Friday, May 23, 2014

Tortilla de Patatas

The Spanish tortilla or tortilla de patatas or Spanish omelet, whatever you want to call it. After doing my presentation with Charles Sheppard of the tortilla de patatas I am going to leave you the recipe that we used to make it:

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 potatoes
  • Onion
  • Olive oil

Okay, eggs, potatoes and olive oil are the essential products for a Spanish omelet, from there you can put your imagination to work and be creative, if you like meat add meet, if you like hot sauce add some hot sauce, cheese, green pepper... whatever you want to add to them. We used 6 egg and 2 potatoes per omelet, but the quantity of eggs and potatoes may vary depending of how big you want your omelet or if you want less or more potatoes



The difference of the Spanish omelet with other omelets is that it is not common to eat them by your self. The Spanish omelet has a social side, people usually cook it to share with others, either with friends or family. If you ever go to Spain you also can eat ‘la tortilla de patatas’ as a tapa, a small dish or piece of food that generally accompanies your drink, in this case they will give you a piece of tortilla with your drink. You also can ask for un ´pincho de tortilla´ and they will give you a piece of Spanish omelet with a slice of bread and if you are in Catalonia don’t doubt that they will ask for some ´Pa amb tomáquet´ with your tortilla.



With friends, family or in a bar, the Spanish tortilla is one of those dishes where people gather around, talk, and share their experiences while enjoying their meal. Here I leave you a video were they show you how to make a tortilla de patatas.



Thursday, May 22, 2014

3 reasons to study sociology of food

When I first took Sociology of Food, I was curious. What could food and sociology have to do with each other? Food, I thought was more of an anthropological study; as an anthropologist may seek to examine how different cultures feed themselves. What do these different different cultures eat? What strange foods? What foods do they have in common with people from my own country? I learned that food and society intersect at interesting points. Here are 3 things you will learn if you study the sociology of food.

1. Food brings people together.
Think of your family dinners for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I repeat: food brings people together. I remember one of my last nights in Nepal, I had the pleasure of sharing dinner with the father of another Hanover grad, Gopal Pokhrel. I got to talk to the family as I did research for my Richter Grant, but even better, I got to eat all kinds of home-cooked Nepalese food. For that evening, though we lived miles and miles away, we were family. That's what food does.

2. Food separates people.
Food helps us draw distinctions between other people. The Palm, a fancy restaurant, helps draw the distinction between rich people food and poor people food. Rich people can afford to eat meals that take time; lobster, crab, many course steak meals. Poor people, on the other hand, cannot afford to spend time on their food. They eat pre-packaged foods like TV dinners. Food is also gendered. Men eat meat, like hot wings, while women eat less messy foods like salads. Food separates different cultures - think of how different Thai food is from American food. Food also separates different religious groups; kosher food, halal food. Some Buddhists practice vegetarian food practices for religious and ethical reasons.

3. Food oppresses people.
Food oppresses people. This is probably one of the more shocking entries on this list. I wrote about it in another blog entry on this same blog, entitles The Consequences of our Coffee. Don't get me wrong, it's awesome that I can get cheap food wherever I want, and it's also awesome that I can take my U.S. dollar to many countries in the third world and live like a king for a week. But on the other end of all this taken-for-granted awesomeness. We get cheap mass-produced products from farmers, who produce these goods - like coffee - in large quantities. The problem? High supply drives down the income they can get from their product. Essentially, we and other people who enjoy an economy of mass-produced goods, are buying into a system that promotes the virtual slavery of others. This is a very Marxist problem.

So wwhat is the answer to this problem?

Wendell Barry suggests in his article, "The Pleasures of Eating" that consumers become more aware of the consequences of their food choices. He argues for more informed, local consumption of goods.

Sociology ruins EVERYTHINGGGGG!!!!!

So after being a sociology major for 3 years I have decided that sociology ruins everything! I cannot talk to someone, watch a movie, talk with my family, SIT IN MY ROOM without trying to analyze and wonder:
Why is okay for him 
to do that and not her?
Are they doing that because of 
their parents or their peers?
Why is there so much pink and 
glitter all over this room and house?!

And then I get into this Meaning of Food class thinking...
Oh. The meaning of food is I cook it and then I eat it. Case closed. A! 
(self high-five!)

and then I took my high-five back after week 1...

