Thursday, May 31, 2007

Arizona Weekend

I just spent a lovely weekend with my son and his family in Arizona. That's one way to beat the "June gloom" we get here in LA every year. That's when the land starts to heat up but the ocean water is still cold so the result is daily fog. Where I live and for most of the LA basin, that means gray skies and cool weather. The sun may break through in the afternoon, but sometimes that doesn't happen until very late in the day. Just when you want to change into your summer clothing, you find yourself still wearing jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and jackets. It always takes visiting relatives by surprise to find that sunny Southern California has this gloomy side.

But Arizona is just right now—a warm, dry 104 degrees, with balmy 84 degree evenings. My son and I did some astronomy and it was so nice to be comfortable while gazing at the stars. In fact, it was nice to SEE the stars period—no fog—even though the moon was almost full. We didn't want to do any hiking during the day, but swimming in the pool every afternoon made up for it.

My grandson and I went for a walk around the block one morning so I could take some pictures. I was surprised to see so many flowers in bloom. Even the cacti were blooming. One of the most interesting plants of Arizona is the saguaro. The one above was outside a restaurant and is covered with flower buds. While I took the picture in the evening, the flowers had not opened yet. They open at night and are spent by late afternoon the next day. The flowers are always up on the top like a crown. These plants can grow to be 50 feet tall and live for 150 to 200 years. It's not until they are a venerable 75 to 100 years old that arms start to appear. It's all desert driving along Route 10 from California into Arizona, but you will not see the saguaro until you cross the border. And then suddenly, there they are.

The prickly pear (above right) has flowers on it while the barrel cactus on the left has finished blooming and is setting fruit. One year we went on vacation to Long Island and I was surprised to find prickly pear growing all over a cemetery there. We were doing some genealogy research.

Some cacti grow in very weird shapes like the ones on the left and below. I don't know the names of these plants but a bird has managed to build a nest inside one of them! I guess that makes sense as the nest will be well protected by the spines of the cactus.

These plants were all in someone's backyard, and are well-watered compared to plants that have to survive on the rainfall alone. They are therefore fatter, greener, and more apt to bloom. Crossing the desert on my way to Arizona I didn't see any flowering plants, not even the ocotillo, due to the very dry winter we have had this year.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Three Books on Health

I have been procrastinating posting an entry on three new books that I just finished reading because the topics are very complex, but now is the time to do it. I'll be brief here and hopefully later I will be able to elaborate.

The first book I highly recommend is The Diabetes Solution by Richard Bernstein, M.D. Here is a man who has Type I diabetes himself and has learned how to control his blood sugar so well that at age 72 he is not suffering any of the serious complications of that disease. He developed diabetes as a child and later became an engineer and married a doctor. When the first glucometers came out they were not available to the general public but he managed to get one with his wife's help and learned to test his own blood sugar before and after eating. What he found was that he could control his blood sugar with a low-carb diet and a little insulin. When he wrote a paper on his discovery, no one paid any attention to him. So at age 45 he went to medical school and become a doctor and is now a practicing diabetologist in Mamaroneck, NY.

True to his engineering background, his book is very detailed. It will tell you exactly what to do, how to do it, and where to go to get supplies. At first, he has his patients test their blood sugars all day and record the results in order to eliminate foods that send blood sugar soaring and fine-tune medications if they are needed. He has therefore collected a huge amount of data that tells him exactly which foods raise blood sugars the most. As a result of all this testing and his own experience, he puts his patients on a very low carbohydrate diet, only allowing 30 grams per day. If I were a diabetic (and I am not), I would certainly want to have this book in my collection. You can read Dr. Bernstein's complete life story here.

One of the things that people worry about when you mention a low-carb diet is the amount of fat and cholesterol one consumes as a result. Did you know that there is an organization devoted to debunking the myth that eating saturated fat and cholesterol causes heart disease? Yes, it's called the International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics (THINCS). Mary Enig, whom I have mentioned several times before, is a member. Another member of the group is Malcolm Kendrick a Scottish M.D. who has written a hysterically funny book on the subject (if you can believe a book on heart disease can be funny) called The Great Cholesterol Con. The book needs a good editor, but you can read his essays online and get the gist of what is in the book and more. Two that I recommend are "Why the Cholesterol-Heart Disease Theory is Wrong" and "What on Earth is a Lipoprotein?"

