Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Xmas Day

Two days a year, Robert and Elizabeth of Fair Grinds Coffeehouse give their staff the day off and pour free coffee on behalf of a non-profit, and that non-profit's volunteers or staff help with making more coffee and maybe bringing treats for folks to eat.
This year, New Orleans Food and Farm Network is the helper and the beneficiary. Marilyn Yank (and visiting friend Miriam) were on hand to grind beans, hit the start button on the coffeemaker and keep the cups and tops available.
The looks on peoples faces as they come in and see food, coffee and calm faces with no consumer transactions (unless you feel like donating) is wonderful and worthwhile on any day, but especially on this day.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Lunch on wheels

Musa, Veda and I biked to the French Quarter this week (me on my amazing 1970 folding bike bought last week from Recycle Bicycles at the Festivus Market), Musa on his recumbent, and Veda on her favored pink cruiser. Rolled past the silent and shuttered Lafitte Projects (a federal crime to see them closed for over 2 years while low-income housing needs rise), then did the Yooey (Uturn to peds) from Basin to get to Toulouse to enter the Quarter.

We stopped at Matassa's grocery, and let Veda go in to check the hot food counter out; She will find out if the food was made by the woman who has worked there 25 years or if it was pre-made, I guarantee you. Musa and I sit outside chatting with the regulars who hang out, discuss a new cell phone tower disguised as a round thing, and look at the rooftops, discussing the pitch of each, and whether dormer windows are a good or bad idea.

Veda finally comes out with a wrapped plate of black-eye peas with ham and 4 pieces of sausage, 3 pieces of French Bread and 3 beers. We ride to the river, find a bench and open the beers and the container, marveling at the taste and the amount of food that we got for 5.95. Really, 3 meals easily.
The beer is the new Abita IPA; quite excellent.
Veda reports details of the conversation that she had had with the Matassa's staff while we eat and drink; she asked them about each and every dish, ferreting out what was freshest and localest. There is a openness in New Orleans on these matters; food staff understand why we ask when the food was made (and who made it), if the seafood is local, or for a taste of everything before we buy it.
Because we care.
The local palate is sophisticated and sure of itself, so best to be upfront about the information brother, or they will come back to see ya after they eat...

After we ate and drank as much as we could (and packed the rest up), we got back on the bikes and rolled a bit more and then headed home, pleased with the choices we had made, and glad that we stopped at the smallest yet best food counter in the Quarter on that day.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I don't always find time to be healthy...

Talking to my friend Jennifer who lives in Cincinnati Ohio, about food and shopping on the phone on Sunday morning, I visualize a blog entry.
And even though it's outside my bioregion, it illuminates the work to build local food awareness...

As is our normal pattern, we veer from subject to subject and talk over each other whenever we want to get a point across, as only 2 friends for over 15 years can do.
As she squeezes her organic Valencia oranges with her hand cranking squeezer, we talked about her wonderful nearby small food store, Madison's and how she is back to (happily) using it for her shopping.
Madison's is a well known, well-respected Findlay Market outlet, and opened this second location in Northside (Norside to locals) within the last 3 years. The Findlay Market is an old shed market that has been rehabbed in the last few years. To see what it looked like before, find the Johnny Cash movie called "The Pride of Jesse Hellam", where Cash plays an illiterate miner moving to the city, and gets a job working for Eli Wallach's produce distribution company at the market. Fascinating.

The Over-The-Rhine neighborhood where the Findlay Market located is a neigborhood near downtown, about 3-5 miles from Northside, and is full of beautiful Italianate style brick buildings (actually the largest concentration of this style in the country Jennifer told me), but is also known as a very high crime area with appalling pockets of poverty, which has had its effect on the Market. The market does good business on the weekends, but has not been able to add as many weekday shoppers, which comes as no surprise to market managers around the country.

