Monday, May 7, 2012

Food Preservation at People's

(from the People's Co-op Newsletter)

Food preservation is perhaps one of the most gratifying ways to nourish your relationship to
your environment as well as to entertain your senses. It is wonderful in its simplicity. By using a simpleunderstanding of pH, bacterial interplay and flavor profiles, one becomes an alchemist and a playfuladvocate of seasonal sustainability. I love the meditative process of sectioning pounds and pounds of citrus fruits in the winter to make delectable and colorful marmalades, and the sense of community thatcomes from furiously peeling and canning cases of heirloom tomatoes with friends. It is a joy to findthose dried beans and apples I forgot about from late summer's harvest, and using them to create ameal that is more special because of the effort, now months past, I put into the ingredients. Preserving foods means combining simple ingredients, and using simple tools and methods to extend the life of seasonal foods. This can give your home medicine cabinet and pantry new purpose and flavor. It mayseem like a lot of work up front, but a lifestyle that includes some regular attention to preserving foods throughout the year adds value, richness, new experiences, community and self-empowerment to one's life.

The impetus to learn and experiment in these techniques requires creativity, courage and an
adventurous spirit. The real art of preservation comes through developing a deeper relationship to with
your health, how you are sustaining your person, and how you engage your palate and interact with this incredible regional food system that we share. I understand that for a lot of folks, there is a lot of fear wrapped up in making food preservation a priority in one's life, and it is not unfounded – for all that effort, occasionally batches go wrong. Sometimes it ends up being a happy accident, and other times it’s a real disappointment. In my opinion, the fear of food preservation is an unnecessary fear of the unknown. With a little practice, simple instruction and a desire to work with Mother Nature, it is
possible to work safely while preserving. The important thing to know is how to identify a bad batch, as well as what to do when it does happen. This way, you can forgive yourself and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. The learning curve here is not steep, but it does require a constantly evolving awareness of what’s happening in your kitchen. You can learn to preserve foods deliciously and healthfully.

So this year, make a commitment to turn your kitchen space into a delicious laboratory of
ferments, canned items, dehydrated fruit leathers, homemade sodas, vinegars and snacks. You will be
doing yourself a favor later in the year as you save time and money working with what you have at
home. You will have the added advantage of never having to use boring, flavorless, overly salted and
processed store bought ingredients again! Eating seasonally is always the most cost effective way to
source your foods as they are always the ones perpetually in abundance and uniquely rich in nutrition.
By doing so, you are participating in the most ancient form of food thrift known to humankind! Seek out the answers you are looking for in a good teacher and dare to enter yourself into the delicious
community of food preservation.

For more information check out: Wild Fermentation or The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz or Sloe Gin and Beeswax by Jane Newdick (serious classic!)

Upcoming Classes: Check out the Calendar

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Insulin Resistance meets Human Resistance

The other night I went to see Susan Bass, one of my favorite Ayuvedic Consultants, speak about Ayurveda in the the winter time and how we break the cycle of could I resist?! I am always so eager to see Susan as she has an incredible ability to break down complicated nutritional concepts and make them accesible mostly due to her personal journey with health (great story). Ayurveda is known for meeting people where they are and through this lens, I've learned more physiology then I had ever imagined possible.

Susan's talk, not surprisingly, became quickly focused on insulin resistance, which more and more is the buzz word for pre-condition-just-about-everything. This means, low and behold, sugar really is "a universal mechanism for chronic disease" and the holidays are a terribly self sacrificial time of year that we spend the rest of it recovering from. Did you know it is the one nutrient we really do not need in any amount to survive? Compound this with a lifetime of seemingly "moderate," but regular, indulgence patterns and you've got a recipe for chronic illness, auto immune disorders, obesity and a genetic load no future generation should ever have to bear. The trouble is that change is hard for everyone, I get it, especially lifestyle changes. I understand, really, I do, I am extremely resistant to change.I think most of us are, still, we find that fulcrum where we we are able to accept and then embrace what's good for us because it's necessary. What aggravated me, during the course of Susan's talk, was how many folks are sitting in this room....on a friday night...listening to a nutrition lecture (don't judge us)...and my jaw dropped at how many of them were actually looking not for further information but for permission to ignore her advice thus far and continue in their lives unchanged. Really, there is no justification?! Allow me to paraphrase, "well, you don't really expect me to do all of that, right? I can just do a few of those things and if I'm already doing THIS then I don't have to do THAT, right? (even if what's being asked directly competes with what's been taught)."

