Thanks for the (Food) Memories

This is Blog Action Day  and the topic is food – my favorite!!  Website -http://blogactionday.org/  I am sure others will talk the politics of food, but I want to talk about food memories. (Cue the song from Cats here.)

The ambrosial experience of sweet corn fresh off the stalk is so memorable that when you buy (or pick) your first dozen, you begin to feel the pleasure of it before the actual consumption. After consuming several ears of the stuff earlier this summer, I watched Beekeeper cutting sweet corn off the cob to put in the freezer (hey, he likes to do it-what can I say). It always brings back the memory of sitting in my Aunt Babe’s kitchen as a child, watching her cut corn off the cob. She always called me “honey”. A pleasant food memory linking one generation to another.

A young Aunt Babe, my uncle Bill and my dad Verne

When we returned from a Pacific Northwest visit the end of September, we found this pleasant surprise in the otherwise finished garden…

A beauty

a memory for the eyes as well as the palate.

Anyone who has ever bitten into a ripe tomato off the vine, bending over to prevent the juice from staining your shirt, or the tongue-curling sweetness of a sun-drenched strawberry, or the first red raspberry knows how the taste, smell and sight of such bounty are programmed into your brain. All you need to do is think about them and you begin to salivate.

Food memories are ingrained in us, whether we are conscious of it or not – even before birth! Here’s an interesting feature from NPR that highlights research published in the journal Pediatrics stating babies in the womb develop taste preferences from what their mothers eat.

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/08/139033757/babys-palate-and-food-memories-shaped-before-birth

So I have lots of good memories connected with good, healthy food. I hope you do, too.

A Quiet Revolution

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

There has been a lot of First Amendment activity lately and I, for one, am glad to see it happening. Complacency has not completely taken over this country yet. Whether it is Wall Street protesters or Tea Party rallies, folks are immobilizing to make a difference in the future of their country. Here in Coshocton County, we have a revolution going on, albeit a far quieter one. We are improving our community by trying to change the way people eat.

Tonight there will be an open house at our brand new local food coop, Local Bounty.This indoor local products cooperative was produced out of Slow Food Coshocton discussions, the wishes of farmers market customers and vendors, comments of cooking class attendees, and myriad conversations among those of us who believe that making locally produced, high quality food available to our citizens will benefit our community medically, socially, and economically. Our children can have a brighter future.

I will be talking more about this community movement in the future, both here and on the Slow Food Coshocton website. But for now, if you are a Coshocton resident, please come to the open house tonight, 6 p.m., the old Scoops building at Lake Park. Local Bounty will be open Thursday and Fridays, 2-6 and Saturdays 10-6.

There are a lot of ways to revolutionize the world. This is ours.

(By the way, this is my 100th post here at Fishing For Words and I can’t think of a better subject for it!)

It’s National Farmers Market Week

That’s right, folks. It is the week that farmers’ markets are highlighted around the nation for their contribution to a healthy food system.  Since 2000, the number of farmers markets has grown 150%, from 2,863 in 2000 to 7,175 in 2011.

Not only do these local growers provide locally grown, seasonal, nutritious food at a reasonable price, they also provide a place for community interaction, teach people how to prepare the food, boost the local economy, and improve local health. They even inspire others to grow their own vegetables and fruits.

One of our local farmers markets

To find one in your area, go to http://www.localharvest.org/ or the USDA site, http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/. This is the height of the season when so many things are available. Tomatoes, green beans, carrots, beets, zucchini (believe me, they practically give that stuff away because it produces so much) honey, jams, and jellies are all available. Don’t buy it in the grocery where it has been shipped in from somewhere else. Find out what a tomato is supposed to taste like. Support your local grower; keep your local economy thriving.

Thanks to all the growers and vendors in our farmers markets and local farm stands! Keep up the good work.

In the Footsteps of Ghandi and Martin Luther King To Defend a Garden

Some of you have probably heard of the Oak Park, Michigan mother of six, Julie Bass, who could possibly spend 3 months in jail for having a vegetable garden (nice, neat raised beds) in her front lawn. If not, Google it and bring yourself up to date. Seems their city officials don’t know how to read their own ordinance…

Instead of expounding on what I think is an absolutely ludicrous situation, I am going to link you to No Unsacred Place  and the post, “Sustainable Living as Civil Disobedience” .

http://nature.pagannewswirecollective.com/2011/07/12/sustainable-living-as-civil-disobedience/

Please ignore the “pagan” on the website  if that bothers you, and keep reading because what the author, Alison Leigh Lilly, says has nothing to do with that. It is a thoughtful, insightful article on ordinary citizens responding with their consciences against nonsensical, outdated ideas.

You might say, “Come on, this isn’t civil rights, or the independence of India.” No, but it is about FOOD which we all NEED to live. It is about the right to grow your own heathy food (six kids eat a lot) if you choose, and it is about one person having to destroy that food because of a neighbor’s idea of aesthetics. This is about what happens if our transportation system gets bogged down, no deliveries to the grocery stores, but no one was allowed to grow their own food (i.e. food security), because it didn’t look “normal” in a front yard.

