Monday, June 29, 2009

Breast Milk Ice Cream....Anyone?

What is up with milk? I mean what is it exactly? Last I checked rice, almonds, and soy beans don't have how on earth do they have milk? Milk is a vague word. Lets define it:

Milk: 1. a fluid secreted by the mammary glands of females for the nourishment of their young. 2. a liquid resembling milk in appearance as a : the latex of a plant b : the juice of a coconut comprised of liquid endosperm c: the contents of an unripe kernel or grain

Lil' Bit just started to drink a variety of new milks...cows, rice, soy. I even bought her a little hemp milk...why not? I just started putting these new milks in her bottle and tada! She sucked each one down indiscriminately. Humans love milk.

I often ask myself as an adult is it really okay to drink the milk of another species? Or what about cheeseburgers? Animal flesh grilled with its own milk. Delicious...but not so kosher. Then of course there is the whole enslaving of a species to produce the milk, which is a bummer. Milk is for developing baby mammals, and I am just not quite sure that we should be sucking down a tall cold glass of it as adults. No other adult species on earth does it...but I suppose there is quite a few things we crazy old humans do that other adult animals would wax our you know whats.

About a year ago PETA sent a letter to the owners of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream requesting them to start making human milk ice cream instead of bovine milk ice cream. Granted I am all about the amazing health benefits of human breast milk, but that seems just a little much. Factories of women attached to breast thank you. Ice Cream is better left to teats not tits, although I have tasted breast milk and it is pretty delicious...tastes kinda like vanilla rice milk only not as sweet.

The first documented use of cow milk as food is from the Middle East. India is the largest producer of milk, then the USA, followed by China. In Hindu culture, the Regveda refers to the cow as a goddess and mother of gods. Any animal responsible for cheese should be worshiped as far as I am concerned...and the culture which discovered this use for milk should be idolized. Cheese is one of the greatest gifts a culture could give humanity.

As a family, we don't really drink that much straight milk, but dairy products are an essential part of our diet. We love cheese. Sweet Grass Dairy is one of our farming partners and let me tell you they make some killer artisan cheeses. They are about an hour and half away in Thomasville, GA but we see them at the farmer's market, and get their cheese shipped directly to the restaurant. They ship all over the country and I totally recommend going to their website and seeing if there is a cheese there that strikes your fancy.

We recently received a cheese making kit as a gift, and Chef can't wait to try his hand at it...but that will be another post soon to come!

Good Life Quest # 6/ Cheese Please
Go to the grocery store, or local cheese shop and pick out a cheese you have never tried before. Go home, open it up and take a big whiff. Then take a bite. Then try taking a bite while holding your nose. Notice how different it tastes without being able to smell it. Google the cheese, learn a little bit about it, including perhaps what types of foods or wine it goes well with. Pair it with a recommended food or drink and notice how the flavors play off each other. Try it melted and see how warming it also changes the taste. Enjoy!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Lil' Bit!

It was Lil' Bit's 1st birthday yesterday...and we are having a party on Saturday. It is crab themed for our little Cancerian and I am up to my elbows in googly eyes and coconut cupcakes. I spent yesterday finishing up a journal that I began ten days before she was born. It is my plan to give it to her on her 18th birthday. I had something else I was going to write about today, but I thought in honor of Lil' Bit I would share with you some choice excerpts from the journal. Enjoy!

I woke up to what seemed to be a contraction. I have never had one before, but lower back pain is supposed to be a part of it...and I have never woken up with pain like that before. So I went to the bathroom thinking maybe indigestion? You, little one were moving around in there. According to your clairvoyant great-great aunt, you are to be born tomorrow, June 15. She has prophesied the birth date of all your cousins, so I think we can assume that this is the real deal.

My little girl, you have bucked the prophecy. Sunday came and went. The strawberry moon came and went. The summer solstice is tomorrow. God, I sound like a granola crunching new ager. Right now I am sitting in my favorite coffee shop writing, which is something I love to do and hope one day journaling over a cup of coffee is something we will do together. It is strange how little I have been journaling the past 9 months. My brain has been in a fog of hormones, not raging fierce hormones, but thick milky hormones that have had a humbling effect on my intellect.

Happy Birthday! Born 11:41 am. 8 lbs 10 oz 23 hours and 45 minutes of child birth Au Natural. "Wow that's a big baby!" Exclaimed the midwife upon your entry into the world.

Yesterday we gave her a bath for the first time. Warm water with oatmeal and herbs. She hated every moment of it, writhing about as if she were being water boarded. Then after we bathed her and she had calmed down, I had the brilliant idea to trim her nails. I don't trim my own nails, so Chef did it. I went to clean her bathtub then I heard a shriek of pain. Chef, who is fearless when it comes to bodily fluids, called out to me "Honey! I can't do this!" He had clipped the tip of her finger. I walked in and Lil' Bit was screaming and a yellow shit stain was leaking out from the towel onto Chef's shirt. She had shit herself. It was like some sick GITMO operation. We decided we would never trim them again. Mama would bite them for her just like her mama did when she was a baby.

Today is her one month birthday. Yesterday Chef got a tattoo of a family tree on his back. It was her first trip to a tattoo parlor. I had to breast feed her in the parking lot, shared with a porn shop. A man dressed somewhat like my father, yellow polo shirt untucked over khaki shorts and topsiders walked in. I pulled my baby a little closer and tried not to think about some pervert getting off on my lactation.

It is a funny thing to have someone impatient with your nipples.

Just returned from NYC today. She got her first tooth while we were there. We were having a little dinner party at Momofuku Bassam Grill and I heard a little ding on the glass of water I was sharing with her. First tooth in the Big Apple. She is so gritty.

I was waiting for someone to come out of Super Walmart today and witnessed a woman beaten by a man in the parking lot. I had the baby with me and I just kept my cool as to not alarm her. I called the police, and the operator acted as if this sort of thing happens all the time. Three years ago I would have started blaring on my horn and grabbed my shovel and tried to help the lady...but with the baby my instincts were clear, sharp and alert...not rash at all. The worst part about it was that there was a child there, and another adult watching not doing anything to stop it.

Happy Birthday Lil' Bit! I can't believe you are already one! There is a lot of advice I can give you as a 28 year old woman now that you are 18...but this is the most important. Don't be afraid to follow your passion in life. It may be the road less traveled, but if you do what you love then you will be the best at it. Oh, and try to travel as much as you can before you hit abroad, road trip, sail...the world is one huge adventure just waiting for you to run with it.

