Sunday, December 27, 2009

Practice #4 and Squash Pizza

Today I looked in the fridge and decided to make a pizza for lunch, which with peeling squash was a bit of a labor of love. It was amazing. I suggest you give it a try: Acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into half-moon slices Pizza dough, your favorite recipe Fresh mozzerella, sliced Olive Oil Garlic Thyme Rosemary Red Pepper flakes Salt Pepper Spread olive oil on your prepped, uncooked pizza dough. Sprinkle with chopped garlic, herbs, and spices to taste. Lightly dress your squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Distribute the squash all over the pizza and cook at 425 for 18 minutes. Top with cheese to melt and slightly brown it, 3-5 minutes. Tonight I went to The Yoga Space, which I instantly fell in love with. A good mix of yogis showed up for practice, all really nice people. The studio is very much like Wake-Up Fairmount in that the majority of the space is the studio (and about the same size too) and you walk directly into the studio space. Off to the side is a changing area with shoe racks, coat hooks shelves and curtained off spaces. The tiny bathroom is off of the studio itself near a door-less closet for prop storage. Since I've been here I've been craving communtity chanting and haven't even got three OMs in a row. In particular I've been living with the mantra 'lokah samastha' for some time now. Here at this class, that particular mantra was chanted which I took as a bit of a sign. Michele teaches and Ashtanga based Vinyasa class where the sun salutations are counted in Sanskrit. It was the best class I've been to yet in Portland. She gave incredibly intelligent and informative adjustments and everyone got some love in savasana. This was a great class, I'll certainly be back for more. I liked the place so much that I asked about subbing here, something I wasn't ready to commit to at either of the other studios at this point. This might be a good yoga home as they teach vinyasa, yin, and restorative yoga.

Practice #3 and Christmas food shopping

Wednesday before Christmas I went to a Vinyasa class at Yoga Union. The pace was rather slow, although the class description had this as their most vigorous vinyasa class. The teacher taught a lovely class, which was perfectly fine, but the slow pace and long holds weren't jiving with me. My practice is rhythmic and constantly flowing, holds are only 3-5 breaths with the exclusion of inversions and raja kapotasana. I plan to explore at least two more classes at this studio to see if I fit in here. Christmas food shopping required some effort for us. We first went to ABC Seafood who gets fresh from the sea fish daily. Stop two was People's Co-op who have a farmer's market every Wednesday and a great bulk section including spices and herbs. No meat here, so I asked the check-out girl where I could buy a local ham. She sent us a few blocks away to New Seasons market. This place is AWESOME!!! It is your typical grocery store on the surface, but most of the items are local and labeled as such. The meat department crafts their own ham from pork raised on small local farms. This store is a dream, and the prices are good too which completely surprised me. Until I join a CSA, which is really the most cozy experience for me, I'll be shopping here. Yoga tour continues tonight at a new studio, The Yoga Space. I am still trying to decide to test out their yin offering or the vinyasa class. Maybe I'll do both, but I'm not the biggest fan of vinyasa followed by yin so likely not. Now that I have a school schedule I was able to craft a tentative studio practice schedule. I plan to take up an Ashtanga practice two to four times a week in the new year as I think this style will satisfy my craving for breath and rhythm. Ashtanga might be just the thing to balance the crazy chiropractic school schedule by resting in the repetition.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Practice #2

Last night I went to what was quite possibly the most beautiful yin class I have ever taken in my life. Todd was substituting at Yoga Union and totally rocked it. Yoga Union's studio space looks like it was once a mechanic's garage, it's about the size of 2.5 Wake-Up Fairmounts and one garage door still remains that they open to let some heat out. The wall opposite the door is all windows and they wrap around to the neighboring wall for a short amount of window space. Underneath the big window is a ledge that they fill with candles. Everyone practices in the middle of the room here, lined up in rows. What could be more appropriate on the winter solstice than yin yoga? That was the theme, and someone should have tape-recorded all Todd had to say about it as he linked all sorts of aspects of nature at this time of year to the body and breath. He started out with a bit of a slow flow of the arms circling in a seated position instead of jumping right into the postures. As we worked through yin asana Todd gave his speech about yin and the solstice that I wish I could remember more of. Near the end of class we all moved our mats to the walls, now we were all in a big rectangle, for legs-up the wall. After that was a supported uttanasana with the back against the wall, a short squat and then my favorite part, savasana. At this point we are all on the outer edges of the room, the music is off and Todd turns off the lights and blows out the candles. After resting here for some time, Todd turns on the music softly...Here Comes the Sun by, George Harrison. We continue to rest for a few moments. As we emerge from savasana we notice an abundance of big candles all positioned in the center of the room. Todd reminds us that from this point on it's only going to only get lighter and that all tomorrows from here on out are indeed going to be brighter tomorrows. It was all very cute and put a huge smile on my face. Getting home on the bus at 9:30 however did not make it easy to crawl out of bed in time to catch a 6:15 bus for my morning practice today that I had planned. Yep, I have a lot of kappha in me an living in this moist city in a dark time of the year really encourages sleeping in these days. Tonight I'm exploring The Yoga Space for a vinyasa class. Wednesday I've planned to go three classes since Thursday and Friday are holidays and both studios I've visited thus far are not open on those days. We'll see if I'm up for that, and it might be logical to not start at a 'new' studio when they are closed for two days and I'm using unlimited deals. So it will likely drop to two classes.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Yoga Tour-Day 1