The third book I would like to mention is on the subject of fiber in the diet, Fiber Menace by Konstantin Monastyrsky. This is a self-published book and not in the same class as the Bernstein book, but it does get you thinking about the assumption that fiber, a non-digestible substance, is good for you. I have tried a few of his suggestions, like not having several cups of tea right after dinner, and have found them to be of benefit. When you drink a lot of liquid after a meal, it swells up the fiber from the meal and can cause blockages in your system. Instead, he suggests drinking water one to one-half hours before a meal. However, although he considers his diet to be low-carb, when you finally find out what he eats all day (white rice with only a little protein at dinner), it makes you wonder. I am constantly amazed at how varied peoples' diets can be and still be low-carb.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Two More Exhibits

The Asawa exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown LA was amazing. Ruth Asawa has managed to capture light and airy shapes in looping wire that hang from the ceiling. They are beautiful to look at and leave you wondering just how she did it.

To answer that question, her daughter Aiko Cuneo gave a one-hour demonstration on Sunday afternoon. About 40 people were given the opportunity to make their very own little cup-shape sculpture out of copper wire. The technique is not really crocheting because you don't use a hook, but it is very similar. But even after the demonstration and the hands-on experience of doing it ourselves, we were still left wondering how she did it. Her shapes are much more intricate and weave in and around themselves. Some flare out like ruffles on a petticoat.

On display also were some of her drawings and paintings. Even in other mediums, she was drawn to creating flowing, curving shapes that emerge from small details like dots, blobs, or short lines. A short video showed her home filled with hanging sculptures and face masks, another of her mediums. And she did all this while raising six children! I plan to have fun with my older grandson next week looping away!

Across the courtyard from the JANM is the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA site which is currently showing the exhibition, Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution. I wandered over there after getting my fill of Asawa's artwork. This is a very different exhibition—big and sprawling, and covering many different aspects of the women's movement from the late 60s to the early 80s, and includes many videos. It would require several visits to see the whole thing. Fortunately, some of the works and some of the artists were familiar to me, I had read about them or seen them before. It is an international collection and it was interesting to see what feminists in other countries were doing.

No photography was allowed so I invite you to explore the website for an idea of what was in the exhibit. Warning! There is a lot of adult material here. This exhibit caught my emotions much more than the Asawa works did although they tended to be more in-your-face, making a statement rather than trying to uplift. Some made me laugh, and some brought tears to my eyes. And some brought back memories... Did we really blame our mothers that much? It was sad, too, in a way, because it seemed like women were still afraid to confront the world and spent a lot of time looking inward for the answers to things.

I'll just mention a few of the works that stood out for me. The first was the Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire gown made of white gloves by Lorraine O'Grady. I have a white glove story to tell, but not right now. The needlework arts were represented by several pieces but my favorite was Crocheted Environment by Faith Wilding. (Click on Selected Visual Works and then on Womb Room. This is a re-creation that looks essentially the same as Crocheted Environment.) Senga Mengudi created a very interesting work with pantyhose and sand. The works of Alice Neel stood out because they were more mainstream. My favorite was Linda Nochlin and Daisy on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. And last but not least was a section devoted to the works of Judy Chicago, including Pasadena Lifesaver Red #5. Ms. Chicago is probably most famous for her work The Dinner Party.

Friday, May 18, 2007

An Afternoon at the Villa

Yesterday was spent at the villa—The Getty Villa in Malibu, that is. My friend Joan and I passed the time on a lovely afternoon browsing through J. Paul Getty's collection of Greek and Roman antiquities which are housed in a re-created first century Roman country house, the Villa dei Papiri, just off Pacific Coast Highway. I had been there before, but many years ago, and had not revisited the museum since it had been closed for renovations in 1997.

