Monday, April 30, 2012

Busy Day "Rotisserie" Chicken

I learned a new trick that I'm pretty excited to share with everyone!

For those of you who know me, you know that I'm a little busy.  And by "a little busy" I mean I over schedule myself to the point of near nervous breakdown.  Now, I will acknowledge that I don't have kids, so it's possible that I don't even really know what busy means, but it sure feels like I do a lot.  And it's important to me to still put a good meal on the table.  To be honest, both cooking and eating good food are two of the things that I think really keep me sane.  No matter how busy I am, eating real food just makes me feel better.  When I eat crap, I feel like crap.  And I really believe that eating well helps keep me healthy, too.  I see my friends and co-workers who eat fast food every day, and they just seem to get sick more often.  

But, I do recognize that it is a challenge to cook every day.  Especially for those of you with kids.  I don't know how you do it!

As you may have noticed, I like using my slow cooker on busy days.  But I really try to not make red meat more than once a week, and I feel like I use up all my red meat meals on stew... when what I really want is a steak.  Steak sandwiches are a good middle of the week meal, especially in the summer when I can throw it quick on the grill!  Stew is good, but not as good as steak sandwiches.  Chicken in the crock pot is okay, but generally works best with similar pieces - like thighs or legs.  Since I'm buying from the farmer, I usually have a whole chicken, not individual pieces.  Plus a whole chicken costs less.

So, that's why I felt this one was too good to not share!

Now, I have to give fair warning right off the bat that this is not a gourmet meal.  While good, the chicken is not as good as it would be if grilled or roasted.  The flavor is there, but the chicken itself has turned out just a little dry both times I've done it.  Really, the only problem I found was in the breasts, and we generally don't eat those for dinner.  Usually the breasts get set aside and used for something else the next day, so it's not that big of a deal.  But still, this is not the best chicken you'll ever have in your entire life, so I feel it's important to provide some warning.  This probably isn't the chicken you want to make when you have fancy company coming over, and you don't want to use it in a cooking competition.  But it's good enough.

One solution I just thought of, and will be trying next, is to brine the chicken.  Brining is a process of soaking meat in a salt water solution.  This solution allows the meat to soak in and retain more water.  The salt also helps break down some of the meat, keeping it from drying out in the cooking process.  I have brined a turkey with much success, and I think it could be a great solution to the dry meat issue of this recipe.  The problem with a brine is that it generally leaves you with a less crispy skin, but this recipe (on it's own) leaves you with no crispy skin at all - so we need to resolve that anyway!

I am going to include the brining process in my recipe below, because I do believe it is the solution, but know that I have not actually done this yet, and it is not necessary.

I have done this twice now.  The first I just salted and peppered the chicken, and filled the cavity with an onion and lemon.  The second time I used a jerk seasoning rub that I had made almost a year ago and then froze (and then forgot about).  Both times it was quick and easy and turned out fairly well!

You are going to need a 3 to 4 lb chicken (if you want to do bigger, and you have a slow cooker that can hold it, I don't see why that would be a problem.  Not sure how long you would cook it for...), as well as any seasonings you want and something to elevate the chicken off the base of the crock pot.  The first time I used potato slices wrapped up in aluminum foil.  For some reason, this did not work well and the potatoes got a funny taste.  I'm not sure if they sat too long, or something reacted to the foil or what.  The second time, I wrapped three whole potatoes up in aluminum foil and that worked beautifully.  It came out just like a regular baked potato.  You could also just use balls of aluminum foil, if you didn't want the potatoes.  I used three, because that was the smallest number I could use and still adequately balance my chicken.

Season the chicken well, or even slightly more than well.  I have found that slow cooking tends to draw flavor out of meat.  That being said, brining would probably fix that as well.

Wrap three (or more) potatoes tightly in aluminum foil and place at the bottom of a slow cooker large enough to hold your chicken lying on its back, breasts up.  Once you've got the chicken seasoned in whatever way you would like (consider stuffing the opening with aromatics such as herbs, onions, garlic, and lemons), place it on top of the potatoes, being careful that it does not touch the bottom or sides of the slow cooker.  Cover, and cook on low for 9 hours.

Once you pull the chicken out (carefully, because it will want to fall apart), you will want to either broil or grill it to crisp up the skin.  I did try browning the chicken prior to cooking it, and this didn't seem to have much effect.  Mushy skinned chicken is really disappointing, and this step really only takes 10 more minutes.  I think it's worth it.  Your other option would be to remove the skin, which would be healthier, but come on - the skin is the best part!

