Monday, December 31, 2007

In AZ, small ranchers turn back the clock

This story about two small ranchers in Arizona who are opting out of the grain-finished beef production line and have returned to producing beef the way it was produced 100 years ago on the Arizona ranges -- 100% grass-fed using rotational grazing, which protects the animal and the environment -- would be worth clicking to if it weren't for the incredibly annoying animated advertisements on the website. If you decide it's still worth a visit, don't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

News from Australia

Not local news, but news of locavorism: In Stirling, South Australia a new cafe called The Locavore, which sources all ingredients from within a 100-mile radius or doesn't use them.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Chalk Food + Wine to focus on local, seasonal ingredients

According to a press release today, Jean-Robert de Cavel's Pho Paris at 118 Greenup Street in Covington will reopen January 15th as Chalk Food + Wine with a menu

using the best fresh ingredients from the season and trying to use local products as much as possible, making everything from scratch.
For reservations call 859.643.1234, and soon the restaurant will be added to OpenTable.

Cheap Food is not an American Tradition

When I hear people complaining about how expensive food is -- and especially about how eating locally is too expensive for the average American -- I like to annoyingly helpfully point out that we spend a smaller percentage of our disposable income than any previous generation.

From a USDA chart showing the percentage of disposable income spent by the average American on food (including food consumed both at home and away from home):

Food -- the food we get from supermarket, the processed and refined food that does us no good, harms the environment, and doesn't provide enough income for small farmers to keep body and soul together -- is cheap. Cheaper than it's ever been, in fact. So cheap that the poor are more likely to be obese than hungry.

Good food -- the sustainably-grown, fresh, tasty food we get from small local farmers -- costs a bit more than the commercially-produced similar items bought in the supermarket. How rich do we really have to be to justify spending what our parents spent for food instead of settling for cheap stuff?

No worries -- the danger is only to the farm and its workers

This response (scroll down to the second Q&A) to a question about whether a gardener who uses his Christmas tree branches as mulch on his strawberries should be concerned about pesticide residues appeared just before Christmas in the New York Times:

A: Probably, but probably not enough for serious concern, especially if you remove the boughs in spring before the needles drop.

The use of pesticides on Christmas trees is decreasing, and most are applied in the growing season. This does not magically render them benign, but it does mean that they largely migrate or degrade before the tree is marketed. Any ill effects fall primarily on the farm, its workers and its environs, not on your strawberries.

Oh, well then. Carry on.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

NPR on the demand for hormone-free milk

National Public Radio's Morning Edition included a story this morning on the demand for milk produced without use of artificial hormones which the government insists are harmless to humans.

CAFO'd pigs 'mix' viruses, pass them on to humans

In case you needed another reason to source your pork from local, pastured, sustainably-raised, closed-herd animals, this article in the Dec 19 issue of Meat & Poultry, the business journal for meat and poultry producers, warns pork producers that a new strain of swine influenza holds an ominous difference from earlier versions:

...this new strain has a molecular twist: It is composed of avian and swine influenza genes.

These findings provide further evidence that swine have the potential to serve as a "mixing vessel" for influenza viruses carried by birds, pigs and humans. It also supports the need to continue monitoring swine ― and livestock workers ― for H2-subtype viruses and other influenza strains that might someday threaten swine and human health.

Or possibly we could consider whether the CAFO business model is simply a failed experiment.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ham from Mohr Animal Acres

I picked up a ham for Christmas brunch from Mohr Animal Acres last time they made their once-a-month winter dropoff in Hyde Park. I wanted to see exactly how it tasted, so Christmas morning I simply put it onto a rack and into a 325 oven until the thermometer read 140, no marinading, glazing or basting. This is the true test of a ham -- can it stand on its own with no overnight marinades, honey-marsala glazes, studdings of cloves, pineapple rings, or every-fifteen-minutes bastings? If it can, it's a darn good ham. Well, this ham was excellent. Several folks commented on how moist, tender, and flavorful it was.

Next time, I'll probably go ahead and gild the lily with a glaze, but if I'm ever short on time and need to just be able to put a piece of meat into a slow oven and serve it two hours later, I'll know I'm safe with a ham from Mohr.

Boulder Belt farm

I drove up to Boulder Belt in Eaton (just west of Dayton) last Friday to visit their farm store. They have a very cool setup, with a separate building right on the road for the store. Boulder Belt is growing in hoophouses and under row covers this winter, so they had a surprising variety of veggies including a large selection of lettuces, leeks, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, beets, and radishes. I also bought three cornish game hens (small young chickens) which I roasted in a clay pot and were delicious. No spinach, as that particular row cover was frozen to the ground with last week's snow, and farmer Lucy says the carrots are about over for the season.

I'd been hoping to walk around a bit and take pictures, but the ground was so wet and mushy that it wasn't meant to be. Next time I visit I'll try to pick a drier day and ask for the full tour!

Monday, December 24, 2007

For the locavore who has everything

This is a very cool little cart for running around the farmers' markets.

It folds up to store in your car.

Too bad it's $60. Might be a nice gift for your childless rich foodie uncle, though!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Kinkead Ridge Winery

Kinkead Ridge Winery in Ripley OH is celebrating their fifth anniversary with an accounting of their long and impressive list of this year's accomplishments. For those who haven't yet tried a Kinkead Ridge wine (I've found them at Dilly Deli in Mariemont and at The Wine Store in Montgomery) you're missing out. It's a lot of fun to open a really good bottle of wine and after someone has commented on what a nice wine it is, to say, "Oh, yeah, the Kinkead Ridge? That's in Ripley," and watch the reactions.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Reuters' Top Health Issues of 2008

Reuters has released their predictions for the top health issues of 2008. Topping the list: Raw Milk. According to Reuters,

1. Raw Milk

People will go to extreme lengths to get it, farmers will risk their businesses to sell it, and most state governments want nothing to do with legalizing it. Raw milk -- milk that hasn't been pasteurized or homogenized -- was one of the most talked-about foods of the year.

Its fans say that pasteurization removes proteins, enzymes and healthy bacteria from milk, making it less nutritious, and that the taste of raw milk is incomparable. Those opposed to raw milk consumption -- including health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control -- argue that the harmful bacteria are of primary concern, and that the dangers posed by E. coli, salmonella and listeria are not worth the risk.

The debate is sure to continue in 2008 as raw milk goes mainstream, governments try to make it unappealing and people find more creative ways to get their hands on it.

Also on the list: the 2007 Farm Bill, Food labelling, Michael Pollan, The End of Cheap Food, and Fixing the FDA/USDA. Pretty much an all-star lineup from the Local Eating team.

Ohio Dairy Labelling

The folks up in Columbus who feel compelled to protect us from things we want to do by making them illegal have sunk to a new low: now they want to protect us from knowledge.

Up for consideration: a bill that would make it illegal for Ohio dairy farmers who don't use hormones on their cows to label their product 'hormone-free.' It seems all the dairy farmers who do use hormones on their dairy cows think such labels might make consumers think there was something wrong with milk produced when dairy cows are injected with hormones to make them produce more milk than nature intended. And, not coincidentally, farmers using hormones tend to be the ones with the most money to spend on lobbying government officials.

This letter to Governor Strickland, signed by many notables in the food safety, consumer protection, and dairy industry (including, strangely, Aurora Organic Dairy who have been in the news lately for playing fast-and-loose with the term 'organic') asks Ohio's governor not to interfere with our right to know.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The BBC on the Fife Diet

The BBC today has this article on the Fife Diet, an experiment by a group in the Scottish county of Fife to eat foods grown or produced only within the county. As one of the group comments,

"It's incredible we've come to the situation where people find it inconceivable to eat food from near where you live."

Menu for Hope IV: Two more days to buy a raffle ticket!

As Menu for Hope 4 draws to a close, organizer Chez Pim believes the food-blogger fundraiser will likely raise more than last year's $62,000 total. For those who haven't yet purchased raffle tickets for any of the incredible variety of tempting and sometimes unique prizes, here is an article on how the funds raised will be used to support the Lesotho School Lunch Program, which buys foods produced by Lesotho farmers to feed Lesotho school children. A win for the farmers, a win for the schoolkids, and a win for you when your charitable donations go to supporting local eating halfway around the globe.

For those new to reading this blog, Cincinnati Locavore is donating an All-Clad MC2 Saute Pot w/Lid and Loop. You can read about the other raffle prizes here. If you're interested in food, you'll find dozens of prizes to make your mouth water both literally and figuratively. How about a private wine class for you and twenty of your closest friends? A package of Jeni's Ice Cream, the Columbus ice cream named by Dean & DeLuca 'the best ice cream in the US'? Would winning a guided pizza tour of New York City be a good enough reason to plan a trip to the big apple? Or maybe a two-day vacation in Napa at the Meadowood Resort is more your style.

