pastured dairy

Top 10 Reasons to Support Your Bellevue Farmers Market in 2017

Two weeks to Bellevue Farmers Market's Opening Day, people! And, if your anticipation hasn't been building, I'm here to give it a boost.

"We have great grocery stores in Bellevue," you say. "Why would I bother to make an extra trip to a farmers market?"

I've got ten reasons for you (not counting those Market flowers pictured above):

  1. FOSTER CROP DIVERSITY. I'm currently reading this fascinating book, which I'll post about next week when I finish, about the perils of our monocultural worldwide food supply. "In 2016...80% of the calories consumed by humans came from just twelve species and 90% from fifteen species" (Never Out of Season, p3). Why is that a problem? Think Irish Potato Famine. Our worldwide food supply is vulnerable to disease and pathogens, since we generally mass-grow just one variety of things. Not at the farmers market! Our farmers cultivate multiple varieties of familiar and less familiar fruits and vegetables, and, as a result, they take greater advantage of the entire growing season and reduce the harvest vulnerability. More genetic diversity = more robust food supply.
  2. BRANCH OUT, FOOD-WISE. Speaking of fostering diversity, we tend to get in ruts, food-wise. At the restaurant we always order the same thing. We eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day, and rotate among seven dishes for dinners. Hey, the time will come when our taste buds wither, and we have to dump more and more salt on food to make it taste like anything, even if we still have the teeth to chew it up--let's make the most of our food-is-glorious window! At the Market, not only can we buy foods outside our eating ruts, but we can ask the farmers and other people we see buying that food how they like to prepare it. When's the last time you whipped up some pea vines? Kabocha squash? Fiddlehead ferns?
  3. DISCOVER THAT FOOD ACTUALLY HAS FLAVOR. Recently my daughter brought home a dozen red roses she'd gotten along with an invitation to prom. "Too bad they don't smell like anything," she said. That was when I explained to her that plenty of roses actually do smell like something, but ones that have been bred for mass-production were chosen for color and hardiness, not fragrance. The same thing happens to our food. In order to make fruits and vegetables survive the journey from field to table, often crossing thousands of miles, farmers bred for looks and durability, not flavor. You can't say you don't like a certain fruit or vegetable if you haven't actually tasted one. A real one. Not its storebought counterpart.
  4. SWAP YOUR DIET, SWAP YOUR CANCER RISK. Did you know South Africans on a traditional diet rarely have colon polyps? Why do Americans accept them as normal and just cross their fingers, hoping none of them get out of control? This Forbes article talks about our fiber-less American diet and its repercussions. Seriously. Eat more fruits and vegetables. And not processed ones. Fresh ones (or frozen). Fiber, fiber, fiber.
  5. MAKE YOUR KIDS LESS "CORNY." According to Never Out of Season and The Omnivore's Dilemma, we eat a lot of corn in North America. Not the on-the-cob kind, dripping with butter, but rather corn products. "In North America, more than half the carbon in the average child's body comes from corn--corn syrup, cornflakes, cornbread" (Never Out of Season, p.4). Lots and lots of corn syrup. Not to mention, our meat is often corn-fed. Skip the processed foods and feed your kids something fresh and whole, including grass-fed meat.
  6. CONJUGATE THAT LINOLEIC ACID. Speaking of pastured, did you know that even buying organic dairy doesn't guarantee the cows were sufficiently pastured? Check out this recent Washington Post article on some big organic dairy suppliers skimping on the requirements. The result? A nutritional profile to their milk more in line with conventional than pastured. I was bummed to see how mediocre-ly even Organic Valley scored. So ask our dairy farmers at the Market how much pasture their cows see!
  7. FIGHT AGING AND DISEASE--EAT FARM-FRESH EGGS. After getting a bad cholesterol rap for decades, eggs are back on the menu, and now eating an egg a day might have beneficial effects. But don't just eat any eggs--you want eggs from chickens who strut around on grass, supplementing their chicken feed with bugs and worms. You want eggs with thick whites and orange-y yolks. You want Market eggs.
  8. FIGURE OUT THAT "HOMEMADE" IS BETTER THAN PROCESSED. Once a month I participate in a church potluck, and it makes me frantic that the teenagers will reach for the uniform, processed desserts, rather than the irregular, homemade ones. Eek! It all goes back to not knowing what real food can taste like. The Market offers great ingredients for making your own goodies, as well as offerings lovingly prepared by artisan bakers and candy-makers and ice-creamers. If you're going to spend your calorie allowance, by all means make it count.
  9. PUT MONEY BACK IN YOUR OWN POCKET. Buying from our local farmers keeps the money circulating in our local economy and in our state. And our healthy economy is one of the reasons we live in such a great place!
  10. LIVE LONGER IN OUR GREAT PLACE. I bet physical therapists have a name for the posture and neck problems of people who spend 80% of the day staring at computer screens and their phones. Not only do we suffer aches and pains, but we actually shorten our lives because it's the face-to-face interactions that impact longevity, healthfulness, and general well-being. Befriend the farmers you meet at the Market. Make dates to meet your friends or significant others there for dinner and live music. Replace one texting exchange with a live-and-in-person encounter. You'll be happy you did, and you'll live longer to be happy about it.


