Thursday, September 1, 2011

September Bobaganda: More on caramelized onions, summer squash, and why food storage is important.

In my  Bobaganda of August 1, I discussed caramelizing an entire crock pot of onions and then freezing them in meal size portions, as one way to ensure that the summer abundance of onions can be enjoyed this winter.   Oklahoma Food Coop member and producer Leslie Moyer posted this gorgeous picture of her crockpot of caramelized onions to her Facebook page.  Imagine how tasty this crockpot of onions will be over the next few months. Talk about a convenience slow food!  Anyway, there's still lots of onions available through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative this month. So now is the time to stock up and preserve this summer bounty for eating later.

Another common summer vegetable available through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative  this month is summer squash. I went to a potluck dinner at Allison Blanchard's house last night (she who manages the produce section so efficiently on delivery day), and earlier this summer she bought a case of yellow squash through the coop.  She cut off the ends, sliced them in half, boiled them for 3 minutes, then spread them out (one layer) on a cookie sheet and put the sheet in the freezer. When the squash (shouldn't the plural of squash be squish? ) was frozen, she put it in ziplock freezer bags. So if she needs one or two, she takes them out, cooks to perfection, and serves. By freezing them first on a tray, she avoids the problem of ending up with a large clump of frozen vegetables suitable only for a banquet not a meal ;).

I am seeing a bounty of sweet potato greens this month at the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, and while I know this sounds almost weird, if you like cooked greens you will love sweet potato greens. A common staple in African cuisine, read about cooking sweet potato greens at --

I'm ordering some this month and intend to try them southern style -- chopped finely, cooked with bacon, onions, hot peppers, a dab of vinegar, and some liquid smoke.

Here's an interesting twist on breading fish.  Some of us have to watch our carb consumption due to problems with diabetes.  So instead of breading some tilapia with cornmeal, I used pecan meal.  I made my own pecan meal by pulsing the pecans in a coffee grinder.  Probably a food processor or blender would be better, but I didn't have one handy.  then I just dipped the fish filets in an egg wash, and in the pecan meal and  then into the frying oil.  Very Tasty.  As soon as the weather cools off a bit so I start cooking inside again, I am going to try to make a pecan meal muffin.  there are quite a few recipes in the online low carb communities for almond meal or almond flour muffins, and pecans are as low carb as almonds, or almost anyway. And pecans are an Oklahoma product available through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.

Memo to producers: when are we going to see some Oklahoma-grown tilapia?  I'm tired of buying Chinese tilapia.

Speaking of counting carbs, yogurt cheese is a great low carb product, maybe 5 grams of carbohydrate per cup (and a cup of yogurt cheese is a lot).  Most of the carbs in yogurt are in the whey, and yogurt cheese is basically yogurt minus much of the whey.  So if you are counting carbs for weight loss or diabetes issues, yogurt cheese should be on your Oklahoma Food Cooperative shopping list this month.

This is a good month for eating what's available, which is, after all, the most basic premise of the Oklavore movement.  There is a tremendous amount of food available this month at the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, and even our prepared foods are for the most part less expensive than eating out.  So instead of spending seven to ten dollars buying an inferior lunch, stock up on prepared foods from our coop producers and take your lunch with you. You will certainly be healthier, and the food will be tastier.  It's a mystery to me why some people won't hesitate to spend seven bucks at a fast food restaurant but hesitate to spend a similar amount for some good wholesome food that they could bring from home for their lunch.

I also want to continue to remind us all of the great value of our non-food items, especially the body and laundry care products available through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.  Many of these products from the big box stores create toxic stews in our water, and God only knows what they could be doing to your body. Many of them are tested on animals, who suffer greatly as a result.  Our artisan body and laundry care products are better for the earth, never tested on animals, and in fact offer great value. Sure, the sticker price on some of them might be a bit higher than at the big box store, but when you figure the "price per wash" or "price per load of laundry", you are saving money. Quality always counts.

Don't forget to pick up the plants you need for this fall.  Fall in Oklahoma is a great time to plant perennials and it looks like there are lots of plants available this month.

Any way you look at it, the prospects for the 2012 wheat crop are looking rather grim. This article from AgWeb -- Next drought victim: 2012 wheat crop? is "read and weep".

