For those of you who have followed this blog for a while, you may recall my post on Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a book that recounts the author’s year-long foray into the Slow Food movement with helpful recipes and daunting tales of raising heritage turkeys, making her own pasta and eating only food born, raised and slaughtered within a 50-mile radius of her house.

It promptly made me want to plant my own veggies, raise my own chickens and never, ever buy another loaf of bread again.

I lasted about a week, then reverted to most of my former buying habits: organic, store-bought with an occasional jaunt to the farmer’s market if I happened to be in the area.

Feeling like a complete failure, I was certain I could never measure up to the Kingsolver clan and was about to abandon all hope of ever feeding my children something that didn’t come from a box when Jennifer Reese came along.

Jennifer is my culinary hero.

Her cookbook, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, made me laugh so hard I nearly fell out of bed the first night I picked it up.  A cookbook that is funny? Let’s just say Jennifer is Barbara Kingsolver meets Erma Bombeck. She is seriously funny. Or funnily serious about food and what you can do to make your lives a little easier…and tastier!

For a delicious week, I savored every page as she unhooked me from my own First World guilt about Industrial Food and the harmful things we’re doing to the planet.

The book arose out of Jennifer’s own desperation. A victim of the 2008 recession, she suddenly found herself a formerly employed book critic for Entertainment Weekly. Watching the apple tree cast off its final fruit onto her Northern California lawn, Jennifer wondered if making apple sauce and living off the suburban land could save her. She set out to experiment with homemade food, starting her own silent from-scratch revolution.

But she is no proselytizer like some of her foodie contemporaries. Her side-splitting humor and distinct honesty about what is easier to make and what is easier to buy is extremely empowering and liberating.  For Jennifer, food is not political. Food is food.

Her expression about buying ducks, then selling them because of their gang-ish, bullying treatment of the other suburban-yard foul, reveals a truly authentic voice. Just listen to her description of the turkey farm where she bought what she called a Frankenbird with a bad boob job whom she didn’t have the heart to kill for her Thanksgiving meal:

“[The] farm was strewn with rusted car parts, overturned boxes of trash, empty,2-liter soda bottles, crushed cans, and downed trees, and through this WALL-E wasteland wandered dozens of chickens, cats, dogs, and three bloated, broad-breasted white turkeys – the standard factory-breed…the turkey may well have ingested STP,  Mountain Dew, and crystal meth, but I remained confident that she was never polluted by an antibiotic. We loved her instantly…”

She tried it. It failed. Onward!

Unlike Martha Stewart’s exotic list of ingredients for virtually every recipe she provides, Jennifer’s book is chock full of easy-to-make items whose components are in everyone’s kitchen. Flour, eggs, milk, salt, sugar. She brings food back to the basics. I will say, however, that some of the appliances may not be of your average variety. I, for one, don’t have, or plan on having, an ice cream maker. I did go out and buy a food processor/blender hybrid for the Nutella recipe. Yes! You can make Nutella from scratch. I still have to refine the amount of cocoa my kids can handle, but my daughter, the Nutella connoisseur, highly approved of the healthier version. No transfats. No aromas. Just plain and simple ingredients that came from the Earth.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter is a doable look at how we can embrace slow food with humor, grace and a pinch of kosher salt. I bet even Barbara Kingsolver would approve.

It's the picture of Italian ice-cream in a sho...

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Delays on the autobahn. Missed appointments. A jumble of commitments. Wash unhung.

It’s been a week of flurried activity that, despite my very best intentions, has been a little off. Blame it on the sweltering heat. Call it Mercury sliding into retrograde. Name it what you will. I’ve been late, truant and mismanaged since Monday.

Yesterday I was held up by a traffic accident that happened right before I arrived on the scene. Had I left in my normal early way, I may have been involved. I thanked the traffic gods and explained to the film director’s assistant as best I could when I finally arrived on set. Late is late and a frown ensues. Better that than flipped upside down on the A9.

Then today, my twelve-year-old daughter sunk into the floor with embarrassment as I bumbled about the orthodontist’s office. I had noted down the wrong time on my calendar, but the receptionist smiled and said, “We have an opening at 4 p.m.”

What’s a chronically late mother and her mortified daughter to do but…go shopping!?

So we flounced out the door for ninety minutes of spending. It ended up being the most perfect moment of slow I’d had with my kid all week.

There was no cell phone reception inside the department store (air-conditioned!) so I giggled with my daughter as she tried on various outfits. I even bought a few items myself. Then we treated ourselves to Italian ice cream.

“I forgive you,” my daughter whispered as she licked her ice cream.

“Excuse me?” I stopped in mid-bite.

“Being late has its advantages!” she grinned. And she was right.

