is still lacking. The only book I own on the subject is Making the Best of the Basics, which honestly, kinda sucks, and involves way too much powdered dry milk. Recommendations on that front also welcome. I don't suppose I have any Mormon or ex-Mormon readers who took the food storage requirement seriously and have some pointers for me?

food and relationships

In an earlier post about why people adopt an eating pattern and then later switch to something else, I included one category of reasons as social -- the eating pattern had been adopted to fit in with one group of people, and was left behind when either those people left it behind, or those people were left behind. The 100 mile diet folk make it clear in interactions with the media and in their blog that they were doing this to re-establish relationships and support a local food network. It's not just about treading lightly, that is -- it's about connecting with other people.

I really respect what they are doing, and look forward to reproducing some aspects of it.

I also find that as I contemplate how I would go about doing this (if I actually do decide to attempt it at some point), my reference points are not in the here and now; they are elsewhere in time and place. My father's mother, B., had a huge vegetable garden. It would have been a truck garden, except she didn't (as far as I know) ever sell any of it (I might not have known if she did). I remember being sent out to the garden with some number of my sisters and a colander to pick carrots and peas and lettuce and radishes and potatoes and so forth for dinner. I remember spending hours (not kicking) with buckets of green beans, destringing them in preparation for canning. On winter visits, she'd sometimes sent Harry out to go get canned peaches or cherries or whatever (that she had put up) to make a pie for dessert. My grandfather, S., had goats. The responsbility for the chickens seemed to be shared. They were really quite surprisingly poor (they had a party line. In the 80s. For those of you not familiar with this concept: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_line_(telephony)).

Prior to moving back to Seattle and then returning with a toddler, I had been starting to garden, and started thinking about permaculture. Ha! Maybe in another five years. Altho R. does consistently manage to get something out of the orchard and/or backyard. This last year it was a few tomato plants and some basil, the blueberry bushes and a few apples suitable mostly for cooking.

R. is not down with the canning, and I don't really blame him.

Hence the freezer. But I do wonder, and think about B. a lot right now. And sometimes I think about calling my mother's cousin I., up in Olds. She has a freezer, too -- also quite poor, and the food was always good there.