2008 resolutions from the Ethicureans

Happy new year!

We had discussed making some predictions for 2008, as we did last year. But all the ones we could come up with were such buzzkills (raw milk crackdown! even more E. coli outbreaks in beef! a sucky Farm Bill finally passes like a giant kidney stone!) that we decided it might be best to just let those events unfold without our helpful prognostication.

Here, instead, are some of the positive changes that the Ethicurean team members hope to implement in their personal food chains this year.

Jenni, in Seattle: My grand scheme is to start a roof-top garden, though I like to think of it as an urban farm, since my plan includes chickens and bees along with vegetables. Our city lot is tiny, and the only sunny open spot is on the 20-by-12-foot roof of the garage, which sits behind our house. I love the idea of waking to the sound of clucking chickens, and peeking out my bedroom window down on a growing garden. While I'm excited about this project, I am clear-headed enough to know that it may be too ambitious. My more humble goal for 2008 is to learn to can.

Elanor, in Berkeley: Try more goat's milk and other goat-based dairy products. I have always been slightly grossed out by the goatiness of some goat's milk, but recently I've been reading about the contribution of cows (and livestock generally, but cows lead the pack) to greenhouse gas emissions, and it's gotten me freaked about my dairy consumption. The FAO recently reported that livestock contribute 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than transport! My goodness. Since goats are significantly better on that front than cows, I'm going goat in 2008.

Janet, in Kansas: I resolve to eat or give away every freaking radish in my CSA bag. I guess that's not very positive, is it? But it's better than composting them, I think.

Peter, aka Nosher of the North, in Montreal: I would like to influence others to make positive Ethicurean changes in their lives. I have made so many positive changes in my own life (we can count that as two people's lives - my ladyfriend has made the same changes) in 2007 that the biggest difference I can make in 2008 would be to educate others. At this point, if I can get ten other people to change their eating habits, the global effect would be greater than if I changed ten more of my own.

I also want to better informed about my choices. Example: I now use eco-friendly laundry detergent, but I don't know specifically why it is better than conventional detergent, or how it is made. I have made many positive decisions in my life these past months, but they are based merely on recommendations of others. I want to understand the differences, be aware of the specific pros and cons of each decision I have made.

Jennifer the Baklava Queen, in Ohio: I'd like to try fermentation... especially making sauerkraut for my dad. After reading about Bonnie's kim chee and other things, I'm just intrigued enough to try and get past some more long-held dislikes!

Marc, in Berkeley: I would like to learn more about baking whole grain breads. One of my first — and probably overly ambitious — projects will be to learn how to bake vollkornbrot, a classic German bread made with rye flour, sourdough starter, and whole seeds or grain kernels (vollkornbrot = whole kernel bread). It is packed with flavor and nutrition, and has an exceptional shelf life. Other bread experiments I can foresee would involve breads that are 100% whole grain or that incorporate less common flours into the dough.

In the waning days of the summer of 2007, I built a solar oven. I cooked a few simple things in the oven, like lentils or rice, and eventually did some tomato roasting. In 2008 I'd like to spend a lot more time experimenting with my solar cooker, improving its efficiency and perhaps even trying to build a solar dehydrator.

Finally, I hope to try a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. Too many weeks see me buying the same collection of vegetables from the farmers market — chard and cauliflower come to mind as standard purchases. So why not try collard greens, or one of the kale varieties instead of chard? Or a winter squash instead of cauliflower?

And lastly me, in Oakland: Where to start? There's so much I want to do — I haven't yet found the balance between doing and blogging about doing. (So many unwritten posts!)

Mainly I want to grow a lot more of my own food, as a way to learn more about farming firsthand. Last year in late summer I planted some heirloom, Early Girl, and cherry tomatoes in containers, along with various peppers. They did pretty well considering they were mostly "dry farmed" because I kept forgetting to water them. Although we only got about 25 tomatoes all told, they were incredible tasting. This year I hope to put in some 4-by-10-foot raised beds (our soil is toxic) and grow squash, zucchini, and lots more tomatoes. Right now I have kale and chard that are failing to thrive. I also want to start vermicomposting — we have some of the best local, organic, expensive food waste around, why give it to the City of Oakland?

