Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Waste Not, Want Not

by Jas Faulkner

Waste not, want not.  Few would argue with the wisdom of such a principle, but even fewer fully understand the extent to which it can be carried out in household, much less kitchen management. The idea of low to no household commodities waste is sometimes dismissed as a quaint, antiquated holdover from grandparents and great-grandparents who survived the economic depression that hit the US between World Wars.  To many, it has been rebranded.  Gramma's frugality now bears the shiny new title, "sustainable living."

Is this a bad thing?  Absolutely not. In fact, to cadge a phrase from Martha Stewart, it is a very good thing.

Like organic food production, upcycling/recycling/using every bit of everything from snout to tail is a shiny new concept surrounding older ways that have been kept alive by choice and circumstance.  Those who live in less developed parts of the United States, citizens of aboriginal North American reservations, urban dwellers who understand the need for commodities to be used up of because of the lack of space and resources for disposal, and yes, many college students.

Think you're already using everything in every way possible?  Here's a quick way to tell if that is the case:  What does your curb look like on the days the garbage truck rolls through?  If you're doing everything you should be doing, your average household waste for that week should fit into one, maybe two t-shirt bags.

No? Are you still screaming (on the inside, where it counts) "Hefty! Hefty! Hefty!" as you trudge to the sidewalk?   It's okay.  We all do it sometimes. If you're doing it every week, you need to know that it is possible to wean your wastebaskets and trash cans from a steady diet of stuff that could be recycled into rugs, clothing, planters and even fashionable vegan shoes. Keep in mind this kind of change does not have to be a zero sum proposition.  You can start small.  Just start!

Let me help you out with this.  Do you eat Annie's Mac 'n Cheese?  The next time you're in the mood for comfort food and you tear open a package, ad you're waiting for the water to boil, take a look at the box. Yes, the bunny is cute and the bumper sticker offer that has been open since I was an undergraduate is still on the side. What you'll also find are tips on how to reuse that box before it finally ends up in your recycling bin.

Low to no waste isn't limited to paper and plastic.  Take a look at that pretty yellow oval in your CSA box.  For those of you who have never tried spaghetti squash, you're missing out.  It has the texture and taste of a good veggie pasta prepared al dente the way the school cafeteria ladies never intended. Don't let this tasty, healthy treat go to waste.

I consulted with my friends and fellow veggie fans, Sylvia and Bill  Red Eagle, on the best ways to use every bit of a spaghetti squash.  Starting from the inside out:

Seeds: The tangle of seeds and mushy, fibrous stuff needs to be removed before the rest of it can be cooked.   Once you've scooped it out, begin to knead it and you'll find the seeds will start to fall out.  Rinse them off, buff them barely dry with a clean dishtowel and then spread them out on a cookie sheet.

They're great plain or you can season them with any of the following: cayenne, chili powder, garlic salt, grated parm or asiago, or cinnamon and a little sugar or (a tiny, tiny amount of) stevia if prefer a sweet snack.  Once you've seasoned them or not, pop the tray in an oven set at 275 degrees for five to ten minutes or until the seeds are dry, crisp, and slide around.

This recipe works with any squash or pumpkin seed and those seeds, called pepitas by my father's people (who also refer to corn as maiz, go figure...) are a great source of protein and fiber.  One cautionary note:  they are very rich in Omega-6, which do weird things to Omega-3s, which you and I and everyone we know  needs.  So, as Cookie Monster might say, they're probably best eaten as a sometimes snack when you happen to be cooking a winter squash.

Flesh:  Some people boil it, some steam it, the Red Eagles like to cut it in half and bake it flesh side down until the fibers pull away into "noodles".  They like it as a side with butter, salt and a little sauteed garlic or garlic scapes when they're in season or as a "chili mac" when the weather in Ft. Worth gets a little colder.  I like it topped with a good "tom 'n three plus" marinara ( tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers plus herbs and wine).

The Skin, Stem and Seed Muck:  All of it composts beautifully.  If you have established a place for birds and other neighbor critters to visit and grab a bite, you'll find that they see the seed muck is like, the best snack ever to squirrels, titmice and black capped chickadees.

