Category: Reflections

Thoughts on Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook

I came across Dana Gunders’ Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook in the New Book Section of our public library during one of those rare times without my children, when I grab novels and memoirs and cookbooks and poetry and hope at least some of what I’m getting is going to be good.  I’m happy to say, this little book is one of the good ones, and I found Gunders’ perspective especially helpful as we begin the new fall share season.

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In 2012, Gunders–a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)–released a report titled, Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill.  Her report and subsequent food waste reduction work became national news covered by CNN, NBC, New York Times, NPR, Wall Street Journal, and others.

The book is separated into three sections:

  • Part One: Strategies for Everyday Life – This section includes ideas for smarter grocery shopping and food storage, how to best utilize food scraps and leftovers, how to set up your kitchen, and more.
  • Part Two: Recipes – Out of the 22 recipes listed here, I bookmarked at least a third.  Most of these recipes include practical ways to use up whatever’s in your fridge or pantry, like “Free-for-all Frittata” and “Anything Goes Soup.”  One I’m really looking forward to trying? “Infused Vodka” with my end-of-season raspberries and mint.
  • Part Three: Directory – Here she includes alphabetized lists with optimal storage info for fruits, veggies, meat/poultry/seafood, pantry staples, dairy/eggs, beans/nuts/vegetarian proteins, and oils/condiments/spices.

I have to admit, I approached this book with a little bit of an “I-already-know-this-stuff” attitude,  but I was pleasantly reminded there’s always more to learn.  For instance, you know the sell by/use by/best before/expiration dates found on most of the food you buy?  In the US, those dates aren’t federally regulated (exception: infant formula) and reflect the “manufacturers’  suggestions for when the food is freshest or at its peak quality.”  Gunders continues, “Many foods will stay good for days or even weeks after the date on the package.”  However, many consumers (e.g. US!) aren’t aware of this and end up throwing away food that’s perfectly good to eat.  (For more info, see chapter “Can I Eat It?”)

 This season you’re going to be receiving weekly shares of salad greens and spinach, beets and carrots, green onions and radishes, leeks and fresh herbs–yum, yum, yum!  One of my favorite things about growing all this good stuff for you is that I know how much better I feel when I’m regularly eating my veggies and greens.  I believe you’ll feel better–as long as you’re actually EATING what you get.  Follow along on the farm blog this season for how to do just that, waste-free-kitchen-style!

 

 

Thoughts on ‘Crafted’

Up until a week ago, I had never considered what goes into making one of the most essential kitchen tools: the knife.  I’ve thought about how food is grown (obviously), how food is cooked and what it’s cooked in, and what it means to be nourished—but knives?  I’ve always just used the Cutco set Dan earned peddling knives door-to-door when he was a teenager.

However, now that I’ve seen the short documentary Crafted (2015) by award-winning director Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), I’m saving up for a Bloodroot Blade, made by artisan knife-makers David Van Wyk and Luke Snyder.

We’ve known Luke and his wife since 2006 when Dan and Luke met at Taylor University’s Master of Environmental Science program.  We’ve visited the Snyders in their hometown, where Luke’s family made a carrot cake for Harper’s first birthday.  And the Snyders came to our farm with a group of Taylor friends right after we moved here to help us clean up the property (we ate homemade calzones for dinner that night).

But, as too often happens with friends once you move away, we lost touch over the years beyond the occasional facebook post, which is where I heard about Crafted.

The 25-minute film follows the stories of three food-related artisanal companies: the pottery business of Yuji Nagatani, a seventh generation Japanese potter; the San Francisco restaurant Bar Tartine; and Bloodroot Blades of Arnoldsville, Georgia.  The individuals behind these companies create beautiful, hand-crafted products—rice cookers, gourmet dishes, knives—and they take their time doing so.

“We’re in this business not for the money but for a lifestyle and for joy, just the joy of the craft,” says Snyder in the film.  Dan remembers that back at Taylor, Luke was always talking about his knives.  What do you think Dan was talking about and working on in every spare moment?  That’s right, growing vegetables!  What a privilege it is to earn a living honing a craft you love and, in doing so, creating a product that those around you love too.

To watch the film, click here.  It’s free if you have Amazon Prime and costs $1.99 if you don’t.  If you want to purchase a knife from Bloodroot Blades,  be warned, you’re going to have to be patient.  These knives are so quality there’s a 28-month waiting list.  

Goodbye to Winter

Such is the name of the piano song my 6-year-old Harper just finished playing, and he couldn’t have done so at a better time.  Goodbye, Winter!  Hello, Spring!  And hello to all these gorgeous little babies growing in the hoop house.