Says who? Says Susan Pinker. Who, I'm positive, would love the Bellevue Farmers Market.

Says who? Says Susan Pinker. Who, I'm positive, would love the Bellevue Farmers Market.

Egg Lovers, Unite!


While chatting with a friend the other day, she mentioned a vegan chef she knew who was responsible for family meals. Meaning he, the wife, and the kids all ate vegan by default. And I think that, definitely, if someone in the family is going to go vegan or Paleo or gluten-free or what-have-you, it had better be the family chef. The family chef can impose his or her food agenda on everyone with the least pain involved. Ask my kids, who groan whenever I mention some new nutritional tidbit I've learned, which might adversely impact their favorite foods. If anyone in my family is in danger of going vegan, it's my youngest. Not only is she an animal lover, but she naturally dislikes cheese and eggs served on their own. I'm banking on her unflagging love for bacon and club sandwiches to keep her in the omnivore column, lest mealtimes get more complicated around here. Because the rest of us love not only meat, but cheese and milk and eggs.

But let me be clear. By "eggs" I mean real eggs. I don't raise chickens (the volumes of poop scared me off when I was considering it), but I do fork out extra money for better eggs. When the Market is going, I buy from our various farmers. And when it's not...

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When it's not, I fork out for the most farmers-market-like eggs I can buy at the grocery store. Just check out the difference in those yolks! As Deborah Madison says in my well-thumbed Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,

The color of the yolks reflects what chickens have been eating. Chickens I've known that peck at this kernel of corn and that fresh green plant, bug or blossom as they wander over the yard have eggs with bright yellow yolks...While organically raised food is always preferable to use, it's especially important with eggs. Those that come from chickens that aren't crammed into small cages and given boosters of hormones to encourage laying and antibiotics to compensate for the disease crowding fosters are simply better all around. They look lively and healthy, the yolks are bright yellow, and the chickens who laid them are healthier, too.

To this I would add that the best eggs have thicker egg whites. When you crack one in a frying pan, the egg white doesn't immediately flow all over, as if it were water. Now, in the picture above, I bought Stiebrs eggs from Whole Foods, which receive a good score on the humane side of the things, but those chickens are clearly not enjoying the varied diet of the one who laid the orange-yolked egg. And when I boiled up the Stiebrs eggs to serve in a Chinese Beef Stew dish, my son demanded, "What's wrong with the eggs? They're all pale and they don't taste as good."

All of which is to say, in the Market off-season I've been buying these puppies:

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Yes, I know a chunk of my money is going to the beautiful packaging and the wee "newspaper" they enclose, but the eggs really are quite good. The egg whites may not be as cohesive as Market eggs, but the yolks are beautiful and flavorful, and I haven't found a better alternative on the store shelves. Some time ago I posted on the benefits of pastured eggs, which you may want to read about here. Better looking, better tasting, and better for you.

