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11/6/2014

Now that the cool weather has arrived, bringing baking season with it, I decided to unearth my sourdough starter from its burial spot in the back of the fridge.  Normally, I feed it and bake with it about once a week, storing it in the fridge instead of on the counter, but not so much during the summer months.  As such, I needed to feed it several times to revive it.  Every time you feed the starter, you remove an equal amount and use it or toss it.  I try never to toss it!

This recipe for Sourdough Oatmeal Raisin Muffins caught my attention, so I decided to try it.  I had a cup and a half of starter to use, so I made a triple batch.  Of course, I changed things up a bit to make it my own.  As soon as I popped the pans in the oven, I realized that I had forgotten to add the starter!  Thankfully, they turned out well anyway.

Sourdough muffins

However, I still had the starter and decided to make another batch the next day.  The taste was similar to the first batch, but I liked the texture better.  They seemed to be lighter, and I knew these muffins would be made over and over again.  We always have the ingredients on hand, and they are a great breakfast (toasted with butter) or snack for the kids to pack for school.  And, also importantly, they freeze well!

Here's my version, if you like raisins, add them in with the batter instead of using the jam. Yield 2 1/2 dozen muffins.

Ingredients:

• 3 cups oats (I used steel cut)
• 3 cups milk
• 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
• 1/2 cup oil
• 1/2 cup applesauce
• 3 eggs, beaten
• 4 1/2 cups flour (I use mostly white whole wheat mixed with all purpose)
• 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
• 3/4 tsp baking soda
• 1 1/2 tsp salt
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut (optional)
• 1/2 pint jam, any flavor (not jelly, it tends to dissipate once baked)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Combine oats and milk and set aside to soak.  Place liners in muffin pans (they make clean up easier, as the jam can make things sticky.)  Stir sourdough starter, applesauce, oil, and eggs into oatmeal mix and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, and coconut.  Add in the oat mixture and stir until just combined.  Fill liners half-way with the batter.  Add 1 tsp of jam to each, then fill with remaining batter.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



11/5/2014

thanksgiving pumpkins

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time where loved ones gather together and enjoy heaping plates of food. Many of the dishes on the menu may be laden with calories and cooked in ways that aren’t very healthy. However, it’s easy to make changes so this year’s meal is healthier, but still delicious. Below are some effective and quick ideas for holiday meal preparations.

1. Swap White Flour with Whole Wheat Flour

If your Thanksgiving meal will include breads or other choices that have flour as a main ingredient, use whole wheat flour instead of the white flour. Whole wheat flour helps digestion and, over time, can also cut a person’s risk of heart disease and diabetes. For every cup of white flour required by a recipe, substitute 7/8 cup of the whole wheat version.

2. Use Marshmallow Fluff Instead of Frosting

Planning to bake some Thanksgiving-themed cookies for the dessert table? Before you pile frosting on the freshly-baked goods, think about using marshmallow fluff instead. Unlike frosting, it’s fat free, which might make you feel less guilty about digging into the turkey eagerly before it’s time for dessert.

3. Try Mashed Banana in Recipes That Call for Fats

bananas

When you come across a Thanksgiving recipe that needs butter or oil, consider using mashed banana instead of those fatty ingredients. The banana adds potassium and vitamin B6. Switch out one cup of butter or oil with the same amount of mashed banana.

4. Go With Graham Cracker Pie Crusts

If you’re making a pie that has a crust partially made from Oreo cookies or sugar cookies, try substituting the cookies with reduced-fat graham crackers instead. They offer the same consistency, but fewer calories. Plus, the distinctive flavor of graham crackers should pair well with Thanksgiving favorites like pumpkin and pecan pies.

5. Use Evaporated Skim Milk Instead of Cream

In a recipe that requires cream, use the same quantity of evaporated skim milk instead. Although the milk adds a couple grams of sugar, you’ll be consuming a fraction of the fat. That usually makes it a more than worthy trade-off.

6. Use Flax Meal Instead of Eggs

This trick is good to rely on if anyone who’ll be at the Thanksgiving dinner is a vegan. Mix a tablespoon of flax meal with three tablespoons of warm water and combine with a whisk. Let the blend sit in the refrigerator for five to 10 minutes, and then you’ll be ready to use it in place of an egg for a recipe.

