Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Catching Up: Conference Extras, Garden Wrap-Up, and Opening the First Tomatoes

Woah! Apologies for dropping off the face of the earth!
Did I mention that I'm teaching an extra course this semester?   And that it's midterm season?  And that the conference put me WAY behind on grading?

I've been using the last week or so to catch up on life, and have let the blog sit on the back burner a bit.  And as usual, I've been cooking a bunch and barely photographing it.  While part of me feels like a bad blogger, I have to make it clear that I've made an effort not to let the blog seriously interfere with my ability to live a normal life.  I have to remind myself often that it's optional to photograph something I cook, and that some things deserve to be just for me, and that's a very good thing.

The details of the conference have taken on new meaning after I left the bubble of like-minded individuals and returned to my normal routine.  I've been listening to the interviews on my computer and taking notes.  I am energized by just how bright, well informed, and generous each interviewee was.  I'm so excited by just how much information is crammed into each of these interviews and can't wait to share them with you.  I want to make sure I weave them together in a way that is accessible to a large audience, but still does justice to the nuanced content.

Back at home, I spent some time this week putting my garden to bed.  Some people spend a lot of time retilling and piling on compost, but I just pulled out my tomato plants and turned over the dirt with a shovel.

First I pulled up the onions, tied them into bunches, and hung them in the pantry downstairs.  They'll hang for a couple weeks while the skins thoroughly dry, and then I'll store them in a cool dark place.

They're hanging in the space where I started the seeds in the basement.  They share this space with all the canned goods I managed to stock up over the summer season.  Including

Canned green beans, pickled beets, and tons of tomatoes.

Pickled green beans and more tomatoes.


All together now.

It's convenient for me to keep my preserved goods in the same place as I start my seeds.  By the time we're ready to start seedlings in January, this supply will be depleted and move upstairs to the normal pantry.

Speaking of preserved goods, we opened the first can of tomatoes yesterday!  It was a mixed experience of excitement at tearing into some delicious tomatoes and disdain at surrendering to the waning harvest.

I made pesto over the weekend to use up my basil before the frost, and picked up a small pattypan squash at market on Saturday.   It became clear that these needed summer tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and some pasta.

It gets dark so late this time of year so this photo doesn't look like much, but it tasted fantastic.

We experienced an early frost, but these last few days have been warm and the foliage has been gorgeous.

I'm eating squash and apples in great abundance, so things are good.  I plan to cook and freeze a bit of both for the coming months.

Until we speak next, get out there and squeeze what's left of October!

Monday, October 12, 2009

CFSC Day One: Plenary, Sessions, People, Food, and Drinks


Greetings readers, old and new!

I've had an exceedingly busy day, but amazingly, I'm not tired.  In fact, I'm energized.  I find it so interesting how work can make you feel either way.
Today was my first day at the Community Food Security Conference and I had a fantastic time.

First, I have to give a shoutout to the Polk County Convention Center.  The center was extremely well organized and easy to navigate, and the staff was friendly and polite.  The food, which was as locally sourced as possible, was actually very good (well seasoned, even!) , and they made every accommodation for those with dietary restrictions.

Through the plenary and the sessions, I noticed some interesting things about people at this conference.  One of the most valuable characteristics I've found among most participants is a focus on action.  These people in general have emphasized clear goals and critical thoughts about how to achieve them.  I've heard very few sweeping general statements, which I appreciate very much.

Likewise, every person I've encountered has been passionate about their causes and sharing their message with anyone who will listen.  I have made a huge number of contacts from meeting people, learning about their perspective, sharing mine, and hearing connections.

Another thing that has struck me about this conference is how I've perceived my role:  frankly, I feel like I have a heck of a lot to learn.  In past conferences that I've been to, I left feeling largely unmotivated and like there was little left for me to do.  After one day, I have tons of books, websites, and movies to dig up and consume to put myself on the same playing field with these people, who have been kind enough to engage me despite my lack of knowledge.

Unfortunately my camera battery ran out before I could take a SINGLE PHOTO, but thankfully my phone takes decent pics.

The morning began at the plenary, which was a panel discussion led by four speakers.  The most interesting to me was Dr. Eduardo Sanchez.  The speakers set the tone and context for the conference and there was a small group session at the end followed by q&a with the panel.  Their goal is to shift the discussion of food in this country from a commodity system to community systems.  All the comments and questions were extremely practical, thought-provoking, and the topics resurfaced throughout the day.  It wasn't surprising to me just how often the current health-care debate came up.

(There were a lot of macbooks at this conference.)

Then we moved on to our first workshop.  I chose to attend a session called Gardening: A Gateway to a "Good Food" System.  This workshop was headed by Rose Hayden-Smith and Angie Tagtow.  The session centered around their national call for action to garden, which you can read about here.  This includes school gardens, but only in conjunction with home, community, and workplace gardens.   School gardens are something I'm very interested in, but had always thought of them as isolated.  Rose and Angie made it clear that school gardens can't be sustainable without being connected to a greater network of area gardens.

I was lucky enough to wrangle Rose for an interview for an audio project I have coming up, so I don't want to share too much with you, but this fact should show you a little about her perspective: she claimed that the US agriculture system doesn't produce enough fresh fruits and vegetables to meet USDA guidelines for caloric intake, and that only 18% of Iowans get the recommended five fresh fruits and vegetables each day.

