Well, my locavore friends and enthusiasts, I've joined the "2008 One Local Summer" challenge! What that means is that through the summer I'll be posting weekly about a meal we've had using local ingredients. The challenge rules say that all the ingredients have to come from a 100-mile radius except oil, salt, pepper and spices. I'm going to have to relax that requirement and say that the meal will feature local (Oregon) ingredients or if not local, then homemade. It was either that, or not do the challenge, and I wanted to do the challenge! I'm going to try to include more pictures as I recently bought a new toy (I mean digital camera!)
The challenge officially begins June 1 and recaps will be posted at the challenge address on Tuesdays beginning June 10, if anybody wants to check in. It's really fun to see what everybody else is cooking up.
My husband doesn't like spinach. I try cooking it in something probably once every other year and he makes sure to tell me he does not like spinach. But I've had a little secret. I can serve spinach raw in a salad if I call it lettuce! So I make my favorite "lettuce" salads all summer and Scott gobbles them up without batting an eye.
I decided not to do the CSA this year and instead try to grow some of my own veggies and purchase the rest at the farmers' market. I don't think I'll save any money doing it this way, but I enjoy shopping at the market and I can get just what I want. My garden, on the other hand, has been pathetic. A neighbor planted some fast growing trees in his yard and they have completely blocked the sunlight from the only patch where I can grow veggies. I thought maybe some cool season veggies might grow anyway and so I've planted seeds without much success. Munchkin has been helping. So what did Munchkin say when Daddy came home from work the other day? "Mommy's growing spinach!"
Scott grimaced and asked if I was going to try to sneak it in somewhere. Little did he know that I didn't have enough lettuce leaves for that evening's salad so I added spinach leaves. So far he hasn't asked which plant in my garden is the spinach, so I think I'm OK until Munchkin tells him.
This afternoon (long before I started dinner) Munchkin was talking to himself while he was playing. I've never heard him do this before, but his solo conversation was in a form that sounded like he was reading a book. I didn't pay much attention at first -- there was something about going to the store and was the boy going to be good (hmmm, where did that come from?). But my ears really perked up when I heard Munchkin say, "I smell chicken that the mom's baking. 'Is it organic?' said the boy."
My search for local foods has gradually morphed into a larger awareness of environmental issues in general. I’ve always been a nice shade of green (Scott calls me his little "treehugger"), but this past year’s reading of books and blogs has brought it all into sharper focus for me. I’m reading about issues concerning the world’s food supply, sustainability, plastics, energy efficiency, global warming, consumerism, the environment and I’ve tapped into an ever growing circle of bloggers who care about the same things.
It appears that I am hardly the only one who is making the leap from green leanings to really caring about these issues. Just in the last few days, I’ve seen three articles online that address different aspects of environmentalism and how they are gaining in popularity. Recent trends include those who are growing their own food, shopping as little as possible, living sustainably beneath their means, and a growing interest in "creation care" among evangelical Christians. Then there’s some really great blogs. Green Bean Dreams is one of my favorites and links to many more. Some people have gone to radical lengths to reduce their impact on the environment (No Impact Man). It’s only radical, though, if one is starting from an American lifestyle. I think people living in the slums in Kenya would find the resulting lifestyle luxurious.
As much as I love nature and want to protect what’s left for the future, what really drives my concern is a realization that the American lifestyle is just not fair to the rest of the world. There is a story in the Old Testament that seems particularly relevant. After King David slept with another man’s wife (and then had her husband conveniently killed in battle), he was visited by the prophet Nathan. Nathan told David a story about a poor man who owned just one little lamb which he cared for and treated as a member of his family. A wealthy neighbor, instead of slaughtering one of his own lambs, took the poor man’s lamb and served it for dinner for his guests. David is enraged until Nathan replies, "You are the man!"
Think about what America has done to the rest of the world. We buy up stuff made in sweatshops or from countries where environmental regulations are minimal because the stuff is cheap, and in doing so we cause even more companies to set up factories overseas because "they have to in order to compete." We fill up the ocean with disposable plastic. We sell cheap food to poor countries, undermining their local economies while we subsidize our own products. We give foreign aid but insist that the food be made in America. We sell patented seeds, making indigenous farmers dependent on the purchase of both seeds and pesticides they never needed before. Our policies have contributed to the devastation of the environment in countries like Haiti ("Mountains Beyond Mountains"). It goes on and on. We can say, "Well I don’t do that – it’s the big corporations or the government, or whatever," but the injustices so permeate our culture that I’m not sure there’s anyone living in this country who can claim total immunity. We’re the people on the life rafts of the Titanic watching the others drown.
So what can we do? Well, we can learn to take up less space on the life raft so there’s room for some others. We can vote. We can use our resources in such a way that we are helping and not hurting people. We can educate ourselves so we don’t, for example, blindly buy chocolate harvested by children in slavery. We can support sustainable agriculture and manufacturing. We can refuse to buy junk we don’t need. We can give of our resources realizing that a little money can do a lot of good when people really need it (Three Cups of Tea, Deep Economy).
