Urban Folks

January 26, 2009

Wendell Berry’s article “New Year’s Revolutions: What city people can do.” featured in Edible Brooklyn’s winter 2008 issue (which I just dug out of my stack of articles to read) sets up thought provoking questions for the urban eater and then challenges us to move into a more active role in the process of eating. Are we merely consumers blindly feeding on what the food industry serves us? As city folk, why should we care to know where are food comes from? Have we lost the sense of connectedness to community and land? Since we do live in an urban landscape, is it realistic for us to then make the connections between farm to table? 

My response to Berry’s article (which you can find at www.ediblebrooklyn.net if you missed the issue) would be first to explore the year round farmer’s markets found in your neighborhood. For starters, there are four Greenmarkets operating year round in Brooklyn: 

Greenpoint – McCarren Park – Open Saturdays 8-3

Fort Greene Park – Open Saturdays 8-5

Brooklyn Borough Hall – Open Tuesdays & Saturdays 8-6

Grand Army Plaza – Open Saturdays 8-4

Check out the official Greenmarket website to download their locations map and schedule which includes information on Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, and Staten island. I know that it is the dead of winter and dreadfully cold outside, but I challenge you to get out there and find out what’s at your local farmer’s market. You might be surprised, and you might even enjoy yourself.

Advertisements

Rural Projects

October 6, 2008

I am now obsessed with the idea of getting a few chickens. It all started when my friend Amelia introduced me to her friends Greg and Sarah. Amelia had invited me up to Ancram to a dinner party she was hosting with Greg and Sarah and their organization Rural Projects. I love Amelia’s cooking and decided I was up for an adventure.

 

Martine Kaczynski's sculpture, Route 11

Martine Kaczynski's sculpture, Route 11

 

The dinner was inspired by Martine Kaczynski’s site specific sculpture, Route 11 which was installed on the side of the road by the same name. I must have driven by that sculpture, an old replica of a gas station canopy, three times before realizing that it was the location for the cocktail hour. The road was dark save for the sparkle coming from the lights strung around the sculpture. I mean it was pretty obvious that this was the only place on Route 11 where anything was going on that night. 

After I found where the other cars were parked, I made my way over to the cocktail hour which was already in full swing. I found Amelia who was mingling and her boyfriend Anthony who was manning the bar and fixing drinks. On the drinks menu were two cocktails: the Columbia Cocktail with honeycrisp apple infused voda, rosemary syrup and soda and the Rural Rose (my choice) with pluot puree, Pernod, and champagne. I was relieved when I met Greg who told me I could stay at their neighbor’s house for the night – basically giving me permission to enjoy my Rural Rose and many glasses of wine to follow. Unfortunately, I had timed my trip badly and arrived too late to enjoy the green chile cheese tamales and the walnut roquefort cookies with pickled onion and apple. Maybe Amelia will give me the recipes and I can make them at home.

Greg and Sarah then announced that it was time for us to make our way over to their neighbor’s for a seated four course dinner. I stayed behind to take a few pictures of the gas canopy while Anthony loaded up the contents of the bar into his car. When we arrived for dinner, there were two tables set for about 20 people. I joined Amelia in the kitchen and helped serve the first course, a butternut squash and apple soup with a playful garnish of walnuts and bacon. I sat down at a table with Greg and Sarah, their neighbors (our hosts), and a few other couples. We all sat in silence for a short time while we enjoyed the soup and then exchanged smiles and nods over Amelia’s artful creation. 

The salad course allowed for more conversation. I learned more about my companions over a salad composed of spicy greens, fennel, purple basil and grated beets. I sat across from the town doctor who had moved up to the Catskills with her husband from Manhattan. The doctor’s hat reminded me of a chicken, and I should have asked her where she got it (or maybe she made it).

When the next course was served, talk turned to what made a farm a farm. I had offered up my experience at the Red Hook Community Farm and was basically told that my CSA work share experience was more akin to gardening than farming. I wasn’t too happy to hear that so I turned my attention to the chicken spiced with jus, smoky eggplant puree, crispy polenta and roasted tomato. While I took comfort in the fresh chicken, my dinner companion told me that perhaps he had been too quick too judge and apologized for what he said. I think he was speaking from his experience of having once had a garden on his roof in Manhattan and then making the move up to the Catskills where he had a farm. I think what makes a farm a farm is personal and it’s hard to put a label on something like that.

I then ducked into the kitchen to check on Amelia and her friends who were working on the dessert course. Amelia stood at the stove warming the sexy star anise whiskey sauce which she then poured over a deliciously yellow sweet corn ice cream.