I realized that I should have known better than to think what I thought entering this class. 
1. Because it was Kate Johnson and Ryle....
(aka my face after week 1)

2.Because it was another one of those dang sociology classes that my parents say messes with my thinking and what not.

But I guess after taking class I realized that it isn't that sociology doesn't ruin everything but allows us to see a different perspective of things and understanding the meaning of things and the different contexts in which it is used. 

Food. not just something we eat but something we live off of but something that needs us almost as much as we need it. There is a process to how we get our food and that is something that we fail to realize.

Learning the sociology (and philosophy) allowed me to have an insight and respect for it that was not really acknowledge before.Like other things that we learn about, we don't know there is a problem til it affects us. So in terms of food there are is a group us that are privileged to have food while others have to work day in and day out to get their food.

But looking at those that suffer from not having food is only one aspect of it. There is so much intersectionality (there's a fancy sociology word thrown at you) that goes into food that most of us ignore because sometimes food can cause us to think selfishly.

So looking at food in a sociological way showed me that I need to open my eyes to food and how it brings people together or keeps people a part, or shows the differences in social status, religion, race, etc. I know that I am going to look more into where my food comes from and where it goes through because by eating somethings I may be supporting a company that stands for something that I am completely against.

So just how we make race, religion, sexuality, etc. an important topic, our American culture also needs to look at what we are consuming because we are what we eat. Whether that is we are into slave labor or consuming large quantities of fake food and leaving others hungry we need to pay attention.

But I guess that would change my title. Soooooo not...

Sociology ruins EVERYTHINGGGGG!!!!!

Sociology Brings Out Everything!!!!
For the better :)

We want DESSERTS!

Don't we all, Stitch?
This week, as we all oohed and aahed over our classmates' food presentations, indulging in the delights of delicious and free (!) food, I couldn't help but realize how many dessert courses we chose to prepare.  Out of all 12 presentations, 4 were desserts or sweet dishes (as opposed to savory)...That's 25% of the class!  I know that the dish I chose to share began as a family comfort food where, much like Stitch, when I'm feeling down or blue reaching for this familiar dish warms my soul and lightens my mood.  But, with a quarter of the class also choosing to prepare a dessert, that leads to the obvious assumption that sweets must play a large role in our own personal biographies and cultures, making me wonder: How did the idea of concluding a meal with a sweet course or dessert originate? This is exactly the question I want to explore with you all today.

In an article in the New York Times the book SWEET INVENTION: A History of Dessert was reviewed, analyzing where and when exactly our mild obsession with sweets began in human history.  Apparently there are quite a few historical and cultural aspects that have contributed to our modern definition of dessert.  Here is a brief summary of how the timeline goes:

1. In Medieval times cooks began adding extra sugar into their savory dishes, making all of the courses of a meal much sweeter.

2. Then, in the mid-17th century a separation was established dividing different dishes into 2 categories: sweet and savory. I should mention that during this point in time meals were service à la française, where all the "courses" of a meal were served at once.

3. About 150 years later most meals were being served in individual courses, called service à la russe, resulting in even more of a separation between sweet and savory.  It became customary to serve savory dishes at the beginning of a meal and sweeter ones towards the end.





 

But this still doesn't explain the main question: Why are we so obsessed with desserts?!  The explanation is actually rather simple.  We are genetically predisposed to like sweet flavors because, according to Daniel Lieberman (a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard), "since sugar is a basic form of energy in food, a sweet tooth was adaptive in ancient times, when food was limited."  So next time you're craving that chocolate bar sitting in your kitchen cupboard, don't feel guilty for eating it all in one sitting...after all, that sweet tooth that you have isn't just genetic, it's evolutionary!

Food Safety

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIcTARSGP0k

Before taking this class, I feel as though many of us would have given the same answers to these questions as the people in this video did. When thinking about food safety I feel the answers given by each individual in the video are the go to areas of food safety. But after discussing food in different aspects of food and food safety the last month I am sure we can all agree that its so much more than making sure food is properly prepared.

When I found this video I expected it to talk about how food was grown and being conscious of where our food came from. However, as you saw in the video, only about 3 people mentioned knowing the background of your food of being knowledgeable of where it came from. I would like to say I was surprised by this... but knowing many of us (prior to this class) would have given many of the same answers I cannot say I am the least bit surprised.

