Full Disclosure

veggies

I’ve been hiding a dirty little secret for the past few months. Now I’m coming clean: I stopped eating meat. It’s been an internal struggle for the better part of the last year, weighing my feelings about the ethical treatment of animals and environmental responsibility against my cultural upbringing.

I grew up with animals. A lot of animals. At the height of it, our family cohabitated with nine different species – our dog Cutie, several hamsters (they had babies), two gerbils, two rabbits, one guinea pig, two birds, two turtles, many fish and a tarantula name Charlotte that lived in a tank in our kitchen. My eldest sister Natalie always cared for animals and I learned from her how special all of God’s creatures are. My first memory of feeling compassion for animals (well, in this case insects) was around 7 years old. It was a summer day and we were playing outside our house. The boys down the block were pulling the wings off of cicadas. I remember hearing my sister yelling!  She came running down the street teary-eyed with the injured bugs. Myself, Natalie and my other sister Marie mobilized. We made a cricket hospital in the bushes in our backyard. Each cicada had a special  “bed” within the branches and my sisters and I would tend to each one of our patients. This memory stuck with me, along with the feeling of love and sympathy I had for the helpless cicadas. It was the beginning of my relationship with nature and animals. These days, I am spiritually bonded to my herd of cats.

I always noticed the conflict, but it didn’t really bother me. One particular conversation a few years ago brought it to light for me. I was hanging out with my friend Pete, and he was going to kill a spider in the house after we came back from getting sandwiches at Pickles & Pies. He jokingly called me a hypocrite. “You won’t let me kill this spider, but you just ate a turkey melt?” I’d think about his words often and they started to bothered me more and more. I used to see cows in the upstate and think “Mmm. How about a good steak?” But after that conversation, all of this was running through the back of my mind.

Another significant event was a visit from my friend Serhan this summer. He was explaining to me how he’s been eating a plant-based diet and how much healthier he was feeling. He lost weight and hand lots of energy. That sent me down a Netflix rabbit hole of documentaries about diet and the food industry.* Without getting into details, scientists are discovering that western levels of meat intake is not at all healthy, and that the environmental costs of meat production are very significant. I even saw a video of a pig playing the game Pong. He was moving the joystick with his snout. Simultaneously cute and horrifying, given the context.

On the flip side of my inner debate: I’m an Italian-American and food has always been a part of my life. It made very holiday richer, every funeral calmer, every communion happier.  Specific foods hold a special significance in our culture and those meals are married with our family history and memories. My mother taught me how to cook. I was expected to help in the kitchen from a very young age. I would deep fry the fish on Christmas Eve and baste the turkey on Thanksgiving. I enjoyed helping my mother and learning from her.

What I’m getting at is, if I become a vegetarian I feel like I’ll be losing part of my identity. Will I ever eat my mother’s meatballs again? Or get sausage and peppers at the Fresh Pond Fair? I can’t experiment with meat recipes and become a better cook. And I just love the taste of roast beef with onion gravy.  So you see, I’m torn. For now, I’m not eating meat and I’m attempting to reduce my dairy, but I’m not sure where this is all going. Does anyone else feel this way? Thanks for listening!

* For those interested, some of the documentaries I’ve watched on Netflix Food, Inc., In Defense of Food, Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, etc.

tagged in food

I’m pledging #zerowaste

unloading-the-brown-bins

I was working on a menu design in my home office when I heard a truck pull up outside. Being nosey and easily distracted, I peeked out the window. It was a white truck and behind it was a sanitation car. The back gate of the trailer rolled up and two men started unpackaging dozens of brown bins. Finally, our composting starter kits were here!! I grabbed my phone and ran outside, immediately instagramming a picture, tagging @nycsanitation.

I’ve been eager to participate in the NYC Organics Program. The purpose of the #zerowaste project is to reduce waste in our landfills while creating clean energy and compost for our gardens and city parks. Think of all those delicious tomatoes! According to the NYC Department of Sanations almost 31% of the waste collected in the city is organic.

Under the Bloomberg administration, DSNY began offering curbside collection of organic waste in 2012. By 2018 every resident, school and institution in NYC will have the opportunity to participate in the program. I remember seeing the brown bins in Park Slope about a year ago and I was envious. Yes, I envied them because of their garbage cans! “When will Rockaway get them?” I thought. A few months ago I learned Queens Community Board 14 (that’s us) was slated to receive composting bins in October! Since the announcement, there’s been a lot of chatter and questions regarding the program in my twitter feed – Can we compost meat? Do we need special garbage bags? Will this cost us money? When do we put out the brown bin?

The information package inside your composting starter kit will answer all of these question but I will address them here too. We can put any food scraps in our bins including meat and dairy*. Not so obvious items to compost – coffee grinds, egg shells, cooked pasta, tea bags, wine corks (I’ll have plenty of those) and stale bread or cereal. Food-soiled paper like napkins, paper towels, paper plates, coffee filters and cupcake holders go in your bin too. Leaves and other yard waste can be added to your brown bin outside. You don’t need to bag it up but if you choose to use one (probably less messy), it should be a brown bag or a certified compostable bag. I purchased compostable bags on amazon, 100 for 12 bucks. If you’re worried about fruit flies or odor you can freeze your organic waste until collection day. Once you’ve filled up inside, transfer your bags or kitchen container outside placing the material in the large brown bin. The collections will be once a week on the same day as your recycling day.

