farmers, cooks, eaters

Do We Eat It to Save It?

Written by Marlen on Apr 3, 2012

This week, Whole Foods Markets announced that beginning Earth Day, it “will no longer carry red-rated, wild-caught fish in its seafood departments … A red rating indicates that a species is suffering from overfishing or that current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats; the ratings are determined by nonprofit research organizations Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium.” The announcement notes that “the move, which comes one year ahead of the company’s self-imposed deadline of Earth Day 2013, makes Whole Foods Market the first national grocer to stop selling red-rated seafood.”

Photo by Josh

On first read, this announcement triggered the feeling that this is a good thing; that mass-market grocers are becoming more aware and action-oriented toward environmental issues including overfishing. However with further reflection, it also posed the question is this truly a supportive solution to preventing overfishing and harm to marine life and habitats?

A couple of years ago I was introduced to an ‘out of the box’ idea from Louisiana Chef/Author/Ark of Taste Culinary Activist Poppy Tooker, who spoke at a NW conference. The concept she shared was we must “Eat it to save it” which triggered multiple questions that are still ongoing within me. Initially, the idea was so foreign that it didn’t make any sense. Most of us have been taught that if we eat an endangered species, it will become extinct.

Poppy’s message asks us be consciously aware of who and what are fully involved in the ongoing availability of that resource. Are we willing to make complex and multi-layered choices to respectfully protect something so it continues to survive and even thrive? Instead of our dollars supporting mass-production by big conglomerates, are we willing to pay for heritage harvest practices that promote sustainability, biodiversity and cultural continuance?

At the forefront of a growing trend, Poppy has helped identify foods and growers that must be supported as regional links to our national and global heritage. Biodiversity, sustainability, and pre-petro-chemical knowledge that produce food are at a risk of being lost. How are our farmers, fisherman, their homes, communities, and their regional food systems being affected?  Should we instead raise awareness and regulate production methods and yields, versus eliminating the harvest of a species?

Of course prices will increase, however consumption will reduce. Yet would this approach allow a food and its culture to survive? If we stop eating a particular species of fish, does the fishery itself die? This is not simple set of choices, nor is it clear which pathway will result in the best environmental and cultural care. But the more questions we ask, the more we understand what’s at consequence of our actions, and our ability to consciously choose our future and the future far beyond us.

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Country Natural Beef

Written by Nancy and Jody on Mar 28, 2012

We are surrounded by amazing people.

We never had the chance to meet Doc Hatfield, although he has been included in our conversations for over a year. Last week we learned of his death from our friend, Tara.

We became aware of Doc and his big picture thinking while working on a project about choices and how we as individuals do make a difference.

Doc Hatfield and his wife Connie, co-founded the cooperative, Country Natural Beef, in Brothers, Oregon, along with 14 other ranching families. They believed that by structuring the business as a cooperative, the rancher stayed in control of the meat all the way through the system. They believed in creating a natural business model that recognized diversity, respect, sustainability, collaboration and inclusion.

Doc brought people together with the belief that a diverse group is a strength — one that brings ‘collective wisdom”. He strove for common solutions that were better, — for healthy animals, healthy people, and for the health of our planet.

Thank you Doc – you made a difference.

Jody and Nancy

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Celebrate Skagit

Written by Jody on Mar 2, 2012

Recently had a wonderful conversation with Susan Macek –  Development Director of Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland.  They are having their first “Dinner on the Farm” April 14 in Mount Vernon, WA., as she said, “just steps away from Skagit Valley tulip fields”.  All the proceeds will support the continued work to ensure the Skagit agriculture through farmland protection, advocacy, reserarch, education and public awareness.  Here’s more information

What a great way to spend an evening.


