On eating local food

So, I sort of made a dumb deal with myself in which I would participate in NaBloPoMo to keep my writerly juices flowing (because the flood of freelance work and academic writing isn’t enough?!). Mostly I wanted to goose my blog writing because I have a bunch of ideas but haven’t taken the time to write any of them down here.

So, a day late (maybe I’ll extend this to Dec. 1 to compensate for missing yesterday), here we go. First order of business: I read this Opinionator blog by Mark Bittman yesterday and nodded to myself, all, “yep, totally. Agree 100%.” And then, this morning, he mentioned on Twitter that the conversation on the entry was being dominated by Big Food apologists and bratty Americans who didn’t want to give up their Chilean berries, so I decided to post this comment:

I buy local food as much as possible because I care about the environment, because I want to help support and foster local farms and farmers, because I want to know that my food has been handled safely and responsibly (and in the case of animals, grass-fed and raised and slaughtered humanely). I want to eat food that tastes like what it’s supposed to taste like and hasn’t been fiddled with in some laboratory somewhere along the way. I buy local food because I don’t want a penny of my money going to Monsanto. I buy local food because I don’t want to be part of the homogeneous Big Food/industrial agriculture system. I buy local food because the stakes of the Big Food companies are to make as much money as possible, while the stakes for local farmers involve their families, communities, and ecosystems. Want to occupy Wall Street? Buy local food.

Bittman is right to point out that the Farm Bill and its concomitant corn subsidies are among the roots of the problem with our food system today. Some may argue that people can’t afford to buy local food, which is true, but the corn subsidies have done so much damage to our food supply, our environment, and our health (and if you don’t think that Occupy Wall Street has anything to do with your $2 meal combo, you haven’t been paying attention) that we MUST take action. ConAgra actively lobbies to keep the corn subsidies in play because that’s what benefits its bottom line. Which is more important: taking care of our bodies, our ecosystems, and our communities by incorporating as much local food as we can into our diets, or perpetuating the stranglehold corporations have on every aspect of our lives while they make money off our increasingly fat asses?

Slow Food Quiz Bowl!!

image snagged from the Slow Food Austin website

Well, it’s official. On Sunday, August 14, I will be representing — along with Jodi, Megan, and Kathryn — the Austin Food Blogger Alliance at Slow Food Austin’s annual fundraiser. What is it, you ask? Why, a Quiz Bowl, of course!

I am a fan of the Slow Food movement because it is committed to preserving local food traditions and emphasizing the virtues and pleasures of conviviality and commensality. (Look for a related blog post soon!) There are so many practitioners of Slow Food in Austin — Bryce Gilmore, the folks at Dai Due, the Kocureks, to name just a few — heck, if you go to the farmers market to stock up on your week’s groceries, harvest veggies from your backyard for dinner, make it a point to go to a restaurant that sources its ingredients locally, or simply take the time to cook the family meal from scratch, making sure that everyone is fully present (rather than bolting down food with eyes glued to the TV), you’re a practitioner of Slow Food.

It is my opinion that now, more than ever (ugh, such a cliche! But apt.), we need to work hard to preserve our local food traditions and place a bold underscore under the importance of eating together. What better way to stand up to the Monsantoization of our food supply and the McDonaldsization of our food culture than to eat unsullied, lovingly prepared food in the presence of our loved ones?

If you’re interested in attending the Quiz Bowl, you can buy tickets on the Slow Food Austin site. There will also be a raffle of cool stuff, as well as a live auction of cuts of meat broken down right before your eyes.

If you’re interested in contributing to our team entry fee of $150, which will ultimately go to the charity of our choosing (because we are going to ROCK THIS OUT!!!!), you can donate here.

Please do come out and support this very worthy cause. At the very least, it’s a good excuse to drink cocktails on a Sunday afternoon.

Sesame baked tofu

My current dissertation chapter deals with veganism and the ways in which certain subcultures politicize it as a way to represent their particular “communities of meaning.” While I will never, ever give up cheese and ice cream, I do agree that meat consumption — especially that of beef — is unethical in terms of its environmental impact and its unsustainable use of resources. Which means that while I’ve been working on this chapter, I’ve been eating a lot more tofu and other vegan/vegetarian dishes. (I did the same thing when my dissertation dealt with disaporic Indians and their use of food/recipes in literature: I ate a lot of samosas, which probably correlates to my recent return to Weight Watchers!)

The deli at Wheatsville Co-op has this really delightful sesame baked tofu that it sells for $2.25 a slice. Since I adore it and one slice is roughly the price of a block of tofu itself, I decided to try it at home. The Wheatsville version is slightly nutty with a wee bit of heat, with a not-too-soft interior and a nice, golden exterior that yields nicely to the tooth. Let’s see how we go!

First, I made the marinade:

Then I took the drained, sliced tofu and drenched it good:

Then I placed the tofu in the container with the marinade and let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours. When I got back home, I preheated the oven to 400, put the tofu on a baking sheet and sprinkled it with white sesame seeds:

Ack! Do you see my fatal mistake? I should have put some sort of foil boat underneath and around the slices, or better yet, I should have put the tofu on a pie plate, because the excess oil from the marinade ran off the baking sheet, onto the bottom of the oven, started smoking and turned our house into a beeping, hazy, smelly pit. Boo!

Fortunately, Matt had the grill fired up to cook some steak and chicken, so I made a foil boat for the tofu and asked him to finish off the tofu outside. When he brought it in, it looked like this:

I ate a slice while it was still hot and it was quite tasty. However, it lacked the nuttiness of Wheatsville’s version and had an overbearing note of tamari. It had the nice exterior, but was a little soft on the inside, like an undercooked quiche custard. Next time I will dial back the tamari and maybe not soak it in the marinade for a few hours? I don’t know. I’m open to suggestions.

