Locavore Shmokavore

Being in the big city has its benefits. For one, you get a much more accurate feel for the zeitgeist than you do in places like, say, Boulder. There seems to be a collective disdain for stagnation in NYC, a sort of mass attention deficit issue, and when things change (which is constantly) you see the markers of that shift show up on billboards, buses, film crews, people’s bodies in the form of clothes and tattoos, hear it blaring out of headphones on the subway, smell it wafting from the carts of street vendors, and taste it at the constant barage of trendy new restaurants and, now, the farmer’s market. Which has exploded so much in this town that at eight am, the main farmers’ market on Union Square is so crowded that attempting to push a stroller through the masses feels like an act of child abuse. 

Living in Boulder, which has been saturated with health-culture for decades, I’m a little bit embarrassed to say that I wasn’t aware of how much other places around the country were exploding with consciousness around issues of healthy, sustainable eating and the politics of food transport. Three years ago, going the the Union Square Greenmarket was not an experience akin to taking a stroll through Times Square.

I couldn’t be more thrilled. Not only is eating local food a good starting point for collectively becoming less dependent on fossil fuel, but it creates healthy bodies. And healthy bodies are much more capable of creating positive change in this world than tired, weak, disease-ridden ones. Eating local foods means than you are inevitably eating more seasonally harmonious fare than you would be if you got all your food from Whole Foods. And being in harmony with the seasons has everything to do with healthy digestion and a strong immune system. You know how there’s not very much produce at the farmer’s market during the cold winter months (provided your market stays open throughout winter)? Well, that’s actually a hint that we should be eating less-no fresh produce! Eating sugar and potassium-rich fruits and veggies in the winter weakens the digestive tract, stops the body’s production of vitamin D, and greatly decreases our calcium absorption. Not to mention it makes us cold! So, feast on the plenty of summer while you can! 

But let me tell you what has me concerned about this “locavore” trend: actually, it’s the trend part of the equation. This was brought to my attention recently when, in conversation, someone told me that eating Organic was “so out,” had been replaced with Local. “People are tired of organic,” I was told, “it’s been on people’s tongues for so long that now we don’t care about it. We’ve moved on to something else.” I was confused. Why can’t we have both? Trendy or not, I still don’t want pesticides in my food. And the fact that it was locally grown doesn’t cancel out all those harmful chemicals. 

The task at hand is not one of building trends around the healthy, sustainable options and poo-pooing big agribusiness and farm policy. Because really, trends come and go. It is their nature. In the late sixties we had hippies and some of them actually thought for themselves and decided that all was not well with the world, but many—the majority, I suspect—were in it for the acid and the clothes and were simply riding the spirit of that time. You can tell because the change in this country instituted by the sixties and seventies is largely cosmetic. Aesthetic. Not completely, but largely. 

The task at hand has to do with educating our kids to think for themselves. In a case of extreme capitalism, such as we have, it is crucial that we follow our hearts and then vote with our forks and our dollars from that place of knowing what is right for us. Not because someone else, a trend or an advertising firm, says its so. If we don’t exercise the independent-thinking muscle, even the good things—local, organic, fair trade, sustainable, etc.—will be corrupted and taken advantage of. 

And, by the way, I have to chuckle at the term “locavore;” another sign of the trend-factor here. Eating locally is not like being a vegetarian: it’s a social responsibility and something we all must work towards. I don’t mean this in a preachy way, I just mean that if we are to continue living on this planet—if we are to be graced with this miraculous possibility—we must do certain things and eating locally is one of them. 

That said, eating locally has it’s challenges. I have to admit I am spoiled from supermarket shopping and need a guide to tell me when certain things are in season. Did you know that apricots grow in the early summer? Bon appetit!