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Winner for the Cookbook Giveaway on Cookus Interruptus

Written by Josh C on Feb 8, 2012

When Cynthia Lair of Cookus Interruptus invited her readers to add a comment to share the name of a farmer or local food product that they felt tender about, there were a bounty of responses demonstrating how precious our farmers are to our well-being and enjoyment of our food. Although there was the added incentive of one lucky winner to be randomly selected to receive a copy of TENDER: farmers, cooks, eaters, much love and appreciation was felt in all the comments shared. Jake from Arlington, MA was the lucky winner, who posted the following about some special people in his life:

 “I am torn. I love our grain farmers at Pioneer Valley Heritage Grain CSA! They deliver some of the most nutritious grains anyone could hope for. Just the other day we had an Arikara bean chowder (beans from them) with a spelt salad (spelt from them). I am also in love with our meat farmers at Chestnut Farms Meat CSA. They care for their animals as if they were children (except they end up on the plate in the end). We eat only this meat and take advantage of their holiday turkey and fresh eggs, too. Best people and best meat, bottom line. Good farmers are a rare breed and they deserve our love and respect (even though they might tell you otherwise). Go hug a farmer.”  Jake B., Arlington, MA

Congratulations, Jake, on being the lucky recipient of TENDER: farmers, cooks, eaters through your participation in the Cookus Interruptus community-building contest. We were honored to be chosen by Cynthia to be featured, and share a common purpose of encouraging and inspiring simple ways to enjoy the seasonal bounties of our farmers’ efforts.

We hope you enjoy TENDER and invite you to share your experience of it with us here so others can enjoy learning from your perspective.

Thank you for fully participating, and for hugging your farmers, too!

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Food education, calorie count problems, Bastyr, and more

Written by Josh C on Feb 2, 2012

We’ve got another great list of stories we’ve read over the last few weeks. Have anything we missed? Post it in the comments below and we’ll take a look!

Edible Education 101: A Complete Course on Modern Food Production
A new course at Berkeley led by Michael Pollan surveying “the political, social, environmental, and gustatory stakes of modern food production” is focused on bringing passionate and experienced guest speakers to students interested in really understanding how we eat in the 21st century. The whole series is on YouTube and there’s a sample below. From what I’ve watched for far, it’s an excellent series of lectures!

A year of progress for American Farmland Trust
A year in review on some of the highlights of what’s taken place in our region’s farmland through American Farmland Trust. AFT shares a few ways they have been working to protect farmland, safeguard the environment and provide fresh, healthy food throughout the region. Their subtitle for the Pacific Northwest: A Year of Progress.

Why Calorie Counts Are Wrong: Cooked Food Provides a Lot More Energy
Richard Wrangham, the chair of biological anthropology at Harvard University, talks about his chimpanzee research in the 70′s that lead him to, as he put it, “eat chimpanzee food all day.” This means totally uncooked, aka raw, food straight from the source. This activity led him to research the impact cooking has on food and found that cooked food provides more energy. Which means that calorie counts can often be wrong and that those eating a true raw food diet need to potentially eat a lot more than they expected to. Interesting fact: “the average woman on a 100% raw diet did not have a functioning menstrual cycle.”

Jim Watkins from Bastyr tells his story
Jim Watkins, Bastyr’s university’s director of dining services, makes mindful eating his mission. This is his story starting with 2 decades of social work in Minneapolis, moving through multiple restaurant openings, and finishing, for now, at Bastyr. “His philosophy boils down to this: Eat a varied diet; eat food in its whole, natural state as much as possible. It’s not just what we eat that’s important, but also how much. Exercise is equally vital.” Beautiful!

Tamara Murphy’s Melrose Plate
A great write-up from Seattle Weekly on Terra Plata and the journey to where it is now.

Photo by Joshua Huston on Seattle Weekly

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Veggie Sandwich

Written by Josh C on Jan 14, 2012

Is there a more polarizing set of words in the English language than “veggie sandwich?”

What comes to mind when you read those two, seemingly innocent little words? For some of you, it was the thought of fresh, crisp vegetables stacked high on some hearty multi-grain bread. Maybe you heard that muted crunch, saw the bright colors in your mind, made a quick mental inventory of your fridge, or all of the above. For some of you, a veggie sandwich is exactly what you need right now.

For the rest, something altogether different registered. The first word that came to mind might have been “yuck” or “ugh” or, possibly, nothing because just the idea of a veggie sandwich put you quickly to sleep with boredom. It could be the lack of substance that’s the problem or maybe it’s the mishmash of too many different flavors at once. Maybe it’s the texture, both crunchy and soft at the same time. Whatever it is, you’d rather go hungry than even think about eating a veggie sandwich.