So how is your family's wheat storage program?  Did you reply -- "what wheat storage program?"  Well, here's the facts.  The US government used to maintain a strategic reserve of wheat, but that was all sold off long ago and not replaced.  So if you want to protect your family -- call it a "famine hedge" -- it's up to you to buy, store, and hold your own supply of wheat and other foods. Wheat has the virtue of staying good for 30 years and more when properly stored. I'll say more about storing wheat in my next post in a few days, but in the meantime, I want to say that those bags and buckets of wheat available on the September order at today's prices may look positively cheap and "value priced" if we don't get a wheat crop in 2012.

And we quite frankly might not get a wheat crop in 2012.  I know that is an alarmist statement, but we have been running close to the edge on food and energy for a long time --  so close that it won't take a big mis-step to send us sliding over an edge.  For years I have been writing to you and anyone else who would listen about the triple threats we face -- economic irrationality, climate instability, peak energy.  Those are real threats, they are not boogermen that I dreamed up in order to liven up my rhetoric with scary stories.

I know that every single one of us is absolutely invulnerable and will never have an accident or lose our job or fall victim to one or all three of those triple threats, but that feeling of personal invulnerability is an artifact of cheap oil, a relatively stable climate, and personal feelings of economic security encouraged by politicians and advertising. It seems to me that stable climate, cheap oil, and economic security are in increasingly short supply these days.  Just because we haven't slid over the abyss thus far does not mean it won't happen. The closer we get to the edge, the more likely the possibility of a "feeding frenzy" of numerous negative feedback loops reinforcing each other thus creating the risk of a dystopic downward spiral of devolution.

Note also that when it comes to food storage, meat is an important food to stock up on. With a good freezer, meat keeps very well.  Manual freezers are much better than frost free refrigerators, and be sure to develop a back-up system in case the power fails. A simple backup is a marine battery, an inverter big enough to power your freeer, and jumper cables to recharge your battery once its depleted from your car or pickup.  A better choice for recharging would be a small generator and a battery charger.  I'll say more about this later.  The long-term impact of drought will certainly drive an increase in the cost of meat.
  • There will be smaller herds, since many ranchers are selling off their herds due to the high cost of feed and the drought impact on their pastures, and
  • The costs of feed and other inputs are skyrocketing.
So now's a good time to stock up on all the meats.  Once you get your stock built up, rotate it regularly. Buy extra now to get to where you need to be on your storage program, then go back to buying what you typically use in a month, and rotate your supplies so you always have (for example) six months or more of meats in your freezer.

So ask yourself again -- "how is my family food storage program" -- and if you don't like the answer, now is the time to convert some of your family's savings into food.  Every household should keep some of its savings in the form of food.

If you think it is about time that you paid more attention to bracing for the on-coming storm, besides bulking up your food storage, I invite you to invest $10 in purchasing a copy of the permaculture design for my home, Gatewood Urban Homestead, available as a PDF delivered via email this and every month through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. My producer name is Prairie Rose Permaculture, and if you want it on a CD, you can get it that way too but it costs a bit more since I have to buy a CD and an envelope to deliver it in.

Finally, I would like to say a word about the Oklahoma Worker Cooperative Network, which is my latest cooperative organizing effort. A worker cooperative is a business that is owned, controlled, and managed by its worker-owners.  We are going on tour in late September and in the month of October, to present an introductory evening participatory workshop.  We're calling our tour -- "A Better Way to Go to Work".  There will be presentations in Stillwater, Shawnee, Norman, El Reno, Edmond, OKC NE, OKC SE, OKC NW, and OKC SW.  See our Fall Tour page for the places and dates, all of the meetings will start at 7 PM.  They are free, and we invite anyone who is interested in the concept of worker cooperatives and participating in an economy of solidarity to attend.  In a sea of economic irrationality, worker owned cooperatives are islands of economic rationality and security. 

If you think that you would be interested in starting a worker owned cooperative -- and in the field of growing and producing local foods, there are many entrepreneurial possibilities -- or if you would like to help jump start this concept in Oklahoma -- I invite you to join the Oklahoma Worker Cooperative Network, which is itself structured as a cooperative. A membership share is only $25.

Well, folks, I have written myself into a storm of hunger. So I am going to take my own advice and have some egg salad, made with coop eggs and April Harrington's Most Delicious dill-zucchini relish and coop onions  (OK, the mayo and mustard came from Buy for Less, but I was out of yogurt cheese or I would have used that).

Y'all bon appetit, you hear?  

PS.  To join the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, click HERE.

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