Passion

Mid-way through this 21-day cleanse, I was thinking a lot about human passion. Most animals have strong desires to eat, sleep, procreate, and recreate. Humans want to do that, too. But we want to be able to do all of those things while suspended 100 stories above the ground, after driving on enormous loops of concrete or possibly careening through the air in several tons of metal. Oh, and when we arrive and get down to addressing our basic needs, we want to have strains of Chopin glittering in the background, and room service with a sprig of parsley.

We want to build onto, break apart, dig into, and make over the world. We see what is there and think we could have something a whole lot better. Then we make that something. That’s what makes us human. Continue reading

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Stop and think; choose a blessing and bless; eat

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(This is cross-posted from The Jew and the Carrot)

Life in general distracts me. It’s true no matter what I’m doing or where I am. If I go into the food co-op for bread and peanut butter, I’ll carry out shampoo and trail mix; when I resolve to run twelve times around the track, I lose count after the third loop. Even when I get through a task, I often neglect to follow up or look back to consider its lessons. By the time I’m halfway through, my mind is already whirring off in another direction.

So I was a little concerned when I signed up for a 21-day “spring rejuvenation cleanse” and learned that it would involve focus. In multiple ways. But this also got to the heart of why I wanted to purify in the first place.

To get the most out of this food-based detoxifying experience, the approximately 50 participants are supposed to eat certain foods, avoid others, prepare detoxifying recipes, breathe deeply, take long walks, and journal about the whole thing each day. On top of all that, our guide encourages us to “eat mindfully.” I figured if I could do all of that, I might have a fighting chance of getting my attention deficit into the black. Continue reading

A week of home cooking

Huffington Post readers like to consume progressive, left-leaning news. Now the publication has challenged readers to live those politics–if only for seven days. HuffPost bloggers Katherine Goldstein and Adam Clark Estes have announced the Week of Eating In Challenge, intended, they write in a post last week, “to make it all personal.”

The project is simple: divisions HuffPost Green and HuffPost Eyes&Ears have dared readers to cook their own food. The challenge is inspired by HuffPost blogger and author Cathy Erway’s book The Art of Eating In. Erway avoided restaurants and takeout for a full two years. The Challenge only lasts from February 22 to 28.

A post detailing the challenge reveals there are actually few details. Make your own food for a week and eat it—that’s it. The challenge itself, though, could have many intricate and delightful results. “We think that if you take the time to cook and learn about where your food comes from,” write Goldstein and Estes, “you’ll make better choices for yourself and the planet.” You could also save a ton of cash.

Farmers markets can play a big role in eating in. At market, challengees can buy fresh vegetables that inspire them to cook creatively, get recipes and tips from local farmers, and meet other devotees of healthy home cooking. Once you get the food home, be sure to show the HuffPost how you prepared it all in your tiny D.C. kitchen. Continue reading

Q & A with food and agriculture policy veteran Kathy Ozer

(Note: I originally posted this on DC Food for All)

Anyone who thinks living in D.C. precludes any chance to influence national food policy should meet Kathy Ozer. Since 1987, this Adams Morgan resident has been representing farmers and fighting to fix what she calls a “broken” national food system. She currently serves as the executive director of the National Family Farm Coalition on Capitol Hill. Last month, she keynoted the Future Harvest conference, the annual gathering of the Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture. This year’s gathering also included a special presentation by Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan on the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative.

As a long-time resident of D.C., Ozer also strongly supports local initiatives to make healthy food accessible to low-income consumers in the District, and bringing fresh, nutritious food to the city’s school cafeterias. I recently spoke to Ozer about what she does, and how anyone—with or without a vote in Congress—can help put the pieces together.

How did you get involved in farmers’ rights?

I came to the coalition from the perspective of how important it was to have different voices represented on Capitol Hill, but I definitely did not grow up on a farm. I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. In the 1970s and the 80s, my family was supportive of the Bethesda Food Co-op. So since then, I’ve always had a real interest in food access issues and where food fit into some of the broader sets of issues that we all confront. Continue reading

Michelle Obama highlights familiar tools in the battle against obesity

(This is cross-posted from my Examiner.com site. But in this one, photo credit goes to moi.)

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On Tuesday, sixth grader Tammy Nguyen brought down the White House with her thoughts on produce. Leading up to a much-anticipated announcement in the State Dining Room, Nguyen described how she helped grow a rainbow of vegetables in a kitchen garden on the “first lawn.” “My friends and I have learned a lot about change, about eating healthy food, and making the right choices,” the former Bancroft Elementary School student explained. “My classmates and I plan to keep that color on the plate–and I don’t mean M&Ms,” she said.

