Cooking


Carina has become highly interested in the Spanish language over the past month or so.  I thought it would be fun for her to read some books in Spanish, so we hit the library and picked up If You Give a Pig a Pancake in both English and Spanish. The Spanish title is Si Le Das un Panqueque a una Cerdita.  I thought it was funny that the Spanish word for pancake is panqueque.

Obviously, a pancake is called a pancake because you cook it in a pan.  So, the Spanish translation would make more sense if it was something like pastel (cake) de cacerola (pan) or something along those lines.  As it is, the direct translation of panqueque is Breadwhatwhat. I may be wrong, but I’m thinking that the word panqueque is the result of combining existing spanish words to make it sound similar to the American word, despite the words’ meanings.

But, before I turn into an ugly American, I should probably find out where pancakes come from.  A Google search for “who invented the pancake” returns various results that credit, among others, the dutch, the Romans, and Asians (using rice, of course).  By the way, Aunt Jemima’s pancake flour was the first ready-mix food to be sold commercially.  It was invented in St. Joseph, MO, according to foodreference.com.  Holla to my home state.

Anyhow, the American version most likely originated from American Indians, who called it noekehick.  This was transmangled by the white settlers into “no cake”.  From there it mutated again to “hoe cake” and started being called pancake around the 1870s. (foodtimeline.org) Coincidentally, this is about the same time that cast-iron cookware became popular.

So, pancake is indeed a uniquely American word, and from what I can find online, panqueque is the spanish knock-off version.

Ta-da!  Your evening’s foreign language, American history, home economics, and children’s literature lessons all rolled into one!

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The official Fall season is one week old today.  Even though the weather here in the south isn’t very Fall-like yet, there’s another way to tell that it’s Fall.

Squash.  I was given these beauties by the Hankins family.   They gave me even more, but I gave some to the neighbor. Luckily tomorrow is my turn to make the supper swap dinner.  Have you ever seen such huge zucchini?

In the midst of trying to figure out what to make from these, I started wondering how squash got it’s name.  I found the answer on the Everyday Mysteries website from the Library of Congress.  According to the site, “‘Squash’ comes from the Narragansett Native American word askutasquash, which means ‘eaten raw or uncooked.'” (Don’t worry, fellow supper swappers – I’ll be cooking our squash.) I also learned that squash is one of the oldest crops, dating back over 10,000 years; and that the first pumpkin pie was a hollowed out pumpkin filled with apples, spices, sugar, and milk. Hmmm….I think I know what I’m going to make tomorrow for supper!

And, if , like me, you are completely inept in the kitchen, especially when it comes to cutting and slicing things, my friend Kristen has a great vlog (that’s a video blog) post on How to Peel and Cut Butternut Squash (without loosing a finger!).  Check it out.  I’ll try and find out where she got that mammoth vegetable peeler.

I love alliteration.

ATTN CENTRAL ARKANSAS READERS

If you haven’t picked up a copy of the June issue of Little Rock Family magazine, go get one! The magazine is free and you can usually find it at the front of your neighborhood Kroger. In addition to a listing of the 2010 Family Favorites poll results, there’s also a list of  24 places in Central Arkansas Where Kids Eat Free,  compiled by yours truly.  The list is organized by day of the week, so if you plan it right, you can feed your kids for free every night! (The list is much prettier in print than online, so I recommend picking up a hard copy so you can tear out the list and keep it in the car, or in your purse.)

If you don’t have access to a hard copy of the magazine, you can check out the electronic version on the Little Rock Family website.

In January, I posted about the One Small Change project.  This is my February report.

In January, I pledged to start feeding my family more local food.  Turns out that January is not the most ideal time of year to  make such a change.  No farmers markets open, not much being grown locally, and my family was out of town nearly half the month.  I did sign up for the Basket a Month (BAM) program through the Central Arkansas Farmers Market, but due to weather and lack of production, the January basket was cancelled.  So, in the end, while I do have some local food scheduled to come my way via the BAM, my family and I have not increased our local food intake.  hum.  My short-term solution is that I’m planning to put together an order from either the CAFM online market or Petit Jean Farm.  I’m not sure which because I have a head cold that is making it hard for me to think about food.  I also have a plan to meet with fellow Arkansas blogger, The Park Wife, who runs a Farmers Market.  I’m hoping she can help me out with resources and tips.

