CSA gets a temporary THUMBS DOWN

Remember that awesome CSA that we were so excited to be signed up for that was going to start delivery next month? I am learning that some things are too good to be true, especially if it seems like it is.

We got an email today that they had miscalculated on some things and would be unable to start delivery next month, would refund our money, and would put us on the list for when they do start. Alas, we will not be receiving tomatoes and cucumbers locally grown delivered to our house in February in a cute cedar box. We will, like everyone else, be buying stuff at stores and growing whatever we can in our silly little house and tiny yard.

That put a big thumbs down on my morning, but yoga helped cheer me up a bit. So did a shower before 2pm. And hey, I get that money back and maybe I can use it to buy a bathtub for our basement, or at least a toilet and a sink.

A Utah Grocery Co-op

I’ve often sung the mixed praises of the Utah Community Food Co-op, a monthly food ordering program providing fresh produce and meat, bread and grains for a very reasonable price. We love the produce, eh on the meat, but we’re sort of eh on all meat. It has two employees, I think, but is mostly run by volunteers. It’s gotten even better with online ordering, which is available for the January pick up until Jan 15th, pick up on Jan 30th.

But there’s a NEW GAME in town. And I like it. A few weeks ago, Matt decided he’d like to find a place where he could buy nearly expired food, because it’s usually not any worse for the wear, and should be cheaper. Well, Erika saved the day when she told me about a Grocery Co-op here in Salt Lake City. Really? Are you kidding? How did I miss this? Apparently it’s been operating since February of this year and I’ve been too absorbed in my own world. And it’s a non-profit, donating food to other charities. Hello, awesome?

We went. We spent, and I became a member. Three times. It’s not a comprehensive store, so you can’t make a list and go buy everything you need, and it’s only open three days a week for 2-4 hours at a time, but the schedule is fine by me. Dairy and fresh food are delivered on Fridays, and dry goods on Thursdays and Saturdays. For your sake, go on the dairy days. I brought my husband this week because he needed to pick up some parts for the basement in the same area and wanted to check out this thing he thought he’d only dreamed of.

Here’s the loot:

2 whole grain pizza flatbreads (there were also frozen dough balls if you prefer that, and we had one last night for dinner so it’s not shown, and it was delicious)
2 bottles strawberry Lifeway Kefir
1 box Health Valley Organic Amaranth Flakes
1 bag Kettle Chips
1 box Peach Apricot Honeybush tea (for Matt)
1 package wonton wrappers (for butternut squash ravioli next week … yum)
1 wedge of Wensleydale Cheese with cranberries
1 tub kalamata olives
1 cake Queso Cotija (yummy mexican cheese)
1 package Boursin
1 ball buffalo mozzarella
1 package Cabot Pepper Jack (Matt’s family farm is part of the dairy co-op that feeds into Cabot)
1 wedge Cheddar with English Ale
1 package smoked Gouda slices
1 package frozen snap peas
2 packages Sunspire white chocolate chips – they are actually white chocolate, not that white confectioner thing)
1 container Greek honey yogurt (best dessert on the planet)

Did I miss anything? Did I mention that all of that cost $20? It did. Most stuff (and all cheese) costs $1. And I can’t imagine the amazing macaroni and cheese I’ll be making this week. Availability every week is different, but this was this week’s take.

If you get a membership, it comes with 10 cases, yes cases, of food. You don’t exactly get to choose the first 8 cases, but in our basket of stuff we got a case (6 bags) of Bare Naked Granola in Mango Almond Agave flavor (which we love) and a case of grated romano (8 containers fresh, and now in the freezer) and I was able to donate a bunch of other stuff to the food bank. The two cases we did keep are worth the membership fees, if you ask me, and we picked up a case of Cafix for one of our other two remaining cases. There are also member deals, like 10 packages of granola for $10. You can get multiple memberships, and each one comes with 10 cases, and you can sort of pick them up at your leisure.

It’s essentially in a little warehouse with a walk-in fridge and side wall freezer, and it’s sort of weird, but okay weird. I’d love to see bulk grains and beans, but it’s still growing. We’ll keep an eye out.

Check out the website for more information. Join me, and bring cash and your bags, although she seems to always have boxes if you forget your bags.

Garden to CSA

We are huge fans of gardening, and generally love doing it. We have been a part of a community garden for the last two summers, but for a number of reasons, are letting it go. In fact, our first seed catalog showed up this week and I devoured it with only a little bit of wistful longing. On a snowy day like this though, driving back and forth between home and our garden seems like a silly idea.

