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Sharing our Strength Spirit

The Future of Food and Hunger

the future of food - the food poet

In a room full of food writers, editors, movers and shakers, I found myself all alone. As applause struck a fevered pitch in the audience, my heart rate began to race.  I tried to edge out from my emotions and siphon them into the seat next to me. I tried to make my fingers with their triggered itch behave, but instead I let the pull sweep me into the locus of its energy. I began sinking deeper into a reality I’ve known would be my truth for too long and took up the helm of a voice in the wilderness crying out.

Monday marked several important intersections as IACP invoked trying to answer the question of “The Future of Food” and it also happened to be the day of The Giving Table‘s grassroots effort of bringing together over 200 food bloggers against hunger. How strange to see the overlap on two topics that affect one another. The future of food and hunger wrapped me in a curious cocoon from which I soaked in the five speakers’ comments. One voice in particular rankled me exceedingly.

According to one speaker from a large chemical company that’s gotten into the business of selling seeds, the future of food will be found in genetic engineering. He spoke with the ease of power and the smoothness of molasses letting phrases like “open-pollenating corn” slip out nonchalantly even as his agenda continued to propel his words forth. Their interest in “feeding the world” and “diversifying crops” didn’t speak to the terminator seeds they have engineered that have built planned

obsolescence into something that naturally would grow when nourished. My fingers hit the keypad with fervor trying to capture the comments and put them into the ether of the internet that others not in the room, not applauding could chime in. As luck or shrewd planning would have it, no time was available for Q&A, so any questions to put the propaganda in check could not be asked aloud. I refrained from saying something I might regret to the “former farmer” on best business practices.

A session later and like all the other attendees, I walked with the throng into the lunch line snagging salad greens with tongs and settling into an open seat. Between bitefuls and earfuls from my foodie friend, I caught snippets of story across the table. A chef I respect was speaking to two colleagues and I found a horror growing in my chest as their conversation continued down a treacherous path, citing how brave it was for the chemical company representative to show up and what good work they are

doing. My foodie friend piped up, head nodding that yes, their efforts would be the future of food. I was flabbergasted. Silently, I sat in a strange sense of observation. My thoughts turned back to the future of food session that morning and the comments of another panelist who claimed that the amount of food we are now eating means we have to account for an extra billion people that will need to be fed. Accounting for an extra billion people – GE seeds as the great white hope, together

they sapped any sort of hope I had held onto when I walked into the expansive ballroom that morning. On a day dedicated to fighting hunger now through raising awareness with readers and prompting calls to action, I found my thoughts in a dystopic future of our own making. Bedraggled, I crawled into bed that evening with eyes wide open. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” would now read, “We are the poor, the tired, the ninety-nine percent masses…” with a questionable food future.

Sometimes, if I let myself think about the problems in the world around us, they can easily bog down any sort of small progress with their enormity. This stymies the process from starting.  It keeps us mired down in quick solutions instead of considering long-term consequences. On Tuesday morning, the topic of “How California Has Changed Food and Continues To” brought me to a new understanding that what we, as food writers, editors, movers and shakers attempt to do is deeply

entrenched in the future of food. We write, photograph, develop recipes not merely for today but with tomorrow in mind. The grim reality of lack of real food access beyond boxed food and tampering with nature thinking we can outsmart it affects us even if we don’t realize it. When the food writer posits aloud in a room of their colleagues, “How can we be adequately compensated for our hard work?” this is the question asked by our readers. So, in thinking about the future of food collectively, we can make

a difference in how that system gets shaped by asking important questions and calling for greater accountability and provoking our readers to do the same. As Kat Flinn reminded a room full of food writers, “the pen is mightier than the sword” is more than just an adage. “Communitarian food” and the drive back toward local may not save our food systems or eradicate hunger, but applying the principle of loving your neighbor as yourself could ensure they don’t go hungry and that they have access to food that doesn’t play at being real. If this is the future of food, it is one I can easily espouse.

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Sharing our Strength Spirit

THIS SATURDAY: SF Food Bloggers Bake Sale

2012 san francisco food blogger bake sale

Just in case you haven’t heard yet, tomorrow is kind of a big deal.

All around the country, home cooks and food bloggers will be hosting bake sales to benefit Share our Strength as part of the Great American Bake Sale. I remember my friend Nissa participated in a Brooklyn bake sale a few years ago and I found myself hankering to be a part of a bake sale in San Francisco. A few years ago, Gaby Dalkin of What’s Gaby Cooking helped organize an arm of the bake sale with food bloggers.

Share our Strength’s #NoKidHungry campaign is looking to eradicate childhood hunger in the United States by supporting local resources and also appealing at the legislative level. In the Bay Area alone, 1 in 5 children are at risk of hunger. This issue is one that is often not easily seen. As a San Franciscan and a food-passionate person, I think all kids should have a shot at developing their own taste memories. I’m a fan of Share our Strength and have volunteered with them for several years in different capacities. It’s a non-profit I feel strongly about and am looking forward to being a part of their local Cooking Matters program next month.

I’m particularly excited to join Anita, Irvin and Shauna again as an organizer for the San Francisco Food Bloggers Bake Sale. We will be convening on Omnivore Books from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., which means you can drop by Omnivore and attend the Alice Medrich talk from 3-4 p.m. and make sure to pick up some treats on your way out!

I’ve been playing in the kitchen with green tea and will be making up a batch of Green Tea Granola that’s also gluten free. Come pick up a jar on Saturday and look for the recipe here next week with photos of the bake sale.