Whatever foodie items you're interested in, take a look at the prizes and see if you can't find one you'd love to win. You'll be donating to a worthy cause while you're at it.

2008 CSA Updates

Gravel Knolls Farm has updated their CSA page for the 2008 season. Their pickup point is the West Chester FM off I-75 on Union Blvd on Saturday mornings. They're offering a new plan this year whereby members can sign up for five-week blocks rather than the whole season if they prefer, to allow folks to work around vacations and such.

Greensleeves farm has updated their CSA listing for the 2008 season at Pickups are at the farm in Alexandria KY on Tuesdays 7-8. They offer a reduced share price for those able to come early on pickup days and help with the harvest.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's in season?

This very cool tool on the site of the National Resources Defense Council lets you input your state and the time of year (early January through late December) and up comes a list of what's fresh and available. Nice idea! Unfortunately there are still a few glitches to be worked out -- during early December, for instance, Ohio is listed as having only cauliflower available while Pennsylvania is listed as having beets, cabbage, brussels sprouts, carrots, turnips, and other late-season crops and Kentucky and Indiana are listed as having NOTHING available. Oookay. Someone needs to take a look at a map.

Monday, December 17, 2007

US Senate commits 'Act of Cowardice'

The excellent Blog for Rural America calls the Senate's refusal to pass the Dorgan-Grassley amendment (limiting payments to farmers to $250,000) to the 2007 Farm Bill 'an act of cowardice.' It's hard to argue with them. This decision all by itself continues a systematic exclusion of new young farmers into the industry and protects the wealthiest farmers from competition. Once again when it comes to decisions made by those we've elected, money talks.

Ohio Milk Labeling: if it's us vs. them, why are we being represented by one of them?

Oh, that's nice. According to Saturday's Columbus Dispatch, on the Ohio Department of Agriculture's advisory committee to investigate whether Ohio dairymen should be allowed to label their milk as "hormone-free," the consumer point of view is being represented by Robin Steiner. Ms. Steiner once worked for Monsanto (which markets the synthetic growth hormone given to cows to increase milk production) and is married to a dairyman who uses the hormones in his herds. She's the only member of the committee with "consumer" listed as her affiliation.

Her point of view? Her elderly mom

...lives on a limited income and doesn’t have extra money to spend on milk that isn’t compositionally different from less-expensive types.

So clearly the solution is not to tell mom what’s in the milk. Ignorance being bliss, and all.

Uh, do you think maybe she’s already made up her mind about this one?

Blah blah blah locavorism blah blah blah

It's become very fashionable to point out that eating locally doesn't always necessarily equate to eating sustainably. Duh. Apparently everyone is smarter than we are. In the New York Times Op/Ed section, this opinion piece from Sarah Murray of The Financial Times. Her conclusion?

The “food miles” concept has helped raise awareness of the environmental impact of one aspect of our daily lives: eating. Yet the potato chips example demonstrates that greening our food supply means we have to think more creatively. The danger of going for the easy target of transportation is that we focus too narrowly and miss the bigger picture.

We get it. You can't just focus on miles the food has travelled -- you have to consider other aspects of food production. Where do these folks keep getting the idea we're all just blindly looking at a single piece of information? And why does it feel like they're much more focussed on that single piece of information than we are?

Michael Pollan in the NYT Magazine

Michael Pollan has an article the connections among bee colony collapse, MRSA, and factory farming in yesterday's New York Times Magazine. According to Pollan,

...the story of Colony Collapse Disorder and the story of drug-resistant staph are the same story. Both are parables about the precariousness of monocultures. Whenever we try to rearrange natural systems along the lines of a machine or a factory, whether by raising too many pigs in one place or too many almond trees, whatever we may gain in industrial efficiency, we sacrifice in biological resilience. The question is not whether systems this brittle will break down, but when and how, and whether when they do, we’ll be prepared to treat the whole idea of sustainability as something more than a nice word.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Your next meal is out back eating your hostas

A deer hunter in Anchorage in yesterday's New York Times points out that the product of his hobby is

free-range, grass-fed, organic, locally produced, locally harvested, sustainable, native, low-stress, low-impact, humanely slaughtered meat.
I'm thinking he has a really good point. I had venison several times as a teenager when a hunting friend's parents held an annual 'game meal' for their kids' friends. The food was always great. I wonder where I can find local game meat?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dark Days Challenge/Every Thursday: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and butternut squash

I like to cook. Love it, really. But even so it's nice to have something in the freezer for those busy days when I'm getting home too late to start from scratch or just don't feel like it. One of my go-to meals is meatloaf, which I usually serve once a week with the mashed potatoes I put up while potatoes were in season and the butternut squash I stocked up on in October. (I'll post my make-ahead mashed potatoes recipe in a future post.)

