Saturday, November 27, 2010

Unlikely Sisters


Permaculture introduces the idea of guilds, or plant groupings. The standard example is corn, beans and squash. The beans grow up the corn stalks, the squash covers the ground around the beans and corn crowding out the weeds. The corn and beans shade the squash.

As I was walking through our yard today I took a closer look at a palm in the middle of our yard. I don't know if you can tell, but it's tipped. We have Spanish moss growing from the underside of the tree, in its shade. Above the Spanish moss on the topside I found a patch of chickweed growing - an edible weed perfect for a salad.

Walking around the palm I found a young fig tree growing. I've seen this before. If you look up into the canopy of skyduster or canary palms growing in Los Angeles, you'll often see figs, flowers and other opportunistic plants cultivated by birds and furry denizens of the night.

I doubt this fig will prosper, but I'll let it stay and observe what happens.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Facebook: Banned for Being Married and Lazy

My Facebook account was disabled. I was required to document my name so I scanned a copy of my driver's license and marriage certificate, which in the state of California is enough to document my name. My banks accept both my pre- and post- marriage names and no one has ever accused me of using a fake name. Here's Facebook's final ruling:


Fake accounts are a violation of our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Facebook requires users to provide their real first and last names. Impersonating anyone or anything is prohibited, as is maintaining multiple profiles on the site. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reactivate this account for any reason. This decision is final.

Thanks for your understanding,

The Facebook Team

So, because I am a woman who married and took my spouse's name but did not get around to changing it on my California Driver's License I am impersonating myself and my account is canceled. There's a lawsuit in there somewhere.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Facebook Facists


Facebook deleted my account because I didn't use my "real" name. I used my married name instead of my legal maiden name. That must have taken some digging by someone.

Anyway - years of connections vaporized. I don't have a "government-issued" ID with my "real" name on it to get my account reinstated. What a disappointment!

It's crazy. I used my site for family genealogy and gardening. I'm practically a little old lady - not exactly a bomb-throwing anarchist.

The last thing I posted was a video of a 14-year-old gay boy in a midwestern M-state standing up for a suspended teacher who stood up for him. Was I too gay? Do I have an offended family member who complained? Sheesh!

The New Yorker: Sandor Katz

This week's New Yorker has an article on the underground food movement featuring Sandor Katz of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved.

Don't miss it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seeds Savoir

I was just listening to one of those FM station to the left on the dial - NPR, KPFW, something like that. A seed lady was being interviewed. A woman called in with a comment. The woman claimed that if you held a seed in your mouth for 9 minutes before you planted it, the seed would be softened by the enzymes in your saliva and learn to grow food specifically for your physical needs.

WTF?! It gets better.

The seed lady warned that if the food you grew in your garden was going to be fed to anyone else, it would be unwise to put your DNA in it.

Jesus wept.

Cherry Kefir Water

I've been struggling to make decent kefir water for about a month now. Kefir water crystals are different than the milk crystals, though they are just as finicky. My first five or six batches tasted like sweat. I saved the crystals, but dumped their product. I had followed directions, but that didn't seem to help.

I finally had success with the following recipe, which I created.

1 quart spring water (bottled - my filtered LA tap water didn't seem to work)
1/3 cup demerrara sugar
1 T. unsulphured molasses (I used blackstrap)
2 T. dried unsulphured cherries
all the water kefir crystals that you have - about 1/2 cup in my case

I combined the above in a jar, covered with cheesecloth, fastened with a rubber band. After a day I taste tested it. It still had a slightly sweet flavor. At this point I strained the mixture and poured the kefir water into old plastic water bottles and put them in the fridge.

A day or two later I opened a bottle - over the sink - and a healthy head spilled out. It poured like beer with an inch of foam. It was delicious. It tasted a little beery and I need to check it with a hydrometer for alcohol content. I don't want the kids drinking it if it has alcohol in it, but mostly it tasted great.

Two days later I went to pour another glass (and take this picture). I slowly removed the plastic cap and it shot from my hand like a champagne cork. Damn! It's still decicious.

It reminds me of a floris, though not as sweet. It has a clean flavor with rich, fresh cherry tones. This may be a probiotic health food, but it was as good or better than many of the dry fruit ciders we've been buying lately. I see a steep learning curve in front of me, but one that promises to be rewarding.

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Back to the Ranch Links


We spent Friday and Saturday at the Huntington's 2-day Back to the Ranch event. It was wonderful. The first day consisted of academic presentations, the second was more hands on. Speakers the second day were people from our own neighborhood - Tara Kola (hilarious) and Eric Knutzen and Kelli Coyne (double hilarious) and my favorite - Darren Butler - hilarious and very very thought-provoking. "We are all soil - in human format". My inner Keanu Reeves kept repeating, "Whoa, man!"

As there is too much to document, I'll included a photo of Friday's lunch, and links I gathered from the different speakers.

The lunch was from Little Flower Candy Company and included black-eyed peas, brown rice with orange sauce, a chiffonade of toasted nori, sesame seeds, grated carrots, steamed green beans, red pepper slices, cooked or marinated mushrooms, microgreens and crackers. At first, eating the unseasoned black-eyed peas, I thought the meal was very bland, but was I continued the tastes of the individual items emerged and then blended. It was all very fresh and refreshing. Delicious.

