Industrial Harvest

A Poem by sarah kavage
January 24, 2010, 1:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

As part of the InCUBATE symposium back in December, guest Jeff Hnilicka  (who organizes Sunday Soup spinoff FEAST in Brooklyn) read this poem by Mary Speaker and it’s been in my head ever since.  Thanks to both of them for sharing this.   

The Third Feast
by Mary Speaker

We were the first ones here. We made sacrifices,
and we made ourselves comfortable. Our boredom
was not a topic of conversation. We redeemed each other
and so did not need to be saved and so we were saved.

We cashed in our friendships for two-person love.
We were told there would be others. We went
to find them, found no one. In the interim, we learned
to forage.We found supplies, which ran thin, so we formed

factions. For protection, for love, for comfort
against the other factions. Our scales went from one to ten.
We were of average height with extraordinary variations.
Our families were rich and fecund absences.

In the summertime, cloudscapes never failed
to entertain us. Daily our uncertainties rose up,
and we withdrew. We went behind the barn alone.
Climbed trees, drank. Built our forts and invited others

inside and made them leave when it suited us.
We invented systems of belonging that felt
valuable enough that we would want them.
We discarded each one as it revealed its flaws.

We wanted a new system. We wanted
a victory we would never be ashamed of.
We spoke in basements and kitchens.
We received gifts and we gave them away.

Suddenly, our hands were filled.
We laughed with our mouths open.


Flanagan attacks school gardens by sarah kavage
January 19, 2010, 11:57 am
Filed under: Food Geography & Culture | Tags: , , ,

Anyone else see this in the Atlantic? 

The author, Caitlin Flanagan, essentially argues that (particularly in budget crises) school garden programs are foolish attempts by well intentioned yet clueless privledged people (namely Alice Waters); they are tangental to a school’s mandate to teach readin’ writin’ and ‘rithmetic; and they trap poor kids in a cycle of physical labor for generations.  The essay seems designed to 1) provoke and 2) invoke a big load of white liberal guilt.  I’m glad to roll with both if there’s a subtle and well-reasoned argument behind it, but any good points she might have are buried in oversimplification and inflammatory prose.  I’ve never heard of a school that sends kids out in the hot sun to pick lettuce all day as part of school curriculum, as the first paragraph implies. 

Fortunately, the response by the Atlantic’s own food writer saves me from having to pick this piece apart all on my own.  The article seems to have unleashed a veritable shitstorm of commentary – see more here, here and here.

PITA by sarah kavage
January 16, 2010, 5:14 pm
Filed under: baking, recipes | Tags: , ,

We had our friend T in town for a night this past week.  His presence at our dinner table was a good excuse to get back on the baking.  I turned to an old standby, pita bread.  Homemade pita – with a pocket and everything – is so much better that store bought pita does not make it on my shopping list anymore.  Pita is also less time-consuming than loaves, and pretty easy for dilletante bakers such as myself to get great results. 

Here’s my recipe:   
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/4 cups flour (I used 1/3 white flour, 2/3 whole wheat flour from Fairhaven Mills co-op)
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar (I usually don’t add the sugar, but supposedly it makes them brown more quickly and gives more food to the yeast)
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 packet) yeast

I primed the yeast by putting it in the water, adding just 1 cup of flour, and letting that sit about 30 minutes till it was bubbly on top and puffy.  Add the rest of the ingredients, mix it up and give it a quick knead and let it rise for about 45 minutes.  Then divide the dough into 4 equal parts and form it into balls.  Let the dough balls rise for about 10 more minutes, then press them into 8-inch rounds about 1/4 inch thick.  Bake on the bottom rack of a 450 deg. oven for 5 minutes; you definitely don’t want to overdo it.  The pitas will puff up while baking (if you’ve got kids, the puffing will be quite a treat to watch), taking on their signature “pocket” form, and may get slightly brown when they’re done, but don’t wait for them to get brown before you pull them out of the oven – you want them to stay pliable. 

The whole wheat dough made for a pita that had more flavor, but was grainier and not quite as decadently divine as the standard white flour pita.  I kind of forgot that with whole wheat you need more water / less flour which probably would have improved the results.   They were still better than store-bought, especially when piled with homemade babaghanoush and falafel and veggies.  We never made it out of the kitchen, preferring to stand and nosh and catch up as other friends dropped in to say hi to T. 

In the middle east, pitas are made in 800-degree brick ovens like pizza (in fact, pizza itself, and the word pizza may have evolved from pita, which basically means bread or flatbread in several languages).  The very high temperatures are what cause the puffing.  The yeast goes into shock somehow and aids in the puffing, along with steam.  In searching online after the fact (here for a whole wheat pita recipe and check out the comments here for lots of useful tips), higher oven temperatures – 500 degrees – and a bit of misting in the oven with a spray bottle are recommended to encourage puffiness.

T’s Dream by sarah kavage

I’m back in Seattle, back to juggling dayjob and art, back to drizzle and not knowing when to wake up because you can’t tell when it’s actually daylight…

In other words, I’m trying to maintain all the momentum from back in December and it’s been a little bit of a struggle.  Fortunately, my husband and I watched Food, Inc. last night which fueled my determination to keep at it.  If you haven’t seen this documentary it’s not what I’d call a fun movie, but there are plenty of inspiring parts and it’s basically your duty as a citizen to watch it.  If it doesn’t change the way you eat, nothing will. 

At the beginning of December, my friend T sent me this email after I told her about this project.  Her comment:  “Interesting dream as it was so much a succinct picture of reality.”  Indeed, it poetically mirrors some of what Food, Inc. had to say quite nicely: 

“Your project brings to mind a dream I had in September. In the dream I was looking to buy a plot of land.  I found one nearby to a gas station with ‘Genetic’ on the sign.  As I was planning out my garden spots in my minds eye, I was taken to the land just up over the hill then rolled along a conveyor belt and shown the industrial agricultural mechanism taking place all around me.  Men in suits spraying golden fields of wheat as far as the eye could see, wheat being dumped into a machine and coming out as cheerios that got dumped into big trucks; sweaty red necked men, scrawny men with clipboards.  There was more to the dream, including me having a birds’ eye view of a farmer’s family fighting their insurance company for medical care.”

Some of the scenes in Food, Inc are nearly as surreal; the one difference is that farmers were fighting Tysons and Monsanto rather than the health insurance company.  When you’re a farmer and you’re $400,000 deep in legal fees due to harrassing lawsuits from THE MAN you better hope you don’t get sick, cuz you sure don’t have health insurance.  The one thing that came through loud and clear in this movie is that these corporations are literally out to torment and humiliate all who stand in their way of complete market domination and relentless pursuit of profit.  Animals, workers and small farmers alike. 

The one great thing about all this is that we can affect changes in this system every time we sit down to dinner.  Remember that.  Where you shop and what you buy matters a lot.