Have a great weekend everyone...and check back on Monday for another taste of EcoCulinaire!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Creepy Vines

Vines are wild. I mean really...we have some on the fence at our garden and their determination amazes me. One of our Meyer lemon tree pots is near the fence and the wild vines reach out for it...straining and stretching until they latch on and then inch their way around every branch. I was pulling off a vine from the tree last week and it hit me...there must be some method to a vine's mad twirl maneuvers. I mean they definitely climb with a certain panache.

I recently learned some strange info about that makes me even more aware that plant life does have a mind of its own, and a definite sense of purpose. Vines are die hard plants that search and destroy with their leafy versatile stalks, and even welcomed vines that produce veggies are hardy plants that can survive under rough conditions. They are like the body contortionists of the plant world...a vine can wiggle its way up down and around almost anything.

Twining...the twisting around a support is the one technique used to strangle anything in their path. This is the means in which our particular wild vines have wrapped themselves around our lemon trees. Depending on the species, some vines wrap clockwise...while others twist counterclockwise. It is in their genetic code to one or the other. For example, if I were to plant a Japanese wisteria vine, which only twirls clockwise, and wrap it counterclockwise around a trellis...the plant would unravel itself and then twist itself clockwise up the support. This is a plant with definite intent...a mind of its own.

At 29 South in the winter we grew snow peas and snap peas in the garden. They had little tendrils that would grip the fence that they were trained up. Once a vine's tendril makes contact with a support it can wrap itself around it in less than an hour. It is hard to imagine a plant moving on its own accord with that type of speed, but there it is. Vines are creepy. Some have a sticky cement that oozes out of little roots, while others have mini suction cups, like tentacles. They strangle and crush whole trees...even wooden buildings can perish under their weight. They are a force to be reckoned with.

There are good vines, and there are bad vines. Now at the garden we have six Scuppernong vines tended by Chef and Pete, one of our cooks. The Scuppernong, along with its sister plant the Muscadine, is the Southern vintner's grape of choice. It is about half the size of a golf ball and is absolutely delicious.

We also have three beds of tomato vines...just starting to fruit. A bed of heirlooms, one of an organic hardy variety, and then of course the most incredible tomato ever...the Sungold. This little orange orb seems to glow with the sweet warm juice that fills it. It is one of the best tomatoes you will ever put in your mouth.

Last year, pre-garden, we had some cherry tomato plants pop up out of nowhere near the kitchen. We realized that when the crew hosed down the kitchen mats at night tomato seeds were washed into the grass. Beautiful ruby red cherry tomatoes sprung up, and I think I was the only person to try one do the fact that they were watered with commercial kitchen floor grime combined with a healthy dose of nicotine from our server's smoke breaks. The little toxic tomater tasted fabulous, but I decided that it probably wasn't in my best interest to eat any more.

Have you ever been in a jungle, swamp, or wooded setting that is smothered with vines? It is such an eerie feeling. There is so much life, the big beautiful heart shaped leaves dripping off of all you see, but at the same time under the lush carpet of vine is so much death. Kudzu for example is an alien species that has taken over the South. Originally from Japan, the invasive exotic now covers over 7 million acres of land in the southern USA. Once heralded as a miracle plant for its ability to prevent erosion, it was declared a weed by the USDA in 1972. I didn't realize that plants were actually declared weeds...I guess I just thought they were born that way. Kinda like redheaded step children.

There are even vines that grow away from light, in order to reach the trunk of a tree. That seems to defy the very foundation of what we know about plants. Vines are sneaky snakey little creatures...but they are beautiful. Even the evil invasive ones give a landscape a certain mystique....when you think about a vine as one plant you realize that they are actually huge organisms. But even though they are huge, vines seem like a humble plant. Perhaps that is because they crawl.

Good Life Quest # 5 / Curious Vine Experiment
Find a your yard or on your walk to work...or maybe pick up a little ivy from a local nursery. Train it up a stick, or pole, or fence. If you find a wild vine just take notice of which direction it is growing. Mark on the trellis with a marker where the vine ends. How much has it grown in a week? Clockwise or counter clockwise? Unwind it and wrap it the opposite way. Then give it another week and see what happens...did it right itself? Place something just a few inches away from it and see within a month how the vine inches toward it....strange huh?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pack Animals, Snack Animals

I sometimes feel like I live in a petting zoo. Four indoor/outdoor animals can get more than a little bit hairy at time. Throw a baby in the mix...and it is more than hairy. It is down right furry. I returned from being out of town today to a giant green hair ball on the baby's changing table, a welcome home gift from one of the cats.

Lil' Bit runs with a pack. Clancy, Pumpkin, Mazy, and Pork Chop are a motley crew of animals that she hangs out with all day long. Her posse includes two mutts and two tabby cats and the five of them together are a force to be reckoned with. Two weeks ago she started to grow her canine teeth in solidarity with her carnivorous friends. They are the only two teeth she has on top...our little vamp baby!

The pets play a major role in her daily life. Every morning I bring Lil' Bit downstairs and I fix her a bottle. We plop down on the couch and within 2 minutes, Pork Chop comes bounding into the room up on the coffee table. He waits for Lil' Bit to get done with her milk and then the two of them have their morning petting ritual. The cat climbs onto the couch and lays down just out of reach. She crawls over and slaps him on the back, pounding him five or six times. He loves it.

At least twice a day I find Lil' Bit in the dog bed with Pumpkin and Clancy. She likes to sneak up on them when they are sleeping and poke them in the eyes. Understandably, this torture causes them to get up and hide under the kitchen table. Since she started crawling, when the dogs ran away from her precarious pointer she would just happily follow them where ever they went, totally unaware of the fact they were rejecting her. Two weeks ago that all changed.

Lil' Bit was messing with the pups and they both retreated under the kitchen table. She looked up at me from the middle of the floor as tears welled up in her little eyes. Her tiny pink bottom lip quivered as she let out a cry. It was the cry of first rejection. I had a flash forward to middle school...the bitch clique getting up from the table at the cafeteria leaving her to eat alone. I swooped up my little girl from the tile floor and we both crawled under the kitchen table to confront the dogs.

I took Lil' Bits hand and showed her how to gently stroke the dogs backs, rather than yank on their fur. They sat there patiently during the lesson and then Clancy stood up to scratch his back on the underside of the table. He knocked the baby over, who then resumed crying. C'est la vie. "Shake it off, girl. You are Okay!" That is one lesson to be learned from the pups...and middle school girls for that matter. Sometimes you just have to shake it off.