On display in the museum are lots of statues, vessels and vases, plates and bowls, jewelry and coins, dating from 6,500 B.C. to about 400 A.D. (The Getty uses B.C. and A.D. in all of their literature.) The building itself and the gardens were interesting to look at and wander through. I was afraid they would not allow cameras inside, but there was no problem with people taking pictures but I turned the flash off for all of these anyway.

Many of the statures were of gods and goddesses so we had a chance to brush up on our knowledge of ancient stories and myths. One whole room was devoted to the Trojan War.

The photo above is a closeup of the draped gown of a seated Zeus. The marble statue had been underwater for many years and if you look closely you can see two mollusk shells embedded in the folds of the gown.

This poor fellow on the right has been doomed for all eternity to try to remove an arrow from his back. It doesn't help that his hand no longer has an arm connected to it.

You might think that these last two sculptures were created by Picasso or some other contemporary artist but in reality they are very ancient. The one on the left is a Cycladic figure of marble dating from 2,700 to 2,300 B.C. The Cyclades are a Greek island group in the Aegean Sea. The fertility goddess on the right was made in Cyprus of limestone and dates from 3,000 to 2,500 B.C. For some reason I was especially drawn to this group of works, maybe because of the simplicity of the lines, or maybe because of the great age of the pieces.

Sunday I will be joining Grace for a demonstration of Ruth Asawa's work at the Japanese American National Museum. Ms. Asawa created sculptures from wire and we plan to attend a demonstration by her daughter who will show us how she did it. As Joan said, we are very lucky here in LA to have so many first rate museums.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


The Bushtit eggs have hatched! The parents have been buzzing back and forth from the nest at a furious pace. I managed to grab this photo of one of them. It's out of focus, but they are too fast for me.

I'll be glad when my duties as Grandma are done for this brood. I have been keeping everyone out of my backyard for two weeks now and the grass needs clipping. Last week I caught a Jay pecking at the nest. Jays will eat the eggs of smaller birds, so I chased him off. Then I spotted a cat on top of my grill with evil thoughts in his head. So after chasing him off, too, I moved all furniture and the grill away from the hanging pot that holds the nest but cats can jump several feet up into the air to catch something if they want to.

It's really tough being a bird!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Women's Rights

After reading my blog entry for Mother's Day, Grace has asked me a tough question. She wants to know why there aren't more "egalitarian" marriages. She says her generation was promised one and many didn't get it. I put the word egalitarian in quotes because different people will have a different idea of just exactly what an egalitarian marriage is. I assume that Grace means something like a marriage where the husband will do the laundry while his wife is in Antarctica doing scientific work for a month. Her question got me to thinking about the past and about what battles the women's movement fought and won. There has been some progress made!

I became a feminist, not when I arrived home with my first child to find that whereas before my husband and I shared most of the household duties, taking care of the infant was 100% my responsibility (I don't think he ever did change a diaper), but before that, when I was pregnant and discovered that the birthing experience that I wanted to have was not allowed by the hospitals and medical profession. I wanted a natural birth, no general anesthesia, I wanted to have my husband with me in the delivery room, and I wanted rooming-in afterwards so that I could nurse the baby on demand. My doctor agreed to the first request but only one hospital in my area permitted husbands to observe the delivery never mind being a coach and actually having a role in the process. And rooming-in, where the baby is not kept in a central nursery but sleeps right in the mom's room, was a brand-new idea to some hospitals.

For my son's birth, I did get the rooming-in. Because of this, my husband was the only person allowed in to see me and he had to don surgicals to do it. They closed the door to the room to keep germs out, but that meant whenever a nurse or someone wanted to come in the room, they had to knock first and I either had to yell, "Come in," or get up and open the door for them. Yeah, right! Meanwhile, on day two, 30 student nurses traipsed into my room, sans surgical gowns, to have a look at this new-fangled concept in action.