I finally recovered the yoga mat from behind a pile of dusty boxes where it had been temporarily lost. Connie and I celebrated our joint birthday in style in Hood River, and she has a great CSA hook-up. I did a lot of studio internet research and found four studios that I'm going to check out, all with introductory deals. I'll be practicing twice a day with these deals: Bhakti Shop, $20 for a week Portland Yoga Studio, $20 for 10 days The Yoga Space, $20 for a week Yoga Union, $25 for two weeks Most of these are vinyasa classes, but 2 on my 'tour schedule' are yin. I'm planning on 15 classes in a week... but Christmas schedules might throw a wrench in the works. In the new year I'm thinking about jumping into an Ashtanga practice, at least trying it on for size. This morning I took my first class on this tour, Linda's vinyasa at Portland Yoga Studio. I don't think I'll be practicing with her again. Her style just didn't jive with mine at all: the pace was slow, and there was a lot of fru-fru language in place of breath and alignment cues. Tonight I'm going to a yin class at another studio.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I have a new home in Portland, OR. Two things start this week amid unpacking of boxes: Portland yoga tour and Portland local food scene 101. People can't starve, so my honey and I had to go to the Fred Meyer (kind of like a bit classier Wal-Mart) up the street for some groceries last night. For me, a grocery store is a bit of a foreign experience. Why you should buy Peruvian onions or milk from Cincinatti is beyond me. I found myself checking all the labels for the words OREGON and WASHINGTON. California was acceptable, in lieu of Mexico or Florida. I did find some gems, a variety of squash from a farm right here in Portland for 79 cents a pound and a five pound bag of Oregon potatoes for 99 cents, yogurt from Eugene, OR and eggs from the Columbia River Gorge. Thank God for Tillamook dairy products with their hormone free cheese, butter, and ice cream all made here in Oregon; a big enough company that it's sold everywhere You can buy local in the grocery store, it's just more work. I prefer the coziness of a CSA or farmer's market. Speaking of Farmers' markets, there is one two blocks from my new house...but it only runs from June-October. That makes November-May pretty rough for a locavore like myself. Expect more posts on my explorations of both the local food and yoga scenes of Portland in the coming days.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A practice in non-attachment

I am on my way out of Philadelphia, on my way to Portland. This will be the first year in a long time that I'm not cooking a Thanksgiving dinner and the first year ever that I won't be spending Christmas at home. I've found a ton of local food sources here and been able to share many of them with you all. Tomorrow I'll be moving all of my 'stuff' besides a few bare essentials in a pack. For a few weeks I'll be without it --very aparigraha; and homeless even as my sweetie and I camp out in my apartment, spend the holiday with family, and stay with a dear friend and his dog until we find ourselves in a non-homeless situation again. When I land in Portland, OR I will be going on both a yoga studio tour and foraging for local food sources. All of this is a great practice of unattachment to things, places, and routines. I'll miss all good things in Philly, but blogging will continue from the new home-base.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Is your McDonald's burger killing the rainforest?

Recently I read that the main reason people are cutting down the rain forest, at a rate of 72 acres a minute, is so they can use that land to grow export to the USA! Who's eating all this beef anyway? This claim was targeting McDonald's specifically, so I wanted to investigate. My feeling is that big beef has big money, and they might 'have a cow' if McDonald's was importing beef. According to McDonald's website, their sole beef supplier is Lopez foods (it is also of interest that they only actually have three food suppliers total). Upon examining Lopez's website, they actually only process meat, they don't raise cows. They did not have a list of their suppliers on their website, but are themselves based in Oklahoma. This proved to be a dead-end. I decided to investigate with the feds, they always provide a lot of data if you have the patience to find it. As it turns out the USDA regulates imports of beef and poultry to the US. They have a list of who we imported beef and poultry from in 2008. Since I'm a fan of basic statistics, and the 'cumulative' column on this list lacked explanation, it looks like the statement from earlier just isn't true. According to my calculations, only about 5% of the US imported beef and poultry is actually from Central and South America. The US consumes nearly 20 billion pounds of beef annually (an excessive amount, averaging out to everyone eating beef once a day). Imports comprise only 3 billion pounds of this (this assumes that all imported meat is beef, so technically we import less beef), so Central and South American beef is actually less than only .003% of all US consumed beef. I think that we eat much more McDonald's in this country than that. This cutting down the rain forest for McDonald's burgers just doesn't hold water for me. But the source is actually from 1996, perhaps our food policy is improving. Why I bring this up is that, what IF your burger was literally destroying the rain forest? Would you do all this research to find out if it were true? Likely not. The real value of this questionable claim is that it makes you think about the impact of traveling food, and question where your food comes from in the first place. Truth be told, the CO2 output from transporting beef from farms in the US to Oklahoma and then to every McDonald's in the country is quite high as it is, it's a giant impact! Put that on top of the environmental impact of beef farming alone and it's ridiculous. Even if your burger isn't cutting down trees, it could have a significant impact regardless. I would urge you to choose vegetarian/vegan options when you're eating out and have no way to determine the source of that food, and therefore it's impact on the greater world. When and if you choose to eat meat, do so mindfully. Take it to heart that the higher on the food chain you climb, the more resources were used to produce this food. And if you ARE going to choose to have an increased impact by eating an animal, at least let the transport of that food be minimal. Most of all, think before you eat.

Philadelphia Winter Harvest, a life-saver

It's certainly mid-fall. Temperatures are dipping and the days are getting shorter by the minute. Are you finding it hard to dredge up the motivation to go to the farmers' market or Reading Terminal...especially with the SEPTA strike in full swing? Me too. Thank God for Philadelphia Winter Harvest! If you haven't signed up, you should. Last night was the first delivery. Winter Harvest is a buying club, kind of like a CSA, but you choose what you get. They have a website (link is on the side-bar) that you choose exactly what you want for the next two weeks and pay for it via check or pay-pal. Every Thursday evening the wonderful delivery trucks make their rounds and drop off you and your neighborhood's goods to someone near you. When you get home from work you just stroll on over to a nice neighbor's house, load up your food and head home. The selection is amazing too! You can get vegetables, apples, cider, milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, meat, bread, granola, soap, chocolate....the list goes on and on. The best part is that all of this is locally sourced. If you ask me, Winter Harvest is a life-saver. Join now and order your Turkey for Thanksgiving. I have done this the past few years and recieve my fresh bird the night before the feast (the delivery is on Wednesday the week before Thanksgiving). You won't ever regret joining this wonderful buying club that runs from November to April. It will get you through the winter.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Simplicity OR lessons from New York City

