is it right?

all photos/video courtesy donate to their kickstarter here.

all photos/video courtesy Donate to their kickstarter here.

Do we, each of us, have a right to shelter and food?

A friend of mine uses a Martin Luther King quote as part of his email signature. It seems especially poignant right now as we weather a social climate that is exceedingly animus.

Cowardice asks the question – is it safe?
Expediency asks the question – is it politic?
Vanity asks the question – is it popular?
But conscience asks the question – is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position
that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular;
but one must take it because it is right.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In addition to social ills that include race relations, economic challenges and religious non-understanding, there are those among us that need help with the basic human needs of shelter and food. As a society are we obligated to provide these basic human needs?

Marcin Jakubowski thinks that making home and hearth more affordable, and less resource intense, is not only do-able but right. He is working on an open source initiative to make affordable eco-housing widely accessible. Along with a host of consultants on everything from energy to compliance to architecture, he calls his endeavor the Open Building Institute. He knows it can work because he has done it. And he believes that you can do it too.

kickstarter link
The idea is that each one of us, either with friends or hired help, can build a home. The Open Building Institute will provide the knowledge: a library of modules and instructions, building materials production facility, training, even a certified builder if you so desire. You begin with what you can afford…could be a tiny starter module with a kitchen, bathroom and loft. As you can afford you add an aquaponic greenhouse for growing food and fish, maybe a separate bedroom, perhaps another bathroom and a library or office. The home is made from CEB (compressed earth blocks) from on site soil, uses solar panels for energy, hydronic in-floor heating. The home operates off the grid and grows as finances and needs change. No mortgage (unless you mortgage the land), no power bills, lower grocery bills.

I’m 100% in favor. Yes, I do believe that we all have a right to shelter and food. And we also have a responsibility to work toward that end. If you want to support the Open Building Institutes Kickstarter you can be part of this solution. Donate $20 and get a book laying out the OBI method. Donate $500 and you can participate in a 5 day build and learn all the nuts and bolts of this system.

In case you were wondering, I have no connection to Marcin Jakubowski or Open Building Institute. This project was forwarded to me by a mutual friend, Nat Turner, who you may remember hearing about in Parti* Notes.

Keep in touch,

what you do matters

Sometimes you get the shell of a popcorn kernel stuck in your tooth and it hurts a little but mostly just annoys you until you can take a moment to floss it away. I have one of those kernels stuck in my brain. Recently I had a conversation with someone in my life who tends to lean toward the ignorant. I’d say to the right, but it isn’t so much to the right as it is to the empty and meaningless arguments of certain so-called ‘news’ programs.

This current annoying kernel involves personal responsibility. He believes that it doesn’t matter what he does, what any one of us does, as none of us has any effect on the bigger picture or the world at large. So when he tosses his old batteries and fluorescent lamps into the landfill it’s okay. And if he chooses not to do his part to reduce, re-use and recycle, that’s okay too. Someone else will fix it.

People that choose to believe they play no part in the good and bad around them are frustrating to say the least. Lucky for the rest of us there are plenty of good people doing good things for the good of all. When I think about the people who are doing their part to better their own corner or maybe even the whole world, it’s like mental floss to that annoying little kernel.

Our School at Blair Grocery

We are headed back to New Orleans to introduce our music loving son to the city. And to the fighting spirit that infuses so many of its people. People like Nat Turner, a transplant from New York, who has been working nearly a decade to create a self sufficient food, learning and youth empowerment community in the lower ninth ward. Whatever you may think about the lower ninth ward and whether or not it should be re-built, there are people who live there, people without much money, who need to eat. And people whose children need to learn. Nat Turner has fought the system and even his own staff to turn what was once a grocery store under water into a place to feed the body, nourish the soul and teach the heart. And squeeze some math, english and social studies in along the way.

food security

But this is really only the beginning. Modeling food security is at least one of Turner’s end games. We are a country rich in resources but very poor at sharing them equally, or sometimes even at all. At OSBG, Turner is not gardening for fun or to teach his students to plant their own little back garden. He is teaching them to garden for production, to sell what they grow and to live on what they sell. One of the teachings he shared with me several years ago was that you can make a better living selling tomatoes than selling crack. Once you add together the cost of attorneys, downtime while you’re in jail, and whatever cost is involved in purchasing drugs to sell, tomatoes are a more lucrative product. So teaching kids to grow tomatoes creates a better opportunity than what the guy down the street might be offering. If this can work in the lower ninth, it could work somewhere else.

