Friday, August 28, 2009

Food as Sacred

I honestly do not spend hours posing vegetables in the kitchen. This is pretty much how they got plunked down on the kitchen counter straight from the garden. Now---in the throes of full summer garden bounty---any random combination of fresh food finds itself a stunningly perfect artistic composition.
I am grateful for my garden. And for my gardener-husband who brings me these daily gifts--- the lotus of his labors---so together we can feed others.

Food is Love. Give thanks.


Most cultures give thanks for their food. The following is an excerpt from writing by Adrian Butash.

Sharing food is the most universal cultural experience. Expressing thanks for food was humankind's first act of worship, for food is the gift of life from above. In every culture there are sacred beliefs or divine commandments that require honoring the giver of life--God or the divine principle--through acknowledging the sacred gift of food. By admitting us to his table, God became bound to us in a unique relationship. By admitting God to our table, we experience the love and beauty of that relationship.

Food has always been recognized as the unmerited gift from God. Grace is the divine reality underlying all religion and faith--that is, God's loving generosity. In the Hebrew Scriptures it is hesed (loving kindness). In the Tao it is found in the love of the Hindu triad Brahma, Vishnu, Siva. In Christian theology, grace is the human transcendent activity of God in every creature.

© copyright 2004

"Blessed be the cheesmakers" - Monty Python, Life of Brian


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Food Justice

Our access to food in the U.S. in not fair or equal.


One Story...

"We live in the country so the closest store from our cabin is a ten minute drive. It's a convenience store/beer seller (no gas pumps) located in the village at the crossroads of two state routes. The store and the restaurant just across the street are the only business in town now.

So, first off there are convenience items for your car, like engine oil and window cleaner and a peg board full of tidbits...air fresheners, replacement fuses, stick-on fish eye mirrors for your side view. And then there's batteries, small 2-packs of aspirin, and a few Bic pens in packages that hang from another peg board.

The store is mostly coolers on three sides. Cases of cheap beer, liters of sodas, caffeine drinks, vitamin waters, and there's a small section on the end that usually has a couple of styrofoam cartons of white eggs, a couple of pound packages of bacon, maybe one pound of margarine that you could probably buy by the stick if you wanted to, sometimes some bake and serve cinnamon rolls in tube and usually plastic gallons of milk and small cartons of half and half...ultra-pasteurized of course.
There is a bread isle...long very soft squarish loaves of white bread, there are also some soft hot dog and hamburger buns in 8 packs. Further down the bread shelves it turns into an open display of miscellanea..ketchup, mustard, mayo, macaroni and cheese, hamburger helper, instant mashed potatoes, cat and dog food, cat litter and dog bones, and down on the very end, the diapers, sanitary napkins, tin foil and dish soap.
There is a kind of deli section, they have a case with some meat and cheese. You can, of course buy baloney, sliced turkey breast and ham, chopped ham, and sometimes salami. They usually have colby cheese, swiss cheese and jack. Sometimes there will be a plastic tub of potato salad or macaroni salad that you can buy by the pound. Also something called pimento cheese, which is a kind of cheese spread.
You can get any candy bar you want. Also chips, pretzels, nuts and all those kinds of snacks.
And the newspaper. You can get the paper, cigarettes, lighters and lottery tickets up front by the cashier."

Just like health care in America, our food system caters to the wealthy. Something as simple as having a choice of foods depends on where you live. Access to fresh food, organic, bulk or local foods or even the expectation of reasonably priced foods are all dependent, in America, on where you live and how much money you can afford to pay for transportation.

I just read an article by Beth Huxta in Organic Gardening magazine, Aug/Oct 2009, about Will Allen, a former professional basketball player who has helped to rejuvenate an urban Milwaukee neighborhood through establishing an organization called Growing Power. They direct their efforts toward making fresh, locally grown food available to the neighborhood and also teach city kids about the concept of urban farming. That was sixteen years ago. The model has been successfully recreated in Chicago as well, making the project an important success story in the development of community centered urban agriculture.
Before the project started, the neighborhood was described as a food desert, a five-mile radius with nothing but fast food chains and convenience stores that sell nutritionally inferior food.
All that changed. The information is interesting and inspiring.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Preserving Heirlooms

Preserving Heirlooms

It seems most cultures generally accept that an heirloom---something passed from generation to generation---is something to be respected and valued. Heirlooms have stories that keep them alive. What is unspoken in the act of preserving heirlooms is being a living part of a continuum that holds a tangible and positive belief in future generations, in the quality of life, and in being human on planet earth.

