Friday, February 10, 2012

Get Your Footprint Out of My Plate!

Please get your foot out of my plate.

Between all the insistent issues surfacing in the media and the din of my conscience, i can hardly enjoy a meal anymore. And then, i feel compelled to explain the history, the science and reasoning behind the food footprint on my table. Few seem to share the joy of first spring dandelions and summer portulaca, wonder why?

First came the calories, then the carbohydrates, soon to be superseded by twins Cs of climate change. Well, we have not worked our way out of the alphabet, here comes Carbon. How much carbon are you worth? Warning it's a negative, you only win by losing, that's the nature of the big Cs.

Confessional banter would have the public in a knot over the assumption that calories and carbs are the number one enemy. The market drivers and fear mongers have done a very good job of proliferating ideas and products into the public psyche. Judging by statistics of how-to books in print on those subjects one would assume a high effectiveness ratio—Not so!

However, one look at the CDC files on obesity, the opposite results are striking. Basic child psychology would prove that when you wish to instill caution and character, you do not scare and overwhelm the participant. In this case, if you wish to alert the masses about carbon expenditures, refrain from confusing the issue with heavy science and argument. Serve it cool and light. Remember to step lightly upon the subject.

During the hyper caloric scare, i watched many a housewife avoid fruits because -- they were dreaded carbs. And none could be convinced that the fiber and vitamin content was essential to metabolic wellness; the magazines said...So went the scales and calorie charts, the lists of lists. And the weight gain, the more obsessed, the more desperate; that's hard on the hormonal response cycle. Research has proven the ill effects of worry on body fat deposits.

And then the dreaded fat many people told me that they avoided –avocados—because the it contained too much fat? Disregarding the fact that this 'innocent' fruit provides necessary lipids and minerals..the same folks shunned olive oil in favor of corn oil? Which doctor sold these ideas? The one who told them not to eat the perfect food..(that would be chocolate) I mean eggs..which are a reliable source of complete protein, with a balance of good cholesterol..add soy to that and you'll get so smooth a digestive track, you'll skid onto the health path to zero waste...That easy!

Several battles lost, one more hill for the average person to climb. Now Joe Public is told to lighten his food burden. Buy local, buy unwrapped or bulk, buy less meat. The ordinary person just mastered the GI (glycemic index), the heart healthy diet and that 'thing you hang on your hip to count your steps while doing housework. Scales and measuring tape rust in the closets, the Bow Flex died of premature abuse and neglect, now what? A computer memory jogger to alert you of new findings to disprove previous advice?'s everywhere.

Just as food prices rise along with gas and energy prices, Mr average can't pay attention to both the election circus, and, the Climate Change salesmen. One citizen can only do so much. The anxiety is driving people away from good conscience. Green vendors and promoters must take it easy on the bottom of the economic pyramid. A backlash of not so healthful consumerism would be ugly. Can you see disgruntled housewives going on donut binges, kids spitting vege pizza on the counters, disgusted men crushing arugula on the rug..The gross factor potential is huge here; there's no bottom to the food revenge dilemma.

Consider a single mother after work, meal planning a total loss, she pushes a screaming kid in the basket and drags another around the center aisles. She knows she can't afford enough fruits, so, canned will have to do, canned in Peru? Who cares at ninety nine cents for a large can. The fresh meat case does not even deserve a glance when bologna still hovers at the low end of nutrition-- Processed, cheap, cheap, cheaper the focus, plastic clean wrapped and red under lamps, kids will love it. From Argentina, Australia? Don't matter. Milk in plastic bottle, price up again. Gotta get outta here!

And i want to disrupt this woman's routine to ask her to take a minute to read the tiny little print somewhere out of the way on these pretty packages in her basket? I don't think so. I want to write an article for a magazine that she only buys for the weight loss claims in bold title on front page? Who am i to convince this burdened being to change her thinking when she has no time to think between all actions and daily reactions? I can only offer small advice under guise of economy, not ecology, at least, not yet.

When economy squeezes the bottom rungs of society, the message of cause and effect will finally persuade those who need to hear it most. At present, it is not the caviar from Canada or Russia that will tax the carbon debt on earth; how much of the crunchy fish eggs have you spread on your crackers lately? No, the major culprits of greenhouse gas pollution are the meat on the daily plate, the chicken Mc Something and the quick fix white flour fluff with processed high fructose ingredients. I perceive my civic duty as one easy recipe at a time, from scratch, and into the meals of the many. There are solutions..of course..

Many blogs carry a soft footprint; they furnish concise information in easy to follow how-to..The world at your fingertips, old world, new science, straight to your plate..and just wait till you savor the photography to salivate by..just a few samples below..

