Friday, April 30, 2010

Who Says....

New York City is all hot dog stands. Fruit stands are all around the city in springtime.

Having a soy cappuccino, $3.75, at Macaron Cafe while flipping through their French magazine collection can't be considered an educational outing in my studies of the language?

You should be fraught with worry over the state of your thighs, stomach, or other part of your body if you will be pool-side, lake-side, or beach-side in a month or two.

When have you EVER heard a man utter, "Sorry, I can't eat that cookie. Swimsuit season is almost here, you know!" I've heard the dreaded swimsuit comment three times in one week from women.

You can't be a vegetarian or vegan and still adore food films like Babette's Feast, Julie & Julia and the woman herself, Julia Child. My Life in France was with me all over Italy. I found her enthusiasm for life contagious, and her love story with Paul endearing. How many romances survive that long?

I could so relate in Julie & Julia when Julia (a la Meryl Streep) declared, "All I think about all day is food and then I dream about it all night."

You can't support Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, just because he is not promoting veganism or vegetarianism. I've been disappointed at the animal rights community's utter silence about this show, and their refusal to acknowledge his ground-breaking shows on factory farmed chickens and pigs in the UK.

I think of Natalie Merchant's observation in her Leave Your Sleep liner notes about the "timeless truth that we fail to understand the entirety of anything because of our limited perspective." Many vegans only seem to want to hear or discuss people promoting vegan only. That's a mistake, in my opinion.

We need a massive shift in our food culture, and Jamie Oliver promotes many of the same ideals. More organics. More local food. More cooking from scratch as often as possible. For many, learning how to cook. Revamping a broken school food system. Improving brown bagged lunches. I couldn't agree more when he said in his closing show that if parents fed children the junk he witnessed every day, it's child abuse.

"You can have anything that you want in food, but just in moderation," he assures us. Moderation is one of my favorite words. I tire of the food police declaring you shouldn't have any sugar, white pasta, and such ever. He's not saying that either.

Sign Jamie's petition, which simply declares, "I support the Food Revolution. America's kids need better food at school and better health prospects. We need to keep cooking skills alive."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

From the Farm

After a winter hibernation, Demarest Farm opened for the season on Earth Day. This Hillsdale, New Jersey-based farm has been around since 1886. You may recall my visit here last year.

You can now enjoy a lovely lunch outside at one of their tables, in their greenhouse, or on a picnic bench (my preferred choice). Bonus points: they are dog-friendly. My mom and I took our family's adopted dog, who enjoyed the sunshine with us while we dined.

In addition to two daily soups (one vegetarian selection that day, corn chowder), they always have vegetarian chili, loaded with bell peppers, chickpeas and beans, $4.59/pound. This portion was $2.85, paired with an onion roll, $1.10. To avoid the disposables, my mom and I brought our own silverware, cloth napkins and cups in a picnic basket.

We shared a white peach iced tea, $2.

I love wraps. Recreate this avocado, tomato and onion wrap at home.

Deli pickles.

I was pining for some Clyde's of Garfield Italian ice, but it isn't available until this weekend. I would have gotten one scoop watermelon, one scoop honeydew melon. Next time!

There's usually a mob around these during their busiest season in the fall: cider donuts. If you'd like, veganize at home.

I cannot wait for fresh summer tomatoes to hit the farm for tomato and basil salads.

Simple snack: radishes.

Love the way they repurposed this old chair in the garden.

I like Demarest for lunching, but for general shopping, I favor Old Hook Farm, for its wider selection of vegan offerings, organic produce, and local finds. Demarest Farm had asparagus from Peru, but look what I found at Old Hook Farm. This will be cream of asparagus soup (the cream from soy creamer).

In addition to produce, I picked up some indulgences: vegan fudge bars, and some organic strawberry lemonade.

Fragrant lilacs. My mom surprised me with a bunch while we took turns waiting in the car with the dog.

Find a family farm near you through LocalHarvest.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Another Night With Chefs: How I Did This Time.

My sweetheart and I attend two annual events with his fellow chefs: a picnic in late summer, and a fancy dinner dance in spring. I was extremely tardy in posting photos of both events, but always love to examine what the vegetarian or vegan options are, so thought they were worth belated blog entries. This year's dance has now come and gone. Thankfully, the veg options were drastically more inspired. The food at the picnic is the same each year, and always delicious.

This time it was at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. I love what candlelight does for a room.

The cozy atmosphere extended into the dining room. An edible centerpiece: asparagus.

