Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Locally Grown Grass-Fed Beef and the Problem with Eating Meat. February 26, 2010

Filed under: Eating local,Fight Back Fridays — realfoodmama @ 1:40 pm
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This last winter we bought about 50 pounds of grass-fed beef to store in our freezer. It lasted us about 3 months and while we didn’t get a lot of variety, we did get some fabulous meals out of it.

It was such a success that we have decided we really want to buy more this year and as luck would have it, there is a local ranch doing a special in May. For $600 you can buy a cow, and then take it to the butcher for a pre-negotiated price. I am incredibly excited about this for a few reasons. First, I can request some very specific things from the butcher such as suet and organ meats. Secondly, it has given me the opportunity to meet a local butcher. This will come in incredibly handy in the event we ever want to process any of our livestock for meat. Lastly, I love the idea of meeting the animal beforehand. The whole point of the special this ranch is promoting is that you actually go there and pick out your steer. And this is where the whole thing fell apart when I was explaining it to my partner.

My son’s father is more tenderhearted than he cares to admit. He won’t hunt, he doesn’t like the idea of eating any male chickens we end up with, and he absolutely refuses to let us raise our male goats for meat. The idea of going to a ranch and coming face to face with his Rib Eye steak literally made him get up and leave the room. He just can’t help but personify his animals, and that makes it hard for him to eat them if he thinks about it.

Now I have a totally different take on the situation, of course. I think that coming face to face with your food really forces you to realize how important food is for life. I like the idea of coming to terms with the sacrifice, so to speak. I think that the biggest problem modern food production has is the unwillingness to look into the eyes of our food and recognize that the animal before us is giving its life to feed us. I personally am incredibly grateful to all the birds and cows I’ve eaten. However, I can understand that people don’t always see it that way.

However, I think it would be easier to support eating animals that have had a nice life rather than the de-humanized industrial existence that most of them get. The irony is my partner doesn’t like grass-fed beef. He prefers the grain fed variety in terms of flavor and texture. Whats a girl to do?

Well, this girl is going to leave the baby daddy at home, drive 100 miles to pick out a happy cow (no, not like the ones from California) and then quietly serve her partner a Rib Eye steak without pointing out how cute said steak once was, and leave it at that.

Life requires sacrifice, and that’s just the way it is. The only reason why people don’t cry over vegetables when we harvest them is because they don’t have faces. I bet if a rutabaga looked like a bunny rabbit, people would have a harder time rationalizing vegetarianism as a cruelty free way to eat. I personally think the ability to thank your animal in person for his or her flesh will make every meal taste better. However I appear to be alone on this one.

This post has been my contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday’s blog carnival.

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Kefir Success!…kind of… February 5, 2010

Filed under: Fight Back Fridays,Home Economics,Raw Goat Milk — realfoodmama @ 11:35 am
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I am pleased to announce that my kefir grains acclimated perfectly to my raw goats milk and I ended up with a beautiful cup-full of kefir yesterday afternoon. The sour smell was very mild, but I decided to stop the culture anyway, change the milk, and give it a try – I have an aversion to really sour flavors as a general rule. It was the sixth morning of letting the kefir sit in fresh milk overnight and everything seems to be working smoothly.

After straining it and transferring the grains to yet another cup of fresh milk (I want to keep a continuous supply going) I poured myself a little and gave it a try. The flavor was very mild, slightly sweet, and very delicious. The thing I find so interesting about kefir is that it is incredibly rich. I can really only drink about 1/8 of a cup before I feel full. I also made my boyfriend and my son try it. The results of their taste test was not quite as enthusiastic as mine:

My son’s response was “I don’t like it…I want to wash my mouth.” (He’s 2, btw.)

His father was more diplomatic and said something to the effect of “My body isn’t sure what this is.”

So this morning, I re-presented it. This time, however, I had added a small amount of organic cherry juice concentrate. This changed the color dramatically and while I didn’t notice a significant change in taste, apparently the boys did because my son gobbled it up and his father did the same. I am hoping that at some point I will be able to convince both of them to eat it un-altered, however for the time being I am willing to accept that they are getting what they need from it, cherry juice aside.

It was pretty exciting to see my little man drink the kefir. The same way I feel when he eats his clams or gets really excited about my sourdough bread. Hopefully when, and if, I get that liverwurst he will be equally excited about that!

The real goal of all of this, of course, is to make sure that he is given the best possible nutrition at an early age and to teach him enough about food so that when he grows up and starts making his own food choices he does so consciously and with a foundation of knowledge rather than just buying things because he saw an ad for them or because they are cheap. It is all about little steps.

Ironically, the real challenge is not my two year old, but his father. He is a southern boy who was raised on sweet tea, mountain dew, candy, and a variety of fried goods (I can bet they weren’t fried in home rendered lard!). In fact, it is a miracle that the only visible damage was to his teeth (which are wretched). He has none of the other health problems so often associated with that diet. As for my part in it, I suppose that working with 40+ years of food experience is much more of an uphill battle than working with my son, who really only has about 18 months of food experience! So while he is willing to let me render my lard, he still wants me to use it for cherry pies, and though he is willing to try kefir, I imagine that if I presented him with a plate of liver he’d burst into tears.

