Monday, January 21, 2008

Weekly Miscellany

I'm reading Slow Food Nation, which is by one of the founders of the Slow Food Movement. I'm about halfway through. Very informative, though not quite as easy to read as Kingsolver's book. Perhaps because it's translated from Italian. I first heard about the Slow Food Movement when I read In Praise of Slowness last year. It's a great book in which the author investigates all the ways we've gotten rid of slow pleasures in the detrimental pursuit of speed and efficiency, not only in the arena of food, but in all aspects of our lives. I recommend it. His description of a dinner he had in Italy will have you drooling for a slower pace. (I've put an Amazon widget in the sidebar and I'll try to put all the books that I mention in my posts there.)

Poked around on the internet a bit and found the Organic Consumers Association. So much great information on this site! Products, companies, information, links, news items and action alerts about health, environment, organics, etc. It's going to take a while to explore the whole thing.

Pondering how I can rearrange the apartment to create a bigger pantry space. I can't do much about the size of my freezer, but I might be able to move some stuff around in my closets. Just thinking ahead to the possibility of maybe canning some of the coming harvest. Hard to believe there will be lovely summer vegies and fruits again someday when the current weather refuses to get above freezing, but it's fun to think about.

And one more observation. You know how they say not to go grocery shopping when you're hungry? Well, I'd like to add something to that. Don't go when you're tired, especially if you want to make good choices. During our last shopping trip, I was just exhausted for some reason, and I gave in to buying some things that I know don't conform to how I'm trying to change my food habits, but I was just too tired to think about it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Weekly Miscellany

Some notes on the week:

In an attempt to start weening myself off of convenience foods, I made the above pizza from scratch using recipes from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything (wonderful cookbook). It was just delicious! And really very easy.

Also dusted off the ice cream maker and made some lovely, rich, creamy, yummy vanilla ice cream (also using Bittman's recipe). Enjoyed the last of it last night over warm saut├ęd apples (one of those luscious Jonagolds I mentioned in the last post) in butter and brown sugar. Mmmmmmm. This coming week I think I'll make chocolate ice cream.

This morning I watched the premier episode of British chef Jamie Oliver's new show Jamie at Home on the Food Network. It's good to see a show about fresh, local ingredients on such a huge network. Maybe it's a sign that it's catching on.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Where do I shop?

So the comments to my last post would indicate that people are interested in where I'm shopping for groceries. There also seems to be some assumption that local goodies can't be found in the everyday neighborhood supermarket. I'm here to tell you that that is where I shop, and I've been pleasantly surprised by some of what I've found. In fact, since I live in a location very central to many grocery stores (not sure why there are so many, but there you have it), I shop at about 4 of them, bouncing around between them, depending on my mood usually. I don't shop at Whole Foods for a couple of reasons, the primary one being that the closest one is just not close enough for me. Secondly, I've always found them to be just too expensive. Maybe that will change as I go forward with this way of life, but for now… The other option around here is PCC Natural Markets, a local chain of retail cooperative natural grocery stores. Again, too far away for me, but I really like the stores I've been to and how they get really involved in the community and such, so I might look into getting a membership there.

My favorite grocery store is the Central Market up in Mill Creek (about 5-7 miles from my apartment I think, it's the furthest one), part of Town & Country Markets whose stated pledge is "to nourish the quality of life." I love shopping there. Not only do I find wonderful food there, I always leave with smile because it's just such a pleasant place to shop. In fact, I can't go there when I'm in a hurry, because I get sucked into wandering and discovering. I'll admit that I also tend to spend more there. Some of their prices are a bit higher than the big chain stores (to be expected really, but the quality and the service is amazing), but they also just have such cool stuff that you want to try! For example, one weekend last summer the owner of a local handmade ice cream treat company (I'll have to look up the name of the company next time we're there) was handing out samples of her ice cream sandwiches - homemade lemon cookies sandwiching homemade honey/lavender ice cream. Well, on bite and we had to go buy a couple to take home! They are also really great about making local and organic produce and products available, and clearly marking where they come from.

Next favorite would probably be TOP Foods, part of the Haggen chain based in Bellingham, WA, and I believe they only have locations in the Northwest. I am always impressed with the produce selection. Lots of local and organic, clearly marked. Last week I bought some beautiful organic, Washington grown Jonagold apples as big as softballs, and delicious as well, and they were the cheapest apples in the store! I almost got the regular non-organic, local Jonagolds until I saw these beauties. Decent organic/natural product selection too, though it can be pricey.

When I'm really concerned about price, or I just have a lot of dry goods to buy, I usually head for Fred Meyer. Started in Oregon, the company now belongs to the huge Kroger chain (QFC, Ralph's, Kroger). They actually have a wonderful natural/organic products section. Their produce and meat sections don't usually impress me much, though I've heard differently about their Oregon stores. And I usually leave there feeling pretty grumpy and jangly due to crowds and sensory overload.

And finally, when I just need to pick up a few things and I don't want to deal with a large store, I go to our little downtown Bothell QFC. It's quiet and small enough that the cashiers actually know a lot of the customers by name. And for a big national chain, they do seem to make an effort on the local front. Just recently they've changed their deli chicken, all of it, over to a local, natural chicken producer (Draper Valley Farms in Mt. Vernon, WA). Good for them!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Some initial thoughts and guidelines

Not sure what these are, but I saw them while I was walking along the river the other day and thought they looked cool.

What with the holidays and whatnot I haven't posted for a couple of weeks, but I have been keeping localtarianism in my thoughts, and in some of my actions, nonetheless. I'm going to try to update this blog more often, hopefully at least once a week, as the year progresses. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by so far, and thanks for the comments. Keep them coming! Reading your reactions and thoughts gives me encouragement to keep going, and gives me more to "food" for thought. :)

Since deciding on this course of action, I've been working on setting up some guidelines for myself. I am just not disciplined enough to try the "100 mile diet" which Ellen mentioned, and I don't want to overwhelm myself with demands that will probably just lead to me not doing anything at all. But I also don't want to just forget it either. So, I search for a happy medium.

One thing I have decided on is that since I live in Washington, I will focus on buying Washington state produce, but I am willing to buy Northwest produce (Washington, Oregon and Idaho), and I will even buy from as far as California. California produce will be mostly in the form of citrus and the occasional avocado. Better, in terms of amount of petroleum used for transport, than from Florida or Chile, right? And I'll try to keep things seasonal as much as possible. (These berries I see in the grocery store right now just ain't right!) And I will buy organic whenever it's a viable option.

See, if I was being really, really strict, I would never see an orange or an avocado again, and I just don't see myself doing that. I have pretty much given up bananas, and other tropical fruits, though. Key word here - tropical. I will probably still allow them once in a great while, because I do love tropical fruit. Especially mangos.

Today I picked up several container gardening books at the library. I've never been all that great with plants, so I haven't even tried to make my own garden in quite a while, but maybe I can make it work this time, since I have this great cause behind it. I'm going to try to grow tomatoes and some herbs at the very least. Any gardening tips would be greatly appreciated!

So far I've had no trouble locating organic and local dairy products, and organic, local free-range chicken and eggs too. They cost a little more, but the quality is definitely worth it. I also found flour from a local, organic, cooperative mill. I'm having trouble finding beef that's clearly marked as local and pasture raised and all that. We don't eat a lot of beef, but when we do, I'd like to be able to know those things about it.

I've started researching some of our local farm and CSA (community sustainable agriculture) options. I'll report more on those as I know more.