Not Eating Animals So Much…

Seventeen years ago I read this book in conjunction with a community consultation on the issues surrounding World Hunger and what we could/should be doing to make a difference:

I am still inspired by Frances Moore Lappe.  She prompted me to refrain from eating meat as a humanitarian choice, not for health or animal rights reasons.  I came away convinced that there were powerful forces at work in the economy of food that made for some disturbing consequences for those in less developed nations.  Having grown up in a culture where over-consumption had already become the norm, I felt compelled to do what little I could to lessen the impact of our preference for meat at every meal.

I wasn’t terribly militant or evangelical about my choice.  I would discuss it with anyone who was interested, but I didn’t feel compelled to convince anyone to follow my lead.  Food is a critical tool of social cohesion and I was keen not to appear too inflexible or preachy.  But disavowing meat was both an unlikely transition (here is the girl who had described herself as a meatatarian in her early teens as she only ate three vegetables) and dreadfully simple once I realised that I never really ate much ‘real meat’ and that veges were actually pretty tasty.  Having said that, I can appreciate that to a real carnivore, removing meat from the plate leaves very little else of intense flavour…

So, I married a carnivorous atheist (me, the protestant vegetarian) and set about being accommodating and creative about feeding him in a meaty, nourishing and satisfying manner so that he would not feel too alienated by my choice to maintain my meat-eschewing ways.

Then he stumbled upon this book:

…and our lives may never be the same again.  Whew!  Because lately, living on a limited budget and being surrounded by people like Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan who are all railing against the insidious and devastating effects of the industrialisation of food, especially in this country, has made me feel increasingly uneasy and wistful for a less meaty experience in the kitchen…

And when this began happening in our family:

…suddenly what I was putting in the shopping basket, where I was sourcing our food and what I was placing on our table became SO SO much more important.

So Akira has lead us lately on a journey of local discovery that I think will take us all summer long…and will hopefully spill into our new life beyond Missouri…To find local meat providers who do not use exploitative and harmful farming practises and provide more sustainable produce that will nourish us and keep us healthy.  It means a dramatic alteration in our diet.  As the person who plans the meals and sources the food, I have enjoyed the challenge of finding new sources and inspirations.

I am looking forward to the beginning of the Clayton and Tower Grove Farmer’s Markets in May.

I can’t wait to cook up some meat for Akira that makes him smile again – we are hoping that in April we will source it from the wonderful Greenwood Farms, and that might be ongoing through the summer from the markets.

Slow Food and the Fair Shares CCSA have been great places for ideas, and I was amazed (and happy) to find meat from this farm in our local supermarket – things are looking up!

New Year

It seems a little silly to be recording my New Year’s Resolutions now, in February… But so far 2010 has kinda caught me by surprise and for a number of reasons, I have gotten off to a very slow start.  So here I am, bearing in mind that it is also the start of a decade, resolving afresh to do all the usual things (be better with money, eat well, exercise more blah blah blah) and also hoping to take a longer view of my aspirations.

I’ve also been reflecting on my thoughts at the start of last year, when I was heavily pregnant and everything seemed to be on ‘pause’ while we waited to see who would arrive and how he/she would impact on our lives.

This year we are in limbo again as we look ahead to the end of our time in the US and try and imagine where we will end up next.  Once again this is totally determined by Akira’s career choices, which is fair since that is why we made the big move to come here.  But I am hoping that this year might bring some clarity for me in terms of potential career-changing new directions.

So what am I resolving to be purposeful about as we enter 2010?

