Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Food Project – Shopping

Under the new concept of eating local, I went to the Ballard Farmers Market Sunday morning with several hundred dollars in cash and the goal of feeding us all for the week, grocery store be damned.

Mr. Punkernoodle and I debated quite a bit the night before about the approach. Since we typically like to walk down to the market with the girls in The Rig (an embarrassingly large yet surprisingly nimble double jogging stroller) we were wondering how to 1. Get all the food back up the hill (20 blocks north and 6 blocks east) and 2. How to keep the meat and cheese I was planning to buy cold while we meandered through the market and spent a lazy Sunday morning listening to the musicians, eating wood-fired pizza for lunch, chatting with friends we often meet, and generally just hanging out before heading back up the hill during naptime.

Part of the idea of being more local-focused is reducing car driving (ours or others’), so I didn’t like the idea of taking the car. Plus we enjoy the long walk for exercise and fresh-air naps. In the end, I drove ahead and arrived just as the market opened (I know from past experience that meat and other delicacies sell out fast – I missed the rumored fava beans!!). After stocking up on perishables I drove home, and then we all walked down together, ambled about and picked our produce etc. Not the ideal, so I think we’ll have to refine the approach.

Anyway, in my haste to rush home and get the fam, I didn’t write down exactly what I got from where as I intend to do going forward (no receipts at farmers markets to refer to later). But this was the general haul: a hunk of fresh lamb, enough pork loin for a big tray of enchiladas plus leftovers, 5 fresh sausages, a jar of Chardonnay mustard, a quart of lamb stock and a chunk of free bacon from Sea Breeze Farm on Vashon Island, some frozen ground lamb from another farm a couple of hours north of here, a small chunk of aged cheddar, a round of goat cheese, and a grapefruit-sized mama wheel of farm cheese from various cheese artisans including Samish Bay in Skagit Valley; a huge jug of raspberry apple cider from the amazing Rockridge Orchard and Cidery, a box of chocolate/toffee ice cream topper, and a bag of locally made cheese crackers. Add to that an unorthodox amount of rhubarb stems, a hefty log of asparagus, kale, a bag of gorgeous (and ultimately buttery/creamy smooth) French fingerling potatoes – a farmer’s last batch from the late fall harvest preserved perfectly, a bag of Yakima apples, a jar of pluot jam, a clutch of red radishes, a precious sack of locally foraged morels (!!), and probably something else I am forgetting. For this I spent about $200.

Rhubarb and apple, being cooked down.

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What became of the rhubarb and apple. YUM.

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Meat ‘n Potatoes:

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And finally, the first vegetable harvested from our garden this season (not counting early onions and a few spinach leaves). Isn’t it cute?

Tansy 2nd birthday (20090 180

As I learn more about eating locally, I am finding a fascinating group of people dedicated to this approach. People in Seattle and beyond who have formed urban farming and gardening co-ops to purchase materials, chicken feed, and bulk grains. People who are learning to bake bread, make cheese and garden organically in order to eat more healthfully and consciously. People who are purposely returning to a more traditional way of preparing food and who are eager to exchange backyard eggs and ripe pears with neighbors in order to feed themselves and each other with what’s in season.

Pretty cool.

The Food Project – Getting Started

rhubarbIt’s been a while since we’ve posted, mostly because it feels as though we’ve been eaten alive by our garden (isn’t it supposed to be the other way around???). But really, things here at the Punkernoodle Palace have revolved around the seemingly endless task list associated with getting stuff ready for summer.

We’ve grown an edible garden every year for the past 6 or 7 years, with varying degrees of success. It’s actually a lot of fun, and we never know exactly how it’s going to go – which vegetables and herbs will take root and succeed to harvest, and which (depending on weather, our skills and maybe a little luck, or lack thereof) will flop. One year, when we lived in a small house on Capitol Hill, we were surprised to receive a wildly bountiful potato crop that lasted us well into fall/winter after we threw in a couple dozen sprouting potatoes into a strip of little-used earth along our backyard fence. We usually have a great pea harvest and good luck with zucchinis (who doesn’t?). Tomatoes have been trickier – we lost more than a hundred unripened ones to an early rainy season one year (this year we’ll try covering them if the threat should arise again) but have also enjoyed hundreds of juicy, sweet cherry tomatoes from our potted plants.

