on board the marmalade truck?

Spotted in an empty store window in Portland a couple of weekends ago.  For the record, I made my own marmalade once, by special request, with citrus I trucked up from the Bay Area.  (Keepin’ it local,  yo.)  And once was enough for me.  So save me a seat on the marmalade truck!

to keep my love alive

I spent the day making dark foods, surely the monstrous calling yoo-hoo from some creepy corner of my subconscious.  First: a jam emergency sent me to the freezer for the rest of the 2010 berries: Chester blackberries, blueberries, and some boysenberry-rose geranium coulis for good measure.  And thus was this year’s Black & Blue Willamette jam born.

Next, I turned to the squashes I had hacked into pieces yesterday.  If you’ve ever tussled with an Oregon Homestead Sweetmeat squash, you will understand the monumental work this entails.  I roasted some chunks, tried to shove some off on my neighbor (unsuccessfully), and sweated the rest for soup.

As the soup bubbled, bubbled, toil-and-troubled away on the stove, I turned my attention to a pot roast, which ended its life with a wonderful mahogany crust and dark, winey gravy punched up with lemon zest and sherry vinegar.  Since Retrogrouch still isn’t eating potatoes, I had to explain that there was poison in the roasted root melange (i.e. potatoes mingling among the non-poison turnips and rutabagas).  Caveat maritus!

creating a buzz: vanishing of the bees film/lecture 2/27

Hi!  I missed y’all.  It’s been a tough week here at Culinaria Eugenius headquarters, where the CEO/Director of Floor Scrubbing is kind of tapped out with all the conferencing and eventing and dinnering.  I’m taking the weekend to just stay at home and regroup.

On those personality tests that were so popular a few years ago, I always score right around 50/50 for introversion and extroversion, and I’ve been operating at about 110% extroversion lately, so that’s why you see me around town all lopsided and half-baked.  It’s been a transformative and stimulating month, but I missing my domestic quietude, not to mention the ever-growing pile of papers to grade and books to read and essays to write.

But for those of you who are hungry for more events — and you should be, because we’re riding a wave of excellent food lectures in Eugene — check out an film/lecture series TOMORROW – 2/27! featuring some involvement by fellow Eugene local food/garden bloggers, Squash Practice. It’s a daylong exploration of a very serious issue — the vanishing of the bees in North America, thanks to Colony Collapse Disorder.  In short: no bees = no pollination = no fruit = no seeds = no plants = death of planet.  There will be two showings of the film, two lectures, and a seed exchange, all held at Cozmic Pizza.  See more details by clicking the poster.

Gary and his wife Ellen are great proponents of sustainable agriculture, and thanks to Gary’s engineering background, they not only save seeds but experiment with cross-pollination and genetic engineering (in a non-evil GMO way!).  You can read more about Gary’s beekeeping practices in one of his many well-researched posts.

A real food recipe-style post is coming up soon, I promise.  I have a backlog of photos and experiences to share!

in medias res: food justice conference

We’re live!  Great keynote this morning.  Check out live tweets of the Food Justice conference by Suzi Steffen’s UO Journalism class by following this link.

The official Food Justice conference twitter feed can also be viewed here.

And don’t forget to listen to the interview with Darra Goldstein of Gastronomica magazine (either live 12-1 pm. today, Sunday 2/20, or in the postcast later) on KLCC’s Food for Thought!

food justice conference: a gently flowing stream

This just in from the Food Justice Conference folks.  The conference starts today and extends through Monday.  On the UO campus, fresh, wild, and free to all!

But if you can’t make it, check out the live streaming video of two keynote speeches or tapes that will be available after the conference:

The Food Justice: Community, Equity and Sustainability conference, sponsored by the Wayne Morse Center, is taking place this weekend. If you aren’t planning on attending, you can still participate by watching two of the events live online.

Frederick Kirschenmann’s opening address, titled “Food security in a changing world: Expanding the vision of sustainable agriculture,” begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Dr. Vandana Shiva’s closing address, titled “Food & seed sovereignty: Creating a people’s food system,” begins at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.

Both events will be available to watch via this link.  Note: nothing is there now, but the video feed will show up 10-15 minutes before each event begins.

Other Food Justice events will be either videotaped or audio recorded and will be available on the Food Justice conference website in the near future.

valentine memory with smoked salt

Happy Valentine’s Day.  Hope yours was fine and dandy, like sweet sugar candy.  Yes, I’m channeling my Great Uncle Edziu.  Be thankful I’m not taking you for a polka around the room and squeezing you so tight my hearing aid squeals against your ear.  Have a smoked salt caramel instead.

just us food justice: uo conference sneak peek, feb. 19-21, 2011

You’ve heard me, and undoubtedly others, discussing the unprecedented interdisciplinary Food Justice conference coming to the University of Oregon next weekend, February 19-21.  The conference is free and open to the public, and features talks from your favorite local and national food thinkers and doers; art; a theatrical reading; tours; and a food fair with educational booths from food organizations.

