Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cocinando en Spanglish

A few weeks ago, Ellie at DC Greens kindly invited me to lead a cooking demo at the beautiful new Mary's Center location in Fort Totten. We decided that it would be a hands-on seasonal cooking class, a fun culmination activity for participants in their Fruit and Vegetable Prescription program. (I've written about the innovative program  before, back when I taught similar cooking classes at the Upper Cardozo clinic during Wholesome Wave's pilot year of FVRx in DC. The short version is that doctors at affiliate clinics identify low-income individuals -- often kids -- at high risk for obesity, and the families can opt into the program which includes monthly health checkups, nutrition counseling, an exercise regimen, and, most awesomely, they receive a weekly "prescription" for fruits and vegetables redeemable at area farmers markets. Families get $10 per week *per family member* to spend on local produce, above and beyond any other food assistance they may receive. Talk about making healthy food the easy choice!)

Oh, did I mention that my class would be taught in Spanish?

I don't use my Spanish much these days outside of salsa club chitchat, but I figured I was somewhat fluent after working in Mexico a decade ago. Should be just like riding a bike, right? Let me just say that the Briya/Mary's Center staff and participants were very kind with their gentle corrections and patience as we chopped cebollas (onions), peeled and grated camote (sweet potatoes), and picked many handfuls of cilantro (cilantro! whew, an easy one). Together, about a dozen of us prepared sweet potato tacos, cilantro lime yogurt, and a cabbage slaw, which we enjoyed at the end of class. The women were so friendly, so gracious with their thanks, and some came up afterwards to tell me they were excited to try the quick, tasty, inexpensive recipe at home. Win!!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Drink to end hunger

This weekend, I ventured back to my old stomping grounds in western Virginia,  where I spent a few sunny days (and chilly nights) cooking, eating, drinking, brewing, and exploring the area with my friends Matt and Amanda. It was good to escape the District for a few days, where I'd been vacillating between anger and despair since Tuesday night....

Though I fear the direction in which our country is heading, I have faith in smaller communities and the inherent good in most people...and the power of having a drink together. If you can sit around and share a frosty beverage with someone, you can work through a lot, no matter your political differences. Yesterday, for instance, I took part in one of the coolest events I've been to in awhile: Homebrew for Hunger. (That's Amanda by the sign.)  Amateur beer brewers from surrounding counties descended on Charlottesville around 11am, with kegs and bottles of their homemade libations that they were donating to raise funds for the Blue Ridge Food Bank. A live band, a few food trucks, and a couple of professional local brewers with seasonal drafts filled out the parking lot. Community folks showed up around 1pm, and for the next four hours we all sampled beer, nibbled on pretzels, and swapped homebrew tips and horror stories.

It was awesome. I had some of the best sour ales and other unusual brews, including a rye-based berlinerweisse based on an 18th century recipe(!), and started brainstorming ideas with Matt about a collaborative beer we could make for next year. I might have to bring along some spent grain goodies as well. I mean, it is Homebrew for *Hunger*...and a woman cannot live on beer and pretzels alone!

Monday, November 7, 2016

The pink pantsuit

Readers, you know I try to leave national politics out of this blog, but after recent comments from a certain presidential candidate I find I can't keep quiet. Not just because one of the contenders for our nation's top job is likely to pave over the White House garden to build a Putin guest house. Our former secretary of state's response to the constant stream of insults and outright harassment was nicer than mine would have been under the circumstances. Heck, even Will Shakespeare might've broken out a line from Alls Well that Ends Well during that last debate, countering,

"A most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality."

I love Shakespeare. I also love old friends and tasty cocktails. As fate would have it, my friend and NYC Teaching Fellows mentor Colette was visiting last weekend. As we sat chatting after a great visit and lunch at the new African American museum, I learned that along with a few "nasty woman" buttons, Colette had brought with her a new cocktail recipe from her favorite Brooklyn mixologist.

Of course Jacky and I couldn't wait to have one, so after a quick run to the liquor store and the Whole Foods, Colette got to work:

Tart, strong, and brightly colored like its namesake, I give you...

The Nasty Woman (Or, my rename: The Pink Pantsuit)

150 ml tart cherry juice (preferably cold pressed)
100 ml white tequila
50 ml fresh lime juice
50 ml simple syrup


Stir all ingredients together, then divide among 3 ice-filled glasses.

It scales up rather well, so you can make a whole pitcher and watch the election results with friends....

Sunday, November 6, 2016

In Memorium

I've been feeling out of sorts for a few days now. I realized why when my eyes started tearing up at the farmers market this morning: I would never again see my friend Tom.

Tom Hubric, retired commercial airline pilot, free-range egg farmer, mentor, activist, and insatiable jokester, has been my friend for nearly a decade. He was raising happy hens on Maryland's Eastern Shore before I had ever even heard of free-range eggs, and was one of the original farmers selling at the now prestigious Dupont market. When I started shopping for eggs at the Waterview Foods stand -- gosh, 10 years ago? -- I remember Tom smiling no matter the weather, telling me silly jokes -- sometimes the same joke for three weeks in a row, but I always looked forward to it. We became friends, and during our market chats and periodic phone calls I learned not only more jokes but also about the changing agricultural landscape and policies in Maryland and DC, about the rewards and challenges of raising chickens outdoors, and different ways to enjoy chicken and duck eggs.

After returning from my round-the-country bike trip in 2010, I began to learn more about Tom's work, including his mentoring of Ned and Eileen, a pair of egg farmers transitioning from a conventional to a free-range operation not far from his place in Nanticoke. After a series of calls and follow-up emails, my friend Jeff and I ventured out to the farms to photograph Tom and his protégés for a feature article in  the sustainable farming journal, Acres, USA. When the print issue came out, I'm not sure who was more proud of the other, Tom or me! He continued to encourage me to write, and despite his declining health in recent years remained a mainstay at the market and a thoughtful friend. In recent weeks, his mentee Ned has been helping at the market stand, and today it was only Ned selling eggs....

Tom died this past Thursday, after a multi year battle with cancer. I know his memory will live on within many of us that he has fed -- both intellectually and literally -- during his lifetime. Still, I will miss our chats terribly.