Thursday, December 9, 2010

about a boy on the verge of manhood.

A year ago today, my nephew was in a fatal car crash in North Carolina. It was in the afternoon, a bright blue day. He was headed off to take a final exam. I was here in Texas administering a final to my students. The day seemed ordinary.

It is believed that his death was instant, which means we lost him on December 9. But the hospital kept his heart beating while his brain was at rest, and in that time, I saw him and said goodbye. Sometimes I see him in that hospital room, and I remember touching his face and squeezing his hand. Other times I remember his smirk and his laughter that was much louder in the gleam and smile of his eyes. Have you known someone whose laugh was as much a part of his eyes as it was a part of his sound and smile?

Chris and I were putting up a Christmas tree a few nights ago. I hung ornaments and my nephew came to my mind - six or seven years old in my parent's living room impersonating James Brown; Sean singing "I Feel Good," me and Chris watching and laughing. A bellyaching kind of laugh. Chris once gave him a copy of Santa's Got A Brand New Bag, if I can correctly remember all of those years ago. The night we were decorating the tree, I looked up and imagined James Brown's big-grinned face, his head in a santa hat, topping off our tree. I imagined Sean, tall and twenty-one, the way I wish he was today, walking into the room, seeing James Brown atop the tree, smiling his smile, laughing his laugh.

Tonight Chris and I are making the tree topper and putting it on the tree. Even as sour as the irony of the lyrics "I feel good" strike me, there is comfort I hope to take, some celebration of my nephew as a person who, at any age, could make others laugh, make our hearts shake with joy.

Originally posted on 12/11/09:

First born nephew, my sister's one child: May 12, 1990 - December 10, 2009.

On the night that my eldest nephew lay brain dead in a hospital, I lay in bed, the voice in my head speaking. Please let there be angels with Sean. Please let there be angels with my sister. Please let there be angels. Let there be angels. As if I could both hardly and only believe in their existence and in their ability to give my nephew safe passage to peace and to fill the space in my sister's hurting heart.

I have believed that my nephew was a boy on the verge of manhood. But he must have been on the verge of becoming a being more important and ethereal than a man.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Drunk Bastards

Last night we went to Antone's to see the Heartless Bastards. Chris's comment: "Erika Wennerstrom pulled a Janis Joplin."

First I was irritated and then increasingly mad. She finally asked the crowd (after stumbling and fumbling with her guitar, earplugs, mic, etc. for five minutes between incoherently sung songs), "Anyone notice I'm a little fucked up?" Somehow I felt less mad once she admitted it; at least she wasn't trying to fool us into thinking she wasn't performing well because of technical difficulties and personal preferences, which is how it originally seemed. (Apparently, she is fond of playing with a gray pick and a gray pick only.)

I kept waiting for her to throw up on stage, but we left before the show ended.

Erika Wennerstrom's voice and guitar are the entire magic of the Heartless Bastards, and I mean serious magic. Having seen them playing live and on point more than once now,  I can say that the lead trying to perform while completely bombed, or whatever else she may have been, didn't do her band, her music, or the audience any justice at all.

Thirty bucks and what could have been a cozy night on the couch both wasted, but not as wasted as Erika Wennerstrom.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Welcome Back, Green Smoothie

It's been a while since I made a green smoothie, but my sister recently reminded me of this yummy treat. So the green smoothie made its comeback into my kitchen today. She is a looker. And delicious to boot.


In this smoothie?



1/2 frozen banana. (Notice that even though the peel is nearly black, the inside is fine. Don't toss your soft, bruised bananas! Freeze them for smoothies! Mine have been in the freezer for about 2 months, holding up just fine.)

1/2 peach, skin peeled off (farmers market)

juice from 1 lime segment

a healthy dose of ginger (I like the bite it adds.)

1 medium-sized rib of celery, quartered

1/4 Asian cucumber, peeled and segmented (farmers market)

1 large handful of spinach leaves, stems on

1 1/2 tsp honey (Yay for Austin's Whole Foods, which sells local honey that they keep hot in large metal bins.)

3 ice cubes

3 mint leaves (farmers market)

1/2 cup orange juice (not pictured)

*Note, I usually put in the banana and other soft items, put the ice in the middle, and the greens right on top . It might be psychological, but I think it's easier on my blender blades to not have to grind the ice right away.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What's Been Cooking

I have a new goal. It will take a couple of years, but I also know I'll get there. I want to start a kitchen garden and shift to cooking meals composed of homegrown veggies and herbs, while we convert to spending farmers market dollars on milk, eggs, butter and meat. Lately we've been shelling the extra money out on local milk and eggs. I have never drank milk that tastes so good; I didn't even know milk could taste good. So thank you Way Back When dairy.

In the meantime, here are a few dishes I cooked while trying to have a meat-free week of meals. These were easy, fast, delicious and about 50% local (from the market: cantaloupe, cucumber, mint, peppers, garlic; the corn was a locally grown supermarket purchase).

Meal 1, July 17
Cucumber, cantaloupe and fennel salad with a honey, lime and mint yogurt dressing, topped with toasted almonds. For this salad, I chopped thin slivers of fennel stalks as a substitute for celery. I thought the fennel would be more refreshing and less bitter.

Sweet peppers stuffed with spicy lentils and feta cheese. These were cooked using mostly Indian spices, but in a mild and simpler way. I also added a few golden raisins to bring a little sweet into the savory. These were very filling, and we each could only eat half of one pepper. So count it as a meal for four. (You brown the peppers in a pan before you make the lentils, stuff the peppers, and then roast them in the oven for about an hour. These photos make it look like I stuffed and served.)


Meal 2, July 19
Creamy fettucini with sauteed fennel bulb, garlic and fresh corn, tossed with arugula.


The recipe called for leeks, but I still had the fennel bulb leftover from when I used the stalks in that melon salad, so, hello fennel substitute, again. Which is to say - I thought fennel served as a terrific substitute for both celery and leeks, and the leaves would surely be a nice substitute for dill if you're looking for a milder, sweeter flavor instead of the tartness of dill.
***

Those of you who know me know that my thumb is not so green. Any advice or help about starting a vegetable garden is appreciated, beginning with whatever the first steps may be (Like, what is the right month and way to prepare my land? And what is the right month to begin planting?). Just understanding how to prepare land feels like a strange mystery to me.

Hopeless gardener, signing off.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

To Market, To Market Six


Today's market buys ($25.00):

1/2 gallon of 2% cream on top milk - $3.75
(From Way Back When Dairy in Jacksonville, TX. Promising "Low Temperature Pasteurized. Non Homogenized. No Antibiotics. No Genetically Modified Grains or Soy Products Used. No rBST. No rBGH.")