As the evening wound down, I went outside with Amelia as she said her goodbyes to some of the guests. Relieved that I was staying put for the night and that Amelia only had to wander across the street to Greg and Sarah’s camper, we finished the last of the wine and reflected on a successful supper club in the perfect Columbia County setting.

The next morning I was awakened by hushed stirrings in the kitchen and decided I needed to jump in and help with the dishes. After catching up over coffee with our hosts, we went to Greg and Sarah’s which is where I saw the chickens. Tomato vines lined the fence and zucchini and squash were growing too. I just stood a while and studied the chickens. 

 

Greg and Sarah's chickens

Greg and Sarah's chickens

 

When I got home to Brooklyn, I asked Jonathan what he thought about us getting a couple of chickens for our backyard. He thought this was a good idea until he realized I was serious. Well, I am serious. It’s just that we don’t have any grass outside, just concrete. So, I think I’ll have to put my chicken aspirations off, at least for a little while.

More about Amelia & Rural Projects:

For more information on Amelia and what she’s up to, visit www.marinationwide.blogspot.com and www.sugarbuilt.com. For more on Rural Projects and Greg & Sarah’s endeavors, visit www.ruralprojects.org.

Tennessee Tendencies

September 9, 2008

 

Red Hook Community Farm

Red Hook Community Farm

 

As I mentioned in my last post, I was interested in embarking on a composting journey of sorts. Well, let me tell you, it has begun and composting at home is fun. Two weeks ago, I picked up a two and a half gallon composting bucket at the Red Hook Community farm. The suggested donation for a bucket of that size is a mere $4.00. They do offer a larger size bucket for a suggested donation of $7.00. Since it is just Jonathan and me, I thought the two and a half gallon bucket would suffice.

Transporting my bucket home that day on my bike required just a little bit of improvisation. I thought riding home with the bucket on the bike handle seemed like a likely enough solution, but then the lid fell off and I had to stop mid traffic and pick it up. Then, I decided to stop at the ball fields for lunch and thought it wise to lock up my composting bucket to my bike. Not sure why anyone would want to take such a thing, but then again, I didn’t want to lose that deposit!

my compost bucket

my compost bucket

 

Once home, I thought about the best possible location for the bucket. Turns out, right outside my back door is the most convenient spot. I just open my back door and there it is. I am lucky enough to have the benefit of an outdoor space in Brooklyn so I think it goes without saying that having an outdoor space to keep your compost bucket makes the most sense.

When I told my friends that I was composting at home, most of them replied first with a look of horror which was then followed by “Ooo, isn’t that going to smell.” Well, luckily it doesn’t really smell that bad and it really only smells when I open the lid. What was fun about composting for the first few weeks was figuring out what I could reserve for the bucket while cooking dinner and then feeling a certain amount of accomplishment when I threw in egg shells, corn husks, coffee grounds, and the discarded and unwanted greens.

Biking back to the farm proved more of a challenge. Balancing a full bucket on my bike handle was a somewhat terrifying experience, but luckily this time the lid stayed on the whole time. Once I arrived at the farm, I took my bucket to the composting area, and with a little help figured out what to. I added my bucket’s contents to the open tumbler and then added double the amount of sawdust, closed up the tumbler, and proceed to turn the tumbler a few times. I rinsed out my bucket and brought it home to start the process again. Composting is cause for pausing to think about what I am throwing in the trash and really taking a look at what can go back into the earth. While biking my compost to and fro might not be the best idea, so far so good, and I’m looking to returning to the farm this Saturday.

If you are interested in composting and live in or near Red Hook, Brooklyn, you can visit the Red Hook Community Farm to learn more. The farm is open for volunteers who want to help out on Saturdays. Just show up and I’m sure there will be weeding, composting, and not to mention shopping at the farmer’s market.

For more on home composting, why not check it out at www.grist.org and www.howtocompost.org.

A little something to inspire you to start composting is this quote of the week featured on thegreenhorns.wordpress.com:

“Composting is a lot like sex. It’s a healthy, natural process involving fertility, tumbling around, and– when it’s going right–steaminess. On top of that, some people call it dirty.”

– A to Green: Tips, tricks, and resources for everyday eco-living 

Brooklyn Farmer Farms

August 21, 2008

 

Red Hook Community Farm

Red Hook Community Farm

 

Okay, I hope to write more about this next weekend, but I did want to go ahead and write a little bit about my first day of working on the farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I just signed up for a work share which means if I work two hours every Saturday, then I get to take home a full share’s worth of vegetables, fruit, and eggs. A pretty rewarding amount of food for a few hours of work.