Moroccan Snickerdoodles

This is a cookie that will satisfy your craving for both sweet and spicy. It came about the day after I received a baggy of Ras el hanout from my dear friend Merete, who recently came back from Morocco. It came in a pretty parcel with a lemonwood spoon and Florentine stationary, and the best thing about it is that there is no one recipe for this spice blend. Each shop has their own, which strikes me as so beautifully old world and opens up a whole new realm of nostalgia for me. She tells me that my special blend contains, among other things: turmeric, cumin, saffron, cinnamon, and salt. But because I don’t know the ratios (or have the first clue about what else might be in this mix), I would suggest going to a North African market or making your own from a myriad recipes online. I personally like not knowing exactly what is in my spice mix though. Makes it feel more like alchemy. 

Anyhow, I first used it in a braised chicken dish and liked the results. But I was itching to bake a sweet bread with this stuff; I just had a feeling it would be phenomenal. As it happens that day there was a book by MFK Fisher floating around and I grabbed it and managed to steal a few minutes to read an article about pain d’epices, or French gingerbread. Perhaps needless to say to those of you who have read her, I was officially inspired. 

The result, however, is probably not something MFK Fisher would consider palatable. It is subtle and rustic, baked without the addition of sugar, dairy, or gluten (if you really want to avoid gluten you can buy gluten-free oats which are processed in facilities that do not process other grains). A perfect cookie to give to your one-year-old without worrying about a sugar high (and consequent sugar low), to have with a cup of yogurt in the morning or a cup of tea as an afternoon snack. They are very low in sweetness, which is how I like them, but I can think of a few people who would hold a grudge that I dared to call this baked good a cookie. Anyway, I loved them and they kept Nina busy for about ten minutes, which is a long time to have to yourself in mamaland. here is the recipe.

Moroccan Snickerdoodles (makes 1 dozen if you eat the dough while mixing)

2 cups spelt flour 

1 cup rolled oats 

A pinch of sea salt

1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut

1/2 cup melted coconut oil

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup water

generous tablespoon (or more depending on how spicy you want them) Ras el hanout. (Actually I suggest you experiment yourself and just use this as a loose guideline since all blends will differ, etc.)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine the flour, oats, salt, and coconut in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil. Rub the mixture between your hands until the oil is incorporated. In a small bowl, combine the syrup, water, and spices and add to the flour mixture, blending well. Form the dough into a ball and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. 

Shape cookies according to your preference (I made them about 1 1/2″ wide and kind of round) and bake about 15 minutes (a bit more for larger cookies, bit less for smaller) in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F. 


One

Two delectable birthday cakes, a lake, Tolstoian Russia in Grammercy NY, grandmas, and even a great-grandma. Happy one, Nina-Noel ❤

a beam of light and a breath of love

The words for this post are stuck in my throat and my heart and I’m not sure they will come out. Still, I feel I have to try. 

The little house is thick with suffering and sadness. Our little grey cat has been badly hurt. Yesterday at dusk she pushed at the screen in the window, it gave, and she was thrown over the edge falling six stories. We found her at the back door of the building, in shock, covered in blood, and dragging her front leg. 

My little xue. She was one in a litter of twelve. A grey-blue ball the size of my fist when i got her. She was the most playful kitten I have even known and has been with me through thick and thin. We’ve shared a tiny studio apartment, two live-in boyfriends, and finally, she saw me through my pregnancy and the birth of Nin. That was really hard for her. When Nin came, we began to treat Xue like a child that’s old enough to move out on their own but sticks around anyway: we kept feeding her and always kept her place in the house, but she received very little in the way of tenderness beyond a few quick pets here and there. How it hurts me to think of it now, but that’s the way it was. Still, she came home after her long walks in Niwot and tried to steal a cuddle whenever she could. 

She lies on a soft bed and we take turns laying with her. She is different, her face looks different. Intense, mature, though she’s only four years old. She will never be the same. But if she pulls through this, she will be a war hero, and I will love her for all her changes. 

Before this day I never realized what it means to take responsibility for the care of an animal. When all is well, you can pretend they are like you, just another member of your family. I always focused on the things that bound us as a family rather than our differences, and what she might need because of her more primal nature.