Lil' Bit exacts her revenge right where it hurts the dogs the most. She likes to taunt them with food. I watch her cruise up to Pumpkin, cracker in hand and wave it in the little dog's mug. When Pumpkin gets close to take a lick, Lil' Bit snatches it away clutching it to her chest. Then she laughs in Pumpkin's face. It is kinda terrible, but hilarious at the same time. More often than not though, Lil' Bit hands over the snack. Pumpkin strikes with a snack attack, tickling Lil' Bit's hand with kisses as she snatches the food. Stealing from the baby.

At meal time the dogs circle like wolves...their eyes lowered to the floor as they wait to pounce on any morsel of food that may drop. Gravity is one of Lil' Bit's favorite toys and her spoon is in constant free fall throughout each meal...regardless if we are at home or in a fine dining establishment. At home I at least have a team of vacuum cleaners willing to lick up the mess...and they do a fine job in the kitchen when Chef is cooking up a storm.

There are perks to having lots of pets. They earn their keep, I suppose. They provide constant amusement for Lil' Bit...entertainment way better than television. If only they could do something about the constant shedding of gather it up and build a nest to sleep in so at least it would be all in one place. There is nothing like brushing your teeth for three minutes only to realize that a dog hair has woven itself into the weave of your tooth's one of those things that happens and you just have to look at your self in the mirror and tell yourself "Shake it off."

*As a side note...the picture above was taken by our good friend Hal. He is a professional racecar photographer and he took this shot of Pumpkin and Clancy at sunset on a visit this spring. It totally captures the two of them perfectly. Pumpkin with her ears all flipped back like the total spazz that she is...and Clancy, Mr. Serious. I love it!

Friday, June 19, 2009

One Too Many

The famous phrase "I have had one too many" can mean a variety of things , but one thing is certain...whatever it refers to has repercussions. For example, I have a friend who went to jail for having one too many speeding tickets. He spent most of his time behind bars devouring romance novels and bologna sandwiches. My mom has had her fare share of skin cancer from having one too many sunburns. Actually, in her case it may have been more like 100 too many sunburns due to basting herself in oil and iodine before roasting in the hot Louisiana sun. Then there is of course, there is the most common too many drinks. Most of us know what that means, and most of us would like to forget.

Cocktails, particularly on ice, can be really tricky. They are cold and refreshing, and can go down quick if you are already thirsty. I have spent many a morning-after trying to pin down exactly what drink put me over the edge. Thinking back, I can recall a number of times when a shot of Jagermeister was the culprit. This is because of two reasons. Number one, it seems to be the choice round of shots a man will buy a group of ladies at a bar that he has never met before as a token of his appreciation. Number two, I think Jager is disgusting and I would never drink it in a million years sober.

Another hazard of cocktail drinking is the intermittent shots of liquor taken in between sipping mixed beverages. The liquor hits your system and next thing you know you have gone from sipping a gin and tonic to trying to take a shot of tequila from the cleavage of a total stranger.

The inevitable outcome of having one too many drinks is the head pounding, stomach churning, cotton mouth hangover. Two years ago, in Napa Valley, Chef had one of the worst hangover experiences of any person's life...and I was there to share it with him.

Every year we go to San Franscisco and Napa to visit family. Lil' Bit's godmother, one of my best friends in the world, Meghan lives there as well as my cousin Sarah. This particular trip was especially fabulous, namely because...drum roll please.... Chef and I had reservations at the French Laundry.

For those of you not familiar with this extraordinary restaurant, let me give you a quick run down. The French Laundry is always rated one of the top five restaurants in the world. Yes, the world. Located in Yountville, Napa Valley CA it housed in what was an old laundry building. Chef/Owner Thomas Keller is an absolute genius. He is the greatest living American culinary artist, and to get a table in his 60 seat dining room is nearly impossible...unless you have the luck of the Nan.

Most people buy their plane tickets to CA after they have secured a reservation there. They plan their entire trip around this experience. Chef and I had already booked our trip, then we decided that we were going to try and get a reservation. To get a reservation at the French Laundry you have to call exactly 2 months in advance to the day you wish to dine there. Their reservation offices open at 10 am sharp, and you better be on point because it fills up within a hour.

The morning of go time, Chef, his dad Poppy, and I all stood at attention...cell phones in hand, The French Laundry number programmed, we hit our send buttons at exactly 10 am PT. For 45 minutes we each kept calling and calling...busy signal after busy signal....until finally I got through! "I'm in!" I yelled to the boys as if I had just cracked the vault at Ft. Knox. I managed to secure the last reservation available...a 2 top at 11:30 am. At the French Laundry you take whatever you can get.

The night before our big day we went to dinner in Calistoga with Meghan and Sarah...and then we went to have a few drinks at Hydro Bar and Grill. Here Chef rediscovered his love for the Negroni. It was one of those drinks he hadn't had in a while, and he and the dazzling pink cocktail made of Campari, sweet vermouth and gin made up for lost time that evening.

The next morning, Chef could barely get out of bed. He is one of those people who gets the skull crushing headache hangover. After taking 4 Ibuprofen he dragged himself into the shower and managed to get dressed. It is a 45 minute drive from Calistoga to Yountville, and by the time we arrived at the Laundry his headache had subsided, but his stomach was in no mood for food.

For a chef, to eat at the French Laundry is like making a pilgrimage to Mecca. For Chef to have even the slightest hangover on this occasion was totally tragic but at $300.00 a plate tragic would have been an was downright apocalyptic. The 8 course meal (actually 12 once Chef Corey Lee the Chef de Cuisine had thrown in all his extras) is a perfectly constructed masterpiece from start to finish. Once we were seated and our service captain introduced himself, Chef's tummy had settled down enough to eat but even a sip of wine was out of the question. I ordered myself a half bottle of viognier and we both hunkered down for what was one of the best meals of our lives.

For the first 20 minutes we both found ourselves whispering to each other, as if we were witnessing something sacred. I asked Chef, "Why are we whispering?" We both laughed. Poor Chef...he looked like crap. He managed to get through the meal, and afterward we were invited for a short tour of the kitchen...which is another blog post unto itself.

This weekend enjoy a good cocktail or two. In the hot season it is easy to suck down one too many. What I do is drink a glass of water for every cocktail after my second round. It slows me down and gives me a moment to clear my head a bit...and to be honest hangovers just aren't the same when you live with a 1 year old.

Good Life Recipe #5 / Tuscan Lemonade / Alli Sobel,

Mixologist, La Tavola Trattoria
*One of Chef's southern cousins, Alli Sobel is a Mixologist and fantastic artist from Atlanta. You can check out her work at She took the lovely picture above..
This is her recipe for what I think is one of the best summertime cocktails ever! It is so crisp and refreshing...enjoy!