7. Choose Brown Instead of White Rice

brown rice

If you’ll be serving rice as a side dish for your turkey with all the trimmings, opt for brown rice rather than the white variety. When white rice gets processed, some things like fiber get stripped away. Brown rice is a healthier pick.

8. Try Turnip Mash

Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple, but they’re filled with calories even before extras like salt and butter get added. Consider turnip mash with fresh herbs and enjoy a side dish with fewer calories. Turnip mash only has about 50 calories per serving, but mashed potatoes have nearly 200.

9. Be Careful When Choosing Cookware

Having a healthy Thanksgiving dinner this year also means being conscious of what you cook your food in. Some containers can leach chemicals and traces of metal from their cooking surfaces. Be smart and choose lead-free options that aren’t made with chemicals, such as ceramic dishes.

10. Substitute Rolled Oats for Breadcrumbs

When making stuffing or another Thanksgiving favorite that uses breadcrumbs, switch them out for rolled oats that are seasoned with herbs. Not only does that reduce the sodium content, but it adds a whole grain to the finished dish.

11. Use Nuts as a Salad Topping

If you’re planning to start the Thanksgiving feast with a salad, top the greens with slivers of pecans or walnuts rather than croutons. They’ll give an extra crunch but have fewer carbohydrates than many types of croutons. The nutty taste might also encourage people to use salad dressing more sparingly than usual, which also reduces the overall fat content.

12. Practice Portion Control

Although Thanksgiving is often characterized by plates that are piled high with food, be thoughtful and take comparatively small portions of items like desserts or casseroles. Then, feel free to fill up with larger portions of healthier fare like veggies and lean meats. Also, be mindful that you'll probably be eating leftovers throughout the upcoming days; remember there’s no need to go overboard during the Thanksgiving meal.

13. Pick White Meat

Everyone has taste preferences for dark or white meat turkey. If you’re serious about making your holiday meal as healthy as it can be, opt for white meat. It’s a good source of lean protein but doesn’t have as much fat as dark meat and skin.

14. Stock Up on Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a seasonal favorite in the fall and a good source of fiber, vitamin A, potassium and vitamin C. Try cutting them in half, sprinkling the inside with a mixture of brown sugar and orange juice, then baking them in the oven.

15. Offer Seltzer Water with Fruit Slices as a Beverage

Soda, wine and juice are popular beverages for a holiday meal, but there’s a healthier option that’s still tasty. Set out a jug of seltzer water, plus a tray of orange, lemon and lime slices. The fruit slices add a kick of flavor, while the carbonation of the water treats the taste buds to an interesting sensation.

16. Don’t Use Canned Cranberries

Although canned cranberries are convenient, they usually don’t have the great antioxidant content fresh cranberries do. Plus, the canned versions are likely loaded with sugar and preservatives. Instead, use fresh cranberries and flavor them with balsamic vinegar or apple juice from concentrate.

By getting inspiration from this list, you should see it’s easier than you might think to make Thanksgiving healthier this year. If all goes well, maybe your efforts will turn into an annual tradition that inspires friends and relatives to follow your lead.

Photos by FoodiesFeedIryna Yeroshko and Rob & Dani


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


11/3/2014

oyster mushroomsOne of the best wild edible mushrooms is also one of the few that I can often find year-round, but Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus) is especially tasty and prolific in the fall.

You’ve probably eaten oyster mushrooms at restaurants, or payed a steep price to buy some at a gourmet market. The “wild” Oysters you buy are actually cultivated, not wild (you got it that we’re talking about oyster fungi, not oyster shellfish, right?). They are usually grown on logs that are inoculated with Pleurotus ostreatus spores.

That gives you a clue about where you’ll find Oysters growing wild (if you're wondering why I'm capitalizing "Oysters," it's because I'm trying to convey the verbal accent us mushroom hunters and foragers use when talking about certain choice edible wild mushrooms: We don't say "hen of the woods mushroom," for example. We say "I found Hen today." Likewise, we don't refer to the oyster mushrooms we just found. Instead, we simply refer to them, with a gleam in our eyes and maybe hint of a brag in our intonation, as "Oyster."