"You walked into the root cellar from the side of the house, from the porch off the side door. The large wooden doors---a kind of paint scraped gray---were slanted, higher in the back, and came together in the middle. Mostly you just used the right side. Reaching down, you’d grab the knotted rope tied to the door handle and pull hard. The door would come up half way, and then you needed to kind of get under it and grab the corner and push it on over to the wall of the house, where it rested.

I remember walking down the stairs with some hesitation, always, as they were basically just narrow slats with nothing but air in between and the hard dirt floor way below. No railing, just some very cold and spider-webby glazed blocks as walls, the foundation of the house.

Once down, though, I was always in a state of intense fascination. We’d never stay long. There never seemed like enough time to really visually take in all that was around me, especially because it took a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the very low light. Sometimes there were bushel baskets full of vegetables…maybe squash or onions. But there were always the long, tall rows of shelves, board wood, that held glass jars of all sizes both white and green. Grandma usually knew exactly what she was looking for…2 quarts of tomatoes, one of peaches, one of green beans.

Maybe we’d stay long enough to go even deeper into the underground space and gather up the laundry that tumbled out of the chute and into the basket when we pulled on another little door with a rope knot handle just above our heads. She had a wringer washer. I thought helping to run the clothes through the wringer was always a blast.

More than once, for sure, when we went to put the clothes into the round white enamel machine---it was always covered with a crudely cut round piece of wood---Grandma lifted the lid to find a pool of minnows. My Grandpa stashed them there, sometimes, until he was ready to go fishing." ~ Recollections from an Appalachian Childhood

Summer Squash, Yukon Gold Potato & Heirloom Tomato Gratin


  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 pounds yellow summer squash and zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (use Thyme or Oregano as a variation)
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups fresh sourdough bread crumbs (see below)
  • 1/2 pound yukon gold potatoes, sliced very thin (almost transparent)
  • 1-1.5 pounds large Heirloom tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick (varying colors of tomatoes)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese, grated (try goat cheese or feta as a nice variation)
  • 1.4 cup freshly grated parmesan-reggiano

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place a rack in the middle. Rub a 2 qt. gratin pan (or equivalent baking dish but preferably oval) with a bit of olive oil then take one garlic clove – smash it and rub over inside of pan, and set aside.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until transparent and slightly golden – about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat if they’re browning too quickly. Add the garlic and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Spread the onions and garlic evenly in the bottom of the oiled gratin dish. Let cool.

To make the sauce: puree the basil, parsley, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes, and olive oil in a food processor or using a hand blender. Set aside.

Put the tomato slices on a shallow plate to drain for a few minutes and then discard the collected juices.

Make the breadcrumbs take approximately 1/2 loaf of bakery day old sourdough bread (you need enough to make 2 cups) and cut it into 2 inch strips. Bake for 10 minutes in oven at 400 degrees until golden. Grind in food processor until blended but not too fine. Set aside. Then melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes until the butter is fragrant, and has turned golden. Wait a few, then stir the breadcrumbs into the browned butter.

Transfer the squash to a large mixing bowl. Add the potatoes and two-thirds of the oregano sauce. Toss until everything is well coated. Add the cheese and half of the bread crumbs and toss again. Taste the zucchini and add more seasoning if needed.

(Note: Quantities are approximate on layering. The size and slicing of layered vegetables may vary so just use your judgement as you layer – it’s possible you’ll be left with extra veggies)

Starting at one end of the baking dish, lay a row of slightly overlapping tomato slices across the width of the dish and sprinkle with a little of the cheese. Next, lay a row of zucchini, overlapping the tomatoes by two-thirds, and sprinkle with cheese. Then add layer of potato. Repeat with a row of squash, and then repeat rows, sprinkling each with cheese, until the gratin is full., top with the remaining crumbs and sprinkle with parmesan, and bake until well-browned all over and the juices have have reduced and have been bubbling, 60 to 70 min. If the breadcrumbs start to get a little dark, take a fork and scrape them lightly to rotate less cooked bits. Remove from oven, and drizzle lightly with the remaining basil sauce. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes prior to serving.

- recipe from

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rosa Bianca

We harvested these beautiful eggplant yesterday and I felt like I should be painting them, not eating them. (I'm sure you know which urge won out....and yes, they did make a very wicked eggplant parmesan!)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Slow Food

The Slow Food Manifesto

The Slow Food international movement officially began when delegates from 15 countries endorsed this manifesto, written by founding member Folco Portinari, on November 9, 1989.