The Northside Madison's is only about 800 square feet, but attractively designed with a large window and great signs. The sandwich board sign marketing is ubiquitous in Northside, so you can drive down and see right away those who are open by the wooden signs near the street. Madison's adheres to the tradition with a nice version. They have won reader's choice for Best Buy Local store among others, and are known for amazing homemade gelato. (Don't get Jennifer started about the pink grapefruit sorbet...)

Jennifer works at a downtown law firm til 6:00, so doesn't get home til 6:30, which is tricky because Madison's is only open til 7 p.m. She can just make it to Madison's if she is not too tired, or if remembers to take a different exit off the highway on her way home. She tells me she got out of the habit of going to Madison's until recently because she was not buying fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, and instead eating takeout (albeit relatively healthy takeout) foods instead.

When I pressed her on a more specific reason as to why she stopped going, she first puts the blame on herself, labeling herself "lazy". She also mentions that she feels guilty not going to the farmers market on Saturday mornings, although Madison's carries much of the same local produce at this location.

Then she points out some simple customer service issues:

"I used to go to Madison's for the gourmet to go, but when they stopped carrying the soups I liked, I stopped going." she says. "Now, the guy they had working there has left, and now when I ask for stuff they get it in right away. I asked for the soups, and they brought them back."
Later she mentions:
"They also changed their hours; they used to be open til 8 p.m."

Jennifer is a good cook when she has time, and keeps routines for her week and her weekend that allows good shopping to be a part of it, if all the stars align. The more I talk to her about food, the more I see a regular person who wants to eat healthy, but thinks she must buy it in its raw form, or do it all the time to benefit. In other words, all or nothing.
When she gets out of the habit of cooking or has a quasi-junk food bender, it stops the trips to Madison's or Findlay completely for a while, instead of her continuing to supplement with some good food items among some not so great food items.

What I got from that was that outlets like Madison's must be very responsive to their smaller overworked client base, and find ways to be creative to keep these folks coming.
Maybe things like marketing a full healthy take home dinner for the first really cold night in Cincinnati and staying open a bit later for folks to pick it up that night.
Or, having a small nearby delivery service once a week (Madison's night), or even a call in number or email address to pre-order dinner or to have some groceries bagged and ready to go.
A weekly, informational html email newsletter has been a great marketing tool for markets to remind shoppers weekly about what is in season and available. Our small market has thousands of shoppers who subscribe and they tell us how much they appreciate it. Adding simple recipes is a must, by the way.

Overall, the move to these type of locally owned small footprint shops are the wave of the future, just as they were the only way to shop 50 years ago. What has changed is the pace of life for their customers, as well as their ability to know how to use a large number of fruits and vegetables in cooking. If Madison's is (I hope) to be the vanguard, then they will need to continue to adapt and assist their customers in reasons to show up for the next 50 years.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Glean the Planet

Glean the Planet is a web site designed to facilitate the
redistribution of community and individual food resources. The
site—www.gleantheplanet.com— offers both discussion forums and open
source mapping software from Google maps and Platial.com. By allowing
users to map specific locations and illustrate them with pictures and
additional detailed information, this mapping software helps people
facilitate the local sharing of food outside of monetary-based

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A peek into how our buying club works...

So, we order our groceries monthly online (coopshopper.com) and then we work to fill the case minimums when the item in question is only available in larger quantities. This email below is one of our members working to fill her case choices....

Hi coop buying club members,

I am writing to officially "plug" some items I am trying to fill cases
for. You may notice I am essentially trying to get everyone in the club
on a dairy and sugar binge. But isn't that what the holidays are for?
Please consider ordering one of these things to fill out a case:

* Goat milk prodcuts: Every single month I try without any success to
order lots of goat milk products. Why? Goat milk is delicious, AND, more
importantly, goats aren't farmed on the huge scale cows are, aren't
generally given lots of antibiotics and hormones. Goat milk rocks! Widen
your horizons! Try some goat milks products! You will notice I have
started cases of the following delectable items:
- Swiss goat milk: try it, you might like it!
- Euro style Goat milk butter: I have had this and it is AMAZING. Yes,
its pricey, but it's really really good! They sell it at whole foods for $2 more than the
coop charges.
- Goat milk ice cream: Need I say more? Who doesn't want chocolate icea
cream? C'mon folks.