Silly, especially in light of our recent find. We have purchased a share in a CSA from Orem, UT, which is about 40 minutes south of here. This is the farm’s first year doing a Community Supported Agriculture program, but have been providing produce to local restaurants for a while now.

The CSA is the Heritage Harvest CSA from Jacob’s Cove Farm, and there are some major perks to this choice. Most CSAs begin in June and end in October with the frost, the same time all of the farmer’s markets are open (which isn’t as helpful if, like me, you love going to farmer’s markets). Many have pick-up locations. Most have about two months of greens and every other delivery is full of a bunch of the same stuff – lots of corn, lots of tomatoes, or lots of cucumbers. Heritage Harvest will be different.

Perks:
By using a solar powered greenhouse, our first share will come in February. FEBRUARY! I was married in February, and I tell you, it is not a time for the faint of heart or vegetables to be outside.
It will be delivered to our house in an attractive cedar box.
Every delivery will have tomatoes, and a variety of other vegetables BEYOND greens. This variety will continue throughout our share.
Delivery will be weekly, unless we want to take a week off, at which point we can postpone a delivery and lengthen our CSA time. We purchased a full share with the intention of having delivery every other week.
Everything is grown sustainably.
Every week, we will get an email asking if we want delivery, and if so, what vegetables we would PREFER! They will look at our preferences and try to match them to our delivery! Ha, try getting that option elsewhere.
Other products from local Utah producers will also be made available for purchase to be delivered with our weekly share.

This is a CSA I can really get behind, well, at least in theory. Obviously, deliveries start in February, but I look forward to a spring and summer of fresh local produce that I believe in. Not to mention, with a new baby, that I don’t have to work as hard for!

If you aren’t in the Salt Lake or Utah county area, check out Local Harvest.org for options in your area!

Only sort of about Food … well, indirectly exactly about food – An easy indoor grow-light

A few weeks back I wrote about how much we were enjoying the show 100-Mile Challenge. It ended after 6 weeks. It appeared that either interest or funding collapsed and the show condensed in to repetitions of what we’d already seen for the last two weeks. Suffice to say, we felt a bit cheated, and it didn’t help that our other standby shows have been just awful … think crime show featuring grizzly bears in the everglades, and yes, it was that bad. But, one great thing that came out of the 100-Mile Challenge was a recipe I have yet to try for Honey Caramel, but I will because it looks OH SO GOOD!

I also just finished reading their book entitled The 100-Mile Diet: a Year of Local Eating or Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet. The first is the version I read from our Library, but theoretically it’s the Canadian/Australian version, and the second is the American version. I have no idea the differences in the American version, but maybe they are a little kinder towards the American way of eating, but I doubt it.

We’ve also made the difficult decision to not continue with our community garden next year. There are various factors including travel, time required, other priorities including getting our own house with our own yard, and the bit of drama the community garden is currently experiencing with it’s “reorganization”. Not to mention the fact that they tilled up our carrots, beets and kale that were happily growing into their winter sweetness.

After all this, my heart has been aching to find ways to support local farms and dairies and to be a little more self-sufficient. I don’t just want to grow my own food, but I want to take care of our planet in so doing. We have a lead on a wonderful CSA, but their prices just went up 50% this week and I’m not sure that’s going to fly with us. So, I’ve planted garlic and horseradish in our front yard, we have a few upsidedown hanging pots for tomatoes for next year, and the herbs should be happy now that I’ve removed the GIANT lemon balm and pineapple sage. We have also decided to buy local dairy products at the Winder Country Store in West Valley. It’s a bit of a drive, but we can buy 4 gallons of milk, cream, cottage cheese, and sour cream (and Egg Nog this time of year) and it will keep for a good while (it’s super fresh when we buy it) for not much more than we normally spend at Costco. The milk is tastier too, somehow creamier, and it should make good yogurt as well. I can’t wait to try making cheese with it.

But, this wasn’t enough. So, we are now the proud owners of a fully installed window shelf and growlight Matt found online. The growlight can go up and down easily having been installed onto a $1 shade we bought several years ago – love the repurposing! I plan on transplanting my rosemary from outside and bringing it in for the winter, and maybe I’ll grow some lettuce, green onions, basil and chives to bring life to our otherwise dreary kitchen in the winter. I love that my husband is handy enough to figure stuff like this out. and the whole light contraption is hidden by sliding it up behind by the cute shade made by Matt’s mom.