I generally make four batches of meatloaf at a time and produce five slightly-smaller-than-usual loaves with them, as we aren't huge eaters at my house. (My husband and son are lobbying for larger loaves to facilitate leftover production, as this is one of their favorite meals.) Last Thursday we ate the last of the meatloaves I had in the freezer, so yesterday I made up another batch. This recipe is adapted from Pam Anderson's The Perfect Recipe.


2 T olive oil
4 c chopped onions
8 garlic cloves, pressed (if you don't have a garlic press, mince)
8 eggs
1 1/2 T dried thyme
1 T salt
2 t ground pepper
1 1/2 T Dijon mustard
1 1/2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 t hot sauce
2 c plain yogurt
4 pounds ground beef
4 pounds ground pork
2 2/3 c panko breadcrumbs (if you can't find panko, substitute quick oats)
1 1/3 c minced fresh parsley

2 1/2 pounds of bacon, divided into 1/2-pound portions and wrapped for the freezer.

Heat oil and saute onions and garlic five minutes. Set aside to cool.

Mix eggs with thyme, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcester- shire, hot sauce, and yogurt, whisking to blend well. Add to meat in a very large bowl along with breadcrumbs, parsley, and onions/garlic. Mix gently with a fork until evenly blended.

Divide into 5 portions, weighing to even them out. (If you don't have a kitchen scale, just eyeball it.) Form into loaves and wrap tightly in foil.

Package each loaf with a half-pound portion of bacon and freeze.

On serving day:

Thaw meatloaf and bacon. Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Wrap a cooling rack in aluminum foil and poke the foil full of 1/8" holes in an area larger than the size of the loaf. Set the rack on the cookie sheet and center the loaf over the holes.

Make glaze:

1/8 c chili sauce
1 T sriracha sauce (this is usually in the asian section, or you can make your own.)
2 T brown sugar
2 t cider vinegar

Mix together well.

Brush glaze over meatloaf. Cover glazed loaf completely with bacon, using toothpicks to secure the ends. Insert thermometer and bake at 350 until loaf registers 160, about 45 - 50 minutes. Cool 15 minutes before removing thermometer (if you remove the thermometer too soon, you'll lose a lot of juice), then slice and serve.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dark Days Challenge/Goodwinter Soup

I can't decide whether this one qualifies as local or not. The kale, tomatoes, squash, chicken, onions, carrots, celery are local. The pasta is semi-local. The chickpeas aren't local, and neither are the porcinis or the parmesan.

I adapted this recipe from an excellent one found on Restaurant Widow's wonderful blog. Her version is quicker if you have parmesan stock and leftover chicken on hand but requires several pots if you don't, so while I've made some ingredients changes my adaptation is primarily to trade time for dirty pots. I changed it enough that I decided it needed a new name, so as the ingredients are wintery and the instructions now call for an all-day babysit (though requiring little attention; perfect for a long winter day spent at home but with only occasional visits to the kitchen), I decided to call it Goodwinter Soup.

My husband, who is not generally a fan of chickpeas, asked me to add it into the regular rotation. And it's gorgeous enough to serve to guests -- the combination of the different shapes (round chickpeas, diced squash, spiral gemelli, julienned tomatoes) and colors (the bright orange of the squash, dark green of the kale, and deep red of the tomatoes set against the muted earthtones of the chicken, chickpeas, pasta and stock) have a homely beauty.


1 c chickpeas with water to cover
10 c water
1 3" x 4" piece of Parmigiano Reggiano rind
1/4 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 med onion, quartered (or several onion ends)
1 carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into 3-inch pieces (or equivalent trimmings)
1 stalk celery, cut into 3-inch pieces (or equivalent trimmings)
1 parsnip, halved lengthwise and cut into 3-inch pieces (or equivalent trimmings)
1 T peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 boneless skinless chicken breast (or two half breasts)
3 - 4 c chicken stock
4 oz sundried tomatoes, cut in fine julienne
1 bunch kale, cleaned, veined, and roughly chopped
1 butternut or other orange-fleshed winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
1 c gemelli, cooked until not quite al dente (about a minute less than the package instructions.)
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash chickpeas well, cover with water, and set aside to soak.

