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Archive for the ‘Organic’ Category

I haven’t written about food in a long while – a shame.  It’s been nuts.  However this week I decided to take care of myself – I’m not working as much!  The Golan Heights Winery’s “Wine Country Bar” at the Port of Tel Aviv this week has been an absolute blast to work at all week (please come!), and I took most of the week off from the wine bar – hence, only between 6-9 hours of work per day.  With a day off, too!  Taking care of oneself feels awesome.  I made appointments.  I cleaned the house.  I bought shampoo and lotion I’d been missing for a while.  I’m catching up on sleep.  It’s brilliant.  Long live living well!

And in that spirit (in the 10 minutes I have before I go to work) – how about focusing on good, organic veg.  Or home grown veg.  I just came across this article (a challenge really) in the Huffington Post: growing just one food-producing plant this year.  Just one.  Indoor, outdoor, potted, or not, how about it? How hard can it be to grow one tomato plant?  One cucumber plant?  Even some herbs?  Some lettuce?

I have a rooftop garden, with plants on it.  Half the year I basically “kill” them.  Black thumb.  Neglect.  Cluelessness.  All factor in.  But I have the perfect space.  Last year I wanted to start a box-garden or invest in a vertical gardening apparatus of some sort.  If I can buy a cone or a pyramid trellis, I could maximize my surface area.  So how about it?  Any advice from city-dwellers and growing food?  Think I can do it?  (Think I can actually motivate myself on a regular basis to take care of such a thing…gulp…)

Other related link I like to share with you:

Care2.com – a media website devoted to “making a difference.”  I’ve often enjoyed articles and how-to’s on gardening, the environment, pets, health, etc.  Great people.  You can send free ecards from there – and they donate money to save trees (I think) with every card you email.

Happy days!  For now.  Unrelated: I got my passport back from the embassy today, and I just have to share this – it looks like a passport from the land of Disney.  Seriously, it’s the most patriotic bologna I’ve ever seen.  I opened it to find a painting of Francis Scott Key on a ship looking over at a flag in the distance with a handwritten few last lines of the Star Spangled Banner.  Throughout the pages, you have quotations on the top from famous Americans, as well as the preamble to the constitution, the Gettysburg Address, the Bill of Rights…all spread over vistas of American landscapes.  And the Statue of Liberty.  And the last page (OMG) has an image of the earth, as seen from the moon, with Apollo in orbit – of course the USA (and Canada and Mexico) is the country we see below.  Hmmm.  I’ll post photos later.

For now, happy days!

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Thursday night I had the privilege of attending a small private workshop in the home of fellow food blogger Miriam Kresh.  Our topic: how to make creams, lotions, salves, etc. at home.  Because my blog is not exclusively a food blog (pretty obvious these days), I feel I must tell people about how interesting and fantastic this evening was.  The other lovely ladies in attendance were Yael (Apples and Oranges Finnish-language food blog), Liz (of Cafe Liz), Hannah (Cooking Manager), and Sarah (of Food Bridge).

Himalaya Cream

An admission: despite any (and I mean any) economic hardship I have ever had, the one thing I have never scrimped on is a very high quality face cream.  Or creams, as for the past 6-7 years, I have used a day cream and a night cream and an under-eye cream or gel.  Terms like wrinkle prevention, SPF A and B, alpha hydroxy, Co-Enzyme Q-10, Retin-A – I know them all, I read up, I got it all under my cap.  At least I think I do.  And every other month when I’m about to run out, I spend hours in the pharmacy, or department store, or natural foods/remedies store (or all of the above), comparison shopping.  Price versus volume versus the quality of ingredients versus the bells-n-whistle additives.  Yup.  I would love to have an entirely organic, preservative-free, lightweight, highly moisturizing, sun-blocking, wrinkle-fighting, scent-free cream.  It probably doesn’t exist.  And if it did, it would cost me over $100 for 50 ml.  Not kidding.  When I was in India and discovered the Himalaya brand, I stocked up.  It didn’t have SPF, but it was organic and so cheap I was sorry I couldn’t take more.  A few industrious Israelis have started importing the products, but the markup just doesn’t make it worth it anymore.

Enter Miriam.  This incredible prolific writer and blogger is a true Renaissance woman.  She makes wines and liquors in her own home, and they are wonderful.  She harvest fruits and herbs from trees and plants in her own neighborhood.  She used to have her own soap company.  And for the last couple of decades, she has also made all of her own creams.  These creams are luxurious and of the same, if not better, quality as those that the big time cosmetic companies produce.  And knowing Miriam, her homemade creams really work.

