One Fabulous Thing

…because each day has at least one.

04.08.2010 From Seed to Plant to…? April 17, 2010

Filed under: Garden — onefabulousthing @ 9:16 pm

Today, a few of my seeds started sprouting. It looks like a 5th grade science fair project on my front windowsill, with all of these cups that have seeds and dirt in them in different stages of growth. The cucumbers were first, a variety called (appropriately enough) Early Russian. In addition to the Early Russian cucumbers, I have in the works:

  • Suyo Long Cucumbers
  • Reverend Morrow’s Long Keeper Tomatoes
  • Southern Night Tomatoes
  • Green Grape Tomatoes
  • Roma Rio Grande Tomatoes
  • Yellow of Parma Onions
  • Serrano Tampequino Hot Peppers
  • Quadrato Asti Rosso Peppers
  • Purple Beauty Peppers
  • Pandora Striped Rose Eggplant
  • Thai White Ribbed Eggplant

And those are just the ones that needed to be started indoors this early. Ask me how many times we ate eggplant last year. Probably not even one plant’s worth, I would guess. But if all goes well, we’ll be up to our ears in vegetable matter this summer, which is a prospect that is both thrilling and overwhelming at the same time.

One quality that has rubbed off on me from my husband is the inability to see food go to waste. Before meeting him, there would be times when things like whole packages of chicken and untouched heads of lettuce were tossed out because I hadn’t gotten to them before they went bad. I have slowly adopted new habits (meal-planning, frequent use of the freezer) that have helped address this, and I now try to be more flexible with my 30-days-between-eating-something-and-having-it-again rule. I guess you could say I have become a little more adult in my approach to food.

Watching these small seeds send tentative shoots out into the world, I can’t imagine ever letting the fruits of their labors go to waste, so I guess I better start collecting eggplant recipes and figuring out creative ways to use purple peppers. In the meantime, I will just try to enjoy the simple magic of a seed, plus a little sunlight and water, becoming something much more complex (and delicious).

So, Fabulous Thing #98: Maybe I don’t have a black thumb after all.

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04.04.2010 Things Aren’t Always What They Seem April 11, 2010

Filed under: Garden — onefabulousthing @ 9:43 pm

Today was Easter, the important Christian holiday of small toys, chocolate, lots of eggs. fertile bunnies, pastel colors, and fancy hats. And Jesus. There’s something about Jesus in there, right? Just kidding – I went to Catholic school, I know the deal.

Today was also significant for the blow that I struck against my formerly-held ideas about myself. I think everyone has those persistent thoughts that come from the offhand comments of others, or perceptions about what is good and bad that are formed in a million different ways. In no particular order, here are some of mine:

  • I’m a picky eater
  • I have a black thumb
  • I’m shy
  • I’m not athletic

It’s funny how sitting here, right at this moment, I would agree that all of the above statements are true about me. This is despite some evidence to the contrary:

  • I love to cook all different types of food, and I have dined at some amazing restaurants and eaten their tasting menus without any special requests.
  • I taught undergraduate psychology classes for a few years, and one of the things that excites me the most about my current job is doing trainings. My profession at its core requires me to make connections with people.
  • I have run a marathon.

And as of today, this last one is true:

  • I have started a vegetable garden.

I’m not exactly sure why I hold on to these things about myself that aren’t accurate or helpful. I am happy to knock another one off my list. Wish me luck.

So, Fabulous Thing #94: Growing.

 

02.23.2010 Refresher Course February 26, 2010

Filed under: Food,Garden — onefabulousthing @ 9:19 pm

Today was the day I began my annual listening of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I bought the audiobook when it was released in 2007, and have listened to it in the late winter or early spring of every year since. I originally was interested in the book due to my increasing desire to examine where the food I ate came from, and what the food choices I was making meant for my health, the environment, and the economy. I was spending a lot of time in my car for my job at the time, so the audiobook was my format of choice for anything I wanted to “read” easily.

