A Taste of the Food System

Remember how I said it was “FOOD. ALL. THE TIME.” these days? Well, not only do I eat food (obviously), study it and constantly think about it, I also get to have extra special tastings of it in my Food Systems class, as students regularly prepare treats to share and talk about. Back in September, I made challah, and each week my taste buds are excited for the next items to come. Everything has seriously been so good, and I’ve finally been able to take a couple pictures before eating it all!

Check ’em out:

Irish Colcannon - cabbage, potatoes and buttery goodness!

According to my classmate, “Colcannon is Irish for white-headed cabbage. It is a common Irish food prepared for Halloween. Cabbage is central to many Irish Halloween customs; so important, in fact, that Halloween is often called Colcannon Night or Cabbage Night in Ireland. Until recently, October 31st was a day of fasting on which no meat was eaten—hence the potatoes and cabbage.

The cabbage and potatoes can be simply boiled and then mixed together, but Colcannon is not complete without a generous addition of butter, salt, cream, and a sprinkling of green onion.”

This was my first (and very pleasant) experience with Colcannon. The things you learn!

Chips with tomatillo salsa and poppyseed strudel

This perfectly roasted and mild tomatillo salsa was made by my classmate using fresh and organic tomatillos from our school’s garden! I had two plates full 🙂

And this heavenly strudel had just the right balance of sweetness, seeds and dough for a desserty touch after savory salsa. SO happy!

There have been so many great food items shared so far; everything from refreshing Chia Pudding to inspiring Chakalaka to ridonculous Grape Pie. So far, my favorite has to be Hungarian Palacsinta, for its special place in my heart. Both of my grandmothers made this Eastern European “pancake” (a.k.a. crepe, a.k.a. blintz), and my paternal grandmother was able to cook with me and teach me the impressive wrist technique to perfect the paper thin canvas that is palacsinta. When my classmate made a jam-filled, sour cream-topped version, I thought “why didn’t I make this?!” It’s so special to me 🙂

Source

Every Monday my stomach becomes enormously satisfied, and sometimes my heart, too. Thank you, foodie classmates!

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The Life of a Grad Student

Graduate school is much different than those (typically) 4 years you spend as a naive co-ed entering the “real world.” For me, the changes in scenery are already quite clear: moving from a large, urban university in midtown Detroit as a commuter, to a small, liberal arts college in pleasant Pittsburgh as a commuter. Oh wait, that driving to campus thing is still the same…

While the readings have become excessive (yet interesting) and the tranquility of campus has vastly improved for me, I still rarely get to enjoy it as a commuter, only having one class a week on main campus. Recently, I spent an entire day on campus, like a “real” student, taking advantage of everything the university scene had to offer me. I:

1. Started off the morning with a workout at the Athletic Center.

2. Enjoyed a free (vegan!) lunch as part of “Graduate Student Appreciation Week.”

3. Read outside on “the quad.”

4. Imbibed on a free glass of wine and noshed on snacks for grad school happy hour at Cafe Rachel!

5. Partook in my weekly Wednesday night class…

Chatham has so much to offer to me that I wish I could take advantage of the facilities and student life even more, but as I said, grad life is quite different. Most days are spent at home (15 miles away), cuddling with the kitty and reading LOTS of books and articles. If I didn’t have to worry about parking my car near campus and walking up AND down the many hills of Pgh to get to class, maybe I would come to campus more often 🙂

Even if I don’t, I will enjoy every moment I am here. And if you’re in school, try to enjoy every minute and every (FREE) opportunity you can. The “real world” is not as fun and interesting!

Chatham’s Locally Grown Lunch

Do you know where your food comes from? Really? Didn’t think so…

This is one of the big questions I am hoping to get a grip on and be able to educate other people about by the time this whole grad school thing is over. But until then, I will enjoy Chatham events that bring me closer to the source of my food. Enter the annual Locally Grown Lunch:

First course: beautiful veggies

I love a good salad bar, but what I love even more is Chatham’s effort to source at least 20% of their produce from local farms:

And I love that they label things and make plenty of vegetarian and vegan food. Happy tummy!

Egyptian Edamame Stew and Red Quinoa with Black Eyed Peas

All of the food was beautiful and tasty. I had about 5 courses, all for only $7! But seriously, think about where your food comes from. Can you even trace it back from farm to fork?

Holla for your Challah!

One of the best parts of my Food Systems class is the “food in a food studies classroom” philosophy. As part of our participation grade, we each picked a day to bring in a food item and discuss its culture, history, ingredients…whatever. Last Monday was my day! Can you guess what I made? Well, if you’re a smarty pants, you figured it out from the post’s title.