  1. I may need to change the title of the blog as this is the year for returning to the paid workforce in some manner.  Ideally I would like this to be ‘part-time’ so that I can still be primarily focused on caring for Kazuo.  But the increased costs of being resident aliens (we are now ‘substantially present’ here!) and childcare may impact on that decision.  With this in mind, I have applied for a work permit this week, so it will be a few months yet before I can seek out employment, but we are making progress on childcare options for Kazuo…so Not Working may take a change of direction…
  2. I did what I could to stay somewhat politically engaged over the past year and hope to at least maintain my regular attendance at Amnesty International meetings.  Whether I can sustain any more active involvement really hinges on the outcome of point 1.
  3. We need to totally trim down our food outgoings…at the same time that Kazuo is ramping up his solid food intake – sheesh!  So, more creative ideas need to kick in really soon (have been rather meticulous about this lately… doing OK so far) for healthy food that we all love, that is nutritious and appetising and that keeps down the costs.  Being a working mama may erode this resolution… and it seems like a tall order – but imperative nonetheless.
  4. The weather is really cramping my exercising style – last year it took until September to lose the baby weight, but it DID go…now I need to lose my winter layer!  I am keen to get Kazuo and I back on my bike in some fashion in the Spring.  Perhaps Akira and I both need to join a gym…
  5. I still wanna get crafty for cash…I have a few ideas but they do require capital and time, both of which are still a little scarce.  But after the Fall craft shows in STL last year, I felt newly energised.  So need to make this a priority I think.
  6. I would like to become a slightly more chilled out individual this year – I know that seems unlikely, but it might be good for all concerned.  So I guess I need to look out some me-time things that make me feel connected to others, and to myself…yoga? date nights? getting arty/crafty? more weekend girly time? naps?…ideas anyone?
  7. Time for doing the things I love…reading, watching films, listening to music, going to theatre…hmmmm I need to make these things somehow fit into family life.
  8. Kazuo is my number one priority these days…so it is only fair to say I am pretty much resolved to help him grow into a happy little guy.  Guess that goes without saying though…
  9. Become a little more other-centred again.  Life became very insular when adjusting to the newness of parenting, but we are getting a little into the swing of that now, and should have a bit of a hiatus before we consider whether we will go down that route again, so I think that in considering paid employment and any ‘spare’ time I may have, I am keen to think about how I might make my time count for those in less abundant circumstances.
  10. Cultivating wonder was a priority last year, and as I had imagined, Kazuo gave plenty of opportunity for that to happen. Getting outside into the natural world and continuing to foster that wonderment is also important for me right now.   I wish to combine that with an increased sense of gratitude this coming year…

So, that is enough I think.  The year ahead will be galvanising for me personally, for our family life and for Kazuo’s development.  I look forward to seeing how it will all pan out, and hope that having at least some sense of purpose will help when things seem a little murky.

AI Art Auction – Part II

Well, last night was a lovely evening… and somewhat of a success as far as Amnesty is concerned.  Friend and members came out to support the work of Amnesty International, have a drink or two, find out about the Women of Zimbabwe Arise movement and take some art home with them.  We were grateful for the generosity of our friends, and for the donations of the artists and I think everyone was pleased with their acquisitions.

A BIG grateful THANKYOU from me goes to Claire, Katie and Denise who came out on a busy week night… wonderful to see them and extremely wonderful of Katie to buy this wooly beret that looks superb on her!

On the nibbles front, I tried out this recipe for stuffed mushrooms from Purple Foodie, but made some adaptations due to the resources and time available to me, and the limitations of my oven.  My adapted recipe, which made about 60 little button mushrooms – that I thought turned out pretty OK for a first experiment – is below:

Herb Butter Mushrooms With Mozzarella

30 oz. button mushrooms or cremini mushrooms (I used both for a nice mix)

6-8 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4C of Basil leaves

3 stems Rosemary leaves

45g/3tbsp cold butter, cut into tiny cubes

Olive oil to brush the baking sheet and mushrooms

4 oz./115g mozzarella

Salt and pepper

  1. Brush the pan with olive oil and place the mushrooms gill sides up with the stem removed.
  2. Chop the stems in the food processor with the garlic, basil and rosemary and stuff it back into the mushrooms.
  3. Dot the mushroom stuffing with cold butter.
  4. Brush with olive oil and top it with thin slices of mozzarella cheese.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Slip the pan under a broiler for 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and the mushrooms fragrant
  7. Pop the pan into the oven on a low heat (~325F) for about 10mins to allow mushrooms to cook a little more.
  8. Put pan on top of oven for final 10mins to allow mushrooms to stew in their own juices a little…
  9. Transfer to a plate, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately (or in this case… even later in the day they are still moist and tasty)!

I’d have taken you a photo of them… but the day was a little crazy, so I didn’t quite get there… you will just have to imagine as they are all gone.  This might be my new party treat.

AI Art Auction I

OK, I know I have mentioned this already.  But today is the day of our Amnesty Art Auction.  I am going to the farmer’s market/library/post office, preparing nibbles, getting early dinner and pretty much putting everything in order so that I can escape the house – leaving Dada in charge, for which I am extremely grateful – at 6pm… unheard of!  So I don’t have oodles of time for any kinda internet musings.

But I have high hopes for a good night out and some happy fundraising activity.  If you are reading this today… PLEASE come join us at 7pm at SqWires in Lafayette Square, there will be a cash bar (proceeds to AI) and some nibbles (hopefully some from me, if I get my act into gear) and good company!

