poisoned halloween candy?

I grew up long ago and far away, in a land where we sifted through our Halloween candy to cull the razor-blade apples and poisoned nibbles, identifiable by their opened wrappers.  My mom took the extra precaution of keeping Yuck Mouth at bay by making us give up all the “pure sugar” hard candy and soft, chewy, cavity-inducing candies.  We could keep the chocolate, because it had at least a tiny bit of nutritional value.

Now, it most likely doesn’t.  Most of the sugar has been replaced by high-fructose corn syrup.  But there’s even more frightening stuff in your Hershey’s minis: child slave labor. After being reprimanded with other chocolate companies years ago, Hershey’s decided not to take significant steps to change labor practices in Africa, where they source their chocolate.

So even though (because?) I’ve celebrated my freedom from the oppressive regime of my own childhood, where even the kittens needed to be taught to fake smile, I’m done with mass-market Halloween candy. No Hershey’s for me this year.  Because of the deprivation* of the Great Cull, I never thought I’d be the kind of person who gave out raisins or pencils or (quelle horreur!) UNICEF change, so I’m going to go for another candy alternative. I’m not sour enough to give out crummy toys or office supplies yet.  Yet.

We don’t get many kids, so I can spend a little more on fair trade chocolates.  Dagoba, an Oregon organic chocolatier, has spendy tasting squares [Dagoba is now owned by Hershey’s — thanks, Carol, for the comment and see more info here], and there are other fair trade options here and here.  Euphoria Chocolate Company, based here in Eugene, also has cute Halloween chocolates by the half-pound, but I don’t know anything about where they get their chocolate.

What are you giving away for treats?

* No, Mom, I’m just kidding.

happy paczki day 2010!

For the first time in 10 years, I had authentic paczki for paczki day!  Holy Donuts made a batch just for people like me, reasonable people who celebrate the day before Lent in Polish-American style.  Hooo yah!  I stopped by the shop twice (slightly accidentally) and watched all the good vibes flowing for their “Donuts 4 Donations” Haiti fundraiser, raising money for a local friend’s group that sent medics and midwives to help the relief effort.

Hope you celebrated your Fat Tuesday in a similarly pleasant way.  I don’t observe Lent, but I’m feeling that I might need to do penance for the rich, eggy, oozing raspberry jam fried doughs of deliciousness that sacrificed themselves to me today.  On the other hand, Karen, when will you be making more?

talking local

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I’m preparing my presentation for the upcoming annual Gardeners Mini-College on local food and locavore eating.  It’s rather luxurious to be doing this at the peak of vegetable season, where all one has to do is lazily reach an arm out your window and grab a handful of beans or a cabbage or something, slap a few sprigs of summer savory on top, and call it a meal.

But of course, I’m going to make it harder and talk about lean months in the Willamette Valley, February through April, when locavore eating means munching on a raincloud with some rain sauce and a mud chaser.

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If you can remember those dark days, and you try to eat local as much as possible, what did you do?  I’m happy to include the stories of others.

So as you write, I will be out in my neighborhood gleaning, living off the fat of the local land…

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Nummy neighbor figs!  Desert King.  You know you want ’em.

…and the winner of the great dry bean giveaway of 2009 is…

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Veronica!

Thanks for playing, everyone.  This was really fun, and I think I’ll do more giveaways in the future.  I’ll be in touch with the winner via email.  I also drew a runner-up, in case Veronica decides not to take the grand prize of two pounds of local Stalford Seed Farm legumes, but I have a feeling this won’t be an issue.  :)

The winning drawing entry suggested this idea for using pinto beans:

My mom cooked Mexican food when I was growing up, so she always had a pot of beans on. I cook beans the way she taught me. My favorite way to eat them is right out of the pot when they’ve just finished cooking. I spoon some of the beans in a bowl, add a generous amount of broth from the pot, then add chopped tomato, onion, a little chopped jalapeño, and a sprinkling of cheese on top. Simple yet so satisfying!

Yum!  I’d love to hear what else Veronica decides to make with the beans…perhaps a guest post?

to do: gardening and giving away beans

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I don’t know about you, but I’m going to get in a bit of gardening today before the rains return.  I’m on a strict schedule of only doing two gardening tasks a day, or else I’d spend all my time out there.  Yesterday, for example, I pruned my raspberries and grape vines. Today, it’s roses and ornamental quince.

So I’m just popping in to say…

Don’t forget to enter The Great Dried Bean Giveaway of 2009 — tomorrow is the drawing!  You can win two pounds of delicious, fresh Willamette Valley legumes from Stalford Seed Farm’s 2008 bean trials.

Take a look at the comments section for some great recipe ideas.  I’m really intrigued by the smashed chickpea salad, the Spanish stew (olla gitana), involving garbanzos, pork, pears (!), pimenton, picada and chard, and all the dishes made by grandmothers, mothers, and other loved ones.  Thanks for sharing those ideas, and good luck!

the great dry bean giveaway of 2009

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As the final (I think) leg in my bean adventure, I’d like to host my first food product giveaway here at Culinaria Eugenius.  I’m a little suspicious of companies that infiltrate blogs to market their products, but I do like the free food sharing idea.  Plus, I was generously given these beans to spread the word about relocalization efforts in the Willamette Valley, so why wouldn’t I share the love?

The Great Bean Giveaway of 2009:

a pound of Willamette Valley pinto beans and a pound of Willamette Valley garbanzo beans for you.

These dried beans will yield around 12 cups of cooked bean pleasure.

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These little lovelies were raised on a transitioning-to-organic field in Tangent, Oregon, by Stalford Seed Farms. They come fresh from the 2008 crop, and are cloaked in the dark, rich soil from which they were born.  (That is, they need to be sorted and washed).  They plump up and cook beautifully, yielding tender, sweet, creamy, tasty flesh in a fraction of the time it takes to cook their tough, chalky supermarket cousins.

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Stalford Seed Farms (along with the project’s visionary Harry MacCormack of Sunbow Farm) is taking part in the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project.  On their 9,000 acre farm in Linn County, they grow mostly grass seed, but have devoted some of their resources for the past three years to experimenting with food crops, staples such as beans and grains.  The 2009 Project report, from which I’ve taken all the figures below, notes that 130 acres have been converted to food crops on the farm (and I believe these are the ones that will be certified organic next year).  400 more acres are being converted, and 1,200 acres were planted with conventional soft white wheat in 2008.

Why is this important?

  • The Willamete Valley farm acreage (it is estimated) could provide food for all its residents in the valley, including the Portland metropolitan area;
  • Instead, this farm acreage is now about 60% grass seed production;
  • Food crops are only about 18%;
  • We once produced miles of produce and staples for commercial canneries and markets, and our soil is now being depleted with monoculture crops;
  • It is more costly to grow food, even with the benefits of crop rotation and diversity, and without visible and vocal demand for a relocalized food network in our area, farmers may be unwilling to make the shift.

dscf3659When I visited the farm a couple of weeks ago and spoke with Gian Mercurio, farmer, organic food promoter, and mother-in-law to the farm’s owner Harry Stalford, she shared with me some emails that gave glowing reports of the beans from local chefs and home cooks.  I am hoping to share my successes with her, as well.

So here’s the deal:

Please comment below if you’re interested in being considered for the bean giveaway drawing with your name, email address (won’t appear on comment field), and your favorite way to cook pinto or garbanzo beans.

I’ll write down your name on a slip of paper and do a random drawing a week from today (2/22/09), then contact the winner.  You don’t need to live in Eugene or even the Willamette Valley, but I can’t afford shipping costs overseas.  The beans will be shipped to you in the finest Ziploc-style bag money can buy.