If you’re gluten free, vegan or have food allergies, we will have a vast array of homebaked goods to choose from. So whether you’re jonesing for a loaf of bread, cupcakes, cookies, macarons, tarts or quickbread, we’ve got you covered.

Doing good never tasted so sweet.

green tea granola jars

SF Food Bloggers Bake Sale Bakers:

Anita from Dessert First

Stacie from The Flirty Blog

Namthip Paine

Mariel from OriginalCinn

Erika from honeynhero

Nichole from Mad Dough

Cristina from Bake for Change

Angela from A I Love Baking

Allison from Bake Your Heart Out

Katy from Dining with Dusty

Suzie from Suzie Sweet Tooth

Scott from In Scott’s Kitchen

Andrea “Kittie” from Chef Kittie

Angela from Pastry Angie

Ariel from Cake Sharing

Pei-Yee from Dulcinea Bakeshop

Stephanie from Desserts for Breakfast

Laura from She Eats Well

Penni Wisner

Eleanor from Kitchen Salt

Katie from I’d Have Baked a Cake

Faith from Click Blog Appetit

Patricia from The Pie Store

Moi

Rose from Magpies Recipes

Kellan from A la Tart

Shauna Sever

Irvin from Eat the Love

Sabrina from The Tomato Tart

Lisa from With Style and Grace

Charissa from Zest Gluten Free Bakery

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Sharing our Strength Spirit

SF Food Blogger Bake Sale – April 28 at Kiehls

2012_SOS_Food Blogger Bake Sale

Who has time to volunteer?

I ask myself this question as I’m juggling a multitude of activities, commitments and trying to do the careful dance of not plunging into the depths of my inbox while staying current in correspondence. What’s interesting is seeing how volunteerism looks a bit different from the high school days. It’s been eons since I planted flowers at a senior nursing facility or played bingo at a community center. Even longer are the days of candy-striping at a children’s hospital or collecting tickets at a senior center.

In high school, they drilled into us the importance of volunteering, which worked to my benefit given that I a.) like people a whole lot and b.) really do want to make my patch of the earth a bit better for my having been in it.

No kid hungry.

This seems simple enough even for a non-parent like myself.  I get fired up on topics of real food access for all and it sometimes seems inconceivable that anyone in the Bay Area, let alone a child would be wanting for food.

We know this isn’t true.

Hunger in the United States is not something you detect easily by mere observation. It’s something that someone like me, ever in the hospitality and food industry wants to work to correct. I cherish feeding people and know that you can’t feed their minds properly if their stomachs are grumbling or empty.

If you’ve been reading La Vie en Route for a while, you will know I am a hearty advocate of national non-profit Share our Strength. Their No Kid Hungry mission extends into supporting local community resources and also to effect legislation in the government. I like that approach. Last year, at the SF Taste of the Nation event, the pre-eminent food gala fundraiser for SOS, I had a chance to meet representatives from some of these local community resources- people from Food Runners and Cooking Matters. Share our Strength underscores that each of us has a strength to share.

Cupcakes. Pies. Scones. Freshly baked bread. Cookies.

On Saturday, April 28th at Kiehl’s on Fillmore, from 11-4 p.m., these sweet treats will be on a mission to raise funds that go back to supporting local resources working to make sure no kid goes hungry in San Francisco. Irvin, Shauna, Anita and I are joining together again this year to organize the SF Food Bloggers Bake Sale after last year’s rollicking good time and success.

I am planning to bake up something extra special since last year’s contribution included Homemade Almond Joys that clinched me a grand prize ribbon in a church competition when I was a kiddo myself.

Join us and bring cash for cookies. You share your strength and I’ll  share mine.

DETAILS: Official SF Food Bloggers Bake Sale Website
WHERE: Kiehl’s, 1971 Fillmore Street, San Francisco 94115
WHEN: 11-4 p.m.

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Sharing our Strength Spirit

Hunger Challenge: After the challenge & our hunger challenge menu

Beck and I participated in the San Francisco Food Bank hunger challenge last week living off $4.72 per person per day, based on the food stamp allotment in California. Last week I shared my ramblings of living on a restricted food budget.
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So it’s me again.

Just when I thought I’d said my piece about the hunger challenge, I found a few more morsels to share.

I’m not used to cooking every single night. There, I’ve said it. Living in a city, it’s easy to call up for take-out, walk down the street and grab a bite or my personal favorite, pop by the store after work and consider the evening as it takes shape in my mind. None of these were available last week to our benefit and detriment. I really loved how having a map of how the ingredients might take shape helped me piece together a meal at the end of the workday. Beck and I appreciated the boundaries of the plan. On the other hand, there were nights where neither of us wanted to cook at all, where we got home pretty tired from the day’s events and not really anticipating tackling the project of cooking. The evening of the roasted chicken, dinner was served at 10 p.m. We were tired, hungry and devoured that evening’s portion within minutes. This made me think of people who live on food stamps and how much work goes in after work. It also was a good reminder of cooking ahead, making Sunday a day set aside to rest and roast.

Today, a day after the hunger challenge, in the airport I ordered an iced specialty coffee drink for around $5. A day after the hunger challenge, I drank an entire day’s budget in one Phoenix airport sitting. It left me unsettled. Truthfully, you’ll see in our menu recap below that at the end of the week, for Sunday supper we went rogue. After a week of living on a restricted budget, and after a personally eventful weekend, we wanted a break. Something easy. And dinner came to about $25 bucks, almost an entire week’s worth of the food stamp budget in one meal. And it tasted good, I’m not going to lie, but today, in the afterglow, I’m left wondering, so “what’s next?”

