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I posted this over at Field and Table, but I thought that I should post it here for those who don’t make their way over to that blog.  It’s called “Stepping into Private Catering.”

Two weeks I received a phone call to see if I would be interested in catering a businesses open house.  I spent four years cooking in a professional kitchen as an assistant chef.  Two of those years I managed the kitchen operations for the catering requests the restaurant would receive.  I love to have cook for people and teach people how to cook.  But I was surprised to get this phone call because I’ve never done any private catering on my own before.  It’s one thing to prepare a meal for 8-10 people; it’s an entirely different thing to prepare hors-d’oeuvres for 75 people.

I’ve had the opportunity to cook for this business owner before, and I knew that they wouldn’t ask me if I was interested unless they were happy with my ability to cook.  This couple recently purchased a coffee and paper house and are having the open house to welcome back some of the locals that the previous owners scared away.  The new owners wanted to have some festive hors d’oeuvres and cookies to serve during the open house.  I told them that I would think of a few menu options and get back to them.

Two days later we settled on the menu:
-Spanakopita triangles (traditional spinach/feta as well as wild mushroom/blue cheese)
-Cranberry Cheddar meatballs
-Baked Brie
-Hummus and crispy pita chips
-A simple cheese platter
-Cookies (fresh ginger, espresso-chocolate shortbread, chocolate chip, and another variety I have yet to decide on)

I feel really good about the menu.  I wanted to have foods that people will be able to eat easily, without utensils, as they walk through the store and mingle.  I was also trying to offer a few special items- handmade spanakopita, meatballs with a holiday twist, a baked brie, and my favorite shortbread cookies.

This past Tuesday was the open house.  Lauren made up a business card design for me to have available on the tables.  I wasn’t really sure if I could handle doing many catering gigs like this on my own, but we decided that it couldn’t hurt to have my information available if people were interested.

The evening was a success for the new owners of Longs Peak Coffee and Paper House.  My guess is that they had well over 100 people in their shop during their two hour open house.  I received many sincere compliments on the food and in fact, a few people went out of their way to track me down and offer their appreciation.  Cooking for that environment reminded me how much I love to cook for people.  It reminded me of how much I enjoy preparing food for others to enjoy.  Here’s hoping I have another chance at it.

Let me clarify that title a bit.  I’m not physically moving.  I’ve started another blog, so I’ll be moving over there.  But I’ll still be posting stuff here.  I’ll be posting stuff that has to do with food at the other blog.  Man, that was confusing.  I should have used a different title, huh?

If you’ve been around me much you should know that I’m really into food.  I like to grow, cook, and eat food.  I know that some of you don’t really care about any of those things, so I figured I would put together a blog specifically for those things.  So I did.  It’s called “Field and Table.”  Click the link, bookmark the new site, comment often, and whatever else you do with amazing blogs.  That last part might be a stretch, but you get the point.  Stop by and say “Hi.”

In an hour I begin my internship on a 3 acre organic farm.  I’m really excited about the opportunity.  I spent last summer as a landscaper, which I enjoyed (for the most part), but I was often wishing that I was pulling weeds from vegetable plants rather than lupines.  Don’t get me wrong, I think there is great beauty in an ornamental garden, but that isn’t why I’m studying horticulture.  I want to be apart of solutions to fixing our broken food system and economies.  I want to work with people who are growing real food for people who aren’t used to eating real food.  I want to help people see that their kitchen has more than just a freezer for frozen dinners, and a microwave for “cooking.”  I want to help people see that there are choices that they can make that are better for their families health, their communities health, as well as the earth’s health.  I’ve been trying to write more and more about all of this stuff for the past year, but have struggled to find the right words to use.  I want to be able to share my thoughts with reasons and statistics, rather than simply conviction and passion.  I think that is why I’ve struggled to write about these things before, and I’m going to make a change over the summer.  For my internship, I’ll need to be writing reports and speaking about my time on the farm, and through that I think I’ll be able to fine tune my thoughts.