This weekend I traveled to NYC to visit my sister. She is so blessed to live within walking distance to one of the greatest farmers' markets in the world, Union Square Market. We went and wandered among many, many, many stands selling practically everything in triplicate! My sister isn't the most frequent cook, but we picked up a bunch of veggies, that she's preparing for dinner as I write this. My advice to her was to cook simply. Let the flavors speak for themselves. I gave her a simple scratch-pad recipe to follow: chop the vegetables, mix them together with a little oil, salt, and pepper, roast them at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes. As Jill has always said, "great is simple and simple is great." This is how I typically cook, it's virtually mindless, but with great food you don't need a whole lot of pizazz. While I was in town, I took my sister to OM yoga. She has never practiced before, so we went to a basics class. To be quite honest, it was refreshing. Getting back to the basics I was able to delve deeply into the breath. Simple sequencing with no fancy peak poses or any frills can be quite eye-opening. If you've been practicing for some time, I suggest dropping in to a beginner-level class some time. It is wonderful to realize that it's not the bells and whistles that count, in all reality it's the simple asana, the simple flavors that are the most beautiful and substantial of all!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pranic bang for your buck

Recently I came across a magazine article detailing grocery store price comparisons of common food items: bread, apples, milk, and butter. I wondered how the local sources stacked up. All of the items cost more than any of the leading stores at the farmers' market and Reading Terminal Market. I wondered why local food was so 'expensive'. But despite the higher price point, I still believe that local food grown on small farms is the best value. These foods are just so much more filling than anything I've ever gotten at a grocery store. I also feel better on a different level when I eat these foods. I genuinely feel that these fresh, local items somehow contain more prana to nourish my system than industrially-farmed foods. Why is there more prana in local food? Namely, it's fresher. The produce I pick up at the farmers' market could likely have been picked that day; it's not been sitting in a cold room or on the grocery shelf for weeks. But also I think that it's the prana that goes into this food on the farm. Stephen Cope notes that prana is contained in fresh water, living plants, love, and inspiring words. I can't help but think the small farms where my food comes from are more nurturing environments than some giant industrial farm. Small, family-based farms, most not eligible for the government subsidies, growing chemical-free produce in great diversity must pour more energy and love into this food than the big companies. We are truly blessed in Philly to live so close to many of these farms, close enough to obtain virtually everything from them, vegetables, oats, butter, ketchup and mustard, eggs, meat, pickled goods, milk, and yogurt. The list goes on and on. Try and make the grocery store a foreign place, and see how much more fulfilling the whole food experience, from shopping to eating, can be.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hearty Fall Recipe

I recently made a really delicious bowl of food, from almost all local ingredients, excluding the rice, oil, salt, and pepper. 1 cup wild rice 2 T oil 1 small carrot, chopped 1 small potato, chopped 1 pint mushrooms, quartered 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 1 bunch kale, stems separated from leaves, everything chopped 3/4 cup white wine Salt and pepper to taste 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese 2 cups cooked red bean 1 tsp. thyme Cook the rice. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the carrot, potato, mushrooms, and kale stems and cook, tossing occasionally until beginning to soften, about 5-6 minuts. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze the bottom of the pot with the wine. Add the beans and season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Add the kale leaves on top of the vegetables, cover and steam the kale leaves for 5-6 minutes. Toss the vegetables and beans together and cook 5-6 minutes more. Serve the mixture on top of the wild rice sprinkled with the cheese. We are so lucky in Philadelphia to be able to get dried beans of all sorts grown locally. Take advantage of this opportunity and stop by the Lancaster Farm Fresh stand in Reading Terminal Market or to eliminate the trip for the winter, go sign up for Philadelphia Winter Harvest and pick up your food at a neighbor's house once a week, including vegetables, dairy, apples and cider, and BEANS!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Grand Opening of Fair Food Stand at Reading Terminal Market

Fair Food Stand is one of my favorite Reading Terminal destinations. They recently moved to a new, larger space. I went down for the grand-opening festivities. The new space is three times as big as the old one and is located at the 12th Street entrance between Chinese and Ribs. The new stand will be open 365 days a year! A lot of wonderful things were said by many people. Channel 6 news was there covering the event. Two speakers stood out to me. A representative from the USDA introduced the 'Know your food, Know your farmer' initiative. Professor Marion Nestle of NYU addressed the local food movement as a social revolution. I would have to agree with her. I feel very small-town in this big city when I'm at the farmers' market or picking up my Winter Harvest order. There's nothing like local food to foster a great sense of community.

Locavore side-effect: appreciation of "waste"

A side-effect of eating locally is that you start to appreciate all of the things you used to throw out without a thought.
Bones of cooked meats are fodder for stock. I never pitch a chicken carcass. Instead, it goes into a pot with an onion and garlic cloves, herbs, and spices to be boiled for quite a while. I'll strain this and the next day I'll reduce it and freeze the stock in ice cube trays for future use.
Fat also becomes a valuable resource. I don't know of a local oil, so I have to buy it from afar. I use this oil sparingly and buy it in bulk containers to reduce its impact. Butter is available at Reading Terminal, but I hate to go through it so quickly. Now I pour my bacon drippings into a small Tupperware after it cools a little. If a stock, soup, or stew forms a solid fat on top in the fridge, it goes into a container as well. Of course these fats are not good for eating on toast and bread, but they work well for cooking. They yield a great flavor to the food cooked in them.
Using these animal parts is an ethical and mindful way that I consume meat. Like the native Americans that used every part of the buffalo out of respect, I strive to waste less of this valuable resource. Local mat raised in a healthy, ethical manner is more pricey than industrial meat. I choose to incorporate this food into my diet, I also choose to use it completely.