Using this blog as a bit of a reflection I think the most important thing to take away from what we have discussed the last month is to be knowledgeable about your food and its background. As suggested in the video, food safety can be learned through media (online, newspapers) and social media. But after the last month I think we all know this is not the case! You don't really learn about your food from looking at an electronic devise. You learn about your food and the safety of what you're putting into your body by going out and giving hands on effort to make relations with the food and those who are preparing it from day one!!
After taking a philosophy class on the meaning of food, I have had some time to reflect on my eating habits and further my stance on how Americans should eat and think about their relations with the world and how it sustains them. So many people are "blind consumers" and do not care or concern themselves with where their food comes from and who their actions affect. We often see food as "products" which taste good. and that's about it. Many of us do not think about the hard work and labor that goes into our food and how many people are involved in the creation and growth of the food we eat on a daily basis.

Now that I'm graduating I plan on taking more control of my life and my eating habits. I refuse to be a bling consumer whose money supports slave and child labor. I refuse to be fooled into eating foods that have so many hidden preservatives and junk packed into them. I refuse to eat foods that come from abused animals. These simple standards of eating will change my life. Yes, I may stay in whole foods or local grocers for over two hours comparing labels and googling foods on my iPhone before I buy them, but that time and effort is what makes the difference.

Now that I will not be relying on the college to feed me, I will have so much more power to choose what I eat and where I buy my food from. Living in downtown Indianapolis is going to be amazing because of the resources available to me. I plan on going to the farmer's market every weekend and shopping at local stores.

I think it is important for our generation to realize that we can make a difference in the food industry and the way the world views food. I think change starts at the individual level for each person is responsible to make their life what he or she wants it to be; once people begin to transform, they spread their opinions and knowledge to others who will then think about how they can apply such ideas to their lives.

So don't be apathetic! Make the change today and take responsibility for how you treat one another and how you treat the earth... because if things keep going the way they are, we aren't going to have this beautiful and resourceful earth that we have been so blindly dependent on.

Cocktails, Beautiful Things, and Everyday Food

Mint juleps are a favorite hot-weather drink of mine.  They're an ice cold, aromatic dance between fresh mint and good bourbon--and they are just so beautiful!  (Look at this picture and tell me you don't already feel slightly refreshed.)
 

Cocktails are fascinating to me, and I think there are a couple reasons why this might be.  First (and most importantly, perhaps), cocktails are ways to make art out of your favorite kind of liquor.  It's a way to add a touch of class to your beverage, and they're interesting and aesthetically pleasing.  This, then, leads to my second reason for being intrigued by nice cocktails--that it says something about the way people think about what they consume (and how much they're willing to pay to consume beautiful things).

Granted, mint juleps don't take much by way of supplies and are relatively cheap to make.  However, there are hundreds of cocktails that either have several ingredients and are very labor-intensive to make or that consist of one ingredient--a top-shelf liquor of some sort--poured over ice.  Regardless, we are still willing to pay a pretty penny for drinks that are aesthetically pleasing, and this is curious to me.  Interestingly, though, we aren't often as inclined to pay a little extra (or even put a little extra effort into) fresh, locally grown foods.  Why is that?

I think much of the problem revolves around our culture's idea that food is just fuel, and not something that should be revered daily at each meal.  I don't think many people have a vibrant cosmopolitan or a crisp, austere old fashioned every night, and so we think of these drinks as more special than food.  

But I would like to look at food like I look at a nicely made cocktail--beautiful, rich, and aesthetically pleasing.  If we think of food as our chance to create something beautiful every day, we can turn even a couple ingredients into something we are truly proud to eat.  And, just like many of the best cocktails, a bit more labor will be required than if we were to just slop things together and gulp it down.  But the end result, I think, is a piece of art that will help us develop a greater appreciation and reverence for the everyday food we eat.


Poor farmers

After two people presenting about chocolate, a lot of things have come to mind. I have drawn many similar conclusions about American farmers and farmers of things like chocolate. Both are struggling in today's society and are not being regarded as important, getting put in bad circumstances. 