Well, I said I wasn’t going to go on about this, so I will just ask you to read about Ms. Bass and how she is not going away quietly. I, for one, am cheering her on. I think Ghandi and Dr. King would too.

Whew, We Won’t Starve – My Self-sustaining Mindset and Food Deserts

It’s only seven pints of veggies and four pints of pickles, but it’s a start. Canning season has begun, and I am breathing a sigh of relief.

Ever since my garden starting producing food in amounts large enough to freeze and can, I have become obsessed with the idea that if we don’t start putting food away in July, we will not have enough to eat in January.

There is a small IGA 15 minutes from our house. A Kroger is 30 minutes one way, and a Buehler’s 25 minutes the other direction. We have money in the bank to cover groceries, and, so far, there are still groceries on the shelves of these stores.  But knowing that I can go to the shelf of my own pantry on a cold day in the winter and find what I need to make a healthy, filling, tasty meal makes me feel secure about my food supply.

Per the USDA, 14.7% of the U.S. population in 2009 was food-insecure (that’s government speak for hungry); 36.6% of single women with kids were food-insecure. There are food “deserts” all over the country where folks not only have no access to local foods, they have no access to a grocery that carries fruits and vegetables shipped in from California or other states. A revealing article on food deserts at Epianalysis points out that making transportation (or some type of access) to a grocery easier and less costly for those who live in food deserts is one aspect that few decision makers consider when creating food programs.

It is something that those of us are forming a local food group will have to keep in mind as we try to widen the access to good, clean, local food for all the folks in our county. I am grateful each morning as I step out on my porch to see my garden growing lush and bountiful. I vow to never take our food security for granted. And I’ll be firing up that canner again soon!

What I Have Learned From A Robin

The American robin, technically a thrush, is common to most parts of the lower forty-eight states. Once we exclaim to our family and friends that we have seen the” first robin of spring”, we usually forget about them.  We pay them little attention. That is OK with them because they don’t pay a lot of attention to us either, unless you get too close to a nest or a fledgling scooting along the ground. That causes a bit of a ruckus.

Robin's egg blue!

Having several robins nest around our cabin has made me appreciate them for several reasons:

One, the females are amazing nest builders. They go around building nests in a perfect cup shape with the “wrist” of one wing. Sometimes, she works hard only to realize it’s just not right, so off she goes to build another.  All is not lost though; I have seen other bird species (after a little change in decorating) happily settle into the neighborhood in the robin’s old apartment.

Two, I know I have less “bad”  bugs because I have so many industrious robins combing my yard and garden for juicy invertebrates. Granted, they eat beneficial earthworms, but really, there is enough to share. And I have learned to net my blueberries.

Third, I love how confidently they strut around-unless they are feeding a fledgling. Then they just look harried as the youngster demands to be fed, and fed, and fed. What parent wouldn’t identify with that? I have been known to call out to the demanding little cheeper, “Grow up and get your own worms! Your mom’s tired!”

What I have learned from watching robins is that there is grace in the common and ordinary. There is no angst, no self-doubt, no wondering if their feathers make them look fat. They respond to the seasons without complaint, pour complete effort into nest-making, raise their young with great devotion, and still find time to sing a sweet song.

I’m glad I share a name with these dignified birds that remind me to find  beauty in my everyday living.

For more information on robins and other birds, check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, http://www.allaboutbirds.org.

The Amazing Ruby-throat

I was working at the computer the other day when this little guy showed up:

 Just as the turkey vulture is my sure sign that winter is dissolving into spring, the ruby-throated hummingbird tells me that I better be in full planting mode. The males always arrive first. Although I know it is just the play of light on the unpigmented throat feathers, or gorget, I like to think they are flashing it specifically at me as if to say, “I’m back, and as handsome as ever. Keep these feeders filled!”

There are 18 species of hummingbirds in the U.S. and Canada per the Sibley Guide to Birds. The ruby-throated is the only hummingbird that breeds in the Eastern United States (there have been sightings of other species, most notably the rufous). Maybe that is why almost all of my neighbors have a feeder hanging near their home. We love the unique little bird.

Some facts about ruby-throats:

  • Their wings beat about 53 beats per second.
  • It can’t walk, although it will use its foot to scratch an itch.
  • Although they love nectar, they could not live on it alone. The protein that eating mosquitoes, spiders, and other insects provides is vital to the bird’s health.
  • Their population is stable per the IUCN despite the fact they have to weather the storms of the Gulf of Mexico during migration to and from Central America.
  • Hummingbirds are only in the New World-North, South, and Central America.
  • They use spider webs as the glue that keeps the nest together.
  • They can eat every 10 minutes and stay skinny; they sleep like logs; and they get to go someplace warm for the winter! I want to be one!!

One of the biggest thrills of my life was having a hummingbird hover over my palm and touch me with its tongue to drink off my skin. Magical.

If you would like to know more about these acrobatic flyers, check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website. It is a great resource for all things birds.