Sesame Baked Tofu

1 package extra-firm tofu, drained
3 T sesame oil
1 splodge (1 T?) stone ground mustard
2 T rice vinegar
2 T tamari (will definitely use less next time)
1 splodge (1 T?) honey (note: if you are vegan, you can substitute agave nectar here)
1/4 t chili powder (will probably dial this up next time)
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 fat garlic clove, minced
1 T white sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400. Mix marinade. Slice drained tofu and dress it with marinade. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through cooking.

Sarah Palin, like the rest of the Rethuglican Party, is a fucking hypocrite

I’ve been wanting to say something about Sarah Palin here, but I just can’t find the time or the words. In fact, I’ve been thinking about her and the whole debacle so much since last Friday, that I’m just sick to death of her already. So, instead of throwing yet another opinion out into the intertubes, I’ll just point you to a few places where people have already said the things I would say here, only they’ve said it far more eloquently and passionately than I have the energy for right now. (And if anyone has any suggestions on how I can cope with late-pregnancy-related insomnia and still get my fucking work done during the day, I’m all ears and saucer eyes.)

AP: Attacks, praise stretch truth at GOP convention.

My friend Pete, who for personal reasons has championed the cause for better insurance coverage of autism treatments: Thinking of the children.

Dooce, who usually annoys me but today completely speaks my mind: And … boom.

Jezebel: The Daily Show Calls Out Republicans’ Sudden Interest in Sexism.

Dissertating for fun and profit

So, I’m sat at a favorite coffee shop that has a really yummy bagel sandwich (hummus, fresh veggies, chips and salsa on the side) and a vegan carrot cake that I want to marry and I’m making a little progress on my current chapter. I feel this horrible pressure to whip it into shape now, since I submit these pages to my dissertation group on Monday; we’ll meet next Friday for them to shred it. I just don’t want to look like an idiot in front of my peers and my diss co-chair, ya know? Suddenly I’m reliving the days of seminar-paper crunches, when we had three 20+page papers due within a one-week timeframe. Eeek! Except I feel like the stakes are higher with the dissertation chapter, obv. And I’m not even going on the market this year!

I’ve obviously got to do some carrot-and-sticking here. L and I are planning to see a matinee of Baby Mama tomorrow afternoon. So, I’ve got to get 4-5 more pages out of myself between now and then in order to make that happen. Okay, maybe three. Yeah, three.

And now I’m going to say something really politically incorrect: West Virginia? Not so interested in what brown can do for you, eh? Way to bust stereotypes, folks.

There I go again

…shooting my mouth off and alienating people. I got up on my high horse about my U’s daycare center on my gradmoms mailing list, bitching about the lunches that they serve there (come on, fish nuggets, king ranch casserole, and tater tots?) and that the menu was a deal-breaker (we were considering sending Harry there once he ages out of his current daycare situation).

Yeah, I might have gotten a little self-righteous. I think I might have said something along the lines of “I simply refuse to make my child a dumping ground for excess commodity crops (in the form of processed food) in the interest of [daycare center’s] bottom line.” It’s true, and I would say it again, because people need to know what’s at stake in participating in the school lunch subsidy system — it truly does have global implications — but apparently, I might have alienated my peers who send their kids to that daycare. Whoops.

But maybe people shouldn’t just roll over and capitulate to a system that doesn’t work on the ground, even though it makes people and institutions money. I don’t think that sacrificing our children’s health in the interest of profits is a good idea in any context, and maybe if people opt out of the school lunch subsidy system, it will eventually elicit change.

And maybe pigs will fly and unicorns will drop rainbow-colored, rose-smelling poop in my backyard.

Yes we can?

I’ve been lukewarm on Obama and left with a tinny taste in my mouth with Hillary, and my loyalty to Edwards has now been rendered moot. Who will my candidate be? I watched this (via) and feel moved, weepy, and generally inspired, but dare I get my hopes up? I don’t know. Can we really begin a new chapter in American history? Given the Democratic party’s talent for “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” dare I pin my hopes on this candidate?

Sigh. I just don’t know.

In other news, I got my car washed and semi-detailed on Saturday. It’s silly how ridiculously proud I am of having a clean car, and how upset I got when I saw the mud splashes on the side of the car the next day.

The difference between reading and listening

… is profound. You may have noticed. I got out of my Spanish class about 45 minutes ago and I’m still wiped out from concentrating so hard to understand what the fnarsh the professor was saying. Reading Spanish? No problemo. It sits there, waiting to be understood, not going anywhere. Listening for comprehension in Spanish? Another creature altogether. The words fly out of la boca, into my brain pain, and out my ears with a little trickle of blood. I caught bits and pieces, and thank god she repeated some very pertinent information in English, because not only was she whizzing along en Espanol, but she was FACING THE DAMN CHALKBOARD! Woman! Do you have no concept of how much hearing loss I’ve sustained over the years? I cannot hear you when you turn your back to the desks and talk to the chalkboard! Talk to my face with your face!

I also think she’s from Spain. And no fair that some of my (much younger, thinner, more fluent) classmates spent the summer in Belize. It’s been a loooooooooong time since I was in this far over my head. Ayudame, dios!

In other news, that motard Rick Perry has finally done something right and commuted Kenneth Foster’s sentence (although I really don’t think that Foster deserves life in prison, either, but at least he gets to stay alive). I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, but the whole thing has made me so terribly sad that I couldn’t bear to sit with those feelings long enough to write about them. Suffice to say that I nearly wept tears of joy when I got the email. It ain’t justice by a long shot, but it’s a start.

I have to go to the gym and slog off some of the scallion pancake I had for lunch. Ugh. 4.5 more hours on campus to go.