For FEBRUARY, my One Small Change is that I plan on getting back into using my cloth diapers more on Callen.  Somehow, with all the travel, the cold temps that discourage me from getting them out on the clothes line, and just the general fast-fastness of life, I have not been using my cloth diapers as I should.  So, for February, less disposable and more cloth!  Hopefully this is one change that will become defunct by the end of this year because we won’t need ANY diapers.  A mommy can dream, anyway.

Nicole!  Are you out there cleaning something with homemade cleaner?  Post and let us know how your January One Small Change turned out.

The first day of the new year is coming to a close.  We’ve already said goodbye to 2009.  I hope that you are as excited as I am about the promise of this new year. As that Semisonic song goes, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Normally I am not one to put big stock in New Year’s Resolutions.  However, this year I have some very real goals that I plan to make good on.  I think having this blog to write these goals in actually helped me to think harder about what my goals should be.  Plus, I recently learned that you are 10% more likely to reach a goal if you share that goal with someone else.  So, now you can all hold me accountable.

Buy More Local Food – This year I will make it a priority to utilize local resources for my family’s nutrients.  In addition to providing fresher food with fewer preservatives and other ingredients that I can’t pronounce, locally grown food is better for the environment because fewer resources are used for transportation and processing.  After watching Food, Inc. and listening to Joel Salatin talk, I also feel it is my duty as a consumer to put my “vote” behind real food instead of mass-produced, chemical laden junk.

In addition to the local Farmer’s Markets, Central Arkansas has a great resource for accessing the local food market: ArkansasFood.net.  This website offers two wonderful programs.  First, the basket a month program is a subscription program that provides members with a basket full of locally grown food such as produce, meat, eggs, cheese, milk, and rice. The cost is $180 per three months.  The second program is the Online Market, where you can choose which products you would like to receive and order them online each week.  Two amazing services, really.  Before we moved here, I had never heard of such a thing.

Basket a Month Baskets

Spend More One-on-One Time with My Kids – This is the “gimmie” of the bunch.  Carina will be starting official preschool this week. Her hours will be different than Callen’s Parent’s Day Out, so it will give me an opportunity to spend time with each of them separately each week.  The important part will be making sure I fill this one-on-one time with activities that are important to each child. For Carina: arts and crafts, cooking and baking, and playing with puzzles and blocks (Callen eats her crayons and markers, is very dangerous in the kitchen, and is all about scattering puzzle pieces and toppling block towers). For Callen, basically, anything where he doesn’t have to share or take turns, since that is so hard for a person his age to have to do all the time.

Submit My Writing Once a Month – For over 6 months now, I’ve been saying that I’m working on “getting my freelancing career started.”  The problem is I’ve spent a huge amount of time researching freelance writing and very little time actually writing.  I’m sort of famous for that.  So, this year, I will submit my writing for publication or competition at least once per month.  My research tells me that actual publication will be few and far between, but it will be a huge learning process and a step in the right direction.

Back in the Day

Compete in a Triathlon – You can’t have a New Year’s Resolution list without a nod to fitness, right?  Callen is coming up on two years old, and while I feel pretty happy with the way my body has recovered from childbearing, I still have about 5 pounds of flab flabbing around my mid section.  For those of you who didn’t know me pre-kids, I used to compete in sprint distance triathlons. This is a hobby I miss greatly.  So, two negatives are coming together to make a positive goal here.  Fitting in the necessary training will be a challenge, but I know I can do it.  Anyone want to join me?

Happy New Year to all of you!  Do you have any resolutions?

At least, not all the time.  Like all habit-altering, budget-affecting decisions, delving into buying organic produce for your family can be overwhelming.  I thought these two lists might help.  You’ll have the greatest impact, ecologically and healthfully, if you try to buy produce from the first list organically.  The second list is a few items for you to cross off of your worry list.

Produce with the most pesticide residues*:

Organic peaches sometimes get holes in them...from your kids nibbling on them when you're not looking.

