Brace yourself. It’s that time of year again.
I love Christmas as much as the next guy. The lights, the color, the celebration, the sharing, and especially the eating and drinking. The spiritual side of Christmas often goes a little unnoticed amid the mad rush of present buying, decorating and food preparation. Many traditions have played a part in forming Christmas as we know it today but it seem the most important is the spirit of commercialism.
In keeping with the true meaning of Christmas, I’m going to give you some helpful hints in choosing sustainable gifts for those on your list. These aren’t you ordinary boxes with colorful ribbons and fancy bows.
So, let’s go shopping.
Heritage Foods USA, www.heritagefoodsusa.com, has brought together foods derived from rare breeds of American livestock and crops with strong genetic authenticity. American Bronze Turkeys, American Buff Geese, Katahdin Lamb and Berkshire Pork are delivered fresh to your door for the holidays or any other time of year. Think of the preservation of these rare breeds like the preservation of a historical building or your grandmother’s secret recipe handed down for generations.
What can you do to combat the high price of food? Grow your own from seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange, www.seedsavers.org. Since 1975, Seed Savers Exchange members have passed on approximately one million samples of rare garden seeds to other gardeners. They are a non-profit organization of gardeners dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds.
GreenPan, www.green-pan.com, is an eco-friendly nonstick pan that it’s 100 percent PFOA and PTFE-free. According to the PR hype, the GreenPan uses a Thermolon ceramic-based nano non-stick technology that has high heat resistance (850°F/450°C), is scratch and abrasion resistance with a coating that will not will not break down or wear over time. Plus there are also claims that Thermolon-based cookware releases 50% fewer greenhouse-gasses during production.
Want to help children and families around the world to become self-reliant? A $60 donation to Heifer International, www.heifer.org, buys a flock of geese. These geese can lay up to 75 eggs a year which can add up quickly for families in desperate need of protein and a means of income. Geese efficiently dispose of weed seeds and gobble up insects, slugs and snails. They are highly efficient producers of animal protein. And they’re vigilant “watchdogs,” loudly warning when uninvited guests arrive at the homestead. This will fulfill your six-geese-a-laying quota for the holidays.
Searching far and wide for wild smoked salmon that has that delicate cold smoke flavor, brought me right back to my French culinary roots – well, sort of. Gerard & Dominque Seafood, www.gourmetseafoods.com, two French imports who settled in Washington State, have taken a traditional Northwest favorite – smoked fish – and raised it to new heights. Their smoked products are flavored over a fragrant blend of Northwest fruitwoods with no preservatives or coloring agents added. Their online store offers European style and Northwest style smoked wild King and Coho salmon, smoked sturgeon, smoked pacific scallops and handmade seafood sausages. All their products are sent vacuum sealed under refrigeration via Second Day Air.
Slicing dicing and making julienne fries for the environment. The Malibu Company out of Malibu, California, themalibucompany.com, handcrafts bambo cutting boards, bowls and chopping blocks. Made from Moso strain of bamboo, yielding a vary hard (16% harder than maple), durable bamboo tube. At harvest all parts of the plant are used. Nothing goes to waste and reseeding is not required.
You want organic apricots as luscious and ripe as those from your own backyard tree, assuming you have one? Check out Frog Hollow Farm, www.froghollow.com. They deliver peaches in June and July and send a holiday gift card now. Their peaches are quite fragile, and a few may arrive bruised, but the taste is the kind poets sing of.
Make your own vinegar at home. With some left over wine (not to be found at my house), acetobacter bacteria (a vinegar mother) and a little time you can save yourself the sticker shock from those little bottles of gourmet vinegar. Oak Barrel Winecraft, www.oakbarrel.com, has vinegarmaking kits that come with either an oak barrel or a demi-john, your choice of starter culture (red or white), a complete set of vinegarmaking instructions, and the book Making Vinegar at Home. As with life itself, don’t mess with mom.
In the shameless plug department, one of the only and one of the first cookbooks on sustainable cuisine is The Sustainable Kitchen – Passionate Cooking Inspired by Farms, Forests and Oceans, (New Society Publishers, 2004), www.thesustainablekitchen.com. It’s a cookbook with a conscience! – featuring a delicious combination of culinary excellence and responsible seasonal cooking. Currently out of print but available new at LocalHarvest.com or used at Amazon.com.
And finally, let me give you five words- Bacon of the Month Club. The club, run by The Grateful Palate of Oxnard, California, gratefulpalate.com, works like this: Each month you get a different artisanal bacon, rushed to you in cold packs like an organ transplant. Like all classic bacons, these are dry- cured, cold-smoked pork bellies, sliced in varying thicknesses. But their resemblance to supermarket bacon, and one another, ends there. One month might be a magnificently crude, hickory-heavy country bacon like Father’s, from Kentucky’s Gatton Farms; another might bring a balanced, complex item like Nodine’s applewood-smoked product from Connecticut. But wait there’s more, a number of extras come with membership: a membership card, a rubber pig toy, a “Bacon of the Month” T-shirt, recipes and – best of all – a detailed description of each month’s bacon and how it was made.
Pork fat for Christmas – Who could ask for more?