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What a beautiful site to behold, these small February leeks grown locally by our friend Emma at Ash and Elm. Wear one into battle with the Saxons, hold it to your heart to profess love, make a crown with daffodils and honor St David, Patron Saint 0f Wales, whose feast day is Sunday and I am making different treats– tune in again soon for a developing situation.

Yesterday it was a gratin, as I’ve been thinking lately about ways to layer and bake vegetables in the oven

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— economical, healthful, easy vegetable-focused family food I want to make more often. These leeks looked so perfect for that, beckoning as they did to the Caerfai Caerphilly, a really fresh, grassy, un-pasteurised, organic traditional cheese from St David’s in Pembrokeshire– the very place of this important Welsh saint. Read the rest of this entry »

Pancakes for Climate Justice!

On the one hand this video is a great demonstration of how to write messages or designs into your pancakes.  I wonder if the batter in the bottle is coloured with cocoa powder –or what makes it dark?

On the other, this video will hopefully travel around and help get the word out about the absolute dispiriting disgusting demoralising disgrace of biofuels subsidised as renewables and campaigning work against Drax as the largest power station in the world that runs on them (and coal!). Please share.

Biofuelwatch is an important resource for information and action against industrial biofuels as a false and dangerous solution to climate change.

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Rose petals are all over internet recipes these days! I wonder if you have noticed this too.  Sprinkled on cakes and infused in creams and mixed with dried orange peel in harissa in all sorts of spicy North African-inspired dishes.

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Because roses are associated with romantic love, they’re an iconic Valentine’s Day flower.  There is in the perfume of roses something so love-ly indeed.  A few years ago, during a very low ebb, a friend who is a herbalist gave me a gift: a tincture of rose to spray on myself as a kind of self-love potion.  “A hug in a bottle,” she called it.  It worked.  That’s what a lot of us need: self-love potions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Time flies!  Just before New Years our family visited our friends near Manchester. I’ve been meaning to write about ginkgo nuts.

Atsuko is a dear friend and a foodie and always makes the effort to introduce me to something new and delicious, often from her Japanese cuisine of birth.  Here she is with my daughter and two Buddhas feelin’ the Christmas spirit.

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Idly browsing Food52, I alit upon this recipe for Punjabi Buttermilk Stew with Spinach Dumplings and was drawn in.  The dish sounded so utterly delicious. (Which it was, and is why I wish to share it.)  Preparing it became a kind of odyssey of ingredients, questions and realisations, about which I’ve written what I hope is not too laborious a blog post.  Please disregard if it is! These are the issues that came to the fore for me as I prepared the dish:

  • Culturing Buttermilk
  • How to substitute local winter kale for frozen spinach
  • Sour substitutions for citrus in your cooking
  • Peasemeal as a UK substitute for Gram Flour.
  • Cooking oil conundrums. British Rapeseed Oil as a solution?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Oranges: a fermented chipotle salsa; a sour pickle with fenugreek and mustard; a scrap vinegar beauty cure; and dried orange peels for many uses…

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Through Twitter I recently happened upon a paper called “Selling out on the Revolution for a Plate of Beans’? Communal Dining in Peru and What We Can Learn From It.”  It’s a research project by Bryce Evans, who is a Food History academic in Liverpool. He also runs a community eating and cooking project in that city which is based on a kind of alternative vision to food banks, as he discusses in this video.

In his paper Evans asks: “What can the UK learn from the Peruvian model of egalitarian eating? What does this suggest about the role of the State vis-à-vis individuals and voluntary groups? And can the UK develop its food bank network so that it resembles the community kitchen movement of Peru?”

Evans compares the community kitchen movement as a mode of social eating and food distribution in various ways. Food banks in the UK can barely deal with fresh food, for instance, which is clearly an issue for nutrition.  There’s also the problem that hungry people often have no way to heat the foods they are given at food banks.  (I mean to write a piece called “In Praise of the Microwave” since that’s all that so many low-income renters have to cook with.) Emergency provision of food is also an opportunity for offering other services and meeting lots of social needs at once.