1 Asian cucumber - $1.00

1 cantaloupe - $4.00

1 basil plant - $2.00

1 mint plant - $1.00

2 yellow peppers for stuffing - $4.00

1 bag baby squash - $2/lb.

1 bag tomatoes - $3.00

1 bag heirloom beets - $3.00




The Empty Fridge

In my refrigerator last Wednesday: one zucchini, a bag of arugula, eggs, bread, the last drops of milk, butter, feta cheese, jam, orange juice

From the pantry and yard:
rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic

Some people call it brunch. I call it dinner on an empty fridge.






Monday, July 12, 2010

An Open Letter to David Bowie

Dear David Bowie:

Some people might not think that your music is an obvious choice for 4th of July, or for a day spent in a boat out on a lake. Those people would be wrong.

One of the best days I've had since moving to Austin was spent out on Lake Travis this past 4th of July--listening to you.

I was with my husband (who went by Captain Ron that day); my friend Alicia, who I have been friends with since I was eleven; Alicia's boyfriend Kevin (both in from BR); Alicia's college and post-college roommate, Liz; Liz's boyfriend, David (both in from Chicago); and finally, with my friends Leigh and Corey (also in from BR), who I became friends with while in graduate school--the first go round (circa 2002), but who Chris and I have known for much longer.

Someone among us, sleepy after having woken at the crack of dawn to drive an hour out to the lake, had the good fortune of being alert enough to notice--before we departed--that the boat we were renting had a CD player. Someone else made a mad dash from the dock back to the car for Kevin's CDs. On the boat, someone else had the inspiration to pick out Bowie. All Bowie. All day. I was not responsible for any of these actions, which makes me realize how important it is to have good and collectively sensible friends.

You rock, David Bowie. You rock in a car. You rock on a boat. I'm sure you rock in space too, and if I ever encounter any astronauts, I'll ask them to confirm that you rock the universe. I am a big fan. You probably don't know this, but we are both Capricorns.

Thank you for making music. I will listen to you with a blue sky above and blue water below on any 4th of July. Who needs firecrackers?

Yours, truly.

P.S. The person who keeps this blog, Pushing Ahead of the Dame, is probably a bigger fan of yours than I am (or crazier than I am), but I remain loyal.

P.P.S. If you have never listened to yourself while on a boat, take your protein pills, put your helmet on, click "play" below, close your eyes, and pretend the way that a five-year-old pretends. If you lack imagination (shame), but if you have time and access to a boat and a body of water, go out and try it for real.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sometimes the Kitchen Gets Dangerous and Dirty


Chris has had this oven-microwave-dishwasher safe lid and the pan that it goes with, not pictured, for 14 or 15 years.

The other day I was making stir fry with the last of our market goodies, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, oyster mushrooms, onions, and garlic. I deglazed the pan, put the lid on it. I turned my back and heard an explosion.

We ate a back up meal.

RIP old lid.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Feast

In July of 2008, just before I left Louisiana, I wanted to pay homage to a landscape and culture that I love deeply. On my mind, I had hurricanes and the nation’s inability to comprehend why south Louisianians infringe, as a way of life, stubbornly, proudly and dangerously, on flood zones and delicate wetlands. A month later, Country Roads Magazine published “Liquid Assets,” in which I tried to capture a snapshot of fishing camp culture.

Rereading the story today, I see it was a weak attempt to capture a big, big love. And hurricanes seem like small beasts compared to BP and the oil industry in general. The voice inside of me screams, “BP, clean up your f*ing mess.” Those words don’t make it out of my mouth.

We had dinner with friends recently, two more ex-Louisianians come to Austin. I said to them, rambling, pontificating, and asking forgiveness after:

Do you remember taking Louisiana history in 8th grade? Learning that when the Acadians first came from Nova Scotia, their need to adapt to the landscape gave rise to Cajun food, to an entire heritage? Remember learning that Creole cuisine came about similarly, when Europeans and natives to Caribbean islands adapted their culinary traditions to ingredients found in our landscape?

This oil spill won’t be over in a year or a few years. Its aftermath will be nothing like the aftermath of a hurricane, even of Katrina. Louisianians are going to have to adapt entirely and permanently. This is a massive cultural upheaval. We're not going to know precisely what our new culture looks like until 10, 15, maybe more years down the road.

My mother-in-law, on the phone yesterday, sounded weary. I asked about her camp in Cocodrie. “It’s not looking good. We haven’t been down, but we’ve talked to neighbors. I don’t know when we’ll make it down again. Even if we do, I don’t think we can catch crabs or fish off our pier like we’re used to doing.”

I remembered my first time at their old camp in Stevensville. There too, off of Four-Mile Bayou, they caught and boiled blue crabs. I sat with Chris’s family around a table covered with newspaper, steaming crabs poured and piled over the paper. My mother-in-law can peel crabs faster than her husband, her son (a skill about which Chris brags on his mother), her stepchildren and grandchildren. That late afternoon, she tried to teach me her tricks. Maybe she held out hope I’d learn; probably she just wanted to impress and tease me. There were a lot of both. I was a slow peeler. My mound of shells was paltry compared to everyone else’s. At the end of dinner, she took pity on me and shucked a few crabs, piled the meat high in front of me. I rested my clumsy fingers and swallowed down fresh, sweet crabmeat, now and again dipping it unnecessarily in warm butter while mosquitoes bit at my ankles, legs, bare arms. A backwater feast.

Generations of one family sitting together on the porch of a fishing camp situated along muddy bayous, or high up on stilts and overlooking bays that lead out to the Gulf, everyone eating a fresh catch of fried or broiled speckled trout, what will become of an ordinary summer Sunday as this? What of fishermen and shrimpers who supply, not just the state, but the nation? What of oyster harvesters, ironically, growing oyster colonies on old, unused oil rigs? What of men who, as their livelihood, take people out on gulf fishing expeditions?

BP, clean up your mess. But then what? I cannot help thinking that while Louisianians have a lot of work ahead to reinvent a culture, the oil industry will swoop in like vultures to become a much larger presence than the large presence it has already been.

Last Christmas, my mother-in-law made her traditional Christmas gumbo. I am always fingers-crossed that she'll do a seafood gumbo full of crabs caught at the camp and frozen for just this occasion, local oysters purchased from Tony's Seafood, side-of-the-road shrimp, also frozen and saved for the occasion, or every now and then, her own bounty from a summer shrimping trip.

