FINALLY. That time of year again. Tomatoes and Basil from the garden. Mozz from a RI farmer.
…I cannot tell you how much use this has been.
The first strawberries have arrived at my local “pick your own” farm. Loving every minute of it. This is a tremendously delicious strawberry lemonade. Just wish there was some way to get lemons locally - the woes of living in New England.
Mint Extract. Stupid Easy. 1/4 pound of torn mint leaves to 1 cup vodka. Combine in a glass jar on a windowsill for 1-2 weeks.
An article on NPR, for which I wrote a “feed52” post. Brilliant idea.
I returned from college to find that spearmint had taken over 40% of the vegetable garden that I had spent spring break dutifully covering in fertilizer and topsoil. I had to rip it out to make room for the rest of the veggies. Expect many mint recipes in the near future.
The New York Times blog recently featured an article entitled, “Wait, so people are cooking?” (Bittman and Meyer apparently jointly wrote it, although that was unclear as both were listed as authors). The article discussed a recent survey by Share Our Strength, which suggested that many low-income Americans are cooking at much higher rates than we had anticipated.
The common misconception that the survey was attempting to disprove was that Americans as a whole would rather spend less money on fast food, than cook dinner using fresh, local ingredients. I, for one, am not sure that the article did much to dispel the rumor.
Sprinkled between stock photos of attractive minority mother-child photos (in and of themselves mildly offensive and gender normative - fathers cook dinner too), were statistics regarding the median incomes and relative interest in healthy food of participants. They found that of those living below 250% of the poverty line, around 78% reported cooking dinner at home on an average week night. Now, that number seems pretty awesome, but the scientist in me is concerned by the methods of the survey.
Primarily, I could find no information on what they define as a family. Personally, I do not expect to make a salary that is 250% of the poverty line (around $60,000) for many years after graduation. I do, however, expect to eat delicious, healthy meals at home most nights. Were recent college graduates or young couples surveyed?
Secondly, I think the survey may have suffered from something I like to call the “NPR” effect. When surveys are done to determine how many people listen to NPR, there are always more people who say they listen than actually do. Why? Because listening to NPR is the mark of the liberal intellectual. (I know this is true because as the child of two liberal intellectuals, I often exaggerate the amount of time I spend listening to NPR). In studies like these, the participants know the “right” answer. They should say that they eat healthy, local, organic meals at a dinner table with their totally functional and beautiful family 4-5 times per week. My guess is that this leads to an inflation of the reality.
A couple summers ago I lived in an area of NYC somewhere between Spanish Harlem and Washington Heights. The neighborhood was on the verge of gentrification, but the markers of predominantly low-income residents remained - the foremost of which was a lack of any fresh or local food. On my block there were 5 fast food restaurants: McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Popeyes, and Taco Bell. Every night as I returned from work, laden with slightly deformed and therefore unusable carrots (I worked at the farm for a farm-to-table restaurant run by a highly selective chef), I would see swarms of families leaving the restaurants, paper bags in hand, grease dripping through so as to create a translucent view of the fries inside.
Meanwhile, at the farm where I worked, busses of students from low-income schools were brought in for tours. My tours always involved a stop at the carrot beds. I would ask what they were, and instead of the resounding answer I always received from the (mainly Westchester-resident) farm camp students, I would be met with resounding silence. On one occasion, after cutting up a carrot for them to try, the tallest girl of the bunch (rather abrasively) asked me why there wasn’t food like that where she were from. I asked where they were from and she said something in the Bronx that as a non-native New Yorker, I had never heard of.
I wasn’t sure how to respond. I grew up in a comfortable New England town. We grew tomatoes, and every summer, for weeks at a time our dinner consisted only of tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I went home to upper Manhattan that night and checked out the vegetables in the markets along my street. Most had only potatoes and onions, some had corn and tomatoes. None had mushrooms, scallions, squash, shallots, green beans, or any other of my favorites.
I guess what I am saying is that I think it is dangerous to look at our food system, even for a moment, and be satisfied with it. The overall tone of the NY Times article was relief- of “we are doing better than we thought.” We are not. As long as some kids grow up eating 8 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and other don’t know that carrots grow underground, we have a lot of work to do. Food is a basic necessity, but good food should be a fundamental right.
WOMNCBFGAI (Working on my night cheese, but feeling guilty about it),