His paper is really worth a read for the important questions it raises, and its discussion of a really interesting self-help model I’d never known about:

 “The women who ran these simple food shacks largely avoided any political rhetoric. Most wanted change, but first and foremost they desired change for the good of their communities. Their vision of communal cohesion, development and food security did not necessarily coincide with the political goals of the state or its guerrilla enemies….Put simply, the women who ran the community kitchens wanted to feed people cheaply and nutritiously and they wanted the state to help out [by guaranteeing the provision of rice and beans] if possible.”

For me it brought to mind Graham Riches’ work in Canada (summarised in this recent newspaper piece).  “Given the urgent issue of food poverty,” he writes, [there is] a missed opportunity to change the public and political conversation from food charity to the right to food, informed by internationally recognised human rights principles and framework legislation.”  Jose Luis Vivero Pol might take this idea further, conceptually, from the Right to Food to food as a commons, which is a shift away from the current understanding of food as a commodity.

The powerful part of the community eating model in Peru is its social function in which food isn’t reduced to nutritional sustenance (commodified in an economic system) but comes with a whole lot more– community cohesion, social expectation that children should have healthy snacks, etc. Bryce Evans writes of the Liverpool program he runs:

“Manna’s project is a step above the traditional food bank model in that we do not provide hand-outs but instead focus on skills training, technical workshops, mentoring programmes and outreach work. …[W]e encourage people – young and old – to chop up vegetables and cook with us and to help us grow food, thus transferring broader skills…. Our project provides a community hub which, in a challenging and often alienating economic climate, brings people together.”

There seem to be many community kitchen/ communal eating projects around the UK, and I’d love to start gathering a list — alternative, loving, community oriented responses to hunger that bring people together around food, eating together, as do the Comedores Populares in Peru…

There is also, within the Local Food and community growing movements in the UK a great opportunity to think how we can contribute our broad and integrated notions about health and sustainability and food justice to fighting hunger, building community, changing the food system and the conception of food.  This is something I will work on in my way; please be in touch if you are interested in sharing information and strategy.

And please be in touch if you know of more projects like these– People’s Kitchens, free and cheap community cooking and eating, food festivals that don’t take the system off the hook yet celebrate deliciousness and the opportunity to do things differently.  We could really benefit networking, and learning as well how people are working with community gardens and free food and local food projects making the food tastier, healthier, and less charity, supermarket and waste reliant.

Though of course resourcefulness with waste is important, let’s not tangle the two conversations.

And Food Banks do have an important emergency function.  This is an American article but I think it offers good advice what to donate.

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Hey, it’s an exciting day for me.  A piece I wrote as a general approach to lactofermenting hot sauces is up at About.Com, which is an authoritative web reference to which I find myself increasingly drawn.  So a small thrill for this aspiring food writer!  Please visit the piece there, though some extra photos are included here for simply the joy of colour! Read the rest of this entry »

Give yourself the pleasure of Full Screen.

Love the chickens and the eggs, love the typewriter, love the jars of beans and grains, love the lyrics, love her voice, love the Mariachi… Love the cookies devouring eachother. Love everything!!!!!!!!  Zoe Boekbinder is clearly a fabulous creative force and I bet she makes great chocolate chip cookies.

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Jun.  The mysterious Kombucha relative that thrives, not on black tea and white sugar, but on green tea and raw honey. Mythically Tibetan, though not documented with any credibility– even if explications of the culturing bacteria are alluring and romantic.

I read this Nourished Kitchen how-to and felt full of curiousity and excitement.  But how was I, in mid-Wales, to acquire the culture?  Seemed like an effort I wouldn’t make.

Meanwhile… I’ve been sorting through all the weird stuff clogging fridge and counter space.  And I finally got around to a months-old promise of posting out some cultures of Water Kefir, Kefir and Kombucha to some friends. Read the rest of this entry »

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