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

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

SIS for kids: stories wanted!

Oops. The Simply in Season recipe of the week list is a bit out of whack with the seasons. Not many places in North America have fresh strawberries yet, but do note that Strawberry Brunch Souffle is terrific served with thawed frozen berries and/or thawed frozen or canned peaches. Mmmm, mmm.

The first time I made Strawberry Brunch Souffle, back in the testing days, was with a family with two young boys, and I remember it was a big hit with all ages.

Helping children to eat healthy foods is a big challenge for parents, especially in a culture that surrounds kids with advertisements for sugary, fatty processed foods and where most playgrounds are inside fast food restaurants.

While the Simply in Season cookbook describes many great reasons -- for health, for the environment, for local and global neighbors -- for adults to choose local foods, a new Simply in Season children’s cookbook is in the works to bring good foods straight to kids.

Their stories and comments are wanted! Can you help us hear from children ages 6 to 12 about their favorite fruits or vegetables? Please ask them what they like and why.

More ideas of questions to ask: What is fun about eating a certain fruit or vegetable? Do you ever make food art with your fruits and veggies? What do you make? Do you have any stories about gardening or visiting a farm or preparing a favorite food?

Please include the child's first name and how old he/she is with each quote. We can't guarantee that every quote will be used in the book, but these comments will be a big help in shaping it. Please send them to Larry Guengerich: lrg at (replace “at” with @).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Waiting time

As of Monday spring has officially arrived, but I’m afraid the Simply in Season recipe of the week, Roasted Asparagus, will be, for most of us, mostly an exercise in wishful thinking.

Here in the Willamette Valley, the daffodils are up and the plum trees are all in pink but we're still only dreaming of most spring foods. An hour ago I wandered out to our asparagus bed from which my husband and I hope to eat for the first time this year -- very exciting, as we’ve never before stayed anywhere long enough to establish an asparagus bed -- but no, there’s not a sign of anything poking through the soil. Not yet.

True, a few spring foods are ready. Chives came up in the garden and our local farmers market -- held indoors between January and April 1 -- now offers bags of huge, beautiful spinach leaves: a nice change after months of hardy greens like collards and kale.

I've been in conversation with folks in Minnesota, where I'll be a guest at the May 13 Twin Cities Mennonite World Relief Sale. They're still having blizzards and we're not sure how many local spring foods will be available to use in sample recipes by May. Yet it seems like fresh greens are always the first to arrive. After the dark and grey of winter, eating those greens is like eating sunlight.

We’re more than midway through Lent, and in more ways than one it seems to me that we're still in the waiting time, with the promise of so many good things to come. I feel this way about Simply in Season in general. Producing the book has been like planting seeds -- seeds of ideas we hope will result in a better world -- and now we wait to see how those seeds will grow. Will these ideas be carried beyond our first small fields? Will we realize a harvest of changed attitudes, habits and lives?

To help the seed ideas take root, I'm especially excited by the work currently underway on a curriculum that uses Simply in Season as its textbook. Designed for use in small groups, Sunday school classes, youth and intergenerational settings, etc., the upcoming curriculum -- now being tested -- will help people explore in depth the contemporary food issues raised in the cookbook. Watch for more details about it in coming months.

Blessings to all in this time of waiting and new birth.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Pennsylvania to host SIS retreat

Ever want to get away for a weekend and live "Simply in Season"? You're invited!

An April 21-23 retreat in Akron, Pa., invites participants to celebrate spring as they delve into the themes of the new Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) cookbook, "Simply in Season."

Participants in the spring retreat -- which will be led by cookbook co-author, nutritionist and gardener Mary Beth Lind -- will reflect on how food can nourish the spirit as well as the body. The event will revolve around spring recipes, discussions and activities inspired by "Simply in Season."

It is titled, "A Pregnant Earth."

"Don't you ever feel like the earth is pregnant?" says Lind, speaking from her West Virginia home in early March. "Spring to me always feels like that. I look out my window now and there's snow on the ground and it's melted around the trees. It's that sense there's life coming out.... There's a sense that something is alive there that's going to burst forth."

The retreat lasts from Friday night until Sunday afternoon. Participants will visit a farm, learn practical tips for in-season food preparation and hear from nutritionists and farmers. They will explore what foods truly are in season.

"Now, you can go to a supermarket and find everything. If it's in season anywhere in the world, it's in season in the supermarket," Lind said. "We don't even realize what is in season in our communities."

