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What happened is: I had a baby. Then another. Now those babies are riding bikes, reading books, and reprogramming my phone. We moved for more space, and then again because of traffic. Through it all, I kept my day job. So we get ingredients where we can. We need broccoli, spinach and lemons—that’s the grocery by my work. We want pork shoulder, that’s the fancy store near school.

Some moms work full time, attend every soccer game, and serve their family beautiful vegetables from the CSA every evening. I’m happy when we eat a meal sitting down. Maybe when the kids are through college and we retire to our farmstead, we’ll become locavores again.

But we still cook from scratch, because it turns out you have to feed children every day. And home cooking is the most reasonable way for all of us to eat good food without spending more money than we make. We don’t run a restaurant, so what we make for breakfast or dinner needs to work for grown ups, too.

When the babies were five months old, it was about creating taste blobs of pureed green beans and minced pork chop, with ingredients cribbed from the grown up dinner. It was also about having less than zero time for grocery shopping, and needing to bang out a tasty, healthy meal in fifteen minutes. A couple years hence, it was about sitting down together to eat food everyone would enjoy, such as grilled teriyaki salmon, rice, and broccoli. And making dinner in twenty minutes.

My kids were reluctant eaters, especially with new flavors and textures. It took a year of sampling dozens of foods over and over for my daughter to become less skeptical. Now at eight she enjoys everything—or “everything except eggplant,” as she says. The other is still kind of finicky about what goes in his mouth. But both will eat sushi anytime, anywhere. They devour dim sum and fried rice and pad kee mao without hot chiles, known as ‘noodle whip’ in our house. They could subsist on ramen.

A couple years ago my kids rejected that childhood staple, boxed mac ‘n cheese. (Annie’s).

“It’s just not very good,” my son said. “Ours is a lot better.”

I was proud of my mac, prouder of his palette.

They love playing in the kitchen. Over the years kitchen play has morphed into rolling out pasta dough for ravioli, making pizza from scratch, and when we have time, making an entire dinner together. My daughter learned fractions from baking banana bread. And just like it says in the parenting books, they will eat everything they cook.

The five year old, the ‘fussy’ eater, is serious about his farming and knows a ripe plum from one that’s three days too early. He grows beans and zucchini and cucumbers in our the community garden, and he eats everything he grows except tomatoes, which he gives to his sister. He was willing to try parsley this summer, because we grew it.

Of course it’s better to eat local: the ingredients are uber-fresh and harvested close to their peak, so the flavors are more sophisticated and interesting and just better. It’s just not always the reality of life with a family, a job, and a desire for basic sanity. But flexing to life as it is, rather than what you wish it was, that’s the essence of parenting. And I wouldn’t give up eating sushi with my children, anytime, anywhere, for anything in the world.


Garden Carnage

A pair of rampaging moose put an exclamation point on the end of our 2011 growing season this morning.

Moose absolutely love brassicas, and these two made a meal out of our remaining cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and pea plants. The loss of the sprouts is the hardest to take — they’re very frost tolerant and most of the plants were still in the ground — though we were able to salvage parts of three plants.

Our gardening friends in Anchorage suggested we surround the garden with cheap pinwheels to avoid moosepocolypse. Next year.

Romanesco cauliflower

Romanesco cauliflower from Alaska's Glacier Valley Farm.

Romanesco cauliflower is one of my very favorite crops — it looks like something from the pages of Dr. Seuss and the spirals expressed by the florets follow the Fibonacci sequence.

Ferndale fries, made from locally grown potatoes, will replace tater tots and French fries at one public elementary school in Ferndale, Wash. I like it!

Left: Before composting. Right: Cup after composting.

Left: Before composting. Right: Cup at second turn.

Since we started composting this summer, I couldn’t resist the challenge when my drink from Kaladi Brothers Coffee came in a compostable to-go cup made from corn.

I built the cup into the middle of my next pile, then turned as directed. The temperature spiked at 160 degrees (which is almost too hot) and by the second turn of the pile the cup had mostly disintegrated (photo at top right). When I moved the now-cured compost this afternoon the cup was completely gone.

It looks like Kaladi’s uses EcoProducts corn cups (EcoProducts CC16, according to the stamp on the bottom) which the company says “will completely compost under commercial composting conditions in just 45-60 days.”

The cups work as advertised but I do wonder how many of these cups ever find their way to compost piles, either commercial or residential. A more interesting question might be what happens to them in a traditional landfill.

grocery bag fee ref

Today is the last day to cast your vote on City of Seattle Referendum 1, which would require a 20-cent charge per plastic or paper bag when you buy groceries.

Opponents say the fee will hurt low-income folks — who are apparently unable to shop with reusable bags, which is all it takes to exempt anybody from the fee. Opponents also say the law is filled with loopholes, one of which is that businesses grossing less than $1 million yearly keep all the bag fees they collect. Hmm, that actually sounds like a pretty reasonable deal for those smaller outfits. But what really got me to spend 90 seconds finding and filling out the darned thing was learning that the American Chemistry Council spent $1 million to urge you to vote against it. I’m heading in to drop off my ballot now.

I’m a huge fan of peanut butter and tomato sandwiches.

(Most people look at me sideways when I say this)

Pea start
April is a difficult time in Alaska for local food. Palmer potatoes and carrots are available in the grocery store through March or so, but by the time the vernal equinox finally arrives supplies range from low to non-existent.

Gardens are still too wet to prepare and Memorial Day, commonly considered the first “safe” (ie no frost) weekend for planting outdoors, is still a month away.

But the geese are back, the sun is in the sky until 10pm, and our first batch of pea plants are coming up in our arctic entry. These plants will go into our greenhouse to supply us with early peas while we wait for the garden to start producing.

Unfortunately, Labor Day isn’t that far away.

There are zero local ingredients in the fridge right now. I’ll be back shortly, after recovering from actually having to work for a living.

The Well Fed Network has nominated this year’s best food blogs and among the chosen is fellow blogger Laura’s not-so Urban Hennery. Good stuff! Laura blogs about life on a small farm, with stories about raising chickens, building hoop houses for cold weather crops, canning and pickling, and dozens of other ways to eat locally. Vote for your local gal here.

Eat Local Northwest

A food blog documenting the adventures of two friends trying to cook and eat sustainably in Seattle and in Anchorage.