In either case, I think that the most important thing about changing your diet is being willing and able to go slowly, work in small steps, and allow yourself the benefit of the doubt. With that in mind, I’d rather my son drink kefir sweetened with fruit juice than none at all! And the same goes for his dad.

Happy Eating…and Drinking!

This post has been my contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday’s blog carnival.

 

Edible Institute, 2010! January 29, 2010

There is something inspiring about community.

This week Santa Fe was host to the inaugural Edible Institute – a gathering of food writers and activists from across the country who came together for discussions on a variety of issues. Topics included how to educate the public about SOLE food (Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical) without sounding preachy, specific ethical issues affecting food politics, and of course a panel discussion on the Southwestern Foodshed.

Perhaps the conversation most relevant to this blog was the panel discussion on the Southwestern Food Shed. The discussion was focused primarily on seed sovereignty and the work people have put into legislation here in the state that will protect farmer’s rights as concerns their ability to not only save their seeds, but also to be safe from biotech lawsuits in the event that GE crops cross-pollinate through no fault of the farmers.

I was fortunate enough to be able to ask a question of the panel about the GE chile mentioned in this post. Unfortunately I failed to get an answer as to whether or not the chile was in production, but I did get a long history of the chile. Apparently the research is being conduced at NMSU, located in Albuquerque, and began in 2005.

Additionally, it appears as though while originally New Mexico was breaking ground in seed sovereignty and farmer protection, this is no longer the case. A Seed Sovereignty Declaration was originally written here in New Mexico and has since been signed by not only all the major Native tribes, but also by International groups. Unfortunately the state that launched this movement is now watering down the original language thanks primarily to a million dollar donation by the biotech company in favor of continuing research on the GE chile.

Additional information on the Seed Sovereignty declaration as well as up to date information on the status of the legislation in question can be found here at the New Mexico Acequia Association web site. I highly recommend all readers in the state of New Mexico read the information contained on this site and, if inspired, contact your representative to express your concerns over GE crops, especially the chile.

And while this conversation was most relevant to me given its local flavor, the other thing of extreme interest to me was a discussion on the rights, or lack thereof, of farm workers. Particularly those workers who may be illegal immigrants and who are working for large commodity growers.

There is a lot of discussion about how disenfranchised small and medium farmers are in the current economic situation, but the rights of the workers are frequently overlooked. In fact, there have been 7 cases of farm worker mistreatment that have been successfully prosecuted under this country’s slavery laws! The most famous of which involved workers actually being chained to farm equipment.

The conversation was specifically focused on the Imokalee Tomato Workers and their struggle for rights. More information can be found on their web site here.

All in all, the experience was fabulous and I really enjoyed participating. These kinds of community events are so important – to share information, connect with others and generally feel as though the momentum of the SOLE movement is going strong.

This post has been my contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays blog carnival. Check it out for more Real Food info!

 

Genetically Engineered Chile? January 19, 2010

Filed under: Eating local,Fight Back Fridays,Food Activism,Politics — realfoodmama @ 6:39 pm
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GE or not GE?My local Co-op publishes a monthly news letter that is chock full of information on local food issues. Everything from information on state legislation to updates on the successes of local products.

This month, one of the more disturbing themes was about genetically engineered crops and the lawsuits brought against individual farmers by GE giant Monsanto.The most upsetting part of this article, however, was the disclosure that the NM state legislature has been funding the development of a genetically engineered chile since 2006. New Mexico is a huge chile producer (anyone who has seen Hatch green chile in their supermarket is buying from a town named Hatch in the southern part of the state – at least in theory), and apparently this research is being done on behalf on the NM Chile Association, web site here. Why is unclear and merits more research.

The really upsetting part of this is noted in the Co-op newsletter, that being that chiles are used so extensively in the state of NM as both food and decor that the potential for contamination is mind blowing. Chile seeds everywhere on ristras and plates all over the state…

Of course, the NM GE chile no doubt does not contain the roundup readiness of Monsanto’s famous grains, and an argument could be made that the act of creating hybrids is crucial to the evolution of agriculture – domestication of wild wheat, etc. However it still makes me nervous, and rightfully so.

In either case, it has certainly inclined me to do more research on the topic. I dislike the idea of a group such as Native Seeds SEARCH going to all the trouble of saving heirloom and historical varieties of chile just to have the state of NM undermine their own agricultural heritage by actively funding a GE crop.

This post has been my contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday‘s blog carnival.

 

Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle January 8, 2010

Filed under: Book Review,Fight Back Fridays — realfoodmama @ 12:12 pm
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Animal, Vegetable, MiracleIt has been a while since I have read a book that makes me laugh out loud, but this one by Barbara Kingsolver has caused me to laugh hysterically, alarming my family more than once.