In St. Charles Parish in the 1950s, Exxon oil refinery built employee housing that included a movie theater, weekend dances, a company sponsored community that swept residents and politicians off of their eager feet and provided jobs and the good life, all drenched in oil. Here we go again? Oil companies can pick at the bones of a state's ruined heritage, but people cannot eat oil, if sickly brown pelicans are any proof.

The Country Roads story, "Liquid Assets" is below.

Liquid Assets by Herpreet Singh

From Country Roads Magazine, August 2008

"Waterfront camps are hard to come by,” Meg Mourain tells me, traces of her Acadian accent slipping through the telephone line. “I’ll tell ya what you do. You wait ‘til a hurricane comes through, and you look for the guy who looks like, ‘I’m so tired out. I don’t feel like doin’ this again.’ Like he can’t stand to rebuild one more time. That’s when you can get yourself a place on the water.”

This is how Meg’s late father, Dan Regard, acquired waterfront property on Vermilion Bay in Cypremort Point, not for himself, but for his best friend. The Regards have owned their camp on the bay since 1977. When Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, Regard (called “Pop” by his family) spoke with a dispirited neighbor whose property had been leveled. The men sealed the deal on a paper napkin. Pop called his friend, “I just got you a place on the water, but if you don’t want it, I’ll hang on to it.” The friend jumped at the opportunity, and ever since, the Regards have spent weekends at “the Point” in the company of their long-time-family friends.

Meg’s anecdotes begin to express the contradictory vitality and natural volatility that shape coastal fishing camp culture, but articulating experiential heritage is challenging.

Eleven years ago, I visited a fishing camp for the first time. My now in-laws had a place in Stevensville on Four Mile Bayou. I’d heard of people, “going to the camp for the weekend,” but I had no clear image of what a camp would look or feel like. I discovered that often, camps are just tiny shacks or doublewide trailers transformed into cozy waterfront cottages. During that first visit, I found myself less interested in the actual structure of the camps, and I wondered more about the space that camps occupy in the life of Louisiana’s people and its culture.

Just before dinner, my mother-in-law walked to the bayou edging her front yard and lifted a metal trap crawling with blue crustaceans. As simple as that, our meal included boiled crabs. And as simple as that, I felt connected to the swamps of my extended landscape, one that had before been no more than a backdrop.

Since that visit, and as a nearly life-long Louisianan, I’ve wanted to decipher camp culture. The subject lures me because it is rooted in a larger ambiguity: I have hoped to better comprehend our ability to live in Louisiana, both nonchalantly and resiliently, with water.

Driving I-10 west over the Atchafalaya Basin this July, I felt astounded to witness treetops emerging, not from long, narrow trunks, but instead from an expanse of deep water – the unseen wooden trunks submerged beneath. It occurred to me that south Louisianans, like the Louisiana cypress and like the iris, are inextricably and poetically, of both earth and water.

At the Bon Creole Lunch Counter in New Iberia, I met Meg’s older brother, Jady Regard, and their mom, Margie Regard. We ate shrimp and soft-shell crab poboys while the duet granted me a glimpse into their own camp life.

After Pop purchased the camp on Vermilion Bay, he drove Margie down to see it. She was a mother meeting the demands of three young boys, and when she laid eyes on the wooden structure, she cried. It needed a lot of work, and she remembers, “It had mushrooms growing all over the walls.” But once it was theirs, they set to remake it.

Comprised of three buildings erected in 1930, it was Cypremort Point’s oldest camp. Pop named it “the Piddler Crab,” and the Regards spent nearly every summer weekend there. Rituals arose including a “pie day” each Good Friday, when neighbors bring over pies and eat them all day. Pop barbequed every Friday. The boys sailed and fished. Meg rode around with friends on her wave runner. She says, “Nobody ever went alone. You always brought a friend. There were lots of sleepovers.”

In 2002, a year after Pop passed away from liver cancer, and long after Margie had stopped crying about the Piddler Crab, Hurricane Lili struck. It was the deadliest and costliest hurricane of the season. The Piddler Crab had weathered hurricanes in the past, but this time, it was a complete loss. Meg remembers, “I had never lost anything in a hurricane before … I know it’s just a house and people shouldn’t get upset about material things, but I felt devastated and just cried and cried.” Asked if they considered walking away from the Point, Meg responds, “There was no question we were rebuilding.”

When the Regards did rebuild, they realized that the camp’s original layout had functioned exactly as they needed. They kept the old layout and simply grew the camp to accommodate seventeen people. The camp has a set of French doors that separate the waterfront side from the backside. The Regards cool the back of the house with the air conditioner, but open the French doors so the front of the house opens to the porch. This provides a temperate transitional space. When a person gets out of the cold water, he can dry off on the porch and move to interior living area. When he’s good and hot, he can move to the back of the house to cool down again.

The design also functions well because the screened in porch is fifteen-feet wide and wraps around three sides of the camp. The grandkids run and play without the adults worrying that they’ll fall into the water. Margie comments, “When you’ve got kids and a camp on the water, it’s a big concern.” Finally, Meg boasts about the tiki bar that occupies a corner on the porch. Two glass-paned garage doors on both sides of the corner close it off when the weather gets bad. When weather is pleasant, the doors are raised.

Jady recalls that in ’seventy-seven, when he was nine years old, Vermilion Bay was just a fishing hamlet. Meg says the Piddler Crab is a perfect example of how the Point has changed over time, “It used to be the oldest camp, but now it’s one of the newest. Lili was very destructive, and because of the new laws, camps are now eighteen feet high.” When it was erected in the 1930s the camp hovered only three feet above water. Meg observes simply, “The whole skyline has changed.”

Jady points to another shift, “A lot of these camps are in their third and fourth generation,” leading ownership to switch hands, and in some cases, leading to camp sales. Of this predicament Jady says, “I see us trying to find a way to keep it in the family and have it be accessible to all the kids.” Margie has seven grandchildren and an eighth on the way. Every summer her grandkids spend time at Piddler Crab for a week the family calls, “Camp Mimi,” referring to Margie’s grandmother-moniker.

Ten-year-old Michael Regard is the eldest grandchild, and he lives in Kentucky. He speaks decisively of his favorite memory from visiting the Piddler Crab. “A few years ago we were in the water and saw an alligator swimming. We tried to catch it, but it got away… My two brothers, my mom and dad, Aunt Meg, Uncle Jady and Mimi were all in the boat.” Catching the alligator—or, not catching the gator, was a family affair.

