Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Tonight, I quit smoking.

Oh, I know.

What a dirty little secret it's been, right?

What a tangled web I've woven.

Tell me about it. Le sigh.

About four years ago, I quit smoking a pack of Winston Lights a day. It was really, really hard. The detox was nothing like I'd ever experienced. I was literally out of my mind. Looking back, it all makes sense given, by that time, I had been inhaling tons of chemicals via 20 cigarettes a day for approximately a decade. The process took a few weeks and included a few relapses where I would go to the store, buy a pack of cigarettes, smoke a couple and then angrily crush and destroy the remaining cigarettes into a trash can. It was an emotional and physical war. I knew that I would never smoke like that again. Ever. And, I haven't.

What did eventually happen was this little habit I've come to refer to as the fucking monkey on my fucking back that won't leave me the fuck alone. Or, three cigarettes a day.

I smoke all-natural, 100% tobacco, organic American Spirits. I don't smoke in my house or in my car. I don't smoke in front of non-smokers (which means I usually smoke alone). I don't throw cigarette butts on the ground. I don't even have my first cigarette until after 4pm. These have been my rationalizations and reasons for not quitting.

All those scare tactics about 4,997,023,001 chemicals being added to cigarettes? Not doing it for me. My cigarettes are organic and contain nothing but tobacco leaf. I'm pretty sure they're free range, too.

Telling me that I'm being brainwashed by the man (aka Phillip Morris)? Cannot convince me to stop because the people that manufacture my cigarettes run a small company that practice sustainable agriculture, provide opportunities for employee growth and market their product responsibly.

SAVE YOUR LIFE! QUIT SMOKING NOW! propaganda? Seriously. I smoke three cigarettes a day. I exercise almost everyday. I eat a plant-based diet. Physical damage is being done, but all the studies and statistics are geared toward at least half-a-pack-a-day or more consumers, all usually living the Standard American diet and lifestyle.

I can apply this to the "Think of all the money you'll save!" excitement, too. My current habit costs me about $27 a month. After two months of not smoking, what? I can get a haircut?

These are the thoughts that have been justifying my smoking for the past three years. The bottom line is that, somehow, in my little psyche, I've managed to skirt the fact that, oh yeah, I DON'T WANT TO SMOKE.



I've been so busy poo-pooing anti-smoking proselytizing by altering my habit to suit that of a responsible smoker, that I've neglected to realize, THAT THERE IS NO SUCH THING.


I never said I was quick, but I think I'm on my way to figuring this one out.

So, three weeks ago, my mom and I signed up for a Freedom from Smoking program at a local hospital. As expected, we were met with a bunch of the scary-but-"educational" pamphlets and pictures and What to do Instead of Light Up lists. I ignored those and instead focused on my tendencies and habit. I did a couple questionnaires, determined what kind of smoker I am (a mix of Pleasurable Relaxation-er and Handler; sounds kinky!) and made a list of reasons why I want to quit. Really, these classes have been to force me to actually pick a quit day. To stop volleying between thinking about quitting and justifying not quitting.

And that's where I'm at. I threw away my pack in class tonight, saving one which I smoked around 1opm. Then, I remembered there was a loose one on the back porch, which I hungrily inhaled in under five minutes. But now, they're all gone.

I'm done.

I'm hoping, and truly believing, that this will not be anywhere near as hard as it was a few years ago. At the same time, I want to stay real and aware and know that there is a possibility that I will slip up on occasion. This is a process. I will get in it and I will enjoy it. Baby steps :)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

All hail the reusable bag!

If you're one of the many whose holiday shopping officially began this weekend, would you do me a favor? As you're loading up that credit card debt, pretty please don't also load up a bunch of throw-away bags. Before you hit that next amazing sale at the mall, check out the great deals at reusablebags.com. Even better, skip the mall and purchase some reusable bags to give as gifts. But go now, because a lot of the sales end today!

My top favorites and recommendations:
  • Reisenthal's Mini Maxi (pictured), which I'm pretty sure is the best ten bucks I've ever spent on a shopping bag. They're even cheaper if you buy two or more. Mine is red, and the cashiers are always surprised at how compact and stylish it is. They have a solid-color line, as well.
  • Organic cotton produce and grain bags for $2.95 (discounted when you buy four or more). Seriously. Do we really need plastic bags for out plastic bags? These are super lightweight, come in two sizes and can be thrown in the wash.
  • The Heavy Duty Classic Hemp Shopping bag, on sale for $22.95 (reg. $24.95). This truly is a a heavy duty bag! Lightweight version is available also for $7.95.
  • A classic shopping set in lightweight organic cotton; eight bags for $19.95. Or the hemp version; nine bags for $39.60. This is a fabulous gift. I got my dad a set of the latter in black for his birthday this year, and he loves them!
  • And, it's not a bag, but since we're talking about the vileness of plastic, check out the Guyot stainless steel water bottle, on sale for $17.95 (reg. $19.95). I use this bottle everyday, all day. You might want to consider adding a splash guard for a few extra dollars.
Of course, if you want to save some cash and are handy with a sewing needle, you can always make your own bag.