My day began at ten in the morning composting with Jeff and another volunteer. The other volunteer and I raked layers of compost materials, sawdust, and chicken manure in the compost pile. The smell was brutal and unrelenting and stuck with me for a full 24 hours. I think I was being hazed on my first day at the farm. I wasn’t ready to give up yet and even decided that the next Saturday I would bring home my own two and a half gallon compost bucket and give this composting thing a shot. I will just have to keep in mind to use food scraps like banana peels, orange rinds, egg shells, coffee grinds, and the like.

After composting (which I actually really enjoyed except for the smell), it was off to weeding with a few other volunteers. Once I got started pulling weeds on a row of collard greens and kale, it was tough to stop, and I stuck it out the whole way down the row. It felt good to be in the dirt and working hard on the farm. If I had been paying attention, I might have noticed my t-shirt not meeting my shorts in the middle of the very hot summer day. I was too busy chatting and weeding and thinking about picking up my CSA bounty at the end of my shift. 

 

At the end of the day, I took home my fabulous share of eggplant, beets, collard greens, corn, cherry tomatoes, basil, edamame, jalapenos, garlic, peaches, and apricots. (I also took home a nice strip of sunburn on my back which I didn’t notice until hours later when I was too tired to care.) I’ll get to take home eggs next week.

The Red Hook Farmer’s Market is open:

Thursdays at 6 Wolcott between Wolcott & Dwight) from 11am – 3pm

Saturdays at Columbia & Beard Street from 9am – 3pm

For more information, please visit Added Value’s website at www.added-value.org

Brooklyn Farmer loves Michael Pollan

August 10, 2008

 

The White House Organic Farm Bus

The White House Organic Farm Bus

When I left work Friday, I thought I would try to arrive at Michael Pollan’s lecture at P.S.1 ten minutes early, but when I got off of the 7 train and turned the corner on Jackson Avenue, I realized I had not planned for the mob of Michael Pollan groupies who had surrounded the museum. The line outside P.S.1 at 6:50pm wound round the block, the next block, and then the next block again. I’m not sure exactly where I was in the line but people just kept showing up.

While I was waiting in line, a guy jumped out into the street directing a school bus to pull in front of the museum. The website on the side of the bus read thewhofarm.org. I thought if I had been eating a Big Mac I would have had organic milk thrown on me. More on the magic bus later. After about 15 minutes or so of standing in line, a P.S.1 employee approached us (I was having serious doubts about even getting in at this point) and let us know that they were running out of space in the lecture hall. The line was still moving, so I decided to wait it out. When I got to the front, they really weren’t letting anyone else in. I said I would just pay the suggested $5.00 donation just to check out the situation.

I was then approached by Daniel from the White House Organic Farm project, thus the school bus and all the excitement out front. He let me know they were starting a petition for the next president to plant an organic farm on the front lawn of the White House. Visit www.thewhofarm.org for more information and to sign up for their mailing list.

I then made my way to the lecture hall and ended up with a spot standing in the back but I could still hear and see (the reflection of Michael Pollan in the mirrored ceiling) so that was something.

 

P.S.1 Lecture Hall

My view of P.S.1 Lecture Hall in the mirrored ceiling.

Michael Pollan started out by asking a question “What if we looked at it from the plant’s point of view?”. As human beings, I’m not sure if we are humble enough to put ourselves in this position, but I give Pollan credit for asking. He then described where his interest in investigating this topic stemmed from ten years ago. His thought process started while he was planting potatoes in his garden in Connecticut. If I had a little plot of land, I might have major epiphanies too.

What I thought about as Pollan continued to speak was – how could I not have learned about the relationship between plants and animals and their relationship to land in school? What seemed to me to be the most basic of premises on which farms are built had eluded me for most of my life. Now here I am living in Brooklyn wondering about farms and how I can get on one.

If I think about sustainable agriculture versus machine farming, as Pollan put it, I think the two sides of farming really speak for themselves. Pollan then asked, “Where is the animal’s point of view?”. Well, this is exactly why I started shopping at farmer’s markets – out of a desire to know where my food comes from. Pollan’s next question was, “How do we treat animals in confinement?”. I guess to really know the answer to his question I would have to visit a feedlot or a CAFO – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma Pollan devotes a whole chapter to feedlots. Pollan in his lecture discussed how if an animal is a machine, then a farm is a factory. Once he put it that way, I started to see how farming had perhaps become less about agriculture in the United States and more about capitalism. Except for the farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, who Pollan discusses in The Ominvore’s Dilemma, and countless other farmers. You can learn more about Salatin and Polyface at www.polyfacefarms.com. Pollan described Salatin’s farm as “an ecosystem, instead of a factory.”