Michael’s near-catch strikes a familiar chord. Earlier this summer, I traveled to my in-law’s new camp in Cocodrie for my first fishing excursion. My father-in-law drove an hour out by motorboat, and quietly pulled into an inlet. To the best of my ability, I imitated my mother-in-law’s manner of casting a line into the water. Frustrated that I wasn’t casting quite right, I asked my husband to throw my line.

As we returned each other’s poles, he realized I’d hooked a speck on his line. “Reel it in!” he urged. I reeled, but awed by the thrashing silvery-white fish, I held the pole over the water for too long instead of swinging it quickly into the boat. The trout muscled his way into the water again. Later, my mother-in-law winked, “He was THIS big, right?” I joked the rest of the weekend, “I almost caught a fish. He was THIS big.” Each telling, my arms grew wider apart to demonstrate. Yet, the innate significance of Louisiana camps isn’t the fish.

Margie Regard cried when she first laid eyes upon the Piddler Crab. Now, she’s tender toward her husband’s ramshackle waterfront purchase. She says if she had to, she’d choose the camp she works hard maintaining over her home in New Iberia. Jady chimes in, “Me too.” His mother looks at him, “Really?” She pauses, “I’m glad.”

The magic of Louisiana camp culture isn’t the fish. It isn’t near alligator-catches. Pop, in his purchase of a mushroom-blooming 1930s-era camp that required work, weathered storms and ultimately was destroyed to be built anew, left his family with the real legacy of camp culture, a labor of love.

Weathering hurricane after hurricane, it might appear that Louisianans have an audacious attitude toward our liquid landscape. We must perpetually ask ourselves: Are we negligent to work, live and sport, for generations—for centuries, inside of flood zones and at the shores of lapping coastal wetlands? Are we delusional to believe that as human beings we can both commingle with and manage water? Certainly, we’ve proven we don’t always manage well.

Yet, coexistence with water is engrained in our geography, history and economy. It comprises our culture, and shouldn’t it? At 7721 miles long, given every bay, inlet, and promontory, our undulating shoreline is exceeded in length in the United States only by Alaskan and Florida shorelines.

Louisianan’s attitude toward our liquid environs is not one of audacity, but of love. When we infringe on flood zones, we remember, love is sometimes expressed impulsively, recklessly. Yet love is accommodating; it leaves space to protect from disaster. As new camps transform the skyline, rising higher above water, we recognize accommodation in a marked way. Love is also patient and faithful, so we rebuild when disaster destroys. Owning a commitment to weather the next great storm, we anchor camps in place along the same shores they anchored yesterday.

This inextricable connection, the way we live with water and an unpredictable coastal environment, it is as stalwart as family ties.

LINK TO STORY: Liquid Assets

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blog Vacation, Coming to an End

Next week, I'll be blogging again - from the kitchen in my new house! Here's a treat for now.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Springtime Saturday

Daytime, drinking a Mexican Coke and eating a John D. Rockefeller burger stuffed with pepper jack cheese and topped with sauteed spinach and artichoke hearts at Your Mom's Burger Bar.

Nighttime, a walk down to Antone's to see The Heartless Bastards. Two words for Erika Wennerstrom: bad ass. And she plays a really pretty guitar. One word for the drummer: Hot. Except his mouth gapes open when he plays. Less hot. He also plays a really pretty set of drums.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

To Market, To Market 6

1 dozen eggs
1 gallon 2% milk (low pasturized and from hormone-free, grass-fed cows!)
1 center cut pork chop (grass and whey-fed)
broccoli
carrots
bokchoy
lettuce

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rock n Roll Tacos

We didn't make it to the market this weekend, but the food and music went on. We crawled underneath of a taco truck to get into a show we wanted to see. I'm getting ahead of myself.

This past week, Austin hosted SXSW, during which film-folks, bands, and hipsters descend upon the city like there's an alien invasion.

Friday evening, Chris and I rode our bikes to Lustre Pearl to see what we'd heard would be a good lineup. We waited in line for 30 minutes, finally got in, and caught a band called Rogue Wave. They wrapped up around 7:30 and, since they were pretty good, we felt hopeful about the rest of the night. The next lineup, which didn't begin until 9, included She and Him and Broken Bells. But after Rogue Wave ended, everyone who didn't have a SXSW badge was kicked out.

What to do?

We rode east to the Shangri-la where no badges or wrist-bands were required, stood outside, and watched a Japanese group. I never got their name, but they were - in look, sound, and stage presence - the equivalent of an American, pop-punk boy band. I imagine that they occasionally make appearances on Saturday morning shows geared toward ten year olds and on Japanese game shows. They were entertaining, though the photo doesn't do them justice.

After that, we left to get food at East Side King, one of Austin's trailer eateries. East Side King is in the courtyard at Liberty bar. My favorite items so far are the beet home fries and the steamed bun stuffed with pork belly. While we ate inside (where it was warm), one of our friends went out to listen to the band. He reported that they got belligerent: "I guess since we're from Palm Beach, you think it's okay not to pay attention." I kinda wish I'd witnessed that quip.

Chris and I started to ride our bikes home, but we made one last stop at Lustre Pearl. She and Him were playing. We squeezed our way to the front of a crowd standing outside of a metal gate that encloses the courtyard. There was Zooey Daschanel singing and looking as cute as ever in that slightly annoying and slightly charming way. When the set ended, she didn't say a word to the audience, which knocked her down a couple of notches in my book. Zooey, talk to your fans.

While we waited for Broken Bells to start, we chatted it up with the 20 year olds around us, speculating that we could all get into the courtyard if we crawled underneath of the taco truck that serves as a continuation of the gate around the place.

Finally, I said to Chris: "I dare you to do it."
He looked at me for a second, thinking.
I stared back. Silence, while I sent mental telepathy: Come on, yahoo-Chris-who I dated when I was 22, do it.
Chris: "Okay."

He shoved his bag into my hands, scooted around to the back of the truck, and crawled under while I stood with the 20s and waited. Someone said, "I see a hand." And there it was, poking out beneath the lip of the truck like a crab claw skimming solid dirt ground.

20 year old guy (looking big-eyed and amused): "He's gonna freak that woman out who's standing there ordering when he pops up from beneath her."

Chris says she caught his eye, and he put his finger to his lips: "Shhhh."

20 year old girl next to me: "Are you with him?"
Me: "Yeah. He's my husband." If I'd thought for two more seconds, I would have said: "Never met him."I walked around and, in my dress and sandals, slithered under the taco truck to join him. Yes, I worried about messing up my dress, even though I tried to act like I didn't care.

I emerged on the other side, and Chris said, "Hurry. The guy in the taco truck just walked over and told the bartender people are sneaking in under the truck." We submerged ourselves into the crowd asap.