I won’t bore the world with recipes and a summary of what we did.  Basically, we were gathered around the stove melting things, steeping things, and mixing things.   It’s as easy as that.  I came home with a salve (oil and beeswax solution) infused with rosemary, sage, and oregano, mixed with chamomile and lavender essential oils AND a cream (oil/beeswax/shea butter phase mixed with a water-based phase with added Borax that functions as an emulsifier) infused with chamomile and plantain, with essential oils of geranium and ylang ylang.  Oh yeah, we also enjoyed a lovely cream of mushroom soup that Miriam made, served with whole wheat crackers, goat butter, and homemade pesto.  And a bottle of wine.

So many of the ingredients in the creams, most of them I would say, come off of our kitchen shelves.  Those that don’t are very easily obtainable at a health food shop and/or pharmacy.  For $25, you can have more than one year’s worth of face cream.  You heard me right.  And the added bonus – you get to choose!  Choose the fragrance, choose the specific type of oil that is best for your skin, choose the quality, choose the medicinal additives.  It’s a do-it-yourself beauty and health smörgåsbord.

All this reminded me yet again of how far we have distanced ourselves from the essential realities of what it means to be alive on this planet.  I’ve written quite a bit on the artificiality of our foods, our ignorance of where and how our foods are created, cooked, and delivered to us, etc.  Here is another important factor in our lives.  The detergents, soaps, shampoos, and yes, creams (that cost me a fortune and so much heartache) that we use daily are made with a thousand and one chemicals, and many of these things aren’t even cheap.  So here’s a challenge I’m presenting to myself.  In the year ahead I will endeavor to create all of my own face creams (with the exception of adding an SPF factor which I’m not actually certain is entirely possible for me to make).  There are also recipes online for homemade laundry detergents, soaps, household cleansers, and more.  In this economy, and with the concern for our health, safety, and the environment, I think it’s important to take these matters into our own hands.  It makes perfect sense.

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You’ve probably never heard of the Pavlovsk agricultural station.  I hadn’t until this morning, but thank the high heavens I did.

Located near St Petersburg, Russia, this institution is one of the world’s leading seedbanks.  During WWII, 12 scientists starved to death rather than eat its contents, in order to protect it.  A place like that has really got to be worth it, don’t you think?  Alas, no.  Pavlovsk is in a court battle today, at risk of being destroyed in order to build a private housing complex.  Right.  An institution so important to the world, to history, to our future survival, and so undervalued (or rather completely unvalued) by its country, is really really scary.

(Sign the petition, it takes less than a minute)

Here’s the story

Nikolai Vavilov (perhaps the creator of the idea of banking seeds to protect plant diversity if food production was ever threatened) established Pavlovsk in 1926, and over 85 years the collection has become staggering in its amount and diversity of species.

  • Over 90% of the collection cannot be found anywhere else in the world
  • There are over 5,000 varieties of seeds from countries all over the world, including:
  • over 100 varieties each of raspberries and gooseberries, and
  • It houses the world’s largest collection of strawberries, blackcurrants, cherries, and apples

It is quite simply, a living, breathing priceless piece of history, and it’s a repository that ensures the foods of tomorrow.  Destroying Pavlovsk would be the single greatest act against crop diversity, ever.  The irony: modern seed-banking was invented and spearheaded by Russia.

Even if some salvage operation was attempted, according to the campaigners to protect Pavlovsk:

It is virtually impossible, however, to carry out such a transfer within three months or even in a three-year period.

The problem is that these lots harbor in vivo unique fruit and berry plants as well as perennial fodder crop samples (about 10,000 accessions) belonging to Vavilov’s global collection of plant genetic resources. This part of the collection was founded as long ago as in 1926 by Nikolai Vavilov himself and his closest associates.

Translation: most of the plants are plants – growing in the ground – because they don’t procreate easily or traditionally with seeds.  And there’s acres and acres and even more acres of them.  Priceless, I told you.

WE CAN HELP

1) Sign this petition.  It takes less than a minute.  Their goal is 500 signatures, and they’re at 386.  Let’s get that number up.

2) Tweet President Medvedev:

English: @KremlinRussia_E Mr. President, protect the future of food – save #Pavlovsk Station! http://bit.ly/d2H96s

Russian: @KremlinRussia Господин президент, защитите будущее сельского хозяйства – спасите Павловскую станцию! http://bit.ly/d2H96s

3) Post this on Facebook.  Tell you friends. Etc, etc.

More information about crop diversity.

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