Pleurotus ostreatus is a decomposer mushroom that breaks down dead hardwoods. I find it on stumps and dead trees (often just higher than I can reach unassisted…sigh). Oyster is one of the few carnivorous mushrooms: its mycelia are capable of killing and digesting nematodes.

Oyster gets its common name from the shape of its fruiting bodies (that’s the part of the fungus we call the mushroom). They look a little like stacks of oyster-shaped shells, except that they have a soft texture. Unlike many other shelf fungi, the undersides of Oysters are gilled.

The stems, when present, are off center with the gills running part way down them. The tops of the caps range from off-white to beige to brown to grey.

Oyster clusters can be hefty: 0ne recent batch of Oysters that I weighed when I got home came in at 17 pounds! That was way more than I could eat while they were still fresh. Fortunately, Oysters dry well. My dehydrator hummed for a couple of days handling that haul.

I was so excited about that find that when I got an email from my CSA letting me know that we were going to have the chance to order freshly harvested local oysters. I replied, “no thanks, I’ve already found plenty in Prospect Park!” There was some confusion until I realized that they were talking about the mollusk, not the mushroom!

My friend Chef Jeremy Umansky tells me that Thomas Jefferson used to serve oyster mushrooms braised in cream on toast points as part of his Thanksgiving feasts at Monticello. Their mild flavor is at its best in creamy sauces or simply sauteed in butter or oil. They are also wonderful in this all-puns-intended riff on the classic holiday seafood stew (no mollusks involved in this vegetarian version, although it might be interesting to include some).

Oyster” Stew

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish

• 3 tablespoons butter
• 8 ounces fresh or rehydrated oyster mushrooms, chopped
• 2 shallots, minced
• 1/4 cup dry sherry
• 3/4 cup milk
• 1/2 cup vegetable, fish, or oyster mushroom stock*
• 1/4 cup cream
• Salt and pepper
• 1 sprig fresh parsley, minced (optional)

1. Melt the butter in a medium sized pot. Add the Oysters and the shallots and cook over low heat, stirring, until the mushrooms first release and then reabsorb their liquid.

2. Add the sherry and raise the heat to medium high. Cook, stirring, for one minute.

3. Add the milk and the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, with the parsley sprinkled on top of each serving.

*If you are using dried oyster mushrooms, rehydrate them by pouring boiling hot water over them in a bowl and letting them soak for 15 minutes. Save the liquid to use as mushroom stock. Do not use stock made from other types of mushrooms for this recipe because that could overpower the delicate flavor of the Oysters.

Leda Meredith is the author of Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and follow her Leda's Urban Homestead. Her latest book is Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke...and More.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


11/2/2014

This is a funny-angled picture of part of the garden from down in the back. The amazing thing is that this was taken about two weeks ago. Look how green and lush it all is! Believe it or not, there are still flowers on the tomatoes and peppers — and it's almost the middle of October! Weird, weird, weird.Chopping Green Tomatoes For Salsa

 

Bringing In the Fall Harvest

 

The end of the gardening season may actually be upon us at last here in Illinois. The nights are getting into the 40's and the days are teetering on the high 50's and low 60's. There's a chill in the air of mornings — enough to make me put a jacket on when I go out to loose the chickens on the world. That means that it's time to start thinking about putting the garden to bed for the winter, a project that is done in stages here on Honeysuckle Hill. We brought in a small basket of green beans today... I cringed. Enough to use in a stirfry. Quite a few are too big and tough to eat, but my helper will pick anything that looks like a bean. I had a basket of peppers and tomatoes that went into the dehydrator (finally) today. There was tarragon and parsley and basil in the dehydrators and that's all bagged and labeled now and put away.

 This time of year the canning gets a little sporadic. Depending, of course on what's in your garden. This is the time when I will sometimes can vegetable soups, because it's a good way to use up bits and bobs of veggies that there wouldn't be enough to can straight out. One of the things that are always plentiful (well, except the year the blight killed everyone's tomatoes) about now are green tomatoes. And peppers. This is the gambling season for gardeners...can I leave those things out there 3 more days, or will the frost sneak in and touch everything, making it unusable? It's a little like roulette. This year's weather has been so unpredictable that I decided to just start hauling stuff in. I got all the butternuts in, I think. (There could be some out there hiding in the tall grass). All the potatoes and sweet potatoes are harvested. There are still carrots in the dirt. Chives are still out there.