One of my more ambitious plans is to start a neighborhood fruit gleaning cooperative. There are tons of citrus and other fruit trees in the blocks around where I live, both on the sidewalk and in backyards, and I can tell their bounty is unappreciated by some of their owners. I hope to distribute flyers offering to harvest the fruit for free (for which I will plan to find volunteers, perhaps drawn from my meat CSA list). I was thinking everyone who lets us pick their tree could receive a selection of goodies from others' trees, some could be donated to People's Grocery or foodbanks if they want it, and we could have canning/preserving parties with the rest. I haven't thought it through yet but it's something I really want to do. There are lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, Buddha's hands, plums, apples, loquats, pomegranates, kiwis, and figs all in a 10-block radius.

Got any Ethicureanish plans for 2008 you want to share? Inspire us. 

14 Responsesto “2008 resolutions from the Ethicureans”

  1. Charlotte says:

    Bonnie, neighborhood gleaning is an awesome idea!

    My dad does a form of it with people he knows, although he offers dehydrated fruits in return instead of jam or canned goods.

    Except for lemons. People give my mom large bags of their backyard Meyers, and she makes them into curd. The donors get a supply of curd for their freezers. I have certainly considered flyering lemon trees in the vicinity that are more productive than mine with an offer of curd/marmalade in return.

    Soup kitchens/neighborhood food pantries might be glad of the produce as well, especially dessert-type fruit.

    Marc - winter squash is awesome oven-roasted, it's my "food discovery" of the fall. I like Delicatas best but am considering branching out.

  2. Janet says:

    Dear me. I didn't really think you'd use my decidedly unambitious resolution! I'm not much of a resolution maker, actually, but I do intend at least to let the new neighbors know I'll be happy to relieve them of some of their sour cherries and give them some pie in return. (That is assuming we don't have a horrific freeze like last spring.)

  3. I've heard that stat on livestock being greenhouse gas producers but I'm a bit dubious.

    Firstly because of the first sources I heard it from are anti-farm. The messenger effect.

    Next there is the issue of how that is calculated? Are they really talking about cow flatulence and such or are they talking about Confinement Feeding Operations with their petrol / energy intensive methods? There is a tremendous difference between how I raise pigs on pasture without corn or soy vs how they are raised on commercial grain in confinement operations.

    Lastly, I just have a very difficult time imagining, and I'm very good with numbers, that the livestock are worse than SUVs and cohorts.

    But, enjoy your goat. My brother got goats last year and loves their milk.

  4. Flaime says:

    One has to remember that one of the things that cause cows to emit so much methane is the feedlot approach to raising them. Corn is so hard on the cows digestive tract when it is their sole source of food that of course they generate excess methane. Grassfed cattle produce much less gas.

  5. Sophie says:

    I think my resolution will be along the lines of Peter's - encouraging friends and family to make small changes in a more ethicurean direction.

    The second one is to cut down even further on the small amount of meat that I eat. This one seems like a no-brainer and it makes me a happy nutritionist to know that there is no real contradiction regarding meat eating between what is healthy for us and what is more ecologically sound.

  6. ExPat Chef says:

    I am going to get over my lack of green thumb, quit waiting for my child's expensive school to start a garden program and just do one of our own. We'll see what grows from it.

  7. Emily says:

    This year's list:
    • Bake a good loaf of bread (or biscuits?) from local flour, preferably sourdough.
    • Build pergola to shade the front windows, tidy landscaping underneath, and grow edible plants up the side.
    • Learn what I'd have to grow to feed ourselves for a year. (using Grandma's home ec notebook as a starting point
    • Find out how deep our well is; investigate hand pumps.
    • First pass at rehabilitating soil in the back yard: manure , radishes, and field peas.
    • Kill an animal for food, clean and butcher it.
    • Grow, process, and eat homegrown quinoa.
    • Donate 500 lbs of produce (home grown or gleaned) to Food Gatherers and still have all the garden veg we want.
    • Can tomatoes (and maybe peaches); freeze corn, broccoli, and green beans.

  8. tai haku says:

    Can I ask Bonnie if she has specific plans for the Buddha's hands she mentions - I'm curious about potential uses for those bad boys.

  9. Bonnie P. says:

    Tai Haku: At the moment I've just been using one of the big tentacles for its zest, to brighten up greens. I intend to either slice it in strips and candy it, like candied lemon peel, or make a marmalade in combination with some lemon. I need to hurry up though, thanks for reminding me.

  10. Another potential use for the Buddha's hand is as a flavoring for vodka or another neutral spirit. You could probably follow a recipe for limoncello and substitute Buddha's hand zest for the lemon zest.