(breathe now, okay.)

 Let's remember that CHANGE is the most dependable and inevitable factor of our lives! Those of you seeking nutrition have to know that anything worth doing usually requires some effort, besides the fact that health is a journey, we are constantly evolving and so are our health needs. A real change may even require some temporary discomfort, but the reward of health and better quality of life should be worth the trouble, especially when the alternative is a direct path to extreme difficulty, expense and for some, an early death. I know this may seem extreme, but aren't cancer, diabetes, MS and even chronic pain extreme enough for you? I started to think that perhaps the real trouble is that we've forgotten how good it feels to be free of discomfort? Perhaps what we've really lost is a healthy positive and supportive experience of our health? Can I dare you to dream that one exists enough to even try to seek it out? I think that's my real job here at SFT and Susan's too. I don't want to preach, rather, I want to offer you a brief glimpse of what this kind of freedom feels like, so you can find the fortitude to follow through on making it your reality. (you are welcome, BTW, ha!)

Let me explain how insulin resistance a nutshell...

You eat non-fiber carbs or sugar, which it breaks down into glucose FAST, and your blood sugar sky rockets. Because the body recognizes excess glucose in the blood stream as an emergency situation/toxin and it wants to balance the blood sugar asap. The brain calls on insulin, an emergency regulator hormone, to come in an force the cells to absorb the excess glucose and bring the blood sugar back down to normal, the trouble is that this is not insulin's only regular job. Still, it dutifully accepts, for now, and everyone takes a breather and goes on as usual until you do it again. Insulin is not the bad guy here. In fact, insulin, in small amounts, is a great thing, because it allows your cells to be permeable to the nutrition they need. It moves nutrition such as magnesium inside the cell, it also builds muscle and stores protein. What it doesn't want to do is get called on too much to force the body to deal with an excess amount of glucose in the blood stream in the first place: Sugar (which also competes with your Vitamin C receptors...just something else to think on). In larger amounts, and with consistent exposure, insulin causes cellular degeneration, can acellerate the aging process, and is toxic at high levels. So getting back to the point...once it's forced into the cells, then the body burns the sugar for fuel/energy, because in Mother Nature's infinite wisdom, she decided this was the best way to move it out of the body the fastest...blood sugar crash --> stresses the adrenals --> all systems stop to deal with the emergency --> digestion stops --> cannot absorb necessary nutrition. Now this presents another obstacle, because the body really needs to burn fat for fuel. So if the body isn't burning fat, then it's storing fat and burning sugar instead (*cough, cough* what a great space for fat soluble toxins to hang out, eh? but we'll talk about metal toxicity another time). What you also need to understand is that insulin interacts with EVERY hormone in the body, which means that if insulin has to rally to the call, then everyone has to rally...enter Metabolic Syndrome...from here, just imagine that you continue this cycle of forcing insulin to answer the blood sugar balancing call all day long, day after day... Eventually, it stops listening and the cells are so damaged they can't take anymore. At this point you are insulin resistant and pre-diabetic. The pancreas becomes exhausted and may lose its ability to produce insulin, to process sugar, and the body to detoxify itself. That's why they call it a vicious cycle. And it starts so innocently. This isn't to scare you out of eating, it's to show you how every decision you make can effect every other decision you make and my hope is that one of them is to start taking your health seriously. You can sacrifice sugar, but please don't sacrifice yourself for it!