 

 

P.S.1

P.S.1

 

 

As I left P.S.1 Friday night, I felt like I really needed to get closer to my food, to engage in more of a dialogue with it. I needed to get on a farm. When I woke up Saturday morning, Jonathan and I got on our bikes and rode to the Added Value farmer’s market in Red Hook. Tucked away at the very end of Columbia Street, sits Red Hook’s very own farm where I will hopefully be volunteering next Saturday from 9:00am until 3:00pm and getting closer to where my food comes from.

Do you know where your breakfast comes from?

August 5, 2008

Grazin' Angus Acres - Ghent, New York

A few Sundays ago, my husband Jonathan and I woke up late (not sure whose fault that was) and headed over to the Carroll Street farmers market. Our first stop was Bread Alone. They unfortunately did not have any granola that day but what they did have were flakey, buttery croissant. Jonathan picked out some beef breakfast sausage from Grazin’ Angus Acres – www.grazinangusacres.com. The steer raised at Grazin’ Angus Acres are 100% grass-fed. It is important to note that the cows are grass fed because cows have rumen (cows are also called ruminants) and are meant to eat grass. A ruminant is an animal that chews its cud and has a three or four chambered stomach. One of those chambers is called a rumen. I am learning all about why it’s natural for cows to enjoy a diet of grasses from Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and why it is unnatural for cows to live on a diet of corn.  You might want to think about this the next time you find yourself shopping for beef at the supermarket. Maybe you should pick up Michael Pollan’s book first.  

On our walk home, Jonathan and I stopped at Stinky Cheese on Smith Street for some four year Grafton Cheddar from Vermont. I just have to take a minute here to say that I happened to be carrying one of Dante Hesse’s Milk Thistle (Dante is also the Carroll Street farmers market) glass bottles, when the guy behind the counter at Stinky asked me if he could look at my milk bottle. I proudly handed it over for him to admire and he asked “Where did you get this?” “Down the street,” I replied “at the Carroll Street farmers market.” I then went on to explain that Dante’s chocolate milk was ever so popular. I kid you not but the Stinky guy said he was looking for a new chocolate milk vendor and I told him Dante was at the farmers market at that very minute. After I paid, the Stinky guy went to catch up with Dante, so I hope the next time I swing by Stinky I’ll find Dante’s chocolate milk there.

Once home from our exciting outing, we seared the beef breakfast sausage (the breakfast sausage from Grazin’ Angus comes in a natural lamb casing which almost looks like plastic wrap but doesn’t taste like it) and then cooked a few farm fresh eggs in the sausage grease. The sturdy croissant held the bright yellow eggs, a hefty serving of sausage, and a few slices of cheddar cheese. I ate my breakfast sandwich and I was happy.

I guess what I want to ask is “do you know where your breakfast comes from?” If you’re answer is McDonald’s, well then, let me be more specific – “Do you know what farm your breakfast comes from?” Shopping locally at farmers markets makes sense. Farmers markets offer up the most personal of exchanges, the opportunity to look the farmer in the eye and ask a few questions. What did this steer have for breakfast? Where do your chickens live? Can you even imagine doing this at McDonald’s? It would be an absolute hoot. I’m sure I would be directed to call someone in PR or something.

So, the next time you crave a sausage, egg, and cheese from McDonald’s, take a walk to your local farmer’s market and shop for your own breakfast sandwich ingredients culled from local farms. Enjoy a slow meal while you ruminate on where your breakfast comes from.

 

Visit Grazin’ Angus Acres at your local Greenmarket –

Wednesdays at Union Square (8:00am – 6:00pm)

Fridays at 97th & Columbus Avenue (8:00am – 2:00pm) and Union Square (8:00am – 6:00pm)

Sundays at Carroll Street between Smith & Court (8:00am – 4:00pm)

Carroll Gardens Farmers Market

July 19, 2008
  

 

 

Last Sunday, I visited the Carroll Gardens farmers market around one o’clock. The Carroll Gardens market is located on Carroll Street between Smith and Court Street. Since I missed Grand Army on Saturday, I decided to utilize my Sunday and do a bit of Greenmarket shopping. The fact that Carroll Street is a leisurely stroll from my apartment on Baltic Street doesn’t hurt either.

My first stop at the market was Hodgson Farmers where I picked up some lively Snap Dragons. They were just too pretty to resist. As I made my way down the block, I said hello to the farmer at Farm Tello Green and purchased one dozen large eggs. The farmer’s table was covered with a chicken print tablecloth. I admired the farmer’s hand-made sign, which included a few stickers of a chicken and eggs.

