Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Eating Locally- Day 6

Monday. Five days of eating eggs, cheese, and tomatoes. Mostly. Although I haven’t forgotten how lucky I am to have food in the first place, I sure am sick of eggs, cheese, and tomatoes. When this is over, I don’t think I’ll eggs eat again for a very long time. Of course, I generally don’t eat many eggs to begin with, but that’s beside the point. The point is, almost 30 eggs in five days is just too much.

Anyway, for breakfast I had an apple. For lunch, tomato soup and leftover mashed potatoes, which, by the way, were just as good as they were the day before. I got lucky for dinner.

On Monday afternoon I visited Mason’s (non-certified) organic vegetable garden to do a little work. For those of those that haven’t heard, the garden suffered a minor catastrophe last month when almost all of vegetables died. In any case, when I was digging around where the potato plants used to be, I came across four good-sized potatoes. There were in pretty poor shape, rather wrinkly and soft, but I decided to give them a good home in my stomach none-the-less.

When, I got home a sliced all four of my potatoes into small wedges and fried them in butter. And although I was saving it until Tuesday (so I could celebrate) I decided to use the one small onion that I had. Instead of cooking it along with the potatoes, I chose to eat it raw so as to savor the full flavor. So, for dinner I had fried potatoes, more fried eggs, slices of a raw onion and the rest of a green pepper that I had the day before. It was the best meal that I have had this week. I honestly think that it was the onion that tied the whole thing together.

Tomorrow is Tuesday, my last full day of this experiment. I don’t have too much variety to look forward to, not that I had variety to begin with, so I can’t say that I’ll be sorry when it’s over. Among all the things that I’m looking forward to the most: garlic. And bread. And of course, hot sauce. Sriacha hot sauce.

Eating Locally- Days 4 and 5

Writing about essentially the same thing for five days is difficult. At least for me. How many things am I eating? 16, I think. Eggs, tomatoes, cheese, apples, peaches, butter, basil. Those are the main items. Throw in some potatoes, yogurt, two peppers, an eggplant and onion (both yet to be eaten) honey, rosemary and thyme and you have my diet for the week. Of course, if you’ve been following my progress, you already know that. I also have some beets, but I doubt that I’ll end up harvesting them for this experiment. Trying to take those 16 items and make three meals a day for seven consecutive days with them is not easy. Well, it’s not easy to make interesting anyway.

Since I stayed up late at the movies on Friday night, I took advantage of a rare day off and slept late on Saturday, therefore missing breakfast. For lunch, I decided to try something different. Since I still had an abundance of eggs I tried mixing two of my hardboiled eggs with yogurt (instead of mayonnaise) to make an egg salad of sorts. I also fried a few eggs with cheese and made some more tomato ‘soup’. The egg salad definitely was not very good, but it wasn’t terrible. The tomato soup and the fried eggs were decent but I could already tell that I would be sick of them before too long. For dinner: more fried eggs.

Sunday was a different story, at least it ended differently. I started with just an apple for breakfast, mostly because I wasn’t particularly hungry. Since I felt that I had been doing exceeding well so far, especially in the name of overwhelming temptation (the Sriacha hot sauce lurking in my cabinet was calling my name) I figured I deserved a treat. I went into front yard to dig up what few potatoes I could. The actual potato plants had long since been removed due to the inane and idiotic rules of the homeowners association that governed my townhouse but I knew that at least a few potatoes lay just beneath the surface. To my delight, I actually found over a dozen of them, some as small as ping pong balls, others as large as my fist. Apparently my plants had been exceedingly productive in the few short weeks that they were able to photosynthesize. In any case, I’m a big fan of anticipation, so I decided to wait until dinner to enjoy my spuds. So for lunch I had…wait for it… yup, you guessed it: eggs.