Farmers' Market Loot 10/1/09

Kale, cabbage, onions, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, apples...all for $19.50
Things have been a little buzy not leaving much time for blogging. Things have settled now, and I'll be back to more regular posts.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A sustainable diet and asteya

The key reason why I eat locally is because it is a giant step towards sustainability. Sustainability is when your way of living can go on indefinitely within the bounds of asteya. I believe that at the root of asteya lies a prerequisite that requires us to be honest about our true needs and intentions. How much food can I consume without going over my allotment? The numbers are in: each person is allotted 1 ton of CO2 output, needs to survive on 1.16 acres, and not increase the world population. (Meaning a one child per person limit should be respected; that's two kids for two parents.) A ton of CO2 isn't all that tangible, but an acre is. One acre is 43560 square feet. This amount of space includes not only your living space, but also the amount of land needed to produce everything that you eat, wear, or otherwise consume. I can have more to eat when farmers plant diverse crops rather than monoculture and when I choose to eat more plants than animal products. If it takes too much CO2 output for the food to get to me, I'll be pushed over the 1 ton limit. If you need more land or CO2 output than this for you and everything you consume, you need to be mindful of the fact that you are A) pushing environmental crisis on us and future generations and B) stealing someone else's food. Yes, all of the hungry in this world are suffering because the lucky ones are using up their portion of farmland for housing developments and our "need" to eat from the large-scale food system. Those that somehow achieve living within their means, CO2 output and land-use included, will reap the benefits. Yoga Sutra II.37 says, "When abstention from stealing is firmly established, precious jewels come."

Friday, August 7, 2009

To eat organic or not to eat organic?

So you've heard that organic food is good for you. It's true. Organic food has higher levels of anti-oxidants, flavonoids, vitamins, and other nutrients (Pollan, 2008). And I agree with Rachel Carson that "no poison is safe or desirable on food: and a large-scale conversion to chemical-free agricultural methods is needed to stop these intolerable practices" (1962). However, I would argue that organic is not the be-all, end-all of food decisions. First, if you can't get organic, eat produce anyway. The conventional tomato is better for you and the environment than the organic processed food. Secondly, after a few days of transport, the nutritional edge that organic produce has deteriorates and is no better than the conventional, so organic AND fresh is important. The environmental value of organic produce decreases with transport as well. If organic produce travels 250 miles by truck or 3.5 miles by plane all of the CO2 savings of growing that produce is now equal to that of its conventional counterpart (Pearce 2008). Lastly, let me point out that many local farmers do not have organic certification (it's an expensive process), but are using organic methods regardless. Sam at the farmer's market never labels produce organic, but he will mark it 'chemical-free' and that's good enough for me. So next time you're faced with the decision about organic or not, let that not only be the ONLY requirement in you mind.
Carson, R. 1962. Silent spring. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY, 368pp.
Pearce, F. 2008. Confessions of an eco-sinner: tracking down the sources of my stuff. Beacon Press, Boston, MA, 276 pp.
Pollan, M. 2008. In defense of food: an eater's manifesto. Penguin Group, New York, NY, 244 pp.

This is what non-local looks like

I know where much of my food comes from. I either buy directly from farmers, or they are dropping it off where I shop. This fosters a certain amount of trust and familiarity. Many farms open up for farm tours too. But what's the deal with the non-local items we get? I'm reading a fantastic book about just that, which devotes a whole section to food items. It's made me really think about those farmers and other producers of things like gold so far-away living a completely different life than me. I'll fill you in on what I've learned about our food supply. Fair-trade coffee isn't so great after-all, but it's better than the big companies. Those farmers are only getting a few cents more than the bigger companies pay them, luckily they supplement with community improvement projects. They are not even making $1.50 for every $300 that Starbucks charges us. These farmers support their families for an entire week off of the price of a one pound bag of coffee. Wild fish and herbs are basically becoming extinct every day due to over-harvest. Vanilla is mostly grown in Africa, but outside of its native environment (Latin America, so why are we getting it from Madagascar?) it doesn't have its natural pollinator around and must be hand-pollinated daily. Shrimp, just buy it farmed in the US if you are going to, because abroad this is a scary business. Think a country over-run by the mafia, with musclemen threatening small farmers and taking almost all of their profits so they can't pay back the loan sharks. People are destroying the natural environment because shrimp is more profitable than rice paddies. Palm oil is becoming big business's in everything from Girl Scout cookies to soap, to my new sleeping pad for camping, even Ben & Jerry's is involved. But it's not all that pretty of a thing. It is marketed as a great sustainable product, but what they aren't telling you is that they replace rain forest with palm oil plantations, increasing the rate of climate change and driving the orangutan closer to extinction. I guess there goes the Cherry Garcia! I'm really sorry to continue to pick on the poor banana, but it's going extinct. It's still a cloned sterile freak that humans have been cultivating since the Stone Age and evolution has finally caught up with it. Evolution of soil fungus that is, since the banana has little to no genetic diversity of its own there is little hope for it. The banana is already the most heavily sprayed food crop in the world, leading to leukemia, birth-defects, and male sterility in countries that produce them. And the newest fungus is untreatable. All that it will take to wipe out this fruit is someone who picked up some dirt on their shoes in the eastern hemisphere to fly to Central America for vacation and then it's over for the banana. After all this bad news, the good news is that chocolate might actually be saving rain forest ecosystems in Africa. It can be better for the environment if you look for 70% or more cocoa, fair-trade, organic chocolate made in small batches...and then treat it as a special thing, not your typical mid-day snack. But it is sad that the kids living on cocoa farms have never tasted the product of their family labor. Reference: Pearce, F. 2008. Confessions of an eco-sinner: tracking down the sources of my stuff. Beacon press, Boston, MA, 276 pp.

