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.