Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gwyneth and the Rest of Us

Do you think GP licks the bowl??

Frequently, when I'm cooking in my home kitchen, I think about the clients in my classes and imagine recipes as they might view them.  What ingredients would be inaccessible to them?  How much would the recipe cost to reproduce?  Is there equipment used that many of the families I work with might not have at their disposal?  It certainly helps me realize how lucky I am, while at the same time considering the injustices of the food market.

This week, I've been cooking out of "My Father's Daughter", Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook.  Now, if you read my old blog, you know I'm a (not so) closeted Gwynnie fan.  And while I've been pleasantly surprised by the fact that most of the recipes I've tried have been quite tasty, and not too difficult, I can't see converting many of them to use when I teach.

Here are the recipes I've tried this week.

Summer Salad (GP calls it Famous Ivy-like salad, but since, (a) I will never, ever eat at the Ivy (b) I don't consider salads "famous" and (c) I'm not trying to impress you with salad names, I shall just refer to it as summer salad) w/ Lime Balsamic Vinaigrette

Butter lettuce, grape tomatoes, cilantro, basil, grilled corn/zucchini/spring onions, roasted beets.  We also added grilled wild salmon (a luxury, for sure) and avocado.

A shot of the raw ingredients

Dressing ingredients.  Simple for me, but I could not ask my classes to buy agave (I think we'd use honey) or  balsamic (red wine vinegar is less expensive).

Next, I tried a Cold Pea and Basil soup.  This one, I could actually try with my classes with minor adjustments.

Very few ingredients.  Please no comments on my basil plant.  It feels sad.

I topped it with some Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of parmesan.  And that basil leaf.  Color me fancy.
Finally, I tried what Gwyneth calls "the healthiest brownies you can make without sacrificing flavor".  I have my doubts about this, and I thought some of the ingredients were just weird and obscure (why spelt flour?  why not just whole wheat?).  BUT, they are vegan (except when I, er, make them with whole milk instead of the called for soy milk), so I guess for the no animal product person in your life, there's that.

This a LOT of ingredients for brownies.  My "normal" brownies have 5 ingredients.

I might have used a feeeeww extra chocolate chips.  This is why my arms aren't the size of toothpicks like Gwyneth.  Speaking of which, Gwyneth lists the serving size of this recipe as 8 people.  Really?? Like 8 GIANTS?!

Oooey, gooey (vegan...almost) brownies

To read more about the ways I am so *not* Gwyneth Paltrow, scoot on over to Zomppa and read this week's Melissa@Market.  You'll find another recipe for a chilled soup.  But, no pretense, I promise.

Bread for the City visit and farmer's market demonstration is tomorrow, here in DC.  Can't wait to tell you all about it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Worm

I'm a nerd.  Every since I can remember, I've been curious about the origins of almost everything.  I watch the History Channel (Cities of the Underworld was a particular favorite).  I listen to NPR (going to a taping of Wait,Wait, Don't Tell Me is a dream date for me).  I read 3 or 4 books at the same time and countless magazines (but, I *swear* I'm letting my USWeekly subscription expire this year).  Oh, and then there are those 6 little degrees I've earned. (What?! I like school!)  These days, given the opportunity, I will talk your ear off about anything related to food.  (Seriously.  My friends know not to bring it up.  If we are out with someone who hasn't been warned, there is a lot of eye-rolling and subject changing that takes place.)

So, of course, I'd prepare for this trip/non-profit/massive endeavor by learning.  Having already completed a slew of books on nutrition, the food system and food politics, this spring and summer my reading list hones in on food justice issues.  At the time of this post, I'm reading Food Justice by Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi.  It's an extremely thorough account of all the issues relating to food equity, along with history and case studies.  I love it.  I'm also reading Edible published by the Edible Communities (they probably have a magazine for your area, visit their site to see).  The book is divided into regions of the US and features stories of advocates for fresh, local food.  Some of the content is beyond the scope of my trip, but I've still derived some fabulous ideas from it.

In the spring, I read both of Mark Winne's books.  Closing the Food Gap is mostly about Winne's work with the Hartford Food Policy Council and tactics the organization used to address food access in the city.  I'm using his breakdown of methods (community gardens, food banks, CSAs, food stores) as part of the framework for the type of places I'll be visiting around the country.  Food Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart-Cookin' Mamas is collection of outstanding individuals and organizations in the U.S. that are working to fight back against industrial agriculture.  Several, like Maurice Small of LocalFoodCleveland, are on my list of possibilities for stops.