*Soy and rice milk prodcuts:
- I have ben trying for a while to order half gallons of Chocolate Silk,
which is basically chocolate soy milk. Once you have tasted it you will
not be able to live without it. Really.
- Rice dream pies: This is a rice milk icea cream sandwich. You will
love it. Delicious and way less fattening than regular ice cream. (OK,
yes, someone in my household is a major ice cream lover, you may have
figured this out by now.)

* Turbinado/Demerara sugar (in bulk): Do you drink coffee with sugar in
it? I do, every morning. This sugar isn't bleached, isn't refined in any way.
In other words, if sugar can ever be thought of as healthful, this is that
sugar. It's also very tasty and very pretty (large and attractive caramel
colored crystals). You can use it for baking (Thanksgiving pies?) or
anything else for your sugar needs. Whoo hoo!

* I have plugged the Passion Fruit juice in previous months, and people
did order enough for a case. Let's do it again! This is the best
beverage you will ever taste. And you know Nola is a cocktail town. Rum
and passion fruit juice? Hello? Yes!

*Half and half and heavy whipping cream. See a trend here? I love dairy!
The half and half goes along with the Demerara sugar for delicous morning
coffee. And... it's Thanksgiving time folks, and you KNOW you need
whipped creamon your pies.

* Here's something that isn't dairy OR sugar: Canned Tuna! I have
noticed that someone in the coop shares my obsession with Annie's Tuna
Spirals. Don't you need some tuna to go along with it? Mercury poisoning be
damned! We love tuna.

In closing, I must also add I have noticed that since the membership of
the buying club has gotten larger, this doesn't necessarily mean our cases
get filled. It seems like there are more cases opened that don't get
filled. Before you open a new case, check the "sharing items" section and
see if you can help others fill their cases. I've ordered some great stuff that
way that I never would have tried otherwise. That's part of the beauty of
a coop.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Local near and a little far

I just arrived back in town after 6 days out of the city, flying to High Springs Florida for 3 days, then to Houston Texas for the last 2 and half. Interestingly, the ability to stay near the Gulf Coast in or near my own bioregion made for a much easier travel for me it seems. No jet lag or shock over local food options.

I ate at a wonderful restaurant near High Springs called Deneno's (I think) and had a savory pumpkin ravioli with sage butter spiced by much laughter and biographical details being shared around the table with Sharon, AnneMarie, Val and Lucie (more on her later). Lovely evening.
I was also booked by Sharon (the farmers market manager and statewide voice on local food entrepreneurs) in a beautiful B&B called The Grady House run by Paul and Lucie (here she is) Regensdorf, 2 high-powered lawyers late from Miami.
Their story is they went looking for community and a more laid-back lifestyle and found it in this tiny town where outdoor activities like kayaking and hiking are its main tourist draw. (You also gotta see the town sinkhole, where they hold the open air farmers market. I had never seen one or knew they existed.) Lucie is one smart, no nonsense B&B owner, who takes real delight in presenting a gorgeous breakfast with items like croissant French Toast and wonderful filled biscuits.

When I got to Houston, I had booked a basic hotel in an area recommemended by my boss who knows food and knows funky. Even though I was on the edge of one of their godawful highways, I was able to walk in a neighborhood behind and find a great burrito place called Freebird's-where I ate a black bean and veggie with spinach tortilla with very fresh ingredients and a lively staff-and a couple of other local hangouts, one, of course, being the great farmers market off Richmond. Also went to a veggie Thai place with Bayou City farmers market manager, Jacquie (do you see a pattern here? The managers, not the veggies...)