Bon Appetit! OK, yes, yes i DO enjoy my food.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Fondness for Food

Some articles pop-up out of the search engines, by the luck of the spiderbots and the online draw; this article I wrote for Karen Hanrahan of Best of Mother Earth, in June '08 keeps surging across cyberspace , so I thought that I would revive it, I mean revise sing the song of reinforcement to the green choir, friends who already know how to live well—but need reassurance or perfect reincarnation.

The original writing still exists in its other form:


Food has been on man’s mind ever since man has had a brain. Or so i assume. The act of feeding is a primordial animal need and concern, just ask any Frenchman.. Some cultures center on different aspects of eating; Asians have traditionally searched the balance of nutrients, as in Yin and Yang and its medicinal effects upon the body. Latin peoples have sought deep joy around family feasts. Jivaros have crystallized tribal unity around the dinner ritual, your head or mine? Sorry for interjecting terrible anthropological humor in the subject, but food is a serious topic, yes, yes ask any French chef <not know for humor>.

Movies have filled the box office on the single food theme, beginning with the 1987 Danish classic Babette's Feast, to deliciously portray an extravagant social feat. “Soul Food”, then the 2001 Tortilla Soup, and onto “ Like Water for Chocolate”.  Tears and saliva spilled over popcorn.
Obsessive food compulsion has permeated regional folklore, I was always puzzled by the American dictum of “ she must be pregnant; she craves pickles and ice-cream” I wondered how all the other women in the rest of the world could find out if they were with child if they had no such foods to clue them in? The survival of the species must be at stake....

The number of cook-books in bookstores and on neighbor's shelves surprised me as well, especially when the proud cooks displayed an amazing lack of culinary skills—despite the educational material at hand right there with glossy full page photos and how to forks at ready!..Perhaps the difference between the bibliophile and the instinctual cook was never so evident. I felt like saying, please throw the book in the stew, add pepper and salt with two bay leaves and a sprig of parsley.

Even more shocking to me as a new immigrant was the fact that a person of a 'certain age' would reach for the cook's bible to make pancakes, pancakes or pasta? And men were said to be able to boil water and barbecue a perfectly good cut of beef to death.

Of course when I was offered a Fannie Farmer's revised edition of her famous cook-book as a wedding present, I cried, my throat closed, my eyes shut and I spent the longest seclusion in recorded bathroom history. I was convinced that someone believed me inept and un-marriageable. Looking through shelves at the super-market, I am sure that many high school graduates are aiming for a total misuse of their home economics curriculum. There is so much shelf space devoted to  processed artificially prepared foodstuffs that it is increasingly difficult to find pure ingredients to nourish body and mind.

Food is more than something to chew on, animal instinct insures proper selection. Newly developed modern science has diverged from nature in the art of supplying wellness to society, consumers. Folklore used to be a vehicle of long held knowledge, but the diaspora has disseminated and confused the principles of food as medicine. When the Jewish philosopher physician Maimonides found chicken soup to be a cure for such respiratory problems as asthma, he did not know that scientists would corroborate his theories, eight centuries hence.

When the Egyptians worshiped the trusty garlic plant, they only had empirical savvy about its capacity to treat cryptoccocal meningitis. Then Pliny the elder, the Roman do gooder found it to be beneficial for thinning the blood, (among its many properties). I can just see an Italian mother serving garlic laden sauce to her ailing family, “eat and your Tuberculosis will get better”, well actually, researchers have indeed proven the efficacy of allicin against myco-bacterium Avium and especially as treatment for TB.

So what do the rest of us do on a regular day to improve our food intake? If it were only an act of nutrition, we’d trot over to some fast food place and stuff something in the dotted line that says "open face- insert here”, and presto, human is fed (up). I do know folks who would casually perform this soulless routine as feeding time. They can also simultaneously hold a conversation with co-workers and hold a cell phone by other ear. Is this a diminished ritual or a multitasking feat?

Attitude holds power in the pursuit of wellness, starting from the selection of fresh locally grown produce to the preparation of the food,. The connectivity between the supplier and the consumer can extend the value of the meal. Ever
since i was tall enough to order, I had a respectful relationship with the family butcher, i would stretch up and ask for my father’s preferred cuts over the market’s marble counters. Nothing but the best for those who appreciate quality. In this country we trust our local butcher at Hy-Vee, we treasure this although we seldom use the privilege.

Farmers markets provide joy, the anticipation of organic produce in a direct path to your table adds an essential pleasure to mere consumption. Green grocers do present a small array of locally grown produce. Here in the Midwest, Amish farmers offer seasonal vegetables, sorry, I grow my own, and drown in green gifts come harvest time, I swear I should not grow any squash, but then, friends may not grow any either and i' d be virtually squashless.