My future reading list includes Oran B. Hesterman's Fair Food - an organization whose headquarters in Michigan I also hope to visit on my trip.  The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather chronicles a woman who has to start over and learns how to cook healthy food on a low budget.  Although not directly related to the food justice issues I'm exploring, I'm always curious to read about people eating sustainably on a low-budget.  Adapting recipes to make them affordable and accessible to my classes is always something for which I'm on the lookout.  Finally, Barry Estabrook's Tomatoland makes the list.  Although I'm unlikely to be working on the food justice issue of workers' rights, I should still be educated about it.  Plus, I grew up in Florida, attended school with the children of many migrant workers but was completely unaware of what was happening all around the state in orchards and fields.  It's about time I learned.

Don't forget the kitchen!  I am so infatuated with Fine Cooking.  It might even be true love.  I can't bare to subscribe, because the issue hits the newsstand before my mailbox, and I want to be able to hold it as *soon* as I possibly can.  FC is unbeatable in its coverage of seasonal ingredients and doles out ideas from the simple (great to adapt for my classes) to the more complex (great to impress a hot date...oh, who am I kidding? I mean my parents).  Bon Appetit has started a section on in-season cooking which is fabulous, but FC will forever be my first love.  The pictures are gorgeous, its accessible and the recipes are produce driven.  Match made in heh-vun.

Finally, I'd like to check out a few documentaries over the summer months.   Forks Over Knives- which the Washington Post described as really dry and boring.  Luckily, when it comes to food documentaries, this doesn't scare me.  I'll just need to wait for the DVD, so I can cook while I watch.  Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead is about a guy who discovers (the hard way) how unhealthy he is and starts a juice fast.  I'm not down with juice fasting, but my editor loved this flick, so I'm swayed to see it.  The Garden Movie because...well, it's an Academy Award nominee.

Suggestions for other reading materials?  Films to see?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Step One: Do Something

The spread of inexpensive, healthy foods in one of my classes.

Outside of writing for Zomppa and, um, eating, my passion is helping anyone, regardless of neighborhood/income/background, eat a healthier, more produce-based diet.  Right now, I partner with non-profits and organizations such as healthcare centers for under/un- insured patients, continuing education facilities helping people complete a high school degree or learn life skills, youth centers that work with young parents and at risk teens, and schools high in free/reduced lunch populations.  I also do demonstrations at local farmer's markets that accept federal assistance dollars showing people how to easily prepare vegetables that they may not have previously had the opportunity to purchase.  For many of my clients, LIFE hurts, and I believe it's fresh, healthy food that can heal.

Setting up for a Farmer's Market Demonstration.
After spending a year partnering with organizations that have their own grants or donating my time as I can, I have seen the literal HUNGER in many of the places I work to learn more about diet and health.  I have also seen the dire lack of access or funds to purchase the foods that help fuel and feed the body well.  I wish classes like these could be taught everywhere, but it's often hard to fund the need.  Zomppa shares my commitment to allowing all people equitable access to fresh food and, together, we are launching an exciting new project to find out about how people across the country are working to address food equity issues.

Salad samples for an elementary school Field to Plate day.

Beginning this summer, I will embark on a vision quest, of sorts.  Over the next six months, I will be traveling around the United States visiting food non-profits- specifically, groups that are working to increase access to and knowledge of fresh,healthy foods for low-income populations.  From community gardens to cooking/nutrition classes to community kitchens to farmer's markets to schools, I will be visiting organizations that are implementing various programs to bring food justice to all populations and neighborhoods.  This will not only help me hone a vision for a non-profit, but also allow me to gather methods and techniques that I can use and share with other like-minded individuals.  I will be documenting the trip as I go- right here and on Zomppa's site.
Some larger cities like Philly, Chicago, NYC and Boston, I will be traveling to individually through the summer/early fall.  For the rest of the places I visit, I will be taking a cross-country (and back) road trip of 6-8 weeks in October/November.  (To make things even more interesting, I'll be trekking with my sidekick, LolaDog.)  As I travel, I will be writing for Zomppa about my stops, the journey and the inspiring people (and canines) I meet.

Lola- ready for adventure and inspiration

I would love your help:
- If you know of any organizations working to increase food access or food knowledge in low-income/impoverished areas in your area, shout them out to me.  I am planning my itinerary and looking for places to add around the country.
-If you have contacts that might be able to help set up meetings/visits to these places that's very helpful, too!
- If you hear a report in your newspaper, NPR, while eavesdropping on a coworker...wherever....on a non-profit that sounds promising, send the link my way!
You can reach me via the comments or by emailing FoodFightersoftheUSA@gmail.com or by “liking” the Food Fighters page on Facebook.
"Whatever you do or dream, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe