Monthly Archives: September 2010

Tartine Book

I don’t usually do book reviews here. Obviously, I love books, especially of the how-to variety as they help me out on the farm making cheese or kraut or beekeeping.  While I love novels and literary non-fiction (except for the sacred few) I find that I lend those out or give them away. But I keep the how-to books. They’re for reference of course, and they are books to use when I teach classes or when I have an open house and I want to invite people to see the books firsthand. Often visitors will have some of the same books (Wild Fermentation, Encyclopedia of Country Living) on their bookshelves and we’ll laugh about our crazed how-to gurus.

There’s a new book out by a crazed how-to guru that I was so pleased to find at Green Apple books the other night. Bill and I had gone to San Francisco for an evening out which involves going to Rainbow to buy olive oil when they’re open, spend a few hours doing something else, and returning to Rainbow when their mighty-fine dumpster gets put out and can be perused.

So there we were, wasting time at Green Apple and I see this book, called Tartine Bread. I read the first paragraph and knew I had to buy the book, even though it is not in my budget ($40). The rest of the night we went diving, then got home tired and dirty. The next day was so hot, I just sat around and read Tartine Bread instead of going outside. I found myself completely blown away how lovely the book is, how measured, how perfectly the book captures the essence of what matters right now with people today. It took my breath away; and I realized, this is probably what happened when my mom read the Moosewood Cookbook or Diet for a Small Planet. The book captured what is important to me, the author finds what I find beautiful, he crafts and cares and loves. He’s–yes–speaking for my generation.

His name is Chad Robertson, and his careful prose paints a portrait of a man obsessed with craft and doing one thing very very well. From what I’ve heard of him, this is all true–by all accounts, he is a humble craftsperson. There are also perfect photos which show you how to make the Tartine loaves which so many people in SF gladly wait in line for. The secret is a series of steps–coaxing a wild yeast to become your friend and live in a jar of flour and water; making a sticky wet dough that you don’t really knead, but turn instead; cooking the dough in a cast iron pan with a lid–to make a big, unique crusty loaf.

Now, I just got the book, I haven’t started to make my wild yeast friend yet, but I will. I had originally thought I would make the bread in my cob oven, but Chad insists that wood fired ovens aren’t necessary (I’m still going to try…) I have made a recipe from the other part of the book, which details how to make bready-recipes like roasted tomatoes, Bahn mi, and a dino kale caesar with croutons. Since I have a million dino kale plants in the garden, I busted that out last night (using the far less superior bread from Brioche Bakery to make the croutons). Lordy, it was divine.

So, there’s my first book review. The end.

Coming to…New York City

This weekend, I’ll be in New York for a conference called Farm City (sounds familiar, right?).

This is from the organizers of the conference: “With rising costs of energy and environmental and health dangers inherent in current industrial food production methods, metropoles need to band together to forge new small-scale, sustainable methods to grow and source food.”

That’s something I can agree with, so I signed up to help.

And so, on Friday, Sept 24, there will be a fun fundraiser, featuring a reading by me and:

  • FOOD by Communal Table presenting “Turnip Fest,” a variety of tasty preparations of the toothsome root veggie sourced from Brooklyn farms. 
  • MUSIC by JD Duarte of who plays into the nite with alt-country band, The Newton Gang, providing free CDs to the first 20 ticket buyers.
  • DRINK by Brooklyn Brewery pouring forth libations of its Belgian-style craft ales: Schneider-Weiss, Brooklyn Local 1 and Brooklyn Local 2.

September 24, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.

The Commons

388 Atlantic Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11217 (b/w Hoyt & Bond Sts).

Buy Tickets:

Then, the next day, Saturday, will be an unconference called Crossing the Line. I’ll be presenting at 1pm about how I descended into urban farming madness, then there will be an amazing gathering of nyc and brooklyn’s finest farmers, who will join together to chat about the history of urban ag, the reality, and the future. It’s going to be really exciting!

September 25, 1-6:30

French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF)

22 East 60th Street

New York, NY

Luckily, the goats haven’t kidded so the milk isn’t flowing, it’s started raining so the garden doesn’t need me, and we have a new wonderful downstairs neighbor who enjoys feeding the chickens and rabbits. And so I can dip in and out for a few days at a time for amazing events like this. I hope some of you New Yorkers can make it!

