Friday, August 28, 2009

Local cooking

Those of you who have been to my home know my penchant for cookbooks. They're my one material (some might say hoarding) vice: I have over 150, and I can't seem to stop there. To be fair, to me they are entertaining as well as practical; I've been known to peruse them for hours, even if I'm not looking for a specific recipe. Anything is fair game, too: spiral-bound church fundraising cookbooks sit next to works by Julia Child and Mark Bittman. International cuisine meets Midwestern chow on my bookshelves. My large collection didn't stop me from buying a few extra tomes at the beginning of our CSA season this year, however, and I'm glad I did. My favorite new addition to the library is the St. Paul Farmers' Market Cookbook. Sadly, I've never been to the St. Paul Farmers' Market, but I hope to make it before the end of the growing season, because I've heard it's spectacular. This book, however, was the closest thing I could find to a local farmers' market cookbook. Its recipe for Hmong Stuffed Cabbage has become a favorite at our house, as well as several others. The book isn't flashy, and it doesn't have any photos, so it might have slipped past me if I weren't looking specifically for a local book. I highly recommend to those of you who are interested in more local cooking to seek out something similar in your area - the book has tons of tips about preserving the harvest bounty, as well as timelines for what produce is seasonal in Minnesota. None of the ingredients are expensive or difficult to find, because the recipes are written with a Minnesota audience in mind. I think this may be my new go-to gift for newcomers to our beautiful state.

Other favorites for the CSA season (and all year, actually) have been Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and a Mennonite cookbook called More With Less (which is actually a great read apart from the recipes because of the discussions about sustainable, seasonal, unprocessed eating).

Our State Fair is a Great State Fair and the Best State Fair in the State.

I have mixed feelings about admitting my love for the Minnesota State Fair on this blog. In a way, it represents what my family and I have been moving away from: commercial agriculture, consumption of processed foods, etc. HowEVer: one runs the risk of turning one's nose too high in the air by missing out on this great Midwestern tradition. My family never went to the state fair when I was growing up in Wisconsin (nor did my husband's in North Carolina), so we experienced the "Great Minnesota Get-together" together for the first time a few years ago, and loved it. Sure, we eat too much. And of course, the agriculture we celebrate there is likely chock full of genetically modified ingredients. But I think there's something to be said about knowing where your food comes from, and appreciating it. And quite frankly, not all farmers can be organic farmers. It's expensive, and these fine men and women (and children!) are doing their best to make a living. When I see a farmer at the fair, I have this odd urge to salute. Or hug. Or just say "thanks for growing my food." Beyond all that, we're celebrating Minnesota, and local food. I don't know if our toddler will remember the experience, but we'll help him remember meeting his very first farm animals in person.

Now, if this isn't a true stay-at-home-mom-without-cable-TV confession, I don't know what is: I watch the local news only because it comes on after Oprah, and I just happen to leave the TV tuned to that station. *hanging head in shame* So, through my addiction to WCCO, I've learned about their "We Power" broadcasts, in which fairgoers can ride stationary bicycles to power the newscast. They're making other green efforts, too, and it's fun to see worlds collide in that way. And just a stone's throw from the deep-fried spam curds booth, you can toss your gnawed-up corn cob into a giant compost bin. I promise to be on the lookout for more environmentally friendly practices at this year's State Fair!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Locavorism: it's not just for eating

You may have already read about how we're trying to eat more local food. One of the primary reasons for this decision is to reduce the energy used to ship food to us from its source. We're not extreme about it or anything - I don't know how I'd feed a Minnesota toddler without bananas, for example. But our choices about food have led us to consider local products and services in other areas of our lives. My husband recently found out that the mulch we chose for our landscaping is less expensive than other kinds of mulch because it can be produced locally, and it has the added benefit of being a natural pest control. This seems to be a timely issue for the Minnesota Twins, as well. Apparently, the Twins' new stadium is being carpeted with sod grown in Colorado, and shipped in on refrigerated trucks. Brilliant.

Health Care Reform

I think it's only fair that a blog that blows its social justice horn should at least dip its proverbial toe into the health care reform discussion that's happening in the U.S. right now.

I will be the first to admit that I don't know all of the facts. They're overwhelming. That said, I have a few opinions. I know that not everyone will agree with these opinions, and some of them may even contradict each other, but these beliefs are what form my thoughts about the debate.
1. I think everyone deserves quality health care.
2. I believe that no matter what, we all pay (and have paid for some time) for the health care of the uninsured: through emergency room visits that are "written off" and the costs passed on to the general paying/insured population, through disability and social security payments to people who may not have been disabled if they had received quality preventative care, and through the social costs of having an unhealthy population. The idea that we're all paying for someone else's health care is nothing new.
3. I believe that doctors, nurses, and therapists should be paid well. If my shock at the disparity between nurses' salaries and professional football players' salaries makes me a Communist, then color me red and stick a Cuban flag in me.
4. I think it's ludicrous to bring a firearm to a discussion about public policy. The disrespect that has been shown in this discussion saddens me. (Then again, I have this seemingly unusual notion that people should be treated as human beings, and my heart starts to race as soon as someone boasts about how they let a customer service representative "really have it." This is another discussion for another time, but I think that the Absolute Best Thing My Parents Ever Taught Me was to treat people with respect, especially those in service positions. Maybe, really, this is where my passion for social justice began. Sorry, Daddy-o.)
5. I realize that all of my opinions come from a place of privilege, and I feel so blessed that I have never had to worry about the cost of my (or my family's) health care.

This article is the clearest, most concise, intelligent piece that I've read explaining the facts about health care. It's not written or published by a partisan group: in fact, it's from a British website. The facts contained in it don't shock me, but I think that if they were more widely known, this debate might not be so rabid. Then again, maybe not.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Energy Saving

Here's a quick energy-saving tip: Agree to start a blog with your sister. Then NEVER POST ON IT. Ahem.