With free trade with things like chocolate, the producers/farmers lack things like social, financial security, and other safety nets to be able to hold out on selling their products when prices are low in the market. Producers in prosperous nations can wait, while other producers do not have these options, needing to sell their products immediately to get as much money as possible, as often as possible. By doing this, they lose lots of money. Child slave labor is also a huge issue with the production of chocolate, but that is a larger issue as well.
Farmers in America are pressured to produce the crops that the high powered companies or government committees tell them to produce. It was shown in Food Fight how farmers are given contracts with high powered companies to produce things in a specific way and in specific quantities. Even if the farmers do not wish to produce it in a specific way, they are put in so much debt that a contract from one of these companies is the only way to get a much needed income. So they are cornered to be apart of this system, whether they want to or not. 


So each type of farmers, either in America or international in West Africa, are pressured to not make as much money as possible and do not have many options, being forced into a corner with the decisions that they make. Any yet, they are the ones who produce the food that we eat everyday, and they are not treated with that respect. We should be conscious of the decisions that we make and buy the products that work to help the little man like fair trade products.



On Being a Decent Human Being


As we learned in Food Politics, Political Food, we are all related through the processes in which food is picked, processed, and prepared into the meals on our tables, the snacks in our cupboards, and the food we go out to eat in our favorite restaurants. If we're all related in some fashion, what kind of people are we in relation to how we treat people in food service?resizedcafeteriaworker.jpg (450×301)

In our society, people in food service are many times overlooked, invisible members of our world who provide us the essence of life in a very real sense. 
This past semester, I worked in the dish room of the dining hall for Sodexo. Many people who have worked in dish rooms in the past warned me about how awful it would be, and basically told me to try for a less strenuous position. I decided after reading the eye-opening Nickel and Dimed (which everyone should read!), I wanted to get as much insight as possible into the lives of those who do the jobs most of society would turn up their noses to or simply ignore. I wanted to be a dishwasher. As I quickly learned, washing dishes in a commercial college kitchen is nothing to sneeze at-with two or three people in the dish room, cleaning, sorting, and putting away all of the dishes used to eat off of, serve out of, and cook with is no easy task. Yet my supervisor could do so seemingly effortlessly, whipping about the dish room and kitchen like nobody's business. After ten to twelve hour shifts (mine were shorter, usually from five to seven hours), she still rarely complained and was the most efficient person I have ever worked with. 
11-12-13_campusjobs_BW003.jpg (5076×3383)
However, whenever I was out in the dining hall, or even on my break, I was invisible to the rest of the world (Sodexo staff being the exception.) Even people that would regularly say something to me acted as though they could not see me when I was in my (usually kind of gross) uniform. This is not a pity party, and a few of my friends treated me just the same as normal, but the point still stands: why are we making people in food service invisible? Are they not just as human as we are?
This phenomenon is obviously unsettling, and I think we as informed, responsible consumers in our societies should work to change it. So the next time you're eating out, maybe be a little bit nicer to your waitress, or hostess, or person putting up the dishes. Just some food for thought.



It's a Family Tradition

What do you consider a staple food dish of your household? For my family and I, we look towards green bean casserole as our staple food dish. As the semester is winding down, we finished out class this week with presentations and the point of the presentation was to take a food dish that you know or wanted to make, and cook and present it to the class. Sounds like a piece of cake right? Not really.

I decided that I would take a classic dish of our family and add a fresh touch to it. I have never cooked the meal before and this proved apparent when the casserole turned out quite soupy. Note to self: The next time you use fresh green beans and mushrooms, realize that they have a lot of water in them that will leak out into the dish therefore causing it to become soupier. At this point I was a little disappointed presenting this to the class, because I then had green bean casserole soup; not my ideal presentation. But the thing is, the class loved it! I was so surprised and when I tasted it, it actually tasted good. I was able to add a successful marking to my first fresh green bean casserole dish...or at least a successful green bean casserole soup dish.

The best part of the presentation was researching it and explaining why it was a staple of my house. I discussed its meanings and how its meaning of food gave importance at my dinner table. I loved being able to share how such a simple dish of only 5 ingredients has proven to be such a hallmark side dish of my family gatherings and I had the opportunity to cook and share this with others! Isn't it amazing how food can relay such a powerful message to others? Think about foods and consider why they are important. How have they impacted you? Have you shared a meal with someone at their household where they gave you a staple dish of their family?
This is what the "ideal" green bean casserole is supposed to look like...

