Monday, July 16, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

The more I read about the watering down of organic standards, the more I’ve been rethinking my food choices. It seems that most organic food is being produced by huge corporate farms and megacorporations. Those are not the industries I want to support with my food dollars. In the last year, I’ve been buying as much as possible from local farmers who may not be certified organic but who grow their crops using organic and sustainable methods. I feel I’m getting a better quality food and supporting my own community – and hopefully contributing less to global warming since my food doesn’t have to travel miles to get to me.

So when I heard Barbara Kingsolver (one of my favorite authors) had a new book out and it was about eating locally, I knew I had to read it. And it did not disappoint.

Kingsolver and her family left their Arizona home to move to a farm in southern Appalachia. They no longer wanted to live in a state where virtually all the food and water was trucked in from somewhere else. They chose Virginia because (among other reasons) they wanted to live in a place that could feed them. A place “where rain falls, crops grow, and drinking water bubbles right up out of the ground.”

After nearly a year of settling in, fixing up the house, and planting their gardens, they embarked on their one-year mission to eat only food they grew themselves or what was raised in their own neighborhood. Kingsolver takes us through the work of raising a garden that would feed them throughout the year. We see the work involved in weeding and caring for the plants, harvesting, and preserving them. This book is a great lesson on when various foods are in season (hard to know if you shop at supermarkets).

The family also raises laying hens, as well as chickens and turkeys for meat. Kingsolver and her family have for many years eaten only non-factory farmed meat and felt good about raising their own animals. They would give their animals “freedom on an open pasture that’s unknown to conventionally raised poultry.” Kingsolver also responded to a Slow Food USA campaign to bring back heritage turkeys. Unlike the conventional Broad-Breasted White Turkey commonly raised in industrial settings, the heritage turkeys can actually support their own weight and reproduce naturally. In addition, these birds retain more of their wild ancestors’ sense about foraging, predator avoidance, and are more disease resistant.

Kingsolver’s husband Steven L. Hopp’s short essays provide information throughout the book on subjects such as the fossil fuel used to produce and ship our food, world hunger, genetically modified foods, family farms vs. industrial farms, industrial animal food production, paying the price for cheap, industrial-grown foods, the effectiveness of using pesticides and herbicides, mad cow disease, and much more. He provides resources to get more information as well as ways to take action. Kingsolver’s college-aged daughter, Camille provides recipes and anecdotes about the experience from a teenager’s point of view.

This book was inspiring. I was encouraging to hear about people who care about what they eat and how it’s produced. To find people who care about the environment and how our choices affect it and others. I don’t know if I’m ready to spend my summers hoeing, weeding and canning on a full time basis, but I will certainly take the time to seek out local farmers and support stores who carry local products.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Farm to School Programs

My article entitled "Fresh Food Nation" about farm to school programs is in the current (July/August) issue of Mothering Magazine. In the article, I profile a few schools that have sucessful farm to school programs and also give information about how to get a program started at your school.

Mothering is available at most large natural foods stores and books stores. For info on how to subscribe, go to

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Summer Salads

For ideas for summer salads to bring to your picnic or barbeque, check out this article in VegFamily Magazine:

BOOK REVIEW: Vegan Vittles Second Helpings

In this new expanded edition of the popular "Vegan Vittles," Stepaniak has broadened each section of the book to include many new recipes for alternatives to animal-based foods. With recipes for homemade veggie "meats" and "cheeses" to scrumptious egg and dairy substitutes, eating vegan is easier and yummier than ever. "Vegan Vittles Second Helpings" includes hearty breakfast fare like Phenomenal French Toast, Eggless Omelets, and Muffins That Taste Like Donuts (they really do!). For lunch, try the Boneless Chickenless Chicken Salad (made with tofu), Chickpea Tuna Salad, Radical Rueben, or a Sloppy Lenny (a lentil based version of a Sloppy Joe). There is even a recipe for Gooey Grilled Cheez which looks surprisingly like the real thing. It tastes rather unusual however—imagine tahini, lemon juice, ketchup, and nutritional yeast flakes mixed together. My husband and I found it tasty enough but the kids didn't care for it. Maybe more ketchup and less nutritional yeast flakes next time...My favorite section, Soups, Chowders, and Stews, offers easy, nourishing options like Sadie's Vitality Broth made with chickpeas and orzo pasta, Butternutty Chowder, and Elegant Broccoli Bisque. We especially loved the Cheez Please Soup made with potatoes, carrots, silken tofu, and soymilk, puréed into a thick cheesy tasting soup and garnished with steamed broccoli and cauliflower. (I learned my lesson and used less nutritional yeast flakes than called for and my children had 3 bowlfuls each!) We also loved the Creamy Potato Kale Soup.Main dishes include Sweet and Sour Tempeh, Southern-Fried Tofu, Classic Quiche, Macaroni and Cheez, Baked Stuffed Shells, Pot Roast and much more. We tried the Gardener's Pie (a tofu-based version of Shepherd's Pie) and it was wonderful. I served it with Savory Chickpea Gravy from the Sauces and Gravies section. A small selection of side-dishes includes Twice-Baked Potatoes, Garlicky Greens, and Coconut Rice. There are also recipes for salads and dressings like Warm Salad Nicoise, Fiesta Coleslaw, and Ceasar Salad.I tried a few of the tempting desserts offered in the Happy Endings section of the book. The Poppy Seed Cake was moist, tasty, and just sweet enough. The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies were crunchy and delicious. I still have many I want to make like the Ultra-Fudgey Fudge Brownies, Grandmother's Spice Cake, and the Peach Kuchen.The recipes in the book are clear and easy to follow. An ingredients guide explains foods that may be unfamiliar. Besides recipes, the book defines veganism, debunks common farm animal industry myths, and relates heartwarming rescue stories of animals now living happily at Farm Sanctuary. This cookbook would be inspiring and helpful to all vegan cooks.

Review as seen on