There is no evident continuity in the plastic wrapped processed meat or canned veges, the ultimate product has been intercepted by an army of middlemen on the search for rapid profits and long shelf life. Laboratories have provided clues to sensory enhancement and whole generations have been addicted to artificial sweeteners and flavors. The palate is fooled by clever additives and sweet mimicry of HFCs, but the body is not fooled my dear!

Just check the occurrence of common illness and related cause and effect of malnutrition.You will be able to correlate the lack of fiber to that digestive problem, or worse. Better serve a colorful palette of deep orange, yellows and purples to ward off skin and eye problems, build preventive immunity with deep shiny greens and yellows, add fruits of matching hues and be certain that between the crayon worthy dinners and a chew worthy cup of whole grain food, the doctor will still have enough patients, and you'll have money left for fun—or more real food.. i wish i had a handy camera to show and tell...

Hippocrates wrote " let food be your medicine”, he knew of the complexity of active phyto-nutrients in ordinary ingredients. A return to natural foods and carefully processed supplements would ease the health crisis in developed countries. Immune systems need the whole range of vitamins and minerals from a variety of plants and elements. Modern pharmacology has cleaved a divide between food and drugs, while the forty previous centuries had connected the art and science of food as wellness. Inseparably so.

The body knows, the nose knows.

take your senses on a daily trip to the markets and grow some primal instinct at the heart of your nourishment. Go on a window shopping tour of gourmet shops, buy small jars or pack of spices, your happy table will tell you stories to fill more than the stomach. There is a glow about the well fed person; and nature holds the mystery.

Yet Another Shade of Green

Yet Another Shade of Green .

Here, by the grace of the web and sadly, the grid, but the inspiration was instantaneous, i suddenly knew what i had meant to accomplish with lifelong writing. Art was never about gain, words were not to be lost. "Verdigris" said my husband; it was already in use, so i had to change it; Verdigrass then.

I had been reading many blog samples and some seemed too urban specific, others strictly scientific or dreadfully regimental. No, not another list of don' ts!. I want a place to enjoy the sunshine on my own doorstep. The vision should be subtly inspiring, not pedantic, not romantic; rather elevating and comfortable, a perch, not a podium.

From here the view is rural or suburban if you have imagination. So back to clouds and sun, throw in some lunar cycles to round out the overview from a creative writing perspective. This is it. Whatever is called green, ecological or zero waste will be nestled within other lifestyle subjects on verdigrass

Guests will contribute articles in their field of knowledge. I will post once a week, or more in this no nonsense, somewhat unusual venue for the reticent neophyte of the eco-nomy = eco-logy credo.. The word blog reminds me of something someone cannot spit in front of polite society, so i may find another name for it. All stories entered here will center upon the premise that we live in absurdist times and satire is a purgative essential for emotional and ecological ills. Not to cure mankind, but to spread humor on the dry toast of everyday.

Health and well-being will be sandwiched between conclusive research and applicable solutions. The news, the old and the archived will surface in essential links to provide a balance of all aspects of awareness. Serious consensus as well as conflict resolution, innovation and humanitarian effort will buoy the sinking raft of global anxiety, one person at a time. I derive much hope when I read about people who live in poor and remote regions using solar ovens or recycling odd objects to serve their needs. Or when i witness conscientious NGOs bringing relief in the lasting form of micro-lending or water sanitation programs with no (ulterior) profits built in.

Renewable energy and appropriate technologies will feature possibility and feasibility based upon research and dedication. Personal anecdotes and survival tips should spice the content as well.

Is this the part where the disclaimer enters? Okay, this writer is gurgling in the deep end of the ocean, so much to cover. But unlike the commercially sponsored media, the purpose of this writing is to focus on the possibilities and actualities. The 3 Rs reduce re-use re-purpose will hold major court in this space. Reading, cooking, textile art and husbandry will represent some of the practicalities. I like the term “husbandry” it reminds me of what a woman must learn when consorting with the opposite sex, not unlike caring for other creatures, so much to learn. Plants don't talk, but I hear the signals..edible gardening coming up..

I play with language as a child kicking rules and regulations in the neighbor's field; sometimes i feel guilty for my elastic, eclectic pleasures. But I don't waste too much emotive energy on regret..i have some serious writing to do..So on to sharing sources and resources, one article at a time under the preservation logo—verdi grass = green grassroots itching for spring.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Close To The Dirt

Walking alongside roads, collecting aluminum cans, we were doing our civic duty, keeping the countryside beautiful. More likely we were finding metal to recycle for a few dollars, practicing
economy and ecology as entertainment. For myself, no conflict arises out of recycling.