Everything better with butter? Not tonight. Not a pat of butter on the table. Instead, organic olive oil, which was the perfect dip for rosemary olive bread.

First course: I'm afraid to say veal carpaccio and avocado terrine. If you don't know what's wrong with veal, please visit Farm Sanctuary's site. A few years ago, it was just as horrible - foie gras.

My course, much better, don't you think? Can you imagine the suffering that would have been avoided if everyone ate what I had instead?

Next: seared sable and salmon graviox pave with white asparagus.

Instead of fish, I got seared tofu. Even though tofu is such a staple in many veg diets, I don't think I've ever gotten it at an event like this.

Entree: Noisette of lamb niçoise natural jus with potato and spinach.

A tart with broccolini, roasted red peppers, olives and capers in a marinara sauce and a slice of potato. I was stunned (and delighted) to get served something other than a plate of bland, steamed vegetables.

The cheese and salad course. I use salad lightly, since there wasn't much here.

Salad of petite mache, poached pears, walnuts, and warm mountain shaft blue cheese. I gave the cheese soufflé to my boyfriend. A few pondered, "is this breakfast?"

Dessert: Spring melange of berries in tuile with warm balsamic peppered infused syrup.

Some winced at my table at the simplicity of this (someone called it a dessert taco!), but I loved the berries. Who always needs a heavy cake, especially after a multi-course meal?

Portion sizes were thankfully smaller and the cocktail hour was pared down to a few passed hors d'oeuvres and some stations. I don't know anyone (short of the catering sales manager) who actually wants the massive excess of food at most celebrations. "The best" to me is not offering food that will go uneaten.

What did I wear? A black Laundry dress from the Revived Attire consignment shop. I paired it with my $4 dress shoes from C.A.T.S. Resale Shop I wear only at such events (oh, how I prefer flats). I also had an evening bag and wore a pin that had belonged to my grandmother, and used a wrap I've owned for ages. I did my own nails to save money.

From the clothes to what I ate, I did things in accordance with my own beliefs. If you are the lone person eating veg at your table (I often am), or wearing a second-hand dress - take pride. You don't have to do things the way everyone else does them.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Clear Out a Closet, Help Save the Earth

"Topshop and H&M pump out stylish, low-cost items meant to be worn for a season, then thrown away," observed a New York Times article on the success of PeopleStyle Watch magazine, and the lower cost fashions it features.

Thrown away. See the trend we're on for Earth Day week? Disposable beverage containers. Disposable home goods. Disposable electronics. Why not disposable clothes too?

With that in mind, my two co-workers and I held our spring clothing swap at work so people's unwanted clothes could find a more welcoming home than a landfill.

We offered light refreshments. From wallet-friendly Trader Joe's: organic pink lemonade and 'Arnold Palmers' (half iced tea, half lemonade) and clementines. We also offered vegan vanilla creme cookies.

So many clothes! Items of the season: we got an abundance of tops, but also had dresses, pants, shorts and skirts.

We were happy a variety of sizes were offered, but there was definitely an abundance of smaller sizes. It's a challenge. You can't force anyone to donate. We're thrilled people are donating at all.

We also had the most clothes we’ve ever had with the original tags still on them.

So that all sizes can find something, unwanted beauty products, jewelry and accessories were included. Some brand new Bath and Body Works lotion and hand soap were scooped up, and a gorgeous beaded royal blue necklace went before I could even photograph it.

Books and a small sampling of jewelry.

Cute new and gently used shoes. I'm a ballet flats woman. Not my size.

These Bandolino shoes appear to have never been worn.

And so much leftover! This was just some of our donations. In New Jersey, we donated to the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop in Westwood to benefit homeless cats and dogs, and the This-n-That Thrift Shop in Hillsdale, where items will be marked to benefit Shelter Our Sisters. We donated some unseasonable items to a nearby New York City Salvation Army, which is much larger and can accommodate all kinds of donations.

This is the first swap where I didn't take anything. Unless I really love something, even if it's free or from thrift, I'm leaving it in the universe for someone else.

While clearing out a closet and passing on items to a family member or friend, a charitable thrift store or even selling it might not qualify as what most people think of as 'green', to me it is very much so an environmental act. New production of an item will now not be needed since someone else can use what's already produced. And it makes green living accessible to every income.

Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How Do You Define Trash?