This past weekend I ran into my friend Reece Pacheco, columnist of Surf Bananas, conservationist and all-around cool surfer guy. We started talking about the organics program. I was confused about one thing. Organic waste is biodegradable, so why is it harmful in a landfill? Reece explained that landfills produce around 36% of all methane em
I felt a little silly that I was unaware of what Reece had explained so I started reading all about greenhouse gas and about waste in NYC.

On nycgrow.org I found some eye opening facts:

New York City produces 12,000 tons of waste every day. Residents currently recycle only about 17% of their total waste – half of what could be recycled under the current program.

The United States produces 33% of the world’s solid waste, with 4.6% of the global population.

Exporting our garbage to other states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia cost New York City taxpayers $290 million in 2007. This does not include the cost of collection.

Diesel trucks carry Manhattan’s garbage 7.8 million miles every year. That’s the equivalent of driving more than 312 times around the earth.

Using recycled materials to make new products saves energy and other resources, reduces greenhouse gases and industrial pollution, and curbs deforestation and damage to ecosystems.

Participation in the organics collection program is voluntary, meaning you won’t be fined if you don’t participate. But please consider pledging to protect our planet by taking part and reducing your personal footprint. It’s a big difference we can all make will little effort day-to-day on a micro level.

*If you’re composting in your backyard don’t include meat or dairy.

tagged in b91, community, recycle

America is named after a Pickle-Dealer

Overnight-Pickles-with-Fennel

I had a little get together with some friends last week to carve pumpkins. My friend Meredith Urban, designer and owner of De La Mer 1981 clothing, brought to the party her grandmother’s sweet pickles. They’re honeyed and buttery with a tang, sliced thin and so so delicious (Grandma Rita we need that recipe!). My husband is a pickle fanatic. I had to hide them in the back of the fridge so he wouldn’t eat the jar in one sitting (gavone!).

Grandma’s Rita’s pickles reminded me of a recipe for overnight pickles I used to make. Unlike Rita’s pickles that will last years in the pantry, overnight pickles are made for eating the very next day. With all of us being so busy, overnight pickles is a nice alternative to canning.

Meredith-and-Grandma-Rita

Meredith and Grandma Rita

According to the googleverse, pickles are native to India, dating back thousands of years. Pickling was a necessity for survival, preserving foods for migrants and households to use over the winter months. The word “pickle” comes from the Dutch word pekel or German pókel, meaning “salt” or “brine. Appropriate.

Before the advent of steamships, pickles were used on long journeys as non-perishable food that helped to prevent scurvy. All of the early explorers of the Americas were pickle freaks basically, and according to The History Channel: “Before he was an explorer, Amerigo Vespucci worked as a ship’s chandler in Seville, Spain—meaning he supplied ships with goods like preserved meat and vegetables. Known as the “Pickle-Dealer,” Amerigo Vespucci even helped stock Columbus’ ships on his later, less successful voyages across the Atlantic.” So in a way, our country is named after a pickle salesman? I’m okay with that.

My husband’s friend Todd Galloway gave us this recipe that I would like to share with you. The pickles are delicious and easy to make. On first bite there’s a sense of sweetness, immediately followed by the bite of vinegar, finishing with blasts of  annise-y goodness. Also, the pickled fennel chunks are just as good as the cucumbers, so don’t cut the chunks too small!

What I enjoy most besides eating the food I cook, is experimenting with it. Try the above recipe with garlic and/or dill. You can use this recipe and modify to pickle other vegetables too. Try cauliflower and carrots or onions and  beets! Autumn is the season for pickling!

Ingredients:

4 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2-3 teaspoon celery seeds
4 kirby cucumbers
1 bulb fennel coarsely chopped
Water

Directions:

  1. In a large mason jar (8 cups), combine cider vinegar, water, sugar, salt, fennel seeds and celery seeds. Stir in kirby cucumbers and chopped fennel.
  1. Cover and chill overnight. For maximum flavor, keep them in the fridge for 36 hours

 

tagged in recipes

Grams of the Week – Oct 23rd

Here’s a recap of the best instagrams of last week. If you want the day to day follow me here!

Pumpkin-Carving

I had some friends over to get creative and carve  pumpkins this week!

finger sandwichces

The Beach 91st Street Community Garden had a fall harvest party. I made these Italian style finger sandwiches. Everyone brought yummy treats and wine. It was also a beautiful 75 degrees out. Fun day!

Fort-Tilden

I went on a tour of Fort Tilden with The American Littoral Society. Our guide, Mickey Maxwell Cohen was knowledgeable and fun to explore with. I’m hooked. There’s another event in a few months in which Mickey will take us on a walking tour of Breezy Point.  More information on the Littoral Society here. And on their FB page here.

rockaway-raw-bar

EGGGS!!! I had brunch after the Fort Tilden tour on Sunday at The Rockaway Raw Bar, now located at the Rockaway Beach Brewery. The vibe is always fun there and now we can have a wonderful brunch too. Pictured is the egg sandwich on a buttery biscuit with fresh greens. It was so tasty!

 

 

tagged in instagram