Mine turned out a little like this...but a lot more juicy
The goal of green bean casserole being created was to use the ingredients that you could easily find in your household and create the dish. This casserole was created in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly who worked in the home economics department of Cambell's soup company. This dish was created to provide an option to those who don't always have a lot and show them that a simple dish can be made that also tastes well. It is crazy to think that the point of a food creation is the impact it will have on the family and who will be sharing the dish. I know from personal experience that while there may not be a lot of food work into this dish, a fresh twist adds a unique flavor to this experience and I was beyond happy to share this with my fellow classmates and professors. So now I ask you, what is your favorite dish and how has it impacted you? Go out and share a meal, because there is nothing more filling that sharing that meaning of food with others.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

You are What You Eat


                We hear this phrase so often, but do we really know the implications of it? If we are what we eat, then why are we creating a food system that is not helping us in any way? I, for one, would not like to think of myself as a overfed cow that is just being fattened up so it can die sooner. I don’t want to be known as a fast food French fry that is doing nothing but killing people. Those are some of the things I have eaten in my life. Am I nothing more than tortured animals and unhealthy vegetables? These questions can be quite troublesome when they are really examined.
                I don’t want to think of myself as another animal going to slaughter. I don’t want to be a vegetable that has grown in chemical-filled soil that is devoid of all flavors. We may become what we eat. As Americans, we eat large amounts of fat and sugar-filled foods. We are suffering from all kinds of food related disease because we aren’t taking the time to respect the food we eat. What if we changed our mentality about food? Could we become better versions of ourselves?
                If we started to take more care and respect for our food, we would become what we eat. I would rather be made up of organic, home-grown vegetables and well cared for animals. If we as a nation changed how we saw food, we would be better equipped as a society. I know that I have tried to change some of my eating habits slowly. Instead of getting a cheese burger, maybe getting a fresh salad is a good idea. Growing some of my own plants can be a small step to help my own life. If we started to look at the things we ingest as part of who we are, maybe we could be better people. I know from personal experience that thinking about the foods that go into my body does help me feel better. When I have the chance, I’m going to try to go for better food options. If we all take a few small steps, we could have a much healthier and happier nation.

Just for a little laugh, he is Wayne Brady to tell you more:


"Food of the Gods"




FOOD of the GODS: CHOCOLATE!!!

Tomorrow I am going to do my food presentation on chocolate chip blondies and I was curious about the production of chocolate.  I have never really looked into the process, but I gained a lot of my interest last year when Jasmine O'Conner did a presentation about fair trade chocolate. I thought the presentation was very intriguing, however, I never really got a chance to educate myself on the matter. I only learned what Jasmine had printed on a flyer that was attached to a piece of fair trade chocolate. So, I think now, taking this course, is the perfect time to research the production of chocolate--from the cocoa field to the molding of the candy bar.    


Why is chocolate called the "Food of the Gods?"
The plant chocolate comes from, the cacao tree or Theobroma, which is Greek for "Food of the Gods." It is grown in over 70 tropical countries and by over 2 million producers. The craziest thing is that it can take up to five years for a cacao tree to produce the cocoa pods. 















What do we do with the ripe pods?
The ripe pods are harvested twice a year. The pods are cut down from the trees with care to make sure that they can bloom in the next season. After being cut down from the tree, the pods are cut in half and the beans are exposed. The beans are then fermented to stop them from germinating. The fermentation process is essential to get the best quality of chocolate.







How do we get the chocolate we eat?
After fermentation, the beans are laid out to dry and later taken to be roasted. The roasting process brings out the natural cocoa flavor. Once roasted, the beans are "winnowed" to remove the shells and leave the chocolate pieces behind. These pieces are then ground into chocolate liquor (which has zero alcohol although the name implies) and other ingredients such as sugar are added. This liquor can then be molded into the "Food of the Gods": CHOCOLATE!


I think that the production of chocolate is so fascinating. We take chocolate for granted because it is always so readily available to us, but yet we still need to keep in mind those that work (often under slave labor) to produce our guilty pleasure. We need to be mindful of the production and also support fair trade chocolate companies.





p.s. Hershey's is making a pledge to support fair trade chocolate by 2020. Here's how you can help!! :)

 


























  



TGFJ- Thank God For Julia!