 

 

In case you wondered where eggs came from . . .

In case you wondered where eggs came from . . .

 

Next in line was Fresh Radish Farm offering among other tasty things green onions and bunches of carrots.

 

I love cheese

I love cheese

 

 

Maple syrup

Maple syrup

 

Just after Fresh Radish, I came to Consider Bardwell Farm. One of the cheesemongers was wearing a bright red t-shirt that said, “I Love Cheese.” Well, he and his friend were having a good time and handing out tempting samples of their Dorset and Pawlet cheeses. In case you were wondering, the t-shirt was purchased at a market in Soho. The samples were a hit so I picked up medium slices of both cheeses and a bottle of Maple Syrup. Consider Barwell Farm is located in West Pawlet, Vermont, so I am impressed to see them in Brooklyn.  Visit http://www.considerbardwellfarm.com to learn more about their goats.

Alex Farm’s tables were covered with beets, baby onions, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, blueberries, cherries and more.

 

Alex Farm

Alex Farm

 

 

The last stop of the day was Seatuck Fish Company – where I was greeted by a friendly fisherman who happily introduced me to that day’s catch (or what was left of it at such a late hour). The first to go were the live blue claw crabs because the fisherman informed me they would not have made it alive to see the afternoon in the sweltering heat. My tardiness caused me to miss out on the scallops, black fish, and steamers. I was in luck with the flounder, blue fish, sea bass, swordfish, tuna, squid (cleaned), clams, oysters, and mussels. I was somehow talked into the whole (but smallish) sea bass and went for half a dozen oysters as well. Okay, this is going to be fun, I thought. I am going to gut this thing myself. How hard could it be?

 

Seatuck Fish Company

Seatuck Fish Company

 

When it was time for me to cook dinner, I pulled out the sea bass and decided it was best to get my brother-in-law Sam on the phone. He basically then went on to describe the same process as the fisherman from the farmers market, “You just slice into it and then scoop out the guts.” We’re talking about two steps here – slicing into it and scooping out guts. I mustered all my courage and grabbed onto the fish jabbing my knife into him. Once I had made a bit of headway, I reached for a spoon, yes a spoon. I don’t know what chefs use, but it was the nearest utensil in reach so I went for it. The scooping went on for a while until I got too squeamish and asked for a little help from Jonathan who helped me finish the job.

The rest went really well from there. I cleaned it and made sure the inside was free of blood and guts and then stuffed it with sliced lemon and parsley and poured about ¼ of a cup of olive oil on top. Then, I wrapped it in some foil and put it in a 400 degree oven for half an hour. It was delicious and the only problem was that we could have used another one.

 

What I making for dinner

What I'm making for dinner

 

I’m going to Carroll Gardens tomorrow because I am in dire need of milk and need to put my newly purchased ice cream maker to good use.

Brooklyn Farmer

July 13, 2008

 

Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket

Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket

Welcome to Brooklyn Farmer. I started Brooklyn Farmer out of a desire to start a dialogue with farmers about where our food comes from. While Brooklyn might seem like an unlikely place to talk about farmers, the borough boasts ten farmers markets from Greenpoint’s McCarren Park all the way south to Sunset Park. Visit the Council on the Environment of NYC at www.cenyc.org for more details. 

As the summer months quickly approached, I realized July would be an opportune time to launch Brooklyn Farmer. All ten of the Greenmarkets in Brooklyn are now open.  Year round markets include Greenpoint – McCarren Park, Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn Borough Hall, and Grand Army Plaza. Windsor Terrace opened in May.  Carroll Gardens and Cortelyou opened in June. Williamsburg, Borough Park, and Sunset Park opened in July. 

So far, I have primarily been shopping at Grand Army Plaza (more on Brooklyn Borough Hall and Carroll Gardens later since they are closer to me in Cobble Hill). Grand Army Plaza is open year round, every Saturday from 8:00am – 4:00pm. Make sure to sign up for the e-mail list at www.grandarmyplaza.blogspot.com. Every Friday I get an enticing announcement in my gmail letting me know just what I’m going to find at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. The e-mail serves as a much needed reminder about why I’m getting up at 8:00am on a Saturday Morning. So far, there have been the occasional Saturdays when it just doesn’t happen. 

The premise for starting this blog is that I will bike to all ten farmers markets throughout the summer/fall months (maybe train during the winter months and then we’ll see about spring), introduce you to the farmers there, and then cook from that day’s local food finds.

I hope to help make shopping at farmers markets and cooking seasonal food less intimidating. I hope Brooklyn Farmer will encourage farm hungry eaters everywhere to go out and meet their farmers.