I enjoyed both cities and the people, probably because I was able to be around local farmers, managers, food people who use their time and talents to further their sustainable food system. I found a fascinating connection in that all 3 areas grow satsumas, but view them quite differently: the High Springs area consider them lower quality citrus than other citrus, Houston has many varieties that I had not heard of on their market tables but only in very small amounts and, of course, New Orleans is in the middle of satsuma-mania right now. How illuminating to see the end result of now-unknown reasons for the valuing or de-valuing of some foods and how that changes modern selection and tastes?

I arrived back in Lagalou in the afternoon of Sunday; and dropped my bags and immediately got on my scooter to reabsorb my city's air, my city's smells (driving by Lil Dizzy's chicken aroma made me smile), and my city's peops; am going to drop by friends to see if I can find some leftovers in someone's fridge to get the local spices back in my system.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Stove sitting

I housesit for a lot of people. As a MidCity-er who is still working on building a new home for me and Maddie the dog, I have carefully dropped hints to all of my housed but traveled friends that I can be your eyes and ears for a few days or weeks when needed.
I must be convincing, because many generous people hand over their keys and tell me to have fun. Lucky aren't I?

When I am about to go housesit (or really I think of it as kitchen-sharing), I tend to daydream for a few days before about a real kitchen with an oven and a place to sit to eat that does not require me piloting my legs around the pole that holds up the FEMA trailer table. My trailer table is even more interesting than most as the things that the poles fit into are not spaced correctly, so one pole leans and is barely useful, so the table is not even secure. People tend to get up from the table, with the palm of their hand on the edge of the table as support-and everything goes flying off to the right. Always a interesting moment.
The FEMA stove top is fine. Powered by propane, it works well for the many days of stir fry or sauteeing I do for most of my fresh farmers market vegetables, and then I use a crockpot or a pot for beans and rice. Fine really.
But when I first opened the stove, I groaned. Literally too small for most dishes, each of the 2 rack levels are either right on the propane burner or an inch from the top of the stove.
still haven't found a good Calphalon dish 1 inch deep and 8 inches wide to fit...

So, no baking. No pears with honey and cloves, or eggplant and tomato casseroles, or persimmon bread (recipe thanks to Charlie Ramos of Lakeview who used to give his friends a week by week update on his front yard tree's ripening fruit), or even a place to keep one dish warm when I cook the other part.
So, when my friends go away, I am sad, but then not so much. Cuz I get to bring my 2 mesh bags of knives, woks, wooden salad bowl, spices and bags of produce from Saturday or Tuesday's market, find the cd player and get chopping. I feel good about using my time in my friend's house to decorate it with great cooking smells and to make a nice meal for myself and a friend or two (yes, visitors okayed by owner!) who I can finally treat to my food, as they probably have done with me.

I often wonder how the lack of ovens among New Orleanians for the last 2 years has affected our annoyance level. If we communicate through food, then the lack of it around the kitchen must explain some of our voting choices and maybe even the Saints issues. I see tons of tiny little kettle grills on front steps now that it is fall, but even that cannot make up for a big old gas stove in a kitchen with lots of counters and a open back door leading to some chairs and a cooler full of beer and cold drinks. Will it take us generations to reclaim the stop-by Sunday bbq, Monday red beans get together (Hey Dave and Anna!), or anyday crawfish boil,and if so, does that mean that until then we will we lose our easy city-wide camaraderie, our multi-generational connections-and worst of all- our greens with pickle meat recipes?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sign Up for Dig This!

So, you want to grow food, but have a fear of composting? A uneasy sense of lead levels? Can't figure out what pruning is for?
Well, meet the experts thanks to New Orleans Food and Farm Network. Anne Baker, Grant and Noel are full of information, funny and happy to anwer stupid questions (well, they've always answered mine!). And of course, Dan Gill is a gem too.
so, get on the ferry, and get to the Dig This. It's right down the street from the ferry.

I highly recommend spending the time meeting your fellow greenies!

* The Dig This! topics include: Soil health and testing
* Caring for fruit trees
* Selecting and growing varieties of veggies for our area
* Organic pest and disease control
* Landscape mapping and planning
* Raising chickens

At the end of the workshop, head over to the other event at Common Ground and and try some hands on garden work and learn worm composting. There you get to work with Macon Fry, Garden Guy and Super Amy from LongueVue and the cool folks at Common Ground.

