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Friday, August 25, 2006

Food for Thought

Is it just me, or does anyone else find this image disturbing? The Champlain Valley Fair opens tomorrow, and one of the featured activities for little kids is the "corn crib," where tots can play in a John Deere-themed ag sandbox full of dried corn kernels:


Maybe it's just because I've had to be careful not to waste food for the past several weeks, but this is distasteful to me. Even if the grain is food for cattle, teaching kids that it's OK to play in something that took time, energy and effort to grow, dry and store — sustenance which could offer continued life to another living being — is a bit weird. What does that say about the value we place on commercially grown grain? Is it so cheap that we can treat it like sand?

Something tells me you wouldn't have seen this at the fair 50 years ago.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Local(vore) News

Just a quick roundup of regional media coverage of the Vermont Eat Local Challenge:

The current edition of the Vermont Guardian has a story by Jen Gilbert of southern Vermont, detailing her ups and downs during one week of the challenge. Her account makes me realize how lucky I am when it comes to locating certain things: Burlington-area retailers and markets are full of local products — wine, dairy, produce, meat — that are easy to buy off-the-shelf for folks participating in the challenge. In a pinch, I can always purchase a key ingredient to complete a dish or a meal — but people doing all of their shopping at weekly farmers' markets might have a harder time. Gilbert also went without salt, oil or spices, all exceptions which I am finding really helpful in chasing away monotony from this month's cooking.

Also, Vermont Public Radio's call-in program, "Switchboard," will be devoting its Tuesday-night show this week (tomorrow, 8/22) to the Eat Local Challenge. It airs from 7-8 p.m., and if you'd like to participate, the number to call is 1-800-639-2211.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Water Buffalo Mozzarella?

Not exactly Italian, but it's true. Somewhere in South Woodstock, VT, there's a herd of water buffalo, and an enterprising company is making mozzarella from their milk. According to the dairy that makes this stuff, water buffalo milk is whiter than cow's milk because it contains no carotene — the animals process the carotene directly into Vitamin A, so their milk is has a higher nutritional value. It's also thicker, more like half-and-half, and ideal stuff for making mozz balls:


One of the fun things about the Localvore Challenge so far has been seeking out ingredients I normally wouldn't need to look for. I love fresh mozzarella on summer salads, and was happy to find this stuff in the gourmet cheese section at City Market. At $7 a container, it's probably not something I'd usually buy, but given that I made one baseball-sized lump last through six meals, I think it was worth it. It tastes mildly tangy, but not a whole lot different from mozzarella made with cow's milk. If anything, it's a bit creamier, and not as stringy as some other varieties I've sampled. There's very little salt in it, which I like — I'd rather add salt myself, especially if I'm using the mozarella with food that I've already seasoned.

I usually take some scissors and just snip the cheese on top of whatever I want to eat. Some of it ended up on the tomato-basil-garlic salad I made for dinner the other night, but my favorite dish was arugula with beets and onions pickled in vinegar, with mozzarella on top:


Our localvore potluck is tonight, and I hope to try my first cake-bake of the month: carrot-cake cupcakes, with maple cream cheese frosting. I'll substitute  either honey or maple syrup for the sugar: everything else I can get locally.

Kudos to Melissa Pasanen at The Burlington Free Press for picking up on localvores in Monday's Living section. I wonder if she's participating in the challenge, too? Her week's worth of menus sound delectable, and I appreciate how they often use leftovers from a previous meal. It's great that Vermont's largest daily is encouraging people to try eating local for the remainder of the month, even if it's just one meal a day, say, dinner.

Speaking of which, I've got to get cooking!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Keeping My Cool

Our fridge broke today. Or rather, it became temporarily disabled for a 24-hour period (we hope). It's 20-plus years old, and not the most efficient piece of machinery, and about every year and a half it just gives up and needs to be unplugged for awhile. I'm hoping that's the case again this time.


Gahlord wrestled the fridge out from the wall and unplugged it.  I wrestled it back, then spent a big chunk of this afternoon cleaning things out of it, and thinking about the preposterous amount of frozen and canned edibles I tend to stockpile. My grandfather lived through the Great Depression, and as an adult took a very long-term approach to shopping. Whenever I visited him as a kid I was amazed to see he'd filled not only the pantry, but an entire auxiliary room with canned and boxed food. I'd find plastic bottles of soda in the linen closet, and huge economy packages of toilet paper under the spare room beds. My mom inherited this approach to a lesser degree, and passed it on to me, particularly with regard to edibles that need to go in the fridge. It is rare to see empty space in our icebox. 

I wonder at the usefulness of the hoarding instinct.

The fridge had already been off and cooling for at least 20 hours before we realized the situation, and with the localvore challenge, it was pretty frustrating to think of all of the farmers' market produce, U-pick berries and local dairy items I'd tracked down gradually going bad. Gahlord had been given a pork roast from a pig raised by a friend of a friend in the Northeast Kingdom, but that was in the freezer, so I'm pretty sure it's still OK.

Two friends volunteered temporary fridge and freezer space (thanks, Mandy and Angela!), and hopefully tomorrow all will be back to normal, albeit a little less stuffed-to-the-guppers. I hope to maintain shelf visibility henceforth.

In food-related news, last night Angela hosted a grilling party at her house, where about a dozen folks consumed locally made tempeh with veggie cream gravy, potatoes, salads, grilled zucchini, homemade potato-and-beet chips, polenta, more of the buffalo (not beefalo, but actual buffalo) and turkey burgers, and lots of corn on the cob. I made blueberry pancakes this morning. They were yummy, and that's really what I've been eating all day.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Inaugural Breakfast & Lunch

Gahlord is taking one for the team, finishing up perishable leftovers that we still have in our fridge, even after last night's potluck where lots of food was consumed.
It didn't seem to make sense to throw away good edibles just to claim localvore cred, so he's going to join me in the localvore diet in a few days. I tried not to be wistful while watching him eat a potato, mushroom and onion frittata this morning.

Fortunately, I'd planned ahead and baked some bread with flour from Champlain Valley Mills, so I was able to have toast for breakfast, with butter and honey. A sprinkle of cinnamon  made the toast even tastier. Topped off the meal with a bowl of blueberries in maple yogurt. Yum.

The breakfast breakdown:

Butter = Cabot Creamery
Honey = from a small beekeeping operation in Burlington's Intervale
Blueberries = Adam's Berry Farm
Yogurt = Butterworks Farm

For lunch, I packed a simple sandwich with more of the same bread and a hefty slice of Frog City Cheese. We met one of the cheesemakers a few months ago, when he came up to Burlington to market the brand, and it sounds like a really nifty operation. The cheese has small white grains in it; it's made in a traditional Vermont farmhouse style that is really flavorful, kind of like a cheddar. It was a bit surreal to browse the cheese company's website while eating its product. Two carrots I bought at the Burlington farmers' market and a bunch of plain, unadorned blueberries wrapped up the noon eats.

Bread and blueberries, and plenty of water to drink. So far, not a particularly varied diet! I hope to get to the store soon to see if I can have meat and potatoes tonight, with maybe a green salad.

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