But I was luckier than my mother. When she gave birth fathers were not even allowed in the labor room. They put you to sleep and when you woke up they presented the baby to you, all wrapped up. The nurse would unwrap the baby to show you it had all its fingers and toes, and then re-wrap it and whisk it off to the nursery. And her mother was even unluckier. In 1924, the "lying-in" period for mothers after giving birth was two weeks. After two weeks in bed following the birth of her fifth child, my grandmother developed a clot in her leg that moved up to her heart and killed her.

Judging by my daughter's recent experience giving birth, we have come a long way in this area.

So I joined the National Organization for Women (NOW), and the National Women's Health Network, and subscribed to Ms. Magazine which is now owned by the Feminist Majority Foundation. I joined a consciousness-raising group where about seven of us women met once a week to discuss women's issues. Our battles then were mostly around getting recognition for our work as mothers and housewives (it wasn't even considered "work" in those days), raising awareness about sexual harassment and rape, and of course reproductive rights. Out of the seven members of the group, three admitted to having been raped. One woman told a particularly poignant story. She was a new Asian immigrant who wasn't even sure what the word rape meant. She asked, "If your brother-in-law comes to you in the night, and you don't want him to, but he does it anyway, is that rape?" I've never forgotten her words.

We have come a long way in this area, too. Rape is more completely defined. If a woman says no, it's rape. We don't blame the victim anymore (at least in principle). Sexual harassment in the workplace is dealt with firmly if not completely to every woman's satisfaction. You can walk down the street now without being leered at, whistled at, or hearing comments like, "Wha'cha doing tonight, Baby?"

Our group talked about going back to school and having a "real" career. This is probably the area where the greatest changes have occurred. Below is a graph from the National Science Foundation showing the number of men and women who have earned a master's degree in science and engineering and non-science and engineering fields from 1966 to 2004. Below that is a similar graph for doctorates from 1966 to 2003.

Women may still lag behind men in earning higher degrees in math and science, but we have out-stripped the men in other areas. This advancement has led to more women becoming doctors, lawyers, college professors, policewomen, senators and congresswomen, and just about whatever else they want to be. That has been great for society as a whole even if there is still a lot of work to be done.

In my own field of music and violin playing, I was told that I could teach, but forget about being a soloist or a symphony musician. Since then we have gone from there being just one female player in a professional orchestra (Doriot Anthony Dwyer in the Boston Symphony) to the current situation where, at least in the US, women and men are equally represented and may even out-number the men in the string sections. And as for soloists, we have Kyung Wha Chung, Anne-Sophie Mutter-Previn, Midori, Sarah Chang, Nadia Solerno-Sonenberg, and Hilary Hahn to name a few famous female violinists. My students have many more role models than I ever did.

I know this post is getting long, but that's good isn't it?

Another area of great progress is in women's sports with Title IX which was passed in 1972. Since then we have come to realize the importance of giving our girls a chance to exercise and work together on teams. Grace's daughter can take Tae Kwon Do which would not have been possible before. My daughter chose gymnastics. Female athletes can play on professional teams and earn big bucks and nobody says a word about us being the "weaker sex" anymore.

So we did a good job of raising our daughters but it seems we have a ways to go in training our sons. My own son helps out around the house and kitchen without a word and without having had a good role model either! I have seen him do the laundry, vacuum, prepare meals for himself and my grandson, and clean up the dirty dishes after meals all without being prodded or cajoled. When I asked him what prompted him to do all this since I never taught him the importance of those tasks, and he never saw his father do any of them, he replied that he just sees that his wife needs help so he does it. In other words, he has empathy. How do you teach someone to have empathy?