The Power of Ten

Fact 1: If all Californians were to buy 10% of their food locally, an extra $848 million would go to California farmers, and extra $1.38 billion would go to the California economy, $188 million in tax revenue would be created, and 5,565 jobs would be created in that state (Jones 2008).
Fact 2: If 10% of each of America's trips were taken on public transportation instead of in a car, we could eliminate 40% of our oil consumption, the same amount that we import from Saudi Arabia each year (Jones 2008).
Fact 3: If the average weight of a US citizen dropped 10 pounds, the airline industry would burn 350 million gallons less fuel per year (Jones 2008).
Maybe buying local could solve our economic crisis. I am sure that the effects of buying local food from California would be similar throughout the country. That's a huge impact! And if you buy as much of your food as possible from local sources, the impact could be even greater. Here in Philly, I think it is entirely possible for us to get at least 80% of our food from local sources, the variety is that great. You can even get local popcorn and butter here. Some areas of the country aren't this lucky, but if those in less diverse markets started shopping for what they could and getting to know their farmers, my guess is that those markets would start to expand. A good place to start buying locally is starting with buying things that are grown here instead of elsewhere, e.g. while you can't get a local banana; you certainly CAN get a local potato or why are you buying the potato from Idaho and the tomato from Mexico? Start eating seasonally so you can work in more local foods, e.g. make strawberries a special treat for June and enjoy acorn squash and apples in the fall.
And take the bus to the market! If only 10% of our trips is all that it takes to cut our oil consumption nearly in half, we should do it. Imagine what could happen if we walked or rode our bikes, or increased that public transportation percentage. There are some places where public transportation just isn't available; I've lived in some of them. But the good news is that these are smaller towns, where you can take a bike easily. Further, it is likely that you could eliminate 10% or more of your car trips by planning ahead and carpooling. Buying local can reduce fuel consumption further because the food is taking a shorter trip.
If you buy local produce, and subsist primarily on that, overweight people are bound to drop a few pounds, reducing our country's overall weight. If obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and other diet related health problems were to decrease, imagine the decreased medical costs in our nation. That wouldn't be bad for the economy!
I hope that you reflect on your own potential to reduce your fuel consumption boost the local economy, and improve your own health. The impact of one person making small steps really CAN make a huge difference.
Reference: Jones, V. 2008. The green collar economy: how one solution can fix our two biggest problems. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 237 pp.

Farmers' Market Loot, August 6, 2009 and Yogic Diet

It has been coming for some time; here is my first 'controversial' post. First I'll give you today's tally: 2 flat-breads from Wild Flour Bakery 1 honeydew melon, 1 cantaloupe, 1 pint blueberries, 1 quart green beans, and 1 quart tomatoes from the fruit farmer 1 dozen eggs and 1 pound of bacon from the local meat producer. The cash total was $29, $9 of that was the bacon. Yes, that's right, I bought bacon. The traditional Ayurvedic diet is ovo-, lacto-vegetarian, and Ayurveda is closely tied with yoga. I do consider myself a serious yogini...but I am not a vegetarian. I continue to eat all types of meat from pigs and cows to fish. To me the yogic diet is not strictly vegetarian, but is rather to eat mindfully, keeping ahimsa clearly on the mind while choosing our food and consuming it. Ahimsa is the practice of non-harming in thought, word, or deed; expressing love and compassion for yourself, others, and the world around you. Of course, this is an impossible goal. B.K.S. Iyengar points out in Light on Life (2005) that even Gandhi, a great example of ahimsa, was in violation when he went on long fasts, harming himself in order to prove his point. Many yogis practice ahimsa of diet via vegetarianism or even veganism. I applaud all of you, but this diet is just not for me. I do not eat a lot of meat, in fact the last time I ate meat was last Saturday where burgers were the only main course available. The fact is I love the taste and texture of meat. I realize that consuming it is harming not only the animal that needs to die, but also damaging the environment. American beef farms alone have a larger carbon footprint than America's cars. Further, the large-scale meat industry typically treats its animals cruelly and feeds them monotonous diets leading to the need to pump in the antibiotics...which can lead to resistant microbes. Our health is another consideration. Consuming a lot of meat and animal products can lead to so many poor health conditions like hear disease, cancer, and diabetes. It's a bad situation. All of this so I can have cheap meat on my plate? That is not necessary. On the other hand, tofu makes me sick to the stomach; I can only eat so many bean dishes. In my everyday life, about 10-15% of my diet is meat. If I don't eat meat once in a while, I begin to feel a little off and then get sick. I come from a very meat-based culture; there is typically meat for every dinner back home. However, if I were to go home as a vegetarian, I would be hungry and make my mom upset that I didn't even try the ham, turkey, or baked beans she lovingly cooked. My personal perspective on this is that I don't buy cheap, industrial meat. I buy local, pastured animals that aren't unnecessarily pumped full of medicines. If available, I will always choose a wild animal harvested by my relative or boyfriend. I choose my fish according to A) what is likely to be harvested near me and B) choose carefully along the lines of sustainable and mercury-level charts for fish. Buying these meats is more expensive and takes more thought. The trade-off is worth it for more nutritious and flavorful meat. Because its more expensive, I take care to use all of what I get. I boil bones to make homemade broth and I save my bacon drippings in the fridge for cooking. The higher price also encourages me to eat less, having a smaller environmental and karmic impact. When it comes down to the choice of eat meat, or eat very little or nothing at all, I will choose to eat the meat every time. These are mindful choices, and I think that they are in line with mindful eating...what I consider to be the 'meat' of the yogic diet. Reference: Iyengar, B.K.S. 2005. Light on life: the yoga journey to wholeness, inner peace, and ultimate freedom. Rodale, Inc., U.S.A., 282 pp.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Get the real dirt...

This past Sunday I watched a movie, The Real Dirt on Farmer John. It is about an eccentric farmer, who is certainly open-minded about the future of farming. Although John is a bit strange, and seems to have a thing for dating much younger women, the overall story is good. If you are looking for something different for your Netflix queue, order it! John's story is like many a modern farmer, watching farmland being eaten up by housing developments, not being able to make ends meet, and struggling with emotional as well as financial burdens from all of it. But open-minded John turns to organic and diversified farming for something new...and a whole new future opens up. Today John runs one of the largest CSAs in the country, serving the Chicago area. I found this film a little less than polished, but truly reflective of the situation that so many small farms find themselves in today. John's mother is like every strong woman from my grandmothers' generation. She continues to have faith in the future, no matter what. She is by far my favorite cast member; an inspiration for all of a younger generation.

Local Food Shopping, 7/30-7/31

On Thursday I went to the Farmers' Market. I purchased a quart of blueberries, a quart of mini eggplants, a quart of peaches, two cucumbers, 3 big squash (1 yellow and 2 zucchini), and a dozen eggs. The total was $17.00 My boyfriend and I went camping this past weekend and I was responsible for breakfast I needed honey so I went to Reading Terminal Market on Friday. There I picked up 2 pounds of local honey, a pound of locally made granola, a quart of vanilla yogurt, and a quart of peaches. The total was $25.10. The honey was $10 and will last a while. I returned with three peaches a bunch of granola and half the quart of yogurt. Total for the week: $42.10. Total for the month: $106.35. Percentage of my salary: $4.25% Can you afford to eat local? The question actually is, how can you afford not to eat local?