Our century, which began and has developed under the insignia of industrial civilization, first invented the machine and then took it as its life model.

We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.

To be worthy of the name, Homo Sapiens should rid himself of speed before it reduces him to a species in danger of extinction.

A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life.

May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.

Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food.
Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.

In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer.

That is what real culture is all about: developing taste rather than demeaning it. And what better way to set about this than an international exchange of experiences, knowledge, projects?

Slow Food guarantees a better future.

Slow Food is an idea that needs plenty of qualified supporters who can help turn this (slow) motion into an international movement, with the little snail as its symbol.

Please go to this site:


If you have children in public school you may be interested in this press release from
the Community Alliance with Family Farmers:


Action Alert: School Food Legislation
and Labor Day Eat-Ins

Dear Friends of CAFF's Farm to School Campaign:

The Child Nutrition Act is a federal law that comes up for reauthorization in Congress every four to five years. It governs the National School Lunch Program, which sets the standard for the food that more than 30 million children eat every school day.

In the last few decades, as school budgets have been cut, our nation's schools have struggled to serve children the real food they need. CAFF and other organizations have joined with Slow Food to advance reforms that would:

  • Give schools just one dollar more per day for each child's lunch.
  • Establish strong standards for all food sold at school, including food from vending machines and school fast food.
  • Fund grants for innovative Farm to School programs and school gardens.
  • Establish financial incentives that encourage schools to buy food from local farms for all child nutrition programs.
  • Train underemployed Americans to be the teachers, farmers, cooks, and administrators our school cafeterias need.

The deadline for reauthorizing the current Child Nutrition Act is September 2009. Unless we speak up this summer, "business as usual" on Capitol Hill will let Congress pass a Child Nutrition Act that continues to fail our children.

On Labor Day, Monday, September 7, 2009, Slow Food's Time for Lunch campaign is sponsoring a series of "Eat-Ins" (potlucks) around the country to promote a focus on improving food in our schools and to encourage people to contact their legislators about the need to improve school food.

CAFF is hosting or co-hosting the Eat-In's in:
Sunnyvale-- contact Emma Hoag--
Monterey-- contact Kathryn Spencer--
Hollister-- contact Nants Foley--
Humboldt County--contact Michelle Wyler--

If you would like to organize an Eat-In in a different town, visit to the Slow Food website for more information.

If you would like to attend an Eat-In in a different town, click here and choose the map to find the one nearest you.

You can read the policy platform in more detail on CAFF's website.

If you have any questions regarding this legislation, please contact CAFF's Policy Director, Dave Runsten, at 530-756-8518 ext. 25 or If you have any questions about the Farm to School program, please contact Ildi Carlisle-Cummings at

Donations to the Farm to School Campaign can be made by clicking here or by sending checks payable to CAFF at P.O. Box 363, Davis, CA 95617.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Scotch Eggs

Why the idea of making “scotch eggs” came into my head, I can’t say. But as soon as I did think about it I remembered how satisfying they were to me as a kid to have on early Christmas mornings, after the candy and chocolate in our stockings were devoured by like, 6am.

The scotch eggs were made by mom the night before (and as I know now, in between assembling bikes and wrapping presents.) At any rate, to eat them, at any time, made me in 1960’s Ohio, feel like I was fully asserting the wee bit of Scots blood I had in my veins. (Turns out, of course, that Fortnum & Mason department stores in England invented them in 1851. But who knew? Probably needed something to stuff in those hampers, which are, in fact, still pretty cool.)

Anyway, my version is basic, great and stated in simple terms. You can always spice up the meat and or bread crumbs or coating (see following recipes), or break out and try a layer of something you think would be great, like mustard, or finely sliced cheese. I have no idea how that would work out but it sounds good to me.


Scotch Eggs

Hard boiled eggs, Sausage meat, Eggs, Bread or cracker crumbs, Oil (if frying) & thermometer

Notes: Last time I made this, a pound roll of sausage did about 6 eggs with a fairly thin layer of sausage. The thickness of the sausage is up to you, so buy accordingly. I also deep fried them at 375 degrees, which worked out great. I usually, though, bake them in the oven at about 350, until brown on outside and sausage is not pink inside.

