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One Small Change – August

August 3, 2010

My mother in law, Judy, has this way of conveying extra special information with a loud, exaggerated whisper that suggests the slight possibility that she’s getting away with something. Like, “Save a little room for dessert Rachel, because there’s homemade fudge in the fridge.

And this is exactly how I feel about our Food Exchange aka Polygamy Without the Oppression, which was my One Small Change for March that is going strong. (read about it here and here). Just yesterday I picked a bundle of lettuce and edible weeds from the garden, opened the fridge and spotted (insert exaggerated whisper here): Sheryl’s homemade creamy tomato salad dressing. And then we all ate Audrey’s homemade peach frozen yogurt for dessert. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I may have eaten the whole thing myself, right out of the container while leaning against the fridge during our last heat wave. And damn, it was good.

This food exchange is like having good food on tap. There’s always something homemade and awesome that I didn’t make lurking in my kitchen, including: red chile sauce, salad dressings, jam, popsicles, sour cream, tortillas, granola, bread and a yogurt cake that was especially good because Audrey, who is very classy, labled it a gateaux. We also had fun with body care one month: lavender lip balm, a bath soak and a facial scrub that smells like you’re lying under a thousand Hawaiian flowering trees while a gentle wind blows.

One week there was yogurt, bread, granola and strawberry jam. My family ate some permutation of these every meal because we're like coyotes on a deer kill. We devour what's there until it's gone, rather than trying to mix up the easy monotony with a jackrabbit.

And I have finally learned how to make a decent loaf of bread, thanks to Sheryl’s recipe, which is quick, easy and foolproof even at 6512 feet. (it’s more than decent, it’s really delish, but if you walked in the house with a squishable loaf of store-bought bread my kids would probably go home with you).

Foolproof, no-knead bread (and I know the last bread recipe I posted was not foolproof for us high altitude folks, but this one is for reals so easy).

~ makes two loaves ~

7 1/2 cups flour (I use spelt and whole wheat and sometimes 1/2 cup of ground flax seeds or oat bran)

2 TBSP yeast

4 cups warm water

1 TBSP honey (I usually use 3, shocker)

1/4 cup molasses

2 TBSP salt

Warm flour in oven (on lowest setting) for 20 minutes while dissolving yeast in 1 cup warm water. Let yeast proof (bubble up all alchemically) and add molasses and another cup warm water. Mix in flour and last 2 cups warm water until sticky. Butter 2 large loaf pans (9 X 5)  and add bread dough to each. Let rise 1 hour. Preheat oven to 400F and bake 30-40 minutes.


In other updates, my beer growler challenge (April) is going great, despite the tremendous effort of drinking all that beer. We bring our growlers everywhere we once would have brought bottles. Even camping, which considering we must look like the Joads with everything but the chickens piled into the Subaru just to spend a night in the woods, consolidating a 6-pack into one bottle is a bonus. We bring our clandestine growlers on river dates, toted in backpacks.

With real glasses! Are we classy or what?

I did a quick little math equation, and just before my head exploded I calculated that if you buy your beer from Carvers Brewery (of course you have to live in Durango to do this, and may I recommend the nut brown ale?) where you get a free growler for every 6 you buy, it actually only costs 50 cents more for growlers (ounce to ounce) than six packs.


And now my August One Small Change: (Will it shock you to learn that it’s food related?)

Right now I’m reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s book  Eating Animals (which details America’s transition from family farms to factory farms and the operations of the typical industrial feedlot, often housing 33,000 chickens in one, large shed – individual cages stacked to the ceiling with floors no bigger than a sheet of loose leaf paper).

I’ve read Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Fast Food Nation and I know about factory farming and haven’t bought that sort of meat for years. However, what I’ve learned in this book is that even the commercial, organic, antibiotic and hormone-free animals typically live a short, dismal life in which they never set foot on bare grass, feel sunlight on their bodies or are free to engage in the natural activities specific to their species (e.g: chickens scratching in the dirt, pigs rooting in the mud). Commercial turkeys, even those touted to be all natural, come from genetically engineered stock that are so breast-heavy they can barely walk, nor can they reproduce naturally. The labels “free range,” “all natural,” “hormone-free” conjure up a pastoral image harkening back to 1930, when the average chicken flock size was 23 birds, but these terms are incredibly misleading. To be considered free-range, chickens must have “access to the outdoors,” which means you can cram 33,000 de-beaked chickens in a shed as long as there’s one small door (usually closed) at one end leading to a 5X5 dirt patch. “Cage-free” chickens often require more drugs, de-beaking and de-clawing because of their crowded conditions.