So, let's review.  You started with this ornery hard thing that you wondered if you could use as part of a centerpiece or a decoration for the guest book table at church and now you have a tasty snack, a great meal that is light on the carbs, and some good karma from feeding your fellow earthlings.  Best of all, none of that ended up in the trash.

Hungry for more?  Talk to your local farmer about their favorite ways to use winter squash.  You might want to check out these recipes by two of my favorite chefs/foodways preservation advocates:

Emeril Lagasse's herbed spaghetti squash is an easy dish after a rushed day.

Rick Bayless' "Worlds Greatest Chili" includes winter squash as part of his refit of a home kitchen classic.

Bon appetit and keep green!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Good Guys Wear Blue Corduroy

by Jas Faulkner 

Theirs was the kind of cool that defied the usual taxonomic constraints of senior high school hierarchies.  Laconic and for the most part unworried by the usual sturm and dang that plagued teens determined to make those three years the BEST years of their lives by being the BEST class EVER, they moved through life at their own pace.  Small, close-knit groups of clean-shaven, baby-faced boys and smartly turned out young women walked the hallways, self possessed, impervious to the handfull of students who sometimes catcalled them without fully understanding their own concomitant loathing and envy. They followed an agenda that addressed few of the concerns of the so-called lives that flittered inside the snow-globe insularity of high school's social order.  The timetable and values they followed were those of the real world, the world beyond classrooms.

 What set them apart visually from other self-contained groups, the kids who would grow up to work for Cessna and Boeing and IBM and NASA, were the jackets. Those zippered, cobalt blue, wide wale corduroy jackets with the oddly old-fashioned embroidered logos on the crest and back identified members of FFA, the Future Farmers of America.  They were worn with pride by students who were either continuing a family tradition of farming and ranching or contemplating a move beyond the suburban nine to five careers of their parents.

Actually, there are still kids getting, no, earning those jackets every year.  According to the latest figures, over half a million young people ages twelve and up have answered the call to learn agricultural science.  Many of them will be in FFA until graduation and then move on to other things.  Aside from the artifacts and memories, they'll have a deeper understanding of how important it is to have a vital, thriving agricultural sector within the economic makeup of our country.  They will respect how important it is to not take for granted the labor, the availability of resources, and the significance of knowledge and commitment to farming that keeps everyone fed and secure.

Food security is not just organizational lip service.  It is a very real value that is at least three shifts each to helping assemble meals for distribution to areas where hunger is a problem.  Their goal this year is to assemble one million meals as part of their Rally To Fight Hunger.  This initiative not only employs young hands, it engages hearts and minds as attendees learn more about the root causes and possible solutions to food scarcity on both local and global levels.

Those who choose to follow the creed* into adulthood by stepping into the family business or pursuing agriculture as a major in college find that FFA continues to offer support.   The organisation provides scholarships and opportunities for mentoring and leadership either in the capacity of apprenticeship or as an educator for the next generation of Future Farmers.

To the many children who come together from diverse backgrounds to be a part of FFA, those blue jackets are not just a quaint fashion statement to be discarded when other inclinations hold a greater attraction.  They represent a serious commitment to the kind of stewardship that goes beyond youthful promises for short term involvement.  When it's done right, FFA is life-changing.  It is their chance to be part of something good, something bigger than themselves that has fostered personal growth since that first gathering of teachers and students at Kansas City in 1928. It is, in the truest sense of the expression, a way for  young people to be empowered by knowledge and to gain confidence in their abilities as agents of positive change for the future.

Want to know more?  Visit the FFA's homepage at:

*The FFA Creed:

I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds - achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.
I believe that to live and work on a good farm or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement I cannot deny.
I believe in leadership from ourselves and respect from others. I believe in my own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, with such knowledge and skill as I can secure, and in the ability of progressive agriculturalists to serve our own and the public interest in producing and marketing the product of our toil.
I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so-for others as well as myself; in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.
I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September 12th and Victory Gardens

by Jas Faulkner

September Twelfth always has a tinge of emotional hangover to it.  As each succeeding 9-12 since Nine-Twelve-Oh-One passes, there is has been a decreasing shock about the 3,000 person-shaped hole in who we were as a tribe and more about who we intend to be in the future. As a people, our circumstance, has been shaped by equal parts natural progression and determination to determine ourselves on our own terms.  Our most American of characteristics, our rugged, sometimes bloody-minded individuality is part of what moves us to look for better ways to take care of ourselves.