Eat Less

The main point of this excellent chapter of Michael Pollan's book hits at the essence of yoga--mindfulness. Shopping, cooking, and eating mindfully is the way to eat less. If you are buying nutritious, local delights, you are likely not going to need as much to eat because these foods are, to quote my boyfriend, "more filling...not in a bloated, stuffed way, but a really satisfying full. If you cook mindfully, you're likely to enjoy the process instead of viewing your cooking/clean-up duties as an inconvenience and heading out for pizza. When you eat mindfully, aka not plopped in front of the TV, you actually taste your food. When you taste and enjoy your food, you are tuned into your body and know when to stop eating.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mostly plants

The second part of Michael Pollan's eating policy is 'mostly plants'. As with 'eat food', he breaks it down with a few guidelines: mostly plants, especially leaves, you are what what you eat eats too, if you have the space, buy a freezer, eat like an omnivore, eat well-grown food from healthy soils, eat wild foods when you can, be the kind of person who takes supplements, eat more like the French, tor the Italians, or the Japanese, or the Indians, or the Greeks, regard nontraditional foods with skepticism, don't look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet, and have a glass of wine with dinner. Eating leaves is basically a point that Mr. Pollan makes throughout the book that we have basically become a seed-obsessed culture of food, but so many nutrients and valuable anti-oxidants are found in other parts of the plant that we aren't consuming. Seeds like corn, wheat, and soy dominate our diets, but greens, roots, and stems are sort of rare, mostly because they spoil quicker. Don't miss out; pick up some lettuce and kale at the market! If you are not a vegan, this includes what the animals that you consume (including their milk and eggs). Cows should be eating a varied diet, mostly of greens; but industrial farms feed them mostly corn...that limits the amount of phytochemicals that transfer to you, like omega-3 fatty acids. Did you ever notice that the eggs at the farmers' market have brighter, almost orange yolks? That's because the local farmers let the chickens eat a more natural and varied diet instead of stuffing them with grain. The orange color comes from beta-carotene that the chickens are consuming. Freezers are amazing. They allow you to eat locally, even in the off season...and get a steal on local meats. Get a bunch of corn from the farmer now, cut it off the cob and freeze it. Come January when you want some corn on your dinner plate you won't be buying corn from some industrial farm far away. Eat like an omnivore is not anti-veg. This simply means to diversify your diet and consume as many species as possible...and vegans/vegetarians can do that too. This covers all your nutritional bases. Don't limit your options. Eating well-grown food from healthy soils is basically common-sense. If the soil is nutritious for the plant, the plant will be better for the eater, regardless of whether you eat the plant or the eater, you benefit. This is more important than 'organic' because that label can be slapped on a lollipop, and that's certainly not good for you anyway. Granted, it might help if you can ask the farmer who grew it how is soil is and what he's doing to his plants. Wild food is better because the evolutionary process has forced those plants to retain all of the antioxidants and phytochemicals they need to survive; any agriculture means that people have made at least some of those nutrients unnecessary for the plant to produce. Remember that not only does wild meat get more exercise, but it eats wild plants. The supplement guideline doesn't mean that you necessarily pop vitamins, but rather that you care about your health to the degree that you consider these types of things. Traditional diets, of any culture, are good guidelines for preventing disease. None of them include highly-processed food like fruit roll-ups, boxed mac 'n' cheese, frozen pizzas, and TV dinners. The reason you should be skeptical about these non-traditional foods is that they are really quite new to our systems. Along these lines lie soy products. Tofu has been around for a long time with no major diseases resulting, but soy additives to our food products are a new thing, and their entry into our diet (the typical western diet actually contains more soy than those of Japan and China) came right along with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Further along the lines of traditional diets, is the warning to not look for the magic ingredient like olive oil, garlic, or ginger, but rather just look at the foods they are eating and how, it could be the food combinations, prep methods, or eating habits of these cultures that lead to good health. Having a glass of wine with dinner is by far my favorite part of eating plants! Mr. Pollan pretty much is making the point that having alcohol in moderation and with food has been shown to work pretty well, but he warns against abstaining and then going on the typical American weekend drinking binge. All in all, I think you can satisfy this mostly plants rule by stopping by your local farmer's market where you can get a wide array of plants. Better yet, join a CSA this year and you'll be forced to experiment with some new species!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eat Food

I have been reading In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan. This is a fantastic book and I would certainly recommend it to any of you who want to explore the issues of eating more. For those of you who prefer to direct your prana elsewhere, I plan to sum up the 'manifesto' for you in three installments. He sums up how to craft your diet with this statement: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." At the end of the book each statement gets its own chapter. Eating food seems simple, but really isn't when you are faced with the wide array of edible options available to us today. Mr. Pollan gives us a few guidelines to stay on track: Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food, avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup, avoid food products that make health claims, shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle, and get out of the supermarket whenever possible. Eating locally should help you identify food very clearly. I'm pretty sure my great-grandmothers would agree that everything I buy at the farmers' market or at Reading Terminal Market is food, and pretty good food at that. I think back to my great grandmothers and food, three of them were still alive when I was young. At my dad's grandmother's house my sister and I were fed peanuts, they had a garden and a huge blueberry bush in the yard. My mom's grandmother was in town once and she made some applesauce from fresh apples. Strange and numerous ingredients absolutely sound processed, and infiltrated by chemicals. The most 'processed' thing I typically get from the local sources is vanilla yogurt. It surpasses the 5 ingredient rule by two or three, but I know exactly what everything in it is without relying on my chemistry background, so I think that's pretty good! But beware of crazy ingredients that have you relying on your chemistry education to pronounce correctly for sure...and long lists of ingredients. That vanilla yogurt is a far cry from the ingredient label on the plain: cultured whole milk from grass-fed Jersey cows; it's likely not as healthy for me either. Avoiding health claims means basically those things that come in boxes and bags screaming things like low fat, low cholesterol, rich in omega-3, and full of anti-oxidants. Mr. Pollan claims that these companies have paid big bucks to find a way to cover up that a bag of chips will never actually be good for you and these things are highly processed so that they can come in a bag or box and not rot for a few years. I can't remember when that tomato from the farmer came in a package screaming I have antioxidants out the whazoo! The farmer a) doesn't have that kind of money, b) doesn't create waste by using packaging, and c) doesn't need to because we know tomatoes are good for us. I can't vouch a whole lot for the peripheries of the supermarket claim. When I go to the store it is typically for staples like flour, pasta, and rice that I can't get elsewhere, where my fresh food comes from. These staples actually are in the middle of the store. Getting out of the supermarket is exactly what I am all about! I find it so valuable not only for your health, but also for the economy and the environment. Reference: Pollan, M. 2008. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. Penguin Books, New York, New York.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Reflections on Greatness

