Foraged and Found

Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Hungry just looking at it

Last week I caught Metro Bus 271 from just west of Bellevue Square into the U District to check out The Burke Museum's new exhibit Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, in which a photography team chose ten families around the world and documented a snapshot of their food life, including the signature photo of the family, surrounded by "a week's worth of groceries." The corner of the museum was crowded with preschoolers, teachers, and a few curious foodies like me. As I expected, the American family sat amidst a cornucopia of processed food, the sheer volume of which made me doubt whether I could trust the whole project. Surely the photographers asked them to empty out their pantry cabinets as well..? Second to the Americans in processed food products was the Japanese family. The family with the fewest? The Quechuans, from high in the Andes, in Ecuador.

A woman next to me, eyeballing their potatoes and other tubers, murmured, "How healthy!"

When her friend wondered, "But no protein..?"--I couldn't help but jump in.

"My husband spent a week in the Andes with a Quechuan village," I said. "The only protein they had was guinea pigs."

"Oh!" exclaimed How-Healthy. "Vermin."

The exhibit listed the average weekly grocery bill in dollars, but unfortunately didn't correlate that to percentage of income. In straight dollars, however, the German family topped the list at $500.07(!). At the bottom was the Mali family, at $26.39. The Americans fell second at $341.98, closely followed by the Japanese. The Chinese family grew the most food on the side. While the data was interesting, it's impossible for one family to represent a whole nation's eating habits. I imagine the urban/rural disparities in each country are huge, as are the class divisions.

What shouldn't be missed, I think, is the side exhibit entitled Salish Bounty: Traditional Native American Foods of Puget Sound. According to Elise Krohn of Northwest Indian College, the native Salish tribes enjoyed a diet of over 300 foraged and hunted foods before white encroachment and settlement. And nowadays? "Most Americans eat fewer than twelve foods on a regular basis. In this very short period of a couple of generations, we've gone from an incredibly complex diet, eating with the seasons, eating many types of foods, to eating just a few." Lost cultures and food traditions are always sad things, but I confess my mind got hung up on the 300 foods. 300? Foods in the Puget Sound just lying there or swimming around or stuck to rocks or otherwise there for the taking?

(Please forgive the Italics after this point. I CANNOT get Blogger to turn them off. Curses.)

At the Bellevue Farmers Market we've frequently enjoyed the offerings of Foraged and Found Edibles, from their tiny huckleberries and various fungi, to their more exotic "sea beans," but I never thought of them as carriers-on, in a way, of a longtime Puget Sound food tradition. Nor did it occur to me that ordinary, failed farmers such as myself, could--with a little know-how and effort--also take advantage of the 300 Free Foods lying around the region.

Since we still have a few weeks till the Market opens, I picked up a copy of Northwest Foraging at the museum gift store. Everyone I mention this to is sure I'll poison myself, but I figure I can at least identify dandelions, for Pete's sake. I'll keep you posted. If this blog ceases to exist, you'll know it's because I mistook Death Camas for the edible Camas, and all in the name of free food.

Stay tuned.

I know you can't read it, but you get the idea: BOUNTY!

Saturday Market Opens This Week!

--which is good news for those of you who have been wandering around near Top Pot asking for directions, weeks in advance!

Some of our farmers and vendors will overlap between the Thursday and Saturday markets, but there will also be new faces, including Hama Hama Oysters and Skagit Valley's flower-growing Jello Mold Farm, recently featured in this Seattle Times article. And for you fans of Asian vegetables and squashes, look for Mair Farm-Taki.

Meanwhile, another great week at our Thursday market. This time I arrived before the first-of-the-season's strawberries were sold out at Tiny's Organic and managed to get at least five of them before my youngest ate them all. The trend for enormous strawberries in the grocery store mystifies me, since every market aficionado knows that the littlest ones are the real flavor bombs.

For Memorial Day one woman purchased twenty-one (!) bouquets for the graves she intended to decorate, including one of gorgeous peonies, perhaps from Pa Yang Farm. All I can say is, I feel rather sorry for the graves next to the twenty-one because they might look a little shabby in comparison...