Just in time for Rosh Hashanah next week, I baked up some hearty and sweet challah! Enjoy (the recipe). My classmates and I already ate it 🙂

Rosh Hashanah Challah (vegetarian)

Makes 2 large round loaves or 4 small loaves

2 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 C)
1 T active dry yeast
1/2 cup, plus 1 T honey
4 T vegetable oil
4 eggs (2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks, reserve 2 egg whites for eggwash)
1 T salt
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 to 1 cup raisins (optional)

Gather your ingredients

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over water. Beat in honey, oil, 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks, and salt. Add the flour one cup at a time, beating after each addition, graduating to kneading with hands as dough thickens. Knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed. Cover with a damp clean cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in bulk.
2. Punch down the risen dough and turn out onto floured board. Divide in half and knead each half for five minutes or so, adding flour as needed to keep from getting sticky. Divide each half into quarters and roll out each ball of dough (8 total). Add raisins to each piece of flat dough and then roll into logs toward you. Let stand for 10 minutes under a damp cloth.
3. After they have risen a bit, pull and roll logs out gently and as long as possible into snakes. Braid 4 snake strands each into round, woven challah (per step by step directions here). Grease two baking trays and place finished rounds on each. Cover with towel and let rise about one hour.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly beat the remaining 2 egg whites plus 1 T honey and brush a generous amount over each round.
5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 40 minutes. Cover with foil after 20 minutes if too much browning occurs. Bread should have a nice hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Cool on a rack for at least one hour before slicing/serving.

The braiding makes it so fancy looking!

My reaction: this challah was heartier and a little dryer because of the half whole wheat/half white flour combo. I’m glad I didn’t use all whole wheat! The raisins added perfect little bursts of sweetness…I used about 1/2 cup and would probably up that a bit more. Also, I brushed the loaves with a little oil and covered with foil after about 20 minutes of baking because the egg white/honey combo was drying out the tops a bit. For my first challah attempt, I really liked it, and I hope my classmates did, too!

Essential to proper bread making: cute apron!

I Heart School

Grad school is tough. No joke. In my program, there is A LOT of reading…something like 800 pages a week! But as intense as it might be, I’m really interested in the materials so far, and there’s always those perks of being a student…

1. Free/discounted admissions – museums, group outings, bus passes!
2. Access to awesome facilities – athletic center, NEW Eden Hall Farm Campus (complete with pool, bowling alley and 50s decor):

A bowling alley in the basement of my school!

 3. And so far, my favorite part of going to a small, liberal arts school is their focus on and efforts toward more sustainable practices. I just got an e-mail that the entire school is going water bottle-less! No more plastic bottles will be sold at Chatham University, and instead, they will have water filtration units set up around campus. Excellent! Here’s why they did it:

 ·         Tapwater is regulated for health and quality by the Environmental Protection Agency, which requires regular testing and reporting.  Bottled water is under supervision of the Food and Drug Administration, but the FDA does not require water to be tested or reported.

 ·         Some 25% of bottled water for sale in the U.S. is just tap water in a bottle.  It isn’t boiled or treated any other way before going into the bottles.  The two most popular bottled water brands, Aquafina and Dasani, are just municipal water run through a carbon filter before bottling.

 ·         Pthalates, a chemical plasticizer used to make the plastic see-through, can leach into the water from the bottle in as little as 10 months.  Pthalates are endocrine-disruptors, suspected of causing kidney and liver problems, birth defects in young children (especially boys) and are also implicated in reproductive health issues and damaged DNA in adults.

 ·         Making  the bottles used each year uses about 17 million barrels of oil, and that releases 2.5 million TONS of carbon into the atmosphere.

Interesting stuff, right?! I love that this school is teaching me how to be a better person and not just a smart student 🙂

Labor Intensive

Happy Labor Day weekend to all who labor!

I am currently either getting my hair done, smiling for pictures, or keeping calm a nervous bride as I am standing up in my friend’s wedding later today (yep, I pre-wrote this post). So there’s not much laboring going on over here, and I hope you’re able to rest as well.

enjoy labor day - man on beach

haha.

Since I’ve completed my first week of classes and have already read some very interesting articles, I’d like to specifically acknowledge small farm workers/farmers for their incredibly labor intensive workdays. It’s not easy to run an independent, small to mid-size farm in America, and I not only appreciate all the work farmers put in, but also their positive attitude and will to push through the difficulties they encounter because of doing what they believe in.

I’d also like to send a shout out to my daddy-o (who doesn’t know how to work a computer, so he won’t read this…) because he’s always worked like 8,473 jobs to keep our family happy and provided for (OK, not that many, but sometimes 3 or 4 jobs at a time.) And I can’t forget mommy cuz she works her butt off, too. My parents actually started their full time jobs on the exact same day, some 26 years ago. Can you imagine working in one place that long? Definitely not, so kudos to them!

a lovely pic of the 'rents and me at my cousin's bat mitzvah last weekend.

I’m sure I’ll be laboring over plenty of reading material soon enough. Enjoy your holiday weekend!

Back to School

Guess what I’m doing today? Hint:

 

Super cheesy and excited! Yup, it’s my first day back to school after graduating 3 years ago. And, let me tell you, Chatham is no ordinary college.

After yesterday’s orientation- complete with drum banging and dragon dancing- I am even more pleased with my choice and honored to get to experience Chatham University. After collecting my special SSE (School of Sustainability and the Environment) t-shirt, I smiled for a class picture (when’s the last time THAT happened?!), enjoyed a punctual and prompt welcome ceremony, and learned about the school’s yearly recognition and celebration of a particular culture. This year’s focus is on Vietnam, so the welcome ceremony included traditional songs, instruments, and an amusing dragon or two. Then we all feasted on Vietnamese cuisine, complete with vegan tofu and coconut rice and spicy cucumber salad, and I got to chat with some of my new classmates.

Guess how I prepared for going back to school? Hint:

Mojitos!

Cheers to a great school year for all!