Thanksgiving. Christmas.

And here’s where you come in. You may not have a lot of money and as the holidays begin descending on us, may feel a bit pinched. But perhaps you, like me, might be willing to part with $33.04, a single person’s food stamp budget for a week. I would encourage you to consider giving that amount to your local food bank and perhaps even have someone in mind for whom you are giving the amount. If you live in the Bay Area, think of giving that amount to the SF food bank or Share our Strength.

Maybe you’re financially squeezed right now and you would like to give but can’t. Consider preparing and serving a Thanksgiving meal or Christmas meal at a shelter. There are ways you and I can still remain challenged.

So let it be.

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MONDAY

quichecups

lemonpeppertunaapplebroccolislaw

pintobeans_brownrice_massagedkale

  • D: Brown Rice, Pinto Beans and Massaged Kale for $1.49
    *TIP- Saute quarter of an onion in 1 tablespoon of oil until translucent and then add your drained beans to the pan and heat until bubbling. Serve with 1/2 cup of brown rice. For massaged kale, squeeze 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and and 1 tablespoon olive oil onto 1 cup of kale. Add a dash of salt and pepper and “massage” the leaves until well coated. Let sit for 10 minutes or longer and enjoy. The brightness of the lemon and kale blend so well with the brown rice and beans! Humble and delicious at the same time.

TUESDAY

greensmoothie

  • B: Green Smoothie for $1.04
  • L: Pinto Beans, Brown Rice & Massaged Kale for 1.49
  • Mama’s Enchiladas (4) $2.90…. recipe coming soon

WEDNESDAY

  • B: Green Smoothie for $1.04
  • L: Brown rice, massaged kale, Fuji apple and 1 tablespoon peanut butter for $1.43

Hummus Veggie Tostadas

THURSDAY

  • B: Green Smoothie for $1.04
  • L: Pinto Beans, Brown Rice & Massaged Kale for $1.49
  • D: Roast Chicken & Vegetables for $1.95

FRIDAY

  • B: Overnight Oats with Peanut Butter and 1/2 Banana for $1.20
    *TIP: Combine 1/4 cup oats with 1/4 cup plain yogurt and 1/4 cup almond milk. Mix and cover. Let sit over night. The next morning, chop 1/2 a banana on top of your Swiss oats and add a tablespoon of peanut butter. Easy.
  • L: Brown Rice, Hummus & Massaged Kale for $1.49

mung bean noodles and cabbage saute

  • D: Mung Bean Noodle Cabbage Saute for $1.73
    *TIP: Have you ever tried mung beans? They’re delicious, cheap ($.69 for a bag that serves 4) and easy to make. Fill a pot with warm water and soak noodles for 5 minutes until soft and pliable. While they’re soaking, set a pot of water to boil. Add noodles to boiling water for 30 seconds and then drain in a colander. Cut the noodles into four sections (for ease of eating- they’re long!) and then set aside. In a large pan, add 1 tablespoon oil and once the bottom of pan is slick with oil, add in a thumb length of fresh ginger, skinned and sliced thin as well as two garlic cloves, thinly sliced. Add to the pan a quarter head of cabbage, sliced. Also add two washed carrots, cut into matchsticks. Saute until browned, then add in 1/2 cup shredded chicken (from your roast chicken) and half of your noodles. Saute for a few minutes to let the flavors meld. Serve with 1 stalk of green onion sliced thin and a quarter of a red bell pepper, chopped thin along with several sprigs of cilantro. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar on top along with a dash of salt and pepper and serve.

SATURDAY

  • B: Overnight Oats with Peanut Butter and 1/2 Banana for $1.20

migas and cabbage saute

  • L: Migas and Cabbage Saute for $1.61
    (Cabbage saute from Friday night without chicken or noodles)
  • D: Chicken Enchiladas (2) and 1 cup Shredded Lettuce for $1.62

SUNDAY

  • B: Peanut Butter Tortilla Roll-ups (2) for $.49
    *TIP: Toast 2 corn tortillas in toaster oven for crispy texture (or in between damp paper towels for 30 seconds in the microwave for steamed texture). Remove and use 1 tablespoon to smear on both tortillas.  Then roll each one up and munch away.

blackrefriedbeans

  • L: Huevos Rancheros with 1/2 cup Brown Rice and Simple Green Salad for $1.56
    *TIP: Make these easy, nutritious black “refried/retried” beans and smear on tostada. Then make an over easy egg. Serve atop the beans and dribble salsa on top. Eat with salad. (P.S. for the price listed, that includes a second tostada with beans only.)
  • D: Rogue … $25
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Sharing our Strength Spirit

Hunger Challenge Day 6: “Getting by”

Beck and I are living off of $4.72 per day per person this week as part of the SF Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. This includes  preparation and time… With a restricted budget, there are foods that don’t make it in, there are cravings and there is fatigue. I’m blogging my ramblings of the challenge this week.

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Getting By

Doing a hunger challenge on a Saturday is hard. Being involved in this during the weekdays somehow seemed far easier than the weekend. On any typical weekend I might be:

  • canoodling with a bagel and cream cheese, reading a book
  • stopping in for a weekend cafe au lait, reading a book
  • heading to the farmer’s market, book in my bag
  • perhaps planning a night out at a restaurant with the boy

Clearly today involved reading, as all good days do, in my book. But it also included moments of radio silence which usually would be filled with the flavors and noise of food jaunts. I might say today I am just eking by… and my routine I usually take for granted is missed, my small extravagances.