For reservations, information, or scholarships please call The New Orleans Food & Farm Network at (504) 864-2009, or to reserve a space now online, email info@noffn.org.

Broadmoor Farmers Market Every Thursday!

Every Thursday from 3-6 pm on the Corner of S. Claiborne & Octavia.

For more information or to participate as a vendor, call Rusty Berridge at 601-918-8625.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ripe for Change on October 17th @ CAC

A documentary about food and our future
"Ripe for Change"
showing at the
New Orleans Film Festival
Wednesday, Oct. 17, 5:30 p.m
Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp Street

"Ripe for Change"
Farmers markets, slow foods, the edible schoolyard, sustainable agriculture, organic farming, global agribusiness... What does a documentary about the struggle to define the future of California's agriculture have to do with New Orleans?

Come to the New Orleans premier of "Ripe for Change" to find out more about food and our future.

Alice Waters

Featuring renowned chef Alice Waters, founder of the Edible Schoolyard program; Will Scott Jr., president of the African-American Farmers of California; Maria Ines Catalan, a farmworker turned organic farmer; Paul Dolan who transformed Fetzer Vineyards into one of the largest organic wineries in California; Dru Rivers, founder of Full Belly Farms who sells her farm produce through a 550-member Community Supported Agriculture program; and David Mas Masumoto, a third-generation grower who saved his family's Sun Crest peaches from extinction.

"The emphasis in creating the film Ripe for Change was to connect the growers with the consumers and to put a face on the producers of what we eat - while bringing us into a deeper discussion of the issues that face us both."
Jed Riffe, filmmaker

Ripe for Change explores the intersection of food and politics and examines a host of questions about the future of our food:

What are the trade-offs between the ability to produce large quantities of food versus the health of workers, consumers, and the planet? What are the hidden costs of "inexpensive" food? How do we create sustainable agricultural practices?

Students at Edible School Yard in New Orleans Q&A to follow:

Filmmaker Jed Riffe will be joined by Donna Cavato, Program Director of the Edible Schoolyard at Samuel J. Green Charter School in New Orleans; Darlene Wolnik, deputy director of marketumbrella.org and Market Community Organizer Anne Spurrier with the Crecent City Farmers Market for discussions with the audience following the film.

Come early:

5 p.m. presentation from the Edible Schoolyard in New Orleans; film showing at 5:30 p.m.; followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Jed Riffe and others.

New Orleans Film Festival admission: $7 for NOFS members; $8 non-members

See a preview of "Ripe for Change" at:

The New Orleans Film Festival,
Oct. 11-18, 2007. www.neworleansfilmfest.com

From the complete listing of more than 100 films showing at this year's festival:

USA. 2006. 57 min. documentary: In Competition
Remember when it was more important for a peach to taste good than to look good and last for a month? This fascinating documentary explores the grass-roots battle to reclaim the food we eat from corporate agribusiness and the biotech industry. Filmmakers Emiko Omori and
Jed Riffe have won Emmys and documentary awards at Sundance, the Munich International Film Festival, and more. Now they focus on the hidden costs and hazards of fast foods and factory farms, as well as showing tasty, organic alternatives. Featuring Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and a host of small farmers, teachers and community marketers.

Map to the Contemporary Arts Center:
Map to CAC
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Links to local resources for food and our future:

The Edible School Yard/New Orleans

The Edible Schoolyard at Samuel J. Green Charter School in New Orleans seeks to integrate organic gardening and the growing of food into all aspects of the school's curriculum and lunch program. B ased on the successful Edible Schoolyard at MLK Middle School in Berkeley, CA, with the support of renowned chef Alice Waters and the Chez Panisse Foundation, its goal is to become a model project for charter schools and others in New Orleans as a way to revive and energize effective education.
- Show quoted text -

Thursday, October 4, 2007

12th bday at Crescent City Farmers Market

The annual celebration to celebrate our downtown open air market was its usual fun, tasty self. Cake, champagne, music from Fredy Omar, cooking demo from Muriel's, and a Vespa parade to Commander's Palace to share produce for their birthday (128th I believe).

