Tag Archives: local food

Cooking for acrobats

photo 5

I just spent two weeks cooking real food 14 hours a day for 40 acrobats.

You may ask: What do you mean by real food? Or perhaps Who are these acrobats?

The answers are: 1) Food from scratch, with locally sourced produce, dairy, and meat, and nary a processed ingredient in the pantry (thus the long hours); and 2) The participants and teachers of the Acro Revolution Teacher Training in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

The four-person kitchen crew had only met by Facebook prior to our arrival. I came in wondering about a number of variables, including how we would all get along and how my overseeing the vegetarian and vegan offerings would work with the meat dishes.

I didn’t have to worry. Helmed by Chef Josh (second from right), the group gelled quicker than the cream atop our unhomogenized local milk.

Acro Revolution kitchen crew

The cooks of the Acro Revolution Teacher Training were (from left) Rich, Nina, Josh, and your intrepid author.

We developed a flow, and laughed hysterically at the in-jokes that popped up along the way. Oh, we sure did.

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Filed under Blog, Healthy eating, Local food

Be a Fresh Checks Family Sponsor!

crossroads logoCalling all business owners and good food lovers: Now’s the time to sponsor a D.C.-area family trying to put more healthy, local food on the table. Sign on by this week to get your name and logo on farmers market materials all over Montgomery and Prince Georges counties.

Details below (cross posted from the Crossroads Community Food Network)

On June 4, Crossroads Farmers Market will open for our 8th season in our new, more visible, location. You can find us on Anne St. University Blvd. in Takoma Park, and we’re thrilled to welcome back all of our customers and vendors, along with some exciting new vendors.

For us to carry our success to our new location, we need not only our customers and our vendors – we also need your help. Over the past seven seasons, thanks to the support of our community, we’ve distributed over $240,000 in Fresh Checks, all of which have gone directly to low-income families to spend with local farmers.

Help us continue to offer Fresh Checks again this season. Go to crossroadscommunityfoodnetwork.org and click the “donate” button. Please consider signing up to make a monthly recurring donation. Just $20 per month over the course of a year will match farmers market SNAP (food stamp) purchases for one family for the entire 25-week Crossroads Farmers Market season.

The money you give will match funds spent with federal benefits so that low-income people in our community can have access to healthy, fresh, local produce. Our goal for the 2014 market season is to provide $50,000 in Fresh Checks to our low-income customers. So far, we’ve raised $38,000—over 75%—through foundations and local government. Now, we are calling on our community to help us raise the final $12,000.

Your donations allow us to continue building a vibrant and inclusive local food system in the Takoma Langley Crossroads and beyond. We’re grateful for your support!

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Filed under Blog, Healthy eating, Local food

How do you choose what to eat?

imageWhether it’s a kid opting for the plain pasta with butter or a foodie reaching for a paint-peeling blue cheese, people’s food choices often come with a story. I recently explored this idea in Sustainability of Food Systems, the massive open online course (MOOC) I’m taking offered by the University of Minnesota.

For the unit on food choices, we first read about how Afghan families changed their purchasing habits when wheat prices went up.* The researchers found that wheat is a paradoxical Giffen good, meaning that when the cost to purchase the product goes up, demand for the product also goes up. In this case, it seems Afghans reduced the more varied, expensive foods in their diets and opted for more bread.

Next, we read a shocking piece on greenwashing,** the term for misleading sustainability claims. According to one study, 98 percent of products making such claims were guilty of greenwashing. Many people choose foods based on price and flavor, or cultural, environmental or health considerations. Buying by geographical factors (including buying loosely-defined local foods)  is another consideration — though for many it’s included in environmental concerns.

One homework assignment was to investigate labels on products myself. Here is what I posted on the course forum. Read on below, while I embark on my next project of interviewing people I know about how they decide what to put on the table.

Non-GMO and “no sulfites detected”

For this activity, I chose a non-GMO label on a package of sugar and a claim of “no sulfites detected” on a bottle of wine. Both claims seem to have merit, though I was suspicious of the former at first.

The non-GMO label  on my Wholesome Sweeteners organic sugar reads:

NONGMO Project

This appears right below a “USDA ORGANIC” label. Because the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic standards require that certified foods be GMO-free, I at first thought that this label committed the sin of irrelevance. Yet when I read the FAQs on nongmoproject.org, the additional certification made more sense. In particular:

“Why should I enroll if my products are already USDA certified   organic?

“While the National Organic Program (NOP) identifies genetic  modification as an excluded method, GMOs are not a prohibited substance. This means that although GMO seeds are not supposed to be planted, and GMO ingredients are not supposed to be used, no testing is required. These rules were established at a time when GMOs were in limited production, and accidental contamination was not a significant risk. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. With the majority of key crops like soy and corn being planted with GM varieties in North America, contamination of seeds, ingredients, and products is a real risk, even for certified organic products.”

