Monthly Archives: June 2011

The egg and the mouse

How many words can you type per minute? What about how fast can you copy and paste something into a new document? Or how about how fast you can find something on Google; like directions?….. really think about. How much do you use the computer and how long did it take you to get “up to speed”?

I ask these questions because in the last month I have been asking myself these questions. I’m in the process of teaching my sous chef how to make prep lists on an Excel sheet, how to type out the school menu of the day in a Word document, and how to do ordering with email. Said sous chef has never used a computer. He holds the mouse as if it’s a fragile egg and moves it with such attention that I find myself laughing with the whole perspective of things.

That’s my reality; teaching a 42 year old man who has never used a computer to learn how to jump into today’s chef world of emails, online ordering, Googling, excel sheet building, labor tracking, and scheduling.

Howard is going to master this; no doubt. And as he masters the computer, he is also learning that in today’s culinary world, computer skills are just as important as good knife skills. Here we come 500 words per minute…well, you know what I mean 😉

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My Slow Food Weekend

Friday night I tried out a new recipe I have been holding onto, clams with bacon and potatoes braised in beer.  Dining on the porch enjoying the warmth of early summer evenings with a crisp French rośe, catching up with friends is the perfect way to unwind from the week.

Saturday morning I met with a group of about 10 to volunteer at the Neighborhood Farm Initiative. I admit I don’t often get up and out on a Saturday morning before 9am, but the bright sunny day brought an invigoration to embrace the day. The Neighborhood Farm Initiative cultivates a resourceful community of adults and teenagers working together to engage in small-scale food production in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to the numerous educational programs they also donate the produce from the community garden to area soup kitchens and food pantries.  Hopefully, photos from our day will be posted here soon: https://picasaweb.google.com/neighborhoodfarm.

It was fun to meet new people, weed, prep beds and plant some summer crops like beans, tomatoes, and squash. In just a few hours we could look back over the rows and share a feeling of accomplishment and know the benefit of efforts with spread across the community. We then shared a wonderful pot luck lunch; Slow Food potlucks are always fantastic.  Favorite dishes included delicious lentils cooked with spring beets and a tasty okra salad. I am in the smaller population of people who love okra, fried, stewed, in gumbo, it’s great but this was the first time I have had it in a salad. The flavors were similar to stewed okra and tomatoes of my childhood but brighter and fresher in this form. Whoever made this if you want to share the recipe you have one happy fan.

The Food and Water Watch gave a presentation on important issues that need to be included in the Farm Bill. If you are interested in learning more about how to lend your support to protecting small farmers, visit http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/fair-farm/. It will take more than just voting with our forks to continue enjoying fresh local food produced in ways that are fair to both the animals, land, and people involved.

After the farm day, a friend took me on a bike ride through Rock Creek Park, our muscles stretching from the day of weeding and riding. Good thing I worked up an appetite because Sunday night capped off my Slow Food weekend in a glorious manner with an EcoFriendly Foods dinner at Dino.

Chef Dean of Dino brings his passion for locally sourced humane foods to the dinner table through his passion of food history and traditions. As each course was presented he shared the history behind it or a funny anecdote. Each course was unique and showcased the product but for me it was equally important to share the bounty with others around the table we broke bread and sipped wine and by the end of the evening all rubbed our bellies with satisfaction that comes from a slow three-and-half-hours meal.

I am grateful that I am able to participate in a variety of ways that brings meaning to what we eat and the importance of sharing that with others.

Originally posted on Taste Driven.

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June 23: City Blossoms’ 3rd Annual Proper Topper garden (and food) extravaganza!

It’s time for summer’s first garden celebration with City Blossoms….

Come join food lovers and community gardeners on Thursday, June 23 for City Blossoms’ 3rd Annual PROPER TOPPER Garden Fiesta. Friends, put on your best hats (homemade or store-bought) and enjoy an enchanting evening in the garden under the stars. The event will take place from 6:30-8:30pm at the garden at 11th & Harvard Streets, NW. Some highlights:

* Scrumptious delights from Chef James Forsythe of b Bistro (one of the Baltimore Sun’s top ten restaurants) & colorful cocktails

* A really juicy raffle (including dinner at top local restaurants, artwork & even personalized poems)

* A Proper Topper contest with best head-art winning a membership to the Marion Street Herb CSA

$15 donation, RSVP to info@cityblossoms.org or via facebook.

