Simply in Season

News and reflections on all that's good about local food
from the co-author of Simply in Season,
a World Community Cookbook in the spirit of More-with-Less

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Lucky foods for the new year

Just a quick note about the Simply in Season recipe of the week, Easy Homemade Sauerkraut. It was selected to coincide with the traditional New Years meal of pork and sauerkraut.

Growing up in Oregon, I had never heard of such a thing, but in my years in Indiana and Pennsylvania, I always enjoyed the pork or sausage with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes served at community suppers.

It’s fun to read about the folklore behind such traditions. Eating pork is considered lucky because pigs burrow forward into the ground, digging up treasures with its snout. Cabbage is said to be associated with good luck because it is green, like folding cash.

What’s more: “Cabbage, even sauerkraut, is supposed to help cure `the morning after the night before' making it an ancient remedy for another famous New Year's Day tradition - hangovers.''

I can’t vouch for that one, but certainly sauerkraut, that traditional winter staple, is known for its health benefits, even, it's said, by fighting cancer and avian flu.

Here’s an article about other traditional foods served at New Years around the world:

Or listen to yesterday’s “Marketplace” story about the growing population of wild pigs in the U.S. and the renewed interest in hunting these animals.

Best wishes to all in 2006! Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Dreaming of a wet Christmas

After a spell of unusually frigid temperatures, the Willamette Valley is back to its usual weather for this time of year: wet and grey. The only “white Christmases” I ever knew, growing up in Oregon, were the foggy variety.

It’s perfect weather for sitting inside with a book or DVD. And for soups, like the Simply in Season recipe of the week, Maple Parsnip Soup: a creamy, beginner-friendly choice for those new to this root vegetable.

This poem arrived on a homemade Christmas card today:

"Water Prayer" by Stuart Kestenbaum

And this morning, I awoke to rain, which makes
its own rhythm on the window, and the world is full
of these rhythms, rhythm of water, rhythm of the heart,
which sounds like an underwater pump, the lub-dub
of all it knows, which is making all I know possible,
and on the roof rain falls and turns to hail, then snow,
then rain again, running down the shingles to the gutters,
the gathering-up that makes rivers and lakes and oceans,
from cloud to drop to torrent, how nothing is lost.

On this shortest day of the year, blessings to all who paused here, and a wish for light in whatever darkness you know.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fruit with a snap, crackle, pop

It’s sweet!

It’s juicy!


And it’s coming soon to a school cafeteria near you. It’s already made it to a school cafeteria near me.

Researchers at Oregon State University here in Corvallis are involved in the development of a new product called Fizzy Fruit: fresh fruits, like grapes, pears or pineapple, are doused with carbon dioxide gas. The resulting carbonation gives the fruit a fizzy tingle in the mouth.

Schools in nearby Albany are the first to try out the new product. After a test run last week, Fizzy Fruit will replace dessert there for the month of January.

According to an article in the Gazette-Times, “As far as the students were concerned, the Fizzy Fruit was a hit, with many going back for second and third helpings.”

Eight-year-old Rachel [ ] popped a red grape into her mouth, bit down, and then burst into giggles.

“It tickles!” she said.

“It’s bubbly,” Sary [ ] said.

“It tastes good. It tastes like pop,” Alexandria [ ] said. “Oh my gosh,” she murmured as she popped a second grape into her mouth and felt it bubble up.

Karston [ ], 8, said he would rather eat fizzy grapes than regular grapes. “They taste like pop,” he said. “I like pop.”

What think ye? Will Fizzy Fruit encourage children to choose healthy foods? Could it help to wean us off our national addiction to sweets? Will the future see us lined up at Fizzy Fruit kiosks in malls and sporting events in place of those little ice cream dots? Or are we mostly feeding our love of all things carbonated? -- when kids are already drinking huge amounts of soda despite the accompanying health risks.

I suspect the debate is just beginnning. But in this area, like any other, we as consumers have enormous power. What will we choose to buy?

(Here's one industry article on that question.)

* * * * *

The Simply in Season recipe of the week, Grape Pie, is another way of preparing fresh, dark purple grapes. One of my favorite quotes in the book appears on that page:

"The miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread. Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine -- which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes."

-- Wendell Berry

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

All we really want for Christmas

For whatever reason I was more than ready for the Advent season to begin this year. Normally I find the approach of Christmas is more like looking in those rear view mirrors -- always coming closer than I expect or am quite prepared for. But this year, I could hardly wait until Thanksgiving to start playing my Christmas CDs (especially this one -- and this one).

Maybe it's something about the year we've had. There's a yearning to celebrate. To light up the darkness.

(Gotta love the recent political cartoon by Steve Kelley. "Settle for an iPod," indeed.)

I'm fortunate in that my family doesn't have a tradition of a lot of holiday gift-giving, at least not among adults. In part I think our exchanges lost their appeal because most of us lean toward the side of the gift-receiving continuum that prefers getting items we want -- as opposed to preferring to be surprised. We find it too tempting to just go buy what we want when we want it. And when we found ourselves exchanging presents of cash and gift certificates, the process started to feel a bit, well, silly.

One option to consider is the "buy nothing" approach. Certainly many of the best gifts are those that cost little or nothing (and the link here offers ideas along with coupon PDFs for desserts, child care, back massages, etc.). I'm a fan of food gifts or consumables in general: regional specialties, homemade salsa, chutney or jams, cookie mixes in a jar, fancy socks (OK, you don't want to eat those). Or just an afternoon to play board games (this is my current favorite).

It's fun, though, to see other creative ideas for gifts that have something extra good about them. Here are links for places to start.

Co-op America’s “Green Gifts” catalog (which includes lots of special holiday discounts for places like fair trade organizations Ten Thousand Villages and Equal Exchange)

Grist magazine's ideas for the "trendy clotheshorse," "angsty teen," "self-righteous enviro" and more on your list.

Practical, fun and earth-friendly ideas from the National Resources Defense Council, Treehugger, and Sustainable Style.

Lots of gift-related links in the fifth Carnival of the Green (an entirely new concept to me -- so I'm new at this, so what).

Oh, yes, and then there's that list which mentions the "most intriguing gift ideas on MCC’s online store." It was an honor for Simply in Season to be included on Christian Century's 2005 gift-giving guide as well.

Other lists to recommend, anyone? Or care to share the favorite item on your gift list -- or wish list -- this year?

* * *

The Simply in Season recipe of the week, Stuffed Acorn Squash, offers five different stuffing options. The lesson: pretty much anything goes when it comes to squash stuffings. Rice or bread, apples, dried fruit, mushrooms, sausage -- it’s all good.

Tasty as these five options are, I think my personal favorite squash stuffing is still the cornbread dressing from page 187 of More-with-Less Cookbook. No better way to use up half a pan of leftover cornbread.

I like to put a spoonful of chutney (a fairly sweet and syrupy chutney -- as opposed to something thicker -- works best) or maple syrup in the cavity of the cooked squash before piling in the dressing for the final baking step. Add a side of Wild Mushroom Sauce (SIS page 55) and you’ve got a feast.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Virginia booksignings Dec. 9-10

Simply in Season co-author Mary Beth Lind will be doing booksignings in the Harrisonburg, Va., area Dec. 9 and 10. On Friday, Dec. 9, from 2-4 p.m., she will be at the Eastern Mennonite University bookstore (go to the University Commons on campus). On Saturday, Dec. 10, from 12 noon until 2 p.m. she will be at the Dayton Farmers' Market Ten Thousand Villages store.