Chris: "I was just talking. I wouldn't have done it if you hadn't dared me."
Me: "I wanted to do it, but I knew I wouldn't unless you had already done it."
Chris: "I did it because I wanted to show those 20 year olds the world is their oyster."

We are so wise. Right?

Me: "We're so rock n roll."

When the show ended and the next band was setting up, we looked at each other.
"Do you wanna stick around?"
"Well, let's just wait until they start. We can listen to a few songs."
"They look 12."
Band: "Check. Check. Check."
"They're annoying me."
The first song started.
"I'm tired."
"Me too."
"Let's go home."

Oh. We're so old.

Today on the radio, some guy said that the new album by Surfer Blood is the best rock n roll album out there right now. But we're okay having missed them. There's a WHOLE lot we did not see, but at least this year SXSW didn't feel as overwhelming as it felt last year. Now that we have a feel for the festival, next year we'll be like old pros with little personal schedules of must-sees written out for ourselves. Maybe. Or maybe we'll wing it again.

Here is a link to an NPR story about Broken Bells; they've included 3 songs with the interview, so listen. It's good!

A few other links:
East Side King (The trailer eatery at the Liberty courtyard.)
Bomb Tacos (The truck at Lustre Pearl, where, in fact, the tacos ARE the bomb, and the site from which I swiped credit the photo at the start of this post.)
Lustre Pearl (One of the few places in Austin that gives me New Orleans deja vu.)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Under-eye Circle Woes Be Gone!

Remember that in Leaves, Peels, Stalks and Stems, I claimed my under eye circles are less pronounced during the weeks when I drink a green smoothie every day? I found out that I my observation is not a delusion. (By the way, it's been a while since I've made a green smoothie.)

I found a post at this site written by a clinical nutritionist: Kimberly Carter's Health and Beauty Blog.

Food for Thought

Last night we ate at a seafood restaurant. I had scallops. Chris had red fish. We had about 6 different types of oysters on the half shell. Other than knowing, geographically speaking, where the oysters originated, I really have no idea where any of my meal came from. Isn't that a bit of a crime? Or am I being dramatic?

Celebratory Dessert


Blueberry tart topped with vanilla ice cream, almond slivers and candied oregano from Perla's , where Chris and I shared a meal in celebration of Chris's new job! Oh, I wish my Iphone camera did it more justice.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

To Market, To Market Five

This week I've been asking myself what makes a person’s spirit feel bountiful, and what makes a person’s spirit feel depleted? How easily we slip between the sensations of fullness and emptiness.

Yesterday, the Austin Farmer’s Market won me over. Like a reward for every person who committed to pungent-flavored meals thickly composed of winter roots and greens, the spring vegetables showed up at vendor stalls. Without exaggeration, I purchased the healthiest looking carrots I have ever set eyes on. Nearly day-glow orange, they appear to be packed with nutrients and moisture.

As I was putting the goods away, I could not resist the temptation to eat one of the carrots. It was like a plate of warm brownies was sitting in front of me. That’s how strong the temptation felt. I rinsed the carrot and chomped into it without bothering to peel the outer skin. 

Chris and I also ate at the market for the first time. We shared a plate of soft and fluffy whole wheat biscuits with white gravy and sausage and a plate of scrambled chorizo and duck eggs. We also asked for a side of locally made honey butter. The owners of Dai Due use almost entirely seasonal and locally produced food that has been grown with sustainable agricultural methods; they use homegrown herbs too. Guess what? You can taste the difference. You not only taste the difference, but you also build up an appetite for your meal. After placing and order, the chef stands behind the his stove and prepares everything to order. So for fifteen minutes, I soaked in this not-quite spring day and anticipated.

Anticipation, the mashing together of longing and frustration for desires yet to be met, is an extraordinary state; have you ever stopped to take notice in the midst of experiencing anticipation? Don't most of us spend every waking moment in anticipation?

As soon as we have occasion, I want to eat at one of Dai Due’s monthly supper club events. They select different outdoor locations, hire a band, and prepare a 4-10 course dinner with the freshest ingredients in an under-the-stars, Japanese-lantern-lit, picnic style setting. From the looks of it, the chef sets up an outdoor kitchen, so dinner guests get to take in the aroma of their meal as it's being prepared.

Everything about Dai Due Supper Club suggests bounty. Bursting yesterday: with adults, children, leashed, grinning dogs; orchids, herbs and cacti to take home and pot or root into the earth; raw Gulf shrimp, fresh fish, locally raised beef and hogs; prepared loaves of bread, hot coffee, pastries; artisan cheeses, cheddar and feta and fresh mozzarella; newly plucked turnips and carrots and sunflower sprouts; musicians pouring sound out into the air – this colorful life animated, crawling about like ants on a great anthill, the market itself could not have painted a more bountiful depiction of spirit.
***

Last weekend, a young woman in my MFA program, a poet, took her life. All week, I have thought about her. What unbearable suffering she must have felt in the face of her own abundance and the world’s abundance that can seem so unattainable at times. Doesn’t if feel sometimes as if we have such an intensely great deal to offer out to the world, yet we cannot find the paths by which to deliver our own harvest?

I did not know her well at all, though we started the program the same year. I remember that I was excited that we shared a birthday, but a friendship simply never blossomed. Here is what I observed about this poet: She exuded a kind heart. Her eyes had a spark that showed wonderment about the world and also suggested wry humor and a degree of skepticism. In photographs, she is captured with every animal imaginable. She laughs and nuzzles horses, holds turtles and yellow slugs in the palms of her hands; shoulders wild birds; in one, a family of squirrels is gathered around her, crawling on her lap and arms like she is Mary Poppins. The images show a human being at ease as an animal among animals, one living creature among many living creatures. What is not special? What about this girl’s demonstrable comfort and love is not bounty?

Her death has reminded me of my friend Marcie, of our phone conversations in 1998, when Marcie’s sister had taken her own life, and of a few years ago when Marcie also took her life. This poet's death has reminded me of my grief, and of my friend's heavy, incomprehensible suffering. Emptiness and fullness muddled together.

This young woman who, for a childish instant, I thought I would befriend because I have been so used to collecting January-birth friends, this poet, has reminded me of how we human beings have spirits that – all at once! – run dry with the sorrows that defeat us day by day and overflow with the profusion in our hearts, our very capacity to love. Inadvertently, we bear the weight of these opposing forces, the balance shifting back and forth over and over through time.