Portland Weekend

Hello Oregonians! I’ll be up there this weekend, for an urban farming bicycle rodeo. Saturday will be the big day, with canning demos, jam and pie contests, and hands-on chicken classes. I for one am excited about home cheesemaking at 2:45pm. I’m going to give a little talk and reading, then the fun begins. Hope you can make it–I’m bringing GhostTown t-shirts to sell!

Tickets for the event are $5 and get you access to the free workshops. I think some of the proceeds go to support Zeneger Urban Farm and a community bike group. Yay, I can’t wait to experience just a little Northwest summer.

Saturday, September 18, 2010
10 am – 4 pm
714 N Fremont St (Grand Central Bakery)
Portland, OR 97227

Food Roadtrip

Ok, I didn’t take my camera on my roadtrip. What can I say? I’m a slacker blogger. I just didn’t want to have to chronicle everything and think, “that would be a good blog post.” I wanted to relax and let shit happen. Which it did. I’m writing a new book and all the juicy details will spill around, um, 2014.

Luckily, Bill bought a camera in Chicago and so he got some photos of Chicago, which we went to mainly to eat. We went to the Ukrainian Village and enjoyed a bunch of crazy stuff (for us), including meat balls in a dill cream sauce, pickled fish, a pickled apple which bobbed around with friends in a vat of sugary vinegar (gotta try making those at home), beet and horseradish spread, and the most amazing sauerkraut that was pickling in a big vat. Somehow we didn’t get a shot of the vat of pickled herring from Iceland, which smelled to high heaven, so this has to suffice.

We also ate pizza, sliced in the square-cut style that I really love.

Up to that point, we had been stopping at the numerous roadside produce stands that we encountered in most of the small towns along small roads. I was so excited to see people growing their own food. Some people didn’t even man the stands, they just had a stand with an umbrella and a money jar. Genius. The produce was amazing, as you might expect in the middle of August. Sweet corn, cantalopes, cucs, tomatoes. Because we were driving, I’d sliced up cucs and tomatoes and onions,  throw them in a tupperware with vinegar and olive oil and they would marinate. Then I would fork bits into Bill and my mouth while we hurtled down the highway.

Detroit. I have a lot to say about Detroit, because I’ve always imagined it as a mythical city filled with urban farms. And it does have a bunch of them. We could only stay for two days, so we barely scratched the surface. I loved the vegetable garden at Earthworks Urban Farm, where they pump out produce and honey for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen and train people how to grow their own food. They even had a bike repair shop. Note drying garlic.

Then we went to the alternative high school featured in Grown in Detroit, called the Catherine Ferguson Academy, where, my heart swelled, they have goats!

The deal is they have a curriculum for pregnant teens and young mothers that involves raising chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats, bees, a horse, and fruit trees in the name of science and self-empowerment. I hadn’t heard of the movie, but the leader of the school, a fellow named Paul, sounds incredible. Like they feed the goats by growing alfalfa on six blocks of abandoned land, which Paul cuts himself. Whoa!

They also had a “musuem” of ways to keep bees. It included a stump, a skep, top bar, Lang, and a strange octogonal shaped hive. Here’s the skep:

After Detroit (see Patrick Couch’s excellent blog for more about the Detroit scene), we headed to West Virginia for Bill’s family reunion. There I consumed about 20 pounds of the best-tasting tomatoes I have ever had. West Virginny definitely has something over California in that regard. We also ate amazing home-made canned green beans, pickled sweet beets, canned venison, and cousin Barb’s zucchini lasagna.

The trip was pretty much over for me, I flew home, and you know–I was mighty proud (and I’ll admit it, surprised) that there is good food all across our great land. Bill continued on, hitting some amazing joints along Highway 61. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I might even do another road trip.

Of course, now that I’m back, after neglecting my poor garden, it looks like hell. Still, I harvested some apples and have some greens and honey, so come on by Tuesday Sept 7, 5-7pm to pick up some supplies and say howdy. I have a new goat, too, who might want to meet you.

665 28th street (at 28th street and MLK)

This Tuesday, Sept 7, 5pm-7pm