June 2011

June SGT Book Club Two-fer: "Sheepish" and "Hungry Planet"

What do a memoir about farm life and a photo-diary of the world’s eating habits have in common?  Why, they’re both June Simple, Good, and Tasty Book Club Picks, of course!

Instead of choosing between Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep, and Enough Wool to Save the Planet by Catherine Friend and Hungry Planet: What the Word Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, our book club planners have decided to go with both of these fantastic books.

Coming up on Thursday, June 30th:

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Rhubarb: Memories and New Inspirations

When I was young, my grandfather lived in the country near Rochester, Minnesota, and had an abundant vegetable garden. Walking down its paths in the spring, you would see what would be rows of carrots, greens, potatoes, eggplant, a trellis where the french beans would climb, and then, in the corner of the garden, a huge rhubarb plant, already lush and green. I remember pulling up a stalk of that rhubarb with all my might. Dipping it in sugar I would crunch into it and pucker my lips as its juice ran down my chin. Its taste always reminds me of this childhood happiness. I must say this is still my favorite way to eat rhubarb—there is a spontaneous joy in picking a stalk, cutting off the leaves, and eating it then and there. Yesterday afternoon, I was in the Linden Hills Coop in Minneapolis and saw one of the cashiers sitting at a table taking her break.

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A Community of Nations: Cooking for Cirque du Soleil

Upon arrival at the Cirque du Soleil bigtop, you become a kid again. It doesn’t matter what kind of day you are having, the transformation is instant. Awe and wonder, curiosity and respect. Overall, it is surely a sense of largeness. That is exactly what was going on in my mind as I made my way through security and into the Cirque du Soleil grounds. As I waited for my escort, I noted the many large blue and yellow tents as well as the 24 flags that represent the nationalities of all of the performers. I had been invited to meet the chef in charge of feeding all of these bellies from around the world and I wondered which tent I would be led to. When I was led past all of the huge tents into an area that more resembled a construction zone, full of semi trailers, I began to get a small glimpse of the realities of a traveling show.

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Enjoying Grazefest at the Mill City Farmers Market

Nestled between the theatrical masterpiece designed by famed architect Jean Nouvel and a museum built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill resides the Mill City Farmer’s Market, offering Twin Citians the opportunity to connect with and support local vendors each Saturday. Running from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. until October 15, this vibrant gathering place features more than 60 vendors selling everything from vegetarian curry dishes to native woodland plants.

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Spring Green Puttanesca Sauce and a Few of My Favorite Things

If you are a woman anywhere near my age and I started singing Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens . . . chances are good you would pipe in immediately with bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens! All together now! Brown paper packages, tied up with striiiiing. These are a few of my favorite thiiiings! OK, I’ll stop. But I know you’re feeling it. Try as I might, I can’t get my kids interested in The Sound of Music. I guess children in lederhosen made out of curtains singing with a nun can’t compete with the likes of Harry Potter and The Black Eyed Peas. 


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Everyday Salad Dressings

The greens are growing wildly in my garden, the spinach is getting munched up as soon as the leaves are as big as half dollars. Soon, I will be buried in salad greens from the crunchy and mild butter crisp lettuces at the farmers markets, to the mix of lettuces and other cutting greens in my garden. Add in the mustard greens and dill that grow everywhere in my yard now and I'm set to eat as much salad as I can handle. The only way that is going to happen is if I have great dressings constantly on hand. This is key. I mean, I love a spot of salad with every little thing, but if I have to make dressing every time or suffer through another bland canola oil based bottle of store bought dressing (for $5 bucks, no less), then there is no way this massive influx of greens will get eaten. Some will inevitably end up a slime project in the bottom of my crisper.

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Understanding the Farm Bill: What's Organic Got to Do With It?

We’ve learned a bit about how Farm Bill programs affect producers of commodity crops, but what about organic farmers? Before we dive into that, let’s review just what “organic” farming really means.

What is Organic?

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Autumnwood Farm Hosts 4th Annual Farm City Day

Autumnwood Farm, founded in 1902, is a family owned dairy farm whose milk is produced only by grass-fed cows. This weekend, Autumnwood is hosting their 4th Annual City Farm Day, a fun-looking event whose goal is to "bridge the gap between the consumer and the agricultural community." In my experience, this "gap" is more like a grand canyon, so events like these are much needed. Here are the details, straight from the farm's press release:

Minneapolis, MN, March 27, 2011- Autumnwood Farm would like to extend an invitation to join them for an entertaining family afternoon at Autumnwood Farm (19435 Granada Ave. N., Forest Lake, MN 55025) on June 5th from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Attendees can go on creamery tours and hayrides, see how Autumnwood milk is made, and experience the inner workings of a farm as well as hourly cow milking demonstrations. For the younger kids a barn filled with small farm tools and baby animals will be available.

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CAFO the Book: Hard to Look At, Impossible to Ignore

The book CAFO - The Tragedy of Industrial Agricultural Factories, sits in my basement bookshelf, in a place where I'm confident my kids won't notice it. It's not that the book is gruesome; a book on the subject of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) could easily have been more bloody. And it's not that my kids don't know the difference between "happy meat" and Happy Meals. Maybe it's simply the fact that the terrific book CAFO -- all 300 gigantic, photo-filled pages of it -- shows a side of human nature that I'm still trying to protect my elementary schoolers from. A side that I, like many others, would prefer to keep in the basement -- just out of reach of children.

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