Susan offered some simple tips for winter eating and breaking the cycle:
  • try to limit your sugar intake to 25g/day (if at apple averages about 13g FYI)
  • winter bodies crave warm, oily, sweet, sour and salty foods
  • fat slows the digestion of sugar so pair them to avoid a blood sugar spike: think of ghee, sesame oil, sunflower oil (mono unsaturated fat like olive oil), eggs and avocado
  • reduce your dairy intake
  • eat sour foods to stimulate digestion (anything fermented is a good place to start)
  • if you are craving salt -- eat more mineral rich foods (like liver, kale, seaweed)
  • cook your vegetables & soak your nuts
  • reduce your bean intake (except for mung beans, but be sure to soak and/or sprout them first)
  • enjoy animal proteins, nourish yourself, include the skins (if possible)
  • don't forget your probiotics
  • try not to drink fruit juice first thing in the morning, eat some protein instead and stoke your metabolic fire
  • think chelating/anti-inflammatory foods like chlorella, cilantro and celery (maybe juicing?)
for more information on Susan's practice and upcoming classes check out

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

- from "Tassajara Cooking" by Edward Espe Brown

Cooking is not a mystery
the more heart we put out
the more heart we put in.
To bring cooking alive
we give our life. Giving
our life willingly we don't
get put out.
Washing cutting cooking cleaning,
exploring ways to give life to our life.
Not knowing already how and
what to do,
practice feeling it
out of what is not known
through the warmth and anxiety,
not sticking to a particualr way,
insisting it is the only way
even though it is quite good;
open to feeling the various possibilities,
the tentative ways of giving life to our life.
To feel out our left hand, our back, our toes,
to feel out our breathing, our movements, our stance,
this is our freedom, this is our wisdom.
The mystery is that it is
possible to do
what we don't know how to do.

Focus on the Foods: Bone Broth : August 2011

Although the creation of a health supportive grocery has always been the goal of the kitchen, there exists a bit of a whirlwind of options the kitchen must negotiate. Originally, the idea was to create as many ways to access this food as there are ways to learn the world around you: through classes, feasts, events, personal cheffing, volunteer opportunities, the store, the CSK club boxes and other outreach. I realize in all of this the focus turned away from the foods themselves and rested on the accessibility modalities. I’ve created systems and community (love this one), experiences of one another, vehicles for offering a positive experience of food and one another as well as giving folks back the ability to customize their experience of traditional foods BUT I have neglected the foods themselves.

Now that the community exists, the paradigm is supportive, I feel compelled to step back just a bit to honor yet again the foundational piece of Salt, Fire & Time: The foods!!! I want to educate you on the value, the why and how of what makes these valuable, delicious and powerful healing components of any diet. I want to help you develop your relationship not only to one another but to the foods that brought us all together — these foods create community and have since the beginning of society.  This is paramount to taking the initiative to engage one another — if you don’t crave this one, then the whole house of of SFT falls apart and the funny thing is that it’s an easy one to do. The foods romance you all on their own, but please allow me to introduce you to Bone Broth, Cultured Vegetables and Fermented Sodas…
Bone Broth: the ultimate peasant food panacea is the most foundational part of my pantry. Auguste Escoffier said, “Indeed, stock is everything in cooking..without it nothing can be done.” He is so romantically correct. Stocks and broths are the beginning of building flavor in any food tradition. They begin the process of digestion too. Bone Broths are the process of taking what’s left after the meats have been removed and slowly drawing out the minerals, amino and marrow into solution to create a gelatinous multipurpose portion of your pantry artillery. Like all things good, it takes time but no real expertise, unless, like me, you wrestle with patience. One of my students suggested that we start a “forget about it” cookbook, since so many of the processes require you to leave them to the work without much intervention. Bone broth is one of them. Taking your collection of miscellaneous and mixed bone parts, acidulating some water, bring the whole mess to about 180 degrees F and then leaving it to gurgle for at least 8 but sometimes as much as 72 hours! Truly, you have to just train yourself to Forget-About- It for a bit. The result is pregnant with marrow, life essence, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace elements as well as gelatin/collagen and amino acids like arginine and glycine. Though not a complete protein, it is enough of one to support someone struggling to recover for whom the true act of mastication is a challenge — For the rest it aids digestion by drawing digestive enzymes to cooked food in the gut, tones the intestinal tract, helps to prevent and mitigate infectious diseases and soothes the nervous system. It is a folk remedy for just about anything and in our present day palate vernacular, one of the most mysteriously satisfying foods — especially for transitioning vegetarians! ha! I can work it into just about any part of my day and often do as a snack, breakfast, a quick pick me up or a gentle warm cup before bed.  This begins to create a foundation for health regardless the condition or necessary nutritional support. Bone Broth is both protocol and preventative for things like cancer recovery, diabetes, weight loss, autism recovery, heart disease, inferitlity, pregnancy support, chrone’s disease and colitis, among others…but most importantly for general wellbeing and optimum health.