 

What to Do with Green Tomatoes

 

Anyways,  it's time to use up some of this stuff, and like I said, I had so much chow chow left from last year that I was trying to think of something else to do with all those green tomatoes.

 

I think one of the best parts of the history of people is the way we ingeniously learn to make do with what we have. Use it up. Waste not, want not--which is what my granny always said.  When the cucumbers were past gone and the garden was winding down, she made relish out of green tomatoes and bell peppers. It was my dad's favorite thing in the world, so I learned to make it too. Chowchow. A tangled up mess of recipes and origins. Google it — it will make your head spin. All I know is that we make it from the basic leftovers of green tomatoes and bell peppers and onions, always with some turmeric. And anything else you don't know what to do with.

 

But this year I took several liberties in developing a new version of salsa verde. I don't grow tomatillos so I use green tomatoes. I won't call it salsa verde (except on the lids of my jars), because it isn't authentic. But let me tell you, it is GOOD.

So, wash and chop those green tomatoes. I had a 5 gallon bucket, almost full, of green tomatoes, a combination of Romas and Beefsteaks. Please forgive these vague measurements. But you can trust your gut (and your palette!) to figure this out.Vitamix Green Tomato Salsa

 

I wanted a smooth sauce, more than a salsa. I have plenty of regular salsa and peach salsa. I don't have much in the way of sauces for things like enchiladas and carnitas. As you recall, I was given a VitaMix for my birthday last January and I couldn't wait to use it. That beast will puree plywood. I adore it!

 

Annie’s Green Tomato Salsa Recipe

 

Here's the ingredient list that I used for my Green Tomato Salsa:

 

Green Tomatoes (like I said, about 5 gallon before cutting and chopping)

Onions (I used 5 large onions)

Garlic (5 cloves) Peeled

Green and Red Bell Peppers ( I think I used about 10 peppers all together, maybe more)

Jalapenos (to taste. I used 8 and it gave it a good bite...but won't set your head on fire)

Cayenne Peppers (I used 2, because I could)

White Distilled Vinegar (4 cups)

Water (2 cups)

Ground Cumin (About 3 tablespoons--taste and see what you like)

Canning Salt (4 tablespoons)

White Pepper (3 Tablespoons)

Lime Juice (2 cups)

2 big bunches of cilantro (optional if you don't like cilantro. I can't imagine, but I know it happens)

About 3 cups of fresh parsley, if you have it. (I did, so in it went.)Pureed Green Tomatoes For Salsa

 

I used my big stainless steel soup pot — a 4-gallon pot. I started with the green tomatoes, washed, cored, cut out any bad spots and quartered and threw them in the Vitamix. When it would get about 3/4 full, I pureed the tomatoes. Every so often, to break up the monotony, I would peel a couple of onions and throw in. I followed this procedure with the garlic and bell peppers. Then I got my gloves out — an important step! —  and removed the stems off the jalapenos and cayenne peppers. These too went into the blender. Make sure you are processing these with something else such as the bell peppers or tomatoes to make it easier on your eyes. In other words, you don't want a blender full of hot hot peppers and nothing to tone them down. After all the vegetables are pureed and in the pot, add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer gently on medium heat for about 25 minutes. Taste the mixture to see if you think it needs more cumin. You can adjust all the spices to your liking. Same with the hot peppers. This isn't rocket science…just cooking.Herbs For Green Tomato Salsa

 

Because of the amount of vinegar and lime juice in this, it is safe to water bath can. I filled pint jars to a half inch of the top, wiped the rims, and put the hot lids on. Tighten the rings and water bath can for 15 minutes. This approximate recipe made me 23 1/2-pints of sauce.

So there you go. Another solution to end–of-the-year garden leftovers. Bon apetit!

