Tag Archives: organic

Your Organic Food is Killing the Planet

Here is a short and sweet little pictorial (courtesy of Huff Post) touching on 8 organic food myths that also happen to coincide with many of my food pet peeves! Oh, joy.

Organic milk, such as Horizon brand, dumps its cows on massive feedlots and is an example of the lowpoints of agribusiness. How do you think Horizon sells its organic dairy so cheaply to Walmart? By carrying on in the same way that commercial dairies do–but with organic instead of conventionally grown grain.

Organic tv dinners–expensive crap wrapped in plastic packaging and then boxed. Waste.

Exotic, far-flung fruits and veggies make the list. I am definitely guilty of this one. Unfortunately, apples are an exotic fruit when you live in Florida. And the majority of organic apples that I’ve seen in the market come from New Zealand. Which, you know, is kind of on the other side of the world. One thing the Huffpo piece doesn’t touch on, but that I think is important to point out, is that the organic standards only apply to the growing process. Your organic bananas may be gassed with ethylene on the way to the market and nobody is going to say boo about it.

“Natural” advertised on the label. To paraphrase Michael Pollan, if it has a label, it probably isn’t natural.

Single Servings. Yes. This upsets me. I am not totally free of this. We do occasionally keep a stash some “natural” sugary granola bars for emergency situations, but in general, I am weary of snack packs and all the waste they generate.

Plastic water bottles. Cancer. Bad taste. Landfill. No thanks.

Soy junk is another item on the list that I must hang my guilty head in shame over. On road trips, it is our convenience food to fill up our kids. Tofu turkey. Smells like dog food to me. Vegan dog food I occasionally feed my children.

See, I am very judgmental when it comes to food, but am capable of admitting my wrongs. I feel more guilt over feeding my children lousy stuff or buying so called food with packaging than the average person.

Now, should I do a post about how there is truly no such thing as a “green remodel” (unless you salvage *everything*). How about you? Do you experience a direct correlation between your consumption and your accumulation of guilt?



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Curry Plant Resurrection

Our curry plant was doing splendidly until about a month or so ago. It became yellow and withered like it was the dead of winter instead of the top of spring. My husband decided to cut back our Curry Devi (one must be affectionate to one’s plants!). All the way back! I started calling her Stumpy.

I was a little curious what would happen. That is, until I read Kurma’s post on the delicate, tempermental curry plant. Who knew she was such a diva! I became worried—no, angst ridden– about the fate of our curry plant. I approached my husband with the information from Kurma’s posting as well as an attitude that implied he was a curry plant killer. I mourned the future of my cooking. My husband began to look a little nervous.

But a few days later he looked pretty darn pleased with himself. “Look,” he said, pointing to the green buds polka dotting Stumpy. Amazed at the sight of curry stubble, I told my husband, “We’ll see.” Despite all indications that Curry Devi’s vital signs were in check, I still was skeptical. Could my husband reallyresurrect a plant back from near death?

Well, here is a picture of her with green, young leaves. She looks better than ever, rejuvenated and with a full skirt of bottom foliage. The overpicked, geriatric look of her past life has given way to a brand new, ever fresh and youthful Curry Devi.

My husband, however, wants me to post some sort of disclaimer. You know, like “don’t try this at home.” I think Kurma’s post really scared the bejeezus out of him and he doesn’t want to lead anyone astray into the world of senseless plant murder. He wants me to point out that our curry plant was very healthy until a month or so of her yellowing. We had her for years, actually, and she has never been ill. It was spring, so the weather was warm, which may have aided her recovery from having a good foot and a half of her body amputated.

I don’t think my husband will be trying any plant surgery again anytime soon. We are just grateful to the powers that be that our Curry Devi pulled through this one, allowing us many more flavorful sabjis to come.

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Slammin’ Kudos

My very discerning friend, Lynn Eva Barber (Lavanga), recently ordered a jar of Strawberry Conserve. As with each order I ship out, I hold my breath and cross my fingers, hoping that the customer will not only appreciate the taste of my products but also appreciate the overall concept of human made food: the time, the effort and the ingredients which go into every jar.

So when Lynn sent me the following email, I finally was able to exhale knowing that my jam passed the test of her tastebuds. Here is a copy of her words of praise, along with her delicious looking crepes displayed on melamine servingware. See? Sabjimata jam fits in with the modern lifestyle aesthetic.

I am also relieved that my packaging can withstand the abuse of the US Postal Service, who obviously doesn’t give a damn about broken glass and jam not mixing well together.

Your jam arrived safely on Saturday despite the fact that the mail carrier threw (yes, threw it–KP saw her) onto the porch! Hello!?! It was marked fragile!

Anywho! The conserve is slammin’. It’s sweet, but has a nice tart finishing note. It would be perfect on cheesecake. Too lazy to make cheesecake though, I did fill some crepes with it on Sunday and it was excellent. Tasted like I had just made it for the crepes. Very fresh. Kudos! Nitai Gauramani enjoyed themselves. I took a pic of the offering for you. 🙂


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Natural By-Product

Usually when I skim the foam from jam I can it and use it for our own personal cooking use. But this time I decided to freeze it and make sorbet. Since pectin is in everything these days from commercially produced yogurt to ice pops (go ahead, read your ingredient lables!), I was very confident that pectin rich jam foam would produce an awesome sorbet.



