Friday, January 22, 2010

The voice of dissent

I feel compelled to write something out of the usual vein because it has been so much on my mind the last two days. What I'm referring to is the Supreme Court decision that has just bestowed seemingly limitless power on corporations to control the outcomes of political elections, and therefore of legislative decisions.

All the talk on public radio and in the media has gotten me thinking: what, if anything, can we do?

Today I finally realized that all the discussion and declarations about what this ruling means for our country and its citizens is leaving out an important piece: that we ourselves have made these corporations wealthy, and thereby powerful. We have bought the billions of fast food burgers and the zillion cans of Coke and the gas-guzzling vehicles and in so doing have bought bondage in the name of freedom and convenience. WE HAVE DONE IT OURSELVES. This is the bad news, but it is also the good news, because it means that we can un-do it.

Realizing this has led to another enlightening realization about what has been at the heart of everything I do -- everything I write about on this blog, the values I am working to convey to Oliver even at this early stage, the efforts I go to to help people in our community to access good food, the decisions to buy certain things and not to buy others, the great lengths I go to in order to ensure that we are mainly supporting the local farm economy, the ideals I aspire to regarding self-sufficiency -- all this is not because I am a food fanatic, but because I believe in restoring the power of individuals, families, and communities to decide how they will live, and to have that decision be based in the ability to be self-sufficient, independent, dignified, and responsible. The first page of my website states the following: "We believe that total health for people and the environment can be achieved naturally, by gradually but dramatically transforming what we eat and consume, how we think about ourselves and the world, and what we choose to buy. This is an intricate and involved process, with the power to renew our health and our communities, and to sustain the earth." All along I have felt instinctively that these things are deeply connected, but I wasn't sure exactly how. Now I can see that perhaps what we buy and how we buy it, and who we are dependent on for these products, really is part of health and intricately bound up with the effort to eat locally.

It may be too late to change what this ruling means for the next election, or even the elections of the next five or ten years. But we have to start somewhere. The choice is in the hands of each of us. Depending on situation and location, many of us can make the decision to use public transportation, a bike, or carpooling instead of supporting energy corporations. We can choose to buy second-hand, consignment, and at mom-and-pop stores instead of shopping at places like the Gap, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Rite Aid. We can make the decision to mix up a batch of homemade toothpaste and use cloth diapers. The decision to make do with buying fewer goods of higher quality from responsible small companies rather than buying a lot from Wal-mart and Target. The decision to go out of our way to buy local food rather than hopping in line at the grocery store with products that will do nothing but make the food corporations wealthier. The decision to spend a few hours in the kitchen each week rather than rely on the McDonald's drive-thru and the take-out bar at Whole Foods. The decision to find clever ways to reuse and restore everything we can so we can at least put a delay in the cycle of buying and throwing away. The decision to pay attention to our bodies and care for ourselves so we decrease our dependence on expensive medical care. The decision to look reality in the face and stop hiding from the truth about where our food, consumer goods, and services really come from and who they really benefit. The decision to take the time to learn about the alternatives available to us, like fertility awareness, a way of banking locally, or switching to wind power, rather than staying in the same comfortable old routines that relinquish our control to others.

I think in many ways this is about two things: 1) taking some quiet moments to consider what we can do, and 2) learning to give up that brief feeling that finally, we have at last arrived! because of the purchase we just made.

This isn't about being perfect, or about anything close. And it's not about doing all this at once. For me it's about incremental change, within the limits of our family's ability and sanity (which I test constantly). I know that next week, or next month, or next year there will be something else we can do, another way we can decrease our dependence and begin to think more clearly. It happens slowly, but the effects are tremendous, and it starts with just taking a little time for contemplation. We still have the power to say no to the demand that we buy and consume, and for that I am very grateful.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The best BBQ sauce ever!

I recently discovered pork spare ribs and fell in love. Not only are they an eminently reasonable $3.50/lb from my special supplier (ha ha), but they require no grill or special equipment, can be on the table in 15 minutes, and are enjoyed by everyone in our family, Oliver included. Making the BBQ sauce requires a little time and effort (and may be a bit of an expense to get all the required seasonings on hand), but once you make it, you can enjoy many dinners from this one batch. Feel free to double or even triple the recipe! And of course, once you invest in all the necessary spices you will have enough to last you ages and many many batches of this delicious sauce.

I snagged this recipe from the Food Network, and tweaked it a little, mainly substituting natural sweeteners for all the brown sugar. It came out SUPER (actually, it's vaguely redolent of those naughty BBQ potato chips we all secretly love).