And this gets me thinking about the middle class.

The middle class that is according to articles I’ve been reading lately, shopping for cheaper foods and dwindling. (Look up P&G in last week’s Wall Street Journal for “A Tale of 2 Shoppers” and a second article on P&G changing their focus from middle class to appealing to lower…also WSJ).  What seems to be happening is a rise of affluence and a steady rise of working poverty. I am not a child of the great depression but have the great privilege of sometimes hearing stories from older consumers who have lived through it, who developed thick skin and tight pocketbooks, letting the leanest of times inform the best. Then in 2008, the recession happened and I began watching the bottoms fall out in people’s lives around me. I listened as my dad shared that a client who owed him $25,000 for a job finished could not pay and pled bankruptcy. I knitted my brow for him.

Those things keep you up at night.

And while I don’t think my Dad despaired or had difficulties putting food on the table, it is a good indication of the temperature of the people landscape around us.  So, while you may be wondering, “Annelies, why are you talking about the middle class at the tail end of your week-long hunger challenge?”,  it’s pretty simple. More people from the middle class are transitioning into the working poor than I think may let on. This means to me, that the possibility of  people living on food stamps is increasing behind closed doors.

Which makes the hunger challenge even more important.

Take my friend we’ll call Sam. He had a steady job a few years ago and got bitten by the bug to move to New York and more deeply pursue his career in his field. At the time, my job afforded me quarterly trips to the big apple and I went from seeing Sam giddy and high on the bright lights and big city opportunities to foundering. He lived in that city for over a year and worked an odd job or two to help pay bills. I remember him telling me he had to skip meals. I remember the thought of my per diem chafing me as I listened. He told me that Chinese fast food was cheap and kept him full for hours. He’d learned survival tips for a tough, unbreakable city. He moved back to San Francisco and sought out his old job, but was only able to re-enter it part time. After many months of looking, he joined a retailer and has learned how to live off of meager means.

If that example doesn’t suit, then perhaps take my friend we will call Oliver. His job only paid a portion of his salary per paycheck and for about a year because the company was slowly going under. He began looking for other opportunities in San Francisco and when none presented themselves, he ended up moving out-of-state for a job where he would make an amount that technically qualified him for food stamps, but involved an industry he was passionate about. He has truly learned to skimp and save and do it healthfully.

Last one, a couple we will call Jane and Derek. Jane lost her job and because of a chronic health issue found it difficult to look for others. Not that long after Jane lost her job, Derek lost his. Jane eventually found part time employment but that barely sufficed to pay the bills. Derek had been looking for over a year with no luck when they decided to move closer to their families.

So here’s what I might entreat or perhaps assuage you to consider: a lot of people around you are just getting by and maybe you fall into that category too. Maybe the point of the hunger challenge is only to show how difficult it is to live off of $4.72 per person per day for food. And I won’t lie, it is hard. But perhaps as I’m nearing the end, one of the things that will be my grand take-away is the idea of mindfulness.

To be mindful of what I have that can be given
To be mindful of who is around me and keeping my ears open
To be mindful of what I have and give thanks
To be mindful that life is not always fair or easy

but with support, love and for me, God, life is most sweet when shared

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Sharing our Strength Spirit

Hunger Challenge Day 2: The things that didn’t make it & a recipe

Beck and I are living off of $4.72 per day per person this week as part of the SF Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. This includes  preparation and time…
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The things that didn’t make it

Setting up the menu for a week of living off of $4.72 per day really does cut out the dross. Perhaps another way of saying this is that it truly clarifies what is important. Since we decided to go the gluten free route during our week-long hunger challenge, this put some other parameters on what would make it into the menu and what simply wouldn’t. I’ve included an easy recipe that is tasty, nutritious and filling for a simple lunch below.

Bread

  • This was not hard to give up. A loaf of gluten free bread doesn’t work for our wallet in this challenge, so gone are the PB&J’s, pizza on toast, breadcrumbs and other possibilities for this ingredient. Perhaps this would make it onto someone else’s list, but as you’ll find out later this week, I could dub the humble tortilla as the hero of the week.

Dairy

  • Usually, our refrigerator is stocked to the hilt with cow’s milk cheeses, our goat’s milk yogurt and from time to time that ricotta recipe of Jennifer Perillo’s that just really rocks. On this challenge, it quickly became clear that there was room for very little dairy. This wasn’t intentional though. My first shopping list featured extra sharp cheddar, a favorite of Beck’s. In doing the shopping cart math, it became apparent that to keep the block of cheese meant to give up a host of vegetables or other crucial ingredients. Cheese had to go.

Alcohol

  • Gone too, this week there would be no beer bottles of artisan crafted brews in our fridge. Even the beer aptly named “Simple Times” didn’t make it into the menu. At $2 for a six pack, that meant $.50 shaved off of that day’s meals for one beer. Then again beer isn’t gluten free, though some gluten free beers do exist I’ve been told by my gluten free friends, and they would certainly be cost-prohibitive for this week.

Sugar

  • Ugh. *Someone* was very cranky on Monday afternoon as her body was in detox. Ornery with a capital O. My intention in the Hunger Challenge was not to give up sugar as that alone has often been a challenge in and of itself. I have written before about attempts to break up with sugar or at least back away from it slowly. It would be safe to say, my sugar consumption over the past few months has declined, but I’m missing my spoonful of raw honey used once a day. Honey, sugar, agave, maple syrup- sweeteners did not fit into the menu. So fruit is doing all the sweetening and thank God for bananas!