Well, I got to go jump on my bike and head to the farm.
I really like being able to say that.
I hope you all are well. peace.

This morning I will start my career as a farmer… sort of.  This year I will be working with 8 other people for the Rocky Mountain Small Organic Farm Project.  The farm itself is 8 acres of certified organic land that is used by Colorado State University for different research and study projects to better understand the particular micro-climate of the inter-mountain west.  I will be involved with two aspects of the farm: the 3 acre CSU CSA, and researching effectiveness of 150 different variety trials.  Along with these two projects going on at the farm, there is also some research being done on organic hops growth and overwintering processes, perennial small fruit production, and green manure and living cover crops.  Here’s a link to the specialty crops page at CSU.  I’m really excited about having the opportunity to be a part of what the school is doing.

I’ll be working there as much as I can over the summer and through the end of the season in October, but I will be taking an Organic Chemistry class for 8 weeks throughout the summer so I wont be able to work full time.  I’m particularly excited about this because I think it will help me think about some of the routes I will be able to take when I graduate a 2 years.  I’ve struggled with the idea of studying Horticulture for a few reasons.  First, my interest is mainly in food crop production.  I don’t have an interest into running a greenhouse for a nursery, or want to do landscaping.  And second, I don’t see myself farming.  Sure, I’d be excited to work with someone for a few years on a farm, but I am most interested in cultivating connections with people and food.  I’m hoping that I’ll be able to spend some “off-farm” time connecting with CSA members through newsletters, maybe a blog, and through face to face connections.  I’d love to be able to interact with the members by swapping recipes for the more unusual (re: not found in most supermarkets) vegetables.

I should probably get going.  My coffee is gone, and I should grab a little breakfast before I head out.

I feel as though I have been really busy lately.  I don’t know that this has truly been the case, but I feel tired and lazy.  I don’t like it.  I’ve been so lazy that I’ve got 3 tabs on my Firefox browser that have been in place since Monday that I haven’t taken the time to read.  I’ll get to it, hopefully, but I thought that maybe I could post the links here then you could read them and let me know what they are all about.  It’s a win-win, really.  I win because I’m posting a blog post, and you win because you get to read some good stuff.

I just realized that the three posts that I’ve been holding onto are a pretty good representation of three of my biggest interests:  natural and sustainable foods, gardening and food production, and thinking about the role of a pastor other than through the lens of a CEO.  So here you go.

The Food Renegade blog is a great blog that talks about food that is good for you, good for the growers, and tastes great.  She is a renegade against industrialized foods that have shown up on the scene and have brought with them increases in heart related disease.  This post is called “Real Food Hits the New York Times”.

The New York Times has an article about gardening in a “slow” way.  Gardening in a way that works with the natural seasons and climates rather than forcing things into place.  Check it out, “Slow, Cheap, Easy, and Green”.

And lastly, a post by Scot McKnight at the Out of Ur blog.  Scot is using a book entitled, “The Pastor As Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in the Ministerial Life” to talk about the role of the pastor.  I really like Scot.  I’ve had the chance to meet him on a few occasions and have really enjoyed our conversations.  Plus, he’s a Cubs fan.  Read “The Poetry of Pastoring.”

Read them and get back to me ASAP.  Thanks.

p.s.  I find it a bit ironic that WordPress’s spell-check doesn’t recognize the word “blog” as a correct word.