The book is basically a memoir, retelling the tale of a year spent by Kingsolver and her family sustaining themselves with home grown food. It starts off with the whole family uprooting themselves from a Tucson home and moving east, to 40 acres in Appalachia. They then proceed to do all the work required to feed a family of four with their own bare hands, including raising poultry for slaughter.

Kingsolver relays these tales with a self-depricating sense of humor and a realism that makes not only the book imminently relatable, but also inspires a sense of confidence in the reader. It makes me think that I too could grow all my own vegetables and bake all of my own bread. Perhaps I felt this way while reading because I am already moving in that direction – owning dairy goats, learning to garden, planting fruit trees and contemplating buying my own chickens this spring, but I like to think that it has as much to do with the authors sense of ease and her willingness to share her own failures and successes.

The book also contains brief additions written by Kingsolver’s husband and eldest daughter which include information on legislation, food trends and recipes. Each chapter in the book contains one or more of these short essays and I feel the communal nature of the writing helps engage the reader and makes one feel included in the project set forth at the beginning of the book – a year of self-subsistence.

All in all I feel that this book is a fabulous introduction to the ideas and realities of eating local, sustainable food. A much better introduction to the lifestyle and the philosophy than something like “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Pollan, mostly because it presents the ideas of Slow Food in a day to day, down home manner, rather than as a terrifying look into the horrors of food production in the country. As Kingsolver’s own daughter relates in the book, people tend to dislike being preached to and when she tried to share her new found knowledge about industrial farms, people often resented being made to feel guilty about their food choices. For this reason alone I believe that “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is a great book to recommend to those people who may be curious about changing their food habits, but need a gentle introduction to the lifestyle and the benefits of SOLE food.

This post is my contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday blog carnival.

 

Slow Food USA Membership Drive extended! October 2, 2009

Filed under: Fight Back Fridays,Food Activism — realfoodmama @ 12:04 pm
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Slow Food USA has extended their “any amount” membership deal through the 15th of October! Additionally, Mr. Donald Sussman has agreed to match all donations dollar for dollar so whatever you give is doubled!

If you have any interest in local, sustainable, seasonal food, now is your chance to participate! More information on Slow Food USA can be found here: http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/slow_food/

Find more information about Real Food at Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday!

 

The Slow Money Dinner September 14, 2009

The menu

The menu

Apologies to those of you who might have been looking for this post earlier in the weekend. Without going into a whole lot of detail, my bad goat karma created a number of dilemma’s for me and I was simply overwhelmed dealing with that. In either case, I wanted to share the wonderful meal put together for the attendees using all local ingredients and highlighting several local specialties, including a sacred Native American bread whose cooking technique is in danger of being forgotten.

The menu included a starter of zucchini and summer squash in a delicious tomato chutney, a fabulous salad using local greens, goat cheese and pecan, a buffalo relleno with a tomato reduction and at the end, a toxicatingly sweet chocolate honey pinon tart. Each diner was gifted with a corn necklace hand made by Navajo elders and the iced tea served was Cota tea, a local plant that has a surprisingly mild, sweet flavor and makes a refreshing drink whether served hot or cold.

Sadly, there was one down point to this experience. The event was catered and none of the food was prepared on site, so each dish, with the exception of the salad, suffered as a result. The food was still phenomenal, however something was lost. Perhaps it was that nothing arrived piping hot, or that certain aspects of the meal where somewhat drier than they might have otherwise been. In either case the abundance, not to mention the creativity, more than made up for the effects of transport.

The bread was diverse; a blue cornbread, a chipotle flat bread, and a molasses pepita bread all blended to create quite an interesting flavor palate and each type of bread went best with a particular part of the meal. The cornbread with the zucchini, for example, and the molasses bread with the relleno. The most unique bread of all, however, was certainly the sacred corn bread mentioned a few paragraphs above – paper thin and made only with blue cornmeal, water and ash, it reminded me of rice paper in texture, although the flavor was nothing similar.

My most favorite course was the salad – containing roasted pecans, local greens, locally produced goat cheese similar in texture to feta, and fabulous yellow and orange cherry tomatoes. All these ingredients were paired nicely with a delicious vinaigrette. I could have eaten four times what I did and this is why I have no picture – it was gone before I remembered the camera!

All said, the meal was a fabulous conclusion to the Slow Money conference as it really allowed each attendee to sample the results of successful investment in local agriculture. I am grateful to be living in a place that supports this kind of economy and I am hopeful that the success of both the conference and the meal encourages all the people who came to Santa Fe for this event to return home and try to implement these ideals in whatever ways they can.

Until then, Happy Eating!

This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday blog carnival.

Bread plate

Bread plate

Sacred bread

Sacred bread

Zucchini Starter

Zucchini Starter

Bison Relleno with Tomato Reduction

Bison Relleno with Tomato Reduction