This is a "do as you want" recipe, since really anything can be changed to suit your needs, but here is one specific example.  Assuming you made a batch of Jerk Chicken Seasoning in advance and froze it, this is extremely quick and great for a busy Monday.

Slow Cooker "Rotisserie" Jerk Chicken
The night before, drop your chicken into your brine and refrigerate overnight.  Since this is just a chicken and not a turkey, it's a lot easier to fit the whole thing into the fridge.  I like to use my stock pot, which just barely fits onto the bottom shelf of my refrigerator.  

In the morning, remove the chicken and discard the brine.  Dry the chicken well.  Wrap the potatoes tightly in aluminum foil (I used two layers), and place around the edges of a slow cooker big enough to lay your chicken down in, breast side up, without the chicken touching the edges of the slow cooker.

Rub the chicken all over, inside and out, with the jerk seasoning.  Place the chicken, breast side up, in the slow cooker, on top of the potatoes.  Make sure that the chicken is not in contact with the bottom or sides of the slow cooker.  Cover, and cook on low for 9 hours.

When the chicken is done, pre-heat a grill or grill pan to high heat.  Carefully (it will want to fall apart) transfer the chicken to the hot grill, and grill for about 5 minutes on each side, just to crisp up the skin.

Serve chicken with baked potatoes, and whatever vegetables you have on hand (I grilled up some asparagus), and additional jerk sauce if desired.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's Morel Season!

I don't want to badmouth anybody.  I did that once before, and it didn't make me happy.  And, I want to support local farmers.  I want to speak well of them, I really do.  Farmers are and should be our only source for food.  "Food" that didn't come from a farm, in my opinion, is not really food.

My friend Shannon, for example, does not believe that dandelions are food.  Okay, I can buy that.  Dandelions are weeds, and it's a big leap to go from weed to food.  But I can name other weeds that are food: Mint, oregano, dill, chives, rhubarb, raspberries, and strawberries.  Plant any of those in your back yard, and then try to get rid of them the next year.  I grow my mint under the bushes in my back yard where nothing else can grow.  They are choking out the violets (which also aren't weeds.  They're the WI state flower!)  I have oregano popping up between the cracks in my patio.  It's a weed.  But it's delicious!  I would counter that with this: fruit roll-ups are not food.  They may be edible, but they are not food.  How do they get away with calling them "fruit?"  What kind of fruit stains your lips blue?  Oreos are not food.  I LOVE Oreos.  Loyal readers may recall my having a complete freak-out when I realized that Oreos were local.  They're delicious.  They're absolutely edible.  But I'm pretty sure they're not food.  Food should have substance.  Food should be meaningful.  "Junk Food" should not be called "Junk Food;" it should just be called Junk.

***Steps down off soap box... for now***

I had a very bad, very upsetting experience over the weekend.  It is, quite possibly, my favorite time of the year.  It's morel season.  And when I got an email from Ruegsegger Farms (I'm on the email list of pretty much every farmer I can find) letting me know that they had morels for $45 per pound (a good price in my opinion), I jumped!  I reached out to anyone I thought might not judge me for wanting to pay $45 per pound for mushrooms and put together a small order of two and a half pounds.  I emailed to have them waiting for me at the next farmer's market.

Oh!  All of the farmer's markets are currently closed.  But they do have an impromptu one going at Discovery World until the West Allis Market opens on May 5th.

I went to the market to pick up my mushrooms, and also got some asparagus, and skipped happily home (or, more specifically, back to my car) and started dishing out the mushrooms for my friends and family.

That's when the first bad thing happened.  I only had 2lbs, 4 oz.  Now, I have a pretty specific scale, but that's a whole quarter pound missing.  I had people order only a quarter pound, so that was a WHOLE order missing.  And, to be fair, $11.25.

I opened the bags, and that's when the second bad thing happened.  he first few mushrooms were moldy.  Some not so bad, some really bad.  So I sorted them out and found that half a pound of the 2 1/4 lbs I had was moldy.

