Thursday, August 30, 2012

Good Fish, Bad Fish, are there Tennessee Fish?

I've been reading about the importance of getting DHA in your diet and that the best source is fish. I've also read multiple places that people who do not eat much fish should/could take fish oil supplements to get the improved benefits of fish without eating the actual fish.
So, I've been on the hunt for decent local fish since we started this b/c B actually likes to eat it. I have never liked it, but I have been convinced of its nutritional value and feel it's something we should be getting into our diets.
I find it very perplexing, distressing, and frustrating that there is a large river and multiple lakes that run through my area, and yet local fish is so hard to find. How can this be so? I shake my fist at that dirty water even though I know all too well that it's not the water's fault.
I went to a "local" grocery store with a fish counter to inquire about some local fish.  I was referred to them b/c someone told me they carried a particular farmed rainbow trout. They didn't have any local fish - the nearest was Wisconsin. The fishmonger responded to my exasperation about the lack of fish when we have all these natural waterways by saying, "I'm not eating anything out of that river." Awesome.
This is a larger kind of grocery so it was also interesting to hear him discuss the idea of getting fish from a local place or a small scale farm.  I couldn't tell if he was trying to tell me his honest opinions, was quoting the party line/rhetoric on why industrial organic is better than independent/local, of if he was genuinely trying to spook me into buying their "safer" fish.
Having just finished Joel Salatin's most recent book and starting a 2nd one now, I was surprised how much his comments bothered me. I hadn't expected to care how he talked about/described little farmers (that I don't even know from Adam!), but it really did irk me a bit to hear him describe "them" as something to be feared. I got the impression all of his food comes with an acronym stamped on it.
So, after 3 months I'm still on the hunt for some local fish. I am amazed by the challenges that come with this wild ride we've begun. I enjoy learning all the new facts and meeting new people. I had the best conversation with the fishmonger about fish and really liked him (aside from the little snarky comments about small fisheries) and what he had to say. I was encouraged that he took my name and number and wrote "local" underneath it. He said someone might call me with more information. Until then, I'll have to be content in the knowledge that my name is attached to the word "local" in someone's world. That's better than some can say and, who knows, maybe one of these days my fish will come in and I'll have something new to report.

Monday, August 20, 2012

We've got Ripples!

We went home to see our family this weekend and there were multiple examples of little ways that our push for local/sustainable/fair/healthy (organic?) food is wearing off on them as well!
Both of our parents mentioned that they found a place to get meat that was from a farmer and local. Apparently they've found a place to get pork products locally and they seemed genuinely interested and excited about it!
My dad made a point to cook organic "hot dogs" for lunch. I say "hot dog" because they were really more like sausages or mini-brats. They were pork meat only and very tasty/meaty - nothing like a hot dog. This could lead to even more ripples b/c my brother really liked them. He eats hot dogs several times a week. Just that one switch in his diet from generic brand industrial hot dogs with all the preservatives and chemicals to the all-pork locally grown version could be huge for him and his health, right? 
Both of our parents are using more whole wheat flour in their cooking. In fact, I was lucky enough to receive a made-from-scratch birthday cake with made-from-scratch frosting that was over the top delicious. (Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, no less!) It was many times better than anything you could get from a grocery or a box. It also tasted better because it had a lot of love in it. I know the time invested in making it from scratch versus picking it up from the store, and I appreciated not only the flavors of the cake, but also the time and effort that went into making it especially for me. It was like a 2nd gift in a way. (The first gift was a box of walnuts! What a treat!)

I don't know how many people we have talked to about our food. I don't know how many people we have encouraged to visit Green Door or Produce Place or try making their own bread/cheese/yogurt, etc. As I am learning to can/preserve food, I'm sharing successes/failures with others and encouraging them to give it a go as well. It's been interesting to see how often the topic of food comes up and we have the chance to spread the word about where to get great local food. We had some friends over the other night who think very similarly to us about food and the need for local, sustainable foods. We had the best time chatting about where to get various ingredients/foods and how to cook them up and enjoy them.  It was great sharing our experiences with local food and hearing theirs as well. 