I come to her now, and surrender to her air of peaceful intensity, her ultimate presence in the now. I think, “this is what healing feels like.” But I also think, “this is what death feels like.” It feels like it can go either way now, and because we took her out of the hospital—not having the thousands of dollars they would change for surgeries, iv’s, oxygen, overnight care—we are now just caring and observing and praying. In my gut I feel this is better for her than being hooked up to a dozen machines, cut open and rearranged, completely disconnected from her reality with pain meds. We subject people to this kind of treatment and call it medicine. But I would not do this to xue, who knows how to heal herself better than a vet who was taught little about animals and much about using medical technology. 

There is the question of setting the bone back in place: it is a complete fracture and the two ends of bone are not even close to touching each other. If we leave her to heal this way, she will likely drag it forever. We have asked three vets to replace the bones as they should be and give her a cast, but they say they do not know how to do this. Only how to cut her open and implant a plate that will fuse the bone together. When did vet school stop teaching how to palpate a problem and put it back in place without internal invasion? Do doctors who treat humans still know how to set a dislocated shoulder, or only to operate on it?

What we need is a witch. An animal communicating, bone re-setting, wise, calm, compassionate witch. I tried to google one in nyc to no avail. It makes me very sad to think we traded the real doctors, those who know how to let nature do its thing, for cocky, overworked techs who know little about the integrative function of a body, much less respect its intelligence. I think we can do more for xue here, where she is tended to, loved and prayed for. I hope we can. 

We are mortal. Think on that for a moment, even if you think about it all the time. There is change in the air, big global change, that has been brewing for quite some time. This planet, the universe, the forces greater than us, can spit us out at any moment. What do we do in the face of that? I work really hard to not be paralyzed by this question. 

Please send a ray of light and a breath of love to this girl. This war hero, little grey ball. 

Thanks.

Play-Grow-Grounds

Roots living in NYC. I chose this as my theme, but what does it mean? Upon conception (of this weblog), I had in mind something very bland and boring, really. Heartfelt, perhaps helpful posts about how to eat healthy, breathe healthy, move healthy and find ways to relate to the earth when all the earth around you has been poured over by concrete. Reflections upon farmers I connect with at the greenmarket. There will be these things, probably, but I have gotten a significant reality check in these past weeks: the “roots living” kind of satisfaction that is available here, for those who seek it, comes largely from the relationships you create with the people you meet every day. This is fertile ground for transformation no matter where you are, but really, being in nYc adds its own very unique element to the equation. There are constant language barriers, differences of style/opinion/ethnicity/background/lifestyle that in each interaction I find myself having to decide: will I let our interaction be limited by a shared perception of differences? 

And here is a little mothering tidbit that fits nicely: being a mom here has completely transformed the quality of my interactions in this town. Because if nothing else, being a mom in new york means one thing for sure: you spend a lot of time at the playground. The playground must qualify as its own little ecosystem, a bubble in which people that would never otherwise afford each other a sideways glance in the street are joined by the tender fact of parenthood. Nina makes immediate friends endlessly, and very few of them or their parents speak a word of English. We find ourselves communicating through our efforts to amuse and make happy our little ones. We make funny faces, stick out our tongues, screech and coo, do all sorts of pretend-play gesticulations with our hands in the air, push each others’ kids on the swings, and watch our babies find their own fascination with one another. You know that feeling when you’re so moved you can actually feel your heart stretch? I get this every day on the playground. 

So, in the spirit of a belated mothers day (the first I actually got to spend as a mother!) I share that it is a good feeling indeed to look at your own prejudices in the eye, frankly. They will surprise you, if you are anything like me and even if you are nothing like me. 