We strap our mobile calendars to our palms and think the world will end if things go differently than planned. But sometimes it ends up being the best thing. Like not landing in a forty-car pile up and knowing that everything happens for a reason. Or that Italian ice cream and a bonding moment with your kid can happen when you take things a little easier every now and then. It is a moment such as the one we had today that I am reminded how the power of slow was born in an ice cream parlour. How à propos!

What’s been your favorite power of slow moment this summer?

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Browsing the thickly laden shelves of a Northampton bookstore, I sucked in the aroma of freshly printed works by people who could be my friends. My pal Lara had shared one of her favorites with me the day before at her Lincoln, MA home. It was there that I recalled the treasured moments of sitting in the sun, reading, uninterrupted and carefree. Other than vacation, I rarely read a book just because. And I remembered how good it felt.

“There it is!” I nearly shouted, drawing my voice to a theaterical whisper. It was the same book my friend had loaned me for the day. I promptly bought it, then devoured its pages, morsel by morsel.

Barbara Kingsolver, best known for her novels, penned a book entitled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life in which she and her family took on a year-long experiment to eat only locally produced food products. Other than olive oil and a few select items, they lived off the land…and long enough to tell us about it.

I’m only part way through (life and its pressing demands have since taken over), but I wanted to share the importance of the Earth, its soil and the oil we use unwittingly, nay passively, when consuming goods grown halfway around the globe.

Barbara goes into a lot of detail in the beginning, capturing the reader’s interest with statistics and sustaining it with sultry writing. I can read anything, if written well.

Barbara’s is one for the bookshelves in my own home. It shares recipes anyone can try out (even for a disabled cook as myself!) as well as the trials and tribulations of an Appalachian family that embraced Slow food, one root, fruit and lettuce leaf at a time. I highly recommend it!

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I love “leaving Corporate America” stories. Perhaps it’s because I did and I can really relate to those who say “Sayanara!” to the stressful spirit spiral.

Julie Pech hopped out of Corporate America to write in a book in a field in which, according to her, she had “zero experience”. She had been in the corporate apparel industry for 18 years, but at the same time she had always loved health and nutrition and chocolate. Doesn’t seem like it goes together? Read on!

When several studies touting the “health benefits of chocolate” were released, she decided to take a leap of faith and write about it. Her book The Chocolate Therapist: A User’s Guide to the Extraordinary Health Benefits of Chocolate was released in 2005 as a self-published title, but last year it was picked up by Wiley Publishing. She rewrote it, thereby doubling its length. It was release late last year.
After taking that leap of faith, Julie has started speaking up to twenty times per month about the health benefits of chocolate. She also teacheschocolate & wine and chocolate & tea pairing classes, hosts corporate and charity events and even travels internationally as a guest lecturer speaking about chocolate.

An entrepreneur at heart, she ended up buying a chocolate shop where they make all-natural chocolate with nuts, berries, spices and organic flavoring oils to support the concepts in her book.

“It’s been a very interesting journey!” she says.

Now, I wonder if she could get Johnny Depp to star in the sequel to Chocolat? Knowing Julie, she just might!

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Good Housekeeping, that housewife’s magazine that’s been around since 1885, is keeping with the times by developing a new green Good Housekeeping seal for products its new environmental advisory board considers ‘green’.

It’s an interesting concept that shows how far our consciousness has come. But not all green things are golden. As my friend, who works in a consumer advocate’s office herself, once said, “Just because it has a seal, doesn’t mean it’s good for you or the environment.”Organic cookies? They contain sugar, too.

Sigh.

I had proudly swept my hand across a drawer of organic products to show her what a good green person I was! She peered inside, then frowned. I realized how many of them were contained in plastic, with wrapping or had travelled from afar to land in my cupboard.

To quote Kermit the Frog: “It’s not easy being green.” But Good Housekeeping‘s efforts (see below) are admirable and it’s a sign of our ever-changing times. We’re trying, folks. Really, we are!

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING CREATES AN ENVIRONMENTAL ADVISORY BOARD TO PROVIDE INSIGHT FOR THE GREEN GOOD HOUSEKEEPING SEAL

A Special Environmentally-Focused Good Housekeeping Research Institute Tour is Open to the Public on Earth Day

Good Housekeeping has created an Environmental Advisory Board consisting of leading sustainability experts from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, and media to provide insight for the Green Good Housekeeping Seal evaluations, pinpointing areas of biggest concern, and educating the magazine’s more than 27 million print and online readers through interviews for editorial articles.