Honestly and truthfully, we started this adventure purely for ourselves and mostly out of curiosity. This wasn't begun as a crusade to persuade anyone else. Even this blog is more about us having a way to document our experiences, keep track of recipes & putting up plans, and note where/when to get various things so it will hopefully get easier to eat locally each year. We also wanted to share the blog with others that might be trying the same thing as a word of encouragement that it's possible and a positive thing to do. We are hoping people might find our little corner of the web and send us tips on where to get great local food in Nashville. 
In the beginning we wondered where our food was coming from. We realized we weren't asking enough questions about our food. We didn't know what things we could get locally and we were curious to find out how we would feel if we switched a more local diet. As a result we have lost weight*, gained energy and confidence, learned tons of new things about food and how to cook it (thanks to the fabulous folks at Green Door Gourmet and the internet), and we've been genuinely a bit happier all around. *I could go into a lot more detail about the changes in our health in the last 2 months, but I don't want to sound like an infomercial!

All that to say, when we decided to switch to local food, we didn't think about our little adventure effecting anyone else. It is great to see these unexpected ripples and wonder what other ripples or (dare I say it?) even waves may still lie ahead of us?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Who Knew?

Today was an interesting day for me. I made a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich for lunch. I made lasagna, mashed potatoes, and peanut butter cookies for supper.

Before we switched to local food, I didn't eat tomatoes. I didn't like tomato sauce. Period. I would tolerate it in some things b/c I love noodles, but I have always preferred alfredo sauce much more. Turns out that the tomatoes we're getting from the farm are absolute perfection and I genuinely like them! I voluntarily and excitedly put them in my salads and my sandwiches! I eat them whole! Who knew 2 months ago when we made this tiny change, that it would change so many things?

Most shockingly of all, who knew I would like to cook as much as I do?? I have never been much of a cook. I love to bake desserts but that's just because everyone is always eager to get them. All of a sudden I'm finding joy in cooking my meals from scratch. This is usually B's claim to fame, so it's fun that we have this in common now. I actually spent about 3 hours making dinner today and I was happy as a clam. Crazy!

For dinner tonight I made lasagna from scratch for the first time. I made both the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, I made the sauce and assembled the lasagna. I obviously didn't make the eggplant or the tomatoes, but you get the point. I used some boxed noodles b/c I had them. (When they're all gone, I'd like to try to make them. I don't have a pasta roller thing, and wonder it it's worth it. I wonder if I would get my money's worth out of it?)Regardless, I am proud of myself for finding new recipes to conquer and being brave enough to give it a go. Last week pizza sauce, this week lasagna. Who knows what tomorrow brings. I don't, but I hope it's delicious!

Lastly, I know I've said it before but it bears repeating. When you cook with quality ingredients, it's really hard to make bad food. I can't even count how many times this summer we have cooked up something and thought or said out loud, "This could be a disaster." and not once have we had anything we wouldn't make again. I notice it most in the tomatoes for the sole fact that I'm eating them now, but it's true in all things. Notions like fresh and local get tossed around a lot, but they really do make a huge, huge difference in the quality of your meal. I know they cost more, but they're worth every single penny.

Bookworm Days of Summer - Updated!

I have recently read and enjoyed:
Folks, this Ain't Normal by Joel Salatin - very interesting and one of his only books our library system had, but I found it very interesting.
Eating for Beginners  by Melanie Rehak - loved this book! This was such a good book, and a very quick read.
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson - just got from the library today, but I'm excited to read this epic work that spawned so much of the environmentalist movement in America today.
Rachel Carson and her Book that Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor - (children's picture book)
I read this to E and she liked the illustrations. We talked about the title a little bit, but the rest of the story was a bit over her head. I would recommend for 2nd-5th grade or for a quick summary of the life and work of Rachel Carson.  I found a lot of parallels in her fight and the fight that is still going in America today.