I can't give you a satisfactory answer to your question, Grace. Maybe it is your turn, your generation's task, to create a world where the glass ceiling gets removed in the business world, where women and men get equal time off to care for their children, and where household chores are shared equally.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Toxic Environment

This morning's LA Times carried an article with the headline, Common Chemicals Linked to Breast Cancer. The article made the front page giving the results of a compilation of scientific reports published by the American Cancer Society and done by the Silent Spring Institute. According to the article, over 200 chemicals have been found to cause breast tumors in animal studies. And there are probably many more because only 1,000 of the 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S. have been tested! Here is a list of the most common chemicals and where they are found and used:

Chemical -- Source/use
1,4-dioxane -- Detergents, shampoos, soaps
1,3-butadiene -- Common air pollutant; found in vehicle exhaust
Acrylamide -- Fried foods
Benzene -- Common air pollutant; found in vehicle exhaust
Perfluorooctanoic acid -- Used in manufacture of Teflon
Styrene -- Used in manufacture of plastics; found in carpets, adhesives, hobby supplies and other consumer products
Vinyl chloride -- Used almost exclusively by the plastics industry to make vinyl
1,1-dichloroethane -- Industrial solvent; also found in some consumer products such as paint removers
Toluene diisocyanate -- Used in foam cushions, furnishings, bedding
Methylene chloride -- Used in furniture polish, fabric cleaners, wood sealants and many other consumer products PAHs -- Diesel and gasoline exhaust
PCBs -- Electrical transformers; banned but still in environment
Atrazine -- Widely used herbicide, particularly for corn

Source: Silent Spring Institute

While a small percentage of cancers are due to heredity, they are now thinking that the majority are environmentally caused. Towards the end of the article they state that experts have long suspected that diet plays a role but have found no consistent correlation except that regular alcohol consumption, being obese, and being sedentary increase risk. To many of us all this is not news, and it's about time that the topic has been given recognition.

A year ago I read Sherry Rogers's book, Detoxify or Die, and Bruce Fife's, The Detox Book. Dr. Rogers has been warning about environmental toxins for years and her book has the usual inflammatory rantings against modern industrial life. The Fife book is more subdued, but both books offer insights into our world of environmental toxins and ways to "de-toxify." Reading these books, I discovered that I was already doing many of the things they recommend like exercising and eating organic. Just plain sweating is a good way to excrete toxins from the body. And Epsom Salts baths are a treat I like to indulge in every now and then.

But I also began to check out other ways I could avoid possible cancer- and other disease-causing chemicals in and around my home. I never was very fond of make-up, and so that was an easy one to do without. I can't stand sunscreen either, so the only time I wear it is when I am skiing. (The same issue of the LA Times featured a short note in the Health section regarding sunscreen use and the fact that sunscreens mimic estrogen.) I wear a hat and loose long-sleeved shirts, or just limit the amount of time I am out in the sun. (I don't avoid the sun entirely, but that is another blog entry.)

Since I don't eat potatoes or wheat, I don't eat french fries and other fried foods that have been dipped in batter. I don't use Teflon-coated pans. Cooking with lower heat prevents food from sticking and saves on gas. Then I just rinse my pans out immediately after use.

Around the house, I have switched to Ecover dishwasher powder, Seventh Generation laundry soap, and Meyer's all purpose cleaner. Vinegar and baking soda mixed into a paste make a good all purpose cleaner, too. I bought some glass refrigerator dishes to store leftovers instead of using plastic and since I never microwave my food anymore, no worries about the plastic leaching into my food. In fact, I could do a whole blog entry on plastic food containers. I have stopped drinking bottled water from plastic bottles. I figured that if you can taste the plastic in the water, then you probably don't want to drink it. I get water in glass bottles. I bought my daughter glass bottles for feeding Baby C., but I do worry about all the plastic toys they make for babies that go right into their mouths.

For personal care, I stopped using regular soaps and got some of the mineral soap and deodorant from Nature Rich. I don't drink their Neutralizer, but my son does and he swears by it. Says he never gets a cold. I even use their soap for shampoo now but getting rid of hair spray has been more difficult. My hair is baby fine and blows into a mess in the slightest breeze. By the way, the chit chat in the women's dressing room on Saturday night before the concert included the tip that you can use a solution of half vinegar and half water to spritz your hair clean when you don't have time to wash it.

I can't do much about vehicle exhaust. That is a fact of life here in LA. But I do appreciate the afternoon ocean breezes that do a very good job of clearing the air in my

In general, what's good for me is good for the environment and vice versa.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Thoughts on Mother's Day

Or the more things change, the more they remain the same.

It's a quiet morning here. I've just had my breakfast of eggs with asparagus, avocado, smoked salmon, and strawberries (from the farm stand) with homemade plain yogurt made from raw milk. Yummie. I'll post the instructions for the yogurt later. I played a concert last night and was up rather late and so I indulged myself by sleeping in this morning.

When I was at my local Whole Foods last Friday, I picked up the latest issue of Ms. Magazine. I was one of the original subscribers to that mag and have even saved a copy of the earliest issues somewhere. But I stopped subscribing for some reason when my children were all grown up. Now I wanted to catch up on the latest feminist news. Reading the Spring issue this morning brought back a lot of memories.

Even when I was a little girl, a girl in between two boys, I leaned towards feminist issues. But I became an ardent feminist soon after the birth of my first child and was a women's rights advocate all through the 70s. For my generation, you had to choose between a career and having children (or even in some cases marriage). And the only career choices were to become a teacher, nurse, or secretary. I purposely refused to learn to type because I did not want to go through all the work involved in earning a college degree (I could only dream about a Ph.D.) only to end up being someone's (make that some man's) secretary. In those days, a typing test was part of every job interview if you were a woman. Later, I taught myself when computers came out. But the question I kept asking myself and anyone who would listen then was, who is going to take care of the children?

Judging by the recent entries on Grace's blog at Bad Mom, Good Mom, that problem still has not been solved. I'm afraid that my generation has let down the current generation. We've allowed our daughters to think they could "have it all" when the reality is that things haven't changed all that much. Raising children has never been easy (but I don't like the comment that I have "paid my dues" either.) Yes, you may be lucky enough to have an "egalitarian" marriage but when it comes to raising children, even two dedicated parents are not enough. I see my role as Grandma as one of helping the next generation out as much as possible but both of my children have moved too far away from the nest for me to be of any real help on a day-to-day basis.

We have changed women's lives, but we have not changed society. But even if society were to change to make it easier for the working mother, I think that in the end any woman is going to wish she could be in two places at once. On the job where she can use her skills and at home to watch and guide her precious growing children's lives.

Happy Mother's Day to J. and M., two working Moms!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Spring Migration

My backyard has been a busy place lately even though I have warned all humans to stay out of it until the Bushtit eggs hatch. The nest has been relatively quiet with the parents coming and going at long intervals. Sometimes the whole pot from which they have hung the nest quivers and then I know that they are inside. Sure enough a few seconds later one or both will pop out and fly off at great speed.

The activity of which I speak is due to all the migrating birds that have stopped by on their way north. In the last two weeks I have seen six Wilson's Warblers, a Townsend's Warbler and one Cassin's Vireo. And remember, my back yard is teeny, tiny. You have to be quick to see these small birds. They don't stop for long although they are usually ravenous and will not pay too much attention to humans as they scour the bushes for something to eat. The Vireo looked like he was literally blown in on the wind. He landed upside down, righted himself and was off.

Warblers are such pretty little birds and are still very wild. They will not allow themselves to be domesticated in the slightest. Their colors range from very bright yellow (like the Wilson's) to contrasting black and white to blues, greens, and grays. Here is a link to Giff Beaton's page of Warblers. He has a ton of photos and you will find the Wilson's down at the bottom. I have never gotten a photo of one of these fast-flitting birds. I consider myself lucky to grab them with my binoculars long enough to make an identification. You won't find the Townsend's Warbler on his list, so here is a link to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's site that shows this striking bird.

Of course, warblers are named warblers because of their beautiful song and are sometimes just called songbirds. But you won't hear them singing during migration. It's only when they get to their breeding grounds that the males will burst into song to attract the females. One year I was fortunate to be in Canada (Montreal) in late May, just in time to see all these birds arriving in great numbers to set up housekeeping and was able to hear them sing.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Farmers Market

This morning I went to my local farmers market to see the sights as they say. I don't know why I had never gotten down there before except it happens only two days a week and something would always come up. An LA Times article about the best farmers markets in the LA area, in which mine was listed as one of the top ten, prompted me to finally give it a try.