Helping people understand the evilness of plastic bags and the absolute ease of utilizing reusable bags has become one of my missions in recent years. I often give sets of bags for gifts, gently point out the wastefulness when shopping with family and friends, and recently, wrote an article for my CSA's newsletter. If you still need convincing to change your disposable bag ways, maybe this will help:
So, you've switched to a more fuel-efficient vehicle, invested in wind power through your utility company and buy your food locally. Think that's all you can do to lessen your impact on the demand for oil? Think again!

Just as omnipresent as the news about our unhealthy dependence on petroleum products, is an item that requires and estimated 12 million barrels of oil per year to manufacture. Oddly, as present in our lives as they are, we almost never consider them.

Plastic bags. They're convenient, they're free and this year, the U. S. will goes through 100 billion of them. Worldwide usage estimates are as high as 1 trillion. That's a lot of bags, and although "free" to the consumer, their impact is very costly to the durability of our planet.

The production of plastic bags requires petroleum, which we all know is a non-renewable resource that increases our dependency on foreign suppliers. In addition to the 12 million barrels of oil needed to make our bags, the energy used by the bag manufacturing plants and transportation and distribution companies use even more resources, creating even more global warming emissions. Prospecting and drilling for all these petroleum resources results in the destruction and disruption of ecosystems across the globe. Consider too, the pollution produced by the toxic chemical ingredients needed to make plastic.

All these costs for just the production of our beloved plastic bags. There are further costs associated with the use and disposal of bags, as well. In fact, plastic bags have become so costly that retailers like Ikea are now charging customers for them, entire countries have introduced a tax on them and the supervisor of San Francisco has completely banned them from the city!

And don't think those paper bags are any better. Known as a "global warming double-whammy," in addition to the manufacturing and transportation costs to our resources and environment, paper bag production requires forests (major absorbers of greenhouse gases) to be cut down.

What can you do to help our society's addiction to "free" shopping bags? ReusableBags.com offers many ideas on their Take Action page at www.reusablebags.com/action.php, including tips on how to wean oneself from plastic bags, links to form letters for your politicians and ideas on how to advocate.

The fastest and easiest way to make a difference though, is to simply stop using disposable shopping bags. You can increase your family's "MPG's" right now by purchasing reusable bags online or at your local market. Happy shopping!


Finally, as a veg*n, I should also mention the fact that plastic bags are contributing to the destruction of ocean life. Both directly, in that sea creatures choke and die as a result of mistaking bags for food; and indirectly, as plastic bags pollute ocean animals' habitat.

You know that if there's a flick'r group, it must be a revolution: http://flickr.com/groups/banthebag/. All hail the reusable bag! :)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Savory Smashed Sweet Potatoes

Local vegan for Thanksgiving: so good! That's because I've been hoarding sweet potatoes and shallots from my CSA share since September.

I found that the most efficient way to deal with the abundance of produce each week was to preserve whatever preserved easiest, so more often than not, each week's potatoes and onions were put in the dark. My stockpile of sweet potatoes and shallots finally met the light of day on Thanksgiving morning as Jason and I created a smash for our vegan dinner with friends later that night.

While pulling the recipe together, my only objective was to stear clear of the traditional sugary and sticky sweet potato recipes. One of the most valuable lessons eating locally has taught me, is that simply is the very best way to cook and enjoy vegetables. Local food just tastes better; there's little reason to doctor it up with loads of other ingredients. Think I'm overstating? Do a test of your own. A bite of local sweet potato vs. a bite of store-bought sweet potato. No contest. Be sure to note the incredible color difference while you're at it, too!

Additionally, always considering a local vegan diet when preparing meals, things like marshmallows and white sugar don't please either side. In avoiding a lot of ingredients, shallots and thyme seemed like a great way to impart a bit of simple savory loveliness into our dish.

