Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Better food; where it started, where it's going

With so much going on in the world of food lately, I feel I can barely keep up!

There are gardens to tend, harvests to share, farmers markets to shop, books to read and causes to join--- all in the name of better, healthier, more sustainable foods.

Check it out:

The new book 40 Years at Chez Panisse by Alice Waters is featured on the WGBH (Boston's local PBS station) website. Check out the really interesting interview.

Next, have you heard about FoodCorps? This is exciting! This is the future. If you know young gardening/ farming types ages 18-30 who want to build a healthier tomorrow, you need to check out FoodCorps. You can read a great article in the NY Times as well.

I will have more exciting news from the world of food soon, so stay tuned!

Happy Eating

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fall Food Workshops. What do you want to learn?

I am gearing up to offer a few workshops in the fall. Typically, I invite people I know to my home, where I bring an expert to showcase a particular skill. My guests each pay a "tuition" fee which covers that experts' costs and time. I can also arrange these workshops so you can host them in your home.
Here's what I'm hoping to offer:
*Basic Bread Baking
*Canning, Freezing, Preserving
*Pressure Cooking
*Keen-What? Or Everything you wanted to know about cooking with Quinoa (keen-wah) and other fancy grains.

Tell me what you'd like to learn about food, cooking and living with food. If I can't present it, I am sure I can point you in the right direction.
Happy Eating!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Organic or Conventional?

Organic or conventional? If you aren't sure how to choose your produce, you should check out the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 list, courtesy of the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit group that uses "the power of public information to protect public health and the environment."

The list explains why we should take care to purchase certain produce (the Dirty Dozen) from certified organic growers because their conventionally grown counterparts are too unsafe due to pesticides or other contaminants. But it also lists the Clean 15, crops that are safe despite their conventional production. It's good to know what's what, especially when considering the cost of organic food.

Go to that link (above) and print out the list and post it on your fridge, like I just did. Next time you go to Whole Foods, you'll understand why there are so many choices, and you'll be ready to make the best choices for you and your family.
Happy and healthy eating!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Food Lessons and Confessions

First, a Food Lesson:
This Saturday, at the Attleboro Farmers Market, A Teachable Feast will be presenting a very simple and fun food demonstration by a friend and local chef, Peter Brown. Peter will be showing us how to grill pineapples and peaches to bring a whole new kind of flavor to summer meals.
I know grilling fruit is not exactly a new idea, but for some people, it really is. This demonstration will show us how to shop for pineapples and peaches—what do they look and feel like when they are ripe or over-ripe? Then we'll learn how to properly—and safely—cut them, especially pineapples. Grilling is likely the easiest part, but Peter will show us how to know when to take fruit off the grill, at the moment when the sweet caramelization happens, right before things go all mushy. That's where a little knowledge can make a big difference between happy eating and no eating at all.

That's the thing about food: if you know what you're doing with it, you can find endless joy and satisfaction. If you don't, you may well find frustration, hunger, and lots of extra garbage.

Which brings me to a Food Confession:
Last week, at the very first Attleboro Farmers Market, I challenged myself (and readers of this blog) to buy one item that was new to me. I ended up with a beautiful bunch of fennel—which ended up in the trash. How?! Well, I had a crazy week, the meal I planned that included the fennel was changed, then we had a few meals away from home so that, when I reached into the vegetable crisper in the fridge yesterday, I pulled out a droopy, un-yummy-looking piece of green vegetation formerly known as fennel. So, what did I learn from this? First, when you are buying a new-to-you fresh food, be sure to ask not only how to cook and serve it, but HOW TO STORE IT. I may have been able to get a week of life out of that fennel with proper storage. Of course, the whole point of buying fresh and local is to use what you buy immediately in order to get the most out of it. But I am a flawed human being (yes, I know that's not easy to read..) and I can't always run home from the market and whip up an amazing meal. There are kids to chase and a house to fix, and oh yes, there's that job.

In any case, no use in beating oneself up over droopy fennel. There are newer, fresher things in my immediate future. See you at the market!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

To market! To market! Taste the joy!