Check out Rose's blog here, and I very much look forward to sharing her ideas with you.

Next we headed to lunch, where I ate this.

and this

The first Food Sovereignty Prize was awarded to La Via Campesina, a very noble and innovative organization.

I sat in on a meeting for the Urban Agriculture Committee, which is a part of the Community Food Security Coalition.  The focus of the meeting was setting agenda items for their monthly phone meetings and discussing some legislation, HR 3225, which I plan to discuss later.  You can learn more about this committee here.

The next session was the most exciting for me:  See Jane Grow: How Women Farmers and Ecopreneurs Can Change Our Food System, Increase Economic Recovery, and Transform the World, a session all about women in food & food businesses.  I was so moved by the stories of each woman on the panel, and by the environment of the session itself.  I'd like to tell you more about all of them when I have time, but I'll at least post their names here for now.  Lisa Kivirst from the Rural Women's Project and Inn Serendipity Farm, Denise O'Briend from Women, Food, and Agriculture Network, Faye Jones form Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Servie, Gail Myers from Farms to Grow, Rose Hayden-Smith, and Melinda and Hannah Hemmelgarn, a glorious mother and daughter team I got to interview.

Each woman shared her story, and then put up two words to show thier personal philosophy.  The words included things like "question authority", "compelling storytelling", and "radical self-sufficiency".  Then they asked for thoughts from the audience.  Can you guess which two words on this board are mine?

Finally, we headed to the Des Moines Sculptural Garden, where we were given hot apple cider to send us on a cold walk (food conference has it's perks).

The evening ended at a cocktail reception featuring vegan, vegetarian, and locally sourced appetizers along with local beers and wines.  (I saw Tabor and John's White Ale! YUM!)

As you can see, it was a long fulfilling day and I can't wait for day two.
Keep up on the tweets if you're interested and send me any questions or comments!
Also, apologies for the photo layout.  I'm still trying to learn blogger's new format and my editor is on vacation :P

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Community Food Security Conference Preparations and a Dinner Before

Greetings from Iowa's capitol!
I'm here in lovely Des Moines, gearing up for the Community Food Security Conference.
We left Iowa City this morning to quite a surprise: SNOW!

Yikes!  Thankfully the weather cleared up nicely for our short drive to the capitol city and we arrived in full sunshine.
The weather before this weekend was gorgeous, and we got some beautiful onions from the garden this week.

We began the weekend with a pair of friends, who have kindly let us set up camp in their spare bedroom for the weekend.  Rae and I quickly prepared a glorious dinner of roasted local veggies, grilled pork tenderloin, homemade crackers, baguette, a salad, and at least three kinds of cheese.  The food and company were equally enjoyable.  :)

Thank you, Ben and Rae, for your hospitality!
(As you may be able to tell from the quality of these photos, I've swapped my nice SLR for my compact Canon point and shoot.)

The conference begins for me tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. and runs all day.  I'll be tweeting (:P) live all day @culinarybliss, so feel free to follow my tweets, and I plan to blog Sunday and Monday nights about how things are going.  (Monday might be a late night, so it might have to wait until Tuesday.  We'll see.)  

I have some very interesting interviews and sessions to share, so please keep in touch here and on twitter, and let me know any questions or comments you have!

Enjoy your weekend and the changing season!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Potato and Leek Soup with Bacon and Kale

Fall is officially here, and it's COLD and rainy outside. The best way to chase a chill is with warm cider and hot liquids, and 'round here that means soup.

This dinner began after a trip to market. First, the haul:

Giant bell peppers!

Onions, garlic, and cortland apples, which I've fallen in love with. They're not too sweet but very crisp and juicy.

And finally, the potatoes:

I love soup, and I love leeks, and I LOVE bacon, but somehow I've not yet managed to share the recipe for one of my favorite soups:

Potato and Leek Soup with Bacon and Kale

Begin with approximately 20 baseball-sized yellow potatoes, roughly chopped. Boil in heavily salted water until they're cooked through, and drain. In the bottom of the stock pot, cook:

5-7 slices of bacon, chopped
1 whole leek, halved and sliced

Cook until the bacon renders its fat and the leeks soften and become very fragrant. Add 4 cloves of garlic until fragrant (just one minute).

Pour into the pan:

The boiled potatoes
4 c. chicken stock
2 c. milk

Or, enough liquid of your choice to just cover the potatoes, leeks, and bacon. Bring all this to a boil. Then, add:

5-10 leaves of kale, chopped into small pieces (optional)

Cook the kale for two minutes, then remove the soup from heat. Use your immersion blender or food processor to puree the soup to your desired texture.

I served mine with chopped fresh chives and sage. Delicious, and very filling. This is one of my favorite ways to use bacon, where it's promenantly featured, but stretched very far with a cheap ingredient.

There's some exciting news happening outside of the kitchen these days! I've been given a scholarship to attend a conference called From Commodity to Commuity: Food Politics and Projects in the Heartland. I hope to create a podcast featuring interviews with some attendees, but I will surely be blogging during the entire conference (Saturday, Sunday, and Monday). I look forward to sharing what I learn there, and becoming more informed about developing and strengthening food networks in my area.
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