When it’s all said and done

Well the semester has come to a close and our food class is no more. This was my first service learning class and I for the most part really enjoyed it. I have to admit when first heard we were going to be doing service learning I was a bit annoyed that I would be expected to do extra curricular work for class, unpaid! Even the first few weeks of the semester I was wary about doing my volunteer work, mostly because I had no idea what I would want to do and felt I would get stuck with something boring to simply fill my hours.

Luckily it all worked out when I get connected with Whittier Elementary and got to work in their lunch room. I had so much fun helping the kids out — its pretty easy to get along with first graders. All I had to do was help them with their trays or keep on eye on them as the filled their glasses with milk yet it was a rewarding experience to see the pleasure they got from me interacting with them. It was also great to be able to see change in school food upclose, I thought it made for better insight when writing my paper.It was great to be able to a paper that was different than all the other I have done in my 4+ years at CU.

However I thought there were some negatives to how we did our service learning — note I think that service learning is good but I think the implementation can change. First off I think fifteen hours is an akward amount of time. My suggestion would be to either increase it or decrease it. The amount of time I needed to spend at my volunteer site was only about 7-8 hours to get a good enough understanding of it for my paper — I also think that is a more accurate representation on how much time I would have spent researching, plus I had to do outside research anyway. On the other side if the requirement was more along on the lines of 20 plus hours — having the paper and service requirement become a much greater portion of the class and grade — then one could really go indepth with their work and write a much different paper focusing completely on their service. Another suggestion I have is to set up some more concrete connections for volunteering, I think we all struggled a bit in the beggining with unrerturned phone calls and emails. If from the start an organization is expect 3-4 studetns or more to come throughout the semester it may make things easier. My last suggestion would be to intergrate what each person is doing in their volunteer work with our discussions in class, I think this will allow for a better understanding about the food structure from top to bottom.

Brrrr

I have to admit I love when it is cold and snowing outside: it’s a perfect excuse to eat and drink. Today was the perfect day to infect my house with the smells of a slow simmering soup. After a long morning of running around with first grade basketball neophytes and a frigid yet suprsingly enjoyable team track workout I wanted nothing more than to tucker into some chili and sip on a hearty brew. I had some ground turkery sitting in the freezer so I decided to make a turkey chili. It takes a bit of time to make but most of it is just letting it simmer and allowing all the flavors to meld. I am sitting here eating a spicy bowl, sipping on a delicious malty Hibernation Ale from Great Divide. The heavy malt front with a slight hop bitterness complements the spicy, smoky chili quite well. I am one happy boy right now.

 

Courtesy of http://www.epicurious.com

Turkey Chili with White Beans Bon Appétit | February 1997

If you have leftover chili, serve it over turkey franks (or the chicken ones) the next day.

Yield: Serves 8

ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
1/4 cup chili powder
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
3 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
3 15-ounce cans small white beans, rinsed, drained

Chopped red onion
Chopped fresh cilantro
Plain low-fat yogurt or light sour cream

preparation

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Add oregano and cumin; stir 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high. Add turkey; stir until no longer pink, breaking up with back of spoon. Stir in chili powder, bay leaves, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon. Add tomatoes with their juices, breaking up with back of spoon. Mix in stock and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add beans to chili and simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes longer. Discard bay leaves. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat before continuing.)

Ladle chili into bowls. Pass red onion, cilantro and yogurt separately.

Drawing With Ketchup

Well I finally started my volunteer work. I went today to volunteer during lunch at Whittier Elementary in Boulder. After getting my tour of the school and getting some background about their ever evolving lunch program from the principal I crossed the threshold into the controlled chaos that is an elementary school lunch hour…

In reality the kids were unbelievably well-behaved and other than a few glasses of spilled milk — luckily no one cried — there were no hiccups. Most of the time I was at the window where the get their food, handing them their trays and squirting ketchup on to their sloppy joes — my drawing consisted of smiley faces and Yankees logos. The funny thing is that the window where the pick up their food is too high for the younger half of the kids so I had to help them so that they didn’t drop ground beef all over the place.

The most amazing part of lunch was the eagerness with which the kids attacked the salad bar. Heaping vegetables and fruit onto their trays with visible excitement. There’s no way I would have been eager to eat jicama when I was in first grade.There are still lots of steps to take but this is a sign of definite progress.

I should mention that the food isn’t that bad — I had a veggie patty (albeit with lots of ketchup!) and a salad with peppers, jicama, and chickpeas. Much better than nuggets and fries washed down with a sugary snapple.