I was born in Normandy, the birthplace of northern frugality. Then to retrace the ecological roots of culture, my paternal ancestors would assert that the southern French were born with dirt in their genes. Soil holds the evidence of everything. Water is the fluid vehicle of all effluence; and air? I prefer not to see it or taste it.

I was raised in the South-West of France, school-year in the city and every vacation spent in my ancestral village. Surrounding woods were rife with mushrooms, fruits and berries. I later followed a different personal path through deserts and prairies across the sea. Mother, the Normand, never understood my preference for the countryside; mud afoot, long workdays, snakes and bugs were not 'her' idea of pleasure. By default and isolation I became an accidental poet and a compulsive gardener under various conditions and climates.

I now live in the land of too much milk and not enough honey. Cows are fat with hormones, bees are dying, and milk makes no butter-cream. Honey is expensive and fruits largely tasteless. I found an ancient tree in town which produces delicious crunchy apples. Amish fruit stands full of organic goodies dot the highways in good weather.. Meadows and ditches are replete with edible plants. Fallen trees provide free fodder for the wood stove... Now venison and turkey are the last abundant offering, though catfish and bass rank highly as well in private ponds, to avoid river pollutants..

All is not yet lost; counties are too poor to spray herbicides on roadsides. Abandonment has preserved a few elderberry bushes about town, gnarly trees keep on producing pears and persimmons despite owner's obvious carelessness. Birds congregate in the tall walnut trees, watching the climatic effects upon insect populations provides unbiased windows into a near future. No matter the circumstance, it is the single gesture, the individual thought which restores balance in the larger world. A small measure of neglect can be instrumental in conserving nature.

With businesses closing down and the tax-base eroding, prices have surged everywhere. Our own lifestyle resembles that of pioneers, though not always by choice. Knowledge gathered across cultural divides, accumulated as insurance against inevitable adversity. I remain close to the dirt; i don't mean the fingernail and muddy toes kind of contact, but an ongoing respect for natural principles. That which comes from the ground shall return to the ground-sort of continuum... The rest is waste...and I have made that a lifelong project—to refuse as much as possible -- to re-purpose creatively-- and--to use everything to its natural conclusion.

And the ground wins! despite the general lack of interest in learning about the effects of human habits upon the environment at large. There is an ascetic pleasure in minimalism, to use little, to throw little, what a passion i feel in the art of conservation. Oh yes art, because a well spent day is an art form. A well planned meal eaten around a common table is basically sharing the fruits of the soil (and I don't mean cocoa puffs scarfed hastily at the kitchen counter). Finding reasons to live along natural ways and disseminating what we find there to save ourselves from commercial encroachment (emphasis on what can be done at home) or anywhere you are.

Winter has saturated the clay and fields are swelling with my favorite greens, a cure is in the air, it's free and it's good for me, now, is that pleasure or survival? All I can do is to protect myself with the natural antidotes to chemical assaults committed by corporate zeal, (in my cantankerous consumer name). Dandelions and mushrooms, berries and kale, seaweed grown in unpolluted gulfs, one texture after another, i taste rich and healthful abundance.

Now, on to composting ideas and gathering joy; i have friends waiting for tips and recipes or scientific reports about energy development. And I have blogs to read for more organic discoveries, most of all, for positive news to spread.

Enough about the writer and forward to the writing and reading!, ns

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Verdigris was taken.

After hunting for a new name, i realized that the bait is not the catch; the content will be the essence of this blog..Economy and ecology in a harmonious dichotomy: using what we have and content to be here.

After introducing this format, i will post articles about wellness and beauty, no not the pretty and fine art of homemaking..but rather, the art of living well in a shrinking world.

Humor served on a platter of bitter facts, and good news about those who are perfecting new technologies to clean air and water around us.

Adventures in growing your own food, no matter where you are. Desert or prairie, sand or clay, i have grown greens under many skies and conditions.

All the reduce-re-use-redux i have practiced and learned across continents and temperaments...innovative, restorative and inventive aspects of adaptation.

Some of the old ways imported from the old world which have survived for good reason in mental baggage and leather suitcase.

Now back to the desk, ready to sift through pages of stories, photos of chickens and yes, more cats, one cat..and turtles and whatever has crossed my beam..Recipes waiting for conversion of weights and measures from a scratch cook who owns no scales. Back to files in the great computer waiting room of defunct dreams and faded inspiration.To revive and infuse hope of sustainability in this, our common place.

The spark is set, the fire is lit, this is it! i shall return with bedtime stories on how to warm the sheets or stay cozy by the fireplace or electric heater as it may be...following the Northern hemisphere's seasons and sharing elsewhere..

Car-less in the Midwest, smiling across a starlit evening, ns