It was only a few months ago that I fell squarely into the latter camp. The idea of a veggie sandwich as a substitute for an actual meal was hilarious, carried forth by a long history of questionable eating habits. Just recently, however, my mind was changed for the better and for good. Allow me to share my little journey with you…

I was raised eating quite well. My mom moved between different diets for her health but always remained on this side of nutritional sanity. She cooked for us regularly and, along with my dad, tried very hard to curb the vicious sweet tooth we would inevitably inherit. We shopped at co-ops, ate our fair share of carob, and had home-cooked meals as the norm.

It never concerned me that we ate a little differently than my friends in school. In fact, I was proud that I had a family that watched out for what I consumed. I remember very distinctly a student in my middle school who had his mom drop off McDonald’s almost every day for him. The class, for the most part, was jealous of this almost unimaginable luxury. I was generally indifferent as McDonald’s had never been a part of my diet. One day, though, I noticed the stack of golden, glistening fries on the wrapper of his cheeseburger and I asked “hey, can I have a fry?” With a smile, he handed one over and as soon as I took it I noticed the greasy residue on my fingers. I turned to everyone at the table and said “hey, check this out” and proceeded to squeeze drop after drop of grease out of that single fry onto the brown paper sack that held my lunch. Even Mr. McDonald’s looked a little pale after that.

Even with that earnest start, I was destined for close to a decade of poor health habits, obesity, and a near-complete lack of regard for my nutrition. It all started with veggie sandwiches.

My first real job was working the front counter at a bagel shop chain in Bellevue, just across Lake Washington from Seattle for those unfamiliar with the area. The job consisted of bagging bagels, serving soup and soft- drinks, and making sandwiches. Almost everything we served was delicious and it was here that I developed my still-strong fondness for matzo ball soup and garlic bagels.

There were, however, three things we served that I could not wrap my head (or stomach) around: the bitter sesame “candy” called Halvah, the tough and smelly pumpernickel bagels and the mealtime anomaly known as the veggie sandwich.

I made at least 5 of these strange things per day and each time gave the recipient a puzzled look, unable to understand what the appeal was of a meal made almost exclusively of a side dish. Our vegetables were fresh and they tasted great surrounding some roast turkey or tuna salad but on their own between the two half-bubbles of a bagel, it made no sense.

For the next 15 years, every time I saw “veggie sandwich” on the menu, I would smile, shake my head, think back to the hippies at the bagel shop, and order something far more substantial. Meanwhile, on a potentially very related note, I had managed to reach 280 pounds and cultivated a diet composed partially of the same, greasy fries I once scorned. I regularly started each morning with a boston cream donut, a sugar donut, a large white chocolate mocha and 2 cigarettes on the way to work. This is all to say that I wasn’t terribly invested in what I put into my body.

I had a bit of a personal renaissance in my mid-twenties and took control over what I was eating and what I was doing. I forced myself into vegetables but in the way that can’t really ever be sustainable. I would choke down raw broccoli, eat a bland, uninspiring salad at least once a day, and find myself in front of a tasteless chicken breast and vegetables more times than I can count. Yes, I was eating vegetables but I was determined to get absolutely no enjoyment from them.

In the end, I lost the weight – almost 100 pounds in total – and changed my eating habits significantly. It took several years to find a place in my heart for a completely vegetarian meal as it was hard to see a meal without meat as an actual meal. Still, my time in San Diego was long enough that the veggie burritos won me over and I found myself enjoying a meatless meal on a semi-regular basis.

There was, however, those silly veggie sandwiches restaurants were still trying to push on people. Just vegetables? Cold, raw vegetables and bread? Why? Don’t you have to eat 3 or 4 of those just to quell the hunger pains?

It was at the end of November last year that my wife was planning out our meals for the week and she suggested making veggie sandwiches. She loves to recreate foods that she ate in the past and this was a meal that she still thought about. A veggie sandwich so good that you didn’t forget about it seconds after you were finished? Despite my pre-conceived notions, this was something I finally needed to try.