  • Limoncello (You can get this gorgeous liquor from the Amalfi Coast at most liquor stores. It is an essential spring/summer addition to any liquor cabinet.)
  • Sprite/7 up
  • Soda Water
  • Lemon
Mix a healthy shot of limoncello with a splash of Sprite and soda water to taste. Add two lemon wedges. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Peelin' Peas

Chef loves to tell this story about a dinner he cooked for the Swedish Embassy. He was asked to cook with Chef Christer Lingstrom, the first Scandinavian chef to be awarded a Michelin Star. They prepped for the meal, and the soup Chef made was a saffron mussel consomme with Maine lobster, Valencia orange, and peas. The peas were the garnish. Chef Lingstrom asked Chef how he was doing on the soup course and he said he was about done...just had to add the peas.

"Are you going to peel the peas?" Chef Lingstrom asked.

Chef looked at him in disbelief and said "Are you kidding me?"

The response: "It is the difference between having a Michelin star or not having one."

For the next 3 hours the two chefs and a sous chef peeled peas, and from that day forward any time he cooks a meal of that caliber he peels the peas. Or has someone else do me and my two pals from North Carolina.

It was the night before the big feast party and the peas for the second course, lobster, paperdelle, and peas, had to be peeled. Chef mentioned it to the ladies, both true Southerners used to shelling beans shrugged it off...

"Peel peas, no problem."

We decided the best course of action for dinner was takeout, so Claire, Emily, and I went and grabbed a pizza from Moon River. Located in a little strip mall shared with a gas station and dive bar, this pizza joint makes the best pies in this entire region of Florida.

It was going to be 20 minutes before the pizza was done, so we decided to have a drink at the dive bar next door. The bar had just installed a stripper pole and the dancers were going on their second night of performances. It was early, and there was two men and a woman repairing the stage. We sat at the bar and I ordered a whiskey and ginger. Sports were blaring down at us from the big screen TV, and all the pool tables were empty. The bartender, a lady dressed in an outfit comprised of mostly fishnet stockings, handed me my drink. There were 3 flies in it.

I can handle one bug, no probs. A little protein right? But 3? I sent it back, and the stripper was horrified. She poured me an extra stiff one as an apology. As we sat there, sipping on our drinks, a middle aged man with a pony tail sat down next to me. He was the day-time bartender and his pick up line was to ask us if we wanted a chance to make some cash and dance. We all laughed at the proposition, and politely declined. This guy was not about to let us off the hook that easily. As any good bartender should be...this fella was a talker.

I have this uncanny way of drawing bizarre personal information from total strangers. For the next fifteen minutes, the time it takes to bake a pizza, this bartender, late 40ish in a tank top and shorts, told me a good chunk of his life story. The guy used to write when he was younger. He wrote short stories, mostly horror. His mother, an English teacher, didn't understand the ending of one of his stories so he stopped writing. This still bothered him.

I learned that he was divorced and remarried, but was having issues. I have noticed that most married men you meet in a bar have these issues. His new wife said he could go find himself a 23 year old and get laid to get it out of his system...and then he asked me my age. I took a sip of my drink and told him he was 5 years too late. The conversation took a wrong turn about there.

The next thing I knew, he said something about us dancing with the lady behind the bar. He thought that I would make a great secretary routine, and I retorted that I preferred the sassy librarian character. He told me he had sex with the high school librarian as well as his French teacher. Then began motioning with his hand to his crotch. At that point I turned to the ladies and said, "I think our pizza is ready." We downed our drinks and left.

We picked up our pizza...a white pizza with pesto, eggplant, and well as a traditional marinara pie topped with artichokes and spinach, then headed home. I opened a bottle of Grenache and we sat down at the kitchen table. Chef put a bowl of peas and an empty bowl down in front of us. Emily gasped. "Shoot, I thought you meant shelling peas!" As a southern lady she thought she had this project in the bag...but alas, these were little green English peas that needed peeling.

The secret to peeling peas is to puncture the skin with your nail and then gently pop the pea out from its shell, without letting the pea split in two. We sat and yacked and peeled and drank, and within an hour and a half we had peeled enough for the meal. There was something wonderfully old fashioned about sitting with women at a table doing monotonous work, chattering away.

As we sat there I had the marvelous revelation that peeling peas would make a wonderful punishment for Lil' Bit when she was a bit older. Chef thought that was a grand idea. After I voiced this idea, I thought to myself that it seemed a little sick to be planning punishments for our child so far in advance. What kind of mother does that make me?

We had peeled half the bowl's worth when Chef said we could call it quits. Claire and I decided to peel a few more for good measure. Honestly, it was just nice to do something with my hands while we sat and talked. It made the time spent a little more meaningful in a way.

I knew that the following day, nobody at the dinner would notice the peas peeled unless Chef mentioned it. But, it was still worth doing. It is the little touches that push something fantastic over the edge to incredible, kind of like adding a strip pole to a dive bar. It's just that little something extra that shows you care.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feast Party

There is a dinner party, and then... there is a feast party. Last Sunday we had twenty people over for an eight course meal. That classifies as feast party.

Feast Party: any meal served at a table, where either the number of courses served, or number of people attended is in the double digits.

I love a good old fashioned feast party. Humans have been celebrating by feast for thousands of years, and there is nothing like sharing an enormous meal over a big table with good people. It seems like in the past half century feast parties, where people actually sit down and eat a meal together, have begun to wane due to the buffet and barbecue trends...which have their own perks. Only wedding celebrations seem to have managed to preserved the feast party tradition.

Chef decided he wanted to throw a feast party in appreciation for all of our staff at 29 South. They take such good care of him throughout the year, and he thought they deserved something special. When Chef is invited to cook fancy dinners at $300 a plate, he cooks a much different meal than what our staff sees at 29 South. As a thank you, he created a spectacular Italian feast, fit for a king. Each of the 8 courses was paired with a wine off our wine list at the restaurant...needless to say...lots of plates, lots of glasses, lots of cleaning.

There are two types of feast parties, one where you hire a chef who comes in cooks, cleans and leaves at the end of the night has if he had never been there...and then there is the other type...the feast party where you live with a chef. The latter is a whole different animal.

Prep for a feast party usually begins five days before the event. This is when ingredients start arriving from our various purveyors...and begin to take over our kitchen. The fridge, freezers, and counter tops all become storage places for a wild variety of food that is all to be eaten in five days time. About a week before the event I will try to clean out our fridge of as much food and drink as possible, to make room for the invasion. As the fridge fills up it is a crazy balancing act of food stacked as high as the shelves allow. Giant tubs of duck fat, flats of eggs, whole rabbits, is no laughing matter. Trying to get my coffee creamer out in the morning is like playing a tricky game of Jenga, where if you remove one block the whole thing comes tumbling down. The worst part of it is that every time I take something out, and put it all back, inevitably the fridge door won't close...then I have to try again.

