Fight Poverty, Not Cooking

Mark Bittman has a fantastic op-ed in the New York Times today about how cooking is as much an issue of equality as anything - equality of money to buy food and equipment, equality of housing with a full useable kitchen, equality of time available to cook, equality of household labor.
The two ideas I love the most:  preparing meals in school cafeterias for weeknights that the kids and parents can take home, and community kitchens.  Especially the community kitchens.  I have spent time volunteering in community kitchens for communal meals and I loved every minute of it.  I was also the Sunday afternoon dinner cook and sack lunch cook at the cooperative I lived in while in college, and I loved that too.  They are a fantastic experience that I would recommend to anybody, both to help prepare and serve the meals but also to sit down in the dining room and share the meals with your fellows.  I'm not a generally social animal but I love communal meals.  That way all of us, even the most poor, most tired and most time-deprived, could enjoy 'home' cooked family meals, not only with their families but with their villages.
But they don't have to be volunteer kitchens.  Community kitchens could provide employment and teach important life and job skills.  Rents for the space could help out churches and other organizations with communal meal facilities that do not get used much (as is the case for most churches) who could use additional income.  Valuable partnerships could be forged with local food vendors (reduce food waste!) and community gardens.  Social services staff are often an intimidating presence when you are corralled into state offices like cattle, with orders barked at you and piles of paperwork to complete.  But what if, instead, people could reach out to social services as fellow guests at a meal?  These communal meals could be a great opportunity to provide healthcare - flu shots, blood pressure screenings, etc.- destigmatize mental health care, demystify income assistance, provide clothes closets, offer job and education counseling.
  The possibilities are dazzling.  Do you enjoy playing music?  A community dinner can be part of a session group.  Does your kid belong to a dance troupe?  Come dance with people!  Or have a dance night for the grownups.  Think of all that we could benefit from if we went back to the village tradition of communal meals.  

Shareable Takes Note of Austin’s Own East Side Compost Pedellers

I'm very proud to see my home town's compost pedellers get a mention on Shareable.com.  Now if only they'd expand to South Austin.  No matter how many notes I put up to myself around the house, no matter where I put it to remember to take it to the Sunset Valley market or Wheatsville, no matter how many times I drive to both places largely for the purpose of dropping off my compost - 90% of the time I still forget.  I forgot no less than three times last Saturday.  ESCP - come save me from myself!

It’s almost time for Weihnachten in Fredericksburg

This is a month-long celebration of Christmas in Fredericksburg, TX.  There is a 26 foot tall hand-carved pyramid at the Marktplatz, the Tannenbaum Ball, the outdoor ice skating rink and more than 150 shops full of holiday treasures.  If you love hand blown glass tree ornaments or sets for your model trains, you can't do any better than to spend a day in Fredericksburg during the season.

UT has a micro farm!

I'm proud of my alma mater today, now that I know that the University of Texas has a student-founded and -run organic farm.  It is funded out of the university's Green Fee, $5 per semester per student, which the Green Fee Committee awards to various environmental services projects around campus.  The farm was planted at 2204 Leona Street in 2013, which is only a few blocks northeast of Disch-Falk Field just off the corner of Manor and Leona.  The food raised is sold to UT's Division of Housing and Food Service and whatever is left is sold on campus during the week and at a stand on the farm itself on Saturdays.  Any additional surplus is donated to charity.  Volunteers learn about agriculture and sustainable living, but also about PR, communication, project development, environmental practices, and all the other non-dirt related responsibilities of farming.  The farm is currently testing a variety of irrigation systems.

Austin Fermentation Festival

The first ever will be on 11/15 at Le Cordon Bleu at The Domain.  Sponsored by LBC, Whole Foods and The Farmers Market, it will be a discussion from experts and enthusiasts for fermented foods.  Pickles to kimchee, kombucha to kefir, booze to sourdough.

Luminations at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center 12/13 – 12/14

Thousands of luminarias and lights create "Luminations" at the center every winter.  There will be music from the Austin Banjo Club, the Chalameau Quartet, La Grosse Tete and the Eanes High School Choir.  Admission is free with two canned food items for the Capital Area Food Bank.  You can keep your Trail of Lights in Zilker, I want to go here!  Except I can't - my birthday party is the 13th and I'll be watching the Mythbusters on the 14th.  But everyone else should go!

Austin Bacon and Beer Festival 1/25

Come to East Austin's Fair Market from 2:30 to 5 to sample bacon dishes from local restaurants (including Noble Pig, - duh -, and the new restaurant serving southies like me, St. Philip) Bacon and Central Texas craft brews (including Circle, Independence, Infamous and Rogness).  This sells out every year and benefits the Capital Area Food Bank.  Tickets go on sale 12/1.

CoffeeFest at Faraday’s in Bee Caves 11/8

Faraday's in Bee Caves will be having a festival from 10 to 4 including demos of various coffee gadget wizardry, tastings of sweets that pair with espresso, and free 90-minute barista workshops (reservation required).

Edible Austin Eat Drink Local Week, 12/6 – 12/13

This week of celebrating Austin's great wealth of local food and drink includes an evening with James Beard award-winner Dan Barber at the Paramount, writer of "The Third Plate".  Other events include the Slow Feast in the Field at Green Gate Farms (don't forget the upcoming benefit for them at Lenoir)  on 12/8 and the Texas House Farm to Table Caucus Brunch at Springdale Farms on 11/16.

Farmers market haul today

I don't have to travel this week so I hit the markets hard and happy! Richardson Farms bacon and chicken, La Cruz Farm eggs and turkey, Chilean sea bass from the Gulf (or Patagonian Toothfish, for the sake of accuracy), butter lettuce from Fagan Farm, potatoes and tomatoes from Max (and if you think there's a loaf of bread for BLTs in the offering, you're right), the last of the corn on the cob from 2 Happy Children Farm, mushrooms from Kitchen Pride, mozzarella and monterey jack from Full Quiver Farms. This is going to be a great week!