Julia Child-- Where does one begin? 

I suppose we can start with one of my favorite Julia quotes from her book, My Life in France, "This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!" It seems easier said than done. But when I think about it Julia was a woman who was criticized for being 6' 2", having an odd voice, marring her husband Paul at the late age of 34, and being a woman who wanted to learn how to cook classic French dishes in a world of convenience foods. You can learn more about her life by watching this tribute to her life.You can also rent the movie Julie and Julia and watch Meryl Streep embody Mrs. Paul Child. Better yet, you can get on youtube and watch Julia Child cook homemade bread like she is in the kitchen with you. I am writing about her today not to educate you about her life but to point out that she would probably have something to say if she was in our Meaning of Food class.
This semester I have been challenged to think about that way people interact with food-- and more and more I am realizing how thankful I am to have been taking this class as my last class of my undergraduate career.To live you must have air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and some sort of shelter. Whether you eat meat, veggies, bugs, cotton candy, or get IV nutrition--eating is something that everyone and everything must take part in on this Earth. In food we see culture,  science, economics,history, sociology, etc. The list goes on and on because food is such a large part of our lives.
In the quote I mentioned, Julia Child give a long list of advice but I'm not so sure she is simply  talking about food. I think Julia's advice wasn't to inspire us to learn how to cook-- I think she was telling us to learn how to live. So much of food is wrapped up in social interactions and relationships that I wonder if she was talking about being fearless to live a life in which we meet new people, fall in and out of love, try to see things from a new perspective, or as she instructs try a new recipe. After all the old saying goes "variety is the spice of life." Which means:  that if you do a lot of different things and meet different people, etc., your life becomes more interesting. Having and experiencing a lot of different things is what makes your life interesting. She tells us to learn from our mistakes like the first time we bake cookies and forget to put on the timer or the time you burned a relationship bridge. She tells us to be fearless and in this cruel world we sort of have to be on our guard-- but I think she was telling us to open up and be vulnerable for other people. Whether that is to someone you are looking to start a relationship with or someone who asks you for directions on the street. If we are all connected and similar through our need for food (or some sort of sustenance being absorbed into our bodies for life) why do we look  at difference and structure a life based upon WE/THEY thinking?
I know I sound a bit sappy which is probably due to the fact that tomorrow is my last day of class after 22 years of going to school but I think Julia was on to something. Whats the problem with lots of cooks in the kitchen?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Gathering our own food

This week I had my first experience gathering wild plants. I have been introduced to the world of foraging, well not really, I have gathered wild fruits and mushrooms before, but this has been my first time gathering wild plants and herbs. It was interesting and hard at the beginning because I wasn't sure what I was looking for. But with the help of the group I was gathering plants with and other groups we ended up gathering a nice amount of plants, mainly garlic mustard and wild onions.



Besides this foraging experience, I have had others before; these are some of the things that I have gathered before in the wild:

Mushrooms, though for the moment I have not gone mushroom hunting here in the United States but I have gone mushroom hunting in Spain many times. My favorite wild mushrooms are:

  • Red pine mushroom, this mushroom that usually grows next to pine trees during the fall is one of my favourite mushrooms. It has a nice orange colour and is very fleshy. I personally prefer to cook it in a pan with olive oil and then add some garlic, parsley and salt.

  • King oyster mushroom, this one in my opinion is the best mushroom to eat, it grows during fall and spring. I usually gather them in areas where the thistle is present. I cook it the same way that I cook the red pine mushroom, but of course there are many different and delicious ways to cook them.

Other foods that I have also gathered outside are wild fruits like raspberries, wild strawberries and redcurrant. I personally love these wild fruits that we can find in forests and fields close to our houses, its fun and entertaining to gather and of course they are delicious.





Gathering edible plants, roots, mushrooms or fruits is an entertaining activity that we can do by ourselves or with friends and family. It is healthy, we walk, breathe fresh air and we end up eating healthy and natural food with many benefits for our body. It is an activity that we, humans, have been doing since we have been on earth and that we should not stop doing because it really has many healthy benefits for us.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Pricy Green Balls of Doom.

According to wildflower.org, "Of all the native nut trees of North America, the Black Walnut is the most valuable save only the Pecan." Now, that is quite a strong statement, and considering that I just happen to have one of these very valuable trees growing in my front yard, I thought I would tell you a little about it...