Chef started cooking on a Wednesday for the party on Sunday. He began his prep with making braised veal cheeks at 6 pm, finishing them around midnight. I was glad he began with this dish, because it was by far my least favorite thing to have to clean up and I was happy to get it done first. I don't eat baby animals, much less their sweet little cheeks. I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere, right? As I scrubbed the pan he seared them in, and then the pot in which they stewed for hours it was all I could do not to think of Lil' Bit and her soft snugly jowls.

On Thursday, Chef finished the truffle, picholine olive ice cream. He was one day behind on this course due to a truffle crisis. Chef never likes to buy canned anything, but the truffle was for ice cream, and there was a chance he would have to throw it out if it didn't work. He opened the can clearly labeled that it contained truffles, and poured it over a strainer. Much to his dismay, not a single truffle came out. Just mushroom juice running down the drain. After a heated discussion with the purveyor he purchased it through the consensus was that the can had been mislabeled. Ooops. Chef had to wait until the next morning for a new can to arrive.

It turned out that he didn't have to trash the ice cream. In fact, it was one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. Lil' Bit gobbled down her share...what a palette that kid must have. He served it over a Meyer lemon tart that was to die for. When it came time for me to clean up after this course...I was glad to lick the bowl.

I would estimate that during the prep work for any feast party I clean our kitchen at least three times a day...and I am not talking about just loading the dishwasher. It is like full blown A bomb went off in my kitchen ,and I must wade through the aftermath just to find my sponge at the bottom of a sink gurgling with toxic sludge. The things we do for love.

Luckily this time around I had a little help. Claire and Emily, two girlfriends from NC, just happened to be spending a lil' beach time with us last weekend. They were amazing...I would have been screwed without them. They cleaned, they cooked, and they hung out with Lil' Bit...they were like superheros.

One of the greatest gifts of them being here that weekend is the pictures. Emily is an amazing freelance photographer, and she shot the whole feast from prep to plate. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I am going to wrap this up with the photo documentary of the event. If you want to see more of Emily's work check it out at She is fabulous.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Good Company

Chef and I love to have company. Many of our local friends tell us we should just open a B&B considering how many people we have come visit. For example, this year between Memorial Day weekend and the third week of June we will have had six rounds of company. That averages to more than one round a week. When you live near the beach and have a guest room, summer time visitors become part of your routine.

Each round of company is completely different from the next. Some of our guests are up and moving by 7 am, and others have trouble dragging themselves out of bed before noon. We have visitors that bring junk food to satisfy their cravings, and others that bring liquor to make specialty drinks. Some people will eat like animals, scarfing down anything we put in front of them, others are more picky. I am proud to report that last week, Claire, a college girlfriend of mine, ate seafood for the first time in over a was a dish called Pappardelle con Aragosta e Piselli, which is fresh made pappardelle pasta nests with lobster and peas. We were glad to share the mega milestone for the longtime vegetarian.

One thing is for sure, we are going to eat well and eat plenty when visitors come to town. Company calls for at least one feast at the restaurant, and one feast at home. Chef's objective is to put all visitors into what we call a food coma at least once during their time with us. He loves to share his art with friends, and I love to have an excuse to totally indulge without guilt.

We often give our visitors directions to the beach, or the state park and let them venture off on their own. That is the key to being able to really enjoy house guests. They are here for vacation, and we try to strike a balance between relaxing with them and doing the business of our daily lives. Most of the time this works out best for all involved, but on one particular visit things went terribly wrong.

J is a fantastic artist that lives in Charlotte, NC and a dear friend from college. Three years ago he called me and asked if he could come visit. He had met an
older woman a few months before on a road trip in the Grand Canyon, and he wanted to have a romantic rendezvous with her on Amelia Island. This proposition sounded entertaining, so Chef and I obliged. At the time we were not yet living together, so Chef let J and his lady friend stay in his loft while he crashed at my house.

The first day of their island getaway, I had to work. I was running an art gallery at the time, so I gave the couple directions to the beach over breakfast and made plans to meet up with them for dinner. They had not returned any of my phone calls that day, and I was beginning to worry. I knew they had gone to the beach, and that was it. It was 8 hours later before I heard from them again.

Finally, around 6 pm, J called me and told me they were downtown. He sounded a little tipsy. I went to meet them and found the couple drunk, splayed out on the main dock of the downtown marina. J was not wearing a shirt, his long headbanger hair a tangled mess, while the lady friend was in a similar state in her bikini top and short shorts, sunburned and looking a little saucy. Other tourists, nice squeaky clean tourists, stepped around the two degenerates laid out on the cement docks. People were staring.

I looked at them and said, "What happened to you two? You have to get up!" They looked at me with glazed eyes and began to laugh. "Guys, this is sooo not San Diego. You can't just lay on the ground on the waterfront here. " The two slowly picked themselves off the ground and J said, "You will not believe the day we have had."

Over a beer at the Palace Saloon, he told me what had happened. J and his lady set off for the beach. They picked up some beer and some snacks on the way. When they arrived and they set up camp in the sand. The blazing Florida heat was unbearable, so the couple decided to cool off in the sea. As they made their way into the water, J stepped on a stingray and its spiked barb stabbed him in the foot. At the time J wasn't exactly sure what happened. He just knew that he had been attacked by some sea monster, and he had to try to keep his cool in order to impress his lady friend.

He told her that it was nothing to worry about, and that she should enjoy her swim. He limped back onto the beach and plopped down on his towel. Blood was pouring out of his foot. As he watched her swim the searing pain began to creep up his leg...until, as he put it "I could feel it in my balls and that was it."

They packed up their stuff and went to the emergency room. The doctor treated J's wound, and gave him a Tetanus shot. Two hours later they were back in J's little white pickup truck on their way to the beach. Desperately needing a beer, the couple each cracked a cold one in the truck. It seemed like the worst was over as the two discreetly sipped on the brewskis, cruising to the beach. Then J noticed the flashing lights in his rear view mirror. A cop was pulling him over.

The lady stashed the beers under a towel at her feet. J was a nervous wreck as the police man approached his window. His registration sticker had expired on his license plate. "License, registration, and insurance please." The cop said. Earlier, in an effort to "clean his truck up" for his lady friend, he had stashed all of the new insurance paperwork under his seat. He reached under his seat to retrieve it, and the cop started yelling at him.