Watching all the colors come out of the fridge was very entertaining. I’m finally at an age where I can take some personal pride in eating an acutely nutritious meal and I felt ready for a big influx of vitamins and minerals. Lets be clear: I wasn’t excited to eat this sandwich, just pleased with myself for growing up a little bit.

To my surprise, however, the sandwich was delicious! We used some hearty, seedy bread from PCC, some whipped cream cheese to hold everything together, salted sunflower seeds for some extra texture and flavor, and a splash of italian dressing for some sauciness. In one oversized bite, I was a convert. I felt totally satisfied afterwards – even energetic! I’d been missing out on something great for years.

The real test, of course, was whether or not I would make one for myself. For lunch the next day, I did. It was like being transported back to that bagel shop, once again with knife in hand and colorful piles of fresh veggies waiting to be arranged and consumed. Like I do when I eat a really tasty lunch alone, I ate it like a starved animal, italian dressing dripping down my arm and shards of veggies falling out at every bite. It took me 10 times longer to make it than it did to eat it.

I take a lot of personal pride in the massive changes I’ve made over the years towards living a healthier life. it’s frighteningly easy to cast yourself as a certain type of person, someone who “doesn’t like vegetables” or “just needs a fast food meal now and then,” without thinking about where those motivations come from. A set of distinct preferences you hold today does not set the course of your life indefinitely. Keeping an open mind towards healthy, sustainable choices in your life is the only way to find what truly works for you as a person.

Trust me, if I can make my own veggie sandwich and truly enjoy it, you can do anything you put your mind to.

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I am the brand new owner of a brand new cookbook

Written by Community on Jan 10, 2012

Written by Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet

Over the years I have collected hundreds of cookbooks, many filled with very personal tastes from all over the world.

And now I have TENDER: farmers, cooks, eaters.  I love it for its directness, for its declaration of the need for simplicity and its dedication to deep, bold earthy taste. It’s about as direct a connection between earth and plate that I have ever read and it restores my faith that change is possible.

Tamara Murphy and Graham Kerr at Focus On Farming 2011

Authors Tamara Murphy and Graham Kerr enthusiastically share their books with one another at Focus On Farming 2011

I have always admired Tamara’s commitment to this style of cuisine. She has gently leant into the concept with admirable consistency, the kind of reliability that eventually pays off because it pays no attention to the kind of gimmicks that attend the passing trends for which our nation is often famous.

I am now trying to do the same, in my own way, to achieve some kind of long term benefit for those of us who enjoy good things…within reason!

My intention is to try to “delight and do less harm to each other, the soil, the water and the air we breathe”.  To this end I have set myself a goal. To work only in the State of Washington to increase vegetable and fruit consumption by at least 100% by the year 2020.  This translates to about 2.3lbs of unprepared produce per day.

This will not be achieved overnight, hence the 8 year plan!  It will also not happen until we recover a general understanding of the relay race connection between farmers, cooks and consumers, as TENDER so wisely announces.

We shall also rely upon creative chefs like Tamara to lead us toward this goal because the role of the chef has always been to be a style leader.  We need to see and taste and savor these ”DELIGHTS” in order to establish this as a solid movement and not a passing trend.

I am deeply committed to this idea because of my lifelong love affair with my wife Treena, whom I met at school when she was 10; I was the older man…at 11!  Treena suffered a stroke and a heart attack back in 1987.  Since then my primary focus has been to delight her and do her less harm. I know what it takes to make a decided U-turn and yet remain connected with food.

In 2009 I added a radical (for me!) step by growing my very first kitchen garden.  Since that first year I have been amazed at how much my ability to cook well has improved.  These plants are almost my children and I treat them with much greater care.

And this fact brings me back full circle to my appreciation for TENDER and Tamara’s observation that many vegetables develop a better, more complex taste when almost overcooked. The crisp, colorful approach may appear to be the logical way to retain the maximum nutrition however, in the longer term; our future increased consumption will be much more dependent upon the undeniable taste satisfaction that can come from the slow ‘roasting’ and caramelizing that adds so much to a plant’s enjoyment.

I am looking forward to working with all you TENDER people to see what we can do together to help bring about such a welcome and needed change in such a special part of the food world.

The common good is the good we can do in common.