And best yet, it’s in your own backyard.  This conference has the potential to change minds and raise awareness about food systems and sustainability.  Don’t miss it!

On a personal note, I’m pleased that the new Master Food Preservers Alliance will be at the food fair with a tentative schedule of 2011 low-cost food preservation and safety classes.  Please stop by and say hello!  And while you’re at it, say hello to a volunteer at the fair, since it is likely to be one of my Honors College students.

I’m also thrilled to be involved in two sessions, one on “Cultivating Oregon’s Agriculture” (Session G) and another on “Urban Farms, Micro-Ranches & Greenhorns” (Session H), both on Monday.  I’m moderating the first and responding to speakers in the second.

But you want to know about the big ticket items, right?  Here they are, brought to you by conference convener UO Professor Allison Carruth.

Program Highlights

  • On Friday, February 18th, there will be a staged reading of a community-based play written by Professor Theresa J. May with members of the Karuk, Hupa and Yurok communities, who have been directly affected by fish kill on the Klamath River in Oregon. The play is called Salmon is Everything. The reading will take place in a beautiful building at the University, the Many Nations Longhouse.
  • The conference proper will begin on Saturday, February 19th with Frederick Kirschenmann‘s opening plenary address (scheduled from 4:00-6:00 that evening). Kirschenmann is a longtime farmer and farmer advocate in the United States, and he currently serves as a fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Iowa.
  • On Sunday, February 20th, there will be a full day of panel sessions on topics ranging from food empowerment in Latino communities in Oregon and California to “GMOs: Perspectives from Law & Literature.” The keynote event that day is a panel on emerging research in GMOs, genetics and sustainable agriculture, featuring Charles Benbrook, Ignacio Chapela, Stephen Jones and David Cleveland. Sunday will also mark the opening of FOOD: An Art Exhibition, which will take place in Lawrence Hall in the LaVerne Krause Gallery.
  • The final day of the conference is Monday, February 21st. The program that day begins with keynote sessions featuring Darra Goldstein, the founding editor of the journal Gastronomica, and a roundtable of six inspiring nonprofit leaders. These leaders come from Milwaukee, Portland, Eugene, Seattle and Boulder, Colorado. The afternoon will then turn to a slate of six exciting panel sessions.
  • Vandana Shiva‘s Closing Plenary is also on Monday.  All of the free tickets to Dr. Shiva’s plenary have been distributed. However, we will be simulcasting Dr. Shiva’s plenary to two overflow rooms. The seating in the overflow rooms will be on a first-come, first-served basis. The procedure for non-ticketholders is as follows: Line up on the first floor of the EMU as directed by event staff, beginning at 4:30 pm on Monday, February 21st. Event staff will direct non-ticketholders into the first overflow room (The EMU Fir Room). Once all seats are full in that first overflow room, the event staff will direct remaining non-ticketholders to the second overflow room (Lawrence Hall, Room 177), which is about a 3-minute walk.

support for oregon house bill 2336: the direct farm marketing bill

I received an urgent news update from Ayers Creek farmer Anthony Boutard, who will be one of the speakers at the Food Justice conference at University of Oregon on Feb 19-21.  He and his wife Carol grow some of the most amazing produce to come out of our state in Gaston, OR.  Like farmers in the Willamette Valley, the Boutards are concerned with improving our local foodshed.  The sale of dried beans and corn is a crucial part of their operations, and they also sell preserves made from their ethereal berries (like the blackcaps above and Chester blackberries smiling at Anthony below).

Here’s the problem.

No clear regulatory structure exists for the preserves and dried grains/legumes we buy at the farmer’s market.  Thus, regulations are subject to the interpretation of inspectors, who can decide that a particular dried food is not safe to sell, for example, or require licenses for certain foods.  Oregon House Bill 2336, The Direct Farm Marketing Bill, clarifies rules for the sale of these things in a safe and cost-effective manner, keeping the best interests of both the farmer and consumer in mind. 

Please consider writing your Oregon House Representative this weekend if you support this bill.  To quote Anthony: “All that is needed is a statement in support of HB 2336, and a nice word or two about farmers’ markets and buying directly from a farmer to underscore the bill’s purpose. If you can relay a positive story or experience, even better. Legislators like to hear they are doing something positive, especially this session when they being called upon to cut services.”

The bill will go to the House floor any day now, so time is critical.

Thanks, everyone.  This is a time and place where you can make a real difference.

To learn more, please read Anthony’s report on the bill:

HB 2336: The Direct Farm Marketing Bill

The “Direct Farm Marketing Bill” has passed out of committee February 7th and is going to the floor of the Oregon House of Representatives for critical vote. We need people to call their representatives and urge a ‘yes’ vote on HB 2336. The phone number and email for your representative can be found at: http://www.leg.state.or.us/house/ Here is why this bill is important.