I had a similar feeling in the market yesterday. The changing of seasons was apparent. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Little Tenderness (Lots of Revision)


Knowing that I am going to write about what I cook, what I'm listening to and what I'm thinking while I cook/listen makes it significantly harder to relax and enjoy the process. Suddenly, I'm not just doing; I am cataloging thoughts, frantically attempting to photograph food, and trying to remember songs. Saturday night cooking and music has become it's own kind of workout. This past Saturday, for the sake of simplicity (I was too lazy to think hard about what I was in the mood to listen to), I turned on Twine Time. 

The episode was a compilation of R&B songs that remained at the top of the Billboard charts for the most weeks in history. When I turned on the radio around 8:30 (yeah, I got a late start), Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay" was playing. Here is an NPR interview with Steve Cropper, who co-wrote the song. In the interview, Cropper discusses the song's origins, and he comments that it had lasting mass appeal because it touches on a widely shared feeling that, "I'm working my can off, and it seems like nothing is going to come my way."

If you read my previous entry, you have an inkling that I went into the night feeling just that way; it didn't escape me that the first song I heard captured my mood. Part of the bad mood came from job frustrations, but another part of my mood sprouted (like fungus) from a fiction workshop. Friday, I workshopped a story with Francine Prose. Do you know of her? She's incredibly smart - meet her in person and that much is obvious. The issues she pointed out in my story, almost all of which I agreed with (yes, I am arrogant enough to have disagreed wholeheartedly with one comment) were spinning in my head. How to solve this story to which I I feel unyielding dedication?

As I listened to Paul Ray play all of these songs that sat stubbornly and triumphantly at the top of the charts for weeks on end into months and years, I started thinking about the concept of adapting to challenges in life so that a person creates staying power.

There were many revisions to dinner. I planned to adapt butternut squash and sage risotto by substituting turnips and basil. The recipe called for an onion. I didn't have one, so I used green onions and a healthy-sized shallot.

I realized that my one bunch of turnips was not enough (the recipe called for 1 lb. of squash). I added a couple of sweet potatoes to fill out the turnips, which worked perfectly. Next time, I'll be sure to have plenty of turnips.

Growing up, I was not a fan of turnips, but these turnips were the best I've tasted. I am convinced that the market roots were packed with flavor that grocery store turnips simply, and entirely, lack. Though the risotto contained slightly less turnips than sweet potatoes, the sweet turnips out-shined the sweet potatoes.

I also noticed that homemade vegetable stock rocks. Using it added depth to the overall flavor. If I'd used a boullion cube or plain water, the risotto would surely have fallen flat. With the stock, it seemed like little tasty fireworks were popping off in my mouth. I'd pick up one flavor, and pow - another flavor shot up just as the first was flickering out. Then pow, pow, pow - another flavor and another.

Here is a picture (by Chris) of the stock and risotto in action. You can also see oyster mushrooms sauteing. I cooked them in an olive oil/butter mix with salt and pepper, and I folded them into the risotto before serving.

This weekend I started a stock bag. I've got a plastic bag in the fridge, and as I cook throughout the week, instead of tossing vegetable trimmings, I'm putting them in the stock bag. At the end of the week, I'll rinse it all in a colander and make new stock. (This week, I've even included tangerine peels. Mmm. Citrus-y stock.)

I've never made risotto before, but the finished product was robust and impressive. It tasted like it came from a good restaurant, and I am not exaggerating. The great surprise (to me): As impressive a dish as it is, it is equally easy to make. Take one more look at the recipe posted a couple of entries ago and give it a try You can find it here.

In this image, you can see Chris flash frying basil for garnish. In the bowl at the front of the stove is garlic that he cooked until it is just golden and crisp. We added the garlic to the greens before serving.

There was another quick revision to last night's plans. I originally planned a side of kale and turnip greens. As it turns out, I didn't have kale, but I did have kohlrabi. I trimmed off the greens from the turnips and kohlrabi and cooked them together. Honestly, the kohlrabi greens were a nice change of pace from spinach and kale.

For a long time, I have prided myself on my atility to create a good meal when I am down to my emptiest fridge. My fridge has seemed empty for too long, as if I may have exhausted my resources.

After dinner on Saturday, replenished, I spent three hours revising my story (the 7,348th revision, or so it feels like). I won't say it is perfect, but the work is stronger and that much closer to what I know it has the potential to be. After revising, I felt more charged. My excitement reminded me that I am on the right path, regardless of what obstacles I encounter.

Before starting in the kitchen on Saturday, I hoped for ingenious inspirations. No ingenious inspirations came about, but I did remember that I can think quickly, adapt to circumstances, revise plans as necessary and still create plenty of nourishment and comfort.

It isn't "Dock of the Bay," but "Try a Little Tenderness" is a mighty good song. Otis Redding live, Stax Tour, Europe, 1967:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Stuck in My Head

This Of Montreal song has been stuck in my head all day.


To Market, To Market 3 and 4

Market 4
Today, we picked up a dozen eggs, turnips, basil, oyster mushrooms and purple onion shoots. After heading to the market, we stopped in at Whole Foods and bought a couple of 99-cent French country loaves and Arborio rice from the bulk section. All in all, we spent about $22.

Tonight, I am using the vegetable stock I made last week and today's ingredients to prepare turnip and basil risotto (adapted from a recipe for butternut squash and sage risotto). I'll mix in sauteed oyster mushrooms at the end. I'll also make a side dish of crisp garlic with sauteed turnip greens and kale. Comfort food. And as my head is heavy with thoughts about the seemingly impossible-to-infiltrate Austin job market, comfort is what I am after.

On the way to the market today, Chris and I talked about how we really could (and should) ride our bikes instead of drive since it's so close.  Then one of us declared, "Baby steps." Committing ourselves to preparing 1 local meal a week feels like an impressive step 1 (and really, it turns into 3-5 market meals a week when we divvy up our purchases and are thoughtful about what to prepare.

These steps seem easy compared to the steps (and patience) required of us when it comes to settling into this city. How long does it take to find a secure job in your own field in a city like Austin? A lot longer than we had expected. Last week, Chris responded to a job posting, and this week, when he called to inquire about the timeline for responding to applicants and setting up interviews, the woman told him they'd received 125 resumes. The challenge of finding full time, steady employment feels daunting at best.

As you no doubt heard, a man here in Austin set his house on fire (with his wife and child in the house) and then smashed his plane into an IRS building. His actions are irrational, selfish and inexcusable. Particularly, I keep wondering why this man wouldn't sell his private plane (Hello, Mr. Broke, you own a plane?) to pay the IRS, rather than burdening his wife with his debts, leaving her homeless and attempting to kill other human beings. But deep down inside, there is this frustrated part of me that empathizes with the the overwhelming level of frustration the man might have felt. It's not his actions that I empathize with, to be clear, but with the feeling of constantly treading water, knowing that your body is simply incapable of treading forever.