Benedicere! (means…”to announce good things and to affirm one another”)

Graham Kerr

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Joan Autry on TENDER [audio]

Written by Josh C on Dec 29, 2011

Joan Autry talks about TENDER and gives it a whole new tagline – “a beginner’s guide to the farmers market and it’s treasure.” Joan reads from the introduction and walks through a few of the dishes. Thanks for the kind words, Joan!

FYI: Terra Plata is, of course, already open!

Download the MP3

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Red Wine Poached Pears

Written by Jody on Dec 21, 2011

I have had the most delicious pears recently which made me think of this dish. My mom and I were recipe testers and both of us found this recipe a great surprise, it is simple and simply beautiful when finished.

Red wine poached pears

Red wine poached pears from TENDER

Red Wine Poached Pears

Serves 4

3 cups red wine (any red you like to drink will do)
¼ cup sugar
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of salt
4 pears, preferably ripe but still slightly firm
2 tablespoons corn syrup or honey (optional)

In a heavy-bottomed sauce pot, combine the wine, sugar,
star anise, cinnamon stick, and salt. Bring to a simmer.

Peel the pears, leaving the stems intact. Trim the bottoms
Slightly so the pears stand up evenly in the pan. Submerge
the pears in the liquid. Keeping the wine barely at a simmer,
cook the pears for about 20 minutes, or until tender.
Remove the pears from the liquid.

Turn the heat to high and reduce the cooking liquid by
about half, until it is syrupy. As the wine is reducing, taste for sweetness.
If it isn’t sweet enough, add corn syrup or honey.

Serve the pears warm or chilled, with the syrup.

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Changing restaurants, eating locally all year, and composting

Written by Josh C on Dec 7, 2011

As always, we’ve been keeping our eye out for interesting, informative, and timely articles about farmers, cooks, and eaters alike. This time around we’ve got a great piece on changing how food is made and served, a video from Tamara Murphy on her new spot in Capitol Hill, and a big thanks to NWEI for the spotlight! Enjoy!

Changing How We Eat By Changing Restaurants – Restaurants have the ability to grow community one bite, one choice at a time. Depending on their size, their purchasing decisions can put hundreds of thousands a year into the pockets of small or organic producers. We can make a serious, lasting, and wide-reaching difference by supporting restaurants that marry the values of Slow Money with the power of the restaurant business. Great piece!

NWEI gives us a shout-out! – Deborah McNamara at the Northwest Earth Institute wrote up Farmers, Cooks, Eaters and one of our contributors, Jody Dorow. A big thanks to them for helping us get the word!

Frozen foods

Eat “locally” in the winter – Leave it to a Boston publication to write about the struggles of eating locally. Did you know that there are only “five truly seasonal types of produce in Massachusetts from January until May?” So, how do you have any hope to eat locally? Look no further than the freezer section. Frozen produce often has more nutrients than their well-traveled and weathered fresh counterparts and, if you look closely, you can find local producers throughout the year.

Grow Your Farmer – With the explosion of interest in small-scale farming, and the number of farmers set to retire across the country, we need more ‘young’ farmers; and the Pacific Northwest has some innovator programs to ‘grow’ them.

A dining experience to put on your bucket list – A memorable evening with fabulous seasonal food and a great demonstration of how joining together as a community (chefs in this case) can create so much enjoyment for all.

The Atlantic asks, Should Composting be Mandatory? – San Francisco hits 1 million tons of compostable waste collected since 2009, when the program started. Seattle, by comparison, “diverted about 90,000 tons of organic waste from landfills in the first year” (2010). When I first moved to Seattle last year, I found the compost bin/process odd and thought the tiny garbage can we had (shared by two households) very restrictive. It only took a month of getting used to the process, now I find it very easy and love the fact that we throw out so little. The recycling bin is packed every other week but the garbage can go two weeks (barely) before it’s full. But, really, enough about my garbage…

You Can Eat Healthy On a Budget… Here’s Proof! – Maria Hines, the James Beard award-winning chef of the Golden Beetle in Seattle, won the Great American Family Dinner challenge by cooking a meal for four people on a budget of $10 or less, or $2.50 per serving. Time and time again chefs are proving that it’s both possible and delicious to eat good food on a strict budget.

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