Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

A Bowl Of Local Wisdom: The Cleaner Plate Club

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Originally posted on the Basic Country Skills blog at Mother Earth News.

By Beth Bader, co-author of The Cleaner Plate Club, Storey Publishing.

When my little girl and I head to the farmers market, we leave the house with an empty market basket and open minds. Of course, she already has her list in her head — cheese bread from the local baker, honey sticks from Joli’s bees, and fresh sheep’s milk cheese with rosemary. It’s a great list for a six year old, really.

As for this bigger kid, I’ve finally learned not to make a list mental or otherwise. What ends up on the dinner table on Saturday night just … happens. Almost always, it’s one ingredient that catches my eye. One flavor that makes my imagination work, and the recipe comes to me in that moment.

One of the first farmers we visit at the market is a Thai family. Over the years, they have added new ingredients to our menus weekly; small green Thai eggplants, water spinach, fiery peppers, amaranth leaves, and some kind of greens that have no name in English and taste heavenly sautéed and paired with fish. Their table is a weekly source of inspiration for me, and this week is no exception, offering up lemongrass and cilantro.

Across the way is one of my regular stops, heirloom tomatoes in a rainbow of colors beckon next. The farmer knows me well due to my pumpkin addiction. Come fall, I’ll buy over 100 lbs. of his exotic squash. He nods at my kiddo and puts in an extra pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes just for her along with my four ears of corn and three pounds of heirloom tomatoes.

Two more stops, one for a head of red Russian garlic. I promise the farmer there that if he would just bring in the scapes in spring, I would buy these. For now, he’s been giving them away to restaurants, not realizing consumers would buy them. The last stop is the farmer on the end who only comes to market in August with fifty different varieties of peppers. I get a basket of the sweet ones that include chocolate-colored peppadews. He hands a curly, red sweet one to my kiddo and puts in a couple of extra hot pepper varieties for me.

Along with the ingredients for my recipe, somehow my basket is overflowing with a tiny heirloom melon that smells heavenly, a larger watermelon, peaches, berries, and beans to shell later.

On the way home, the kid and I stop at the grocery store. We won’t even need a hand basket. We’re here for just limes, ginger root and fish sauce, and a pound of sustainable seafood — a few things that cannot be sourced locally. The final ingredients come from home; okra from a friend’s garden and three kinds of basil, lemon verbena and mint from my own.

As I serve dinner that evening, a tangy, tart and spicy Lemongrass and Tomato Fish Soup, I realize our meal is a reflection of all my Eat Local food values in single bowl:

  1. Buy as much locally, in season as possible from small, family farms.
  2. Grow what I can myself.
  3. Cherish bounty from friends’ gardens.
  4. Buy only ingredients that cannot be grown locally at the store, buy USA products first before sourcing from other countries.
  5. Buy organic when possible.
  6. Embrace the cultural diversity of the farms in my food shed.
  7. Support farmers who grow heirloom and rare varieties.
  8. Buy only sustainable seafood.


Smash a bit with a mortar and pestle:

2 cloves garlic

4 stalks lemongrass

½ bunch cilantro

1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into three pieces

Add to:

8 cups vegetable stock.

And simmer for 20 minutes. Strain off the solids and return liquid to the pot.

Mix in a small bowl:

1 tbs. fish sauce

1 tbs. soy sauce

1 tbs. sugar

3 tbs. white wine vinegar

Juice of three limes


1 lb. sustainable white fish, cut into four portions.

Add to the infused vegetable stock. Bring back to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes until the seafood is cooked.


4 large tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped into small wedges

Kernels from 4 ears of corn

4 okra sliced

Add to the soup, simmering for another 10 minutes. Place one piece of fish in each bowl, add soup and vegetables.

Garnish with:

Leaves of basil, mint, cilantro, lemon verbena, sliced hot peppers, and wedges of lime. Serves four.

Beth Bader, co-author of The Cleaner Plate Club , has been a photojournalist, writer, and shark wrangler. As much activist as cook, she is most of all a mom determined to make the world a better place for her child, one meal at a time. She is a food blogger at Expatriate’s Kitchen and contributes to and . She lives in Kansas.

For HOMEGROWNers this week: Leave a comment here on the blog telling us how you cook using similar tenets to what Beth lists in her post:

  1. Buy as much locally, in season as possible from small, family farms.
  2. Grow what I can myself.
  3. Cherish bounty from friends’ gardens.
  4. Buy only ingredients that cannot be grown locally at the store, buy USA products first before sourcing from other countries.
  5. Buy organic when possible.
  6. Embrace the cultural diversity of the farms in my food shed.
  7. Support farmers who grow heirloom and rare varieties.
  8. Buy only sustainable seafood.