Some of us live with more security than others and I think that those who have the most should contribute the most. For example, those who are able should buy the hybrids and solar panels. But those with less can make a difference, too. Katrina at Kale for Sale recently posted a list of suggestions, most of which even a single mom raising kids on an inadequate salary could do! Everything helps. We can speak up (Ooo, that's a hard one for me). And we can all take the next step, whatever that is, of learning what it really means to live within our means. Join me on the journey.
It’s been another slow week at the OK Corral. I normally write for my blog during Munchkin’s naps, but this week naptime’s been the most high maintenance time of the day! I put Munchkin in bed and he bounces out like a superball. He's got to use the bathroom. Every 2.5 minutes. He’ll settle back down, right?
Yesterday I needed to practice a Gershwin piece on the piano for an event coming up. I haven’t played much in the last couple years partially because it’s so difficult to get practice time while taking care of an active little boy...
Anyway, time was short and so I decided not to wait for Scott to come home, but instead to practice with Munchkin underfoot. He was all over the keys, the bench, the pedals, underneath the piano "fixing" it with his screwdriver, and more. Then, he got out his drum to play along with me. Practicing "I’ve Got Rhythm" while being accompanied by a three-year-old drummer is not as easy as it looks.
Finally, I told him to get out all my Tupperware and set up "cones" around the piano. Pretend the piano is a big hole that no one should step in. He did it. And then he curled up on the sofa with a book until I was finished.
I first heard the name Bill McKibben in a blog comment (which I can't find, now!). Before I had time to even google him, I heard his name again, and again, and again. Finally, I decided to find out who this author was and read something he had written. When a copy of McKibben’s "Deep Economy" became available just as Green Bean was starting her Bookworm challenge, I knew I had my book!
In "Deep Economy" (subtitled: "The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future"), McKibben turns common economic assumptions on their heads. He argues that growth is not necessarily a good thing. Less is more. Small is better than large. Money doesn’t buy happiness unless one truly needs more of it. Small farms can feed the world better than mega-farms.
The message I got from reading his book is that what is missing in modern society and what would make people happier is not more money, it’s more community, and, conversely, for the poor of the developing world, there is plenty of community, but not enough money. McKibben suggests that a better economic model than more growth is better growth. He champions communities which provide much of their own food, radio, electricity and entertainment. I found some of his ideas to be very compelling and if I were to read enough of him, he'd make me want to move to Vermont! He also makes the interesting point that what is good for the individual is not necessarily good for the community and vice versa. For example, the arrival of a Walmart to a small town may be good for individuals who are trying to stretch a paycheck, but it hurts the community by putting small local businesses out of business.
"Deep Economy" is very thoughtfully written. I felt it has a larger global perspective than some other books I’ve read recently and I appreciated McKibben’s awareness of the poor. I’m recommending it, but with a couple caveats. When I enjoy a book, I normally read it from cover to cover in one or two sessions. For some reason, "Deep Economy" was really easy to put down. It didn’t put me to sleep, it wasn’t boring, but it took me days to finish. Also, if you are going to read the book and are not an econ major, I’ll save you some frustration. Adam Smith was born in Scotland in the 1700's and he is considered to be the "father of economics." McKibben refers to Smith repeatedly without ever explaining who he is so I finally googled him. I give "Deep Economy" 3-½ stars out of 5. If I hadn't dropped out of the only Economics class I ever enrolled in at college, I'd probably give him more.
Sorry it's been such a slow week on my blog. I've been consumed with the yuckiests of mom jobs -- training a toddler to do you-know-what. It's been a week I hope to never have to repeat, but the jury's still out on that one. So, here's to all the moms out there in blogland who find it amazing what we will do for our children. Bouquets of flowers to all of you.
I almost forgot about Cinco de Mayo today, but when Munchkin and I were shopping this morning, something reminded me. Having already bought all our food & ingredients for the week, I decided to just drop by my favorite Latino market for a little Mexican junk food. I have a weakness for the Sidral Mundet (carbonated apple cider) that I remember from my childhood and also for "Rueditas" or pinwheels that I discovered in the last couple years.
OK, this is hardly local, but did you know that Mexican sodas are still made with sugar? No corn syrup! My favorite soda tastes the same as it did years ago when I visited Central America. The only change is the nutrition label they stick on the glass bottle for US sales. The soda contains: carbonated water, sugar, apple juice, citric acid, carmel color, and sodium benzoate. I'm not wild about the last two ingredients, but otherwise it's junk food made from real ingredients!
Pinwheels are made right at the market from wheat flour, salt, cornstarch, baking soda, vegetable oil, and yellow food coloring. They are dough that is cut into pinwheel shapes and then deep fried until crispy. Nice and crunchy, not to mention addicting. But, hey, it's real junk food! Sometimes I shop the latino foods aisle at the grocery store just so I can find stuff that's not filled with chemicals. Yay Mexico!