Trash. noun. Worthless or useless matter; rubbish. - The Pocket Webster School & Office Dictionary

One fine, sunny spring day in an apartment complex in suburban northern New Jersey, someone made the decision that all of this fit the definition of trash.

A Grundig radio, plus two speakers. My boyfriend loves this!

A brand new, never opened bottle of liquid dish detergent. My sweetheart took all of these.

A cheerful welcome post. It will greet people once again.

Lawn chairs. These were folded up in the corner behind the dumpster. I rescued them.

A perfect condition pink suitcase and a piece of exercise equipment. I salvaged the suitcase, which I plan to donate to a local thrift shop.

Pillows. You'd pay a fortune for these at a store like Pier One or other retailer. I'll donate these. These were on a couch, also destined for the landfill.

I posed this before, but will wonder aloud again: just because a minor repair is needed, does that make it trash?

Why can't we support more jobs in the repurposing market versus the retail market? Many things I find can be reupholstered, steam-cleaned, refinished, repainted, just plain repaired. There are craftsman who can do these things.

This just had a slight tear. This will provide comfortable seating for a Jersey shore goer this summer: me.

A computer chair. It had a slight tear, but otherwise was fine. But, massive sigh, I only came to reclaim this later in the day, and three of the wheels were missing. We took it, and hope to repair it.

TVs don't belong in the dumpster! According to

"Electronic circuit boards, batteries and color cathode ray tubes (CRTs) can contain hazardous materials such as lead, mercury and hexavalent chromium. If improperly handled or disposed, these toxins can be released into the environment through landfill leachate or incinerator ash." Find out where to recycle your set.

It works!

We gave this tv to my sweetheart's friend, who is a hard-working man who holds down two jobs. He was just about to buy a television set.

In addition to the obvious environmental ramifications, this is simply throwing money out the window. It may be money they spent, but it's money someone else will also have to now spend to buy new things that they simply don't have to.

Someone was clearing out a garage, and instead of calling a charity like Goodwill, advertising on freecycle or even posting a notice in the laundry room for free items, the owners of this "stuff" took the easy way out.

When rescuing these items, we drew a few strange looks from my neighbors passing by, but I don't care. I think of the line in Mr. Wendal, an Arrested Development song about a homeless man, "Uncivilized we call him, but I just saw him eat off the food we waste." Food isn't the only thing we waste.

The above items "worthless," "useless," "rubbish"? Not in my book.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hackensack Riverkeeper Cleanup: In Photos

Remember what fun the hippie-themed Hackensack Riverkeeper volunteer appreciation party was? Here's a glimpse at what the volunteers are up to.

Sunday was the official kick-off of the river cleanup season, always in Overpeck County Park in Leonia.

Volunteeers can cruise on the canoes if they choose, but I stuck by the shoreline.

Like last year, I hit a far end of the park. This time, I was with three gentlemen. In under two hours, we had 25 garbage bags filled with trash. Here's what we found.

Many of these areas were tricky to get to, and involved going down a slope and crouching under branches and overgrowth. But it was worth it to save these plastics from floating into the water.

If you feel like it's like cleaning up a landfill, you're right on track: this park was built on a landfill. Garbage is protruding from the Earth and into the waterway. But it is not all landfill waste. Much of it is clearly recent.

This plastic bag revealed its age: 2 years.

The scene repeated itself everywhere.

One of my fellow volunteers.

Just one of our three piles.

A salvaged tv.

By lunch time, this what was in the dumpster (and this wasn't everything). Lisa, the volunteer coordintor, said they were running out of bags. She brought 400.

This dog even got involved in the clean-up! But mostly, he provided a much-needed smile on our faces.

They graciously fed us. For breakfast, donuts and coffee. For lunch, pizza.

A nice healthy salad.

The next clean-up is tentatively set for Sunday, May 2nd, from 11 AM - 4 PM at KBG Park in River Edge. Click here for the full list.

If you aren't fortunate enough to have a group like the riverkeeper in your community, consider doing a park clean-up on your own. There is no shortage of trash. When my sweetheart and I took our four-mile walk in Ridgewood on Easter, the trail was littered with trash. Even one bag helps.

Once upon a time, I bought bottled water (why, I have no idea). I stopped for coffee and got it in a disposable cup. I didn't always use reusable bags. But these clean-ups have changed my life. Consider the amount of waste we produce and how we can reduce our impact.

This wasn't my only clean-up of the day. More about that in the next post. I'll give you a hint: last time, it yielded a Beatles CD, and then some.