On each listening, I have taken different things from the book. The first time through tied together a lot of the things I had been cobbling together from different sources on the importance of eating sustainably, locally, organically, and ethically. It convinced me to join a CSA, and since that summer we have eaten the majority of our produce from local farms during the season when it is available here in the Northeast. I have permanently changed my buying habits for eggs and dairy, and modified our diet to include less meat in order to avoid cheap meat from CAFOs. I took away the idea that the choices I make by purchasing food determines how the world is used in a very direct way, and that has stayed with me through every trip to the grocery store and every contemplated run through the drive-through window of any fast food establishment.

By the second year through, I had evolved my style of planning and cooking meals based on using ingredients that met the SOLE criteria as best as I could manage, and challenged myself by learning to cook from what was available in season or in the least environmentally impactful way possible. What has stayed with me from that change is how much better food that is in season and local tastes. My husband even started to like vegetables, and was won over by the simple preparations of high quality ingredients. We started to save a lot of money on our food expenditures by readjusting our tastes toward meals from scratch instead of processed foods. I felt more connected to the food I was eating, and started to eat each meal more consciously.

The third time around pushed me into buying a chest freezer, looking into canning and preserving, and figuring out how to make my own baby food from ingredients that were in season and local. I wanted my son’s first experiences with vegetables and fruits to be representative of the best specimens I could find, and he seemed to appreciate that:

This year is the big one. I have my seed catalogs in hand, and a plan for my intended garden. I hold no illusions about being able to grow and preserve enough to sustain us through the year, but I am looking forward to the variety and flavor that the things from my own backyard will add to our diet. I am hopeful that I will be able to preserve some things and enjoy them when there is snow blanketing my yard once again. This year’s review of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is getting me excited for the challenges I have set out for myself, and I am paying closer attention to the description of the progression of foods throughout the growing season, looking forward to fresh greens (hopefully!) in a few short months.

For those of you who have not read or listened to the book, please do. It’s not sanctimonious, overly scientific, extreme, elitist, preachy, or any of the things that you are thinking it might be. One one level it’s a really great story, on another it’s an accessible account of the state of the American diet and what got us there, and on another it’s a presentation of an alternative plan for how to get yourself fed on a daily basis that costs less, takes less oil, helps to keep your food dollars in your neighborhood, gives you more nutritional bang for your buck, and tastes really good.

So, Fabulous Thing #54: Stalking the Vegetannual.

 

01.18.2010 Harbingers January 18, 2010

Filed under: Garden,Household — onefabulousthing @ 10:43 pm

It might be a little premature to be waiting on spring to arrive, but there were signs all around today that it will actually come.

First was my mailbox, heavy with seed catalogs that I forgot to get out on Saturday. They were like early Valentines, bright and surprising among the 401K statements and utility bills. This will be my first year trying my hand at gardening, but given the increasing concerns about BPA in packaged foods, I am even more eager to see what I can get to grow in my backyard.

I’m in the planning stages now, looking at catalogs like Seed Savers Exchange, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Gurney’s, and Henry Field’s. I am also looking into Annapolis Valley Heritage Seeds, a company in its second year that is run by a 17 year old. I have a feeling that I will mention this guy in future conversations with my son about initiative, organization, entrepreneurship –  the possibilities for lectures are endless. Especially if his seeds are any good.

To prepare for what I will do with these seeds once they are ordered, I am reading All New Square Foot Gardening, which is a method that appeals to me both aesthetically as well as practically. I am trying to decide what varieties of produce to start with this year, and I am overwhelmed with the possibilities. In the past we have frequented farmer’s markets in season, and have belonged to Community Supported Agriculture programs, both of which have helped us expand our horizons when it comes to the amount and types of fresh fruits and vegetables we eat. The idea of being able to go out to my own backyard and harvest the food we will have for that day’s meal is really appealing, especially given how much I hate to spend precious time off at the grocery store. Decisions have to be made soon, since seedlings can be started indoors in just a few short weeks!

The second sign that spring is coming is a new beer put out by the fine people at Samuel Adams, called Noble Pils. As the label promises, the citrus notes do remind the drinker that spring is just around the corner. Delicious, delicious spring.

Third, the rain of the last 24 hours has made most of the grimy snow disappear from my yard. Seeing the grass underneath and feeling mud give under my boots just a little bit also help remind me that this winter too, shall pass.

So, Fabulous Thing #18: Seeing the earth again, imagining what I will grow in it, drinking a beer that tastes of the possibilities.