I started preparing dinner much earlier than I needed to, partly because I was hungry but mostly because I was simply so excited to eat my homegrown potatoes. Since I had so many to work with, I decided to use about half of them to make fried potatoes and the other half to make mashed potatoes (my favorite). For frying, I sliced the potatoes similar to the way potato chips (another one of my favorites) are sliced and placed them, one-by-one, into hot butter. Although I have a propensity to burn things that I try to fry, I was exceedingly careful with my precious potatoes. In the end, I only had two or three slices that were too burnt to eat. The rest were delicious, even sans Sriacha, and I ate all of them.

As for the mashed potatoes, since milk, or more appropriately, soymilk, was not part of my diet this week, I had to add three times as much butter as I normally would in order to try to make the potatoes creamy enough, but even that wasn’t enough. In lieu of milk I ended up adding water to the potatoes to make them creamier. It reminded me of when I was kid and had to use water for my cereal when we ran out of cow’s milk. Luckily, after a thorough mixing, I couldn’t tell the difference and the mashed potatoes ended up being delicious as well, even without the hot sauce.

Like I already said, I had decided to treat myself and that included desert. I really don’t like plain yogurt, so I chopped up one of my remaining peaches and mixed it with a bowlful of yogurt. It probably would have been good if I had used a blender, but instead I decided to mix in some honey. The result was quite good. Not quite delicious, but close enough.

I went to sleep that night satiated and fully satisfied.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Eating Locally- Day 3

Day three. For breakfast I had an apple and a black cherry yogurt. The apple was good, the yogurt was better. Made with whole milk, it had 9 grams of fat and 210 calories. According to MyPyramid.gov (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture), my recommended daily allowance of calories is 2400. Considering the fact that their food pyramid still includes dead animals (meat) as part of a healthful diet, I don’t take too much stock in what the USDA has to say on the matter. I was pleased, however, to see that they do include “Tips & Resources” for vegetarians on their website: http://www.mypyramid.gov/tips_resources/vegetarian_diets.html.

For lunch I had two hard-boiled eggs and the rest of the tomato soup that I made last night. The soup was just as good today as it was yesterday. As much as I’ve enjoyed my dinner for the past two nights, I can’t say that I’m looking forward to the same thing tonight. I’ve been trying to think of ways that I could add variety, and there are a few ingredients that I haven’t used yet (squash and zucchini, potatoes, beets, and an onion or two) but I don’t want to run out of those things and be stuck just eating tomatoes and eggs.

So, instead of trying to decide what to eat, I decided to skip dinner and go to the movies. Since I love movies and it’s been a really long time since I’ve had the chance to go to the theater, I watched four movies and got home after midnight. I was hungry, but also tired, so not to have anything to eat before bed.

In any case, I have some experiments in mind for tomorrow. Hopefully it will be a more interesting food day.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Eating Locally- Day 2

First of all, two quick notes. One, I was unable to locate my notebook that contains the prices I paid for all of the food that I’ll be eating this week. For those of you that are interested, I’ll look again tomorrow and let you know if I find it. Two, I actually purchased an additional item yesterday that I forgot to mention, eight ounces of honey from Mason’s own Environmental Studies on the Piedmont program.

Now, let me say, I’m eating well; I definitely have more than enough to eat and what I’m eating seems to be nutritiously complete (and delicious). That being said, even though this is only my second day of this experiment, there are certainly at least a few things that I already miss. First and foremost, I miss bread. I love bread. I have five favorite foods: mashed potatoes, blueberries, potato chips, nachos, and bread. I was definitely expecting to be able buy bread at the market yesterday, but the bread vendors were unfortunately not there. Not eating bread for a week will be a big adjustment for me. I also miss hot sauce. Especially Sriacha hot sauce. Oh well.

In any case, it occurred to me that although this is day two, I neglected to write about what I actually ate yesterday. For lunch, I had part of an apple. For dinner, I fried half of a tomato along with three eggs and some cheddar cheese, and added some fresh basil for flavor; essentially it was scrambled eggs with tomatoes, basil, and cheese. All of it was quite good, maybe even delicious.