The Attleboro Farmers Market opens today, just up the road apiece from my house. I am thrilled to have the chance to shop local without even driving! I've told everyone I know and I hope folks will make the trip into the center of town, to the parking lot of the Attleboro Public Library, to support the many local farmers, artisans and craftspeople who have vendor booths there. You can get the full list at the AFM website. The list of vendors is expected to change weekly, so be sure you make the AFM the first stop on your Saturday errands from now until October.
The market's manager, Heather Porreca, has been an amazing whirlwind of positive energy around town all spring as she and a small crew of dedicated citizens worked to bring the new market to life. I look forward to working with them this summer, to help tell the story of the market and create opportunities for all kinds of learning about food and the local food economy.

You can start learning today at the AFM. Here's how:
When I go to any kind of farmers' market, I make a point of buying something I may not have tried before. I challenge each of you to do the same. Maybe you've never had Brussels Sprouts, or Dinosaur Kale, or even some of the fancier varieties of tomatoes now available. Buy a few. Ask the farmer how to cook it. Or go home and look it up. Try it. Do this every week. You may not love everything, but you will be surprised at how much you will like, and discover by season's end, that your menus at home and your palette have broadened in new ways. You may even feel proud when you mention the fabulous dinner you had last night, with the zebra tomatoes or the banana peppers. There's joy in these subtle changes. Taste it! And then come back to the market and do it again!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

All the news that's fresh and local

I have been absent from A Teachable Feast for almost a month, and I must beg your forgiveness (um, anyone still out there?). I had no idea the time had flown by! I've been so busy getting our school garden launched and planted and funded, that I've barely had time to even tend my own humble salsa garden in my backyard, nevermind compose mellifluous blog entries on food and learning.

But that doesn't mean I don't have lots to share! For starters, our garden is wonderful! We have six raised beds that are planted with tomatoes, onions, broccoli, peppers, squash, pumpkins, beans and even a few mystery plants. The children planted most of them, with help from teachers and parents, during what was a crazy end of the school year. Now our Willett Summer Garden Club has taken over, and several families will visit our garden over the course of the summer to weed, water and harvest, and to share their experiences and observations on a website so all of our children can participate in the learning during the summer. I am often there myself, making sure all is going smoothly, moving plants around and watering. It's been amazing, because every time I go, someone else stops by, to see how we're doing, or to help in some way. People are genuinely excited at the thought that children have planted this garden and children will benefit from it. We have big plans for the future, and I am optimistic that we'll succeed in all our efforts to make the teaching garden an integral piece of every child's experience at Willett School.

In related food news, our Attleboro Farmer's Market opens this Saturday, July 2! I couldn't be more excited about it. It's another opportunity to show children where their food comes from, while supporting local farms and crafts people. The buzz about the market has been electric around town, both among those of us who intend to shop there and among the farm vendors who will be selling there. I have a good feeling this market is going to take off. A Teachable Feast hopes to play a small role in the area of food knowledge. I may be contributing some short articles for the Market's website, and will work to plug in some food experts to share their knowledge at the market. Make sure you check out the market's site for details, a calendar and awesome links to other local food resources. Watch this space as well, since I'll be reporting about the market here as well.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Attention Sustainable Food Entrepreneurs!

To anyone interested in pursuing a small food-based business, this looks like a great learning opportunity: (passing this on from a posting I just received)

What You Need To Know When Looking For Investors: A primer for Slow Money businesses

When: Thursday June 23, 6pm – 9pm
Where: The Democracy Center, 45 Mount Auburn St. Cambridge, MA 02138
$25 – You can pay at the door, but please RSVP for this event:

The main event - a presentation by John Friedman beginning at 6:30pm:

Farmers and small food producers are increasingly savvy about marketing their own products and very often need investors to help move their business to the next level. John's experience in this niche is exceptional and he will introduce the basic concepts necessary when approaching potential funders. And, all class attendees will receive a free copy of the Slow Money Primer, authored by John Friedman

Come join us to learn more about garnering investment for your farm or food-related business. You’ll have time to network with friends and meet new people while enjoying snacks from Basil Tree Catering (a local, sustainable business).

John Friedman is an attorney specializing in corporate development for entrepreneurial and emerging businesses in the sustainable agriculture and technology industries. He counsels clients refining their business plans, creating financial models, raising outside capital, developing and maintaining distribution channels, and seeing to their other transactional, regulatory and litigation needs. He is a member of the American Agricultural Law Association, Slow Food, and the Slow Money Alliance, among many other organizational affiliations.