This is the saddest thing in the history of ever.
So I went back and complained.  The girl working the stand looked at me like it was my problem.  She literally asked me if I couldn't just cut that part off.  No.  I'm sorry.  When I'm paying $45 per pound for mushrooms, I cannot just cut that part off.  If you want to sell them to me on the cheap, I absolutely will take the moldy ones off your hands.  But, until then, you will sell me a quality product.

I went through each one of their mushrooms, one by one, and picked out the good ones.  Their scale said I was over, but when I got home mine still said I was under by an ounce.  I weighted out a pint of water just to make sure mine was right (a pints a pound the world around... but not on their scale I guess).

I don't know anything about Ruegsegger farms.  I don't go to the markets that they're at regularly.  They were at the St. Ann's Market over the winter, and I went there when the Winter Farmer's Market was closed, but not more than that - even though it was closer to my house.  It was pretty small, and there was a lot of crafting stuff which annoys me... This is my grocery store, people.  I love a good craft fair/flea market, but not at my grocery store.  Also, the two times I was there they had a clown... which just makes me lose my appetite. 

Not knowing anything about them, I don't want to imply that they're trying to cheat anyone.  Maybe their scale just got knocked out of calibration.  They sell local products, not just from their farm, which is good.  Support the local businesses!  And because of this, they always seem to have a good selection.  They've got a good website with online ordering, and some prepared stuff too, which is nice for people who aren't crazy like me.  I think they're a little expensive.  $4.25 for eggs is more than I like to spend, but I've spent $4.00 (I prefer $3.50 if I can find it...)  $4.00 per pound for whole chickens is a little high - I'm used to $3.25-$3.50.  So, not crazy expensive.  But a little higher than what I think it should be.  And, now that I don't trust them to sell me a quality product... they're probably off my list.  Make your own decision, though.

Anywho, I got home with my good mushrooms, rationed them out, avoided the impulse to steal one mushroom from each of the other bags (What?  I'm only human!  You'd do the same if you were doling out tiny gold pieces!), and started cooking.  Regardless of what it took to get them, morel mushrooms are one of the most amazing foods in the world - compounded by the fact that they're only available for a few weeks each year.  If we could somehow get morel season and soft shell crab season to be at the same time... that would probably be really bad because I wouldn't sleep, I wouldn't leave the house, and I would probably put on 30 lbs because I would eat so much.

But I would be happy!

For those of you who don't know morels, they are a wild mushroom that can't be cultivated.  They only grow in the wild.  Which means they're dirty.  Also, as you can tell by the picture above, they're full of holes.  What you can't really tell is that they're also hollow.  And the bugs (which live in the wild) love to go all up inside their hollow-ness.  It's gross.  You need to clean them out well.  Really, really well.  I question the "don't wash mushrooms" mentality in general (they grew in dirt!), but especially for morels.

I prepare them like this:

Fill a large bowl with water, add a generous amount of salt, and stir to dissolve the salt.  For a quarter pound of mushrooms, I would probably use 4 cups of water and 2 tbsp salt.  Add the mushrooms to the water, and gently push them under the water.  Allow them to soak, gently stirring and submerging them occasionally, and trying not to freak out about the things that crawl out of them.  One of mine was completely full of ants.  I screamed and jumped up and down, and ran around the kitchen waving my arms around yelling "ANTS!  Ants, ants, ants, ants, ants!!!!"  If you know me, and would like me to re-enact that for you, I certainly can.  I don't like ants.

Then, after soaking the morels for about 10 minutes, take them out, shake off the water, cut them open the long way, and wash out anything that's still in there.  Which there often is.  I have seen recipes for stuffed morels.  I personally would never feel safe eating a morel unless I had seen the inside and knew that it was ant (or spider, or potato bug, or weird beetle thingy) free.

Morels have a mild earthy/woodsy flavor.  You don't want to overwhelm them.  The traditional use for morels is with eggs - either scrambled or in an omelet.  I did happily eat a morel, feta, and chive omelet.

Here are some more recipes for you.  If you don't have morels/can't justify paying $45 per pound for mushrooms/are freaked out by the thought of cleaning tiny bugs out of your food, you can substitute any other wild mushroom.  I would probably do a shiitake, but you could use portobello or oyster or anything else you could get your hands on. 

Steak with Wild Mushroom Brandy Cream Sauce

  • 2 8 oz steaks (or, be like Jeff and me and just make one big porterhouse and share it)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 lb morel mushrooms, cut in half and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/4 lb mixed wild mushrooms
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 oz brandy
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Pre-heat a grill to high heat.  The mushroom recipe will take about 15 minutes total, so time your steaks based on how you prefer them cooked.  It's your opinion, but anything not medium rare is wrong.  Remember to let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting in to it!!

 Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the shallots and saute until fragrant.  Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the morels are soft - about 5 minutes.  Add the brandy, and cook about 5 more minutes.  Reduce the heat to low, add the cream, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the cream just starts to bubble around the edges of the pan.

I served this over mashed potatoes, with grilled asparagus.

Lemon Butter Pasta with Morels, Spinach, and Lobster

This is the most luxurious recipe ever.  It is not a budget meal.  I would not recommend dried pasta, because you want that silky feel of fresh.  You can generally find fresh pasta in your grocer's cooler.  Or you could make it yourself.  If you have a stand mixer, it's not that hard.

  • 4 slices thick cut bacon
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 lb well washed morel mushrooms, cut in half
  • 1 to 2 tsp capers
  • 1 stick butter (yup)
  • 4 servings worth of cooked fresh pasta
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, washed and sliced into inch thick strips
  • 2 lemons
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 lobster tails, grilled (just throw them on the grill in their shells!)
Render fat out of bacon in a large frying pan with curved sides, over medium heat.  Once the bacon just starts to get crispy, add the leaks and continue to cook until leeks soften - about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and mushrooms, and continue to saute until mushrooms are very soft, about 10 minutes.  Add capers and saute briefly. Add juice of one lemon and butter, and allow to melt.  Add the pasta and spinach, and stir to combine.  Reduce heat to low, and cover, stirring occasionally until pasta is heated through and spinach is wilted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top with lobster tails (take them out of the shells now), and lemon wedges.

For the record, I feel okay eating like this, because I've been eating canned beets for free all winter!  Happy spring everyone!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


If I'm going to be honest, I'd have to admit that spring in Wisconsin is always a bit odd.

But this year seemed odder than most.

For those of you who don't live around here, it got very warm, very early.  I was riding my scooter to work in March, which is unheard of.  I'm kind of a wimp, and I don't ride unless it's over 70.  The average temperature in March for Milwaukee (according to the internets) is 27-42 degrees.

So yeah.  A little warm.

The problem is that it was a sustained warmth.  The average temperature for this past March was 58 degrees, with a high of 84.  We're not supposed to hit an average temperature of 58 until May.

So what are you complaining about, Kate?  Sounds nice.  Enjoy the warmth!  Is this going to be a blog post about global warming or something?

No, it's not going to be a post about global warming.  I only have the energy to research food things.  And that's exhausting enough.

The problem is, that even though it was warm through most of March, eventually it had to, and did, go back to normal.

The average temperature for April in Milwaukee is 36-53 degrees.  Last week it was 25 degrees.  25 degrees is the tipping temperature for damaging budding trees.

You see, when it's May style warm in March, you get May style growth in your plants.  For me, this meant my daffodils and tulips bloomed, my lilacs budded, and all the weeds I love popped up (weeds I'm excited about = dandelions, violets, chives, oregano, and mint).  My roses started to grow, my rhubarb is almost ready for a round of picking, and I was able to start some lettuce and radishes in containers on my porch.  For me, an early warming is pretty much just awesome, since I live a block from Lake Michigan.  I never really thought about it that much...

But I have a farm to worry about this year!  Fruit orchards across Wisconsin are concerned because the warm weather caused budding.  Which means cold weather will kill those buds.  And, since fruit trees only bud once, killing those buds means no fruit this season.

So I checked in with my farm, because that is my biggest concern!

They let me know that the cold hasn't really been a concern for them.  They haven't planted yet (because they're smart farmers and aren't fooled by a warm March), and they don't have fruit trees of their own that could be damaged.  They also sent me some lovely pictures:

Peas and garlic.  What could be more spring like?  Also, apparently this garlic is especially strong, because it pushed through the mulch all on it's own, when they usually un-bury it to help.  There's no evidence that this will make it stronger tasting, but my fingers are crossed.   

I'm pretty excited to get out to the farm and get my hands dirty.  I'm hopefully not too much of a wimpy city girl for Jess and Sam!  If you're considering a CSA, and you like garlic and peas (and other stuff too...), check them out!