Caffeine

  • That’s right. No chocolate, coffee or tea made it into this week’s challenge menu. I had a hunch that we would need to squeeze the budget for every last nickel and penny, so there was no room for ancillary beverages. Water wakes us up. Water sustains us throughout the day when hunger pangs buffet our stomachs. There is nothing wrong with coffee or tea, but more opportunities for better, balanced meals trump the caffeine high.

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lemonpeppertunaapplebroccolislaw

 

Lemon Pepper Tuna with Apple Slaw

  • 2 cans tuna in water
  • 1 lemon (you’ll only use half, but you need the whole lemon)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 Fuji apple
  • 1 bag Broccoli Slaw
  • salt
  • pepper

1. Drain your cans of tuna. Place tuna in a bowl.

2. Grate the lemon zest off your whole lemon and onto the tuna. Add your olive oil, a dash of salt and a few shakes of pepper. Stir to combine. Set aside.

3. Empty the bag of broccoli slaw into a colander and rinse. Then drain and move broccoli slaw to medium sized bowl.

4. Wash apple and then chop into matchsticks. This is done by chopping the apple into fours and then chopping each section in half until you are able to cut slender matchsticks from each section. Add matchsticks to broccoli slaw and mix until combined.

5. Place half of broccoli slaw in reusable container if taking on-the-go or on a plate. Scoop half of the tuna mixture and place atop the slaw. Cut your lemon in half and then quarter that half, placing one of the lemon quarters in the container or on the plate. Enjoy.

Serves: 2
Cost per person: $2.90

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Sharing our Strength Spirit

Hunger Challenge Day 1: Time & Shopping List

Beck and I are living off of $4.72 per day per person this week as part of the SF Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. This includes  preparation and time…
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Time

Preparing to nourish yourself and your loved ones on a restricted budget takes time. Trolling the SF Food Bank FAQs brought me to their suggestion of doing all the shopping in one place and at one time.

Instead, my inner scavenger is coming out.

Like a barracuda circling the waters looking for its next kill, I approached grocery shopping for the week. It became a game. I kept a meticulous record of expenses so as not to get off course. From Safeway, I purchased broccoli slaw at an incredible deal. From the local bodega in West Portal, an eggplant and salsa. After flying in earlier than anticipated on Sunday, we hit up Trader Joe’s for dairy, proteins and some produce. Later in the evening, I wended my way over to Chinese grocery stores squeezing produce at one store and evaluating the red bell peppers at another, all the while sniffing out the best deals. Tucked into these aisles with calculator and notebook in hand, I sought to leave no detail unattended. I can safely say I have not put this much time into trying to get it right. And by “it”, I mean feeding, food, the act of nourishing.

Canvas bags packed with our excursions’ findings, we now had the semblance of the black lettering of a menu laid out in ingredients on our counter top. Up an hour before usual, I whisked together the quiche cups for our breakfast, then chopped and assembled the Lemon Pepper Tuna with Apple Slaw.

Time.

Going back to another question, the one of access, a person on food stamps probably does not have the time to make it to three, four or five stores to scour for deals. More likely, they are working hard to keep a roof over their head and easy is the name of the game when it comes to food. For some reason, I have a single mother in my mind working two or three jobs to make ends meet. We’ll call her Valerie. I see her rise in the dark and I see her wearily work her way home after the sun has set. Can nutrition be easy and affordable for her?

I still have so much to learn.

veggies_eggs

  • Eggplant (1)——————- $1.39
  • Ginger (1 piece)————– $.12
  • Corn Tortillas (80)———– $3.80
  • Eggs (1 dozen)—————–$1.69
  • Plain Goat’s Milk Yogurt (1 tub)—- $5.49
  • Salsa (2 cans)—————- $2.18
  • Garbanzos (1 can)———– $.89
  • Garlic (1 bulb)————— $.72
  • Olive oil (1 bottle)———– $4.99

drygoods_pantry_miscproduce

  • Lemons (4)——————- $1
  • Spinach (1 bag)————– $1.99
  • Kale (1 bag)—————— $1.99
  • Bananas (5)—————— $1

drygoods_oats n fujis

  • Fuji Apples (12)———— $1.69
  • GF Oats (1 bag)————- $3.99
  • Almond Milk (1 carton)– $2.99
  • Natural Whole Chicken (1)— $8.24
  • Potatoes (2)—————- $.53
  • Organic Carrots (5)——- $.79
  • Celery Hearts (1 bag)—– $1.69
  • Onions (2)—————— $.61
  • Peanut Butter (1 jar)—– $1.79
  • Mung Bean Noodles (1 bag)– $.69

refrigeratedgoods

  • Cucumber (1)————– $.69
  • Red Bell Pepper (1)——- $.37
  • Canned Tuna (2)———- $3
  • Brown Rice (2 lb)——— $2.99
  • Organic Black Beans (1 can)— $1.19
  • Organic Pinto Beans (1 can)— $1.19
  • Tomatoes (2)——————– $.40
  • Broccoli Slaw (1 bag)———– $1
  • Cilantro (1 bunch)————– $.39
  • Rice Vinegar (1 bottle)——– $1.99
  • Green Onions (1 bunch)——- $.35
  • Cabbage (1 head)————— $.64
  • Lettuce (1 head)—————- $.69
    _____________
    Total: $65.15  for 2 people for 1 week ($32.57 per person)

Tomorrow, catch the shopping list make its way into recipes and meals.