I know I need to find more to fill my local fix, but it will take time, and I will very likely never give up a lot of things like oats and sugar and bread, but I’ll try new things if I must. Now, if we could only get started on actual construction in the basement … speaking of other projects.

Dinner and a show

100_Mile_Challenge_title_card
We’ll start with the show. After putting our two-year old to bed, we admit to snuggling up on the couch and watching TV. I know it’s not as mind expanding as reading or as useful as home improvement projects, but it’s a step up from hanging out on separate computers or one of us falling asleep while the other futzed around. We’re getting sick of CSI, (even with an episode all about GMOs and agribusiness), so we found a new show On Demand. It’s called 100 Mile Challenge, and it’s a reality show about six-plus families in British Columbia town that participate in a challenge to eat ONLY food produced within 100 miles of their town for 100 days. That includes spices, yeasts, leavening agents, and chocolate. Being the nerds we are, we have really liked watching the three episodes that have already aired. We’re reminded of our interest in eating more locally produced, sustainable food. There are a lot of reasons why we have those interests, but this isn’t the post about those.

Tonight we had a baby-sitter and our child did NOT get sick like last week and I’m feeling almost normal, so we went on a date. (You can hear cheering in the background.) We found a restaurant that touts “Farm to Table” and the menu looked promising. We managed to get reservations for 5:30, which was a great time considering my pathetic attempts at eating today had been foiled and I was starving.
pago
The restaurant is called Pago. I am providing the link because it’s fair to get an idea of what our plans included. Upon arrival (mind you, Matt called to make the reservations only an hour prior), there was a lot of confusion as to whether or not we were on the “list”. This is a small restaurant with only 47 seats, so there wasn’t much room for us to stand during the 10 minutes spent waiting for clarification and seating. And it took 4 people to figure it out (which is probably 80% of the staff). Eventually they figured out their mistake and sat us at a table for 5 (clearly not set aside for us and right next to the door and bar) and we got a menu. The food looked lovely, albeit pretentious, and we finally settled on both getting the potato fennel soup and splitting the chicken and the halibut. We already felt like the black sheep of the restaurant, but we were willing to keep trying.

The soup was lovely and probably the reason I don’t try to make potato soup, because mine always tastes like really thin mashed potatoes. That’s not necessarily bad, but not lovely and velvety.

Then dinner came. I started in on the halibut and my second bite was cold. COLD? Yes, cold. The middle was raw, well, actually, most of it was raw. After 5 minutes of looking like I needed help (and mind you, we’re right next to the servers’ station, the bar, and the door), I finally got the bus boy’s attention and I asked if he could get our server for us, which he seemed to start doing, but apparently failed. I watched a three minute conversation between them and a few others with some laughing and jockeying, and our server continued doing what he was doing and the bus boy left. Finally, after another 5 minutes, I got the server’s attention, asked if the halibut was supposed to be cooked “rare” and he took it back for repair. A few minutes later, it was returned, still not fully cooked, but I was sort of over it by that point and pretty full from sharing Matt’s chicken. Upon return, the halibut couldn’t stand up to the flavors combined with it, and I’m not sure if it was the lack of thorough cooking (good halibut likes to be fully cooked) or if it was because the chef just reheated my piece of halibut (which no fish ever likes – twice baked potatoes are one thing, but twice baked fish?) or if the flavors just weren’t meant to be. I ate what I could because the potatoes and sauce were quite pleasant in their own right, and our plates were taken away.

It’s hard not to feel like we’d been shoved in a corner (“No one puts Baby in a corner”), but I think we had been. I had to ask what the soup and risottos of the day were after our server walked away from our table and he still seemed confused as to what they were, but I later overheard multiple other tables receive the whole rundown of ALL the specials, including what sounded like a lovely dover sole entree.

For our pains, we were given a complimentary dessert, which we ate and enjoyed upon returning home, but bananas are in no way and no how a local (or even feigned and attempted to hide them by looking like such – at least apples are in season here) food.