"Keep your hands where I can see them!" He thought J was reaching for a gun. J threw his hands into the air. "I was just getting my insurance papers! Don't shoot." The cop was now on guard. He let J slowly get the papers out from under his seat. The police officer took them to his car and wrote J a ticket. He drove off, and the two set off again on their way to the beach.

The couple set up camp again in the sand and cracked open a few more beers. Drinking is a no-no on our beaches here. As they joked about their day, a booming voice came out of nowhere yelling J's name. J jumped up to see the same police officer trudging through the sand heading toward him on the beach. For a moment he thought he was going to be arrested, but it turned out the officer had forgotten to give J back his license. They had a polite exchange, and the officer went on his way. J and his lady quickly downed whole six pack to steady their nerves and about an hour later met me downtown at the marina.

Hearing their story I couldn't believe that someone could have so much bad luck in one day. Luckily, the two had a great sense of humor and spent the rest of the evening laughing it off. It was a great story and the rest of the weekend went on without a hitch. It was amazing to see two people who barely know each other go through a day like that and still be in good spirits. They were bound and determined not to let their time together be ruined by random happenstance. Chef and I were just glad that we didn't have to bail anyone out of jail, and that it was a stingray and not a shark that attacked J.

J is the first of two house guests to have been accosted by venomous sea life while visiting. Chef's 8 year old nephew Charlie got stung by a jelly fish. They were at the beach at the Ritz, and Chef's solution was to pour a shot of vodka on the sting to disinfect it. He saw it on Mythbusters or something. Probably would not have been my course of action, but I was not there, so who am I to judge. He walked up to the tiki bar, bought a shot of the cheapest vodka they had and poured it on poor Charlie's arm. The little fella bellowed out an agonizing scream as the liquor hit the sting, and threw himself into the pool to stop the burning. Needless to say, Chef felt beyond terrible.

Recently J dropped me a line and said he was thinking about paying us a visit. Brave man. With each round of company there is always an adventure of some sort. When people go on vacation they seem to attract new experiences of all kinds, and when they share their vacation with us we are always surprised at how each visit brings about something exciting. We have three more rounds of company to go this month, and I can't wait to see what happens next!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

House Plants, Friend or Foe?

I love indoor plants. If I walk into a person's house and they have a lot of plants, I immediately feel comfortable. Plants make a space feel so much more warm and alive. In our house, if the room has a window, the room has a plant. But that wasn't always the case.

Growing up we didn't have many plants in our home. My mom worked full time, and it wasn't until she retired that she became more plant savvy. In fact, she considered herself to have black thumbs up until recently. I thought black thumbs were hereditary, and didn't feel able to raise a plant on my own until I went to college. One of my roommates, Kate, had a collection of over 20 house plants. She went on a six month road trip and asked me to care for her little green friends. I was nervous at first, but soon realized that water and partial sun was all they needed to thrive. I only lost one plant during the winter, and soon thereafter began my own plant family.

Right now I have 13 plants indoors and about 25 on my porches. Does that make me a crazy plant lady? I hope so. It can take me up to a half an hour to water them all. Each plant has its own personality, some sit solid all juicy and succulent, some reach to the sky, poky and prickly, some are loose and wild leafy vines, others are tall and stoic like little trees. Each one is a living thing, not just a piece of decor that requires more upkeep. It may sound strange, but each plant is such a thoughtful presence, and I can't imagine my life without them in it.

Lil' Bit's presence in our home has changed our house plant dynamic. The once seemingly innocent plants now have taken on a more ominous presence, thanks to Lil' Bit's oral fixation. The other day Lil' Bit let out a weird cough. I was cleaning the kitchen as she played on the floor and at first I just thought she was just clearing her throat. Then she let out another one. My mommy alert radar went off and I put down the sponge and went to her. She turned red and her eyes began to water. My heart was racing. There is nothing worse than watching a baby choke when you don't know what it is in her throat. She was still coughing, so I knew that she could get it up, so I just picked her up and began patting her back. After a terrifying 30 seconds, Lil' Bit hacked up a random dead leaf.

Prior to this episode I had never considered any of our house plants as being edible. I purchased each one solely for aesthetic purposes, and don't even know the names of half of them. This experience with Lil' Bit made me think about the fact that there is a good chance that some of them could be poisonous. I did a little research, and sure enough...some of my chlorophyllcomrades are lethal. Here is a list of five common household plants that are toxic:
  1. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum): The sap of this diplomatic plant is dangerous.
  2. English Ivies (Hedra spp): Be wary of the sap and seeds of this vine.
  3. Crotons (Codiaeum sp): The brightly colored leaves and sap are sickly.
  4. Caladium (all species): This innocuous little leafy plant is trouble...all parts of it.
  5. Snake Plant (Sanseveria): The tall variegated leaves and sap of this plant are venomous.
The more I began to think about my house plants, I began to wonder what kind of science was out there concerning indoor plants. Turns out there are all kinds of studies that show the benefits of having plants indoors. For example, while some plants are toxic, others remove toxins. NASA recently did a study and found that there are a number of common indoor plants that are amazingly useful in absorbing indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde, VOCs, carbon monoxide, as well as other toxins that can make us sick. The top five plants that create cleaner air indoors are:
  1. Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens): Also known as the "Butterfly Palm."
  2. Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa): This species is one of the easiest palms to grow.
  3. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii): Also known as the "Reed Palm."
  4. Rubber Plant (Ficus robusta): Grows great indoors, and can get up to 8' tall.
  5. Dracaena "Janet Craig" (Dracaena deremensis): Easy to grow and love bright light.
There are also plants that are great for healing. A number of studies done in the past few years show that having plants in a room decreases the stress levels of the people inhabiting them, as well as increases their creativity. Aside from benefiting from the mere presence of a plant, there are many that can be used for their healing properties. I am fair and freckly, and living in Florida it is a miserable combination. I always have an aloe plant on hand to help with the inevitable sunburn. It lives in my bathroom window. Here is a list of four other plants that do well indoors, that have healing properties.
  1. Mint: Mint grows like a weed and its leaves make a wonderful cure for tummy aches.
  2. Yarrow: This plant likes full sun and it is used to treat fevers and chest congestion.
  3. Lemon Balm: A tea made from lemon balm leaves is a great stress reliever.
  4. Sage: This is a great culinary herb that when gargled as a tea can soothe sore throats.
I am really tempted to get rid of all of my decorative plants and go totally functional. But I honestly can't bare to do it. Some of these plants have traveled with me from house to house over the years, and in a lot of ways they make a new place feel like home. We have history together...and they may just be eye candy, but even bimbo plants have feelings too.

