Sunday, January 25, 2009

Holy cow, batman!

We went to the Hillsdale Farmer's Market today, our only year-round market, and found this:

It's only right to give the farmers who grew this behemoth their due. The parsnip in question was grown at Ayers Creek Farm, in Gaston, a place Sweetie and I have visited (we learned about bees there at a Slow Food event last summer). Even they were impressed and seemed a little frightened by what they had yanked up out of the ground. One farmer offered to give us adoption papers, to make things official, but we declined, since we are going to slice it up and eat it.

When we got home we measured it and it's 23". Damn.

Before we left for the market, we saw a young Cooper's hawk in our tree, the first one I've seen this season. Their migration period begins in November, and last year we saw several of them, including one who tried to land directly on our birdfeeder in hopes of catching a meal. I'm surprised we haven't seen any before now, but it was worth the wait, esp. since it snowed again last night, so everything was coated in white.

Quite a nature day.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Get the word out

From the American Farmland Trust. This is "9 in 09," their set of nine policy recommendations to the Obama Administration to, in their words, "help shape a better, brighter, and more secure future for American farms, farmers and consumers."

1. Recognize that agriculture can play a critical role in reducing greenhouse gases.
2. Engage agricultural producers in their efforts to improve water quality.
3. Mitigate against the loss of strategic agricultural resources and stimulate the development of green infrastructure to support the local agricultural economy with any new transportation-related legislation.
4. Support proper implementation of the Farmland Protection Program and its full funding.
5. Protect and promote farm bill regional food system programs.
6. Reduce, even mitigate, the federal government’s role in farmland conversion.
7. Provide timely research to policymakers about impacts of current and projected land use trends on national food and energy security.
8. Create a Farmer Corps to stimulate green jobs in the agricultural economy and encourage a new generation to enter agriculture.
9. Support local food in school cafeterias and provide access to it for low income consumers through Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Acts.

As best I can tell, this is a "get the word out" campaign. A friend told me recently that Michael Pollan had spoken to someone who had spoken to President Obama directly about changing our food national food policy (I know that's, like, serious hearsay, but there it is). When asked if Obama had read Pollan's "Open Letter to the President," published in the New York Times Magazine last October, Obama replied he had, and in response to the question of whether he would do anything to change national food policies, Obama is said to have replied, "Show me the public support for it."

So here's a chance to show your public support and get your friends and family members who care about food (really, that should be everyone you know, 'cause, well, we all gotta eat) to spread the word. One way to do that is go here and tell President Obama what you think of reshaping food policy in this country. We need a critical mass of people who will take the time (really, it's not much time) to express their interest in revamping our broken food system; the more people who do it, the more likely it is President Obama will consider making the changes we as a country so desperately need.  

Disclaimer: in my more cynical moods I question whether or not this kind of activism is really effective. On the other hand, it can't hurt. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration thoughts

Just two, actually:

1. This is the invocation we should have heard:

2. Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, FREE AT LAST!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cheesy goodness

On Saturday we invited friends over for cheese fondue and raclette. Sweetie and I received a fondue pot as a housewarming gift from my sister-and-brother-in-law about five years ago and never got around to using it.

Making the fondue was much easier than I expected, although I think the recipe we used was a bit too heavy on the alcohol; I'll use less next time. What was really fun was serving the raclette. Why raclette, you ask? What is raclette? When is Spain? Why is Hitler? Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?

My friend A. and I met at a summer music festival in the Swiss Alps lo, these many years ago, and we befriended two women who worked in the Swiss tourist office in the little town where we were staying (it's deep in the Alps, about an hour's train ride from the Matterhorn). These two women wanted to treat us to the Valais' premiere dish, raclette, so, even though it was summer and raclette is traditionally eaten in winter, off we went. 