On a nutritional note, I lament that it is dangerous to do any sort of serious detox while breast-feeding. However, this has not stopped me from adding veggie juice into my daily routine to get some of those toxins moving. I normally avoid juice of all kinds because of the sugar content. It seems more wholesome to eat a carrot than to juice four, throw away the fiber and drink the sugar. But even I, hater that I am, cannot ignore the cleansing properties of this refreshing, minerally potion. I always dilute in in half with water to avoid pancreatic overstimulation, and often dilute with five parts water and let Nina sip. Shortly we are both exalted. This combo:

                       dandelion greens, beets, carrot, cabbage, celery, ginger, lemon, apple

cured my jetlag in a matter of hours, and repeatedly transforms a bad mood on a dime. I am naturally moody and must be careful not to abuse this panacea. 

Okay, happy mother’s day. We are all born of a mama, and our daughters may be mamas (and ours sons papas) one day too!

The Gold at the End of the Rainbow was Two Heaping Bins of Compost

After her initiatory subway ride, Nina is officially a city kid. For now. It both amuses me and stabs me right in the heart to write this, which is why I need the “for now” part. A little something soothing on the wound. 

She seems to be doing well with all of the changes. Gliding along, open as a flute, letting life play through her whatever the song of the day might be. She is my anchor here, for I am very overwhelmed right now and feeling much sadness. It is nice to feel, and not run, know there is nowhere to run to. When I am in a good space overall, being true to myself etc., sadness is one of my favorite feelings to behold. It is rich and reminds me of where my heart is. And many beautiful thing come of it. 

One such beautiful thing goes like this: at the end of a really harrowing few hours at Union Square, having attempted to do a yoga class at the 14th street studio which aggravated me on many levels, pushed my way through a shoulder-to-shoulder packed depressing Whole Foods, shelves lined with “healthy” packaged processed food, for two lamb shanks and an avocado, I got to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Which was, two heaping bins of compost on the north side of Union Square park. You see, it is illegal to compost here in NYC, by which I mean it is illegal to use compost in your yard or garden or wherever. Luckily, there is the farmer’s market—or the green market as it’s more commonly called here. They collect the city-dwellers’ food scraps and use them on their farms. I had heard about this but was not sure whether it was fact or fiction. But I finally made it, tired and disenchanted, lugging two bursting freezer bags of food scraps, to the other side of the park, where I saw two mounds of shimmering apple skins, watermelon rinds, and wilted lillies infested with fat green gossamer flies. Happy were the flies and happy was I, in this little moment.

Let it Eat you; Let it Grow You


I get massive culture shock when I come here after a long time somewhere else. In Boulder we complain about the lack of diversity but I’ll admit, when I come here I am overwhelmed by the diversity. My folks now live in a neighborhood in Queens that is mostly Korean and hispanic, a little Indian, some Polish and Russian. It’s powerful to notice how used I have gotten to being around other white americans. And how much—as bad as it sounds—I have come to rely on it. The ability to communicate simply with strangers, not having to guess whether they speak the same language. Not ever really having to feel like an outsider. It is isolating. But it is good, healthy to feel like an outsider once in a while I think. It floods me with feeling like bringing new life into my blood. 

Another shock—but a more pleasant one—is the simplicity of life within this tiny one-bedroom railroad apartment. No washer/dryer, dishwasher, no shiny new appliances, and because it is so small the folks keep furnishings and other belongings to a minimum. Hand-washing cloth diapers has become my contemplative practice. Actually, I love this aspect of the move. The more time I have on my hands due to convenience-oriented time-saving appliances and practices, the more empty and meaningless activities begin to clutter my life. There is an unmatched quality of contentedness that I feel as I do things—like cook or clean—to care for myself, my family, and the environment we inhabit. It makes my mind quiet and this is really the only prize worth going after. 

So, a note about my intention for this blog: primarily this is a way for me to feel connected to my beautiful friends with whom I no longer share the same town. Oddly, telling you about my life and my thoughts makes me feel closer to you, even with no reciprocal sharing. But for structure’s sake, I intend to write mainly about my effort to stay connected to the great mother whilst living in the big city. Coming back here really did feel like going back to Babylon, and it is something I never planned to do in my life. But here’s to doing what we have to do, what we never planned, and, as my dear friend Rasa put it,

                                                                          let it eat you; let it grow you.