And of course, I was right!



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U-Pick Here

Strawberry season has officially begun! We have a few sources for local and organic strawberries around here and I plan to take advantage of them as much as possible. Last year the kids and I were home all the time and it seemed like all we did for the first two weeks of June was pick strawberries, eat strawberries, make strawberry jam and eat hot strawberry jam. This year we mostly drive back and forth to State College for pre-school.

When I was driving the kids home from pre-school Monday I passed the Amish farm and could not help but stop short at the sight of their sign. “Stawberries.” Although they have great organic produce, their strawberries were too costly for my jam op. Better to stick with pick your own.

I checked in with the local Hare Krishna farm to see what was going on with their strawberries but it looks like they will be peaking around next week. I then called Brummer’s Farm to find out their price—same as the Amish on the already picked but the pick your own was reasonable. I told Meg that I would be by on Friday morning to pick but she seemed to think I should come right away.

My husband was leaving for work in an hour and a half and there wasn’t much time. But I do tend to get fruit panic attacks when I think of berries ripening in the field. Madhava sensed that I was getting stressed out trying to figure out when I would be able to pick so he suggested that I grab a bucket and go.

In an hour I was able to pick 2 gallons of strawberries, which isn’t that much, but a start nonetheless. And it was enough to alleviate a strawberry related panic attack. For now. At least until next week when the strawberries peak at the Hare Krishna farm.

Hopefully by then my legs will adjust to the picking squat position. Either the pain I am feeling in my thighs is testimony to the really good workout gotten from berry picking or just more proof that my physical age is closer to 63 than 33.

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Sometimes I ask myself whether or not I really want to do this. Make jam.  Sell jam.  The whole jam business thing.

I never set out to do a business. Last year I just made much too much strawberry jam.  The local Hare Krishna farm, Gita Nagari, had way more strawberries than anyone could use. And they were gooood.  I’ve never tasted strawberries so sweet.  I couldn’t handle the thought of them rotting in the field so I bought some.  Alright, I bought a lot. Maybe 15 gallons total.
Towards the end of the summer I realized just how difficult it would be to go through all that jam within a two year period.  Even with all the jars I was giving away as gifts.  My husband, Madhava, suggested I sell some.  Friends were bothering me to buy some.  So, I set up a rough blog and sent out an email.
And that’s where fate stepped in. Of course I sent the email to family, thinking that even if they didn’t want to buy any of my jam they would at least be happy that I was trying to sell some.  My cousin, Laura Levitt, then did something that was so Laura. Only she didn’t tell me she was doing it.
Laura is more than a cousin to me.  She is my familial link to feeling like I belong.  Which in my case of  being the adopted oddball, makes my position as the black sheep of the family seem even more out of place. But with Laura as my cousin, I feel like I have someone else to not fit in with. Together we can wear our black–or chartreuse or patchwork or lame’ or handloom ikat–wool and we match.  At least with one another.  In a mixing prints kind of way.
In the early 90’s I lived with Laura while attending Temple University. She opened my eyes beyond the bore, I mean, core curriculum and introduced me to a world of feminist studies, identity politics and just really good teachers.  Basically, she assisted my transformation from erratic to radical.  And she even understands how being a Hare Krishna fits in with that.  I just love Laura.
Laura is the kind of person who is actually happy for other people’s successes.  Honestly, I don’t know too many of them.  So, being Laura, this is what she did.
Laura forwarded my email to Dana Cowen, Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine Magazine. I met Dana years ago when I was about seven and attended her undergraduate graduation from Brown University, where she and Laura were not only roommates but best friends.  So without knowing that Laura did this, I received an email from Nick Fauchald, Senior Associate Food Editor at the magazine. He was asking to get a sample of my jams to try them out.
Now, the idea of this was totally off my radar but still, when introduced, had a great amount of appeal.  At that point I didn’t have many varieties, and it was all pretty basic stuff: Strawberry Jam, Elderberry Syrup (yum), Chili Pickle.  I had just bought a bushel of local peaches for home canning and that is when, through Divine Inspiration, Saffron Cardamom Peach Jam was born. And Vanilla Bean Peach Butter. And let me tell you, they’re good.
So I discovered a place where I could buy pro jars, got some bo-bo labels printed and mailed off the jam to Nick.  After a few weeks he wrote back that they really enjoyed the jam.  Okay.  Then what?  Well, they didn’t have a spot in the magazine for it at the time, but he would keep it in mind.
Was he serious, or just being nice?  I’m not sure.
But anyway, that is how the business got started. Kind of by forces beyond my control. Maybe that’s how it should happen.
So I advertised on Chakra, a Hare Krishna news site, and tried refining my blog along the way.  Surprisingly to me, I started getting orders. And not just from friends and family but people who I had no idea of their existence prior to our encounters of the jam kind.  People googling “best peach jam” or looking for quince jelly for their Thanksgiving turkey recipe.  Whatever the case, they found me on the web and I was selling them jam.
The Food & Wine thing was really a push and I started thinking about making my jam operation more pro. I considered selling my jam at the newly opened Farmer’s Market in Carlisle, but the booth fee coupled with the winding, stomach churning, one hour drive over the mountain made me think twice about it.  Besides, it’s not like there is such a huge population in Carlisle anyway (although it is a really cute college town).    It didn’t seem worth the endeavor, or the time away from my kids.
Then, on the darkest and dreariest of winter days, we decided to move to Alachua,  Florida so that our kids would have more of a life than they would growing up in the middle of nowhere in Central Pennsylvania (no offense to anyone who feels Central PA is located elsewhere).  I had mixed feelings about the move, which meant leaving behind my truly functional and fabulous custom kitchen with the 40″ soapstone sink and twin faucets.  My gardens, full of gooseberries, mulberries, crabapple, pear, raspberry, roses and other edibles, would stay behind.  And the Amish farmers, the Brummers and the Pennsylvania Backyard Fruit Growers.
I started looking into possibilities in Florida.  Or more accurately, obstacles.  I contacted the Florida Dept. of Ag and found out that Florida was not as small business friendly as Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, I am sure due to the Amish, one could process food at home and be legal. In Florida, regardless of the size of your business, you must use a profession kitchen which meets all the legal requirements.  As far as fruit goes, most of the fruit grown in Florida gets shipped to fresh market in New England and the Northeast.  Because of the growing season, Florida growers can get top dollar for their fruit since it comes in early.  That explains why when I visited Florida a month ago, the limes I bought at the supermarket were imported from Mexico.  And then there was the issue of jars. I think I found a place in Atlanta to source them from, but still, that’s about 5 hours away and I’ll have to pay for it.
But with all this discouragement, I still found hope. Friends were very supportive and I realized Florida had something which PA lacked: easy access to distribution.  The other day I called Ward’s Supermarket in Gainesville to get the pricing on their sugar.  Twenty five pounds of cane is ridiculous but the turbinado is well priced. Anyway, once the man heard I made jam and was into the whole local thing, he just short of promised me that Ward’s would carry it when I got down there.  Now, that’s more than just hopeful.
But still, I ask myself, is this what I want to do. Is this how I want to spend my time.  Jam making is very time consuming.  Taking this into consideration, it makes sense that it is made in a factory.  Except for the fact that factories are gross and use substandard ingredients.  I mean, there’s other stuff I would like to do with my time, like become a foreign aid worker, learn an instrument, learn a second language.  So what if most of these things are unrealistic? I mean, what is the likelihood of a dumb American like myself learning a second language?  That dashes my desire to attend graduate school, which would also require some kind of competency outside English.  Okay.  But there are some things I would like to do within my limited realm called my life: service at my temple, hanging out with my kids, exercising so I don’t feel like I’m 63 instead of 33, writing and cooking stuff other than jam.  Or things eaten with jam.
So while I try to keep this blog updated with my fascinating jam life and while I try to get a media kit together so I can try and drum up some press for Sabjimata, I’m also burdened with 
the existential question of whether or not jam is worth it.  