Amnesty International Art Auction

Last night was Amnesty International night… We discussed final plans for our Silent Art Auction that we are holding in a few weeks.  Since my life still pretty much revolves around Kazuo, I was grateful for the efforts of Helen who has really taken this event on and will be the reason for its success.  But I am hoping to see friends turn out to view/purchase art, find out more about Amnesty and have a lovely social outing.  Here are a sneak preview of some of the art that is on offer:

Jovan Hansman

Jovan Hansman

Tania Chackumkal

Tania Chackumkal

The event will be at SqWires restaurant in Lafayette Square, St Louis on Thursday 19 November.  If you are in the Lou and can make it, please join us!  The work of Amnesty is so important, I hope we manage to both promote the work, and raise some much-needed funds to help further protect Human Rights wherever they are at risk.  It would be great to see you there.

Guatemala and Massacres…

A little glum of me perhaps, but I have been musing about the unspeakable awfulness of massacres for the past week or so. Every time I hear someone tell the tale of a massacre that they have survived, I feel devastated.  And since most massacres usually involve innocents, and oftentimes are largely women and children, it seems that my emotional response is even more intense now that Kazuo is around, I just fail to see how you could go on living if anything like that happened to your own child, and you were somehow spared.  Yet, remarkably, people do, and go on to transform their experiences in incredible ways.

Last Tuesday we had a report back at our Amnesty Meeting from our friends Paul and Kate who have spent a bit of time this year in Guatemala.  Last year our group attempted to bring the plight of the Mayan people in northern Guatemala to the attention of AIUSA… we are still working on that issue, and Paul and Kate have spent time in the region discovering some of the stories that have arisen over the past 30 years in a region where major hydroelectric projects have displaced hundreds of villagers and subsistence farmers.  In the early 80’s there were several massacres along the Rio Negro as the Government forces and militia attempted to clear the region of dissenters to their multi-million dollar dam scheme.

One survivor of one of these massacres was Jesus Tecu Osorio, whose story is told in the film  Rainmaker.  He is now a peace activist in Guatemala who works selflessly to bring justice both to the survivors of the massacres and to the families of those who perished.  I was deeply moved by the story he told and by the bravery of his activism, especially given that he has a young family of his own now, who give him hope, but make him more vulnerable again.  It is amazing that love thrives even in the wake of such adversity.

The other thing that got me thinking on this theme again last week was watching Waltz with Bashir on the weekend.  An excellent animation that examines Israeli soldiers’ involvment in refugee camp massacres in West Beirut in the 80’s.  There were some very provocative images, especially towards the end of the film, and although it was not a wonderful pick me up, it was excellent film making that explored some very important ideas about war and memory.

Perhaps I don’t have anything to conclude… or add to this discussion… maybe I just wanted to say, I am thinking about people being massacred and I am thinking that there is no way that should ever happen, and how do we let it happen?  Perhaps all I want to ask is why? and how do we stop that kind of madness? and I know that probably somewhere in a little quiet corner of the world today, or maybe tomorrow, another, equally ghastly thing will happen, and some people will be culpable – and have to live with that – and some bereft – and have to live with that – and I wish that we could stop that before it happened…

Walking for Congo Women

This time last year I was beginning to drum up support for the St Louis Run for Congo Women.  I managed to encourage several friends to join me, and though I didn’t end up raising much money myself, between us we did contribute something to the cause.  I was 6 months pregnant at the time (that lovely energetic second trimester) and so the walk was all I could manage… this year, with Kazuo in the stroller, I think I will still stick with the 5km sponsored walk, running is still a little beyond me.  (Well, let’s be honest here… I have never really run anywhere if I could get there just as safely by walking!)

So I hope that some more friends will join the cause and get out their running/walking shoes to support the women of the Congo… whenever I think of the challenges of their lives, I feel so soft and pampered.  Today is a good day to be remembering them – Kaz is going through something this week, and has woken me up almost hourly some nights… and between 4-5am for the day almost all week.  Ugh… I feel run over by a truck when I sit down or get out of bed in the mornings… but this too will pass, and in the meantime, I am here in the comfort and safety of my little paradise and with nary a real care to speak of.

I do hope that something massive and amazing happens to change the plight of women and children in the Congo… and other desparate war-torn areas of the world.  In the meantime, we will do what little we can to raise the focus of their situation, and to contribute in some small way… it does little to lighten the load I know, but it does divert my ego-centric attention.

Here we are post-run/walk in 2008.  It was a beautiful, crisp St Louis morning and an amazing experience to join in solidarity with so many to celebrate the tenacity of the women in the Congo.  I will post details soon of how to support our 2009 efforts.

Run for Congo Women Group