After sampling one of Foraged and Found's "sea beans" (available through mid-July), Jonathan and I had a fascinating discussion about their new tea and medicinal offerings. F&F is known for its mushrooms and huckleberries, of course, but they also carry such things as nettle tea, rich in vitamins A, C and E and iron, and said to be a digestive aid and to improve the skin and scalp! Jonathan suggests cutting it in with loose-leaf mint tea or mint leaves. They also carry that superstar of the Vitamin-C-supplement section, rosehips. I'd never actually laid eyes on the things before, and thought you might not have either--hence the picture. As with the nettle tea, Jonathan chops up 2-3 rosehips and adds them to mint.

And having worked up a decent appetite, I checked out the chef demo by Newport High School's Culinary Class, a two-year program taught by Tracy Green. The roughly 30-student classes are serious business, being two periods long and going for the entire year. In their second year, the students become sous chefs. For the market demo they instructed the audience in making a Potato-Onion Gruyere Galette, passing the generous sample tray twice, before moving on to making pasta.

And finally, speaking of pasta, I brought home a pound of lovely, pink, beet fettucine from La Pasta and served it up with homemade Alfredo sauce and Loki salmon. Just writing about it makes me want to dig out the leftovers for breakfast!

Think good thoughts this week, and maybe this Mayvember weather will lift, but at least our seasonal market produce will be there Thursday and Saturday, rain or shine.

May Day

Good news, everyone! The countdown to Opening Day is on. If you follow any other local farmers markets, you see them all gearing up. My own hands are twitching for some Loki salmon, some Fishing Vessel St. Jude tuna (can you say "multi-can discount"?) and a quirky new vegetable to try, depending on what's on offer. Word has it Foraged and Found will be there with possibilities like nettles, morels, various wild lettuces, and fiddleheads! (Recipe ideas for such items can be found in the Bellevue Farmers Market Cookbook or at a blogsite such as Mixed Greens.) The kids and I were also sitting at MOD Pizza last night, agreeing that it, while tasty, couldn't touch Veraci at the Bellevue Farmers Market.

Market Season also means I'll have fresh blog fodder for you, rather than just fear-inducing food factoids that I've trolled from the media. Speaking of which, here's the round-up for the week:

1. If you haven't yet seen FOOD, INC., it's an informative and entertaining movie. And it's now on Netflix Instant Play, for those of you who considered seeing it in a theater but thought you might be stoned for bringing in your processed snacks and super-sized Diet Coke. I confess I have a thing for smart bald guys who talk about food, and this movie has two: Eric "Fast Food Nation" Schlosser and Michael "Omnivore's Dilemma" Pollan. (Celeb farmer Joel Salatin may also be bald, but he never took off his hat.)

2. And I read Susan Brackney's PLAN BEE: EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE HARDEST-WORKING CREATURES ON THE PLANET. Very fun and educational book. Given all the buzz (forgive me) about the honeybee's demise, I must say I was heartened by a few things I learned here. For one, honeybees aren't native to the Americas. So if they completely disappear here, it'll be us going native. For another, "killer" bees also help with pollination and make honey! Brackney reports that apiarists can also cultivate this hardier species, at a certain increased risk to themselves. And for finally, they may not make honey, but butterflies, birds, and bats also help with pollination. If only the bats were just a tiny bit cuter...

3. More good news for saturated fat lovers! Scientific American confirms what other studies and Nina Planck already pointed out: natural, saturated fats found in things like butter and bacon were not the killer after all. The food and diet industry hastened to replace saturated fats with such "improved" ingredients like transfats and soybean oil and carbs, carbs, carbs, only to find this move didn't help a bit with heart disease, diabetes and such. Butter and bacon fat are back on the menu! And--bonus--they taste way better.

4. And, lastly, if your house is overrun by mice, you may want to consider putting out some soda pop and processed food. Science Daily reports that the phosphates in such items have been shown to reduce the little squeakers' lifespans. Extrapolated to humans, researchers conclude that "high levels of phosphates accelerate signs of aging...[and] may also increase the prevalence and severity of age-related complications, such as chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular calcification, and can also induce severe muscle and skin atrophy." Whoa, there--we may not care one bit about chronic kidney disease or cardiovascular whatchamacallit, but premature aging??? Soda, we are through!

For some happier reading, if you haven't already checked it out, peruse my article on the BFM for Ever wonder how many people come to our Market? Check out the interesting statistics Lori provided.