Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Food is a right, not a privilege"

In the world of food activism, there exists a wonderful group called Food Not Bombs. They take shape in chapters across the country, generally geared toward providing food to those without. In high school, I volunteered for a time with the chapter in my hometown. This consisted of hanging out on Saturday mornings at a nearby collective house, cooking a bunch of food, and giving it away at lunchtime to folks in a park downtown. At the time, I got involved primarily because as a 16-year old self-professed communist with blond dreadlocks, those were the people to know. Nowadays, slightly less idealistic, I still put a lot of stock in Food Not Bombs' mission and principles.

The local chapter in Seattle organizes a weekly "Free Food Market," which takes place Sunday afternoons in a public park. Dedicated as they are to providing organic and vegan/vegetarian food, volunteers go around to the city's food co-ops, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's, to collect the food the stores can't or don't think they can sell that week. Drivers arrive at the park, cars and trucks loaded with boxes of produce, canned goods, breads and baked goods, and the occasional crate of dairy products.

People who've come for food help unload the boxes and space them out evenly on the pavement. After announcements from the organizers and pleas to stay afterward and help clean up, someone says go, and it's a free-for-all. Most of the goodies are gone within 10 or 15 minutes; only the most persistent sort through the piles of rotting tomatoes and wilted greens. What little food doesn't find a home gets composted, of course.

I love the "Market" not only because I come home with loaves upon loaves of otherwise expensive, artisan breads (mmm . . . Rosemary), and but also because it offers a weekly chance to engage with the broad spectrum of faces who need and believe in free food.

The "Market" draws an interesting crowd: homeless folks camping out at the nearby community center, families with small children, hungover hipsters. People arrive on foot, in wheelchairs, on bicycles, and in strollers. And everyone seems to know each other. Other than the occasional misogynistic rumbling when it comes to unloading the vehicles ("Are you sure you can handle that one by yourself? It's pretty heavy!" "Here, let me take that from you"), it's quite idyllic.

Waiting in the park on a sunny afternoon, watching folks lounging in the grass, chatting in small groups, or shooting hoops as they wait for the food train, I feel privileged to live where I live, and to know the people I know. And I feel hungry.

Visit Food Not Bombs' national website at

Friday, July 17, 2009

Raising the (granola) bar

I call these "fiber bombs," and they kept me well breakfasted and snack-filled while posted for a week in the back country. The following recipe is a modification of a modification of another recipe; feel free to play with ingredients and amounts.

The wet:
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup soy milk

The dry:
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup ground flax meal
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt

The chunky:
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit (chopped small)
1 cup dried + sweetened coconut flakes
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup almond slivers
3/4 cup chocolate chips

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Grease a 9 x 13 pan
- Beat wet ingredients together
- Sift dry ingredients together
- Add the wet to the dry, stir well
- Add the chunky ingredients to the batter, stir well
- Spread batter evenly in the pan
- Bake 30 minutes (until golden brown on the edges - they should still be soft when done)
- Cool, cut into 24 pieces, wrap in foil/wax paper
- Eat them within the next couple days, or freeze them to store for later