Archive Page 3

First day at the Victory Garden

I very nearly left the house without a jacket on Sunday morning.

Two hours into my first stint as a docent in the Victory Garden, I was simultaneously applauding my decision to actually grab my favorite grey hoodie and kicking myself for not grabbing my fleece jacket to go over it.

“I’m freezing,” I muttered to Lauren, who was volunteering with me that day. “I cannot believe I almost didn’t bring my hoodie.”

Lauren shook her head and zipped her fleece (while I stifled inadvertent envy) up a little further. We both eyed the cloud-thick sky. I wrinkled my nose at the mist. It felt like early spring in Iowa, not even close to what I consider summer.

Regardless of weather-related challenges (Note: bring many more layers this weekend…), this was a fairly low-key volunteer effort. I spent much of my time wandering around the garden taking pictures, and having conversations with the English-speaking visitors. As much as I like opera, I was of no help with the busload of Italian tourists who came through about 45 minutes into the morning, and even though I live in Oakland’s Chinatown, I wasn’t any help with the Chinese tourists, either.

At one point, the Garden Educator on site to keep us on task asked me to help her water some plants. I said I would, but then a woman walking by stopped at the fence around the garden to ask if there was a need for more volunteers, and so I wrote down the volunteer coordinator’s email address for her and talked to her for a few minutes about the garden, and by the time I turned back around, another volunteer had picked up the watering can and had taken over that job.

Dirty hands? Not really. But I can’t complain about spending a few hours wandering aimlessly through a pretty spectacular garden.

Notes from the UnConference

Although I promised not to report any further on BlogHer ’08, I do have one pressing obligation that I vowed to have off my plate before the end of the weekend: posting notes from the blog re-branding session that Diana of Of The Princess and The Pea and I hosted together on Sunday morning.

The attendees (and once again, I hope this is a complete list, but if it’s not, please yell via comments and I’ll add you…) included me and Diana, Kat of KungFoodie, Shuna of Eggbeater, Sarah of Findableblogs.com, Leah of Califmom, Claire of Cookthink, Susan of the Broad Humor Film Festival, Jeannette of Half of Me, Shannon of the Walden University Alumni Blog, Genie of In A Bottle, and Kristen of Lively Women. The notes are pretty conversational, though, so even if you weren’t part of the discussion, feel free to download a copy — you might find something of use, if you’re looking at making some sort of change in your blogging topic, focus or arena.

Farewell to Sher

I would really rather not be writing this post.

I would really rather not have eaten this particular meal at this particular time.

I would prefer to have stumbled across it, like so many other recipes posted by food bloggers I know and enjoy, and would prefer to have just made it whenever, unnoticed. I would prefer not to have been thinking about what I was going to way when I wrote it up.

Most of us in the food blogging community know this already: last Sunday morning, very suddenly, Sher of What Did You Eat? died of a heart attack.

Sher’s one of the bloggers I had not met. But I’d been reading her for awhile now, connected to her via Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, and because I have a friend who lives in Davis, I always felt like I could visualize where she lived as I read about her life.

And now she’s gone, and that’s left me with a lot to think about. She’s the first blogger in my regular reading to fall away, not because she abandoned her blog, but because life abandoned her. It breaks my heart, and I find myself thinking about the other food bloggers I know, the other people in this community of technologically-minded women and men who enrich my life so very much, and how they are not just glimmers on the screen to me. They are my peers, my friends, my compatriots. Any one of them gone leaves a hole.

Sher's stuffed mushrooms

Sher's stuffed mushrooms

My mother called while I was cooking up Sher’s Poblano and Cheddar-Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms last night. As I talked, I dried the spinach, and my salad spinner is a noisy thing. “What are you doing?” she asked.

I explained. “She was only 60,” I said. “I’m not very joyful about preparing this meal.”

The event: Remember Sher through her recipes. Kalyn suspended Weekend Herb Blogging in Sher’s honor, and asked those of us who take part in an event to take part in this one, organized by Mary, the breadchick, instead.

I spent some time browsing Sher’s archives, looking for something that spoke to me. This recipe did, partially because I love stuffed mushrooms, partially because it featured cilantro, an herb that, I’ll admit, I tolerate, but that I know Kalyn loves. And Kalyn and Sher were such good friends that it seemed appropriate.

I can tell you this: the “green taste” that Sher describes? It really shines in this dish. There’s no other real way to write about it, so I’m going to leave it in Sher’s hands. And the recipe is amazing. I do wish I had made more of it. I will make it again, to be sure. I’ll even keep the cilantro in there—I really enjoyed the recipe as Sher posted it.