Most of all, though, Lind hopes the weekend provides opportunities, ideas and inspiration to take the themes of the book and explore how people can best fit them into their own lives.

"There's all different ways of fleshing this out," Lind said. "I really hope there's a lot of discussion and dialogue."

The retreat will be at the MCC Welcoming Place in Akron, Pa. The cost of $185 includes two nights of lodging, six meals, local transportation, an information packet and a personal "Simply in Season" journal. To register, call (717) 859-1152, ext. 282, or download a registration form. "Simply in Season" cookbooks are available at the MCC Online Store.

-- From a Mennonite Central Committee news release by Marla Pierson Lester

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Kissable pizza, and new food-faith partnership

Last week I mentioned a Northwest fast food chain, Burgerville, that features local ingredients. This is too good an opportunity not to mention a couple of other small restaurant chains in our area with a local flavor -- and as a January article in the Portland Tribune puts it, “There’s not a wallet-busting meal among them.”

Laughing Planet Cafe doesn’t have its website up yet (check later at but based on my visit to the Eugene branch, Alice’s Adventures in Sustainable Eating blog describes it well. Great, simple food.

The brand-new Hot Lips Pizza site includes a list of farms they support -- including, I was pleased to see, a personal favorite, Gathering Together. Hot Lips has earned widespread respect for its commitment to efficient use of energy and commitment to education. Gotta love this Willamette Week quote: “This is how a sustainable future tastes, one slice at a time.”

I’m happy to make a plug also for fine dining establishments that offer local foods. Some of the top chefs in the world are committed to Slow Food, a movement which celebrates the food specialties of each region. Here in Corvallis, Big River and Intabas are just two of the excellent restaurants with local food on their menus.

(Intabas deserves special mention for the owners’ exceedingly generous support of various food security initiatives taking place in this county. Just this past Monday Chef Intaba provided a delicious complimentary supper for community members taking part in a new project from Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon; more on that below. Intabas’ marvelous flatbreads and pizzas -- baked in their cob oven -- are reason enough to eat there, but the idea of supporting such a good neighbor makes each dining experience there even more satisfying.)

Yet I think it’s especially important to support single-$ restaurants that serve local foods.

Last summer “Julie and Julia” author Julie Powell wrote a New York Times op-ed warning against the “temptation of economic elitism” in the local food movement. It has a certain point. Take, for example, the 2005 Smithsonian Folk Festival in D.C., which offered several tasting menus featuring locally grown ingredients, farm-raised meats, artisanal cheeses, etc. -- at $70 to $150 per person (tax, tip and wine included).

If people think sustainably grown, local food has to come with this kind of price tag, who would blame them for thinking this good food isn’t for them? But this is just what makes Hot Lips Pizza and the others so appealing. I could just about kiss ‘em.

Here’s a cheer and a prayer of blessing, too, for the local initiatives underway here in Oregon that strive to bring congregations and farmers together -- while also doing something to make fresh, local food available to low income folks.

The meal Chef Intaba provided this week was at a gathering for the Interfaith Food & Farms Partnership. Its mission: “To empower faith communities, farmers and neighborhoods to build rural-urban alliances and create innovative partnerships for just and sustainable food systems.” As I understand it, this project is being funded in part by a two-year grant. The hope is to develop pilot programs here in Corvallis and in the Portland area that can be used in communities across Oregon and perhaps beyond.

One way that farmer-congregation connections have been happening in Oregon is through the "That's My Farmer" project in Eugene. This will be the project's seventh year. Its main focus has been to try to encourage church folk to sign up for CSA (community supported agriculture) memberships; the goal is to have 500 households participating by 2007. Last year nearly 300 households took part -- keeping as much as $160,000 circulating in the local economy. Some $2,500 raised at the spring inaugural celebration subsidized additional CSA memberships for low income families.

Last year, the Eugene group also tried something new: selling books of coupons good for food -- including produce, eggs, meats, and cheese -- at numerous farms and farmers markets.

Thanks to the Interfaith Food & Farms Partnership, it sounds like this year Corvallis folks also will be able to buy farmers market coupons, with each $20 booklet containing six $3 coupons. The $2 additional "tithe" will benefit low-income community members.

What a wonderful, creative way to help neighbors, care for the environment, and keep food dollars at home.

For more information about the Interfaith Food & Farms Partnership, contact the project coordinator.