Place water, parmesan rind, porcinis, onion, carrot, parsnip, celery, peppercorns, and bay leaves into a soup pot, bring to a boil, lower to simmer, and let stew for several hours, adding water as necessary to keep covered.

Add chicken breast and more water if necessary to cover completely, return to boil, cover, remove from heat, and allow to cool. (This will poach the chicken breast perfectly; do not remove cover until pan feels just warm to the touch.)

Remove chicken breast, cut into 1/2" dice, and set aside. Drain chickpeas, reserving a cup of the soaking water.

Strain stock in a fine sieve and return to pan. Add drained chickpeas, the reserved chickpea soaking water, and enough chicken stock to cover completely, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until chickpeas are tender (1-3 hours depending on how long they soaked), adding more chicken stock as needed to keep chickpeas completely covered.

When chickpeas are tender, add reserved chicken, kale, tomatoes, and butternut squash, add more chicken stock to barely cover, return to boil, and reduce heat to simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add cooked gemelli and heat through*. Correct seasonings (NOTE: the parmesan rind contains a lot of salt and your chicken stock may, too, so taste before adding salt) and serve with rustic bread and a salad.

*One additional way to avoid dirtying more pots is to cook the gemelli actually in the soup -- throw the cup of uncooked pasta in during the final few minutes of the cooking process, stir to prevent sticking, cover the pot and allow the pasta to steam for five minutes. This is tricky, though -- for your laziness, you risk overcooking your pasta, and the texture of the finished pasta will never be as good as pasta that is cooked in plenty of water until not quite al dente, drained, rinsed in cold water to stop the cooking, then added to the dish to reheat just before serving.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Local = Green?

As usual, the media gets it about half right. The New York Times recognizes the idea of eating local as partially motivated by environmental concerns, but they don't even seem to consider whether there may be additional reasons to eat local, such as health, taste, or supporting the local economy. Nor do they recognize that eating truly local generally also means getting food that is more sustainably produced in many ways. All the meat I buy from local farmers is pastured. The produce I buy from local farmers is produced using fewer chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Menu for Hope 4: Cincinnati Locavore's prize is an All-Clad 6 QT MC2 Saute Pot with Lid and Loop!

When Chez Pim asked for participants in their annual world hunger fundraiser Menu for Hope by donating a prize to be raffled, I said I'd love to. Then I wondered what I could donate.

The beauty of this pot is that it is so versatile. It is broad-bottomed enough to use as a saute pan and deep enough to use as a stockpot or casserole/dutch oven. It can go from stovetop to oven and back. The handle and loop mean that even a heavy load can be carried easily two-handed. Like every All-Clad product, it heats up like a charm and holds heat evenly. The brushed-finish exterior is a joy -- unlike polished stainless, a fingerprint doesn't show. I LOVE these pots! This is a brand-new, never-used pot in its original box (I only removed it from the box to photograph it, then I rewrapped it in its protective plastic and stored it away again.) If you have room for only one large pot in your kitchen, this is the one! It retails for $245. Sorry, the bulk and size of this item mean I'm offering shipping within the US only.

To see all the prizes offered by food bloggers worldwide to raise money as part of Menu for Hope, go to Chez Pim. If you'd like to see what's being offered by other food bloggers in our general region (all of the non-coastal US), go to Kalyn's Kitchen.

To buy a raffle ticket for this or other prizes:

1. Go to online charity auction house Firstgiving.

2. Make a donation. For each $10 donation, you'll receive one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. The prize code for my All-Clad Saute Pot is UC07.

3. If your company matches your charity donation, please remember to check the box and fill in the information so Menu of Hope can claim the corporate match.

4. Please also check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

5. Check back at Chez Pim on for the results of the raffle.

Thanks for your participation, and good luck in the raffle!

Friday, December 7, 2007

DC real estate ad takes a dig at wealthy farmers

We were alerted by Grist to this ad appearing yesterday in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, touting affordable condos. (Click ad to enlarge.)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Menu for Hope 4

Cincinnati Locavore is participating in the 4th Annual Menu for Hope! This annual online raffle by food bloggers around the globe raises money for hunger projects worldwide. In 2006 the project raised over $60,000 for the World Food Program. This year the project runs December 10 - 21. Bloggers all over the world donate food-related prizes, and blog readers participate by buying raffle tickets for the various prizes through online charity auction house Firstgiving.