But I hope to never make it again with as heavy a heart. To Sher’s family, I wish you consolation in your grief. To Kalyn, I wish you consolation as well, but I thank you for organizing this.

And to Sher, thank you. Thank you for this recipe, thank you for the other recipes that folks will have chosen and prepared in your honor this weekend, and thank you for your joyful writing. Know that we miss you.

Mind over to-matter

Do not think for a second that I’m going to complain about the weather in California. I’m not. By any stretch of the imagination. No way, no day.

I love the weather in California. But I will say this: It doesn’t feel like tomato weather.

It’s chilly in the mornings here, and on the Fourth of July, I wore jeans and a sweater. “I’m used to sweating on the Fourth, not wearing a sweater,” I told a friend recently.

And so, as stories about tomatoes – gardeners who are tasting their first home-grown of the season, farmers’ market aficionados purchasing the perfect heirlooms, chefs adding them to their menus – proliferate around me, I find myself not having a craving for my absolute favorite vegetable-but-really-fruit.  It’s not that I don’t love them, it’s that the weather cues I’m getting aren’t leading me to BLTs and panzanella and gazpacho. In fact, a little over a week ago, I bought some tomatoes at a local farmers’ market myself, but a little voice kept saying to me, “It’s too cold. They MUST be out of a greenhouse.”

Maybe they were, but they were downright tasty, which is why I have to start thinking much differently before I blink and have to wait until 2009 for the good stuff. There’s slow-roasting to do, and sauce to make. Even if I’m living in California and not Iowa, I understand the truth of it: if I want to take fresh tomatoes and turn them into sauce for the colder months (OK, those months won’t be that much colder, but still…), I have to start soon, or I’m going to be relegated to the jarred stuff.

My body is not calibrated to the combination of the vegetables of the season and this weather. But it’s time for mind over matter. Or, should I say, mind over to-matter?

Victory! Or, I found a garden (for the time being)

When I looked for apartments near my work in Oakland, I wasn’t sure what I’d find. I knew I had some very simple, non-negotiable criteria: I wanted to be able to walk to and from work. I wanted a decent kitchen. I wanted something safe, and I wanted to try to avoid paying my entire annual salary in rent.

Slow Food Nation's Victory Garden sits in the shadow of City Hall.

Slow Food Nation's Victory Garden sits in the shadow of City Hall.

It might come as a surprise, based on the name of this blog, that having some space to garden or plant was not on that non-negotiable list. But I had this feeling that, somehow, I’d figure out a way to get my hands in the dirt, even if that way was unconventional.

Sure enough, a way presented itself. Slow Food Nation is bringing its foodie parade to town over Labor Day Weekend, and one aspect of the conference/festival /concert/celebrity-chef-sighting-opportunity is the Victory Garden planted in front of San Francisco’s City Hall.

Patterned after the Victory Gardens that fed the nation during World War II, the main garden at Civic Center is slated to provide fresh vegetables a few weeks after the Slow Food Nation gathering to those with limited access to produce in San Francisco.

The garden’s been attracting a little bit of nay-saying, particularly over at Garden Rant and the San Francisco Bay Guardian Politics blog. It’s temporary, they say. It’s expensive and a waste of resources. It’s a photo op. It’s a pale imitation of a real urban gardening program.

Victory gardener at work

Victory gardener at work

I went down to see the garden on my birthday, the day after it was planted, and I’ll admit, the temporary nature of the garden surprised me. I expected something much more permanent. But I have also noticed that I have yet to mention the project to anyone who hasn’t heard about it and who doesn’t think community gardening is a good idea.

Now, to be fair, a lot of people I talk to in my ordinary life are foodies, gardeners, or public health folks who are predisposed to applaud veggies growing just down the steps of City Hall. But this story is being told, and there are people making sure the story doesn’t end on Labor Day. Besides, Alice Waters is behind this, and I defy anyone to say she’s not vehemently committed to the principle of equal access to fresh, local produce for all. This might be a photo op, but awareness has to start being raised somehow.

Regardless, I’ll be able to get a firsthand glimpse of how the garden is growing and how people are responding to it. Starting Sunday morning, I take my first turn as a garden docent, a volunteer position that might include giving garden tours, answering questions about vegetables (Apparently the volunteer coordinator doesn’t read this blog…), and helping with garden maintenance.

I may not have my own garden right now, but I’m about to start experiencing the photo op up close, and I can’t wait to get in there and see what it’s all about.


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All words and images (unless otherwise credited) on The Inadvertent Gardener are © 2006-2008 Eugenia E. Gratto. All rights reserved.

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