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Imported Grapes
  • Red Raspberries

Items with the least pesticide residues:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet Corn
  • Kiwi
  • Mangos
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet Peas
  • Watermellon

*Based on data from studies by the USDA, Consumer Reports, and the Environmental Working Group

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to see Joel Salatin speak about sustainable farming.  Mr. Salatin is the owner of Polyface Farms, “a family owned, multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm.”  If you saw the film Food, Inc, you would also remember Joel as the fast-talking farmer with suspenders and straw hat.  Essentially, Joel Salatin is one of the leaders in the movement to return our food system to one that is healthier for both humans and the environment.  His new book, Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front, gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the battles with the “food police” that Polyface Farms has gone through in an effort to bring fresh, wholesome food to their customers.

Salatin’s lecture carried some of the same themes as what you’ll hear him talk about in Food, Inc., but he went into much more detail about our country’s food regulation systems.  I was really shocked to learn about what is considered to be illegal by the “food police”, as Salatin calls them (AKA the USDA).  A sampling of what you can’t do as a commercial food producer:

  • You cannot sell Raw Milk.  Raw Milk is unprocessed milk. It is taken directly from the cow, cooled, and bottled. Read: You have to process milk before you sell it, and processing costs LOTS of $$.
  • You cannot sell meat that has not passed through a processing plant (again, LOTS of $$).  Processing plants cannot be located in an agricultural district.  Meaning, raw meat must be taken from the farm, driven many miles to a huge processing plant, processed, and then driven back to said farm.  So, we’re wasting fossil fuels via transport, not to mention the contamination issues that come from processing plants.
  • Open air processing is illegal for chicken.  However, the chicken processed in open air at Polyface farms tests out to having 25 times less bacterial contamination that the chicken you find in the grocery store.
  • You can’t have a sawmill on a farm (you know, close to where the trees are).  Polyface, and other farms like it, use sawdust as a natural bedding for animals and mulch for plants, but it has to be trucked in.  In addition, having a sawmill would give the farm another sustainable source of income via wood products.
  • Insurance guidelines also make it illegal for Salatin and Polyface farms to sell another farm’s produce in their farm store, allow their high-school aged employees to use a cordless drill, use the farm office to write books, charge a fee for giving a farm tour, or allow anyone to camp on the farm’s property. (Some volunteers had proposed this so that they could be on the farm to learn about sustainable farming practices).

Salatin had lots of stories to tell about all of his illegal activity which really brought to light one simple fact: the “food police” has no concern for quality of food. It’s about “controlling the market access to food,” or in other words, making sure the industrial food companies don’t lose any of their business to the small, locally based farmer.  Salatin made an interesting point:  90% of the work that Heifer International does in other countries is illegal here in the United States (Heifer is a Little Rock based non-profit that works in poverty-stricken/rural countries to create locally based food-production systems).

Salatin also talked about the chemical-based foods that our country has become addicted to, and how it affects our health.  He pointed out that our culture thinks it is normal to eat things that you can’t make or grow, things that contain ingredients you can’t pronounce, ingredients that were created in a test tube in a lab.  “Normal,” he says, “Is the fact that we each have over 3 million bacteria living inside of us.  That bacteria doesn’t think that these engineered foods are normal.  If we want to be healthy, we need to feed our bacteria what they’re used to eating – REAL FOOD!”  In the time of H1N1, it’s interesting to consider this: would it cost our country more to create vaccinations to protect us all from the germs, or to create a food system that provides everyone with nutritious food that builds our immune systems up so that our bodies are better equipped to fight germs on their own?

The thing that strikes me the most about Joel Salatin is his ability to completely overturn the farmer stereotype. He describes himself as a “Christian, Libertarian, Environmental, Capitalist, Lunatic, Farmer”  Salatin is incredibly well spoken, using words like “pathogenicity”, and you have to really have your listening ears on to soak it all in.  He has written and published six books.  I wasn’t surprised when I found that he has a bachelors degree in English.  He’s setting the example for a new generation of farmer, turning us all back on to the “old” way of thinking about our food, so that we can know what we are eating is made of and where it came from.

Salatin’s final message at the lecture was this:  “Opt out and do it.  We vote three times a day on the legacy that we will leave our grandchildren, one bite at a time.”

If you want to vote for local, unprocessed food and healthy farmland for our grandchildren, here’s a website to get you started:

http://www.localharvest.org/ – Enter your zip code to find local food markets, including farmers markets and farms that sell direct.

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