  11. Elanor says:

    Walter, the Food and Agriculture Organization's measurements include everything involved in producing livestock, from growing the feed to the emissions from the animals themselves. That livestock emissions could surpass all those SUVs is a testament to just how far our world has swung towards industrial animal production. Thus, you are completely correct that buying products from grass-based dairies and other small, diversified operations is far better than buying anything- cow, goat, or otherwise- from a CAFO. Moreover, I've recently read some studies showing that methane emissions from cows can be reduced by switching them from a grain- to a grass-based diet.

    That said, even most small- and mid-sized dairies feed their cows some grain. Goat operations could too, but the one near me is grass-based. The other benefit of goat dairy is that goat operations are often more diversified than many commercial cow dairies, even the smaller ones. It takes about ten goats to produce as much milk as one cow, so it doesn't make sense to keep goats solely for their milk production. Goats are typically utilized for other things as well- for grazing/clearing weeds, for showing, breeding, and meat. I like that buying goat milk contributes to this kind of diversified, multi-use production system.

    But I still need to stay vigilant: since goat cheese demand is growing, bigger and more specialized goat operations are apparently emerging. (Goat CAFOs- could you think of anything sadder? Actually, I can- buffalo CAFOs, which are also on the rise.) So I'll echo Peter's resolution to be better informed about my choices this year. If one is to go goat, it's best done with open eyes.

  12. tai haku says:

    Thanks for the response guys. We've grown a few grafted citrus in our greenhouse for a while (I'd recommend anyone who see's Meyers Lemon for sale to get it!) but I was always slightly put off the buddha's hand as a concept as Candied peel was the only use I really knew for it. A "Drunken Buddha Vodka" sounds much more fun!

    Neighbourhood gleaning sounds a great concept especially in the southern US. I've written a little about various fruit trees on my blog and been kind of keen on pushing the concept of a neighbourhood orchard community/public planting message. This would be the end result a few years later.

  13. Becks says:

    My only food related resolution is to cook more. About 90% of the food I buy for my home is organic, and more than half is local... now I just need to eat more at home, and less at all those yummy restaurants that may not have the same values as I do.

    Bonnie - I didn't know that Oakland collected compost? How do I join that program? I feel incredibly guilty about all of my food waste, but I don't have a yard to incorporate it into.

    Marc - I get stuck in similar trends. If you're looking for a way to incorporate kale into your purchases, I recommend sauteing it with some maitake mushrooms (other mushrooms can be substituted) with a bit of garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. That's one of my favorite winter dishes. Kale's also great in soup.

  14. Emily H. says:

    I finally got around to reading this post!
    Mark: I *love* vollkornbrot. I became completely smitten with it on my first trip to Germany, and I seek it out everywhere I go. I decided against trying to make it when I read (maybe from Peter Reinhart?) that the dough was really finicky to work with, but if you have success, please post! I could possibly be persuaded to turn my silly 6'x 4' kitchen (that's D.C.for you) into a bakery for amazing results.

    Bonnie: I really love your gleaning idea, so I hope that works out the way you've envisioned. It truly sickens me that so much food is wasted in this country, and to see marvelous produce go to waste is really a killer. If I still lived in Atlanta, I would absolutely follow your lead—we had really lovely fruit trees everywhere, and I know for sure that a lot of it went to the squirrels.

    Last, I find it truly amazing and incredibly discouraging that at the same time awareness of our country's food production is at what seems like an all-time high, the country's (and the world's) desire for a cheap, constant supply of cheap meat is insatiable, thereby begetting horrors like goat and buffalo CAFOs. In our house, we've reached a point at which we're cooking one meal each week featuring meat—last week was coq au vin, this week was hidatsa beans with shredded braised lamb chops. I do also season meals with bacon and sausage occasionally, but we eat very little meat these days overall, and for my boyfriend, that is for sure an enormous improvement. I think that no matter the type of meat you're consuming—and I believe wholeheartedly that it should always be pastured and sustainably raised—everyone will need to sacrifice some meat consumption if we ever hope to rid the world of CAFOs (I know, it sounds like an acid-induced idealist's fantasy) because it simply is not feasible for the entire country to consume meat at our current rate while operating a truly sustainable food system.
    btw, this was in agreement with Sophie's intent to eat less meat. ;)