Ingredients: Bleached Enriched Flour [Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Sugar, Water, Margarine (Palm and Soybean Oil, Water, Salt, Monoglycerides, Artificial Flavor, Annatto (Color), Calcium Disodium Edta (Preservative), Vitamin A Palmitate), Butter, Raspberries, Coconut, Palm and Corn Oil, Dextrose, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Egg Yolks, Raspberry Juice, Soy Flour, Yeast, Nonfat Milk, Monoglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Salt Eggs, Corn Syrup, Natural Flavor and Artificial Flavor, Pectin, Orange Juice Concentrate, Maltodextrin, Tapioca Dextrin, Rice Syrup, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Modified Rice Starch, Calcium Carbonate, Modfied Cornstarch, Calcium Sulfate, Wheat Gluten, Succinylated Monoglycerides, Xanthan Gum, Preservatives (Potassium Sorbate, Sulfiting Agents), Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Agar, Propylene Glycol Monostearate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Beta Carotene (Color), Caramel Color, Ascorbic Acid (Dough Conditioner), Azodicarbonamide.
manufactured in a facility that uses wheat, milk, eggs, soy, and tree nuts.

I’ll give you a dollar if you know what I had for breakfast.

It’s January 13, 2009.  If history is any indication, then I would have given up on all “more or less” resolutions by now.  Since I was more specific with resolutions this year I feel like I am still on track.  I have intentionally worked on 4 resolutions so far.

Slow Down- This is perhaps one of the more generic and vague resolutions to try to evaluate, but here’s some of the effort that I’ve put into it.  I have made an effort to not surf around the web while watching TV or a movie.  One thing that I have noticed so far is that there are times when I am watching a show and wishing that I had something else to do at the same time.  This most often happens when I am just watching a show to kill time or watching something because I can’t think of anything more engaging to do.  My purpose of this resolution isn’t to simply help me recognize areas of my life but it’s intended for me to act on it.  If I find myself using the TV as a crutch, I would like to be able to act on it by turning the TV off and finding something else to do.  Maybe I should make a list of “TV alternative activities” to utilize.   The biggest thing that I’ve done to slow down was to clean up my Google Reader feeds.  Before I cleaned it out I was receiving feeds from over 180 sites, but since I’ve cleaned it up I down to near 50.  By doing this I’ve been able to narrow the feeds down to sites that consistantly offer stimulating opinions and are mostly from people that I stay connection to.  I’ve used this as a way for me to controll the amount of time I’m spending online.

Read 12 new books this year-  I bought Eugene Peterson’s latest book, Tell Is Slant, last week.  Peterson is one of a hand full of authors who I find to be a constant source of challenge and encouragement.  When I think about being in a pastoral position again Peterson is the type of pastor I’d like to become.  I grow tired of reading books about why a particular theology is more right, and reading Peterson helps ground me with the things that I think are the most important: People, Language, and Simplicity.  In Tell It Slant Peterson introduces three distinct methods of speaking that Jesus uses throughout the Gospels: Preaching, Teaching, and Informal.  Regarding preaching he says, “Preaching is the news, the good news, that God is alive and present and in action: ‘Maybe you didn’t know it, but the living God is here, right here on this street, in this sanctuary, in this neighborhood.  And he is at work now.  He is speaking right now–at this very moment.  If you know what is good for you, you will want to get in on it.'”  Of teaching he says, “We often dichotomize our lives into public and private, spiritual and secular, cut up our lives into separate parts, and stuff the parts into labeled cubbyholes for convenient access when we feel like dealing with them.  Teaching puts the parts together, makes connections, demonstrates relationships–‘connecting the dots,’ as we say.”  And of this “informal” way of speaking he writes, “A kind of intimacy develops naturally when men and women walk and talk together, with no immediate agenda or assigned talk except eventually getting to their destination and taking their time to do it.”  I’m really looking forward to the way that Peterson looks at the words of Jesus and the language that is used by the gospel writers.

Host 6 “slow food” evenings- Cuyler and Shannon came up over the weekend.  We had planned to make empanadas and some other South American foods.  We filled the empanadas with beef and onions (and green olives. mmmmm.).  We also made a “tres leches” cake for dessert.  You need to make this cake!  Do it right now.  Quit reading this nonsense and bake this cake.  The afternoon was filled with food and conversation.  It was wonderful.  During dinner we (read: I. sorry, guys.) talked about some of the issues of “slow food” and what are some of the limits to it.  I’d really like Shannon to write about her thoughts about this given her relation to the children she works with at her school.  I really enjoy these opportunities to get peoples opinion about food.  It help give me a welcome perspective on things different from the people who write about how “the world would be a better place if all we ate was local organic food.”  I hope that over the course of the year and over the next 5 evenings my ability to critically think about all of this will greatly expand.