Good Life Quest # 4 / Pick a Plant
Find a room in your home that has a window, but does not have a plant. Go to your local nursery, or root around outside of your house, and find a plant you would like to invite to live with you. Adopt the plant, bring it home. Put it in a nice pot, thrift stores are great places to find cheap planters. Set it near the window and give it a good drink. Does the room feel better than it did before?

Monday, June 8, 2009

When it Rains it Pours

When I was a child I used to pass by strawberry fields on my way to school. From the cool comfort of my mom's luxury sedan I would watch Hispanic families climb from the back of pick up trucks and join others crouched over the endless rows of berries. On the far end of the field stood the living quarters for the workers. The one story cinder block building did not have any windows or doors. I asked my mom why this was and she said, "There is no good reason why they do not have windows and doors. It is wrong. They should have them just like our house does."

As a kid, I used to think about what it would be like to live there. When we drove home from school there was always a good chance that we would get caught in an afternoon thunderstorm. I would look across the empty fields to the migrant workers quarters and wonder if the rain blew in to their homes. I would imagine the families all gathered on the windowless side of the room, trying to stay dry.

My life was so far removed from the migrant worker's reality. As a child, I witnessed how they spent their mornings five days a week and it really opened my eyes to a hidden culture of people living in my area, a culture built around food. Chef and I are members of the Slow Food Movement, which is an international movement that originated in Italy in an effort to celebrate and preserve the heritage and culture of food. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine and I went to our local chapter's meeting in St. Augustine to hear a panel discussion on food justice.

It was a rainy night, in fact the entire week before had been one continual thunderstorm. While Lil' Bit and I enjoyed this weather snuggled down at home taking naps and reading books, the farmers in our region had an entirely different experience. This once in a generation weather system caused floods throughout Florida. At the 29 South garden we lost a few squash and zucchini seedlings, but that was just a drop in the bucket compared to the farming communities across the state. I always think about how rain makes everything spring up out of the ground. For example, much to Chef's dismay, one good rain can seemingly double the height of freshly mowed grass in our yard. The reality is though, rain can actually be pretty detrimental to farming vegetables.

The rain can make or break a crop. In healthy amounts it nourishes the plants and allows for a great grow season. But too much rain is a bad thing. If the soil gets sopping wet, a farmer has to wait for it to dry out a bit before seeding his fields. This delay can throw off an entire season's crop plan. If the plants are already in the ground too much water can cause them to rot. Imagine what it would be like to look over thousands of acres of drowned plants that you and your work crew tended and nurtured for over half a year. No matter how hard you shake your fists at the sky, the weather answers to no one. Farmers are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

In our region, potatoes are a huge crop in the late spring, early summer. In fact, so many potatoes are grown during this period that for one month every year most all potatoes served in the USA east of the Mississippi are grown in Florida. These root veggies are planted and nurtured all year long for harvest. This year a freak weather system left a bath of destruction. Thousands of acres of land were swamped and the farmers in our area lost about $45 million dollars worth of potatoes.

Now usually I would just hear about this disaster on the news and equate it to a price bump in potatoes, but the Slow Food meeting put this event into a totally different context. Bill Hamilton, one of the founders of Slow Food First Coast said that thousands of migrant workers hired for harvest had no work because of the floods, and the farmers that support them with shelter and food were trying their best to meet their needs. This was hard for the farmers, because many had taken out loans to get through the grow season with the plan to make the monies back after harvest.

I was listening to Mr. Hamilton talk about the plight of migrant workers in this state, when suddenly the saturated taters brought me back to memories of my childhood. I thought about the migrant workers in my community in Southwest Florida. They had so little, but yet worked so hard. What would these people do if they lost the opportunity to work? It is not like they can apply for unemployment, or easily go get a part time job somewhere to make ends meet.

I began thinking about ways for the damaged potatoes to be put to use, so the farmers would be able to sell them. What if the school board bought them all at half price for all the 1st grade classrooms in the state to make potato stamps? Or they could use them as an intro to woodcarving for middle school shop class. What could I do as a consumer to support our local potato farms? The first thought that came to mind was to make a mess of potato salad from fresh local spuds. It is a small gesture, but a delicious one at that.

Good Life Recipe # 4: French Potato Salad / Ina Garten
*Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa, has incredible recipes. Chef always recommends her cookbooks to people looking for simply prepared, delicious food. This recipe came from her book, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

Serves 4 to 6

Bulleted List
  • 1 pound of small white boiling potatoes
  • 1 pound of small red boiling potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of good dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons of champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 10 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of minced scallions
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chiffonade of fresh basil leaves (roll the leaves like a cigar and slice thin, chiffonade means shred)
  • Drop the white and red potatoes into a large pot of boiling salt water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes until they are just cooked through
  • Drain in colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes
  • As soon as you can handle them, cut in half (quarters of the potatoes if they are larger) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with wine and chicken stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.
  • Combine the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion.
  • Add the scallions, dill parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, June 5, 2009

To Market, To Market

Sometimes the grocery store weirds me out. I think about archaeologists 1000 years from now (assuming we make it that long), and how they will find the ruins of our marketplaces. What would they write about them for high school text books? Perhaps they would read something like this:

"The people would travel by automobiles to a concrete block building that served as their marketplace which they called a grocery store. These buildings were similar to bunkers, but for a few windows near the door and the pleasant music piped throughout the marketplace to provide the people with a more pleasurable experience. There, they would trade paper and metal coins as currency for food. Various foods from around the world and nation would travel thousands of kilometers by ship and truck to the marketplace. Most of these foods were corn-based, and once they reached the market they were displayed in a petroleum product called plastic, or cardboard that was made from the bark of now extinct trees, such as Pine." Plastic and cardboard would be the vocab words for the pop quiz.

I find outdoor markets to be so much more alive than shopping at the grocery store. Maybe that's because it is the setting in which humans have gathered food for thousands of years. When I am at the grocery store I feel like everything seems just a little gray under the artificial light, and even though I live in a small town where everyone knows everyone, I find myself trying to avoid eye contact with people as I maneuver Lil' Bit down the aisles. I mainly stick to the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid the center aisles where delectable treats from my childhood such as Oreos, Cheetos and other junk foods lurk. They try to ambush me at the register, but I usually manage to squeeze my way past their watchful eye without succumbing to their temptation. 