And fresh file and shrimp in my market bag to boot.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Local food challenge

A great interview with my friend Sarah Alexander (interviewed by our friend Orli Cotel) talking about her year long local food challenge she did with Northern Minnesota friends:


Thursday, September 27, 2007

get your ach to Oktoberfest!

Believe it or not, New Orleans does have a German population and a celebration. Deutsches Haus on S. Galvez...
get a beer and on Fridays and Saturdays in October!


Friday, September 21, 2007

Making Groceries locally.

The most recent food news is the move by Rouse's Supermarkets to buy all of the Sav-A-Center locations in our region. Rouse is a Houma based 16 store chain that focuses on stocking local seafood and produce and has started some natural food buying for their stores as well.

I often shop at the Rouse in Mandeville when I am over at my family's house-every few months-and I like it fine. Good selections, nice staff.
Also having met with the buyers and senior staff a few years ago (when working on our White Boot Brigade, the traveling shrimper roadshow we hold every year in different areas) I was impressed with their connections to the culture and issues we face in our watery region of the world.

Good news I hope.

Speaking of food, have you been to Mardi Gras Zone grocery store on Royal in the Marigny? I do like this store, although being in MidCity, I get to shop at Terranova's and now Canseco's in my own walking neighborhood.
But, I do go out of my way to go there, when staying with friends in the area, or when I need a Mardi Gras boa, or a new broom.
I hear a lot of grumbling from Marigny friends about surly service (which they undoubtedly have) and high prices (although they don't seem that high), and when I ask the grumblers if they go and talk to the owner, they always look a bit confused and slightly miffed that I think they should have to do that.

Recently, a guy was at a yard sale on Chartres when I was there(I picked up a Ventures surf album, Janis Joplin and Big Brother & Holding Company album with R. Crumb cover and book about Peter Jenkins walk across america with his wife, which I had already read but enjoyed a second time and then donated to the Iron Rail Book Collective-all for 3 dollars), and while there heard him saying when someone asked him if he shopped at Mardi Gras Zone, "Hell, no, the prices are too high and I can't get everything I need, so I just go to WalMart"


How does that figure?
-and when did we make it a priority to get EVERYTHING at one store?

So, he would rather have to drive across town, walk miles through a corporate behometh who is known for shitty working practices (which does great things for their customer service!), and buy his dog food there so he saves 90 cents, rather than buy some items at MGZ, try to utilize this local guy trying to bring food into his neighborhood, take the time on his trip to make some suggestions to the owners to make it better, and maybe ride a bike or yes, drive to MidCity to Canseco's or Terranova's and get the rest.

folks, when are we going to take the control back and go to stores and have conversations (maybe a few times before we give up) eye to eye with people who OWN their stores or have a commitment to an area and give them some cred for trying and help them to be better.

This is the state of our food system in a nutshell; we have given control away and then whine about stores that are not large enough for a massive monthly trip for food, and that don't have 12 different kinds of peanut butter (even though we only buy one kind), and where you have to park on a city street 1/2 block away.
Yes, I do it without having to go to those stores for 99.9 percent of my life. I shop at 2 local stores, at the farmers markets and then buy items from my monthly buying club. I stay away from soul-draining corporate monuments to unfeeling globalization, and as a result, I feel empowered.

I say, go to the local stores and ask for service, and soy milk and better local produce. Chances are, you might win.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Vietnamese.

An essay I wrote soon after the storm about the amazing NO East Vietnamese community.

