Archive for the ‘My Own Musings’ Category

I like my life with a side of spice.

It all started with Tabasco. As a wee young thing, my group of goonies and I doused everything from popcorn and chicken wings to chocolate chip cookies (no we weren’t child prodigal gourmands, we enjoyed food related dares)- with the good, spicy stuff. Maybe I was desensitized to spice at a young age-my Memaw’s best friend is from India, but my tolerance to scoville’s is not rivaled by your average 20-something Caucasian.

My first rant- Most Asian restaurants encourage customers to rank their spice preference on a 1-5 scale, with one being mild and five being anything thing from “extra-spicy” to “Thai Hot.” From my experience, if you are white, they automatically subtract your preference by one before they send the order to the kitchen, thereby I always end up with a plate of veggie filled noodles that aren’t up to my spice-spectations. It wasn’t until I was in Puerto Rico that I found the good stuff that’s spiced with a healthy dose of habaneros- that warms your tastebuds without causing a flaming sensation that demands more than your daily recommendation of fluids in one setting to relieve the burn. El Yucateco Caribbean Habanero and Kubit-ik (an ancient Mayan recipe) hot sauce, where oh where have you been all my life? After smuggling bottles home for fear of never finding a spice to match, I learned they vend this delightful sauce at local Hispanic groceries. Relief…

Another rant- When I purchase herbs or spices at the grocery store, it would be nice if they actually tasted something. Yes, it’s hard to mess up garlic or onion powder, extracts or black pepper- but, I’m tired of having to use a tablespoon of cayenne powder just to get a tingle. I’m not heartless, it doesn’t take me that much to get excited…I took matters into my own hands and had high hopes there must be a solution. We planted a variety of peppers in our summer garden plot, and last week the cayenne’s were kickin’. After picking nearly 100, I washed and trimmed them, before popping them into the dehydrator. Out came crispy, crackly water-free peppers. After a brief grind in the food processor, I had my own eye-watering, extra hot cayenne powder- exactly as I like it. I’m experimenting with habaneros, jalapenos and aji amarillos at the moment and hope they are just as delicious!

I’ve decided, we’re living in a time, when it seems that doing things yourself is a the only way to avoid culinary disappointment.


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The sunshine decides to make its grand entrance after a 4-month hibernation from my vitamin-Deprived epidermis, and my neck cranes and my back elongates, mimicking a sunflower following the rejuvenating rays. Spring and winter dueled in February and May, but April produces a long-awaited winner. The Northern Hemisphere awakens, and the environmentally-frustrated people begin to bustle around the town planting gardens, mowing lawns and tossing or kicking various balls or discs.

To sum up my winter: I bet I’ve eaten over 50 lbs. of sweet potatoes, at least 25  lbs. of carrots and lord knows (because  I don’t want to) how many pizzas. As much as I love a good caramelized, roasted vegetable, I’m over it. I’ cannot wait to  re-introduce the dusty adjectives– fresh, crisp, light, acidic and balanced– into my cooking repertoire. I need tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, squash, eggplants and fruit!

Winter featured noteworthy highlights:  I’m pumped about gifts of the food preservation nature–an excalibur dehydrator and companion “Put it Up!” cookbook. I’ve got notions of  fruits, tomatoes devoid of bacteria and mold-loving water and nifty jalapeno chips for next winter… A new kitchenaid and immersion blender now grace the kitchen gadget brigade, and baked goods and pureed sauces will make frequent trips to the “Y” necessary. Only a few more weeks until the garden of Grubb gets going and farmers descend upon the urbanites of Knoxville to bring greens, lettuces, strawberries and spring onions.

We’re moving into a new apartment this week. A new space, a new season. Perfect timing.

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I love my job(s).

a. Farmers Market Second Liutenant (Real title still in limbo)

b. Mountain Meadows Farm- tomater sorter, CSA organizer, veggie planter, apple analyzer and anything else Shannon may deem important

c. La Costa- tender of the bar and server of zee cuisine

d. Market Gnome

I’m guessing the positive words relating to careers are rarely uttered by my fellow countryman these days, especially by the sprightly 20-somethings who are still searching for the best beer deals in town, something financially and socially beneficial but with less long-term gratification than being happy with your career choice. Reaching the point of satisfaction required hours and years of self-exploration and refinement, not forgetting the unnecessary mentionables–physics, engineering calculus, and volunteering in the sterilized white-washed depressing Jackson-Madison County Hospital. I mean really, could you imagine me as Dr. Pettigrew…boring, I prefer Kimberly.

Ive always had a hard time making concrete decisions, so the fact that I’ve settled into a job genre is surprising to me…but I guess since I do work a trio of jobs that’s not exactly choosing one thing . What is your favorite food/color/song/movie? Impossible! What would you like to major in? Impossible to pick one field of study and consider it a complete education. Im really not complicated, I just will never fit my dreams into a tiny nutshell. My current non-rotting in an office between the hours of 9 to 5 job(s) combine the following: education, outreach, nutrition, physical labor, conferences, philanthropy, multi-media, food, farmers, wine and people. Im able to shape and influence the direction that Knoxville takes in regards to the local food system in the next few years and decades. What more could a gal want? (besides the obvious money to make this all happen)

