15 minutes on… healty(er) iced coffee at 7-Eleven

12:09 pm

The Takoma Park Jazz Fest was in full swing today, but my usual iced coffee source was shut down. No explanation in the hand-written note, but I suspected the closing of the Drifting Nomad for the day was connected, if not to the Fest, then to one of a trillion other things more fun than serving coffee and sandwiches inside on a blazingly clear, sunny day.

As readers may recall, I like my coffee. Just one cup a day, but I do love that one cup. I also like finding little tricks to pull it off in different ways. So I ventured into the nearby 7-Eleven, pleased with the change of pace from my usual weekend routine. But I soon found myself standing before an iced coffee utterly at a loss. The choices: artificial mocha, or artificial vanilla.  All jazzed up, you might say. The theme of my day! Processed with who knows what kinds of chemicals and with the use of who knows how much energy. Continue reading

Running out

It was the end of the month. “What about you?” She asked. “Do you ever run out of food?”

I wasn’t torn by the question or the answer until later. “Only when I don’t have time to go shopping,” I said.

15 minutes on…?

Again, let’s see what emerges in 15 minutes of writing.

10:55 p.m.

Today, I had the pleasure of talking with a woman doing interesting work with international ag. (We were going to and from a triathlon, but more on that and the food of sport later). She is working to negotiate fair and sustainable agricultural practices overseas, particularly in Brazil. The problem she faces is the good old invisible hand.

Companies that buy and sell commodity goods (think soy and palm oil) want the cheapest prices possible. Yet the cheapest prices are often reaped from the backs of exploited workers, and grown from environmentally damaging practices (monoculture, clear-cutting). So some negotiation needs to happen. This work  brings her face-to-face with ADM and Cargill execs who simply don’t see a sound financial case for higher wages or green practices–never mind that these practices are dictated by law.

So this triathlete/negotiator’s approach is to address the companies. But of course they’re not the only ones involved! There are whole countries (China, India) full of middle men happy to buy the cheap goods with no questions asked. So where does one start? How does an international body enforce this law-abiding and do-gooding? Continue reading

Feel, sniff, bite

Having traipsed through the tome The True History of Chocolate (Thames & Hudson), you’d think I would understand that chocolate is a complex subject. But all I smelled when I read the book was its plastic-coated cover, and all I heard was turning pages. It took a chocolate tasting class at ACKC to fill in the aromas, textures, sounds, sites, and of course tastes that really bring home the story.

ACKC stands for Artfully Chocolate|Kingsbury Confections, and the establishment has homes at 1529C 14th Street NW, AKA 14th and Q-ish, and on Mt. Vernon Ave. in Alexandria. Their main gig is not to let me taste their chocolates, but to serve as a coffee shop/art gallery/edible gift shop that sells a variety of confections, hot drinks (specializing in hot chocolates named after Hollywood divas), and some baked goods. They also give chocolate-making classes.

Here’s a quick pictorial overview of my adventures in a chocolate tasting at the D.C. location (courtesy of my BlackBerry, so not the best quality… sorry):

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Our guiding chocolatier, historian, and scholar was Rob Kingsbury. He’s the KC to artist Eric Nelson’s AC. You’ll see a glimpse of one of Nelson’s handmade tables a few photos from now. Continue reading

Foodie, heal thyself

Just as we tell sick docs, “physician, heal thyself,” why not admonish foodies to get themselves well by their own hand?

I tried that this week, after getting the sore throat followed by cold symptoms that is so familiar to me. This time around, while I reached for the cold medicine with one hand, I was whipping up food-based home remedies with the other.

Today, like magic, I’m feeling much better! It’s been less than a week, which means I’m healing about a week ahead of time. (Knock on wood–hopefully the fake oak finish on my plastic desk will suffice).

Here’s what I tried:

“Wallop You Well” Tonic
Gay Telese called Frank Sinatra with the sniffles “Picasso without paint, [a] Ferrari without fuel — only worse.” That pretty much described a friend of mine who made a living with her voice. And she swore by this remedy. Below is my take on it. Continue reading

Click, drag, remenisce… oh, and save the world

Remember those toy pots and pans with plastic fruits, veggies, and that too-red bacon you had as a kid? I think I didn’t actually have a set at home, but I played with one occasionally at preschool and this one time when my parents entered me in a study of kids at play.

I think my favorite part was the apple halves that each had a strip of velcro on the flat side. Put ’em together and you had a whole apple; “cut” the apple with your super safe plastic butter knife and you had two halves again! Continue reading

What a difference a week makes

scallion pancake

Sunny brunch spread

Last Sunday, the scallion pancake above was my “brunch” before an 11 a.m. Chinatown bus to D.C. The dim sum offerings of NYC’s Chinatown are wonderful, but there was something sad and unfulfilling about that pancake. Yes, it was delectibly oil-soaked, with just the right amount of scallion flavor. Even the crappy soy sauce from the little packet worked with it. But the context left something to desired… something that’s hard to pinpoint.

Maybe it was the rush of buying it, or the single-serving Styrofoam container. Or the fact that I ate it in a tiny bus station just before one of the bus company staff members jumped up, ordered us into a line, and marched us to the waiting coaches, all the while threatening that they were going to leave. Continue reading

Year-round farmer’s markets

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Good news: In D.C., the phrase “yes we can” now applies to local foods! You CAN get pesticide-free produce year-round, even in the winter, and you CAN get it from the very farmers who grew it. Just ask the bundles of wool scarves and puffy jackets at the Takoma Park market I frequent. They can can tell you about every day in the life of a head of tatsoi, and explain just how few chemicals were involved in its rearing. (This photo was taken in the warmer winter of ’08, at the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market).

It’s fascinating to see that, just six years ago, Pennsylvania mom Kate Gosselin had to scour her area for organic food.  Now it seems like 90% of the farmers at my local market grow without chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. And a healthy handful of them are from her own state!

List of markets after the jump. Continue reading