I wanted to leave you today with a recipe.  It's spring, and the dandelions are blooming.  You know what that means!  DANDELION RECIPES!  I've got a few things I want to try this year, but this one was quick and worked out quite well.  And, free food is always best!

(I did have a bit of a fun moment whilest picking the dandelions.  My across the street neighbor said "hi" as he was leaving his house.  I ran into him later and he asked me if he saw correctly that I was weeding the front lawn into a large mixing bowl.  When I responded yes, he just gave me a sort of crazy-eyed look and walked away.  It's cool, dude.  I'm eating dandelions.   You should too!)

This recipe features ingredients picked from my back yard.  It also made me want to get a little artistic in my photos...

Dandelion Fritters:

  • 1 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh minced chives
  • 1 tbsp mint
  • 30 dandelion flowers (pick them when wide open, and use right away)
  • 1/4 cup oil (or be extra delicious and use bacon fat... that's what I did!)
Whisk together milk and egg.  Add remaining ingredients and stir until well combined.  Dip each flower into the batter, and fry in hot oil until brown - about 3 minutes on each side.

I served these with a yoghurt mint dipping sauce (Yoghurt, mint, chives, fresh garlic, and black pepper)

SO GOOD!!!!  Don't be afraid of dandelions.  Give them a try.  They've been food longer than you've been around.   You can buy them at the store for lots of money.  Give up the pesticide, and give in to free food!!!!

If I make them look like food, are you more likely to believe they're food?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Aquariums Make Me Hungry...

I made sure not to deprive myself during my locavore challenge last year, and I made sure to eat healthy - even if that meant buying food that wasn't local, but there certainly were things that I missed.  Even though my year is over, I will still be getting most of my food locally.  Meat, cheese, vegetables, and fruit.  They're all better when purchased fresh and locally.

But there are things that will be finding their way back into my diet fairly quickly.

The things I rushed out to buy were:

1. Nuts and dried fruit to make trail mix
2. Oranges
3. Fish

The trail mix is now sitting on my desk at work.  Nuts are good for you, and while there are a few that grow in Wisconsin, my favorites prefer the warmer weather.  The oranges were gone pretty quickly, and I'm sure I'll get at least one more bag in before the spring fruit starts showing up.

But the fish... oh, the fish...

I grew up on basically a Mediterranean diet,  before "The Mediterranean Diet" was a thing.  Seafood and poultry, pasta, bread, olive oil... lots of fruit and vegetables.  This was how I ate as a child, and how I continued to eat.  A lot of this, I'm sure, is due to the fact that I never thought I liked red meat.  Even since learning the joys of beef, buffalo, and pork (my god, not five years ago I would have told you I didn't really like pork... what was wrong with me!), though, I generally would prefer poultry or seafood.

So limiting my seafood over the past year was really hard.

Really, really hard.

There are local seafood options.  Rainbow trout through Rushing Waters, and trout, tilapia, and blue gill (that's new!) from Sweet Water Organics.  Both are good choices.  But that's still only options for small, flaky whitefish.  Nothing firm, nothing too big.  No fish boil - a Wisconsin classic.  No whole fish baked in salt.  Really not even anything I would want to grill - I'd be too afraid of the small pieces falling through the grate and being lost!

I also allowed myself salmon (Wild Alaskan only), and mussels, because they're both on the "Super Green" list, and because they're two of my favorites.  Still, though.  Not a lot compared to the variety I was used to.

So I had a happy heart and a skip in my step when I went to my favorite seafood place on March 22nd. 

I'm not going to name them by name, because I'm not ready to throw them under the bus, but it was not a happy experience.

They had the mussels, and they had the salmon, but pretty much everything else was on the Monterey Bay "Avoid" list.  Grouper, Halibut, Mahi Mahi, Red Snapper, Chilean Seabass (I didn't even need to look that one up.)  And then there was something called Escolar, with "white tuna" in parenthesis after it.  That wasn't on the Monterey Bay list at all - good bad or otherwise - but when I googled it I got all of these warnings to avoid it at all costs, because it causes explosive diarrhea.  That's a whole different kind of avoid list.

I don't know what changed.  I don't think they were this bad a year ago.  Maybe I wasn't checking hard enough. Maybe I just caught them on a bad day.  I called and asked them why they were serving so many fish off of the "avoid list," and was told I would get a call back... but didn't.  I'm not very pushy, to be fair.  I wouldn't make a good investigative journalist.