There is nothing better than the taste of food from your own earth, freshly picked. Even our two little Punkernoodles love eating tomatoes, spinach – even onions! – straight from the plant, even though they often turn their nose at less-fresh, store-bought versions on their dinner plates.

This year, our garden has spread from its modest backyard plot into some nicely landscaped plots, bordered by antique brick, in the front. We’ve added chickens and are enjoying watching them grow from the tiny pullets and chicks they were a couple months ago into big girls who might start gracing us with urban eggs before winter if we’re lucky.

After recently (and obsessively) reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I now have even bigger hopes for our little home food crops. If you’ve read the book, you know what I mean when I say it can change your outlook on the cutural and environmental implications of our food choices. If you haven’t read the book, you should. Anyway, a few chapters in it dawned on me – there’s no reason we can’t do this. Ok, maybe not to the extent Kingsolver and her family does (we don’t have acres of rural land to grow a year’s worth of our own vegetables and meat, for one thing). But we have some space, which we fill with as many cabbages, carrots, pea vines and spinach seeds as we can, plus a handful of chickens who will hopefully give us fresh organic eggs soon. And, most importantly, we have what I hope will be the key to the success of this new Punkernoodle family plan: the Ballard Farmers Market.

Seattle in general has amazing farmers markets. We are lucky to live in a neighborhood that hosts a year-round Sunday market. Farmers from our county and beyond truck in whatever is fresh and in season every week. Most of it is organic, and these farms use free-range, grass-finished and sustainable methods to grow hormone- and chemical-free vegetables and meat, practically in our own backyard. Ok, not that close, but thousands of miles from the South American bananas we’ve become programmed to think we need to eat every week of the year.

I go to the market often, but I always use it to supplement our weekly grocery visits – I spend maybe $30 on a handful of market produce. If I really looked at every stand with a fresh eye, treating the market as my grocery, how much of our weekly food could I get there? Could I, complementing with whatever we grow in our yard, fill nearly all our nutritional needs from these local farmers and food artisans?

Like Kingsolver, my husband and I discussed some necessary exceptions to a potential buying-local rule: coffee, tea and spices, chocolate (though we’d aim, as we do anyway, to buy those through fair-trade sources). What about staples like bread and pasta, beans and grains, we wondered? I did some research. I was surprised to find a couple of Washington sources for some of those, including a Methow Valley enterprise called Bluebird that grows and processes emmer/farro, rye and oat flour. And I was excited to learn on Sunday (more about the first project trip to the market later) that I can get beans of many varieties grown in the Yakima Valley only 150 miles from us, not bad on the local-eating chart.

For now, we decided we will buy bread from local bakers using organic ingredients and conscious practices, as well as acknowledged that we’ll need to occasionally buy some things of the truly non-local/commercialized variety (hey – we have a 2- and 4-year-old who might not be so down with this plan of ours, at least right away). Even then, I was excited to see that our local natural-foods co-op has great orange tags in every food section denoting which products are produced locally – so we can try to navigate to the mac and cheese that is still from down the road, or highway, vs. across the country, cutting down on our global footprint and supporting our local community. The overarching goal is simple: to change our habits so that we can begin eating and appreciating local food that is in season. What to do when there is (practically) no food in season?? We asked ourselves that, too, as Kingsolver does in the book. What I learned, or was reminded of, by reading it is that there are always foods in season, even during the soggy, nearly freezing Pacific Northwest winters. I am newly interested in the other methods of relying on local foods that I learned about in the book – canning, drying, freezing foods when they’re in season. I’ll report the (probably hilarious) attempts at those when the time comes.

Obviously, we decided to go for it. I would take my $200+ normally spent at the store to the market this weekend with a fresh eye and a new task: feed us all for a week. I spent that money, and I’ll report what it bought us (and what I’m doing with it) in the next blog installment.

Green Nesting

Here’s a cool event happening Thursday in Seattle:

Please join us for an exciting night with the eco-friendly expert Melissa Moog. Melissa will help parents through the confusing maze of eco-friendly baby gear, as well as provide important advice about organic and natural family living.
Topics to be covered:
Green Diapering, Green Skincare, Green Nursery Design, Toxins, Organic Food and much more

Grab your friends and join us for a night of drinks, snacks, door prizes and a lot of great info!

Thursday, May 7th from 7-9pm

Please rsvp to info@tottini.com to reserve your spot.