Here is the Risotto with Butternut Squash and sage recipe I am using tonight. It's from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop (Houghton Mifflin, 1997). By the way, we love this book. And Jack Bishop appears regularly on America's Test Kitchen. We love that nerdy cooking show too.

Ingredients
6 cups vegetable stock or 1 vegetable bouillon cube dissolved in 6 cups boiling water
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced (we are substituting challots and green onion)
6 large sage leaves, minced, plus 8 leaves for frying (we are substituting basil)
1/2 small butternut squash, pulp and seeds discarded, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes (we're using turnips)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano chees
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation
1.  Bring stock to a simmer in medium saucepan. Keep warm over low heat.
2.  Heat oil and 2 tbsp. butter in heavy-bottomed medium pot. Add onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in minced sage and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in squash and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.
3.  Add the wine and 1 cup of warm stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until squash is tender, about 25 minutes. (If the pot runs dry, add more stock as needed.) Uncover pot and cook off any extra liquid.
4.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of the warm stock and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice absorbs the liquid. Continue adding stock in 1/2 cup increments, stirring until the rice is creamy and soft but still a bit al dente, about 25 minutes. (Add hot water if you run out of stock.) *During this step, you'll need to pretty much stand over the stove stirring and adding liquid the whole time.
5.  Remove the pot from heat and vigorously stir in the remaining 1 tbsp. butter and the 1/2 cup cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish servings with fried sage leaves. Serve immediately.

As for music tonight? And my thoughts while cooking? We'll see what comes, but I am hoping for ingenious inspirations.

Market 3
I nearly forgot to fill you in on last weekend's market trip. The East Austin market that takes place on Sundays from the blessed waking hours of 11am-3pm is awesome. It is an indoor-outdoor farmers/arts market. While it isn't heavy on produce, one of the main produce vendors touts itself as "beyond organic" for using seeds that are not genetically engineered and for using farming methods that do not kill good insects. (There was a whole list of reasons given, but I cannot remember everything I read.) From this vendor, we purchased broccoli, cauliflower (purple and white) and kohlrabi.

That night I made something so easy and delicious - mashed cauliflower. I trimmed off the leaves and stem and cut the florets. I steamed the florets and the stem (1st I peeled off the outer layer of the stem). After the cauliflower was good and soft (10 minutes?), I threw it into a food processor, added a tbsp. of plain yogurt, a tbsp. of olive oil and a tbsp. of the water I had used to steam it. I also added salt and pepper and pureed it until it was smooth. I added some extra water to make it creamier.

As I was trimming and cutting the cauliflower, I had a really lovely surprise. I found this little guy (pictured on Chris' finger):

He reminded me that much of my food lately has been coming from gardens instead of grocery stores.

Next time I make the mashed cauliflower, instead of first steaming the cauliflower, I'll roast it in the oven with garlic and olive oil. But steaming it is certainly a quick way to go. Pictured below, along with salad and hanger steak, is what the mashed cauliflower looked like. I wish you could taste them.

A few last words. About the hanger steak - if you force yourself to eat with your stomach instead of your eyes, you can serve it to 4 people. When we're lucky enough to score a hanger steak (usually 3/4-1lb at appx. $7/lb), we cook half and split that half between us so we can spread it over 2 meals.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Leaves, Peels, Stalks and Stems



A while back (which could mean a year ago or 2 years ago or 6 months ago), I caught an episode of Oprah on which Dr. Oz made a green smoothie with apple and spinach and a bunch of other stuff.

Sometime in January, I started saving the stems and leafy tops of root vegetables, and in the mornings, I’ve been making my own green smoothies. 

This evolved when I was making them with spinach alone and I ran out of spinach. It occurred to me to use turnip greens. The experiment grew from there. Kale is a strange green to add – it almost makes the smoothies taste a little salty. 

Ingredients
2/3 cup of tart cherry juice
1 banana (sometimes I use ½ banana and ½ green apple)
1 handful of fresh blueberries
1 stalk celery
2 hearty-sized handfuls of leafy greens (I’ve used spinach, kohlrabi leaves, turnip greens, beet greens and kale – sometimes, I’ve mixed; other times I’ve stuck to one type)
appx. 1 tsp. parsley leaves
fresh ginger (1/4” thick, half the size of a dime? I like a lot.)
fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 1 wedge)
1/2 to 1 tsp. honey
3-4 ice cubes.

Preparation
Throw it all in a blender and blend!

I’ve tried making smoothies with no banana and a whole apple, but I cannot get behind the texture of the apple/leafy green version. It tastes gritty each and every time, whereas, with the banana, the texture is (drum roll) smooth. Go figure. I’ve also tried them without, the ice, and I have to say – especially while your taste buds are adjusting to the general concept of the green smoothie – the cold from ice makes them more palatable. Ice also improves the overall texture. One last note, the thicker your greens, the less you need to add, and the longer you need to blend.

When I drink a green smoothie, I feel like I am instantaneously imbibing servings of fruits and vegetables that I otherwise would not eat that day. I also like the taste, although the first time I made the Dr. Oz version, using a recipe from the internet, it had the texture and taste of grass clippings. Playing with the proportions of ingredients helps get it right. But the really big, happy discovery about green smoothies is that, the weeks when I manage to make one every day - which does happen now and then, I notice that my skin looks better. That might sound insane, but it's a true observation. I have always had big dark circles under my eyes; mostly, this is my general coloring. However, the circles become less pronounced those weeks when I have a green smoothie every morning - so something healthy must be happening inside my body too.

I was convinced that I could find more interesting use for these trimmings than stock, but I didn’t try hard to find those interesting uses, and the smoothie is all I came up with. So tonight, I’m saying, Hello stock! I piled cauliflower trimmings, a broccoli stem, kohlrabi stems and leaves, fennel stalks and leaves, ginger, lemon, used tea leaves, half of an unused sweet potato (peels and all) and green onions into a pot. I plan to portion it out and freeze it. I’ll let you know when I get around to using some of the stock.

Anyone out there have other suggestions for how to use leafy greens from root vegetables? I have a feeling that the farmers markets hold the promise of roots and greens for a while to come. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Land of Plenty

Tomorrow, I’ll head to a Sunday market in East Austin that keeps the hours 11am-3pm. Do they know about me and my weekend mornings sleeping in?

After visiting the museum last night, we rented Food, Inc. At the video store, Chris said, “You're SURE you want to watch this? It might change the way you think about food for the rest of your life. And you like food.”