Turn off Grande Route St. John on to Gentilly Boulevard. Pass the Fairgrounds, the Bike Plus place on Paris, the Gentilly Terrace area with so many beautiful arts and crafts homes of upper middle class Creoles, then quiet Dillard University on the left , strip malls galore, (basically you follow old 90 the way your grandparents would when going to the North Shore and Biloxi) and then you pass under I-10 and you are really on Chef Menteur Highway, Indian for Lying Chief.
Chef (as we call it, not really affectionately, more as an affectation of our parents word for it), is a mix of auto repair shops, small bedroom communities and as you near the Michoud plant, the Vietnamese community.

Have you been to the Vietnamese community in New Orleans east? Haven’t been? Not surprising, most have not, and asking them to get in the car at 6:00 am to go is too bizarre to even suggest. So, some never experience it.

Amazing. I started venturing out 4 years ago, when my work at the farmers market coincided with seeing it. Actually, Robert and Elizabeth of Fair Grinds Coffeehouse took me there first, and like so many New Orleanians-by- choice (not born here); they know the city well. They explore every corner and have done so since the late 60s.
They drove me out there one morning about 6 a.m. and showed me the gardens that ring the canals, the houses with elaborate statuary in front and sports cars for the children in the driveway. We had Vietnamese coffee, wonderful. Strong and sweet. They explained the history of this settlement that has been built by the Catholic Church since the fall of Saigon, with a larger Buddhist community on the West Bank.

For me, the open market was the most fascinating part. Set up alongside storefronts on Alcee Fortier Boulevard (not much of a boulevard, and not sure anyone out here knows this historian from the early 20th century), it is a walk through another country.
Farmers and fishers stand or squat in front of their products that are unfamiliar to most Americans. Once in a while, you spot cilantro or water spinach or something else appetizing and fragrant, and then point and ask for a price. Everything is between 1.00 and 2.00. You walk slowly into the interior courtyard, looking at every display and listening to the life around you that could be 300 years past. At 7:00 a.m. the market kicks into overdrive with the mass attendees mingling with the less devout.

The nearby storefronts also need time from you; the mangoes, noodles, dried mushrooms are there alongside of sweets and unfamiliar sauces on the crowded shelves. My friend, Veda loves all grocery stores since her early years in her family corner stores; she can be here for hours and when they talk to her, it’s clear that they see a kindred food soul and give her incredible discounts. We always stop at the storefront with no signs or ambience in the middle of the market for the Vietnamese “poboy”; their sandwich that is a taste and texture treat, with pork, carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, peppers, sauce. We buy 5-10 sandwiches to bring back and share with anyone we think deserves one. They always are amazed and delighted after eating the half or quarter we share with each.

Most outsiders and locals that venture here go to the bakery, Dong Phuong. Pork and water chestnut pastries, glorious bread (baked hourly), cinnamon rolls to take home. I have a calendar on my wall from there that I look at when at the computer; always makes me think of the homemade egg breads.

The levee breaks did their damage out there. But, true to their immigrant attitudes, they have begun rebuilding at an astounding rate. Their dynamic Catholic priest, Father Vien travels to Houston often to see his parishioners that have not shown up yet at Mary, Queen of Vietnam Church. He has big plans for Viet Town, and will take the time to tell anyone who can possibly help. We were invited for lunch with the staff at the church to talk; the priest has an energetic, can-do presence that one can believe in. He is ready to create this beacon of light for the region to see and draw from.
We’re there that day because my boss is a true believer in the power of markets and local economies to rebuild a world. He has been interested in making a bridge between our Italian, Croatian, French, Southern farmers world and this one for some time. He also understands that it is a genuinely exciting time to live in New Orleans, in between the heartbreak and exhaustion, if one can make things happen.
It occurs to me while listening to them that these two could end up being the fulcrum in lives of hundreds of families in the next 5 years.
They talk of small and big ideas, but mostly they talk about helping small entrepreneurs get back in first gear. They agree on sensible methods and partners and take their leave as if they were two musicians that have finished rehearsing for their big break. Understand each other’s rhythm and syncopation. Got it. Turns out funders are liking what they hear from these two, and are almost ready to put up. Big money to leverage small communities. Big ideas to let farmers get back to bringing that bitter melon to Alcee Fortier. Rebuild without city, state or (cough) federal help or awareness for the most part. We’ll be back out here many times.