Nguyen then introduced First Lady Michelle Obama, who summoned all hands on deck to bring the Bancroft students’ experience to every American child to promote better health. She outlined a detailed initiative, called Let’s Move, to curb the startling rate of childhood obesity (about one in three children is overweight or obese, she said), and save the nation’s kids from preventable diseases. Such an initiative can also create jobs and help fish the budget out of a deficit. That can only happen, Obama said, if many sectors work together and the action starts immediately. Continue reading

Super Bowl snacks go all the way to the farmers market

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Potato wedges. Photo: Creative Commons/fotoosvanrobin

Though neither Super Bowl contender hails from the East Coast area that you likely inhabit, dear reader, your game day spread can still come from local sources. Why not? Local food supports the economy of your home town (or adopted city), and offers healthier options. And with year-round farmers markets in full swing, it’s easy to find ingredients for locally-sourced snacks.

To add local tang to your table, compliment tortilla chips with salsas from Toigo Orchards (just be sure to warn guests that the medium-hot chipotle is addictive). Or make a veggie platter with kohlrabi, radishes, carrots, and raw turnips from area farms. For a refined Super Bowl soiree, spread Firefly Farms goat cheese on slices of Atwater’s sourdough.

As for recipes, guacamole is out. This year, everyone from Melissa Clark of the New York Times to Bobby Flay in Parade is sharing their perfect version of bleu cheese dip. Why not try it for yourself, and make yours local? Whether it’s for vegetables, chips, or wings, Keswick Creamery’s Blue Suede Moo and Firefly Farms’ Mountain Top Bleu are at your service. The recipe below pairs a bleu cheese dip with hearty wedges of potato. That fall crop still arrives fresh at farmers markets through the winter, thanks to farmers’ root cellars. (Recipe after the jump). Continue reading

Washington Jewish Week publishes my food blatherings

One afternoon in late December, Danny Abruzzese, the executive chef of Asilomar Conference Grounds charged with preparing glatt kosher food for the 2009 Hazon Food Conference, ushered me into a side dining room to talk. On the way, he pointed one thick hand toward a slim man in a hat and tzitzit, ritual fringes. “This is my brother right here,” the Italian American said, grinning.

So begins the piece “Heated differences lead to brotherhood” in the January 27 issue of Washington Jewish Week. WJW now joins the likes of Jewcy.com, The Jew and the Carrot, and The Washington Post in the ranks of publications that find my Jewish food ramblings worthy  of publication. Check out the full piece in the Community Voices section of last week’s paper.

Five actions food lovers can take for Haiti

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Image: Creative Commons/Robert Huffstutter

(Cross-posted from my Examiner.com site)

With aftershocks still rocking Haiti, Washingtonians struggle to grasp the losses the earthquake has claimed. Deciding how to help is yet another challenge. Why not start with food? Here are five ways to take action as a food lover in the D.C. area.

5. Go to one of the establishments owned by D.C. restaurateur Ashok Bajaj. As The Washington Post’s Going Out Gurus and the DC Restaurant Examiner Lisa Shapiro report, Bajaj is offering a month-long fundraising deal at his seven restaurants. He will also match any donations his employees make to relief efforts. Stop by 701, ArdeoBardeo, Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca, The Bombay Club, Oval Room, or Rasika. From January 19 to February 19, and one dollar from the sale of each featured menu item will go to American Red Cross relief for Haiti. Continue reading

Can Judaism save the planet?

Readers, yesterday The Washington Post‘s On Faith blog published a piece of mine inspired by the Hazon Food Conference. Entitled “Can Judaism save the planet?”, it presents one perspective that answers the question with a resounding “Yes!”

Many thanks to my “free range” writers group at Hopkins for encouragement with submissions, and to my excellent editor and mom, Marji.

Check out the article–and feel free to comment here or on the site. Thanks for reading!

Valentine’s Day film fest loves local foods

Nora Pouillon selects veggies at a farmers market.

Washington D.C.’s FRESHFARM Markets’ new year started with good news: A mini documentary about the organization would be part of Yachad‘s Our City Film Festival slated for February 14 at D.C.’s Goethe Institute. Not only that, but the film would appear alongside “Nora!” featuring a restaurateur who embraces local and organic food.

“I’m thrilled to have a film about FRESHFARM Markets and to document in some way how the markets were created and what vision was behind it,” said FRESHFARM co-director and co-founder Ann Yonkers.

Yachad, which mobilizes the Washington-area Jewish community to repair and rebuild lower-income neighborhoods, selected 14 films for the third annual festival and divided them into four categories—Our Body, Our Mind, Our Heart, and Our Soul. “FRESHFARM Markets” will appear in the body category and is, of course, about FRESHFARM and its nine producer-only markets in the D.C. area. Their markets include such favorites as the Dupont Circle farmers market and the farmers market at the White House.

Read the whole story…