My job is malleable, and this enables me to fluidly grow with the needs and wants of the community. Charlotte, market mama and friend, and I can generally be found with a cup of Counter culture coffee at Old City Java or perched up at the Farmers’ Market Info booth or more recently swingin on her porch, talking about our dreams to bring local food to all and to educate the public about what’s around them–lesser known veggies and fruits (heirloom tomatoes, fennel, herbs), preservation (canning, drying), cooking, nutrition,etc. Charlotte got the wheels turning by introducing the use of food stamps at farmers’ markets in TN. Her ability to turn visions into realities is the main reason I decided to axe my grad school dreams and give my soul to local food. I have dreams of community kitchens, cooking classes, mobile markets, food sheds, and community gardens. These things will happen here and I will be a part of them. It tugs my heart and makes my eyes slightly misty and my throat a bit lumpy to think of all the possibilities–how far we have come, how daunting a task these things are to accomplish, but how fortunate I am that Knoxville is ready to stop being stagnate.  Knoxville isn’t so different from other places that linger somewhere between a big town and small city. We’ve got a blend of SUV-drivin, strip-mall suburbia to a riveting pedestrian friendly downtown. But what we do have is the people and support to make this happen. We may not be as financially stable as Nashville or Chattanooga, but damn our lack of money is made up with willpower and determination. Here we come world.

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I’m not sure what it is about coffee shops paired with rainy days… maybe the melancholy clouds and grey skies paired with the ominous drizzle stirs frantic emotions within my soul, but it seems every time I drink a latte, I try to figure out life and more specifically, what the heck I’m supposed to do with myself.

My parents value goal-setting–mapping out a five-year plan for the future. It’s all about stability and future financial security. I had all the dots of my future connected. I had a foolproof plan in which I told destiny what she would bring me.

1. Stay in Knoxville- intern and the farmers’ market, attend culinary school, learn Italian

2. Go to Italy for graduate school in gastonomy–eat and drink wine for two years

3. Get a real job in a far away country and avoid the  United States of America for as long as possible

But alas, someone up above took my overly-detailed plans and turned them upside down, making me question the whole purpose of planning. What is the true benefit of planning your path regulating your thoughts to a box with no windows of opportunity or doors to the unknown. Doesn’t it make more sense to let destiny take you where she pleases. Aren’t you more likely to miss the details and the sights if you just set your eye on the final destination?

Realizing these things are like being born again or knowing a secret that the rest of the world will probably never catch onto. The thought of living a plan-less life leaves me anxiously giddy, my heart beats faster and I feel lighter. I no longer carry the weight of my future on my shoulders., I know everything works for a reason- in some mysterious way nonetheless. I don’t know who or what to attribute it to- God, fate, myself or mother nature…but I like it.  I like how giving up control on my life has shown me feelings, people, and opportunities I may have bypassed.

So, here’s my big self-realization and announcement to the world- I’m staying in Knoxville. I’m not sure why or exactly how long I’ll be here, but it feels right and my heart belongs to this progressive city. My love of artisan agriculture will thrive here. I’m surrounded by people like Charlotte Tolley, John Craig, Kristen Faerber, Shaun and Meg Parrish, Sarah and Katie Ries who are the best heroic figures I could ask for and they are right here in Knoxville, takin’ names and killing corporate america. I’ve fought my ties to this Eastern TN city ever since my dad made apply here for college. It was a last minute decision to come here. I loved it but was ready to leave it. Then I stayed post-graduation. And here I am smitten with the hidden jewels of the greater good I’ve found here.

Thank you Old City Java, for the double-shot latte that helped me stop pondering my destiny and start living in the moment.

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I haven’t left country of sweet liberty in two long, long, long years. After residing in Kiwi-ville for six months I found the transition back to God country appalling and unbearable. When studying (or traveling) abroad you find a sense of self. This happens because you remove the familiar–parents, friends, pets, cars, technology, news sources, and in some cases language. And what are you left with? You. It’s a wonderful feeling to rediscover that person. It’s hard to be that person in Knoxville, McMinnville or Jackson.

My time in Knoxville, post-NZ, has been a whirlwind of adventures, friendships and jobs. I love this little-big city and know that we have a unique bond. However, I need to get away for a short time to find myself again. I need to plan for the future, figure out what I can’t live without, and remember how to live joyfully again. That is why when my friend Ben inquired about my interest in going to Brazil last week? I replied, hell yes. I’m still pinching myself because the reality hasn’t set in–even though the airline fee has settled, quite heavily on my bank account. But alas, rejuvenation is coming in February.

I’ll land in Rio de Janeiro and traverse around the area. The pinnacle will be Carnival and then back to Tennessee. Now just to fill in the blanks.

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Not So Common Sense

Cooking is confusing, difficult, and not worth the effort.

No, I did not just commit foodie blasphemy. Friends, family, and the better part of America share these anti-cooking sentiments—and it breaks my heart.

I decided to counsel my single, hard-working mother and her high blood pressure boyfriend about cooking, eating healthy, and most importantly how to think about where food comes from and how that will impact the mind, body, and soul. I am going to produce a weekly newsletter with recipes, nutrition facts, sustainable eating, and motivational quotes. The method I’m using doesn’t involve deprivation, artificial sweeteners or calorie counting. It’s just eating the best of whats in season and indulging in your vices- bacon, ice cream, hamburgers, fries. After all, it worked for me. I’ve lost 25 lbs. in the past year without exercising, dieting, or depriving myself of indulgences. I hope I can inspire others to make these small changes for themselves. It’s really just about living a better lifestyle for yourself, the community and the environment.

If you have any ideas or would be interested in living a more holistic lifestyle, let me know.

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Finest Foodies Friday

And I’m one of them! Thanks to Foodie Blogroll for your recognition and support.
Every Friday, Foodie Blogroll chooses the elite in blogging and recognizes them for their superior blogging skills.

As always support local and sustainable farms. Peace and love!

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