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Yet, growing up in the Midwest, I do have a soft spot in my heart for the wintertime, especially when working on a vegetable farm.  When daylight drops below 10 hours, and the temperature plummets into the negatives, we take a break from growing and harvesting and instead reflect on the past season and plan for the future.

So as the snow fell and the gray skies took over, Dan and I thought about how we could make Perkins’ Good Earth Farm better.  We read books—Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison, Restoration Agriculture by Mark Shephard–listened to podcasts like those in Chris Blanchard’s Farmer to Farmer series, rethought what it means to host a Community Supported Agriculture, and discussed biochar and agricultural practices with other farmers.  We dreamed, drew up plans, crunched numbers, and dreamed some more.

And, thanks to many of your votes for my recipe in the Dannon Everyday Chefs Better With Yogurt contest, we’re going to be turning a few of these dreams into a reality!  Our first big project will be winterizing the milkhouse.  (This past fall, the temperatures dropped below freezing just as the Fall CSA ended, which was cutting it a little too close for comfort as refrigerators do a great job keeping greens cool but not so great at keeping them “warm”, aka unfrozen!)  We’ll also be purchasing several tools and tractor implements that will make planting and harvesting more efficient.  

But for now, the big news is that spring sales are about to begin! Starting next week on April 23, we’ll be selling produce through weekly online sales, with sales opening on Thursdays at 5 pm and closing on Fridays at 5 pm.  Pick-up will be Monday from 3-6 here at the farm, or in Rensselaer from 11-2, depending on your preference.  Click here to check out our spring produce.  We’re so looking forward to seeing you all again!

 

A Reflection on Holiday Eating

Every year at Thanksgiving time, we spend a week with Dan’s side of the family.  When I first joined the Perkins’ family 12 years ago, Thanksgiving week involved extremely competitive board games, outdoor adventures, a lot of laughter—and eating tons of food.  My sister-in-law made delicious, home cooked meals each night for dinner, but during the day (and after dinner), we ate whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.  It was vacation after all, you know, the holidays, a time to let go of the daily routine and discipline and just relax.

Our holiday eating habits weren’t reserved solely for Thanksgiving.  I remember one summer vacation in Maine, a few of us adults went to the grocery store, and we took along my baby niece.  Our cart contained a wide variety of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream containers and specialty beer.  Yep, ice cream and beer, that’s all.  I didn’t think too much of it until we got to the register.  The cashier looked at us with these accusing eyes, and I could just hear her thinking, And what are you young gluttons going to feed that baby, huh?  Well, the baby would return back to the house and eat something like pureed sweet potatoes and kale, while the adults consumed their once-a-day healthy, home cooked meal and filled in the rest with Italian sandwiches and cheese bread, brownies and bakery treats, chips and take-out.

As “fun” as this type of eating was, at some point the family began to realize it was not sustainable.  One family member was diagnosed as pre-diabetic.  Another with high cholesterol.  Food allergies came into play.  And as more and more children joined the family, the adults had less and less energy to stay up late playing Settlers of Catan, Carcassone, or whatever new game Dan’s brother introduced to the family.  It wasn’t just lack of sleep affecting our energy levels—it was the food we were eating.

So the menu began to change.  The Perkins’ family dived into one food trend after another, each one a step closer to a healthy perspective.  The first year it was the Schwarzbein Principle, the next, Maker’s Diet.  Then came green smoothies, and, for some, gluten-free.  We haven’t arrived at a 100% clean eating Thanksgiving, but I don’t think that was ever the goal.  We eat healthfully for the most part—oatmeal or eggs for breakfast; salads or sandwiches for lunch; dinners ranging from risotto to shish-ka-bobs to chili, depending on which family’s in charge of the evening meal.  We still enjoy the treats that come with the holiday: pumpkin, pecan, and apple pies; Snowflake Mix; Tazo chai; ice cream; home-brewed beer. 

As we approach Thanksgiving 2014, I’m expecting to eat well again this year, and, in doing so, to feel good.  Good enough to ice skate with my sons and go on crazy, bumpy four-wheeler rides in the bitter cold.  Good enough to play a lengthy game of Heads Up with the whole family and sit in front of the wood-burning stove talking late into the night.  Good enough to sing lullabies to the children and songs of thanksgiving.  Our holiday is still, in many ways, centered on food.  But instead of thoughtless indulging, I feel like we, as family, practice mindful thankfulness for the food we have in such abundance.

The day before we leave, Dan and I will harvest fresh spinach and baby salad greens, carrots and beets to share for the Thanksgiving week.  This year, I’m thankful for a family who not only appreciates the nutritious benefits of such veggies, but also truly enjoys eating them.

 

 

 

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