Monday, October 18, 2010

Confessions of a Farmers Market Shopper

A confession: I am a recovering non-healthy food shopper.

Before I went green, I avoided healthy places like the plague (if you can call a health food store a plague). I wasn't used to them and didn't trust them. When John and I lived in L.A., our apartment complex included the Erewhon health food supermarket, one of the best in the country. It scared me so much I forbade John to shop there. (He told me later that he used to sneak in and buy one or two things so I wouldn't find out.)

Now I do as much organic shopping as possible, but old habits die hard. When we lived ten blocks from Union Square, we almost never went to the farmers market, even though we loved it. Now that we live way uptown we go even less.

Three weeks ago, however, we fell in love with all the delicious locally grown food we bought at a Farmers Market in . . . New Jersey (we were visiting friends). I decided if I could bring vegetables back from the Jersey shore, I could get on the subway and go back to Union Square.

So this past Saturday, I went back and found . . . it was still an ordeal. While I love being surrounded by all the fresh fruits and veggie, I still hate the crowds. Every square inch is covered with lettuce, potatoes and people. And I'm not sure all the people are organic.

In the past I've never been sure exactly what to buy at a farmers market. Or even how much for that matter. Each stand is filled with crazy looking, root-type veggies with names like celeriac or rutabagas. I thought a rutabaga was something people drove in the 30's.

But Saturday, I had a different experience. I decided to embrace the process and conquer my inner non-organic shopper.

I took my time, took in all the sights and smells and patiently made my way over to each stand. I picked things up, smelled them, thought about what I might do with them and found myself standing with a parsnip in one hand and a bunch of kale in the other.

With no idea of how I wanted my food to taste, I decided to go for how it would look - I went for amazing colors. I grabbed red onions, blue potatoes, rainbow carrots! If nothing else, my plate would look like there should be a pot of gold at the end of it.

I took all my beautiful finds home and spread them out on my counter. I took a photo. And then I panicked. What had I done? How was I going to eat these visuals?

My friend Jules had taught me some recipes, so I pulled out my cutting board. I started to chop and slice, throwing everything into a bowl. I took out two chicken breasts, drizzled agave on top and laid them in a casserole dish. I scooped in all the veggies around the chicken - the rainbow carrots, the parsnip, the bright red onions and garlic. I coated them with olive oil, masala and curry powders and then roasted it for an hour in a 400 degree oven. What came out of the oven surprised me. It was like getting a delicious, fragrant, pat on the back from the farmers market!

The next morning, I used some more of my farmers market ingredients for breakfast. I sliced up blue potatoes, diced the most tear-jerking onions ever and roasted those babies for an hour. Then I took my farm-fresh eggs, some more onions and peccorino cheese and made a kick-ass omelet that was so healthy a doctor would prescribe it. Everything was so fresh! I declared my lifetime membership in my local diner over.

I couldn't remember what I had been so afraid of. Loss of convenience? Greater expense? I didn't experience either of those. I realized what I was afraid of was leaving the comfort zone. But I had found something better. And tastier.

As I looked I my plate, I realized that I really did get my pot of gold...not one filled with coins but one filled with good health for me!

Friday, October 15, 2010

How Much Water Are You Wearing?


That's the topic of today's Blog Action Day -- an annual event in which bloggers from all over the world post about the same issue to raise awareness and trigger discussion about a topic that affects all of us.

Water is already one of my favorite topics.

So today I decided to wear 400 gallons of it.

How, exactly? A big bowl that fits over my head? A dress with special compartments filled with the clear stuff?

I don't have to get that complicated. I just have to throw on a plain, cotton t-shirt.

Yep...according to Treehugger, that's about how much water it takes to grow the cotton to make one cotton t-shirt: 400 gallons.

Hard to believe, right?

Between my husband and I, we have over 40 cotton t-shirts, which means we have used 16,000 gallons of water. Never mind drinking, brushing our teeth, flushing the toilet or cooking. This was just for souvenirs from old Dylan and Duran Duran concerts.

I freaked. This is me we're talking about. The one that yells at the people in the bathroom for running the water. The one that complains about guys hosing down sidewalks on a rainy day. And here I am with a chest of drawers that holds enough water to fill over 33 hot tubs! [Note: avg. hot tub holds 475 gallons]

And it's not just our clothing that's a problem.

According to the Blog Action Day website:

-38,000 children under the age of 5 die from unsafe drinking water all over the world.

-A lack of water contributes to poverty, with parents and children too ill or too busy collecting water to go to school and work.

-Nearly one billion people lack basic access to safe drinking water.

-Even though people in the US have access to clean water from their taps, they drink an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled.

We take water for granted. It's something that is always there for us and we use it as if it were an unlimited resource...but it's not.

So the next time I go to a concert and want to take home a Simon LeBon T-shirt, I'll think, do I also need to be taking home all that water? Instead, I'll save the $35 and invest it in more H2O-friendly fabrics like bamboo or hemp.

Water makes up 60% of our bodies. It doesn't need to make up that much of our wardrobe.

Join me in taking inventory of our closets and see whether you have a pond, a lake or an ocean.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Let's Be Fair

October is Fair Trade Month!

Fair trade? What on earth is fair trade? A Mickey Mantle card for a Sammy Sosa? A Sponge Bob Silly Bandz for a dolphin one?

Not quite.

Fair Trade makes sure that farmers work in the best, safest conditions, get the best price for their goods and encourages them to protect the environment.

From the Fair Trade USA website:

"Fair Trade Certification empowers farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by investing in their farms and communities, protecting the environment, and developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace.

Fair Trade is much more than a fair price! Fair Trade principles include:

Fair price: Democratically organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farmer organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit.

Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.

Direct trade: With Fair Trade, importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace.

Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers decide democratically how to invest Fair Trade revenues.

Community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarship programs, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification.

Environmental sustainability: Harmful agrochemicals and GMOs are strictly prohibited in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations."

You may have seen the label on coffee as that is one of the most popular items that is sold Fair Trade, but you'd be surprised how many products in your daily use you should consider buying Fair Trade: Fruits, vegetables, juices, chocolate, tea, nuts, spices, cotton, flowers and even soccer balls!

I've become much more conscious of Fair Trade products. It's better for the workers, better for the enviroment and better for us.

Let's be Fair!