The Monterey Bay Seafood list provides comment cards that you can leave, asking why a restaurant is serving fish off of the avoid list, so I think I'll print some of those out and drop them off.  Passive, I know.

So I left and went to Outpost.  They don't have a large selection of seafood there; it's mostly the rainbow trout, tilapia, and salmon that I was excited to get away from.  But they also had sole.  I checked, Pacific Sole is a "Good Alternative."  So, that's good enough for me.  They had two choices: regular filets of sole, and then those same filets rolled around a crab filling and topped with some sort of red bread crumbs.  The crab was tempting, but the bread crumbs were not a color food should be (okay, they were probably paprika-ed, which is fine), and I figured I could do just as well on my own.  A quick check of the internet on my phone (I spend a lot of time staring at my phone in grocery stores.  I'm pretty sure that passers-by think I'm addicted to the Facebook... which is also true...) told me that stuffed was the correct way to cook sole, and I saw a recipe for feta spinach stuffed sole, both of which I had in the fridge.

I would love for this sad story to end happily with a picture and a recipe.  Unfortunately, I should have gone with the scary red breadcrumbs, because what I made was not food.  Even the cats did not want to eat it.  That is a bad sign.  I don't know what happened, but the whole thing just fell apart and turned into some fishy baby food mush nasty.  Jeff tried to eat it to be nice, but it was not good.  I'm not a quitter, though, so I will give sole another try.  Probably when I'm home alone and there's no one to be disappointed but me.

The good news, though, is that the very next day in the newspaper, there was an article about Whole Foods.  Starting Earth Day (April 22nd), Whole Foods will only be carrying seafood that is decreed "sustainable" by the Blue Ocean Institute, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Greenpeace.  There will also be ratings available from the Marine Stewardship Council.  The Blue Ocean Institute sees seems to be about the same as Monterey Bay, but with five ratings instead of only three. They also seem to have more species rated, which is nice, but I couldn't find an iPhone app, which is annoying. I did check, and they also don't recognize escolar as a food.  The Marine Stewardship Council has a similar rating system as well, but also allows fisheries to get certified.  I'm not usually all about the certification, because it generally costs too much money for small businesses.  They also do not recognize escolar... thus proving that it is not a food product.

So, way to be Whole Foods.  Next, can you please label your products that contain GMOs?

I like it when organizations take a stand.  It's nice to know they believe in something in addition to profits.  And, I'm a realist here.  And a free market capitalist.  I think that doing something like this can really help Whole Foods make money.  For example, I'm now pretty much shopping at Whole Foods exclusively for my seafood.  Which means they can probably get away with charging a little bit more.  The fact that I know I'll be able to find sustainable seafood, and that I won't have to be the loser in the store doing research on my phone, is something I'm willing to pay a bit of a premium for.  Also, lets be honest, I can't go to Whole Foods without walking through the wine/cheese departments.  And you've got to walk past all those pretty fruits and vegetables to get to the seafood.  They're getting people in the store.  It's a good deal.  I'm surprised Whole Foods isn't promoting it more.

And, if more stores would behave in this way, it would be a lot harder for fisheries to sell those "avoid" fish.  Even if they were labeled.  Are you going to buy something with a big red "Avoid" label on it?  I feel the same way about GMOs.  Don't ban them, just let the consumer know what they're eating.

But, as they say, "Caveat Emptor" (Buyer Beware). It's your job, as the consumer, to know what you're consuming.  And, in this day and age, it's not that hard to be informed - as long as you're not embarrassed to look like you're madly texting in the grocery store.  I recommend you check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Center for Food Safety, and the Non-GMO Shopping Guide.  All three have apps that you can download for your smartphone, that can help you make the informed choices that labeling doesn't need to tell us.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Obligatory Hunger Games Post

Oh, hi.  I'm back.  Though absent from the internet, I have had quite a busy past two weeks.  I had a bit of a depressive spell, brought on by the combination of turning 30, the weather going back to typical WI spring (cold), losing my childhood dog to old age, and - I'm embarrassed to admit - reading The Hunger Games.  I know that's a pretty lame thing to have on the list, but you have to understand that I don't do well with apocalyptic/dystopic scenarios.  They freak me out.  For example, on New Years Eve I watched "After Armageddon" on the History Channel.  It was a story of a family that survived a medical apocalypse, what came afterwards for them, and what they had to do to continue to survive.  I had anxiety attacks for about two months afterward.  Honest.  I didn't know what was going on and I went to the doctor.