There is much more to say. Reading this book has been painful, revolting and eye opening.

My One Small Change for August is to not buy or eat any meat of unknown origin. No more supermarket meat, no matter the claims of “organic.” The only meat I eat will be either wild or from small, local farms.

If you want to look for contradictions in my life, you will see many. Until I start making my own cheese (coming this winter, hopefully) I’ll buy cheese from the store. I will likely eat a muffin at some point that contains butter and eggs from factory farmed animals. However, all our milk and eggs are sourced locally. For the record, I am not against animal agriculture. It’s a noble profession and there are people who give animals good lives, swift deaths and provide consumers with high quality protein. Hopefully someday, this will be the norm.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2010 11:29 am

    Your dilemmas are mine, too. It’s appalling, the current state of food production. How I wished I lived at 6512 feet and could take gardening and cooking lessons from you and your friends! Seriously, could you offer a summer camp??

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 3, 2010 9:54 pm

      A summer camp? That sounds awesome. Col could teach trap-building, Rose could teach on the merits of outdoor nudity and we could all eat a lot of chard.

  2. August 3, 2010 11:59 am

    Heh, I’ll get in on the 6512 Feet Summer Camp :).

    I’ve been wondering about that book. I always feel like I’ve learned it all already, but it sounds like I should give it a try. I absolutely love your Polygamy without the Oppression Group. I might have to start one myself (though being a single mom, my participation wouldn’t exactly be polygamy…)

  3. Rachel Kohnen permalink
    August 3, 2010 12:28 pm

    I treasure meals when I can say “Everything is local!” And then we talk about where all of the foods come from. It’s especially lovely in the middle of winter when local produce is so scarce. Best wishes with your one HUGE change!

  4. Audrey permalink
    August 3, 2010 1:45 pm

    Wow. I KNOW how fabulous food polygamy is, and yet I forget until I read it here! I loved that creamy tomato dressing too, RIP (sniff, sniff).

    Good for you on the local meat thing. You and Ryan must be in food-sync (related to the polygamy? is it catching?) because he recently re-categorized himself a loca-healthy-happy-vore too. I think you guys are onto something! Now if I could get that mama pigs sad (mean?) brown eyes out of my head…

  5. August 3, 2010 1:47 pm

    LOVE! Your food exchange sounds amazing and I love your growler idea! We have a stock pile of growlers and try to bring them when we are out and about…we have a new brewery in our town and have been filling up our growlers with them…yeah!

    Love your august change…good stuff!!


  6. August 4, 2010 6:59 am

    Oooohhh, want to join your Food Exchange!!! I wonder if I could talk my husband into moving to Durango if I mentioned “polygamy”? Especially “food polygamy”… Can’t wait to read about your cheesemaking adventures. I had a couple of unsuccessful attempts at ricotta, mozzarella and feta last year, but I hold out hope. My greatest dream (other than a new couch and to travel around the world) is to make a big fragrant wheel of peccarino romano…

  7. August 4, 2010 10:36 am

    Oh no Rachel. This is depressing. No, not your story. I love your Food Exchange – I wish I could find likeminded folks here who would indulge me on this food exchange but many I know hardly cook, let alone worry about making homemade food from scratch and locally sourced meat and produce.

    After reading Fast Food Nation and The Jungle, I stopped eating meat for about 4 years until I got pregnant and decided to fall off the wagon. I’ve since continued eating meat but have been mindful about procuring only free-range meat (what I call happy meat) and now with your post, I feel I am not doing enough. It’s harder for me to find locally sourced farmers without having to shell out the $$$ they charge because of their niche but I forget that the plight of the animals that provide my family nutrients depend on people like us who actually care and are trying to do something about it. Instead of being half-assed, neither here nor there, I should just get on board completely, like join the local meat co-op in spite of its hefty price tag. To be able to feed my family well and sleep at night are worth it to me.

    Thank you for the wake up call.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 4, 2010 12:18 pm

      I agree Justine, it’s totally depressing. The author of Eating Animals makes the point several times that it is so easy to disregard the animal’s story when we all have our own stories of economics, convenience and a natural human desire for meat. Not to mention, we are pardoned from knowing each animal’s story when we meet them as a hunk of meat at the deli counter. The meat co-op sounds like a great option. Also, perhaps you can buy a 1/4 cow, butchered and packaged from a local rancher. Sometimes that can be pretty economical. And on another depressing note, the cheap price we pay for factory farmed meat is exacted in other places like global warming, soil health, slaughterhouse workers’ wages and conditions, our health, overuse of antibiotics, potentials of epidemics like bird-flu ravaging the world, and the tremendous suffering of animals. Okay. Now go hug your daughter; it’s going to be all right, somehow.