As you know, good ingredients make for good food. Check out this challah I made for my book club, a traditional Jewish egg bread in honor of Judy Blume's In the Unlikely Event (another book club member brought bananas, since one of the characters ends up in a mental hospital).

You'll want good eggs for this one

Eggs do good service in our baked goods, adding structure, color, and flavor, and helping with emulsification and the attractive browning. But even just served as themselves, eggs are great sources of "solid nourishment at modest cost in a form that can be used simply and quickly" (more Deborah Madison). Egg-lovers need no encouragement, but for my youngest I find that she'll eat scrambled eggs if they're accompanied by salsa, and occasionally I can get her to have a "Chinese fried egg," which is just a fried egg sprinkled with soy sauce and about 1/8 tsp sugar while it's being cooked.

I'm pretty sure I could be a weekday vegetarian, if necessary, but my dozen eggs might have to be pried out of my cold, lifeless hands before I gave them up.

Milking It for All It's Worth

Last night a friend gave me a ride home, apologizing for the glass milk bottles occupying floor space in the back seat. The bottles were from Twin Brook Creamery, a local dairy in Lynden perhaps better known as that brand in glass bottles carried by QFC. If you've never had their milk, Twin Brook does not homogenize, which means (at least in the whole milk variety I bought) the cream rises to the top. It's luscious.

My friend, who hails from a small farming town in Indiana, said, "It's the only milk that tastes like what I had growing up."

Now, knowing my problem with plastics, I would love to abandon my gallon jugs and go glass bottles, but there are two things preventing me:

1. Our family goes through four gallons of milk per week. That would be a lot of glass bottles and a lot of moolah.

2. The glass bottles have to be returned (duh) to receive your deposit back, and I am deeply glass-bottle-returning-challenged.

For supporting evidence of Point #2, consider these bottles that have become permanent fixtures in our garage over the past several years. They're not even Twin Brook. I have no idea where they came from. Whole Foods?

Gathering dust

But whether or not your family can afford glass-bottled milk that puts a lump in the throat of an exiled Indiana farm girl, it's still worth it to shell out for organic milk. Food activist Robyn O'Brien posted this article from Food Ingredients 1st that describes European studies on organic meat and dairy. It turns out their studies confirm what Skagit River Ranch had already clued me into, a few years ago--pastured = better for you. That is, pastured meat and dairy are higher in omega-3 fatty acids (the wild fish kind!) and cancer-fighting antioxidants and conjugated linoleic acid (a good fat). If you can't afford the wild fish, or you're freaked out by the articles about overfishing, work a little more pastured dairy and/or meat into your diet. Switching to organic for baby might save on expensive skin cream purchases in the future, as well, as

recently published results from several mother and child cohort studies link... organic milk, dairy product and vegetable consumption to a reduced risk of certain diseases. This included reduced risks of eczema and hypospadias in babies and pre-eclampsia in mothers.

I know organic is expensive. Switching to organic might involve budget cutbacks in other areas. Maybe a couple fewer non-home-brewed coffee drinks per week? Or skip one meal out? (Every time we drag the whole family to a restaurant where you actually sit down to eat, I can't help looking at the bill and thinking, "This would've bought us a week's worth of groceries." And that was for Thai food, for Pete's sake--we're not talking El Gaucho!)

According to their website, Twin Brook Creamery pastures its herd in the summer and then feeds them during the winter on grass they put by. It's pastured dairy, all right, and organic in all but name. So I'm thinking that, even though we can't afford four gallons per week of the stuff (and those bottles would multiply in our garage like the treasure in Bellatrix Lestrange's Gringotts vault), maybe I might switch our half-and-half and whipping cream to Twin Brook. Those only need replenishing every few weeks, and--heck--the bottles are only half as big!