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Sharing our Strength Spirit

Hunger Challenge: Preparation & Day 1

 

 

 

 

The San Francisco and Marin Food Banks issued a hunger challenge for September 11 – 17, 2011. The challenge is simple: each person signs up to live off a food stamp budget for one week at $4.72 per person per day.  On the SF Food Bank site, they share that 1 in 5 children, seniors and adults in the Bay Area struggle with hunger everyday. The issue of hunger is one close to my heart and I signed up pretty much immediately, thanks to Amy for tweeting about the challenge and Mel for joining me! Without any cajoling, dear sweet Beck agreed he wanted to participate. And to up the ante for health reasons, we are going into this challenge gluten free and loaded with as many of our regular creature comforts (goat’s milk yogurt / natural chicken) as the budget permits.
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Preparation

We began plotting the menu out a full week in advance. Then we tweaked the menu and then we tweaked it again. Note to self- write your menus in pencil or dry erase marker… While the “official” hunger challenge started on 9/11, I happened to be traveling and in no condition to start the challenge at an airport or en route. I found an earlier flight arriving in the afternoon to spend extra time with Beck and do more shopping and mapping of the week. This week will be a stretch to the usual rote happenings in my kitchen and I am not so brash to start something until my head is in it 100 percent. So much of life is played in the mind, isn’t it? In preparation for this week, Beck and I are starting Monday, the beginning of the work week.  For this challenge, we wanted to make the food prepared tasty and nutritious as well as sticking to the monetary daily goal, but found several other “rules” cropped up that needed to be reckoned with:

SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
What to do if invited to a friend’s house for dinner or a party? Would someone living on a food stamp budget be in a similar position?

  • The SF Food Bank suggested in their FAQs to bring your own food. Two parties with people I want to hang out with came onto the radar. In one, I declined the invitation letting them know about the hunger challenge, (since we all went to a high school with a focus on volunteerism, I figured they would get it). The second party is still TBD. Rather than play the part of the legalist, I’m considering going and circulating among party-goers with a subtle water glass in hand. If I go, I’m going for the people and not the nibbles.

WORK FREEBIES
Working at a food company where there are ample options for breakfast and snacks, to nosh or not to nosh? What about coffee and tea?

  • Ah, this question is one my boss and I talked about round and round last week. He was intrigued by my latest challenge (and refused to buy me organic chicken at Costco because the membership fee would have to factor in. You’ve got to love accountability like that.) Given that the likelihood of free breakfast or free snacks abounding at the workplace of a person on food stamps is not very high, I decided to forgo all of the usual eats and drinks. I see this as an opportunity to drink water.

DREGS OF PREVIOUS WEEK
What do we do with food from the previous week that will go bad if not eaten this week? Is it better to let it go bad, throw it away or engraft it into this week’s menu? What about spices in the pantry?

  • Beck and I hate to throw away food. And as he pointed out tonight, it doesn’t make sense to let perfectly good food go bad if we are trying to understand hunger. This too is a bit of legalism on my part. So those two bananas mottled and mushy- they’re getting substituted in for two new bananas that will be just fine next week. And so on. There’s a tub of organic blueberries and Black mission figs that have jam written all over them. Heirloom tomatoes ready to be roasted and canned. They will make it into our pantry without “falling off the wagon.” All those great spice bottles that meander into my cooking usually are staying off the counter this week, with the exception of salt and pepper.

GROCERY STORES & ACCESS
Would someone with food stamps be able to shop here? Would there be access to the produce and foods for them?

  • This is one I struggled with internally because I know that what is accessible for me might not or is not accessible for someone living on food stamps. At the same time, the idea of doing all our grocery shopping for the week in a convenience store also did not work for me, as I’m trying to see and show that this can be done healthfully. So, in earnest, I completely recognize that access is an issue, but it’s one I grappled with and decided needed to work with what was readily accessible for us.

And so there you have it.

We begin today thinking of preparation and the idea of being set apart for a purpose. We begin today thinking of our neighbor and wanting to pull up a chair at the table for them and another two for Beck and me. We like a good conversation and hearing other people’s stories, being storytellers.

Have you ever lived on a restricted food budget? How did it work for you? How did you prepare yourself physically, mentally and spiritually to carry it out?

 

 

 

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Sharing our Strength Spirit

If these doors could speak- a photo essay & a challenge

When the devastation of Hurricane Katrina unleashed its fury upon the city of New Orleans, I watched on like most of you did, to the TV reports and the flood of articles inundating the web. The same convention center I had visited for a coffee and tea show mere months before became home and unruly hearth to oh-so many displaced New Orleansians.

This past weekend found me in New Orleans on the sixth anniversary of hurricane Katrina at a food conference.  One morning, I spent an hour walking the French Quarter, marveling at the architecture and the details in the structures that remind me of our charming gingerbread Victorians in San Francisco. The bulk of the weekend was spent in seminars and meeting incredible people with a passion for food and stories like myself. But I had to wonder, apart from this section of the city reveling, how much of the city still lies in ruin? How much of it still grieves the vacancy of its former spirit and verve? Chef John Besh talked to our group about staying in New Orleans and about rebuilding. As he talked about his community, his city trying to find its footing again, it led me to think aboout what commitment to your neighbor and neighborhood looks like truly.