Raclette, served in the traditional way, consists of a huge wheel of cheese on a wooden slab, which is placed next to a large fire. As the cheese melts, it is scraped off the wooden slab and onto plates, whereupon it is eaten with new boiled potatoes. It's fantastic, an old peasant dish, very hearty and definitely meant to be consumed in winter. The cheese itself has a distinctive nutty flavor I've never tasted in any other cheese, perhaps because it uses raw (unpasteurized) milk, or perhaps because of how it is aged. My friend A. and I ate far too much of it that night 20 years ago, plus we didn't know we were supposed to drink wine to cut through all that delicious fatty goodness, and drank water instead. You can imagine what happened. Next morning we both woke up with what I can only describe as a cheese hangover; I felt like my stomach was hanging around my knees somewhere, and the idea of eating anything ever again seemed ludicrous, if not impossible.

Despite this first questionable experience with raclette, we were both eager to try it again, and this time we were prepared: we limited ourselves to smaller portions and made sure we ate vegetables and drank a lovely dry white wine. Our spouses and her son, unburdened by troublesome memories of raclette, enjoyed it wholehearted(stomached?)ly.

Of course, I don't have a huge fireplace in which to place a 50 lb. wheel of cheese to allow for traditional melting practices, so I put the cheese on a shallow plate in the oven and let it melt. The disadvantage to that method is that the cheese begins to cool and congeal almost immediately, and it really needs to be hot and almost liquid. What to do? Well, for those who love kitchen gadgets and are serious about raclette, enter the Raclette Grill. This has to be seen to be fully appreciated:

This first one is a basic grill; the cheese is heated up below, and you can grill vegetables or whatever you like on top.

This one is for the serious raclette conoisseur: it has a granite top, but otherwise works on the same principles, I believe.

A good time was had by all, even if we were gadget-challenged when it came to the raclette. There's always eBay, after all.

What did you eat/cook over the weekend?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Looks like it's a done deal

Former governor Tom Vilsack sailed through his confirmation hearings for Sec'y of Ag, according to a story aired by NPR today.

It's discouraging to be reminded yet again that sustainable food production is so far below the national radar. However, I think it's also important for those of us who are interested in food issues not to get tunnel vision. We have to keep talking to people, keep educating, keep agitating for change and not assume everyone is up to speed on the importance of supporting sustainable food production.

There is still an opportunity to take action to support organic and sustainable food production and farming on the federal level. The Organic Consumer Association (it's an unfortunate acronym for us Oregonians, but don't hold it against them) is sponsoring a petition to appoint Jim Riddle:

"The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is calling on our national network and allies to pressure Obama to move beyond "agribusiness as usual" by drafting Jim Riddle to head the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the department that oversees organic food, farming, and standards. Riddle is an organic farmer from Minnesota, former Chair of the National Organic Standards Board, and a longtime advocate for sustainable and organic farming. With Riddle heading up the AMS, farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture, transition to organic programs, and the National Organic Program will finally receive the attention, technical assistance, and funding they deserve."

Check out more info on Riddle, including a personal statement from him, here.

You can sign the OCA's petition here; spread the word!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Do you feel better now?

AP is reporting that Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, has been invited to an inaugural event at the Lincoln Memorial this coming Sunday.

You can read the story here.

All those who think Robinson was invited in response to the outpouring of criticism regarding Obama's choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at the actual inaugural on Tuesday, Jan. 20, please raise your hands.

All those who think this is an essentially empty gesture that will get almost no airtime or other press coverage, do likewise.

All those who have no idea what I'm talking about, feel free to read my older posts here and here.

I'm on a deadline today and don't have the time or energy to get worked up over this, but I also need a break from Schubert's Third Symphony, so I'll just say that I think this is meant as a sop to the gay and lesbian community, a way for Obama to say "I feel your pain," but since Warren is still on tap for the inaugural itself, it does nothing to mitigate the original problem. 

Nuf ced. Back to work.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Two great food stories

Heard about this on The Splendid Table last week. It's worth listening to the show to hear the full story.

Also saw this on ABC news.

My current food news: I'm making a huge double recipe pot of homemade lentil soup on this cold first Sunday of the new year. I'll freeze half of it and Sweetie and I will eat the rest for lunch and dinner this week. It's filling the house with the most delicious lentily smell.

What are you all cooking right now? Or plan to cook in the coming week? Inquiring minds want to know.