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

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 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.

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.
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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.