What this is all about

Being a December graduate, I have decided to keep an open schedule and mind.  I have no definite plans for at least 5 months, and even then, nothing is certain.  This is all very new for me--I've always had a set plan of what I'm doing next.  Now, although I know the general direction I am heading, I am allowing opportunities to come to me that might have otherwise been lost if I had already made plans.
Join me for the ride as I begin to Learn By Living!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Learning to Eat

For the last two years I’ve participated in my University’s Hunger Week book club. We read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver the first year and In Defense of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan the second year. While I considered myself a “good eater” by preferring organics, farmer markets, etc. But these discussions and books helped me further develop my view on food, how it is processed, where it is grown, how it is transported, and what role I give it in my life. Being a college student I developed bad eating habits while at school. Eating between classes, and even on the weekends I would eat quickly…spending an average of 10 minutes for my whole meal (plus 5 for preparation of buying). I tried to cook in the kitchen provided to upper level students, but I always felt as though I did not have enough time. I loved eating when I went home for breaks or when my parents came to visit--all I could talk about was food and eat it. They always asked whether or not I was eating at all at school. .One of the things I came to realize was that I was no longer enjoying my food. Anything tastes great with Ranch dressing while your in college. I was no longer spending time with my food like my family does when they cook. Last year I lived in a wonderful community house where a lot of cooking occurred. We had community dinner, switching who cooked each week, and we cooked for ourselves and each other the rest of the time. The conversations I had while preparing meals in the kitchen, eating meals together, or just getting a glass of water from the kitchen and finding myself hours later still there talking, will be ones that I will never forget. As a community we tried to be as environmentally friendly and in line with social justice ideals as we could. We composted (yes, we even had compost worms!), recycled (each floor had about 7 different containers to separate recyclables), tried to not buy brands that we knew had unjust policies and practices, and participated in Food Not Bombs (which is a total food-influencing-life experience in itself…check out where there is one near you). Now that I’ve graduated, and am no longer living in a winter wonderland, I decided to plant some of my own food. Literally knowing where my food comes from and knowing that I took part in really creating my own food. Yummy organic purple spinach, radicchio, three kinds of tomatoes, lettuce.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Food, Wine, Bowling, and Norwegians

While in Iowa, I spent some time in Decorah, IA- home to Luther College, the Upper Iowa River, The Vesterheim museum, a great restaurant, a co-op, a brewery, a winery, and $1 games, rentals, and beers on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Oneota Bowling Lanes.
Among the many great programs at Luther College is their music and art program. While walking through one of the art buildings, one hears operatic singing, violins, quartet practice, all coming from the rehearsal/practice rooms. I visited one of their museums on-campus, and in addition to beautiful art, there were some interactive pieces--including the one pictured here.The idea is that sound actually comes from your throat and not your mouth. Which I never realized is actually how those tiny cell phones that don’t reach your mouth pick up sound.
The upper Iowa River is really neat, in my opinion more so in the summer months when one can lay in a tube and float down. But winter at the river also produces some magnificent vistas.
There is an entire Viking ship inside of the Vesterheim museum! Pretty neat huh? The museum also houses some houses :) these are representations of the first settlers from the Nordic countries to Decorah and surrounding towns. If you didn’t notice that the area is of Nordic ancestry by all of the beautiful tall, blond, and light eyed people around, you would know because almost everything has “Viking” or “Nordic” in the title.
My favorite restaurant in Decorah is Rubaiyat. (from their website: “The name "Rubaiyat" derives from a collection of poetry written over 1000 years ago by a Persian gentleman named Omar Khayyam. The poems are a testimony of living life to its fullest with the help of good food and great wine and together, the joy that they can bring to life.”) Their food is great, their wine list is impressive, and their service is fantastic. Although I personally don’t like beer, it’s fun to see what people get on “mystery beer night.” you pay one price to pick one out of a bag and you could get anything from a domestic (and even local from the brewery up the street) to an exotic beer…luck of the draw I guess.
One would never think that is a winery in Decorah, and much less that they have wine tasting. Well, they do-even when it's snowing! Their wines are mostly desert wines or heavily fruit based.
$1 bowling…let just say that I got some pretty sweet back spin on my ball now.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Patience by way of Tamal!

The majority of those rounded up and deported were Guatemalan. There used to be a few stores owned and run by Guatemalans. There was only one left that I could find. There, I was able to find flour to make tamales/chuchitos, corn husks, and special chocolate to make choco-bananas. There is a difference between tamales and chuchitos, at least for some of us. In the USA, tamales are mostly thought of as small flour, meat, and cheese goodness wrapped up in a corn husk…In Guatemala, we call this a Chuchito. A tamale, or a tamal as we say, is actually a melt-in-your-mouth concoction wrapped in a banana leaf and usually about 3 times the size of a chuchito. So I made chuchitos for the first time, lots of them. I always knew they were time intensive, but never as much as they actually were to make. Mixing the masa; cutting the chile without touching anything else (even after washing several time I touched my lips and had a burn from the chile for a long time); soaking the corn husks,; choosing a small (inner shell) and large (outer shell) husk; tearing some husks to make the ties for the tamales; putting just enough cheese so that it doesn’t seep out of the masa enclave but not too little so that the tamal turns out dry; rolling and shaping the masa once the outer shell is on to make the small rectangular shape; tying it with a strip of husk without breaking it; steaming about 5 tamales at a time in our non-industrial stove top steamer for at least one hour for each batch; repeat 100 times.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Postville, IA

After graduating in December, I spent some time in Iowa. While I was there, I had to opportunity to participate and learn from a project being built will the goal of not forgetting the raid in Postville, IA. So much happens in our daily lives and around the world that it’s not difficult to forget about incidents such as this raid. We follow the story, the details, and maybe even participate by volunteering our time or marching in protest for what occurred…but unfortunately very few stay on or keep up with what is going on in the months after the initial surge of support. One of the ideas behind this project is to keep people informed about how people in this town have been affected by the raid and what the lasting consequences of the raid have been. I participated by meeting, interviewing, and videotaping some of the people in the community. Check out the short video (click here) introducing some of the women I interviewed that will be writing a weekly blog (starting in May 2010) about what their lives are like now--including how their legal cases are proceeding, how the economy in Postville has been affected, and their perspective on current issues such as health care and immigration. More video, including full interviews, will be coming soon. Also, keep a look out for an awesome documentary, abUSed: the Postville Raid (see trailer here), by Oscar Nominated Guatemalan director Luis Argueta (also directed Guatemalan film El Silencio de Neto).