Just like any phobia, I know it's not a reasonable fear.  I can't say exactly why it bothers me so much.  I know what I'm watching/reading isn't real.  I just feel like it's a little too close - like one misstep and we could all be there.

In the history channel show (which apparently you can watch all of on YouTube.  Go ahead, click on it.  You don't even need to watch the whole thing.  Just listen to the announcer tell you this isn't a real emergency.  That voice gets my heart racing), one of the commentators talks about the year 2000, when London was brought within three days of running out of food by a protest over fuel prices.  Lord Ewen Cameron (Baron Cameron of Dillington), who was, at the time, a member of the UK Government's Round Table for Sustainable Development, said "The nation is just nine meals from anarchy."

And he has a fancy name.  So he must be right.

Lord Cameron was talking about a very specific situation.  There were literally three days worth of food.  The truckers bringing in more food were protesting the high price of gas, and therefor no more food was coming into the city.  So, three days x three meals per day = 9 meals.

But aren't we always nine meals from anarchy?  I mean, really, how much would it take?  What's stopping us all from rioting?  I'm willing to bet you've never missed nine meals in a row.  I haven't, and I used to have an eating disorder.  Three days; not a single bite to eat.  How hungry would you need to be to start stealing?  And what do you do when there's no food in the stores to steal?

And when the power goes out, and the water stops running, what then?  Do you know how to sanitize water to make it drinkable?  

(As a side note, I wanted to see if Ewen Cameron was related to Prime Minister David Cameron, or if everyone in England just has the same last name.  The only article I could find connecting the two also said, and I quote: "British Prime Minister David Cameron is the scion of the Judeo Masonic satanic cult (the  Illuminati) that secretly rules England and the rest of the world."  So I think I'm not going to trust that article as being completely reliable.  But, props for using the word "scion" in a sentence not about The Matrix or a car.)

What freaks me out the most is how distanced we are from our food.  What would happen, for example, if the food trucks really did stop running?  When the grocery stores and restaurants run out of food, where do we go?  I could be all smug here and say I know farmers, but it's not like they're walking to the farmer's market.  Nor am I.  With the exception of my well stocked pantry and freezer, I'm in the same boat as everyone else.  I don't have a garden to plant if the farmers don't bring plants to the market.  I don't know how to hunt, and even if I managed to catch something, I wouldn't know how to clean it unless it was a fish.  We've done such an amazing job of separating the stages of food production - specifically in terms of meat.  Raising, slaughtering, butchering, packaging, transporting, and finally cooking.  Someone different does each step.  And, even when buying local, there's distance between the steps.  How many people really know how to do all of them?

In Wisconsin, maybe the deer hunters.  But, even then, I think you send your deer out for processing.  You field dress the thing, but you don't break it down yourself.  I think.

Don't worry.  This blog is not going to become a doomsday prepper blog.  I'm not freaking out.  I've moved past my immediate panic attack.  If society really collapses into anarchy, I think all the prepping in the world isn't going to do a lot of good.  We're all pretty much f'd.  But every now and then, when I let my brain slip into "what if" mode, my worries are mostly food related.

So, yeah.  Hunger games freaked me out a little.  And the ending made me cry like a tiny baby child.  SPOILER ALERT: It doesn't end in the poly-amorous wedding I was desperately hoping for.

But, I got over it.  I'm going to see the movie tomorrow.  And I'll be making a big crock pot full of lamb stew with dried plums (what's the difference between dried plums and prunes?)  And I used it as an excuse to buy a handful of books on edible and medicinal plants in the Midwest, preserving food without equipment, and saving and storing your own seeds.  Which will both look fancy on my bookshelf and also be handy in case of an apocalypse. 

Not a zombie apocalypse, of course, the only thing useful then would be a machete. 


Please check out my dear friend Jeanette's review of the Hunger Games on her blog, the Mundane Adventures of a Fan Girl.  And make sure you get all the way to the bottom and watch the Muppet's/Hunger Games Spoof Trailer.  Cause it's funny.  My favorite part is the music at the end.  And click around a bit.  Drive up her total hit count.

Next post will be lighter, I promise.  After a year without (really just with-less), it's time to talk about fish!

Have I mentioned that going to the aquarium always makes me hungry?