Here at Cincinnati Locavore we're especially excited that funds raised this year by Menu for Hope IV are earmarked for the school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. The Lesotho School Lunch Program is a model in local procurement, buying food locally to support local farmers and the local economy. Instead of shipping surplus corn across the ocean, the WFP through the Lesotho program buys directly from local subsistence farmers who practice conservation farming methods.

Other bloggers in our region participating in the project (along with the prizes they're offering this year) can be seen Monday, December 10th at the Central US Prize Roundup on Kalyn's Kitchen, the Utah-based host for flyover country blogs. For all prizes in all regions, visit Chez Pim. You can see all of last year's raffle prizes here.

And here's the really fun part: by "participating," we mean Cincinnati Locavore is offering a prize. We're not allowed to tell you what it is yet -- Menu for Hope likes to announce all the prizes at the same time on the morning of December 10th -- but we can promise this prize will make any serious cook drool.

Local Wines

From the blog of Wine Girl, this post on two local wineries.

From the website of Kinkead Ridge in Ripley:

The mission of Kinkead Ridge is to produce ultra-premium estate-bottled wine in Southern Ohio (Ohio River Valley appellation), exclusively vinefera, with great attention and care paid to cultural practices and classic winemaking techniques. Our primary grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Viognier, and Riesling. Smaller quantities of Petit Verdot, Roussane and Sauvignon Blanc fill out our mix.
From the website of Harmony Hill in Bethel:
The goal of Harmony Hill Vineyards is not to be Ohio's largest winery but instead to carefully select only the finest grapes to produce a limited amount of estate-bottled premium Cabernet Sauvignon wine in the Bordeaux tradition.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

King Corn on DVD

Oh, very cool! King Corn is now available on DVD for those of us in corn country who might otherwise not have a chance to see it.

Penny-wise Eat Local Challenge

Back in April, Eat Local Challenge started a new challenge intended to explore the question of whether the average family could afford to eat locally. They started with the Department of Labor statistics on the average amount spent by a family for food each week:

1 person in the family, one wage earner: $68 a week
2+ persons in the family, one wage earner: $121 a week
2+ persons in the family, 2 wage earners: $144 a week
2+ persons in the family, 3+ wage earners: $184 a week

Most participants ended up concluding there was a trade-off between money spent and time spent. Those who were willing and able to spend more time planning and more time in the kitchen could pull off eating local on an average family's budget as long as they ate at home and carried their lunches. A few participants found it difficult to avoid restaurants, and even if they ate in restaurants that sourced locally they ended up blowing their food budgets. A few had no problem staying within the budget at all as their normal weekly food budget is less than the Department of Labor average -- which would seem to indicate that there are at least some folks out there capable of eating locally on an average food budget.

Food Stamp Challenge

The Executive Director at Jewish Community Services blogged on her experience living on a food stamp budget for a week. This interested me because her comments on how hungry she felt and her 'food insecurity' (worries that her $21 food budget wouldn't last her the entire week) reminded me of a common criticism of the local eating movement: that eating locally would be impossible for someone on a limited budget.

But when I looked at her food choices, I had to wonder. She chose highly processed foods such as boxed breakfast cereal instead of something that would have offered her far more calories for the penny such as oatmeal. She chose convenience foods such as prepared spaghetti sauce, bagged 'baby' carrots, hot dogs, pretzels and microwave popcorn. She chose relatively expensive foods that provided very little caloric content such as a bag of organic lettuce (which used up over ten percent of her budget for the week all by itself) and very little in the way of nutritive value (2 2-liter bottles of pop.) Her fresh fruit choices included 4 apples for $3.44 when bananas were 4 for .79 and tangerines were 4 for fifty cents. When faced with a budget of $21 for the week, why wouldn't she simply add a couple extra bananas and/or tangerines to her cart instead of spending a whopping 16% of her budget on what probably amounted to 250 calories? Her shopping cart didn't contain much in the way of budget-conscious healthy standards -- where was the 10-pound bag of potatoes that leapt immediately to my mind when I considered the idea of trying to feed myself on $21 a week? No wonder she was hungry!

Her choices are hers; as she points out in her blog, it's none of my business whether a food stamp user chooses Cheerios over oatmeal. I agree, it's not my business. But it doesn't follow that her hunger is evidence that $21 is 'ridiculously insufficient' to provide adequate food for one person for one week. Her hunger and her food insecurity were the result of her food choices, not of her budget.