  8. Lisa permalink
    August 4, 2010 10:51 am

    Hi Rachel, sorry for so many comments lately. I just wanted to say that I am so glad that you posted about factory-organic meat. This is a huge priority in my life and the search for truly grass-started AND -finished meat and milk (I have my own eggs, of course) has been shockingly difficult. I am extremely fortunately to live within striking distance of one of the best farmers’ markets in the world (portland, or) plus I have neighbors that raise a few sheep for lamb (we trade eggs for lamb). So, I do have all of my sources now. But, the availability of grass-only meat and milk to the average American consumer is almost nonexistant, and I find it tragic. “Grass-fed” beef? That terminology can be applied to virtually all beef in that it is all started on grass on huge ranches before being sent to feedlots. It’s too expensive to feed them corn as soon as they’re weaned, plus they can barely survive on the diet and possibly would not make it to a good slaughter weight anyway. Gone are the days that we can just read a label that says “organic” or “cage free” or whatever and feel good about what we’re eating.

    And the saddest thing to me is the lack of general public awareness of these topics. I get so wrapped up in my own little foodie-hippie world that sometimes it feels like everyone knows and cares about these things. Then reality hits me in the face and I realize that most people, even in my own family, don’t even know that there is something to care about.

    Anyway… how about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver? Have you read that? Your writing reminds me of her writing a bit. If you haven’t read it, you might enjoy it.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 4, 2010 12:18 pm

      Lisa, comments are always welcome and appreciated. I’ve heard that Portland is a great place to find local meat. Awesome that you’re trading lamb for eggs. I too, get wrapped up in my foodie-hippie world and then am shocked to hear that kids at our local public school are given candy regularly as rewards. The general public awareness is low, for sure, but small farms are on the rise, and given the United Nations study that placed the majority of global warming blame on animal agriculture (more than transportation) perhaps laws will actually change in the near future. And until then, change starts with us, right? And, I loved Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. I’m getting ready to re-read it as my family is going to take a pledge soon to dedicate one day each week to eating entirely locally.

  9. Melissa permalink
    August 5, 2010 5:18 pm

    You are so inspiring!

    And your daughter is seriously gorgeous.

    Can’t wait to make your bread . . . and while getting local produce here in the bay area is easy, the whole grass-fed meat thing is a bummer . . . but we have been considering going vegetarian (again), with flexibility.

  10. Diane H permalink
    August 5, 2010 11:18 pm

    I’d love to hear how this month’s one small change works out. I vacillate on the whole meat buying thing because it’s so convenient to buy from grocery store since I’m there every week. I’ve cut down on eating it, but it’s still quite a staple.

    Another book recommendation if you haven’t is “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver. I have it if you ever want to borrow it.

  11. August 6, 2010 9:11 am, woman, fer posting that bread recipe. i really thought i was simply missing the baking gene. i mean, i haven’t tried this new recipe yet, but i have faith…

  12. August 6, 2010 10:51 pm

    Amen, sister. I haven’t read that book but did read about ‘free range’ etc lingo a few years back and the facts stuck. We hardly eat any meat these days because we just cant deal. I plan to hunt this fall if I can get my shit together and take a safety course…and our friends are raising a pig for us this summer! And, I nearly ate Paige. Other than that, it’s tofu. An, good god, I love cheese. Oh and I should mention that I can’t turn down food that is given to me at a friend’s home…even if I know it’s tyson chicken. Opportunivore I am. I prefer to eat the meat to feeling rude and regretting saying no…shucks, what to do there?

  13. Steph permalink
    August 7, 2010 4:04 pm

    Inspiring post! I have started making my own yogurt and granola, and now I’m going to try the bread recipe.

    Good news for Durango Locals: Zia Taqueria now has LOCAL CHICKEN! I had it in my burrito the other night and it was delish!!!

  14. August 9, 2010 10:23 am

    Awesome. Your food exchange and your goal!

  15. Heather Spencer permalink
    August 24, 2010 1:30 pm

    Be the change you want to see in the world.

    Rachel, you ARE the change! You inspire me.

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