The black walnut tree, although unremarkable throughout the winter months with its rugged and slightly blackened bark, becomes quite a sight later in the spring, throughout the summer, and even into the fall with its bright green leaves turning a rich golden color.  This tree provides ample shade with its wide-arching leaflet clusters and is prized for its durable and rich-colored hardwood.  As far as I can tell there is only one downside to this majestic native tree....

The nuts.

These green and brown little torture devices have been the catalyst for a cursing-spree at the start of an early-fall walk on more than one occasion in my household.  When they start to fall there are just a few bright green fruits sitting among the fallen yellow leaves around the base of the tree trunk.  You deceivingly say to yourself, "Oh good, some nuts for the squirrels this winter, how nice!" and move on with your day.  But before you know it, what you thought was a perfectly manageable number of fruits doubles, and then triples, and you are looking at a yard that has more nuts than grass in it!  You try to shrug it off again with, "I'm sure the wild animals will collect those in no time," as some feelings of doubt start to weasel their way into your head.  Then, just as you're becoming accustomed to the piles of green fruits littering your lawn, the fruits start to darken into mushy, smelly, disgusting brown lumps of flesh rotting all over your property.  Well, apparently, this is a sign of a ripe or mature nut...appetizing, right? 

According to this guy (forager extraordinaire), the black walnut is actually quite delicious, although it is quite a project to extract the nut meat from its many layers including a potent-smelling husk that will dye your hands black, an unbelievably hard shell, and a rather complex inner membrane.  So, even though black walnuts can be found all over the United States, the amount of labor put into collecting, cleaning, and shelling these satanic nuts means that it will cost you a pretty penny to buy some black walnuts for yourself already shelled.  In fact, when you find them online, you'll pay more than twice the amount per pound of nut than you would buying some pre-packaged English Walnuts from a chain grocery store.  So next time you pass by some fallen black walnuts, maybe consider saving some to crack open on a rainy day? I know I certainly will...even though  they're still evil little buggers.

Would you like to come for dinner?

As I was saying in class yesterday, many of my friends get uncomfortable when having dinner at my house. If we're eating a meal that doesn't have beef or chicken usually there are no comments made. However, if we're enjoying a meal of hamburgers I often get nervous laughs followed by "So who are we eating tonight?" I had never really thought much about how people are disconnected from their food until I was older and my friends started making comments like these. And even more now that we have been talking about it in class.

After watching Food Fight it became even more clear about how disconnected people are from the food that they eat. In my friends case, they really do not like knowing they are eating animals that they once would go pet and play with in the barn. While on the other hand I take great comfort in this. Knowing exactly how my food is raised, in what type of environment and what it eats is a wonderful feeling. I then can know almost exactly what I am putting into my body. I think our society could greatly benefit from intake products like this and having a greater connection with their food.

I understand that this comes across as a hard concept! If you don't live on a farm how can you know how your meats are raised? Do we have the resources to do this without living on a farm? The answer to this is yes! There are many things we as individuals can do to be greater connected with the food we're putting into our bodies. When talking about having connections and knowing where our meat comes from. Livestock sales (I believe I mentioned this in class)!!! For those who do not live on farms but wish to have a personal connection and know where their foods coming from this is a great alternative! Livestock sales are not difficult to find and many times are show animals who are being sold. Show animals that have been greatly pampered and cared for! When purchasing meats from livestock sales information such as the feed given to the animal, the farm where the animal was raised and the farm the animal originally came from are all given to you! Many times you're also able to meet and converse with the farmer selling the animal.

In a way this is very similar to selling fruits and such at farmers markets! When buying produce at farmers markets you can have a genuine experience and connection with the food and where it came from. You can talk with the grower about how it was grown, what was put on it, when and where it was grown. You have the ability to obtain any information you wish from the grower. As well as just having a personable conversation!!

While the connections with our food are possible in these simple ways and could greatly increase the dining experience on an emotional level... It also has great genuine taste benefits as well! Personally, I can taste the difference between store bought meat and meat from our animals with one bite. This experience of taste is the same when it comes to buying goods from farmers markets. Sure these things might be a little more expensive but the quality and taste is naturally 10 times better than what you're buying from the store.