Well it’s better than a research paper…

Every class at CU tends to culminate with a final paper or exam — sometimes both. Hours of library time is spent either cramming or typing untill the end. Research papers tend to be the bane of them all — requiring hours upon hours of research before even beginning to write. Journal article after journal article, searching for that evidence to back up your thesis.

Having a service learning class changes the traditional structure of assessment; sure we have to still write a paper but in this instance we are writing about our own experiences. Going out and volunteering somewhere that piques your interest will make for an easy write at the end. Spending fifteen hours working at a homeless shelter will surely provide enough for an engaging paper; starting a paper with an anecdote is a sure way to knock out a page or so.

Service learning is also a way to encourage students to go out an participate in the community that they live. It’s hard to find time outside of school to do some volunteering so making it part of the class is perfect — so much better than homework. My general feeling is that most CU students don’t spend much time participating in the greater Boulder community, this is a perfect opportunity for us to get involved politically, civically, and/or benevolently.

More ways to waste time/prepare for food class…

These are some of my favorite food blogs all of which provide me entertainment and salivation on a daily basis. Enjoy.

Restaurant raving:

http://www.taxigourmet.com/

http://midtownlunch.com/

http://blondieandbrownie.blogspot.com/

http://www.cakespy.com/ — This one actually is a bit of both.

How tos:

http://rasamalaysia.com/

http://www.whiteonricecouple.com/

http://bitten.blogs.nytimes.com/

To Beet or Not to Beet

Boulder has long been at the forefront of environmental and political change, for a long time being a liberal oasis in a red desert. Boulder also may be one of the easiest places to easily eat local and organic (we’ll never overtake Berkeley or NYC though) with a wealth of available local produces as well as top-notch restaurants specializing in seasonal cuisine — I had the pleasure of dining at the Kitchen recently and was extremely impressed. Of course it comes as no surprise that when local farmer’s began discussing the use of Round-Up Ready sugar beets the issue did not pass quietly.

Boulder County is the “epicenter” for organic and natural. If Monsanto were to gain support for its GM products on county land here, it would be a big win for them.” — Boulder Weekly

A vocal group of  six Boulder County farmers — not including the small family farms we see on 13th street every Wednesday and Saturday — have petitioned the county government to allow them to plant Monsanto’s GMO sugar beets on 960 acres of county land. A 2003 decision to allow Round-Up Ready Corn had an addendum that required all GMO plants to be approved on a case-by-case basis. The primary argument against the plants is that there has yet to be any significant long-term testing on GMO plants and their environmental and health impacts. There are simply to many questions left unanswered.

My opinion of GMO plants is still up in the air. While I don’t support Monsanto in the slightest I am not necessarily convinced that technology and gene modification should have no part in our food. What I do believe is that untill we know more about the issue we should hold off from planting the seeds for fear that we could be creating some significant impacts that may be irrevocable. This is why I am trying to volunteer with Fresh Ideas group as they try and keep GMO seeds out of Boulder County.

Time to move forward

I have always been fairly conscious of the ills in the way we as Americans eat, we have almost fully succumbed to the agriculture-industrial complex. What we eat is now grown and/or produced by a handful of multi-national corporations with serious environmental and economic impacts on the world.

For our food writing class we have read the locavore’s bible “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan — nothing new but he has become the preeminent voice on food in this country. We have also watched “The Future of Food” and “Food Inc.” — seemingly identical documentaries that try and make you give up Doritos and Oreos. Both of the documentaries were well made, but neither really told me much that I didn’t already know. It did however instill a bit more passion in changing the way I eat: more farmer’s market produce, less meat, etc.

My biggest issue with changing the food system in this country is how to make it affordable. Food Inc. was the only of the three to detail how hard it is for poor families to eat healthy yet they weren’t able to offer up many solutions. Its easy to spend $20 at the farmer’s market and only come out with produce for three or so meals. Changing the food culture in this country is going to require keeping the food cheap while raising quality, there’s no way around that.

The U.S. will never return to the days of the yeoman farmer. We will never shop for all our meals at a Parisian style open-air market. We have to look forward and try to create a new system for food production, distribution, and consumption. I think the local movement is holding on to an ideal from the past, this will only stunt progress. If we have the technology to have created mega crops and ways of super-sizing livestock I am confident that we will be able to discover a way to sustainably grow healthy food without costing the consumer too much. Who knows, maybe science will create plants that can thrive on low-nutrient, urban plots, providing food for the neighborhood. Maybe I should have gone into biology.