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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Inspired by the proactivity surrounding food and food culture I experienced while I was in Puerto Rico, my roommate and I decided to try to grow some plants in our kitchen windowsill. After some light research about what would grow best indoors, we decided to try growing two lettuce blends, basil, mint, and cilantro.

It’s been about two weeks, and our plants now look like this. I don’t have a picture of what they looked like before, but suffice it to say, they were thriving. The lettuce was probably just about ready to be harvested, and the herbs were full and lush (save for the cilantro, which never looked quite healthy to me).

So what went wrong?

Part of the problem has to do with humidity — unless we open the kitchen windows, the plants are incubated in a very humid area without much ventilation or space. We think that the humidity probably caused the lettuce to wilt and die after we neglected to use it up right away.

As for the herbs, that’s on us — we have no idea how to care for plants. We over-harvested the mint and the basil for lemonade and (probably) under-watered the cilantro, never transferred anything to give it room to grow, and weren’t good about pruning. I have hope that the basil and the cilantro will turn around, but the lettuce and the mint seem to be lost forever.

Anyway, our failed first attempt was at least a good learning experience. We’ll get it next time.

UPDATE: I underestimated the power of mint! Looking almost good as new.

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A few weeks ago, I took a short trip to Puerto Rico. I was originally hoping to write an entry about what I ate there with particular focus on Guavate, an area known for its roast pig, but I didn’t end up making it to Guavate at all. I’m not even sure I ate any real Puerto Rican cuisine while I was there — I stayed with a Couchsurfer, and we prepared and ate mostly vegan and vegetarian food.

In general, my diet usually suffers when I travel (the major exception being a visit to Istanbul, during which all I did was eat). I don’t eat out for many meals because I’m usually on my own, and while I’m totally comfortable eating out by myself, it’s easier and cheaper to just grab convenience food or buy groceries. As much as I enjoy the idea of experiencing a culture through its food, I think it’s a pretty difficult thing to do in an honest way — I’d rather grab a random local pastry than eat a nationally recognized dish in a tourist restaurant, for example, and more often than not I end up living off of cereal, yogurt, and fruit.

I’m often told that I’m missing out by not eating local dishes, but honestly, I think it’s sort of a cheap way to have an “authentic” experience while abroad. Eating is something we do with so little intention and awareness, and I think most people take for granted that consuming something foreign to them is the same as noticing what makes it different, but it’s not. There are more emotionally and intellectually significant ways to try to understand unknown surroundings than eating local food, and while there is absolutely something important and unifying about sharing a meal and tasting a foreign dish, it doesn’t chalk up to cultural sensitivity.

Anyway, I didn’t have mofongo or léchon or even a piña colada in Puerto Rico.

What struck me most about food in Puerto Rico is where it comes from — 90% of Puerto Rico’s food is imported. From what I understand, even though the island is extremely fertile, agriculture is dedicated exclusively to cash crops, in part because the United States wanted Puerto Ricans to be dependent on American industry. As a result, Puerto Rico’s food system is totally unsustainable. If for any reason Puerto Ricans were unable to receive imported goods, it would be a complete disaster.

One thing I want to explore with this blog is the social side of food and the food system — especially where food comes from and how food affects communities. San Juan was the first place I’ve ever witnessed the relationship between food and community so explicitly, and it was totally inspiring — people are proactive about growing their own food and educating their communities about sustainability in a way that is both well-received and unpretentious. I’m a little enamored with it, honestly.

Still, I’ll be sure to try the léchon next time.

Seven Stars Farm Original Plain Yogurt

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*Photo by The Frozen Fix

I’ve only just gotten into yogurt. The tartness grossed me out when I was younger, and there’s something about eating spoonable protein I always had trouble getting past — feeling full without chewing weirds me out. Anyway, after countless attempts at including Greek (and organic, and sweetened, and flavored…) yogurt into my diet, I gave up.

And then I had full-fat yogurt and it was everything yogurt is supposed to be — creamy, rich, and filling, but still light. The added fat and calories are negligible to me because I’d rather have unsweetened, full-fat yogurt than sweetened low-fat, and I eat less of it because it’s so satiating. That is, I’d rather enjoy eating full-fat yogurt in moderation than try to make myself like low-fat or non-fat.

Seven Stars Farm’s Original Plain is my current favorite, with Narragansett Creamery from Rhode Island a close second (I’ve already raved about them briefly here).