As for the label on my Well Read wine, I figured the lack of sulfites was a valid and provable claim. A friend of mine is sensitive to sulfites (a “sulfur-based compound“(WebMD) added to inhibit mildew growth in vineyards and to preserve wine) and says that with the Well Read product, he avoided the adverse affects associated with sulfite sensitivity (headache, etc.)


I learned that this claim, too, has a solid factual basis. The makers of the wine, Orleans Hill, says that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms requires an analysis from a “certified laboratory.” Check out their FAQs.

The very first one:

“What does ‘Sulfite Free’ mean?

“To put this on a wine label the BATF must approve the art and wording and requires a copy of an analysis from a certified laboratory showing ‘none detectable’ at the parts per million level”

Also, it looks like the ATF cracks down on those who don’t label wine that contains sulfites.

So, amazingly, these two products seem to fall among the few that make valid sustainability claims.

*D’Souza, A. (2011) Rising food prices and declining food security: Evidence from Afghanistan. Amber Waves 9: 26–33

**Dahl, R. (2010) Greenwashing: Do you know what you’re buying? Environmental Health Perspectives 6: A247–A252

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Filed under Sustainability

Eat Local First all week

July's Tomato Haul

Photo by Flickr user statelyenglishmanor.

Right now, D.C. is celebrating Eat Local First Week, organized by the independent business booster Think Local First. On Monday, I grazed and gazed at the kickoff party with locally-sourced restaurant offerings and flash talks by heroes of the D.C. foodshed (including author Forrest Pritchard and community garden organizer Josh Singer), not to mention the eleganti of the District’s entrepreneur scene. The most summery and close-sourced dish was tomatoes three ways from Cedar. Featuring vegetables and microgreens plucked from the restaurant’s own rooftop floating in smoked gel (not as pretentious as it sounds, really!), Cedar served up D.C. heat and love all in a tiny pastry shell. Tonight, women forging new paths with local food initiatives will have their chance to compete for the Femivore award.

The rest of the week is packed with events for foodies, farmers and brew hounds. My favorite? Farm-to-Table Restaurant Week. I’m taking votes on where I should make my reservations.

On Saturday, July 27, the whole thing culminates in the Farm-to-Street Party at Union Market in Northeast D.C. I’ll be there representing the DC State Fair. If you’re local and love local, I’ll see you there.

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Filed under DC, Events

How I survived eating in for an entire month

A sign at a D.C. Metro station tells me what to do. By Rhea.

A sign at a D.C. Metro station tells me what to do. By Rhea.

…that’s the title of my final post in a series at The Jew and the Carrot. It sounds dramatic, but to be honest I wasn’t crawling to the finish line. Yes, it surprised me, too! This post includes a few locavore-friendly micro recipes, a look at sustainable food campaigns and apps, and a whole bunch of gratitude.

Check out “How I survived eating in for an entire month” for the whole story.

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Filed under Jewish community

Full plates and holiday helpings

People in the Gallaudet Marketplace

Food Day activities overlap with lunchtime at the Marketplace cafeteria at Gallaudet. Photo by Rhea.

The nine students in my class “D.C. Farmers Markets: Apples and Access” took part in a packed Food Day celebration on the Gallaudet University campus in late October. I neglected to post about Food Day, unfortunately, thanks to the election hullabaloo. Quick recap: Barack Obama won with a final count of 332 electoral votes. (Mitt Romney won, too). The House and Senate retained their majorities.

Though I am not sure of the number of Hope Springs Farm cheese cubes or tiny cups of Kauffman’s cider we distributed on October 24, I do know that the fundraiser we launched that day will bring in $674 through online giving, checks, and a doubling pledge by Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz. The funds will support the Holiday Helpings program at Bread for the City, a service center serving D.C. residents. It is an organization that I might have a tiny professional crush on. Continue reading

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Filed under DC, History

Kids and community

Dinner plateOne of my current projects is organizing the DC State Fair. Work toward the September 22 event sometimes feels like a mad dash to network with as many local businesses and organizations as possible, including Kid Power DC.

This week, in the midst of preparations, I had a chance to sit, listen, and warm my heart, thanks to an invitation to the Kid Power Harvest Dinner. In a recent post on the DC State Fair website, I write about the creative and tasty event. Check out “Kid Power brings delights big and small.”

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Recent publication: Small grains getting big

Grain field

A field of grain as seen by small grain farmer Reed Hamilton of Grass Valley Grains.

Could whole wheat flour soon nestle beside bunches of kale in your CSA box? Possibly! My recent article for Grist.org looks at where we stand with producing wheat, oats, and other carb essentials in a local, sustainable way.

Read the piece, “Small-scale grains: Another piece of the locavore puzzle.

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