Late into the first evening of the conference, I conferred with Brona, a gutsy woman also in the food industry if it would be feasible to eat fresh produce without GMOs on a welfare budget.  At lunch one day, I chatted with a food blogger named Tanya who lives in the 9th ward. She told me that residents in the 9th ward shop for groceries in a convenience store where two aisles are earmarked for food. You can imagine with me that the bulk of the food available is highly processed and missing the nutrients originally in the food. She told me about traveling 30 minutes on the train to go to an uptown market for fresh vegetables. I sat rapt and horrified. There is something so disconcerting and wrong about access to fresh food versus targeted marketing of fast food restaurants when thinking of lower income neighborhoods and families.

I think of Mama and her family, Mexican immigrants eking out a place for themselves in a hostile South Texas town during a time when ethnic diversity was not cool or eagerly accepted. I think about her stories of making do with what they had, about Tita, my grandmother making feasts out of next to nothing. As a wise person said at the conference this weekend, “deprivation breeds creativity.”

I signed up to participate in a hunger challenge September 11-17 and would invite you to join me. Did you know 1 in 5 children, adults and senior citizens in San Francisco and Marin struggle with hunger everyday? For seven days, Beck and I will be living off a food stamp budget of $4.72 a day per person. I consider this venture with a mite of trepidation. Will I be hungry in the evening? Will I be able to balance the meals with all the good knowledge gleaned about proteins and nutrients from vegetables and grains? I consider this challenge with knowing if I feel hunger pangs in my overindulged body that week they will be prayers of solidarity for my neighbor.

I want to believe there is a way my neighbor can live healthfully on little.

I’m going to post the week’s menu after it’s over and check back in with a report, but seriously give it a thought. There are far too many hungry people in the world and though I can only feed some, I want to learn what it is to love my neighbor as myself. And perhaps let that involve an organic apple.

French Quarter Doors

French Quarter Doors

French Quarter Doors

French Quarter Doors

French Quarter Doors

French Quarter Doors

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Sharing our Strength Spirit

In memory, a Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Peanut Butter Cream Pie for Mikey - august 12, 2011

In memory of Mikey,
In honor of Jennie,
people around the world today baked pie.

Peanut Butter Cream Pie.

No, it doesn’t change the fact that he was taken well before his time. No, it doesn’t change the grieving process. But all these pies baked on the same day together and given in love with like-minded words somehow remind the bakers and the eaters that life is sweet.

His life was sweet.

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Sharing our Strength Spirit

The Great Fundraising Act: Orange & Black Cookies

orange and black cookies

I love my job.

How many of us can really say that? One of the things that makes going to work so much fun is getting to meet, connect and become friends with other bloggers. A few weeks ago, fellow blogger Janetha sent out a mass email to a bunch of healthy living and food bloggers letting us know that Susan of The Great Balancing Act found out she has lymphoma. I’ve chatted with Susan before and she’s really a terrific person, so news like this is really sobering. I’ve kept her in my prayers, as cancer is something that also touched my family.

What resulted from Janetha’s email is inspiring. She rallied 150 bloggers and companies to join her in supporting Susan by raising funds to help pay for the costly treatments. The blogging community is full of people who care about her and stand with her as she fights this illness. I’m on board and trying to spread the word to other bloggers and readers hoping it spreads like wild fire!

Introducing the Great Fundraising Act.

Those 150 bloggers and companies are providing homebaked treats and ones you can find at the grocery store too. Then there are some items you can’t eat available for purchase well. With so many ridiculously cool and delicious items to bid on, I’m sure you’ll find something that fits your budget and your appetite.  For details on Susan and the lovely Janetha who set up this love fest, click the photo above of Susan.

Return of the Orange & Blacks

orange & black cookies for the great fundraising act

I’m baking some of my Orange & Black cookies to donate. You remember them, right? My homage to the San Francisco Giants in round doughy delightful form? Soft, cakey cookies kissed with chocolate icing on one side and vanilla-orange on the other? Now, we’re talking… I’m going to bake a dozen of my homemade Orange & Black cookies, pack them into a gift tin and include a box of Mighty Leaf Orange Dulce tea pouches to the highest bidder. Those cookies with that tea are meant for each other. So go on, take a look.

Notable Homemade Edibles You Can Bid On:

  • Vegan No-Bake Peanut Butter Granola Bars  from Anne
  • Chocolate Dipped Homemade Marshmallows from Elina
  • Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins from Erica
  • Peanut Butter Granola from Julie
  • Home-roasted coffee from Lori
  • Chocolate Chip and Nut Banana Bread and a batch of Peppermint Bark from Melissa

Notable Non-Edibles to Bid On:

  • Social media advising from Katy
  • 100 calorie fitness cards from Carla
  • Sassy Blogger Survival Kit from Lara

 

The auction opens and closes on Monday, July 25th, so get ready to start bidding… let’s all participate in the Great Fundraising Act!

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Sharing our Strength Spirit

It takes a village & maybe a slice of pie

Change. Is this something you anticipate or something to be reviled? Some changes are easy. Other times, they resemble trying to turn the Titanic.