Today, I finished the apple that I started at lunch yesterday for breakfast. For lunch, I had a peach and two of the 12 eggs that I hard-boiled last night. Dinner consisted of three more scrambled eggs; this time with tomatoes, peppers, basil, rosemary, thyme, and some cheddar cheese. I also harvested a whole bunch of tomatoes from my garden that I used to make a tomato soup of sorts. Essentially I diced about 12 smallish tomatoes that I fried in butter along with the fresh herbs. The result was a watery substance that I liken to a cross between soup, stew and spaghetti sauce. It was so good that I had two bowls.

As I started with, I’m eating plenty of good food and I have absolutely no reason to complain. Regardless of the fact that I’m lacking a few things that I’m accustomed to and might want, I’m acutely aware of the privilege that I have. I already realize that this experiment will not turn out the way that I expected, however, I think that it will end up being much more interesting than I expected. Check back tomorrow for further insights.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eating Locally- Day 1

So, it's day one and I'm in for an interesting week. Today's market had far less vendors, therefore far less variety, than I expected. What I did expect, considering the point in the Virginia growing season we are in, was a plethora of fresh vegetables. Instead, what I got was tomatoes, apples, peaches, eggs, cheese, butter and yogurt. That’s seven ingredients for the week. What I was hoping for included, at least, onions, peppers, beets, lettuce, collards, garlic, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, eggplants, and maybe even potatoes and melons; all things that I thought I could reasonably expect. The only produce that was offered today that I didn't purchase was raspberries and blackberries.

I thought that this week was going to be easy. And I say that fully well aware of the fact that I'm quite lucky to have food in the first place. All I'm trying to say is that I was hoping that I'd have a few more ingredients to live off of for the next week than the seven that I bought at the farmers' market and the few that I have at home. Speaking of which, as mentioned in yesterday's post, I do have a few things that I can add to my diet for the week. Those things include many more tomatoes, a few more peppers, two or three onions, three small beets, two small eggplants and three or four small potatoes. Luckily I also have basil, rosemary and thyme. Not including salt, the one thing that I’m adding to this experiment, I have 15 ingredients to subsist on for the week. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, I realize what a privilege it is to have such easy access to food.

Before I go on, I want to briefly write about food justice. I’ll expand upon this more later in the week, but for now, suffice it to say, that I am writing this mostly for people that don’t consider their own ability to access food on a daily basis. By conducting this experiment, I’m attempting to document my experience from the perspective of people that have almost complete access to just about any type of food whenever she or he so chooses; myself included. Eating 15 items during the course of the week will be a challenge when juxtaposed next to my ability to go the neighborhood supermarket, which in my case is less than a mile away, and buy food, quite literally, from around the world. Again, I’ll write more about this as the week progresses.

To end day one, I’ll give you some specifics. Today I bought three dozen eggs, or the equivalent of about five eggs a day (that’s a lot). I bought a pound of butter, 44 ounces of yogurt and approximately a pound and a half of cheese, Cheddar and Monterey Jack. I also purchased exactly five tomatoes, five peaches, and seven apples. I took notes as I was buying all of this, unfortunately, I left those notes at work and I’m now at home so I’ll let you know exactly how much these items cost on Thursday. (It was about $70.)

Oh, and just because I’m curious as to how this may or may not effect my weight, I weighed myself before I started. With my shoes off, clothes on, and pockets empty I weigh about 208 pounds; a good 30 pounds more than I’d like. With luck, this week will help me shed that unwanted baggage. Somehow, the thought of eating five eggs a day makes me doubt it…

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Eating Locally- An Experiment

Starting tomorrow, August 19, 2009, I will attempt to only eat food that comes from the George Mason University Farmers’ Market or food that I have grown myself. The purpose of this experiment is two-fold; first of all, I want to find out first-hand how difficult it is to subsist on a local diet. Secondly, I’d like to support the farmers’ market, and by extension, its farmers, by drawing attention to it. The only exception to getting food either from the market or from my yard will be salt. Also, since this farmer’s market sells prepared foods such as soups and pies in addition to vegetables and dairy products, I need to decide whether or not I will include those in my diet. Although these foods are prepared locally, the ingredients in the food is not necessarily sourced locally. I suppose that since this is my first such attempt at such a feat, I will include some of these prepared foods. If all goes well, I’ll attempt it again without the soups and pies.