Either because of the Times article, or because it is spring, or just because this one is highly rated, the market was jammed with people when I got there just after opening time. It took me ten minutes just to find a place to park. Some people, the cognoscenti no doubt, had already made their purchases and were leaving so spaces were opening up, but there were three cars for every open space.

Once inside, I found the atmosphere to be something like a county fair complete with cooked food vendors, picnic tables, a performing guitarist/singer, and a balloon artist. There were all sorts of things on sale, many which fall more into the arts and crafts category than farm produce. There were flowers but also plants including bonsai and epithelia in shells. There were bottles of olive oil, tapenades, hummus, and olives. Foods cooked ready to eat included hot dogs, barbecued chicken, candy apples, popcorn, and corn on the cob.

Once you got passed all this you got to the real foods laid out on tables with plastic bags provided to carry your choices. It helped to have lots of small bills on hand to make purchases. There were all the usual vegetables for this time of year in Southern California including zucchini, artichokes, beans, peas, peppers, beets, turnips, and potatoes. Greens of all kinds were on display including some Japanese plants I had never heard of. And there was citrus: grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, all reasonably priced.

Some of the produce had probably come up from Mexico and frankly did not look very fresh, but there were farms that one might call local and there was some food labelled organic. After reading Nina Planck's book, I didn't worry about that too much at a place like this. She says that lots of times the food is organic, no pesticides were used, but the farmer has not gotten certification from the government and so can't advertise that his crops are organic.

There were some chickens and eggs, including green eggs (no ham), and one booth of grass-fed bison. (I hope there isn't any other kind.) But that was the only meat I found (other than the hot dogs).

And of course, strawberries!

I didn't intend to buy anything, my refrigerator is already full to bursting, but a few things did catch my eye. The avocados were really cheap, as were the lemons. And since my arugula plant is done for the year, I picked up some more.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Local Harvest

Here is my stash for the week from the farm stand. Everything you see was picked the morning that I bought it. It's all so fresh and smells wonderful! All of the zucchini came in a basket for only $1.25. They sell oversized, misshapen, or slightly damaged veggies in these baskets for $1 or $1.25. As far as I'm concerned, the freshness matters more than the looks, but you have to get there early to get these specials. They get snapped up quickly. The two large zucchini's have already gone into a creamy soup using coconut milk and two of those gorgeous carrots.
Those luscious strawberries are the cheap ones! Three baskets for $7. They have really brightened my breakfast meal for the past few days. If you store them in Tupperware with a dry paper towel, they will last a week even though they were picked fully ripe. The farm stand people expect you to eat them the day you buy them, and I do stuff my face with a few before I put the rest in the fridge. In fact everything lasts longer if you buy it the day it is picked. I have also found that freshness matters more than variety. I can eat a salad every day for lunch and not get tired of it as long as the ingredients are fresh. When faced with the usual salad you get in most restaurants with wilted or brown lettuce and veggies that look like they have seen better days, my appetite turns off. I think it must be part of our basic instincts to seek out fresh food to eat.

Community Supported Agriculture or CSA is a movement to support local farmers and share in their harvest which started in Japan, spread through Europe, and then came to the US. But it has not come to my corner of Southern California yet, although I hear there is something in the works. Anyway, to find if there is a CSA farm near you, go to this USDA website which has several links to other sites that have directories of CSA farms anywhere in the US.

My daughter sent me this link to certified farmer's markets in the Los Angeles area. We do have several of those to choose from. Local Harvest, whose site I linked you to for CSA farms will also link you to farmer's markets in your area.

And last but not least, you can find farms that sell grass-fed beef and other pastured animal products at I just received a shipment of beef from a farm in California yesterday. The New York steak I had for dinner last night was delicious.