The Bhagavad Gita says, "Whatever a great man does, ordinary people will imitate; they follow his example." If the prerequisite of a role model is first to be great, how do you do that? Manorma says that "We must make a connection with ourselves and others through reverence." So perhaps you become great, and therefore a leader by example if you approach life with reverence. I see yoga as primarily a personal quest that then can radiate outward to the world. One person who I believe to be great is Jill Manning. This past Saturday was her last class at Wake-Up Yoga before she departs this city. This loss will undoubtedly be felt throughout the Philly yoga community. Jill is certainly a role model full of reverence. She approaches her practice and study of yoga with much devotion and this radiates from her as she teaches. She is often saying, "Simple is great, and great is simple." Today pick a simple thing, treat it with reverence, and perhaps you too can grow to greatness and see the effects radiate outward from yourself. In my attempt to radiate some simplicity outward I present this vegan recipe, that can be made from practically all local ingredients (as I did last night). Black Bean Casserole 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (reserving the cooking water) 1 onion, diced 1 carrot, diced 1 cup corn cut off of the cob 4 garlic scapes, diced (or cloves of garlic in their absence) 1 T oregano (dried) 2 t. cumin dash cayenne pepper salt 1 can of stewed tomatoes 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I save ends of bread in the freezer, when they accumulate, I toast them and grind them up into crumbs) Olive Oil Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cook the onion and carrot for 5 minutes in some olive oil. Add the corn and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, cumin, pepper, and salt to taste, cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the can of tomatoes (unfortunately mine did come from San Francisco, not local this time), cook for 5 minutes and taste for salt. Add the beans, correct seasoning if necessary, pour into a casserole dish. Slowly pour in some bean water until the mixture is almost covered. Top the dish with the bread crumbs, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the top. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. I hope that you too will find this recipe great if you try it. Then contribute your own efforts toward greatness to the world!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Food Shopping, July 23-24, 2009

Yesterday I went to the Farmers' Market. From Sam I bought a big head of chemical-free lettuce, six ears of corn and three squash, one yellow and two zucchini. From Wild Flour Bakery, I bought another sundried tomato and parmesan flatbread and a rosemary-garlic one too. They are so good! From my biggest temptation, the Bloomsburg fruit farmer, I picked up 2 peppers, a quart of nectarines, a quart of peaches, and a pint of blueberries. I certainly have a fruit problem. I think that was showing restraint on the fruit for some reason. Mostly because I didn't hand over the other $5 in my wallet to the man! For all of this, I spent $19.75. Last night's dinner was lots of blueberries, a nectarine, some chunks of each of the flatbreads, and a roasted veggie mix: yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant leftover from last week, green beans left over from my last visit to Reading Terminal. GREAT!!! As always, thank you so much Food Trust for bringing local food to my neighborhood. Unfortunately, there are no dairy products at my farmers' market. So this morning I treked down to Reading Terminal to pick some up. I bought 2 quarts of Pequea Valley yogurt , one vanilla and one plain, and a quart of skim milk, all local, from the Amish dairy stand near Arch Street, it was $11. Total food bill for the week, $20.75.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

tropical carbon

Everyone has heard that local food reduces your carbon footprint. But how much are you saving? Recently I read an article on Planet Green that summarizes the impact of tropical foods. I sum it up below:
  • 4 oz. of banana..........8 lbs of CO2
  • 4 oz. of mango...........8 lbs of CO2
  • 1 lb. coffee..................1 lbs of CO2
  • 1 cup of tea................20 g of CO2
  • 4 oz. of mixed nuts...0.43 lbs. CO2
Since you can get about 32 cups of coffee out of a pound, it works out to about 14 grams of CO2 per cup of coffee. It feels good to get some numbers on this. To put it into perspective, the average American puts out 7.5 tons of CO2 a year, that's 16,800 pounds. For those of you having a banana and cup of coffee for your breakfast everyday, that's almost 3000 pounds already....17% of your carbon footprint. Maybe a small caffeine habit doesn't have an astronomical impact, but maybe we should lay off those tropical fruits and trade them in for what's in season around here. It's not so bad to enjoy some peaches or blueberries on your cereal instead of that banana tomorrow is it?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A local food date

This Sunday morning my sweetie and I went to Northern Liberties for breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants, Honey's Sit 'n' Eat. Honey's is a great place, the food is incredible and they use a lot of local ingredients. I had the "special granola" and a latke. I can't resist getting their latkes! The granola was incredible with local berries and yogurt, some raspberry sauce and (clearly not local) grilled pineapple chunks. If you've never been to this restaurant, go soon, and see what you and your taste buds have been missing. After our meal, we wandered up a block to Almanac market. I needed some eggs. Almanac has everything you need to get by, and the bulk of their stock is local. I noticed some local hot sauce on the shelf during this trip, which was new to me. I also learned that Almanac will take back used egg cartons, and they will be getting mine from now on. I picked up a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, and a cucumber for $7.50.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Farmers' Market Loot, July 16, 2009