While I’m not a strict vegan, I am a diehard vegetarian and I try to eat as few dairy products as possible. That said, I’m confident that I’ll will in fact be eating a lot of dairy products this week. Eggs, butter, and yogurt will certainly be a large part of my diet. I normally only eat two meals a day, lunch and dinner, and often only eat one, dinner, however, during this week I will try and eat a full three meals per day as I’ve heard it’s better for me.

Since, to the chagrin of the home owners association that rules my neighborhood like a feudal lord, I have a small garden at home, I will be able to supplement what I purchase at the market with my own vegetables and herbs. This season I have tomatoes, peppers, some onions, beets and a few eggplants and potatoes. I also have basil, rosemary and thyme.

I realize that this whole endeavor has some flaws, the largest of which being that even if I succeed in only eating locally grown food for a week, implying that I could do it for longer, this would only hold true for a few months of the year. Having a truly local diet (in northern Virginia) for a sustained period of time would obviously be much more difficult in the colder months. In any case, as stated previously, this is an experiment so I’ll learn what I can from it. I’ll be sharing my thoughts and observations throughout the week via this blog and I definitely welcome comments, questions, and criticisms. With hope, at the end of the week I’ll have inspired at least one person, myself, to make locally grown food as big a part of my diet as possible.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

STEP program a huge success!

Last month, two dozen students, including nine students from Mason, traveled to Prince William Forest, part of the National Park System, right outside of Washington, D.C. to take part in a weeklong training in environmental protection. During the week the students learned how to create a successful group that will be able to run and manage effective environmental campaigns on their campus. The program, called the Student Training for Environmental Protection (STEP), was run by the George Mason University Office of Sustainability.

See our event video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHgVJQbMqyo

The program focused on giving students the skills and knowledge they need to create the change that will turn passion for the environment into action that will protect it. Some of the workshops that were covered include: Recruiting, Leadership Development, Coalition Building, Campaign Planning, Event Planning, as well as, Public Speaking, How to get Media Attention, Message Development, Lobbying, and Anti-oppression..

The week culminated in a trip to Capitol Hill where students met with representatives of their Senator’s staff to ask for their support of an improved American Clean Energy and Security Act. Altogether, over 30 young people from nine states and Puerto Rico participated in the training and met with their Congressional staff to ask for a stronger climate bill.

Following in the footsteps of Power Shift 2009, the George Mason University Student Training for Environmental Protection program allowed the participants to create bonds with other student organizers from around the country while being trained and empowered with the skills needed to be part of the movement that solves climate change, environmental injustice, and economic failure.

With hope, we plan on having follow up events in the near future. Information will be posted soon.


P.S. Here are some things that participants had to say about STEP:

If I went into STEP with any expectations, I definitely came out of STEP blown away because it far exceeded any expectations I had. I learned more in a week than I have in previous years of my life. STEP was a truly incredible experience with incredible people. You learn so much about yourself, about others, and really how to make a difference in your community, on your campus, and when you are around others. If you are looking to really learn about environmental leadership and activism, as well as a little bit more about yourself, then STEP is for you. You will have fun, meet great people, and learn how to empower yourself in the world around you.
-Ashley Mott, George Mason University Graduate Student

This single event has been one of the most empowering experiences of my life, I've already started to organize events and actually get things done! Thank you!
-Odessa Knipp, Virginia Wesleyan Class of 2009

STEP really allowed me to connect with other organizers from across the
country and beyond. I was able to learn from their experiences and build
wonderful new relationships. It's amazing what we could accomplish in one
week and I can't wait to hear about what we are all able to accomplish with the support and knowledge we all got from STEP.
-Molly Shea, Ohio University Class of 2010