All proceeds support City Blossoms summer programming. Interested in offering a matching grant or donation? Contact us at rebecca@cityblossoms.org.

This event is made possible by support from: Beau Thai, Elizabeth Cross – Poet, Dody DiSanto – Massage Therapist, Joan Ganzevoort – Artist, Herban Lifestyles, Long View Gallery, Nora’s, Restaurant Eve, Seasonal Pantry, Skin Rejuvination Clinic, Sweet Green, Trader Joe’s & Whole Foods

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Fair Food for All: A How-To Guide

We’ve all heard the advice to “vote with your fork.” But there is more each of us can do to create sustainable local food systems that serve everyone—not just the wealthy.

The new book Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All by Oran Hesterman provides a roadmap for how to do your part. The book, Hesterman says, “is intended to add needed perspective and pragmatism to a shelf dominated by journalists and chefs.” While it continues the awareness-raising work jumpstarted by Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan, Fair Food goes one step further by dedicating several chapters to the “how” of food system reform, including plenty of case studies of local and regional initiatives that could be replicated nationwide.

Beyond eating seasonally, visiting the farmers’ market, and planting a garden, how can you make a difference? Here are a few of Hesterman’s suggestions:

  • Organize a buying club among friends and neighbors interested in purchasing good food in bulk directly from a producer, providing economic benefits for both buyers and seller. This is a simple way to make free-range meat, wild-caught seafood, and dairy products from pastured animals more affordable.
  • Find a community kitchen (or “kitchen incubator”) in your area, or start one! A community kitchen provides commercial kitchen space to individuals or groups to produce food for sale. Some also offer new food entrepreneurs business development services, Internet access, and expert resources.
  • Volunteer to take part in a community food assessment. By talking to residents in vulnerable neighborhoods about their needs, inventorying selection at local corner stores and groceries, or noting potential places for community gardens or small farms, you can begin to transform a food desert.
  • Get a small group of parents together to talk to the school food service director at your child’s school to find out whether they have the equipment needed to consider using locally sourced food, whether they have any connections with local farmers, and if there is anything you can do to help.
  • Similarly, encourage your college campus, corporate cafeteria, local hospital or nursing home to source more of their food locally and ask how you can help them do it.
  • Find out if there is a food policy council in your state or area and, if not, contact your city council to express your interest in starting one. These bodies typically connect policymakers with concerned citizens and local experts to work on concrete issues like zoning for urban agriculture or improvement of food assistance programs.
  • If you are connected with an institution that uses public funds to procure food (such as universities, day care centers, state office cafeterias, etc.) contact them to see if they have any targets for procuring a certain percentage of their food locally. If they don’t, ask what you can do to help get a target set, whether it’s calling your state representative or contacting the governor’s office.
  • Educate yourself about the issues at stake in the 2012 Farm Bill. For instance, did you know that approximately 68% of the money allocated through the Farm Bill goes toward nutrition programs, while 12% goes toward crop subsidies? Get involved with local organizations to advocate for more equitable and environmentally sound policies.

At an event earlier this week to celebrate the book’s launch, Hesterman pointed out thatThe New York Times just printed a review of Fair Food in the business section. Why there? Because fresh, local, fair food is no longer a fringe concept. Farmers’ markets are booming across the country, CSA subscriptions are skyrocketing, and supermarkets are increasingly offering local options amidst the sea of travel-weary fruits and vegetables. Yet, to quote the book’s introduction, “while there is the beginning of a national conversation about our food system that sings the praises of backyard vegetable gardens and pricey organic produce, the people of Detroit don’t even have a supermarket.”

Even as we transform our own dinner tables, this book urges us to think bigger and do more. While the existence of a food policy council and Farm Bill advocacy can’t guarantee reform, they do demonstrate to lawmakers, businesses, and producers that people care not only about their own meals and where they come from, but are also willing to fight for others’ right to enjoy fresh, nutritious food.

This post originally appeared on FreshtheMovie.com.