From my favorite farmer Sam, I picked up ketchup, a bunch of carrots, a quart of onions, a pint of mushrooms, and a quart of mini chemical-free eggplants. That's right, you can get basics like ketchup at the farmers' market. There is a new bakery at our market, Wild Flour Bakery, and I love them. I was tempted by their sun-dried tomato and parmesan flatbread, which is basically a more delicious and better-for-you giant cheese-it. I also purchased a multi-grain baguette from them that will be going to Jill's party on Saturday. I have a fruit addiction. I can't get enough. The fruit farmer from Bloomsburg is a big, big, temptation. Just when I think I'll be getting a bouquet from the flower farmer, I walk by his stand and blow my budget. Today I got a pint of sweet cherries and a pint of blueberries. I also picked up 3 quarts of peaches; most of these will go into peach jam that I'm making this weekend, a jar that will also go to Jill's as an accompaniment to the bread. All of this cost me $33.50. I typically don't spend this much, but the jam pushed me over my typical limit of $25. The jam will be used throughout the year though, and thus the cost of the peaches stretches over the rest of the year. A big thank you to the Food Trust for bringing local food to my neighborhood every week.

A matter of life or death

Corina mentioned something in class last night. "People perform better if they believe that what they do matters." I know that at my job, I can get pretty down, usually because I get the feeling that it doesn't matter if the deadline is met, or even if I show up tomorrow. Do you know what the leading cause of death among US farmers is? It's suicide. (Gorelick, 2000) Put yourself in one of our local farmers' shoes. Sam takes his time to grow delicious, nutritious veggies. It takes him a whole year to produce that succulent offering at the farmer's market. He packs up his precious produce and drives into the city every Thursday and lays out his wares in an orderly fashion. Two scenarios could play out here:
  1. You, me, and the other guy all know that today is Sam's day. But we end up having a long day at work. It seems like a better idea to go out for happy hour, and then maybe end up staying until 9:00 because we're having in such a good time. The farmer's market closed at 7:00. Oh well, we can just pop by the grocery store on the way home and pick up some veggies from California, it's the same thing, right?
  2. You, me and the other guy have a long day at work. Instead of heading straight to the bar at 5:00, we go visit Sam instead. We chat with Sam and he puts a smile on our faces as we pick up the week's produce. we totally score because this week Sam has peaches that we've been waiting all year to bite into! Hey, while we're at it, he has some pie...sounds like dessert to me.
How does each of these options make Sam feel? How do they make us feel? Maybe one person or one day isn't a huge deal, but if week after week you pass him by, Sam will start to wonder if his farm is really worth it. If he decides it isn't, the best case is that another development pops up in Lancaster county, and I need another post to discuss those ramifications. I know what you're going to say, "A farmer grew the California produce too." This is true, but let's see some rough economic analysis. for argument's sake let's say that tomatoes, Sam's and the California farmer's, both cost us 50 cents. Sam's costs: growing the tomato, crates for transporting the tomatoes (which he will reuse), transport from Lancaster Count to Philadelphia County (~78 miles) in the farm truck, and dinner (a quiche from another stand at the market). California farmer's costs: growing the tomato, crates for transporting the tomatoes (that get recycled at the grocery store, not reused), transport from California to Philadelphia (~2875 miles) via tractor trailer, and the grocery store shelf space. My bet, although I'm no accountant, is that Sam keeps the bulk of those 50 cents, where the California farmer makes pennies. The California only gets that much profit if he's selling locally in San Francisco. Who is more likely to be able to support a family and a farm from those sales? Who feels like it's worth it to be a farmer? And to bring it all home...who needs farmers to stay in business? You, me, and that other guy...because we like to eat. Reference: Gorelick, S. 2000. Facing the Farm Crisis - poor economic health of farmers. The Ecologist, June 2000.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Introductions are in order

I can't tell you the moment my love-affair with local food began, because it was likely before I was forming memories. What I can tell you is that one of my favorite parts of summer as a kid was my mom picking up berries or corn-on-the cob from a farmer's truck, or better yet, picking my own wild strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, not to mention picking blueberries or apples at my family's homes. Back then it wasn't such a big deal though, it was just how things were.. Both my grandmas were canners. Our family spent a Saturday each fall making sauerkraut from the garden's cabbage. I knew the grocery store food wasn't as tasty. Life moved on and I kind of lost touch with that way of life. Out on my own I bought food in a grocery store. In college, as an ecology major no less, I rarely even went to the produce section, it was too expensive. I subsisted on Lipton noodles and instant oatmeal. maybe I would get some potatoes if they were on sale. My fruits and vegetables mostly consisted of bits of dehydrated carrots, peas, and apples. At 21 I found yoga as a new way of life. I credit my practice with making me more conscious to the state of the environment and my own health. I started eating more real food, fewer things from boxes and bags. I actually started to recycle for the first time in my life and think about conservation issues and how they applied to me. Yoga has taught me to start change with you and let it radiate outward. Once I entered what I consider 'adult life' I found the farmers market a block from my new apartment and loved the flavor...and the price. A woman at work pointed me to a local dairy selling yogurt and milk. At that time I couldn't stand yogurt, but when I sampled this, it was completely different. Instead of the putrid smell of Yoplait, there was a fresh, tart scent. They had fruit flavors that became my new dessert; the plain was a great mid-day snack! My fellow yoginis were involved with a CSA, this was a great concept, but I couldn't come up with the huge down payment at the beginning of the seasons to enroll myself. After two years of local bliss, I relocated to Philadelphia for a new job. One of the first things I did was scour the Internet for a CSA. Philadelphia Winter Harvest was a God-send. Fresh, local food all winter long delivered to a neighbor's house. There was no giant deposit, just an upfront charge each month that was really very manageable. No more winters stuck shopping at the grocery store for me! Don't let urban life fool you, this city is a local food mecca. Follow me as a I take my journey to obtain a near-complete local diet. I'm sure I'll fall prey to the convenience of later hours at Whole Foods along the way, and once in a while crave a mango, but my intention is tho live lightly on the earth. This is how I practice ahimsa; this blog will inspire me to play my edges. Eating locally became my way of life because of the flavor, but I also recognize the value of this lifestyle as good for my body and the planet. I invite you to join me and explore your town and seek our local sources of goodies for yourself.