Canned Green Tomato Salsa 



10/30/2014

A short time ago, I was privileged to preview a screening of a brand new movie, The Seeds of Time, directed and produced by Sandy McLeod. I came across this movie after being sent a trailer by the Bread Lab at Washington State University, Mount Vernon, took a look, and really liked what I saw. It also had a link for obtaining the viewing rights for your group, school, whatever. What group? Then I thought, yes, I do volunteer once a week for The Table, a community kitchen/food bank/social advocacy organization. Yes! So, filled out the online form and waited. Didn’t have long to wait. Co-producer J.D. Marlow got right back to me explaining the details, and how to go about this. To make a long story short, I got the rights, the Table was thrilled to be able to show it at their movie night, and the DVD was shipped. I was.

seedsThe Table had me watch the movie first to see what I thought. It is a thoroughly impressive movie, with gorgeous cinematography. The main character is Dr. Cary Fowler, a man who has devoted his life to agriculture, seeds, and hopefully, not to be overly dramatic, humanity. I say hopefully, because agriculture as we know it today is teetering on the edge of disaster: Our crop diversity is at an all time low, between mono-cropping and the extinction of many ancient varieties of food crops. The statistic that brings this all home? 93 percent of varieties have gone extinct since 1903. More about this later. Couple this with the ongoing crisis of climate change, and the plants just can’t adapt fast enough to save our vulnerable necks.

The movie follows Dr. Fowler among others on a journey that takes you completely around the world, but two locations stand out: Svalbard, Norway, and Peru. Svalbard has become the Ark for seeds. Seeds are kept in the deep freeze from collections sent there from all over, be it the U.S., Canada, the Ukraine, Switzerland, Russia, as well as locations from the Far East and Africa. Peru is unique, because the Peruvian potato farmers are desperately attempting to keep, and in a lot of cases, revive, old varieties of their potatoes. It is quite a moving experience seeing them digging their potatoes in their beautiful native dress, coming together with other local groups that didn’t all get seed bankalong, just to save their heirloom potatoes. You see, there are two ways to save a variety: Put it in a seed bank, or grow it. They took the latter option. They also shared their potato seed so they could be kept for the future. Incidentally, it should be noted that the potato is native to Peru, and has been grown there for at least 13,000 years. That’s right, 13,000 years, and they are threatened now within a generation with extinction from the land becoming too warm.

There are many seed banks in the world, but they are all threatened by natural disaster, equipment failure and the like. Floods, like the ones suffered by Thailand recently, are a large destroyer of seed banks. The Thais lost all their seeds in that flood, thousands of varieties gone. For me personally, the most moving scene was when the woman from the Thai seed bank had to announce to the conference that it was a total loss, struggling to maintain her composure, but finally dissolving into tears. It was a heart-rending scene.

potatoesFew people in the world understand the severity of the problem, the aforementioned 93 percent already gone. Dr. Fowler, his colleagues, and many others in the field, work hard to save us from ourselves, but most people don’t even realize the problem exists. He himself is suffering from cancer, and for him, he realizes, time is running out, but it’s also running out for us. Time is not something we can afford to waste. Before watching the Seeds of Time, I heard about an initiative by a local veterinarian in the Perth, Ontario area, who is on the hunt for heirloom apple trees, searching for old varieties. They were searching parts of Lanark County to see if they could find any old trees, wild, but still alive. Don’t know how that turned out, but I would sure love to know. The question remains though: We are too quickly running out of time to find these plants. Will we make it?

Movie Night

At last, the big premiere at The Table. We (Bob, my husband, and I) trooped in to see the movie was starting. It was a small crowd, but passionate, as I later found out. Why? They were all gardeners, and they all got it. They watched with rapt attention, a gasp going up at the mention of the 93 percent. Afterward, we had a discussion, the passion showing for where we have been, and where we’re headed. Some folks had bought seeds at the local Seedy Sunday (part of the Seed Savers, I believe), but said, some of their seeds never sprouted. I mentioned the complete lack of Italian tomato plants for sale in the spring: I myself grow them to put up tomato puree for sauce over the winter. Not only can you not get the actual plants, but you’re limited to one or two varieties at best, Roma or Romano. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a lot of difference between the two. One woman admitted she had no idea this loss of diversity was even a problem. The Seeds of Time changed all that.

Finally...

I wish to thank J.D. Marlow for the speedy responses and making The Seeds of Time and photos available to us. Thanks J.D.!

You can always follow the further adventures of Sue at www.svanslooten.com.