Localtarianism is one expression of that stubborn streak that keeps us from giving in and going under in the face of opposition from big business and those who seek the approval/protection they perceive to be the advantages of living in the shadow of corporations.  We continue to look for ways to take care of ourselves and engage our neighbors as we support their efforts to create sustainable local economy based on production that gives us a first hand look at the intricacies of how what we buy is made.  We have striven to know the farmer in the next county, the herbalists and the chicken enthusiasts and the artisans and the neighborhood know-it-all.

 This sort of urban agricultural renaissance really isn't anything new.  The Victory Gardens of the 1940s' inspired a generation to adopt kitchen gardening as a way to supplement the limited food that was available.  It was a practical, healthy way to live and one that afforded Americans the chance to make a positive statement about the strength and resilience of those back on the home front.

At its heart, this was the first wave of the American Green Revolution.  It was the age of everyone from the President to GI Joe to Rosie the Riveter and her mother who not only kept hearth and home but proved she was as tough as Dad and Joe when it came to dealing with challenging times; all because she and they could.  Without really considering it that way, this was sustainability in action.  This is what American character looks like in the real world.  It is what an American who is conscious of how we can help ourselves and help others learns how to think globally and reach out to help.  This is what needs to be reclaimed: feeding ourselves and supporting our neighbors.

All of this makes what happens at farmers markets, local food co-ops and businesses like The Turnip Truck that much more miraculous.  It is not just a cultural survival, but a return to currency for what worked in the past and maintains us. Supporting area farmers and those businesses that foster taking an active part in local food production is and always has been an original "patriot act".  Get back to your roots, both literally and figuratively and visit your local farmers market for produce and goods to help you grow your own!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kathy Kuhn Wants To Know: What's In Your Kitchen?

by Jas Faulkner 

"My initial inspiration was the old timey saying waste not, 
want not, but after reading a lot of different articles and 
doing some internet research on green living,  I found that 
the new way of saying an old adage was: 
Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.”    
                                                                         -Kathy Kuhn

For most households, living a greener life starts with what goes into 
the pantry and on the table. Finding items that are eco-friendly and easily 
integrated into the day to day goings on in a household can be a challenge.  
Kathy Kuhn saw such a need was going unanswered, and this was one 
of the motivators behind the creation of her company, Green 24-7

At the same time, she wanted to echo the economy and frugality 
that makes the green movement not only a smart choice in the global 
sense but a wise way to manage a household on a very local level. 
The magical "Three R's" play a big role in the ethos behind Green 24-7.

"In times like these implementing the three “R’s” into 
our every day routine not only saves money and promotes efficiency 
in running the household, but also gives us a clear conscience in 
knowing that we are making a difference in helping to promote a 
sustainable lifestyle for the generations to come."  

A visit to the Green24-7 tent is a chance to see cutting-edge products that 
make recycling, composting and implementing smaller changes that add up 
when it comes to reducing your individual carbon footprint so much easier.  
Kuhn does her research to  to see that her products are as green in their origins 
as they will be in their use. Most are created from recycled or recyclable 
materials so eco-minded customers can buy with confidence.  

Kuhn hopes that a taste of the smaller successes in going green will inspire 
people to take bigger steps towards adopting more sustainable households.  
Her goal is "to reach the average American family and business in their day to 
day routine.  Small changes have big outcomes when more and more people 
continue to live responsibly."

What three things does she think we can do to  make Nashville a cleaner, 
greener placeto live?  

"Recycle, Reduce (waste) and Reuse.  
We cannot continue to throw everything into a 
giant trash can and buy new."

With attitudes changing, ENFM Blog asked Ms Kuhn what she sees that makes
her feel hopeful about the future of Nashville as an eco-friendly city.

"Many people are into recycling and most are open 
to the fact that they know they must 
begin to do so.  It is easy and it is simply routine.  
If you have a compartment or bin to 
put recycleable items in, your household or business 
stays organized and is acting 
responsibly.  It is the least we all can do and 
it's not cool to ignore its importance."

Want more information about Green 24-7?
visit Kathy Kuhn's website at:
or drop by her booth at 
East Nashville Farmers Market!