Become disciplined in using a planner/calendar/schedule- I have to say, I’m most surprised at my efforts in this area.  I’ve filled my iCal with my class schedule for the fall and added in other events throughout the year.  I’ve synced my phone with my calendar.  And I’ve looked at my calendar each day.  Pretty impressive, huh?  Next week, when classes start, will be a big opportunity for me to find a rythm with this or to simply let it slide by.  I’d really like to keep on top of this throughout the year (“that’s what she said.”  come on, I know you were thinking it.).

What do you think?  Are you surpised at my efforts in these resolutions this year?  How are your resolutions going?

Last night I spent a few hours looking at the time and credits needed to finish my degree.  At this time I’m working toward a degree in Horticulture with a focus on specialty food crop production and taking classes for an interdisciplinary study on organic agriculture.  I’ve tried to put into words why I’m studying horticulture, but I feel as though there is still a large part that I cannot yet put into words and when I try I find myself bumbling on.

I’m interested in the practicality of growing food for people.  I want to understand how food grows and participate in growing it for people who cant grow it for themselves.  But I’m also interested in what people should grow for health benefits.  It might be fun to grow lettuce, but if you have a limited space to grow food is that the best use of your space?  These are questions that I think about.  Is there food that people can grow that will be more healthy for them to grow than for them to buy at the store?  The third piece to this is the preparing food part.  I’m surprised at the stories I hear about people’s fears in the kitchen.  It seems that the people who cook food for their family (with an oven, not a microwave) are the minority.  I think that if people are going to grow food that is healthy they should be equipped to prepare it.

Studying horticulture is one piece of this puzzle.  The preparing food part is something that I don’t know that I can necessarily pursue as schooling option.  Culinary school, as I have seen, focus of training people in classical forms of cooking.  What I am interested in is basic cooking skills.  I want to help chip away at fears people might have with cooking.  Teaching people how to make foie grass is not practical when most of their meals on a weekly basis come from the microwave or a fast food kitchen.  The nutrition aspect of all of this is something that I recently found out I can do something about.  CSU offers a minor in Nutrition, and it’s open to any major of study.

I’m seriously considering dropping the organic agriculture study and picking up this nutrition minor.  It seems like this would be really beneficial in helping me look at the nutrition aspect of food at the same time I’ll be looking at the growing process.  I’ll take classes like: Human Nutrition, Nutrition Assessment, Community Nutrition, Nutrition in the Life Cycle, Integrative Nutrition and Metabolism, and a few others.  Sounds fun, huh?  The potential downside to going this route is that there is quite a bit of argument of what is really “nutritious.”  There are studies done to say that butter is bad for you– you must use margarine.  Other studies say that raw milk is better for you than pasteurized milk.  Much of the conversation sound similar to the organic vs. conventional farming argument.  But I think that in the end, having a minor in nutrition will give me some building blocks to work with.

Picking up a minor in nutrition seems to clear some of the fog that is my future career, but there is still a lot that is still unknown.  I feel like I’m heading into uncharted waters (although I don’t claim to be unique in my pursuits) know that there is a destination somewhere in the future even though I cannot see it from here.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the push for local and sustainable food.  I realize that this isn’t the type of things that many of my friends think about, but you’ll just have to indulge me for a bit.  I’ve been reading praise and critiques of local, sustainable, slow food and while I more often then not will find myself on the side of praise, I do have a few concerns with what I see and hear.