At Kroger's -- not the cheapest option for food buying -- I found these prices:

10 pounds potatoes $3.98 3000 calories
2 pounds rice $1.79 3000 calories
2 pounds beans $1.39 2340 calories
42 oz oatmeal $2.17 4500 calories
1 gallon milk $2.99 2400 calories
1 pound butter $2.72 3200 calories

That comes to $15.04 for 18,440 calories. The average diet is 2000 calories a day, so this is enough food for over nine days all by itself, which means that one week's food if you ate nothing but these food items would cost $11.39, leaving nearly ten dollars -- almost half the budget -- to buy other items. Assuming you're eating these other items, you'll of course end up eating less of the pantry staples, which means they'll stretch even further. At this point, she could afford the pop and the lettuce AND the apples.

Now, this is truly subsistence eating. It would be boring in the extreme, and while 'boredom' is a silly consideration in the face of true hunger (I suspect many people all over the world would be thrilled to be similarly bored with their diets), very few of us would expect anyone to eat this monotonous a diet week in, week out here in the land of plenty. But the fact remains: no one need go hungry or worry about their food lasting the week on a food stamp diet.

But that still leaves the question of whether eating locally is doable for a low-income individual. It would require a different set of pantry staples. Rice doesn't grow in Ohio. Local milk and butter are available only to those who have access to a car, because local milk means raw milk and that can only legally be obtained in Ohio directly from the farm via a herdshare and at around $5 a gallon, which by itself renders it unlikely for inclusion in a food stamp diet. Even dry beans and oatmeal can be difficult to find locally. But down at Findlay Market, smack dab in the middle of Over-The-Rhine, all farmshed vendors are required to accept food stamps.

I may have to try a Local Eating Food Stamp Challenge.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Farm Lobby

This article about the political power of large wealthy farmers and the profound ways in which their interests differ from those of small farmers, the first of a series of three from the excellent blog Ethicurean, is worth the time and effort even if you're tired of hearing about CAFOs.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dark Days Challenge/Pepper Chicken and Buttered Radishes

Yeah, I know. It sounds like a bizarre combination for a meal. And there's no good reason behind the combination. It was pure coincidence and unwillingness to delay gratification. (I'd already done my Dark Days Challenge Meal for the week, but I got it in my head to make a Pepper Chicken and ran out to Red Sun Farm and Greenacres for the necessary ingredients, figuring this would be an easy second meal.) Then when I got to Greenacres they had three bunches of radishes. I've been craving buttered radishes for weeks. I snapped up all they had, and that became the side dish du jour.

Greenacres also had all the peppers and onions my heart could desire in early December: Green bell peppers, pimientos, jalapenos, red onions, yellow onions, shallots. (They're growing in hoophouse over the winter, and the gardener says they'll harvest once a week as long as snow or ice doesn't collapse the hoophouses.) At any rate, their peppers were beautiful, and I grabbed an assortment figuring the more flavors the better. At Red Sun Farm I'd picked up garlic and several boneless chicken breasts. The only things I needed to pick up at Pipkin's were flatbread and cilantro.

For the Pepper Chicken, I used more or less the same seasoning mix I use for taco meat:


1 T olive oil
4 chicken breasts, sliced thin against the grain
3 - 4 c sweet and hot peppers, to taste, cut into 1/4" dice
1 1/2 c onions, cut into 1/4" dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 t corn flour
4 1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t seasoned salt
1/2 t paprika
1/4 t cumin
1/4 t cayenne
1 t salt
2 c chicken stock

In a medium saute pan, heat the oil on medium heat. Saute the chicken breasts until just opaque, then remove the chicken to a plate. Add peppers, onions and garlic to hot pan and saute over medium-low heat until onions are translucent. Add chicken stock and seasonings and bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer for twenty minutes until veggies are tender. Return chicken to pan, heat through, and serve on pita or flatbread.

The buttered radishes are a strange concept that I suspect is French in origin, but I like them nevertheless. The combination of butter, pepper, and tender-cooked radishes is irresistible. I'm experimenting with other additions. This version includes dill, but I'm not sure that's the perfect enhancement.


2 T butter
salt to taste
~25 radishes, trimmed
2 t sugar
1 t red wine vinegar
1 T dill, minced
1 1/2 t ground pepper

In a small skillet, melt butter. Add radishes and salt, coat radishes with butter, then cover pan and leave over low heat for 4-5 minutes depending on the size of the radishes. Add sugar and vinegar and saute 2 minutes, then add dill and pepper, remove from heat, and serve.

