Saturday, April 14, 2007

Warming Up

When I started this blog over two years ago, I had intended it only as a journal of my own cooking exploits in which I could tempt and torment my friends with vivid, mouth-watering descriptions of what I'd made in my kitchen.

Over time, I found that not only did writing about my cooking help me experiment more and share my results (and recipes) with others, but it gradually made me more aware of food politics and the connection of food issues to environmental and political issues. And so I've tried to explore my thought processes on these pages, stumbling around for answers and finding how the questions themselves can start to change my life for the better.

The more I've learned, the more committed I've become to making a positive difference in the world... putting my money and my mouth where my head and heart are, essentially. Though I've been making plenty of efforts in my personal life, I've recently started to get more involved in public actions to back up my beliefs: writing to my members of Congress, making suggestions to the Environmental Task Force at work (including a proposal for an organic farm), and attending public events.

Which brings me to today, Step It Up 2007, and a National Day of Climate Action.

Despite the chilly weather, a good crowd gathered downtown on the square to hear speakers and musicians, check out electric vehicles, pick up information flyers, and, above all, show their support for the campaign's goal of getting Congress to cut carbon emissions in the nation 80% by 2050. It's an ambitious goal, but given the plethora of reports recently published (especially those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), it's a necessary one to avoid the worst results of rapidly accelerating climate change.

After two hours of standing out in the damp, cool air, though, I moved on to my next activity of the day: helping my friend, the Innkeeper, start a compost pile. That might seem like a bit of a leap from an environmental rally, but the goal was the same: to do something that would make a positive impact on the world, even in a small way. After all, by composting kitchen scraps, we can both reduce waste sent to landfills (thus reducing emissions involved in the transportation to and the activities at the landfill)
and replenish the soil's nutrients and then use that compost on a garden that contributes to local food production. What's not to love?

And it's so easy. I've really missed working with the two large compost bins I had at the house, so I was thrilled to dig in and clear a pit for the pile.

We worked leaves, scraps, and a few worms and castings from my bin into the pit to get the pile started. With a chicken-wire cage around the pit, this compost pile tucked into the back of the lot should provide a good way to recycle those kitchen scraps from the Innkeeper's scrumptious breakfasts and eventually nourish the herb garden I'll be helping her create.

A cup of tea and a delightful conversation later, I headed home to enjoy the harira, a Moroccan stew, that I had started earlier in the slow cooker. Containing tomatoes, garlic, and potatoes from last year's farmers' market as well as carrots, celery, lentils, chickpeas, and an array of spices (including a wallop of cayenne pepper), the soup warmed me up very nicely, body and soul.

For once, I actually made the harira as spicy as I once had it in a Moroccan restaurant... so it was a very good thing I had the leftover flatbreads to enjoy with the soup, as well as local ice cream in the freezer!

I rounded out the day talking to The Cheerful Lady about her spring crops. She doesn't have anything coming in yet because our spring weather has swung from one extreme to another, but she has promised to keep me posted as to what she has available, especially her asparagus!

In short, it was a day to make you feel good about the world: finding ways to buck the prevailing trends of consumption and waste through political action, gardening, and supporting local food production.

They're all small steps, but many people taking small steps can go far!


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