I have just one question: Why must local and sustainable eating in Salt Lake City be expensive and pretentious? The masses will never catch on that way, and I think that’s the only way it can really work, or maybe we ought to leave it to the high-minded, uber-cool to save the planet, our farms, and our communities. Perhaps if I’d worn a big scarf or skinny jeans or funky boots and looked like I didn’t care …

Food For Thought – The Locavore’s Dilemma

Jen here – I am a life-long learner and a novice at many things.   But I am good at finding all sorts of trivial information; then I try to figure out what matters and what doesn’t.  I found the following in the Jan/Feb ’09 Sierra Club Magazine in the “Grapple” section.  I share this with you for information only.  What you do with this is yours alone.  I’m always trying to feed my small ones more veggies – my biggest success is that they’re broccoli fans.  We’re going to grow it this spring – not enough to satisfy their cravings but enough to see “agriculture” in action in a very tiny scale.

The Locavore’s Dilemma

Recently many concerned eaters, worried about the number of “food miles” their meals have to travel between farm and fork, have sought to eat as locally as possible. While there are many fine reasons for doing so, the transportation of food turns out to account for only 11 percent of its greenhouse-gas emissions. According to Christopher Weber and H. Scott Matthews of Carnegie Mellon University, food production is a much greater factor–especially that of red meat, because of the high energy and fertilizer use required. Switching from beef to veggies one day a week, the researchers figure, would reduce your carbon footprint more than if you bought all of your food locally.

The graph above measures various foods by metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per household annually. Non-CO2 gases include methane, which cows burp, and nitrous oxide, released in the growing of cattle feed. —Paul Rauber

Neighborly

farmers-diner-logo
Two summers ago, while visiting my in-laws in Massachusetts, we made the trek up to the Farmers Diner in Quechee, VT. Not only did we enjoy the food – standard diner lunch fare – but more importantly, we loved the concept. We went home with a bumper sticker that says: “Think globally, eat neighborly.” The restaurant boasts of “Food from Here.”

I was flipping through a library book today, a new cookbook titled “Outstanding in the Field.” It is a compilation of recipes resulting from an extraordinary shift in dining, in which the proprietor (author and chef, I think) began hosting Farm Dinners. Every harvest season for over a decade, they would hop in their bus, drive all over North America, and host meals on farms using the farm’s and other local ingredients to make the meal. Anyone with reservations could attend, and everyone came. Last year, nearly every venue was sold out. I love the idea, I love the desire to share food that came from “here,” wherever here is.

This is where my rant actually begins. I live in Utah. I know where there is a local Goat Dairy, and a few other farms and cheese makers within 100 miles, but the only farm stands are set up by what I have to presume is a giant collective employing high school students selling overpriced, not even organic, and often imported, produce. You can go to the famous roller mills of Footloose fame, but even the grain you can purchase there comes from a four state area. There is such a small “local” market (and apparently demand) that the actual goods seem to be more for novelty’s sake than for feeding’s sake. I’m not saying there just isn’t much, but really, there is none. I can’t even be a beggar here.

So tonight, on our annual trek to see Christmas lights downtown, we began discussing why I find myself frustrated here. After flipping through this cookbook, I was again frustrated that I couldn’t do that, that I couldn’t find local eggs, or mesclun greens, or heritage turkeys, or anything really, that I could feel good about as local produce*. And finally I realized one of the big challenges that I think is plaguing America. I know, we all have our soapboxes, and here is mine. We aren’t neighborly anymore. As we try really hard to keep up with our neighbors and to accumulate so we’re independent, we lose our need for neighbors. No longer do we borrow Joe’s weed-eater or saw, because we just got the nicer, newer one for ourselves. No longer do we knock on Bill’s door and ask for an egg, because mostly we’re not so sure about Bill, and without the egg, we have a quick substitute of swinging by the drive through or by one of the WAY TOO MANY markets on the way home. And oh, the markets. Within 3 miles of my house, you could go to an Albertsons, a Smiths, a Sunflower Farmers’ Market, a Good Earth, a Whole Foods, a Super Target, a Reams, a Macey’s, a Dan’s, and a Harmons. And yes, those are all grocery stores. And no, that isn’t all of them.

As a society, we have worked so hard to be independent and self-sufficient, that we no longer need our neighbors. I no longer need to rely on a neighborhood bakery for my bread, or the butcher for my meat, or even my neighbors for their wisdom, help, or canning parties. I can do it all myself with my very own tools or at one of my dozen grocery stores, thank you very much, and I think that is one of the saddest realizations of my day.

*Sure, we have the farmers markets in the summer full of standard fare, but if you want anything on a day other than Saturday after the fourth of July or after Halloween, sorry. Out of luck. And even then, there is such a rush on the farmers market with variety, that it’s a zoo and often ridiculously overpriced (think novelty foods rather the feeding foods).