Previous Post: (I'm working on adding great links for more information/where to purchase some of these great works.)
Over the past month or two we have been reading a lot about the industrial food chain in America. Sadly, we have been very repulsed by much of what we've learned about how our food is made/grown, treated/processed, monitored/inspected, and shipped/stored. The result of industrial processing is a food chain stretching over 1500 miles and we've decided that we owe it to ourselves to do better.
So, having said too much already, here are some of the books that we have read and loved that have changed our way of life and point of view regarding food in America. These are just a few of the books we are working through and we will add to the list as we come across more great reads.
The result of all this reading is that we now know too much to go back to the way we used to eat. We hope you'll check some out and perhaps be inspired (or disgusted as the case may be) and informed enough to perhaps make some changes of your own.

Recommended Book List:
Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-mile Diet  - Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon (This is the book that started it all for us b/c as we read it we both realized how little we knew about TN agriculture and what actually could and could not be farmed in TN.)
The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan
Food Rules - Michael Pollan (This book can be read in less than an hour most likely and it's a great place to begin. It will probably cause you to begin wondering where your food really comes from and you may even find yourself putting a bit more thought into the proverbial question of what's for dinner.)
In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
Real Food by Nina Planck - (Loved the chapter on real milk! She also has a newer book, Real Food for Mother and Baby, that I haven't read, but it certainly looks interesting.)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Barbara Kingsolver (A combination of narrative about a year of eating locally, informative essays about political issues related to food, and simple recipes, this book is a must read for anyone considering a locavore diet to any great extent.)
Robbing the Bees - Holley Bishop
Home Cheese Making - Ricki Carroll (Fantastic book for anyone interested in making cheese.)
Super Baby Food - Ruth Yaron (My favorite book about homemade baby food. It's doesn't discuss local food per se, but it is very anti-industrial and pro-natural and homemade baby food and thus a real treasure.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Burger Up

Not sure how many people are reading this, but... if you haven't eaten at Burger Up yet, you have got to make plans to get there! They have 2 locations, though we've only eaten at the 12th South restaurant.

Burger Up is simply amazing! They are doing so many things that align with our views of what being a locavore is all about. In addition to the food beliefs we support, they also support many environmentalist causes in regards to consumption, product choice, and sustainable practices. I love that the only thing we "consumed" at our meal was the food! I probably shouldn't have eaten the brownie a la mode, but when you have the opportunity to devour (and I did devour mine) a brownie made with Olive + Sinclair chocolate and a scoop of Jeni's Ice Cream on top, how on Earth do you pass it up?? I may not eat for 3 days, I left there so full.  As an added bonus, they are literally a stone's throw from Las Paletas, so E got to go next door & get a honeydew popsicle for dessert!

If you're in Nashville and need a place to eat, definitely give them a try. You won't be disappointed. We went at 6:30 on a Friday and waited about 20-30 minutes for a table for 5. We were out by a quarter to 8, even though it was packed, so the service was great.

One thing to note; they don't do reservations. It's first come, first served. I suspect this is because they, like most restaurants that use local ingredients, can run out of a given entree as they run out of specific ingredients (which would be upsetting to those with later reservations). I didn't read that anywhere, it's just my theory.

Eating local has a lot of different meanings to different people. Burger Up is a restaurant you can support for many different "local" reasons. Most importantly, it's really, really great food.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Motivation (in case you need some...)

I ran across this link that someone posted online today.  It is the FDA's list of food recalls. The FDA has posted an appalling 11 recalls in the past week. Some of them are for bacteria that has infected the food and others are for undeclared ingredients. Regardless - 11 in one week seems like a system out of control.
As if 11 food recalls in one week weren't discomforting and unsettling enough, there was another alarming statement on the FDA website as well, and for the record, the emphasis added is mine, not theirs.
And I quote: "
  • FDA works with industry and our state partners to publish press releases and other public notices about recalls that may potentially present a significant or serious risk to the consumer or user of the product.  Not all recalls have press releases or are posted on this page.
That last sentence means there's a definite possibility that 11 is only the reported recalls while others may not have been deemed important or dangerous enough to merit letting the consumer know about them.

I read about a woman who took a year to focus on local food and by the end of the year nothing in her kitchen had a bar code. I would imagine that reading things like this along the way, would keep up the motivation to continue the challenge to eat a local diet.

Wherever you find your motivation, be it from fear of a recall or  from eating fresh, local ingredients so tasty you can't fathom going back to industrial food, I hope you are persuaded to give local a chance.