Years ago, I helped run and volunteered at a homeless drop-in center off of Haight Street. Every Friday night, my friend Mary and I would troll the upper Haight and hand out invitations to a motley crew of street kids from the hippies to the gutter punks. We would circle back after completing the walk to Stanyan and make our way back to lower Haight where we would cook that evening’s soup and assemble the dregs of yesterday’s pastries from our neighborhood Starbucks. Everyone had a job. And mine, unsurprisingly involved the kitchen. Some nights Mary and I would show up at the Living Room, and find an odd hodge podge assortment of food that did not appear to hold any semblance of a meal or sustenance. On those evenings, I would pray for guidance and sometimes I would cry like a mother who couldn’t feed her children. It’s a despicable feeling and thankfully only happened one or two times. Darren, another volunteer became quite resourceful with the peanut butter. When we had it on-hand, he would sneak it into soup as a source of protein, giving a tinge of creamy richness to the soup bubbling on the stove top. Over the years, there were different cooks in the different incarnations of the coffee house drop-in that was the Living Room.

Out in front-of-house, the coffee percolated in a large stainless steel receptacle while the hot water brewed. Any assortment of hot tea bags from a trip earlier in the week to the food bank made their way into a basket. Before the doors were unlocked, the kids would gather in the back patio, smoking, chatty and waiting for the doors to open. For a few hours, this place was transformed with burning incense and candles, with tapestries slung on the walls and all the couches oriented toward a large television for the weekly movie viewing. We worked and welcomed the kids in with the intention of an alternative to the street and perhaps the drugs that might be tempting them otherwise.

Bright shapes and configurations of Tetris descended down the large television screen while the first few to make it inside would quickly find seats near the controls to the game. I buzzed about the room, saying hellos, making sure the beverage and eats stations were stocked, giving hugs and high fives. After an hour, we’d start that night’s movie and the kids would settle into the couch, some ready for the cinematic escape, others for a warm and soft place to nap for the next few hours. And just like that, the movie would be over, we would thank them for coming before we flipped on the fluorescent lights and began cleaning up, swinging the couches back against the walls, sweeping any crumbs from the floor. At this time, at around 1 a.m., Mary and I drove down emptied streets of San Francisco making the long trek back to Marin. The 101 freeway wound like a great snake, darkened by night and only visible by the wan lights of my car and the moon illuminating the stretch of road before us.

During my three years as part of the Living Room drop-in, I worked under Rob’s leadership and then shared the helm with Mary before Eric began to lead it. We collected stories and made friends. This community of people, these friends of ours were an important part of our lives. During that time, I was in graduate school, and the Living Room was the thing that gave me purpose and moved my spirit.When confronting the travails of grad school, they paled in comparison to my friends who had chosen or had thrust upon them this other way of life.

Something we learned quickly was the importance of the group – the family – the community necessary to make it on the streets. Mary and I were a team and a sounding board to talk about the night’s events, to cry and pray at things beyond our reach when we saw our friends in battle with themselves or others.

One evening I met a kid named Chris. His eyes still shone with that sense of possibility. Apart from his eyes, his demeanor, the clothing with a light dusting of dirt and his way with the others all singled him out as a newbie. He seemed happy in his new lifestyle and friendly, if not a bit shy. I had pegged him as one of the rich kids looking to escape that lifestyle- it was not uncommon to find them loitering on Haight Street, in “rough” and “worn” looking clothing, as if auditioning for a part before reading the script and learning the character’s outcome.

I watched the weeks go by and saw Chris a handful of times until he stopped coming to the Living Room. Then one afternoon several months after I’d last seen him, I ran into him on Haight Street, a changed kid.

His long brown hair now gnarled and matted, those bright brown eyes now empty of their former sheen. He walked alone but talked loudly to an unseen companion. I said hello and he looked at me blankly even as I tried to remind him where we’d met. We parted one toward the park and the waiting drum circle, the other in a haze and fog that had engulfed him. I saw him one other time but kept my distance picking up further cues of dissociation. It saddened me, not knowing how far further down the rabbit hole he would have to fall and if he would ever find his way back.

My friends who lived outside, calling the trees and inlets of Golden Gate Park home- who lived under the Bay Bridge and forged a life outside of the rules of the indoor people- they taught me so much. Perhaps the most important lesson learned involved the necessity of community. Sure, there were the lone wolves among the street kids who happened upon the Living Room, my chess teacher and friend Johnson, among them, but he is a friend for another story.  They understood the importance of watching each others’ backs and possessions. When one kid got sent to jail for drug possession, his friends watched his dog, Socrates until he was released.

When my time to depart from the Living Room came nigh, I departed unexpectedly and as quickly as my first visit had convinced me to ingratiate myself into this community. My exit and the reasons for it resembled more of a Roman candle than a long steady burn. During that time, I also began to question if people can really change- myself included. This involved me interviewing friends of different ages, trying to gather as many perspectives as possible.

I needed to believe we can.

And that was the key- the “we.” We’re not so different, are we- the ones who dwell indoors? It’s so rote and expected, that phrase of Thomas Merton‘s, but it is true: “No man is an island.” We need each other. Together we are stronger.

A proverb in the book of Ecclesiastes says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

See, it takes a village. And sometimes or especially when change is involved, the role the village plays becomes paramount. Is it one of support? Is it one of static understandings?

I tried going back to the Living Room after Eric had taken over running it, after Mary had moved away, after I had moved into San Francisco from Marin. And while it felt good to see old faces, give hugs to old friends and support Eric’s leadership, it felt different. I had changed and so had it. The community playing the pivotal role in my life had shifted. This place which had shaped me and both softened my heart and hardened my understandings of life on the streets no longer fit.

When the change comes, we must not fight it, but instead recognize the secret is to learn from it- best done with a village that’s got your back. And sometimes that might involve a slice of pie…

(to be continued)

village pie spinach pie