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Foodies Night at the Movies – Movie Screening and Reception with the Filmmaker, June 17

Update 6/14/2011 – This event is now sold out, keep your eyes peeled for other great events!

World Premiere — Washington DC
Farmaggedon–the Unseen War on American Family Farms

Friday, June 17
West End Cinema
2301 M Street NW, Washington, DC

6 p.m. Reception on the patio of West End Cinema
catered by Chef Pedro Matamoros–of 8407 Kitchen Bar, Silver Spring

Reception menu:
Rabbit and Truffle Rillette & Cornets (little corns)
Local Duck Terrine with Crostini
Evensong Farm Tuscan Salami
Fields of Athenry Lamb Lomo

Cheese Platter:
Cherry Glen Monocacy Ash,
Wisconsin Crudelo with Nuts and Fruits and Spiced Honey
Pathvalley Pickled and Preserved Fruits and Vegetables
Smoked Salmon Crostini with Creme Fraiche
Local Wine and Sparkling Water

7 p.m. Movie Premiere

8:45pm – Q&A, Panel Discussion with Filmmaker with Filmmaker, Kristin Canty

Kristin will then be joined by panelists who participated in the film:

Sally Fallon Morell, Founder and President Weston A. Price Foundation
Liz Reitzig, citizen activist featured in the film
Matt Rales, once an intern with Polyface Farm, now farming rabbits in Potomac, MD
Linda Faillace, Author of Mad Sheep, The True Story Behind the USDA’s War on a Family Farm
Moderator: Kimberly Hartke, Food Politics Blogger and Publicist for WAPF

$33 movie and reception

Register here:
http://foodiemovienight.eventbrite.com/

For more details about the documentary, Farmaggedon website: http://farmageddonmovie.com/

And this blog post:

http://hartkeisonline.com/food-politics/debut-of-new-food-documentary-farmageddon-announced/

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Smithsonian Sustainable Seafood Wine and Dine Event Returns for Third Year

On June 8-9, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History kicks off World Oceans Day with 2-days of events with leading ocean experts and DC and Gulf Region chefs to explore ocean health and preservation, sustainable seafood, and the Gulf region one year after the oil spill. The events culminate with a Wine & Dine Reception featuring fare from DC and Gulf Region chefs preparing sustainable seafood dishes and wines from members of the Rhone Rangers.

For more information, please visit http://residentassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/reserve.aspx?performanceNumber=222624

 

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Breaking the Glass Ceiling Through School Food

I believe she was wearing 5 or 7 bracelets on each arm. She had pink acrylic nails on and hair that resembled Adam Lambert’s.

This week I was lucky enough, despite all the bracelets and nail polish (a big no no in food service) to have two female 11th graders shadow me at school to learn more about the culinary field. For a few hours these young women got a glimpse of what my days are like. One of them had an issue with the 5 am wake up call but for the most part, these two young and focused women came with questions, an open mind, and ready to work on their knife skills.

School food is a lot of things for me: it’s the ability to use great food to educate, to teach, to excite, to grow, and to connect. It’s a platform to reach many generations and teach them why food, up their with family, is so important in one’s life. But, school food also serves as a great arena to showcase how the glass ceiling of gender roles is visible in the culinary field.

Many have written, spoken, and also ignored the fact that men dominate the culinary field. Of course they do. It’s set up for women to fail. Most women put their health and family first and as a result, most women (or most people) don’t want to work over 80 hours a week with no to little time off. It’s a hard business to be in, no matter what area of food service you are in. Most women have a hard time balancing out family and food service gigs, no matter how you shape the gender roles of parenting.

I thrive in school food because it’s more meaningful to me, not saying all women, than a tasting menu. Tasting menus are lovely and amazing but I personally need more. I get to do “restaurant work” with community outreach. Perhaps that’s where more women feel connected. Perhaps that’s why most school food service operations are staffed by hourly and salaried women. Perhaps that’s why I was sent a few female students to explore school food operations. Perhaps!

The young women that entered our kitchen this week are seeking new experiences, they are taking risks, and they are going after something that makes them feel good and happy. They aren’t going after security but rather after sincerity. I have no doubt that no matter where these two young women end up in food service that they will break down barriers of gender and make stronger communities along the way.

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