BBQ Sauce

3 T unrefined sea salt (NOT table salt!)
1 T chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 t cayenne
1/2 t jalapeno seasoning (I use extra chili powder for this)
1/2 t Old Bay seasoning
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t onion powder
2 T garlic powder
2 T lard (or bacon fat)
1/2 cup white wine *NOTE: recipe updated 1/2/11. See comments below.*
2 T vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
3 T honey (I recommend raw)
7 T maple syrup (I recommend grade B, organic)
1 T molasses (I recommend Blackstrap)
*NOTE: do not cut down on the amount of sweeteners or the balance will be off. If necessary you can use all honey in place of the maple syrup and molasses.*

Combine all and reduce over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Pour into a jar or small pitcher and store in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap. If you store it in an oven-proof pitcher like I do, you can stick the pitcher in the oven for a few minutes while the ribs are cooking to soften it, then use what you need and refrigerate the rest; repeat indefinitely.

This will refrigerate well and get your family through many meals of ribs! To cook spare ribs, simply place ribs on a baking sheet and cook at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness.

You may turn them over once during cooking if you like. Remove from oven, slather with BBQ sauce, and cut ribs apart. Get ready for a succulent and delicious taste experience! Serve with cornbread and greens, or with sweet potato fries, or even just a simple acorn squash, cut open, cooked in a glass baking dish face down (in 1-1.5" water), and filled with butter.

Make sure your pork spare ribs are sourced from a small local family farm. Contact me if you would like information about sourcing in NYC. **NOTE: PLEASE AVOID USING BEEF SHORT RIBS FOR THIS RECIPE! They need to be cooked a very long time, and I cannot speak for the suitability of this sauce for short ribs cooked that way. Go for the pork spare ribs.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Raindance Organic Farm in Bay Ridge!

Oh, how lucky we are here in Bay Ridge! We have a brand new delivery club courtesy of Raindance Organic Farm and Siobhan Griffin, one of the most personable and committed grass-based farmers you could know. I am so thrilled to be playing a small role in bringing Siobhan's great meats, cheese, and other farm products to our community!

To set the stage, here are some pictures from the farm (be sure to visit the website for more, as well as beautiful descriptions of all of her top-notch products).

Siobhan grew up in Queens and spent summers in Ireland with her family, where she became intrigued by the farming lifestyle. In both philosophy and practice, Siobhan is committed to grass-based, humane, and sustainable farming practices that enrich the earth, protect the environment, and ensure good health for the people who enjoy her farm's bounty.

Once a month on a Saturday Siobhan will come to Bay Ridge to deliver orders of tenderloin, veal cutlets (humanely raised), minute steaks, chorizo sausage, ground beef, bacon, Irish breakfast sausage, and her famous "sun" cheese, made from the rich yellow milk of cows grazing on lush summer pasture. New products are always being added to the list, and in the early spring her pastured chickens' eggs will be selling 'like hot cakes.' (I was treated to a sneak preview last fall -- they are the closest thing to Dave's eggs I've seen here in the city, and a BARGAIN at $4.50/dozen.)

Thank you, Siobhan! All of us here in Bay Ridge thank you. Oliver thanks you for his ring bologna and sun cheese, and I can already taste that jambalaya I'm going to make next week with your Andouille sausage...

If you're interested in ordering, the next delivery (after this Saturday) will be early in February. Email me ( to get on the mailing list! The complete product/price sheet can be found at:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Salmon roe gems

I recently discovered that Whole Foods sells wild salmon roe in small jars for $11. When we consider how important fish eggs were in traditional cultures for children and pregnant/lactating women, I feel the expense is justified though it's hard to swallow the environmental implications of eating anything from as far away as Alaska. A small jar can last a few weeks, and we will not be eating this regularly, though I hope in the next few weeks to find some good sources of wild roe from local anglers/fishmongers, and save it in some way to last throughout the year. (Traditionally, it was dried for preservation. It can also be frozen or canned.)

I enjoy mine on crackers with raw milk sour cream, while Oliver eats his mixed with sour cream, from a small bowl using his very own little spoon. He eats this with great gusto!

The saturated fat in the cream works synergistically with the mono-unsaturated fats in the fish eggs to allow for optimal absorption of all the available nutrients (we see this instinctive wisdom in traditional dishes, like the Greek spread taramosalata, which uses cream and roe). Just the color alone is a feast for the eyes -- in more ways than one!