Red Sun Farm & Greenacres Farm

I took a trip out to Red Sun Farm on Grog Run Rd in Loveland today. Red Sun offers a nice option: a self-serve farm store (the photo is theirs from their website) with an honor box. They have pastured chicken, pork, beef, and eggs. Their own garlic and potatoes were available today along with dried lavender and basil.

I also hit Greenacres Farm on Spooky Hollow in Indian Hill. They had peppers, lots of herbs, arugula, onions, shallots. Also three bunches of radishes, which I snapped up because I've been craving buttered radishes. They're growing in hoophouses this winter. The gardener told me they'd have produce unless/until snow or ice collapsed their hoophouses and will be harvesting weekly, generally on sunny afternoons because it's easier to get inside the plastic if it's been warmed by the sun.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Dark Days Challenge/Fettucini and Meatballs in Marinara

This one is a stretch to call 90%, I think. Certainly 90% of the cost of this meal went to local ingredients, but some of the bulkier ingredients weren't local.

The marina is the least-local portion of the meal, and that's my husband's mother's fault, god rest her soul. My husband's favorite meal is his mother's spaghetti, which family legend has it was passed down to her by her husband's mother, an Italian woman who immigrated in 1906. So of course when I married him, I got the recipe from his mom.

Well, maybe old Mrs. Finocchiaro had to make do with what she could find when she moved to South Philly from Sicily as a young married woman, but I really can't believe she strayed this far from her roots:


1/2 stick Olio
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1/4 c dried parsley
1 T salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t garlic powder
1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes + 1 can water
1 15-oz can Hunts sauce
1 12-oz can Hunts tomato paste

Brown the beef in the olio, drain off excess fat, and add the onion, parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Saute 10 minutes and add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer 2 - 3 hours.

When I first saw this recipe, I suspected my (of Swiss extraction & raised in Bucyrus, Ohio) mother-in-law had massively adapted her mother-in-law's recipe to what could be found at the Foodarama (I swear that was the name of our local grocery store) in Dayton Ohio in the 1950s. So the first time I made it for my husband, I tried to take it back to Italy at least a little. I skipped the olio, used fresh parsley and garlic, and used nothing but whole San Marzano tomatoes plus a little beef stock to make a long-cooked sauce.

My husband said, 'This is really good, but it's not my mom's sauce.'

So I relented. Other than starting with a 'half stick of olio' and then draining it off (I just saute the onions and seasonings while the beef is browning in its own juices) I now use The Recipe. It's become my son's favorite meal. Someday I'll probably be handing it over to a daughter in law. Sigh. On the bright side, it's the easiest dinner I ever make, the ingredients are always in my cupboards, and my husband and son are delighted to see it every week. So while I'll never love this sauce, I do love having a go-to recipe for crazy days.

The meatballs have only one non-local ingredient (the romano -- cheese as always is a challenge to find locally.) These are adapted from the recipe used at Maroni's in Northport, NY on Long Island and featured on one of my guilty pleasures, Throwdown with Bobby Flay. It's an odd meatball recipe, with four times as much egg and breadcrumb and twice as much milk as most meatball recipes contain. Maroni jokingly refers to it as 'more of a quiche' and I have to agree. They're probably not for everyone, but they're growing on me. Changes I made: I used half beef/half pork because that's what I prefer (the recipe calls for all beef.) I didn't have enough garlic, parsley, or basil in the house to meet the recipe's specifications and ended up halving the amounts -- for instance, the recipe called for 2 ounces of garlic. Well, a full head of organic garlic weighs less than an ounce. Same with the parsley and basil -- I chopped a mountain of both and ended up with just an ounce of each, so while the recipe called for 2 ounces of each, 1 ounce is what I used. I'll probably try to follow the specified amounts next time, and probably I'll add ground pepper, too, now that I've tasted the finished meatballs.


1/2 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound ground pork
4 ounces dried bread crumbs
4 large eggs
4 ounces whole milk
6 ounces grated Romano
3 ounces grated onion
1 ounce pressed fresh garlic
1 ounce Italian parsley, chopped
1 ounce basil, choppped

Preheat oven to 350. Coat a baking sheet lightly with olive oil.

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in large bowl.

Roll meatballs loosely to about the size of a large golf ball and place on baking sheet. Place into preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Serves six (about 3 large meatballs each.)

For pasta, I used the garlic fetuccini made by Rossi's, which is made in Marietta Ohio, about 200 miles from here and probably not with local grains. I'm going to keep my eyes open for a truly local product made with local grains, because that seems like something I ought to be able to find here in the middle of farm country.