Sunday, November 29, 2009

Savory pies

...because pretty food pictures are always easiest to post.

Mini vegan pot pie, savory pumpkin pie, and collard quiche:

And the big versions:

All delicious, all perfectly freeze-able for later enjoyment!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

'Tis the season, Pt. I

As some of you may know, I hate(d) Christmas. Perhaps I hate it because it was something the other kids had when I was growing up. Perhaps it's because it's so nauseatingly omnipresent for a full three months of every year (the Madison oldies station has already been playing Christmas music for three weeks! And not just Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman, but songs like Christmas Shoes [with the line I want her to look beautiful/If mama meets Jesus tonight] and Destiny's Child 8 Days of Christmas [which holds up "a pair of Chloe shades and a diamond belly ring, a crop jacket with dirty Denim jeans, and the keys to a CLK Mercedes" among the ultimate perfect gifts]). And especially because it promotes (not just promotes--forces!) the worst kind of deep-down, dirty consumerism that I hate most.

In any case, I have much more to say about Christmas, and with "the holidays" coming on, it's probably a safe bet that I'll keep writing about it, but the initial topic I intended to write about in the first place was the impact of our consumer choices, and how hard it is to reconcile all the different forces that go into the purchase of a single winter coat (at least for me). Now, I'll just admit upfront that I'm one of those environmentalists who focuses on consumption, even as I know that the decisions made by corporations and huge entities like universities have so much more impact than whether or not I put a brick in my toilet tank (to use the analogy Bill Cronon uses in his environmental history lectures) or do any of the other 50 things I can do to save the earth. And the end of the day, I do think our culture stems from the actions each individual takes and the impact that individual has in setting an example for her friends, her children, her classmates, her students, and the people around her (along with, of course, the lobbying and editorial-writing and organizing [and blogging!] that she does).

But I'm the kind of person who gets totally amped by Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff

And the kind of person who can't stop talking about The Better World Shopping Guide, which helps rank lots of different companies and products based on their records with Human Rights, The Environment, Animal Protection, Community Involvement, and Social Justice.

I'm just the kind of person who believes that every individual choice matters, and that change has to start with me, and with you, and with my mother, and with my friends.

But that does not make it easy to buy a winter coat.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tales from Planet Earth, Pt III

And here's a video from the weekend itself, and the event that I planned, involving beautiful images from the Troy Kids' Garden, a sing-along of "Dirt Made My Lunch" (lyrics below), and a cooking demo of farmers' market spring rolls with Madison's premier chef Tory Miller:

Dirt made my lunch,
Dirt made my lunch.
Thank you Dirt, thanks a bunch,
For my salad, my sandwich
My milk and my munch 'cause
Dirt, you made my lunch.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tales from Planet Earth, Pt II

Just because Tales from Planet Earth was such a big part of my life during the past few months, it seems fit to describe it in somewhat more detail (whether for posterity or for those few of my friends who actually read this blog...). The entire event and activities leading up to it were a crucial balancing force on the lopsided academic thing that is sometimes my life. I have felt grounded and sane this semester largely because of this opportunity to reach outside the academy, to find inspiration in community and children and people's goodness and their hope for change.

First the background:

Two years ago, when we (that is, my academic home, the Center for Culture, History and Environment, or CHE) put on the first Tales from Planet Earth, the film festival was a huge success and left many people excited and inspired. But this time around, it seemed like it was worth filling in what had seemed like the only missing piece last time: How do we make it so that this film festival can have a lasting impact on the larger Madison community? How do we leverage the films and people's excitement into action and activism? How do we create a direction for people to turn, a place for them to funnel the energy coursing through a theater as the lights come up? So, out of the collaboration between Gregg Mitman (my advisor) and Judith Helfand (an amazing filmmaker and activist who organized a group called Working Films) was born this class called Community Engagement through Film. Now, I was finished with all my course requirements and would've otherwise just spent the semester working on my dissertation proposal, but I was so excited about the idea of this class, and the idea that we could positively shape this film festival, that I couldn't resist signing up.

Through this class, and my own interests, I've spent the last semester working with a local organization Community GroundWorks at Troy Gardens (where I also worked last summer as a garden educator) to link their goals and projects with one of the festival's amazing films, What's On Your Plate? This outreach work has taken many forms, from organizing and fundraising to writing press releases and planning events. You can read more about this partnership here, or by looking at my Twitter account, or by visiting the website I built for one of our projects.

One of the goals of our partnership was to find local businesses to be festival sponsors. But instead of the usual model of sponsorships where businesses give money to the festival itself and get positive publicity in return, we encouraged them to donate specific materials to our community organizations instead. So I (with the help of one of my classmates when I was down with the flu!) pitched my project and this outdoor kids' kitchen that we're hoping to build to a bunch of local businesses a month or so ago, and ended up getting three who were willing to help out! A local home building company, Marling HomeWorks, offered to donate $500 in building supplies for the kitchen; our favorite brewpub in Madison, The Great Dane, gave $300 toward mosaic glass and tiles that are going to provide the foundation of the kitchen; and our awesome local grocery, the Willy St. Co-op gave $200 in store credit for use in buying items for cooking that we can't grow in the kitchen. So I raised all this money for Community GroundWorks, and it felt awesome. Just awesome. We still need more, though, so please visit our gift registry, if you're so inclined, to help stock the Kids' Kitchen!

In short, I've found this sort of community work so exciting and rewarding and the perfect balance to the rest of my life. I need to remind myself, again and again, that I have to be proactive about keeping this sort of element present and central to who I am. Otherwise, I wither away...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tales from Planet Earth!

For the last few months, one of two projects that has absorbed me most has been in preparation for this film festival Tales from Planet Earth that just came to a close this weekend. It was such an overflowing-ly impressive weekend, full of awesome films and community building and a real sense of what makes Madison and the UW and CHE so great. I'd like to write more about the whole weekend soon, because there was so much to it, but for now I'll share some trailers for some of my favorite films that I saw this weekend. For the full roster (aka "movies to watch" list), see the Tales website. Check them out!

Two I couldn't find trailers for, but which I was astonished by and think everyone should go seek out (now!)