Tuesday, July 28, 2009

in the land of the fresh and the whole

Well. I know people still read my blog because several of you have asked or called to find out how things are going with (in the words of Tobias Funke) 'the great experiment'. They're going darn good man. Like i said last time, it wasn't a huge stretch, but the past month definitely required a lot more planning ahead in the food department. Also simple necessities, like paper towels, needed just a touch more planning because my sources aren't open late night like the chain folks are.

My persepctive on keeping it local to the point of depending on the people in your community didn't change necessarily, but it definitely became clearer. As you follow the link from one producer to the next, from one event or market organizer to the next you see this big connection, a community of like minds whose desire or need to serve their community is made possible by the community supporting them back.

I discovered a great mid-week market at Anselma (in between Exton and Phoenixville) and watched my friend's new baking operation grow in leaps and bounds. I'll point you towards her in just a bit. Fresh herbs from down the street inspired a future beer event (i hope), fresh produce, fruit, meats, and cheese inspired a great market dinner on the porch with my friends, a great cookbook inspired me to start rebuilding my pantry.

To my suprise the cookbook in mention is a big help to my baker friend too, so away we go...

Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson is a good read and a good cookbook at the same time. There is a huge breakdown of ingredient types, their traits, what to look for, what to avoid, etc. It's awesome. From simple to decadent foods, its all possible, but what I like most is the direction towarss some of the take away information that you can incorporate into your everyday cooking. The book is a great source of information, knowledge and help, which is exactly what i needed. Thanks to Chrissy Mart for an awesome bday gift.

Swanson also has a great blog/recipe journal. It's here.

The link comes to me from Janet. She runs the Wildflower Cafe and makes the best darned baked goods i've had in a long time. I am polishing off my last Cafe Mokka Cookie from last week's order as i type. She does everything from biscotti and granola to cookies and muffins to spice rubs and beer bread. It's way awesome. We were having a Heidi Swanson conversation last week and she told me she set up a blog from Wildflower Cafe...so check it out here why don't you? She takes orders via email weekly (get on her list for the weekly offerings) and sets up at the Anselma Farmer's market.

I said this thing would be a three post series and it will be. Next time i'll tie beer into this whole thing and if all works out properly have an event to tell you about.

OH. Before i go...I got my juicer! Juiceman Jr. is treating me really well. If you're a reader of fine local beer blogs than you'll be pleased to know that the object of my bromance got one the same weekend. It's awesome and for a guy like me who loves ginger but didn't have many practical ways of getting it inside of me beyond sushi and the crystalized jawns, i know have ginger root to finish my juicings. Apples, carrots, ginger. So so good. Read more!

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Declaration of Independents

a.k.a. Chainless.

So i think this will probably be a three part series thing. It should culminate with something that's been on my mind for a while, but i need to build on the idea a bit so here we are at the beginning. For the entire month of July i'm encouraging you out there to go chainless. Goodbye Acme, goodbye Giant, goodbye Whole Foods*. Go the whole month supporting only local independent retailers. I think a lot of us do our fair share to support the little guy, but i think a month away from chains will do us all good. It's something i've wanted to do for a while, but being on the road makes it tough to find the little guy when there's often a small window of time or an opportunity at the end of a very long road to grab a bite or some necessities.

(*i think Whole Foods is awesome, i think they hire great beer buyers who are allowed to make independent decisions and cater to their neighborhoods and i'm sure that carries over to their other departments as well. So while i am probably saying goodbye to Acme and Giant forever to Whole Foods Market i am just saying, 'See ya in August'.)

My hope through this all is to get a clearer understanding of a sustainable life dependent only upon my neighbors, local producers, and folks who made up their minds long ago to step away from the faceless production of our daily goods. There's two reasons i am choosing to make a change towards whom i spend my dollars with: for one i believe that we need to grow our communities and have a strong investment in where we choose to live. For two i believe in whole foods, i believe in foods that are produced with me and my health in mind. The shortcuts taken to simply sell processed foods are both wasteful and unhealthy and i want far, far fewer of them in my diet and in my life.

For me i don't see this being a challenge, i see it more like taking a step closer to a more responsible and thought out approach to my little slice of Earth. I don't have to look (or travel too far) to find plenty of folks to stock my kitchen and my pantry: the Spanish and Brazillian bodegas in Phoenixville have everything from herbs to queso fresco to fresh and dried meats, the farmer's market here is one of the best in the area: Charlestown and Jack's Farms have me more than covered for produce, Fork Farms and Backyard Bison have me covered for meat. Pat from Pottstown has me covered for soap and shampoo bars.

Then there's Kimberton Whole Foods. Not that Whole Foods, Kimberton is a neighborhood whole and natural foods grocery store, cafe, and apothocary. It's awesome. I've been going there since I was in like 10th grade or something. When i first started going the Kimberton location was the one and only, now with outposts in Douglassville and Downingtown KWF's reach to our nearby neighbors is stretching from county to county.

When i'd first gone, it was just for the cafe'...homemade soups, sandwiches, wraps. But as i got a little older, learned a little more, i started finding new gems in the grocery aisles and began putting pieces together on what seemed like a completely different way of life that i'd never known before.

Maybe that's a bit dramatic, i don't know, but to connect this to beer (this is a beer blog still, right?) what's different between all of this beer i drink that's made from honest, true, and WHOLE, ingredients and taking the same approach to the food i put inside of myself. I mean are a bottle of Bud and a Big Mac all that different when you look at where they come from, how they're produced, and who is selling them to me?

Again, i'm not making some cold turkey change from golden arches to golden acres, i said bye-bye to chain dining a while back, but it's time to take another step with this whole thing. On my last trip to New Holland i learned that $.70 from every dollar spent with a local independent retailer stays in the community, while that same $.70 leaves when spent with a large chain.

Now i'm making to exceptions or concessions here...i think i can do gas without hitting a Sunoco or Lukoil or Hess or Wawa, but my list of little gas-ups owned by ma and pa is quite small. So i am gonna try hard in that department, but if i am nearing E i may have to surrender my bucks. The second is a juicer. I want a juicer, bad. All of my suggestions on where to get one have gone against my plan. I am not done searching yet, but i want to juice some fruits and veggies ASAP, so if you've got a lead please drop me a line.

So why all of a sudden? Why am i so fired up?

Well, i'm home for a month. I can actually concentrate on this for a bit. It's been on my mind for a while and i've been trying to hard to help out the locals in each of these towns i land in, but like i said, sometimes options are few and far between. Also, it falls in line with some of my recent reading and learning, plus i think it's the right thing to do. Plus i watched The Future of Food in a few installments in my hotel rooms recently. You can watch it for free on Hulu and i think you should.

So that's it. If you want to join me i'd love to hear from you. If we have enough people hopping in we can get an email chain going with suggestions or a list of people's favorite places.

I'll be popping back in with part 2 soon enough. I'll be digging a bit deeper into what Whole Foods and Natural Foods actually are, some great books on the topic, the relation between craft beer and a lot of the true, whole, and slow foods movements in the country and in our area. Until then, enjoy some of these links:


links should all work now...thank you Bob! Read more!