Definite bonus points for including a recipe or link to one of your recipes, which we’ll also consider for the last week of The Great HOMEGROWN Cookoff of 2011. One lucky person will get a copy of The Cleaner Plate Club book, too! Happy cooking and happy eating!

HOMEGROWN Life: Six Tips For Eating HOMEGROWN On A College Kid Budget

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011






At 19, I moved into my first apartment, a shoebox studio that I shared with a fellow student in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.  Our kitchen was just big enough for the mouse we called Einstein to scurry about. He was a genius at avoiding traps we set out in every nook and cranny, which left us little room to concoct culinary creations on our Playskool-sized stove. So, we sustained ourselves by eating cereal out of paper bowls, and hummus straight from the container. Nevertheless, my roommate and I did find the time, tools, and ingredients to make many messes, and some meals, on the 2’ x 2’ counter space.

Living on a college-kid budget, I spend more time eating samples at Whole Foods Market than buying actual ingredients, but inspiration comes home with me, and I (attempt to) recreate meals on the cheap.  Stockpiling dry goods in bulk, and splurging on fresh foods of the season has allowed me to spend and save, and eat well in the meantime.  By keeping ingredients from rice to spices in the cupboard, and supplementing with local produce from the market, meals are easy to whip up in even the smallest of kitchens.  What tastes better on bitter Boston evening than crock-pot stews of root vegetables, or spicy greens and heirloom tomatoes on a city summer day?  By foraging for zesty foods to enhance staples, you can forget the Mickey D’s and have a truly happy meal!

creepy ronald6unhappy-meal

While it would be sustainable and great to source all of your food from local, organic farms and markets – especially with reports of food safety and genetic modification cropping up too often in the news – it is not entirely possible for those of us who still eat iceberg lettuce and canned peaches from the dining hall a few times a week.  Here are some tips for those out there short on time, cash, and ingredients:

1)    Explore your local farmers’ markets. It is a great place to find out what’s going locally, and meet the farmers who are growing your produce or producing your meats.  Spend the afternoon perusing the seasonal selections, and ask others how to prepare some of the more “exotic” finds like kohlrabi and kale.

2)    Join a CSA or community garden! Opportunities to get your hands dirty and see where your food comes from make the food on your table taste that much sweeter.  Splitting the costs of the share or plot with foodie friends can also cut down on costs, and splitting the goods and making meals together is always more fun.

3)    Have a potluck with friends and screen films that celebrate good food from family farms.  Choose one ingredient to be the “focus food” and make dishes that bring out its flavors…and share the recipes with friends.

4)    Buy organic and local when you can. There are lists like this one that expose the “dirty dozen” foods to avoid.  If your food is healthy, then you are healthy.

5)    Eat sustainable on the go. Even if you are grabbin’ and goin’ there are many companies and local joints that uphold tenets of sustainability and serve good food to go.  Chipotle is one such place to get some grub and do some good.

6)    Take action to change your campus. By joining student groups that promote local food, the organic movement, or celebrate sustainability, you can bring change to your campus food system.  Check out what’s going on at Northeastern University, and start working on your school!


Caroline has been part of the HOMEGROWN and Farm Aid family since she first volunteered at the Farm Aid concert in 2008, and again in 2009. In the winter and summer semesters of 2010, she came on staff as a Northeastern University Co-op intern. She graduates in May (congratulations!) and you’ll soon be seeing a lot more of her here as the HOMEGROWN Flock-tender! Welcome Caroline! We’re lucky to have you!


It’s shop local week!

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

In the face of continuing economic woes, we have the power to create wealth and community by buying goods and services from our neighbors. The organization BALLE has declared December 1-7 “Shop Local Week” – an idea we can support year-round!

From their press release:

“Local, independent businesses and banks of Main Street are the economic drivers that have carried our communities for generations,” says Doug Hammond, executive director of BALLE. “They create the real wealth that sustains the places we call home.”

Another recent study drives home the potential impact of shopping at locally owned stores, whatever the season: The San Francisco Retail Diversity Study found that a slight shift in San Francisco consumer purchasing behavior – diverting just 10% of purchases from national chain stores to locally owned businesses – would, each year, create 1,300 new jobs and yield nearly $200 million in incremental economic activity.

Another study from hard-hit West Michigan echoes these findings:

  • Nearly $140 Million in new economic activity.
  • Over 1600 new jobs.
  • Providing over $50 Million in new wages.

All these benefits may be captured for the people of Kent County with a small change in habits. Just one time out of ten, before heading to a chain store or restaurant, take that business to a local. We believe quality, service, and value for the dollar will be their own reward, but that small act will strengthen the local economy and build a better, more sustainable Greater Grand Rapids.

Learn more about Buy Local organizations, and to find out how to start your own Local First chapter, visit The Business Alliance For Local Economies (BALLE).