Helpful links:

The Seeds of Time

The Table Community Food Centre


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



10/30/2014

ice pops

Pumpkin lattes are spicing up to-go cups, hearty stews are simmering in crockpots, and sweaters and boots are replacing tank-tops and flip-flops. Yep, it’s solidly fall—that is, in most of the country. Here in Texas, however, the one-or-two cool days we’ve had haven’t fooled us into swapping out our seasonal wardrobes—or our hot-weather treats. With this in mind, I present you with my current dessert crush, Peanut Butter Ice Pops.

Natural peanut butter is amplified by the complex sweetness of dates and maple syrup, the richness of coconut milk, and the flavor-enhancing awesomeness of vanilla and salt. Vegan and refined-sugar-free for those who are into that sort of thing (and daydream-ably delicious for, well, everyone), these cool and creamy treats will leave you craving ice pops all year long.

Peanut Butter Ice Pops

• 1 can (13.66 oz) full-fat coconut milk
• 8 pitted dates (deglet noor if available)
• 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
• 3/4 cup unsweetened natural peanut butter (I used Kirkland signature organic)
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
• Pinch of salt

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth. Distribute mixture evenly among six standard-sized ice-pop molds and freeze overnight or until completely frozen. Keep frozen until ready to serve. If needed to loosen a pop from its mold, carefully run the outside of the mold under hot water for 20-30 seconds. (I totally plagiarized these directions from my Avocado Fudge Pops post because there’s not much else I can add to the concept of “blend and freeze,” except for this:) Enjoy!

Morgan Crumm is a mother, blogger, recipe-developer, and real-food advocate based in Dallas, TX. More of her work can be found at BeingTheSecretIngredient.com, a blog about food, life, and love.

Looking for something cold and seasonably pumpkin-y? Try Roasted Pumpkin 5-Spice Ice Cream with a Gingersnap Swirl.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



10/28/2014

Tanya Fields in front of the BLK ProjeK biofuel bus

I had the opportunity to attend an interview with Tanya Fields, named the Eco-Warrior of the Food System, that dove into her history and how she came to be an activist in the urban farm and food sovereignty movements. The interview was held at the University of Kansas by the campus’ Center for Sustainability as part of its Food Hunger Awareness Month. For those unfamiliar with her groundbreaking projects (literally, she’s breaking ground to start food gardens in historically poor New York City neighborhoods), Fields’ current focus is the BLK ProjeK at Libertad Urban Farm, which empowers women of color by creating economic development opportunities through urban farming and local, fresh food delivery.

Fields is a working mother from the Bronx who feels she was led into her current activism through a series of “aha!” moments. One such moment was when she was on a trip to a grocery store (a trek she had to take outside of her neighborhood because no organic-food grocery stores are located nearby) with two young children in tow. Fields says she realized that the effort she had to go through to get healthy food for her family just wasn’t fair, and she wanted to help create a fair food system not only for her own family but also for her neighbors and friends.

Fields’ refreshing viewpoints challenge many preconceived notions held by food-system advocates. For example, she explained that those working in food-system change have to meet people where they are. Fields gave an example of when she has done community cooking classes in neighborhoods with different ethnic backgrounds, she isn’t able to just go in and show them how to make an arugula, blue cheese and toasted walnut salad. She needed to start with foods that were relevant to their culture and their experience, or the interest in making changes wouldn’t spark.

Fields also explained the physiological and psychological difficulties people face when trying to make dietary changes, which is often left out of the healthy, local foods discussion. “Salt and sugar activate the same places in your brain as cocaine,” she said. “People are truly addicted to salty, sugary foods. Changing that isn’t instantaneous.” Using her own life as an example, Fields delved in to the emotional relationship we all have with food, and stressed once again the importance of respecting individuals’ intimate and cultural connections with their food when we work toward creating positive change in our food supply.

The focus of Fields’ work has been on creating food sovereignty in the neighborhoods she lives and works in. “People should have the power to be a part of the decision-making process about what foods they have to offer their families,” Fields said. By teaching those in the BLK ProjeK to garden, prepare and deliver food in the same neighborhoods where they live — communities that are typically underserved and likely defined as “food deserts” — Fields is impacting a strong, positive change in the food system as well as in the lives of those her organization touches.

Tanya Fields in front of the biofuel bus the BLK ProjeK uses to deliver produce. Photo by BLK ProjeK.


Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely working in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can find Jennifer on Twitter or Google+.












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