Among many vital questions, the documentary poses this one:  Shouldn't we, in the US, strive to make a bunch of fresh carrots or a dozen eggs, more affordable than a bag of chips? I found myself struggling again with the relationship between nutritionally-dense, healthfully-farmed food and its affordability to the masses (as opposed to double-income, no-kid couples, etc.). The end of the film included a "What you can do now" list that suggested:  shop at farmers markets. Farmers markets that accept food stamps. 

I remembered living in Baton Rouge and shopping at Calandro's, one of the few truly local grocers in town (not to mention one of the oldest). On the one hand, Calandro's prided itself for being locally owned and for stocking an apt selection of Louisiana-grown and packaged products. On the other hand, I used to nearly get hives standing in the check out line where, staring me in the face, there were signs stating that WIC and other food subsidies are not accepted [read: Poor people, you are not welcome]. Was I to feel pride for supporting this local business, or contempt toward this establishment and myself as a consumer? 

I've noticed that the Austin Farmers Market accepts food stamps, and the Red Stick Farmers Market, to their many credits, also welcomes patronage by human beings who rely on food subsidies. Watching the film, I wondered what the hell is wrong with us as Americans for feeling disdain toward government subsidies that aid individuals for basic necessities such as food, when the government is systematically and grossly subsidizing major corporations that utilize these subsidies to mechanize the production of food to the point that it is no longer nutritious sustenance, but merely a set of objects that possess the visual likeness of actual produce and actual meat. 

The film was informative and thought provoking, and it left me with some questions. For instance, where do the likes of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and Fresh Market fit into this efficiency-driven model of food production? The interview with Gary Hirshberg, the Stonyfield Farms founder and CEO, began to chip at this subject, but in no way did it offer an answer. FYI, most  big brand organic products readily available for purchase today - Kashi, Stonyfield Farms, Gardenburger, and others, have been acquired by corporations like Kraft, Kellogg, General Mills, Heinz. When Hirshberg was asked whether these organic producers can maintain their "soul," their commitment to healthful and responsible food production, he answered, dimly, that the verdict is still out.

While I slept, I dreamed that my body had become swollen and yellow because I consumed more corn than I could handle. I also dreamed that I opened a bag of Ruby and Basil’s dog food, and it too was filled with corn kernels. When I woke up, Chris asked, “Do you want to go by some Tyson chicken?” No Thank You.

I have sufficient motivation to make it to the East Side slacker market tomorrow. I also now have sufficient motivation to familiarize myself with every chicken, hog and cattle farm in my vicinity, as well as with the methods by which I can purchase animal products from humane, organic and clean growers. Corporate meat, again, No Thank You.

Consider this my emphatic recommendation to rent this movie: A small part of me did not want to watch Food, Inc., but the part of me that won out is the larger part that believes ignorance by choice is inexcusable.

I am leaving you with two New York Times articles on the subject of food subsidies use by families in the United States today. I hope you will take a moment to read them and contemplate their relevance to your own lives. Here is the first, published in 2008. Here is the second, published just after Thanksgiving last year.

*I pulled the posted photo from the official Food Inc. website, to which I have linked above.

Land of Plenty



Tomorrow, I’ll head to a Sunday market in East Austin that keeps the hours 11am-3pm. Do they know about me and my weekend mornings sleeping in?

After visiting the museum last night, we rented Food, Inc. At the video store, Chris said, “You're SURE you want to watch this? It might change the way you think about food for the rest of your life. And you like food.”

Among many vital questions, the documentary poses this one:  Shouldn't we, in the US, strive to make a bunch of fresh carrots or a dozen eggs, more affordable than a bag of chips? I found myself struggling again with the relationship between nutritionally-dense, healthfully-farmed food and its affordability to the masses (as opposed to double-income, no-kid couples, etc.). The end of the film included a "What you can do now" list that suggested:  shop at farmers markets. Farmers markets that accept food stamps. 

I remembered living in Baton Rouge and shopping at Calandro's, one of the few truly local grocers in town (not to mention one of the oldest). On the one hand, Calandro's prided itself for being locally owned and for stocking an apt selection of Louisiana-grown and packaged products. On the other hand, I used to nearly get hives while standing in the check out line while signs stating that WIC and other food subsidies are not accepted [read: Poor people, you are not welcome] stared me in the face. Was I to feel pride for supporting this local business, or contempt toward this establishment and myself as a consumer? 

I've noticed that the Austin Farmers Market accepts food stamps, and the Red Stick Farmers Market, to their many credits, also welcomes patronage by human beings who rely on food subsidies. Watching the film, I wondered what the hell is wrong with us as Americans for feeling disdain toward government subsidies that aid individuals for basic necessities such as food, when the government is systematically and grossly subsidizing major corporations that utilize these subsidies to mechanize the production of food to the point that it is no longer nutritious sustenance, but merely a set of objects that possesses the visual likeness of actual produce and actual meat. 

The film was informative and thought provoking, and it left me with some questions. For instance, where do the likes of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and Fresh Market fit into this efficiency-driven model of food production? The interview with Gary Hirshberg, the Stonyfield Farms founder and CEO, began to chip at this subject, but in no way did it offer an answer. FYI, most  big brand organic products readily available for purchase today - Kashi, Stonyfield, Gardenburger, and most others, have been acquired by corporations like Kraft, Kellogg, General Mills, Heinz. When Hirshberg was asked whether these organic producers can maintain their "soul," their commitment to healthfully and responsible food production, he answered, dimly, that the verdict is still out.

While I slept, I dreamed that my body had became swollen and yellow because I consumed more corn than I could handle. I also dreamed that I opened a bag of Ruby and Basil’s dog food, and it too was filled with corn kernels. When I woke up, Chris asked, “Do you want to go by some Tyson chicken?” No Thank You.

I have sufficient motivation to make it to the East side slacker market tomorrow. I also now have sufficient motivation to familiarize myself with every chicken, hog and cattle farm in my vicinity, as well as with the methods by which I can purchase animal products from humane, organic and clean growers. Corporate meat, again, No Thank You.

Consider this my emphatic recommendation to rent this movie: A small part of me did not want to watch Food, Inc., but the part of me that won out is the larger part that believes ignorance by choice is simply inexcusable.

I am leaving you with two New York Times articles on the subject of food subsidies use by families in the United States today. I hope you will take a moment to read them and contemplate their relevance to your own lives. Here is the first, published in 2008. Here is the second, published just after Thanksgiving last year.

*I pulled the posted photo from the official Food Inc. website, to which I have linked above.