Of course, not all bones are created equal…it is imperative that the bones your source come from pastured animal farms. It is also important that your water is clean and your vinegar is clear (like a cider, wine or rice vinegar), beyond that you can choose your own adventure and follow what your palate prefers. Here are some quick notes to guide you…
  • Fish Bones (particularly the heads) are a great source of iodine and a folk remedy for thyroid issues (weight gain, heart disease, inability to concentrate and depression) and verility. I like to include the spines and tails too. A bit of white wine and a few aromatic herbs make this a true perfume!
  • Lamb Bones – the neck and rib bones make the best gelatin and have great flavor
  • Chicken Bones (the traditional remedy for asthma, colds and flu) are the most user friendly. I prefer to use backs, necks, heads and feet as well as the leftover carcasses form dinner.
  • Pork Bones — often overlooked, these make a very mild and sweet broth, great for getting kids into broth be sure to include the skins!
  • Beef Bones are my favorite. Be sure to include joints, tails and split the long bones if you can.

A Basic Recipe:

1 pound mixed bones/quart of purified water
a splash of raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 handful of aromatic herbs
1 onion, split — include the skin
1 carrot broken in half

Place all the ingredients in a heavy stock pot and allow to sit at room temperature 1 hour to begin the process of drawing minerals out of the bones. Bring the contents to a low boil, check your temperature for about 180 degrees F and allow to gently simmer, bubbles just coming under the surface, for at least 8 hours. Trust me the lower the temperature for a longer amount of time, the better your broth will be. When you are ready, strain out the bones and vegetal material, and package your broth in whatever containers you choose. It freezes well. Some folks like to store it in ice cube trays for easy access. You can also use a pressure canner to store it in your pantry a room temp (saves fridge and freezer space). If your gelatin set isn’t what you were hoping for, not to fear, consider just adding in a pastured gelatin like Bernard Jenson’s Beef Gelatin (available through Radiant Life Catalog) to get the desired effect.
This will become the basis for your soups, stews, braises, sauces, gravy, use it to cook your beans and grains in or any other creative space you can think of!
For more information click here to check out the Townshend Letter on Bone Broth (by Dr. Allison Siebecker)

What is a CSK? : January 2011

This is long overdue. Folks ask me all the time what does Community Supported Kitchen mean?  I know that for the sake of marketing purposes I am supposed to get that down to a few sentences that would encompass the whole biz and that ain’t easy. It’s not a soup kitchen, it’s not an incubator kitchen, and it’s not even really a shared kitchen. It is community supported by virtue of being driven by community labor to serve community need by selling products and information to a local community of eaters! In truth, Community Supported Businesses are on the rise, because of the demand to seek greater support from the community, during a difficult economy, to share the burden of business development. Even in business there are seasons of growth: feast or famine! The one thing we have in common, as community supported businesses, is asking for the community to participate in the life cycle of a business itself as was demonstrated in the initial Community Supported Agriculture model, introduced in 1986! But Community Kitchens go back even farther to the aspirations of Eleanor Roosevelt whose crusade for low cost cooking, that included fresh and nutritious ingredients in simple preparations, goes back as far as the Great Depression.

 The commitment to participate is just one small formality of the process. A CSK becomes a living animal that integrates tradition, local economies, community and learning. It is futuristic in this way because the model seeks to include not only its customers but everyone in an effort to create a reflection of healthy communities. This process means that it becomes a space for folks to meet their fellow community members around a common hearth and as such destroy this very American illusion that independence is sustainable. In community, we create our right to healthcare, our right to free speech, as a matter of mutual respect rather than law, and in doing so honor the generations that came before us as well as those that are yet to come. We honor our place in a grand system of interrelated wisdom and relationships as members of humanity and this is only a tiny window into seeing how that walks, talks breathes and feels.

 This kitchen, for me, is certainly a business. It is what allows me a livelihood and I honestly believe it is integral to the integrity of the kitchen that it be so. To create a model that would help create professional identities for me and employees and volunteers and customers and farmers is important to a sense of purpose and responsibility to one another as we work to create seasonal menus and continued success on a multitude of levels.