The foundation of my critique comes from the location of the praise.  Let me put it this way.  More often then not, the examples of restaurants and homes that are pushing the local food movement come from people who are able to grow food 9-10 months of the year.  In Fort Collins, we are lucky if we can push 7 months.  It is much more realistic for people that can have a nearly year-round supply of local food to be advocating the consumption of it.  However, it is much harder for me to consume a local-only diet.   If there are going to be cookbooks that are intended to promote local foods, wouldn’t there need to be highly regional cookbooks?  I have tremendous respect for Alice Waters and what she is doing with Che Panisse, but the reality of it is, her local foods can be worlds apart from the things that are local to me.  So where are the chefs from Denver talking about a seasonal menu?  Where is there praise for root crops?  And what should we be doing about a seasonal dessert?  This is not a topic of discussion within the local food movement, but I believe it must be if it is to be more than a posh trend.

The second thought that consumes me has to do with the economics of local, sustainable, slow food.  I’m no economist, but I have a basic understanding of supply and demand curves.  So here’s my issue, if we are promoting local seasonal foods as something that we should all be using, then we should be showing people what to do with the local and seasonal foods.  Here’s an example of a common menu item praised for it’s seasonality: Lagier Ranches goose: grilled breast, leg confit, and sausage with chestnuts and wild mushrooms; with Chino Ranch savoy cabbage and other winter vegetables.  But is this the type of menu that appeals to the majority of people?  If we are going to create a demand (in reality we showing honest benefits of the local movement, rather than turning it into a consumer-driven marketing product.) for honest, local food then we should be showing people what to do with it.  I believe that the majority of people don’t have any confidence in the kitchen; if you were going to suggest for people to start using root vegetables over the winter season, they wouldn’t know what to do with them or even what they are.

So these are the things I think about.  When I think about “what I want to be when I grow up,” these are the things that I think might be involved.

What I’d like to know is, what do you think about these things?  Cuyler, I know you don’t care much for all these types of food conversations, but I’d really like your input.  Shannon, you too.  Maria, any more recent thoughts about Tomato Theology?  Josh, what about things up in your neck-of-the-woods?

I’m on fall break this week.  No classes.  It’s a strange feeling.  School has become my main focus and to have a break from that main thing is weird.  I’m sitting in Cafe Ardour in old town Fort Collins enjoying a cup of coffee and reflecting on the past few months.  The transition for me back into school has been slow.  The semester has left me feeling more like a visitor on campus every day and less like an actual student.  But I have my schedule set for next semester and I’m really excited about it.

I mentioned earlier that Lauren and I are watching every film that has won an Academy Award for best picture.  If you want to hear about some of the films we’ve watched you can read Lauren’s impression of them here: Cimarron, Grand Hotel, Cavalcade, It Happened One Night, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Great Ziegfeld, and The Life of Emile Zola.  It’s been fun ( and sometimes painful) to watch these old films in order.  Many of these early movies have taken place between 1890-1910, which at the time was only 20-30 of history for them.

I have become very excited about planting next year.  It’s never too early to start thinking about next year.  Soon our mailbox will be filled with seed catalogs and Lauren will find me surrounded with dog-eared catalogs and sketches of the soon-to-be-filled garden beds.  Along with the process of planning for next year comes reflecting on the previous season.  I didn’t take any notes this year.  I debated about taking notes, and decided against it since I wasn’t spending a full year in the garden.  I planted later than would be ideal, and because of that my whole schedule was different.  This year I’ll be able to start more seeds indoors, plant cold hardy veggies in the early spring and plan on growing food to put away for next winter.

I’ve also been thinking about putting together some posts that can offer some insight into the things that are shaping my thoughts about food and farming.  I’ve seen a number of videos that showcase young farmers that greatly inspire me.  I’ve also read a number of articles about our current food structure that scare me.  I’m going to start posting these things to help offer an explanation as to why I’m going to school to study Horticulture and what I hope to do with it.

Well that’s about it for now.


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