Savory Smashed Sweet Potatoes
Serves 8

4 pounds of sweet potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled and quartered (Blooming Glen Farm CSA crop share - 5 miles)
1/4 pound of shallots, chopped (Blooming Glen)
1 tablespoon dried thyme, crushed (Blooming Glen)
1 tablespoon olive oil (not local)
1 tablespoon kosher salt (not local)
1/2 cup soy milk (from Westsoy - 91 miles)
1/4 cup vegan buttery spread (from Earth Balance - 117 miles)

Add sweet potatoes to boiling stockpot and cook for 15 minutes or until tender. While the potatoes are cooking, heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add shallots and thyme to the oil and cook five minutes or until soft and fragrant. Drain potatoes, score skins (so they don't get caught in your masher) and smash. Stir in two-thirds of the shallot mixture, soy milk and Earth Balance. Serve with shallots and thyme mixture sprinkled on top.
On top of being delicious, the simple ingredients mean super quick preparation. We had this in a serving dish and packed up in under 30 minutes. Maybe I should have started this post with "Local vegan for Thanksgiving: so good, so fast and so easy!"

> Cross-posted at www.farmtophilly.com.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

CSA crop share 2007 24

Sniff, sniff.

Well, here it is. The last Blooming Glen Farm CSA pickup of the season:

I just don't understand how it could be over. What am I going to do without all of this super-tasty, local, fresh, healthy produce in my kitchen every week? I've totally taken this season for granted. I don't even think about how to use the produce anymore. When I get home, I preserve (usually freeze) whatever I won't be able to use within the next week or two and the rest gets incorporated into meals with barely a second thought.

Well that was on the good weeks anyway. There may have been an occasion or two... or maybe several, when something were deposited half-rotten to the compost bin because I couldn't use it in time. But actually, that brings me to an excellent point.

The quantity of produce for the price of a share has been unbelievable. It would be interesting to see an actual price-per-pound, though just a quick glance at the photo album could assure anyone that $780 for 24 weeks of produce is a great deal. I split my share each week with my sister. There are four adults and one child between the two homes, and we were able to stuff ourselves with fresh veggies and fruits every day, and still have enough left over for freezing and canning. It's hard to imagine, but we'll still be enjoying this season's bounty throughout the winter.

Not to mention the fact that the variety of produce was unbeatable and everything was grown naturally and sustainably. By people I know. Oh, and did I mention that we enjoyed fresh flowers more than half those weeks?

Belonging to a CSA definitely requires a bit of extra time and energy, as does any new method or way of doing something. Once that habit is formed though, it really does become second nature. This was my second season at Blooming Glen and already I’ve learned and changed and incorporated so much! Things like…
  • how to cook daikon, watermelon, French breakfast, black and regular radishes
  • that Swiss Chard on a sandwich is quite tasty
  • that yes, children actually can get sick of pick-your-owns
  • and yes, so too can parents
  • the differences between a sunshine, blue hubbard, delicata, bon bon and butternut winter squash
  • that freezing string beans and summer squash is ridiculously easy
  • though freezing sweet peppers is sinfully easy
  • Trish's secrets to keep flowers producing in the garden and looking beautiful in the vase
  • that beets and carrots keep quite a while as long as you remove the greens
  • that chopping it up nice and fine and adding it to macaroni recipes is an easy way to get kale into my son's diet
  • that there are perhaps a bazillion different varieties of cherry tomatoes
  • and that Tom knows every single one of them
  • that my family simply cannot not eat an entire head of cabbage before it goes bad
  • that watermelon looks just as good in yellow as it does in pink
  • what to do with celeriac
  • the mystery and romance that is an heirloom tomato
  • that simply is the best way to prepare fresh vegetables
  • that soccer moms, DINKs, single parents, singletons, yuppies, hippies, teachers, administrators, entrepreneurs, Women Builders, EMTs, corporate CEOs, nonprofit workers and retirees all belong to my CSA
  • that green tomatoes are great in stir fries, relishes and salads
  • that my sister and I are so literal at times
  • how to put up tomatoes
  • that greens like turnip, beet and collards are really, really tasty and can be used in everything
  • that my son can be bought not only with sweet potatoes, but also sunshine winter squash
  • that there are some pretty adorable cows in Perkasie
  • the differences between scallions, onions, sweet onions, garlic, garlic scapes, leeks and shallots
  • that no matter how hard I try, I will never like radicchio
  • that stir fries and scramblers are a CSA member's best friends
  • to not peel root vegetables if you can help it
  • there is nothing on this planet that tastes better than a just-picked ripe tomato
Surely, there are more. Perhaps I'll add to this list as the winter months creep in, our preserved CSA food supply dwindles and we can barely remember the feel of humidity on our skin as we pick quarts string beans, strawberries and basil.

Sigh. Missing you oh so terribly already, Blooming Glen!

Would you like to get melodramatic over produce, too? Find a CSA farm near you at Local Harvest!

> Cross-posted at www.farmtophilly.com.