All because of food.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

link to great news about Harrison Ave. Market

Harrison Market

Mobile Market info and link

Business Plan for the New Orleans Mobile Market


Executive Summary

The mission of the New Orleans Mobile Market is To Bring Groceries to People.

The New Orleans Mobile Market is envisioned as a collaboration of the New Orleans Food Co-op, Second Harvest of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana, and marketumbrella.org. The Mobile Market is currently in the planning stage. We hope to have it up and running this winter ('07) or early in the fall.

This partnership will leverage the distribution and transportaion strengths of Second Harvest of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana, the outdoor market operational strengths of marketumbrella.org and the grassroots consumer organizing capacity of the New Orleans Food Co-op.

The Mobile Market equipment will consist of a refurbished beverage truck or trailer equipped with refrigerated compartments, freezer compartments, shelving and gravity fed bulk bins.

The operation will be managed by a Retial Market Manager hired and supervised by marketumbrella.org and an Inventory control Manager hired and supervised by Second Harvest.

The Mobile Market will be located in three areas of the City with limited or no access to grocery stores carrying fresh food. Three days a week, the Mobile Market will go to one of the three market locations and will be open for business at the same time and place.

The New Orleans Mobile Market will provide access to healthy, affordable groceries to families in post-Katrina New Orleans neighborhoods underserved by existing grocery outlets. The Mobile Market will:

1. sell groceries (fresh, local produce, seafood and dairy, bulk foods, some packaged foods, and some cleaning supplies) in areas of New Orleans left underserved in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina;
2. give away some food provided by Second Harvest of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana in areas of New Orleans left underserved in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina;
3. provide an ordering and distribution point for special orders through the Food Co-op’s buying club increasing access to healthy and affordable groceries; and
4. offer information about healthy, affordable meals.


Local buying club is growing

Check out the great website to learn about the New Orleans Food Coop's work to build a storefront- and to learn about the buying club.

2 events coming up:

Storage Room Workday
September 1 2:00 pm

3217 1/2 Toulouse Street (go around back)
help them build their new storeroom; all skill levels welcome!

Wednesday, September 5
6:00 p.m.

625 N. Rendon Mid City
bring a dish or, if you like, just come and enjoy the community
Family and friends welcome

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Circle Food Store open store day

from a comment page online from a exiled New Orleanian:
"I sincerely hope the neighbors turn out for the trial event. I agree they should have given the public a heads up on the event. I have many memories of the Circle Food Store from my childhood up to my adulthood. My fondest memories were during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. My husband and I would go to purchase bell peppers. They would be on sale for 8 or 10 for $1.00!!! Can't get that anywhere in the United States. I mostly enjoyed the conversation and sharing holiday receipes with other shoppers. That is why I long to return home. The shoppers here are not friendly at all and the prices here for one bellpepper is $0.89. They stand in line behind you or pass beside you with their shopping basket and act as if you are invisible. How many of you remember the Easter holidays, with all the Easter rabbits, pecan, heavenly hash and gold brick eggs???? The snack bar in the old days was the bomb. Gumbo crabs, shrimp, catfish and crawfish were to die for. You could also purchase school uniforms and supplies for your kids at Circle Food Store. Cash checks, purchase money orders and pay your utility bills there too. If I were back home I'd surely attend the grand opening. Hope everyone goes out to the grand openinG. Email your friends or call by phone and spread the word so they can return the Circle Food Store back to the neighborhood. Block by block we can get the old 7th ward back better than ever. Y'all pray for me and my family that we are able to return soon. GOD BLESS YOU ALL."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Great day for local food:
3 farmers markets running nearby
Circle Store having a trial run on Claiborne and St. Bernard
Vegan Potluck at The Green Project this evening
The New Orleans Food Community working on their new buying club storage space