Peel hard boiled eggs. Place a patty of sausage meat in the palm of your hand and gently begin pressing the meat to the egg until it completely and evenly encases it.

When you have finished covering all the eggs with meat, dip them in the eggs---try starting with two eggs beaten very well…add more if you run out, just like making French toast.

Use a spoon and then transfer the egg dipped meat covered egg into the bread crumbs for the final coat.

Bake or fry. Eat hot or cold.


Nargisi Kofta

Hardboiled egg is coated with a mixture of ground lamb and curry spices

This is a popular North Indian Recipe from Uttar Pradesh. 'Nargisi' is derived from Nargis. Nargis refers to Narcissus, a winter flower grown in India. The flower has yellow center (the color of cooked egg-yolk), surround by white petals resembling cooked egg-white. Nargisi Kofta is a hard boiled egg coated with ground lamb, when cut in half, the egg-yolk and egg white look like the flower Nargis.

There are two sub-parts to making Nargisi Kofta: the Kofta itself, and the sauce. You can choose from a simple tomato sauce to complicated Makhni sauce. The casing of the Kofta is well spiced, so I have decided to use a very simple Tomato sauce.



1. Ground Lamb: 1 Pound

You can use 85% lean ground beef.

2. Eggs: 2 Lightly beaten

3. Ground Cinnamon: ¼ teaspoon

4. Ground Cardamom: ¼ teaspoon

5. Ground Cloves: ¼ teaspoon

6. Ground Cayenne pepper: ¼ teaspoon

7. Salt: ½ teaspoon

8. Besan: 2 Tables spoon as a binder.

9. Hard boiled eggs peeled: 4

10. Besan: 2 Tablespoon for final coat

Deep Fryer

Curry Gravy

1. Ghee: ¼ Cup

2. Finely chopped Onion: 2 Cups

3. Minced Garlic: 1 Tablespoon

4. Serrano: 2 de-veined chopped

5. Turmeric: 1 teaspoon

6. Salt: ½ teaspoon

7. Chopped Tomatoes: 2 Cups


Chopped Cilantro



1. Combine Cinnamon, Cardamom, Cloves, Cayenne, Salt, and Besan as a binder. Mix well.

2. Add in Lamb, Eggs. Mix well. You have a stiff batter.

2. Encase Hard boiled eggs in the stiff batter. Coat as heavy as possible.

3. Roll encased eggs in dry Besan.

4. Deep fry at 325º F till golden brown about 5 minutes.

Curry Gravy

1. Heat Ghee in a heavy bottom pan.

2. Add onions. Sauté till translucent to light brown.

3. Add Garlic, Turmeric, Serrano. Sauté about 3 minutes.

4. Add Tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Simmer at medium for about 20 minutes.

5. Gently Slide Kofta in the sauce. Simmer on low heat about.

6. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

recipe from:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eatin' Corn...

“We put the pot on the stove as he walked down to the corn patch. Not much was worse than waiting for the water to boil when Daddy got back and had the corn in hand! We all shucked it out on the front porch and Mother would rush a silk-cleaned arm load straight in the house and drop them into the huge pot of boiling water , shut the lid with a great flourish, twist her arm quickly sideways (so she could see her wristwatch) and start timing.

We ate it with butter and salt. We ate it like a typewriter saying “ching” at the end of each row. We ate it like a big spiral. We had small kernels butter-glued to the corners of our mouths as we smiled and proudly added another shaggy cob to the pile in the middle of the table.

That was a whole meal in the summertime. A mountain of steaming sweeter than you can imagine sweet corn and tomatoes. Tomatoes so large and thick they looked like a steak on your plate.” --recollections from summer in Appalachian Ohio

Interested in Appalachian Foodways? Check this article from Berea College in Kentucky:


Corn: Losing our genetic diversity


Khao Phoht Piak

Thai Coconut Corn Pudding

Most Thai sweets do not include wheat flour, which make them great for those who are gluten-intolerant.


  • 3 cups fresh or frozen corn, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 cup coconut cream (see below)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt (sea salt is preferable)

Preparing the dessert:

Bring the water to the boil over medium heat, put in the corn kernals and stir frequently until cooked through. Add the sugar and continue to boil until completely dissolved.

Mix the flour with some water and add to the corn. Continue cooking and stirring regularly until the flour is done, thick and clear; remove from the heat.

Mix the coconut cream and salt together, bring to a boil over low heat, then remove from heat. Serve the sweet corn and top with some of the salted coconut cream.

Recipe from