 So it’s not easy to explain…the main focus of the business is selling memberships to the CSK Club, which is a weekly box of prepared foods. Those foods are sourced locally from farmers with faces and families. These menus are intended to reflect our regional food heritage as well as the seasons. By working in collaboration with Mother Nature we ready ourselves to endure the challenges that come with living in this part of the country.

 But then there’s more…there exists a traditional wisdom in any cultural style of eating that is important to healing our bodies and creating balance within and without. It is a system of restoration via proper food preparation techniques that continues to prove its value and heal even those illnesses that have developed with the industrialization of our country and  the stress of our modern lives (i.e.: mental illness, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, autism, digestive disorders, etc.). In this way, it is a ritualistic wisdom that reflects the tides of change we experience in our life cycles — respectively and in community. It would be ridiculous to believe that we could supersede that kind of ancestral wisdom in a few generations of experimental civilization. Much of the fatalism of our industrialized food culture survives on the mythology that there is no connection between what we eat and our health. These weekly boxes of food honor that older wisdom, represented in the menus as a variety of cultural food traditions and vary weekly. Though the kind of menu is set – there is always room to customize your experience of the boxes with additions/substitutions from the pantry. It is meant to help the process of eating at home to be something nourishing and shared – get all kinds of families back to the table. We have given up our experiences of food and made them something distant rather than something necessary daily and done in community. We have taken away our ability to feed and heal ourselves in simple ways and these boxes are a tiny step in bringing that into the modern world. They are not exclusive menus and are meant to be added to with fresh ingredients, setting the stage for your own menu planning and creative food experiments — but in such a way that you’re guaranteed nutrition. The more folks participate, the more this is able to expand in variety and cost accessibility.

 Outside of this comes the volunteering, the classes, the community meals and events – other places for people to come together, to teach and share information – not only with one another as consumers, but also the cottage artisans, the farmers, the food advocates, the teachers, the doctors and other members of our food economy that offer hopeful and sustainable solutions to the health and environmental crises we face. We are not the community of island universes that we have become. We are so much stronger, patient and healthy in collaboration and the more ways we participate in experiences as a community the more we foster proof of a changing world.

I am grateful for the opportunity to develop such a business. I am thrilled every day to go to work as I engage and offer what I can to the local food movement. As my knowledge grows, so does that of every person that comes into my kitchen in some form or another. Thank you for your help in making this possible, available and accessible.

Endangered Foods: February 2010

I am feeling completely reinvigorated around the idea of endangered foods ie: food traditions and preparations that time forgets to pay attention to in lieu of industrial food choices and most dangerously —TIME constraints. It really breaks my heart to think that we cannot, as a culture, take the time to not only feed ourselves but to feed our food heritage. This concept being something akin to pouring a shot of whiskey on the grave of a loved one or leaving an extra plate at the table for an unexpected visitor, we are bound to pay our respects to the places and people that developed a culture around feeding the generations of people to follow. I want to remember now. And my little toast this month goes out to the native people of this “Salmon Nation.”

Once upon a time… the tribal nations of this area organized seasons of people and celebrations around the salmon returning, spawning, then being available to hunt, for preservation of nutrition, the land and the coming months. They respected the fact that safe and responsible fish harvesting ensured future generations of salmon to be available. The people ate with respect for future generations of people and with the intention that they were responsible for nourishing them. The salmon nutritionally were great sources of protein, good fats, Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin D3 and Astaxanthin, a powerful carotene-type antioxidant 100s of times more powerful than Vitamin E.

Despite being over-fished, irresponsibly harvested, struggling pollution concerns that threaten native populations of not only these fish but these people, the salmon are still a sacred food and all the more a precious resource… Specifically for those who live in this region of the country — native foods feed all of us local people and help us seasonally to survive the elements and allow our health to flourish. In the last 40 years, a lot of hard work has been done to restore habitats and protect salmon populations, the result is that they are beginning to thrive again.

This month — a potted salmon is on the menu and is is an adaptation of a traditional native recipe, using pastured butter and hazelnut oil to cream the king salmon meat. I hope that as you enjoy it you can feel a wee bit closer our landscape and people-scape knowing that it was sustainably caught, traditionally prepared and shared locally.