Over the last two decades, agriculture in Oregon has seen a marked increase in venues for selling agricultural products directly to the consumer. Farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture (CSA), and buying clubs have increased without a clear place in the regulatory structure. Historically, roadside stands selling produce, eggs and honey have been treated as exempt from licensing, but these new venues stretch that definition. HB 2336 provides necessary statutory guidance on this issue with a balanced and sensible regulatory approach to direct marketing. The provisions of the bill are the result of a year’s worth of meetings between the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Oregon Farmers’ Market Association, farmers and legislators. This working group was chaired by Representative Matt Wingard.

The bill identifies foods that, from a food safety perspective, are regarded as either non-hazardous, or minimally hazardous, and that can be safely produced by the farmer and sold directly to the consumer without licenses or inspection. With the help of ODA staff, these definitions are tightly drawn. Foods that pose a greater hazard, such as sprouts, low-acid canned vegetables and fruits, and baked goods, are not included and must be processed in a licensed facility. The bill includes labeling requirements so the food can be traced to its source. It must be stressed that farmers’ market rules still prevail, regardless of licensing requirements. These organizations will still determine who can participate in the market, and what they can sell.

With its provisions regarding preserves and pickles, this bill provides room for innovation at a small-scale. New ideas invariably start at this level whether it is in someone’s kitchen or garage. Allowing farmers to try out new products at a small, manageable scale is an important step in fostering innovation. HB 2336 also includes a provision that allows the ODA to expand the list of foods that can be prepared at the farm, consistent with food safety. With the $20,000 annual limit on sales of these foods, the bill set up a clear threshold where the farmer must shift into a licensed facility. Finally, the ODA can withdraw the exemption in cases where the public health is deemed in jeopardy.

At the public hearing for HB 2336, the NW Food Processors and the Farm Bureau came out in opposition to the bill. Their testimony undermined the support of some members of the committee who were not part of the earlier process. Yesterday the work session, Representative Wingard and the staff from the Oregon Department of Agriculture did a great job clarifying what the bill does and doesn’t do. It was a long session for them, but they answered all the questions carefully and thoroughly. Their measured presentations eased the concerns of many members.

HB 2336 passed its first legislative hurdle yesterday evening when it passed out of the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources on a bipartisan 6 to 2 vote with a “do pass” recommendation. The ‘nay’ votes were also bipartisan, one D and one R, for what it is worth.

The bill now goes to the House floor. The lobbyists for the NW Food Processors and the Farm Bureau will likely try to stop this bill on the House floor. It is critical that citizens express their confidence in the farmers’ markets by calling or emailing their representative. The floor vote will be in a matter of days, so the contact needs to be made quickly. All that is needed is a statement in support of HB 2336, and a nice word or two about farmers’ markets and buying directly from a farmer to underscore the bill’s purpose. If you can relay a positive story or experience, even better. Legislators like to hear they are doing something positive, especially this session when they being called upon to cut services.

Once again, the contact information is at: http://www.leg.state.or.us/house/

Thank you,

Anthony and Carol Boutard

Ayers Creek Farm

Gaston, Oregon

mine! all mine!

We’ve read the glut of preservation blog posts about all the wonderful things an enterprising individual can put up to share with family and friends.  And yes, I’m pretty much on the sharing bandwagon.  I love the pleasure my food gifts bring to others, and knowing that it’s a continuing pleasure — that they open that jar of jam many mornings and feel the endorphin rush of deliciousness more than once — is honestly one of the greatest joys in my life.

But blah blah blah, summer of love is over, ya hippie.  This post is about the food I make that I DON’T share, the stuff that’s too good for others…or maybe too good for everyone except the one friend whom I deem might be able to sufficiently appreciate it. This is the selfish, food-hoarding side of the preservation movement, and I embrace that, too.

And it has a name in my house: brandied apricots.

These slightly tart, tangy, sugar and booze saturated little pillows of fiberous goo make even plain goat milk yogurt taste good.  On crepes, with similarly brandied cherries, they are divine.  When I eat them during the day, I feel naughty, as if I just slammed down a Manhattan in my kitchen at noon.  Just now, I was eating them, plotting to drive to eastern Washington as soon as the apricots hit the market, buying up a huge box and stuffing them in jars.  More jars!  More for me! Brandied apricots! All! Winter! Long!

I also, for the record, feel this way about my loganberry jam, my green tomato pickles, and my dill pickles.  So don’t even ask.

What do you make for yourself and hoard?

taste of summer

The tomato sauce I froze tastes so much better than the stuff I canned last summer.  Why?  Lemon juice, which is needed to keep the pH acidic enough to discourage microbes in the canned version, makes the canned sauce much more tart.  Plus, when you freeze sauce, you can add onions and garlic, and other vegetables or meat, with impunity.  Canned tomato sauce is very useful in stews and soups.  It’s a staple in my kitchen.  But I wanted that pure taste of summer.

I defrosted a container of frozen tomato sauce, thick and fragrant with onion and garlic.  After heating it up, I smoothed out the flavor with a little half-and-half, and tossed it with penne, black pepper, and some blanched arugula and tender spring oregano from my garden.  Summer!  It will come.