Things just got a bit more interesting.
What’s more exciting than spending four months with fifty-nine teenagers as family? Nothing and everything. Each day is a new layer which peels away to reveal something new. Memories, fears, dreams, preconceptions, personalities clashing, . . . you name it! As I’ve learned many times through in Stelle, living in a tight-knit community setting brings out the worst and the best of people, and–because of that–is more fulfilling than one could have ever dreamed.
Hopefully these fifty-nine will feel the same by June. In the midst of the semester, however, these students will face reflections of themselves which will bring them to new lows. My job is to help show them the key lessons in each of the lows, to gently offer them a hand, and to help them recognize new highs as well. (Oh . . . and also keep them from injuring themselves.)
That’s where this blog comes in now. Read More…
My neighbor Peg recently told me a story of her visit to a family-style restaurant while traveling through IL. She has recently made a pledge to cut from her diet all GMO foods (including all corn, soybean, and canola products) as well as sugar, wheat, and dairy. As you can imagine, she entered that restaurant with an expectation to avoid most dishes. But when she ordered honey to go with her tea, she turned the small, white packet on its side and read:
Ingredients: honey, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sugar
This was quite surprising, and outraging for both of us. Why take something as perfect as honey and change it???? After all, honey helps regulate blood sugar, is antimicrobial, and has no expiration! What more would you need from a food, medication, and spice?
(Food flag via get-swept-under, source: kuvatON.com)
My research interests are starting to delve into that most wide-ranging of topics, the cultural traditions of food–or, as a whole subject–the history of food. Wait, let’s make that The History of Food. As you can imagine, the Book of The History of Food would be probably taller than your doorway, which could be a factor in why it was never published.
Or it could be because The History of Food is such an all-encompassing topic, with ties to everything else human and Earthly. It is the beginning (and middle) of civilization; it is what sustains all consumers (us non-photosynthesizing creatures); it is controversial to this very day. Let’s face it: Man has never known what he should eat; rather, societies have always been able to make it a friendly topic of discussion and debate. Small towns in Italy at this very moment are talking about why their olive oil is much better–richer, finer, healthier even–than the olive oil from the next town over. It’s good old-fashioned rivalry, yes, but it’s also something deeper. People defending their food heritage shows they care about their food’s origins and have a connection to it.
This connection is not only sentimental, but might have a real effect on our health. I believe us humans have picked up a few tricks in these traditions to make us healthier, stronger, smarter; in a word, we’ve adapted. Traditional food relationships are food-to-human and food-to-food connections that perpetuate health in a human population. Some examples:
- The lactose-digesting enzyme (lactase), which is not found in adults in many Eastern societies, is prevalent in European societies, where they did (and still do) focus on dairy products as a form of protein intake.
- Local raw honey eaters know that they can decrease the effects of their seasonal allergies by consuming the allergens in small quantities in the honey (though this hasn’t been scientifically tested). Honey-eating has been a traditional practice at least since the building of the Egyptian pyramids.
- Many farming traditions make use of ”the whole animal” (surprise, it’s not just Native Americans) and consume the nutrient-dense organ meats as well as the boneless, skinless breasts (ha ha).
Get the idea? Here are some more in-depth examples of traditional food relationships I’m thinking about: Read More…
Soup. That delicious, nutritious, winter-time favorite that actually is in season anytime there’s a season. There’s summer soup–warm or chilled, a light delicacy that reminds us to be thankful that it’s warm outside. Then fall soup–I’m a big fan of butternut squash or pureed soup with sweet flavors. Winter soups are hearty, with meat, noodles, and beans galore, and spring soups are pretty much “What goes with our spring salad?”
I really like that I’ve become a Homemade Soup aficionado, and can whip up something soupy (and usually tasty) fast, but recently, after week 37 of our unintentional “soup diet,” I’m done with soup. Read More…
. . . the government does not accept repayment in the form of produce from one’s garden!
I’ve been having a bit of trouble lately repaying my student loans, and I’m sure I’m not the only one in my cohort who is. Thousands of recent college graduates, like myself, are finding themselves either unemployed or underemployed. Let’s run by the facts, just for fun: students who graduated from college in 2010 (my year) with student loans owed an average of $25,250, up 5 percent from the previous year, and the unemployment rate for that year was 9.1 percent. 2011 graduates had even more debt, with an average of $26,600, and as college tuition rises still higher, I suspect 2012 and 2013 grad numbers will be even higher.
Lately, however, more and more of us are starting to find alternate routes to success, and even alternate destinations, if you know what I mean. To many of this generation, perhaps the “American dream” has dwindled into an outdated view of materialism and corporate careers, while our waking dreams are things both more real (in the making) and more ethereal (to attain). We don’t want free enterprise systems that deliver a supply and demand; we want free co-operation systems that deliver employee-owned or employee-shared ventures. We don’t want 401k plans; we want to lead lives of real job security, when we know we can make or grow for ourselves what we need to thrive. Read More…
Wednesday Lunches frequently include new recipes I’m experimenting with, like homemade bread or banana cream pie (which didn’t set in the middle! Messy, but still tasty.)
It started with someone asking. And someone else saying yes. As that person is apt to do. (Apparently my psyche believes there is something wrong with saying no, even after all that practice saying no to middle-schoolers. Hmmph.)
Fortunately, this was a good “yes,” and now I’m one part of a two-part act which, every Wednesday, cooks and serves lunch ala-carte style in the Stelle Community Center. I started cooking every other week for about two months, then our lovely neighbor Renie had to move away and Ernest stepped in for the other week. Renie had started the lunches and had been giving them on and off throughout the last five years or so; she was happy to see the tradition continue, and frankly, so were we.
It’s become a nice little routine of shopping on Tuesday, prepping on Tuesday night, and cooking, serving, and cleaning on Wednesday. It is quite a bit of time input, but it does offset our food expenses and–more importantly–provides us with another chance to work within the community.
Ernest and I are not-quite neophytes when it comes to canning. My experience goes back to making strawberry jam with my mother at home; I only really remember the jars and mashing all the strawberries into a pulp. His experience is from canning last year out of a Ball Blue Book. Needless to say, we’ve got a little way to go. I had to call home to remember what Fruit Fresh is.
Fortunately, this year, we’re canning with our wonderful neighbor Peg in her new community canning garage! They are part of the Center for Sustainable Community and Peg is the Garden Manager this year; makes sense to save as much from the garden as possible. Her rules: whomever helps can gets a share of the (delicious) results. I think this is a wonderful way to share the bounty without overdoing it for something or someone–no one works overtime, and no one ends up with 400 pints of tomato sauce. More and more, I see how working the land leads us to working with others in a closed-loop cycle; it’s not about “having” or “eating,” after all, it’s about sharing. Read More…