So in my opinion, we don't have to be disconnected from our food the way that our society is now. As individuals there are many ways we are have greater connections to our foods. It may take a little more work and a little more time. But I think that the work and time are worth the effort when it comes to knowing what you're putting in your body and the connection you can have with your food!

The Struggle of the Forage!!!


When I first heard that we would be going out to forage, I was beyond delighted!

Imagining that I would be out there, identifying leaf, stem, and root after the other I thought that I’d really be something out there. Especially since we got to go through some foraging books the night before; I had read a little about what to look for, what to avoid, and I had almost memorized a few of the plants.

Being out foraging I though that I would really be going back to my Indian heritage, or at least trying to connect. To say the least I was excited and optimistic!!!

When my group began our foraging, I headed straight for a clearing of grass where I knew we should have been able to easily pick out a few edible plants. But after trolling around in the same area for 5-10 minutes, I soon realized that I had no idea of what I was doing. All the green just started to run together, and when I thought I had something I was quickly let down because to me; everything looked exactly the same!

Thus within this short 10 minute I quickly got a little depressed. So I began to think, hmmmm, the book said lots of things grow by the stream. So I took my group down the thigh high grass hill and proceeded to try our luck down by the water. To my dismay I still couldn’t find a darn thing. Looking at other groups though, their bags already had loads of stuff while ours only had what we hoped was an edible plant.

So not only my lack of know how, but then the humidity, O the humidity! It really began to take a toll on me both physically and mentally. And so about 30min into it, my spirit and level of optimism was completely depleted.

Though the idea of foraging and getting your own food sounds like a great way to go; without the right knowhow its almost impossible to have a very productive first day. I do believe though that if I had practice I’d get the hang of it and would almost consider making it a hobby. Or if I had been raised, learning how to identify various plants then I’m sure I would have had a much better experience.
 
 
All in all though my verdict is that foraging can be the struggle of struggles!

Poor Little Billy




So we had a great talk about foraging and how and what we eat ad some how we got on the topic of eating animals with a face. This has to be my absolute LEAST FAVORITE topic because I am a HUGE animal lover. I try to keep myself distant from what  i am eating and just thinking that it is food, this is life. But someone brought the good point of how we don't think of animals as living beings but just another object that we eat.
It made me think now what if I ate my dogs that I have grown an attachment to for dinner. And then I was freaking out. I couldn't imagine even killing them let alone eating them.

#1 Because the culture that we live in sees dogs and cats as more of pets or part of the family (but not to the extent that we treat them like humans) so its not acceptable to eat them.
 #2 Because I could never eat something that I have become so attached to. 

So this got me to thinking. How often do we as a culture distance ourselves form the food that we eat. When Ryle was talking about her experience killing a chicken she explained how that if she can eat it she should also be able to eat it. For some strange reason this made me think back to the book and movie my mother made my cousins and I read and watch as a kid, Charlotte's Web.

Now if you don't know the story I give you a quick summary.: 
Pigs are born. 
Dad wants to kill runt.
Girl saves runt and names it Wilbur
Wilbur finds out why pigs are on farms.
Befriends spider, Charlotte, who promises to save him.
And the rest you have to watch the movie for or read the book because I hate ruining endings, but here is a short clip.

Now what this clip does not show is the very next scene is her mother making bacon in the morning. As a child, i don't think I thought much of it. But really?!?! That is so messed up.

But it makes you think why do we not want to eat something but are fine with eating others. Why can frank the dalmation live and billy the goat die? And the only thing I can come up with is the disassociation from it. We don't give the animals we eat a name, a face, a relationship. Most of the time we don't even see them or what they went through. I bet if most of us had to kill what we eat we could not because when animals are in front of us they turn into this cute, little thing that we can just pet and love on, but what we fail to realize is......
ONE DAY BILLY GOTTA DIE!

I guess the mother said it best in the movie when she told her daughter, "It's a pig. Not a toy. Not a dog. Not a baby. Just a pig. And we need to start treating it like one." But are these animals any less than us where they just deserve to be slaughtered. Now I'm not saying don't kill the little piggies I need my bacon in the morning. But we just need to have more respect for what we eat. So yea one day Billy may die but we don't have to treat him like that for his whole life. Just have to remember that what we eat had a life to an d