Monday, October 28, 2013

I'll trade you!

Who would have thought that spicy beer mustard would have been one of the most popular items at the Alexandria Food Swap this past weekend?

Truth be told: seven or eight excited foodies left the Friendship Firehouse with 4oz jars of really the spiciest mustard I've made to date -- this time with a bottle of Great Lakes' Dortmuder Gold and balsamic vinegar -- but I made out like a bandit! Homemade pretzels, apple fruit roll-ups, a good sized bottle of amaretto (and no idea what to use it for), peach lavender jam, chocolate covered coconut and almond clusters, rosemary popover mix, rhubarb butter, a new kombucha starter, and my favorite: dehydrated fruit and seed crackers. Yum. A girl could get used to this!

Thanks to my friend, Shelu, for organizing the homemade food extravaganza (and making those divine almond joys).

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The First Garden

After my gentleman friend  treated me to a stellar dinner at Le Diplomat on Friday night, I didn't think my weekend could get much better. (I am telling you, that duck breast alone lived up to the hype. Don't even get me started on the cheeses or wine or escargot.) Little did I know the surprises that Saturday had in store....

After a busy morning cooking at a local health fair, Kenton helped me schlep my farmers' market groceries back to my place, where we had a snack as we looked at the clock and speculated. It's 2pm? There's no WAY we'd have the slightest chance of getting in to see the White House garden before the final 3:30pm tour, we agreed, but on such a beautiful, sunny afternoon, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to head downtown and try our luck. Worst case scenario: we have a nice walk and maybe check out a museum (since they're open again -- hooray!).

One metrobus ride and many tourist mobs later, there we were at 3pm, gazing at the very garden that the First Lady started a handful of years ago -- around the time I set out on my bike tour, come to think of it -- and which I have been angling to check out for some time. (In my more elaborate daydreams, I imagine having tea with Michelle and swapping recipes before we peruse the brussels sprout plantings and discuss some of our favorite experiences getting kids excited about food.  Being one of the masses on the annual free public tour is only a few steps down from that, right?)

Hot peppers, swiss chard, tomatoes, artichokes, and of course the requisite Secret Service staff:

Nice work, Madam First Lady!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Guide for hire

I keep getting talked into organizing garden tours by bicycle....

Earlier this week, my friend Sam cajoled me into leading a group of environmental educators who were in town from all over the country (and two from Canada, which I suppose makes it an international conference) on a relatively low-key, 4.5-mile tour of school gardens around Eastern Market. Still groggy after returning from San Francisco about a day and a half prior, I agreed. Maybe it was the jetlag talking, or the compensatory lunch I was promised. (What can I say, I have a soft spot for Chipotle's veggie burritos. Sam knows this.) Despite the severe lack of sleep and the impending rainstorm and the head cold I was nursing, I'm so glad he did.

After all kinds of adventures trying to locate their bus to bring them down from Baltimore, and then worse than usual delays on the beltway, fifteen members of the North American Association for Environmental Education arrived almost exactly an hour behind schedule.  They met us at Union Station and saddled up on their rental bikes. After a few minutes of introductions, we hit the road.

The group was wonderful: enthusiastic, curious, appreciative, observant. And they all wore their bike helmets without me having to harass anyone even once. Imagine that!

We visited four schools around Capitol Hill, climbed on found material structures at some, snacked on fresh dips and salads at others, and celebrated what I hadn't realized were quite the cutting-edge garden programs at Watkins, School Within a School, Peabody, and Capitol Hill Montessori. Oh, no, I knew these were all cool gardens with great teachers -- they were chosen as highlights of the DC school garden scene, after all -- but it was interesting to hear how they compare to programs and gardens in other places. DC school gardens rock.

I daresay I'll get talked into another one of these soon. Oh, look, I already have been: the first event for Healthy Schools Week is, you guessed it, a school garden bike tour. It should be pretty fun.... Come join!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

No green for greens

This collection of six people (plus one dog) counted as our midafternoon "rush" at the market today.

A number of our regulars showed up, but many familiar faces were missing, from the neighborhood crew as well as the usually very supportive Census Bureau across the street. Less than 50 shoppers gathered over the course of the 5-hour-long farmers' market in Suitland today -- midway through week two of the (so far as I can tell) pointless government stalemate. Yes, this lack of people working or having money is sure to fix the nation's healthcare system. And what's this I hear about cuts to food stamp funding starting next month? Aaaarggggghhhh!

Yeah, I'm mad. Good food is a human right. Now how are folks supposed to eat?

People are hungry, but they're counting their pennies, uncertain about when they're going to be able to work -- and get paid -- again. Me, I spend what modest funds I do have on quality ingredients and cook up a storm with the extra time I have these days. But I don't have a family, or a car, or a mortgage. After two weeks of abysmal sales and no end in sight, I'm not sure how our market's going to keep going. Somehow I don't think Congress is going to offer backpay to our farmers (or backsleep to the worried market managers)....

This furlough stinks.