So…..what do you think?  Really, I’m interested.


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Misery Loves Lilac Jelly

While at the festival in West Virginia, I decided to conduct an unofficial poll.  I asked married people in my age group what do they attribute to their marital success.  The answers were frightening.

“Marital success, who says I’ve got that?”  
“The only reason my marriage looks successful is because we haven’t divorced yet.”
One friend responded that she feels she has a good six months to a year to figure out what she wants to do. She’s not ruling out divorce.
Most of the people I spoke with have kids. All have been married at least 7 years and I guess were starting to feel some kind of itch.  Who can’t relate?  But the way I see it, there is going to be a glut of divorced women out there in my age group within a few years. Maybe people will regroup, or maybe there will just be a lot of people wanting to remarry but without any hope.  I doubt that few of these people will want to remain single.
While on one hand I found my unofficial poll depressing because it made divorce look almost inevitable, I also found it reassuring.  This world is a place of suffering; no one is happy. Misery loves company, no?
And that’s why I decided to make Lilac Jelly.  Don’t worry yourself, I wasn’t under any illusion that Lilac Jelly would make me happy.  But sometimes distraction is the best remedy.  
I really wanted to capture the bouquet of the lilacs so I dumbed down the sugar, using a 2 to 1 ratio in favor of the lilac infusion–which is so not jelly.  Typically, jelly has more sugar than juice.  Also, I minimized the cooking time, which resulted in a soft set jelly, but one with a full lilac bouquet.  The lilac color quickly vanished once the jelly got cooking. I have seen recipes that use blueberry juice to artificially enhance the color, but anyone who looks at me in profile quickly sees that I don’t subscribe to artificial enhancement.  Even if it is naturally derived. Besides, blueberries aren’t even in season around here.

The resulting jelly is not overly sweet or gloppy.  It would bring toast and tea to new levels and would also be a fitting accompaniment to fresh, hot waffles.  

Of course, I used it, along with Tulip Petal Violet Blossom Jam, for my weekly batch of Harriet’s Thumbprint Cookies.  I wonder what’s Harriet’s secret to marital success?


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