Day 27: Know Your Produce

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Hi! I’m organic asparagus. I don’t make Meghan break out into hives.

I finally got my butt out of bed in the morning to go for a run before work. First weekday run from the new pad, so I did learn I need to give myself about 15 more minutes to beat the traffic lights, etc. Productive morning at work lead into a productive lunch hour.

First, I registered for eight volunteer shifts with the San Francisco International Film Festival. Conveniently, they use Shiftboard, the same scheduling program as Milwaukee Film, so it was easy for me to set up since the volunteer orientation isn’t until Thursday evening. I’m very excited to volunteer, but a bit anxious as well. I volunteered in Milwaukee since the beginning of the festival and met many absolutely incredible people, some of whom have become dear friends. I wonder if I will have the same experience here?

After registering, I quickly downed my salad and leftover burrito and popped over to the Heart of the City Farmer’s Market, not for tamales this time. I actually did some serious market shopping, picking up organic asparagus, Meyer lemon, garlic, Russian River Kale, “ugly” Shitake mushrooms, and a huge bag of raw, unpasteurized almonds for a snack.

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Murcott Orange. One of the billion and two new oranges I've learned about in the past month.

Pleasantly our fruit CSA had been delivered when I returned to the office, so I grabbed a Murcott Orange to try. I’m trying to sample stuff out of there that I don’t believe I’ve ever had. Although, looking at the citrus page for this one, it looks like it’s called a “Honey Orange” when out of Florida. I may have had it then. Regardless, this was definitely a tart, delicious treat. I’m glad I’m keeping a food interest in my new life, because I was also pleasantly surprised Wednesday to get a shoutout from @LittleKnock, one of the proprietors of the RicePaperScissors Pop Up I wrote about last week. Happy to keep tasting and reviewing places (if I hear about ’em)!

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Going to an evening meeting? Wake up!

Fresh food on the brain, I headed out close to 6 to swing by an even in the Mission. Of course I forgot my groceries when I left work in the midst of a windstorm and had to pedal back to get ’em. I was heading to a lecture on strawberry production on Valencia, and the effort of biking into the wind was seriously exhausting. I had just enough time to stop into the famous Ritual Coffee Roasters and get a single-drip Serra Negra (it’s apparently Brasilian Coffee Week there). The coffee was pretty complex and I do wish I’d had more time to savor it rather than just darting off, but alas.

The event I went to was just up the street at Viracocha – a cozy gallery with a fantastic community room in the basement. Called Kitchen Table Talks, and organized by Civil Eats and 18 Reasons, this panel series meets regularly to discuss various food issues. Wednesday’s topic was on the California Strawberry Industry and the evil chemical methyl iodide (it’s used to induce cancer in lab rats) that corporate interests pushed through to approval in CA last year. The panel was set up really well and managed to keep a very consistent flow. I’ve definitely been to similar things where I zoned out, but this kept me engaged.

Moderated by Bruce Cole, or @EdibleSF, which may have been where I heard about this in the first place, the presentation began with Ryan Casey from Blue House Farm, located in Pescadero, wherever that may be (still learning my Bay Area geography). He talked about what a fickle crop strawberries are, but how it’s totally possible to farm them organically (fighting mites with other mites, rotating crops, etc.). Unfortunately, he pointed out, there’s nowhere that has organic strawberry starts (the old place shutdown a couple years ago), so there’s no truly organic strawberry. I always love hearing small farmers talk about their work though, as it’s always with such passion. He was definitely an interesting and positive panelist. Next up, Brett Melone, the Executive Director of the Agriculture & Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) spoke about what his organization does to educate farm workers about organic practices. Strawberries aside, this group just sounds top notch, using farming to empower and educate low-income people, many of whom have been employees, but through this program have the chance to gain the skills to become employers and lease farmland. It’s sort of an agri-startup incubator. Great stuff!

The third speaker was Sam Mogannam, owner of Bi-Rite, where I’ve been trying to frequent. I can see why everyone is obsessed with it. Not only is it a wondrous labyrinth of local and organic food, but the owner is obviously a passionate dude, who also was funny as hell. He had really great points about being a retailer and keeping up with demand. He effectively said we need to reset ourselves back to seasonal eating and that it’s absurd that people want strawberries at Christmas. Of course, having just come from the Midwest I found it hilarious that people here aren’t content with a 7 or 8 month strawberry season. Those of us Wisconsin locavores make do with our 6 weeks!

Anyway, seriously folks, don’t eat fruit out of season. It only makes sense. And cooking magazines — don’t feature foods that require out of season ingredients — shame on you.

The final speaker was our doomsday gal – Dana Perls, Community Organizer for the Central Valley and Bay Area region at Pesticide Watch. Again, I really liked the set up of the panel – presenting solutions BEFORE presenting the problem. I don’t know if I ever attended anything in Milwaukee like that. Perhaps that’s something somebody can start working on there. It’s less daunting to climb out of a death spiral issue when you have hope before you lay out the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario in the strawberry situation is pretty gnarly. These chemicals can seep into groundwater, blow away in the sea breeze, and of course affect farm workers and nearby residents. Plus strawberries are like a “sponge” – 90% water – so just think of those tasty toxins you’re gobbling up. Your typical conventional strawberry today already contains 13 pesticides. The moderator referred to them as “poisonberries.”

What can you do if you don’t live in California? Vote with your $$ and tell your local grocer you don’t want to eat nasty chemberries from this part of the country. And if you’re a farmer in Wisconsin (or any other state) this summer, capitalize on that!

I’m really glad I explored and went to this event. I did talk briefly with the woman I sat next to, who advised me to sign up for the CUESA mailing list to hear about similar things. There were also tasty platters from Bi Rite (actually those really reminded me of Beans & Barley catering) and wine from Shoeshine Wines.

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Have you ever seen a more gorgeous piece of kale? Purple!

Although I was exhausted when I got home (and that darn wind was still blowing), I did stick to my earlier resolution and cook dinner for myself. Baked cheesy asparagus with Meyer lemons, and sauteed Kale & Mushrooms with garlic and (local) olive oil. Still using up Saturday’s bread too. And yes, it was as divine as it looks.

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Hard work pays off.

I’m truly glad I’ve found my way back into the kitchen and I really hope I never take for granted that I am living in a land of plenty — year round. Once I’m truly settled here I’m going to make all efforts to be a real local eater. What an adventure that will be! I’m glad this community has enough programs to educate me on the subject though. That definitely gives me hope for the future.

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About Meghan A.

creative & professional creative professional | communications, content & community | nasty woman | adventurer & inspiration seeker | bicyclist & feminist | walk san francisco board | current: Adobe Typekit Product Marketing Manager, former: TYPO SF magic maker
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