Rose Hayden-Smith
Grant High School sells salsa that they make themselves from vegetables they grow in their school garden

US Youth unfit to serve in military due to obesity

Women and food riots hasten the end of the Civil War

Victory Gardens - A boon in hard times, Rose Hayden-Smith

Harriet Johns, 11-year-old gardener during WWII

Mexican Avocados


Visited Cookbook on Echo Park Boulevard yesterday. It's a wonderful little shop selling local produce. We bought a Mexican avocado - like a small, purple eggplant. The skin in so thin you can eat it. The skin is much like that of a nectarine - you almost don't notice it. The avocado was green inside, standard buttery fare.

We immediately took the pit and set it to sprout. What a wonderful tree that would be to add to our growing food forest!
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

School Lunches, Part 2

The day after the meeting I went back to my son's school and asked for a tour of the cafeteria. The cafeteria manager took me through, explaining in detail district policies.

First, let me tell you, it was the cleanest kitchen I've ever seen. I worked in food service for 15 years and know kitchens.

Second, there were large boxes of beautiful green pears, cups of sliced cucumbers, and bags of fresh oranges and grapes.

All the kids in the school are served in plenty of time.

That's not to say that this system is a complete success. I'd like to do a survey of how food comes into the school. I suspect the following:

- LAUSD meals
- lunches from home
- junk food from local stores
- food ordered delivered
- junk from black market sales (backpacks)
- snacks from the student store

It would be interesting to figure out creative ways to positively impact these outlets.

In addition, though the kids must select fresh fruits and vegetables, many of them go immediately into the trash. I'd like to place one or two large fruit baskets to collect the whole fruit. They could remain available to children throughout the day and perhaps go to a food bank in the evening. The school could not do this, but a volunteer could. It seems a crime to teach kids how to throw good food in the trash.

There is an environmental club, and a vegetarian club, at the school. I want to see if together we might be able to occasionally offer different fare - salads, vegetable wraps, vegetable sushi. At least we could occasionally have classes to learn how to prepare these.

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Big Lunch

I went to an LAUSD meeting this afternoon about school breakfasts and lunches.

Dennis Barrett, head of the Food Services Division, was there along with the head chef, Mark Baida. Mr. Barrett covered some of the highlights of a document he distributed, the "2010 Strategic Performance Review."

There were some amazing statistics in Mr. Barrett's talk and in the document:

12,000 LAUSD students are homeless

That's 12,000.


168,000 receive food benefits of some kind
80% of the students receive free or reduced meals.

LAUSD served 122,000,000 meals last year for $89,000,000.

LAUSD Food Division has reduced the use of salt, sugar, and fat and increased the number of fresh fruits and vegetables served. 90% of the fruits and vegetables come from California, most from within 200 miles.

What concerned me most was that 96% of secondary schools do not allow their students 20 minutes to eat, in fact, some students do not have time to eat at all, relying instead on a black market of junk food and food carts. For many of the students, lunch is the most substantial meal of their day - and they are missing it.

What concerned the other parents was flavored milk - strawberry and chocolate, which I agree is unnecessary but was absolute anathema to them. They kept bringing it up, harping on the number of grams of sugar.

When reminded that this wasn't a menu meeting and that the milk issue had to be addressed at a board meeting, one woman practically yelled that she would keep bringing it up until there was no more strawberry or chocolate milk.

What was the next burning concern? Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution and how LAUSD was making a big mistake not letting this wonderful man help our children.

He may be wonderful - I don't know. I watched one or two of his shows in West Virginia and found them contrived and emotionally exploitive. I felt embarrassed to hear the parents fawn over a celebrity, as if he were the only answer to the district's problems.

I couldn't stay after that. I was really embarrassed.

I love the food movement and believe it has great potential to change lives. That's why I went to the meeting. But more and more I have to wonder. All I ever see are white people at these events, and on the rare occasion when there is a person of color you can bet he or she will be front and center in a photo on the blog.

To live up to its potential the food movement has to resist getting bogged down in issues of flavored milk when kids in the schools are going hungry. For too many children in LAUSD, the choice between strawberry or chocolate milk is the kind of problem you want to have.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Olive harvest at Caltech today

Vincent Van Gogh's Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun, 1889
If only! Damn, I have to work in Glendale and will miss this community harvesting of the Cal Tech campus olive trees. It's from 8:00 AM - 2:30 PM Friday 11/5 (first day of Diwali too) and the event includes a Mediterranean-themed lunch and culinary demo and tasting.

I'm crazy for olives - all kinds - and go out of my way to locate new sources (I still remember the first time I spied the barrels of olives at Mr. Marcel's). It's just a bonus that "Olives, have oiled the wheels of civilization since Jericho built walls and ancient Greece was morning news."*

Though I'm missing this year's harvest I intend to use the brine cured recipe of Tom Apostol, Cal Tech Professor of Mathematics, as soon as I can lay my hands on some fresh olives.

My latest olive escapade involves a more recent obsession, Shikas peppers, hot orange Bulgarian peppers. Trying to work them into various recipes my most successful has been as part of this black olive tapenade.

UPDATE: Here's coverage of the 2008 Caltech olive harvest with lots of pics.
* Mort Rosenblum, Olives: The Life and Lore of a Noble Fruit

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Los Angeles Farm Land

A cousin of mine lived in Los Angeles in 1911 and wrote about it:

We moved to a community in a rural area south of Watts. We had a lovely home. There was a large beet field across the road. The rows of beets started near the Long Beach car tracks and stretched as far as one could see. It was the most beautiful countryside.

Hard to imagine.