Inaugural members of the Good Housekeeping Environmental Advisory Board are: Laurie David, producer (An Inconvenient Truth) and award-winning, bestselling author; Wood Turner, Executive Director for Climate Counts; Suhas Apte, Vice President Global Sustainability for Kimberly-Clark; David Bennell, Executive Director, Textile Exchange; Pamela Brody-Heine, Product Stewardship Manager, Zero Waste Alliance; Jill Dumain, Patagonia; Sally Edwards, Sc.D, Research Associate at the University of Massachusetts Lowell Center for Sustainable Production; Katie Galloway, Earth Fund Manager for Aveda; Reid Lifset, M.S., M.P.P.M, Associate Director of the Industrial Environmental Management Program at Yale University; Erin Meezan, Vice President of Sustainability, Interface; Ursula Tischner, Program Coordinator Design for Sustainability at Savannah College of Art and Design; and Mary T’Kach, Energy and Sustainability Coordinator, Ramsey County, MN.

In celebration of Earth Day, at 10AM on Friday, April 22, Good Housekeeping will host a special environmentally-focused tour of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, the magazine’s state-of-the-art product testing laboratory (I’ve never been, but boy! Would I love to go!).

Visitors will have an opportunity to meet the engineers, chemists, nutritionists, and all of the Research Institute’s expert staff, learn more about the Green Good Housekeeping Seal, and visit the famous Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen to hear about the increasing interest in vegetarian recipes and participate in a taste test.  You can sign up for the special Good Housekeeping Research Institute Earth Day tour here.

Good Housekeeping created the Green Good Housekeeping Seal to set a mainstream bar for consumers who want to live a greener lifestyle.  The scientists and engineers at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute worked with Brown & Wilmanns Environmental, one of the nation’s leading green consultants for businesses, NGOs and governmental organizations to establish criteria for the Green Good Housekeeping Seal.

Before being considered for the Green Good Housekeeping Seal, a product must pass evaluations for the primary Good Housekeeping Seal, which evaluates claims and measures efficacy to ensure it performs as promised.  If the product passes, it is then reviewed using more in-depth environmental criteria, including the reduction of water use in manufacturing, energy efficiency in manufacturing and product use, ingredient and product safety, packaging reduction (see my post on plastic), and the brand’s corporate social responsibility.

And it seems their evaluations have fairly rigorous standards.

Products that have earned the Good Housekeeping Seal and the Green Good Housekeeping Seal carry a limited warranty: If the product proves to be defective within two years of purchase, Good Housekeeping will replace the item or refund the consumer.  You can get more answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Green Good Housekeeping Seal here.

Continuing to establish a leadership role within the environmental industry, Good Housekeeping is co-sponsoring with The Daily Green the Good and Green conference, a two-day conference on May 11 and 12 featuring a series of environmental-themed sessions, keynotes, case studies and roundtable discussions.  I will actually just miss it as I’m leaving NYC on May 11, but for those who are interested, Good and Green will be held in the Hearst Tower, the first LEED-gold certified office building in New York City. You can register to attend the Good and Green conference here.

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Many thanks to @SuzanneHenry for pointing to these trends, such as de-teching and outsourcing self-control (remember my time suck Quickrr post?), to help keep us interacting with each other in the now.

The slow movement has its roots in the Slow Food movement. Born on the Spanish Steps of Rome, the Slow Food movement started out as one man’s reaction to a global fast food chain that wanted to open its doors near the famous Roman landmark. Carlo Petrini despised the notion of junk food being sold anywhere near his beloved Spanish Steps. Thanks to him, the concept of slow seeped its way into our global consciousness.

Tying food production back to local farming is a smart, and sustainable, thing to do. In an age of dioxin scandals and mass animal slaughtering, we have clinicalized the very thing that keeps us alive: food. We treat food as a cog in the massive economic system. It has to play a role like water and oil or any other natural resource you can think of. Produce massive amounts at the cheapest price, no matter the real cost (environmental or otherwise) behind it.

Slow money is a concept that promotes investments in local farming and the health of our local economies. This group has set a goal of mobilizing 1 million people to invest in their local food production before 2020. It is a noble cause and one I highly recommend you explore.

According to SlowMoney.org, the principles of slow money include:

I. We must bring money back down to earth.

II. There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down — not all of it, of course, but enough to matter.

III. The 20th Century was the era of Buy Low/Sell High and Wealth Now/Philanthropy Later—what one venture capitalist called “the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” The 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence.

IV. We must learn to invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating vital relationships and new sources of capital for small food enterprises.

V. Let us celebrate the new generation of entrepreneurs, consumers and investors who are showing the way from Making A Killing to Making a Living.

VI. Paul Newman said, “I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out.” Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up, asking:

* What would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?

* What if there were a new generation of companies that gave away 50% of their profits?

* What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?

I ask you: what if we left this Earth in better shape than we found it? Give back to the soil that feeds you. Today.

Other resources:

www.SlowMoney.org

www.CompassNaturalMarketing.com

Inquires into the Nature of Slow Money

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