The Fernandina Beach Farmers Market is suuuchhh a preferable experience...shoot, any farmers market or roadside stand would be. There is something so refreshing about strolling through our farmers market and perusing the baskets of fresh veggies and citrus in the morning breeze. As you walk down the little side street where farmers and vendors peddle their wares under little white canopies, you can hear people discuss how a particular cheese is made, or laughing over the shape of a tomato. When was the last time you heard a full blown belly laugh at the grocery store? People would look at me like I was nuts if I burst into chuckles in the produce aisle, Ugly Ripe tomato in hand. 

Over 1000 people visit our farmers market every Saturday. That is like 1/10 of the entire island's population and Lil' Bit and I always run into someone we know. We try to go there every week in order to buy a few things that will last until the next visit. Fresh bread, veggies, citrus, cheese, milk, beef, pork, flowers, fresh pasta, amazes me the variety of vendors we have at our little market. Sometimes I feel like you are at a mini food festival because there is always a live folk band playing and as the music mingles with the smell of fresh tamales and crab cakes, well my spirit just can't help but be lifted.

There is a little wiry Dutch lady who sells the most beautiful plants, and a sweet older man and a young lady whom I suspect is his daughter that grow the most beautiful orchids you have ever laid your eyes on. There a a few old farming families that sell conventionally grown veggies, and also a nice couple with a small organic farm peddling their wares. I can't forget to mention the ice cream truck from which a fella hawks local shrimp and fish, and there is even a lady that sells homemade dog biscuits. There is truly something for everyone. 

One of the biggest benefits of shopping at the farmers market is that it is easy on the pocket book. The average piece of food in the USA travels 4,000-6,000 miles from its origin to your plate. Needless to say there is a lot of overhead involved in that type of travel, and the food is so far from fresh it is shocking. For example, the eggs at the grocery store can be up to 2 months old sitting on the shelf.  Yuck.

Buying better tasting, fresh food for less isn't the only plus...although it is a pretty great one. If we eat just one locally produced meal a week it is the equivalent of cutting green house gas emissions by 1,000 miles per year. And we are supporting the local economy to boot! All those farmers and vendors that live in our areas, will in turn take that money and spend it in our community at places like our restaurant! It is really a win, win situation. 

People that live in big cities have all sorts of open air markets to shop at, but even those of us that live in tiny little po-dunk border towns like Fernandina most likely have a farmer's market nearby. It is such a wonderful way to learn about our food and connect with its heritage the culture which surrounds it. And maybe, just maybe, if we all made a greater of an effort to shop at the farmers market the history books of the future might read a little differently.

Good Life Quest # 3 / Explore the Farmers Market 
Check out a farmers market near you at
Go, learn, and enjoy your local food culture and heritage in your area.  Buy enough food for at least one complete meal.  Cook it...and then go to the grocery store and buy a similar meal.  Cook it...and think about the difference between the two. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Alive and Well

In the garden we laid down this fantastic biodegradable mulch, which is basically a special paper, to suppress the crazy weeds that are trying to take over. And when I say crazy, I mean crazy. There is one prickly little weed that stings like a jelly fish. Rolo calls this weed "mala mujer" which translates from Spanish into "bad woman." After I had my first run in with this trampy little plant, I decided that definite action needed to be taken to tame the unsavory vegetation in our garden.

The mulch is an act of preventative medicine, so to speak. Eliot Coleman, the handsome brilliant guru of organic farming discusses in his book The New Organic Grower, if you keep your plants well watered, give them plenty of space to breathe, and sunlight then they will not fall prey to pests. Mr. Coleman explains that bugs or fungus will attack a plant that is stressed by improper care, whether it be choked by weeds, or dehydrated, or over watered for that matter.

How can we apply this philosophy about organic farming to our own lives? I think there is a parallel between his theory about plants and pests and the human being. All too often our lives seem crowded with stress, and we neglect our well being.  This leads to the our bodies becoming weakened and susceptible to illness.

I have an example to share from my own life. On Halloween 2002, I tore the meniscus in my knee at a party. It was one of those nights when everything was telling me not to leave the house. I was in a terrible mood, mainly due to all the stress in my life. It was near my senior college examinations, my thesis was due, and the non profit organization that I was running at the time was struggling. I should have stayed home and knocked out some work, relaxed and enjoyed Trick or Treaters, but Halloween is a holiday that I enjoy celebrating more than most and I was determined to go out and dance. Dressed as a super hero, namely Super Fly, there was nothing neither super nor fly with the terrible spill I took on the dance floor. Note to self: Jack D and platform shoes don't mix.

I awoke the next morning and my left knee was swollen and would not bend. I went to an orthopedic surgeon who told me that I needed surgery. Knee surgery frightened me. Everyone I had ever talked to who has had orthopedic surgery, more often than not have had to have multiple surgeries. The doctor wrote me prescription for physical therapy and sent me back to school until exams were over. At the time, I had a part-time job at a preschool in Asheville, NC and one of the mothers there was a physical therapist, specializing in Integrated Manual Therapy (IMT). She offered to treat me.

The first day she told me, “The human body has an amazing capacity to heal itself.” The sessions consisted of her placing her hands on different parts of my body for different intervals of time. My homework was to sit with one hand on my heart and one on my knee for twenty minutes a day, and to do the same with one hand on my kidneys and one on my knee. Crazy, huh? Trust me, I was skeptical at first, but I would try anything to avoid surgery. Six months of IMT, along with poultices of Comfrey, known in Chinese medicine as “the bone setter plant,” I returned to the orthopedic surgeon. He did an MRI and told me with great surprise in his voice, “I don’t know what you have been doing, but your cartilage has healed itself.” I took great joy in telling him that I had been crushing leaves and making poultices and the therapy which had done nothing more than stimulate the circulation in my body allowing it to heal itself.

Chef thinks I am nuts when I tell this story. His idea of preventative medicine is to take antibiotics at the first sign of a sniffle. Me, I am a great believer in mind over matter. I did not believe surgery was my only option for healing; therefore it was not the only option. I instead spent 40 minutes a day relaxing in bed, which never would have happened if I had not hurt my knee. Looking back, that time I devoted to doing my therapy at home did more for me than just heal my knee, it also allowed me a little time each day to rest during a very stressful time in my life.

Like a plant that is crowded with weeds, parched for water, or not getting enough sun, a human that is overwhelmed with stress will become weakened physically, becoming more susceptible to illness. It is up to each one of us to make sure we give ourselves the space, water, and sun we need to stay it preventative medicine.

Good Life Read # 2/ The New Organic Grower By Eliot Coleman

*this is a fantastic book for anyone interested in organic vegetable growing.  It is geared to small farms or large gardens in some ways, but it is so full of information that can be applied to the smallest veggie patch.