changing the world

Recently, filmmaker Ian Midgley introduced Turner and OSBG to a man, Dr. Marcin Jakubowski, who makes large equipment and shares his designs online. For free. OSBG could use some farm equipment. Jakubowski needed some help pushing his ideas forward and out into the world. The duo could be a powerful force. So Midgley made a movie about the two of them called Reversing the Mississippi. As the movie trailer says…‘If one person can make a difference, can two people change the world?

what you do matters

Every one of us creates an impact…like a pebble dropped into a pond. The ripples are strongest closest to where the pebble falls, but they extend far beyond. To believe otherwise is just plain laziness. I may not be able to single handedly fix the whole world, but I can make my little piece of it a little better. So can you.

Next month I’ll be digging in the dirt at Our School at Blair Grocery with Turner, my son and my husband. They always need extra hands on the ground. Drop in if you’re in the neighborhood…but call first!

Keep in touch,


food tv


Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, the Galloping Gourmet and Martin Yan, those are the chefs I grew up with, the chefs who taught me what I enjoy in a cooking show. Current food television offers a much wider variety than days past, much of which makes me want to run screaming from the room. Kind of the way you’d run from the kitchen of a crazy chef. I’ve worked with chefs who rip phones off walls and throw pots. I don’t want to hang out with them in person or through the TV screen. So if you do enjoy that style of food drama, you should probably click away right now.

If you do enjoy a good cooking show, or entertaining romps through neighborhood restaurants, or info about where food comes from, then stick around. Now that it’s raining in California, and I’ve binge-watched all my current dramas through, it’s time to catch up on food. Check out my list…and send me yours too. Hopefully it will rain for a very long time and I’ll binge-watch my entire list while the drops are still falling, then move on to yours!

restaurant shows

I’ll Have What Phil’s Having: Phil Rosenthal is funny. He’s a writer, an actor (well, he was), a producer and the creator of the TV show Everybody Loves Raymond. And he apparently loves food. So he travels the world with his friends (some of whom you’ll know) and he eats food. He’s done shows in Tokyo, Italy, Paris, Hong Kong, Barcelona and Los Angeles. He will take you to amazing places to eat good food. And you’ll even learn a bit about cooking.

Check, Please! Bay Area: 3 regular joes and a host anonymously visit 3 of their favorite restaurants then discuss their experiences. Very homey and a great way to stay in touch with the Bay Area food scene.

cooking shows

The Mind of a Chef: How do great chefs think? And what do they cook? Crawl right into their creative brains and learn what real chef-ing is about (and no one in this series will refer to themselves as a ‘celebrity chef’, but they are all the best of the best). David Chang, Sean Brock, April Bloomfield, Magnus Nilsson, Ed Lee, Gabrielle Hamilton and David Kinch. Brilliance in the kitchen.

Julia Child: PBS release has released a selection of episodes from various Julia Child’s series. It’s a potpourri of Julia and a lovely way to spend an afternoon! Learn, cook, then see if you can do the voice. ‘Chello….Ihhhhh’m Jhooolia Chaaaiild….’

Good Eats: cooking with Alton Brown, well kind of. Alton Brown isn’t a chef. He’s kind of a geekyscientist who applies his mad science to food. And teaches us how to cook things in a really nerdy but effective way.

more food

Food Forward: Food rebels in the 21st century and beyond. I can’t possibly say it better than they do…‘Food Forward goes way beyond celebrity chefs, cooking competitions, and recipes to reveal the compelling stories and inspired solutions envisioned by food rebels across America who are striving to create a more just, sustainable and delicious alternative to what we eat and how we produce it. Created by a veteran documentary film making team led by Greg Roden, Food Forward explores new ideas of food in America as told by the people who are living them. Each episode will focus on a different theme–school lunch reform, urban agriculture, sustainable fishing, grass-fed beef, soil science–and spotlight the real people who are creating viable alternatives to how we grow food and feed ourselves.’

Enjoy our rainy weather and happy watching…

Keep in touch,


food…waste not want not



My friend Watson mentioned that October 16 is World Food Day and that the focus this year is on family farming and food waste reduction. So I did a little research. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, founded October 16, 1945, celebrates its founding every year with World Food Day and each year picks a particular theme. The theme for World Food Day 2014 is ‘Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth’. And The UN General Assembly has designated 2014 ‘International Year of Family Farming.‘ According to the FAO, ‘It focuses world attention on the significant role of family farming in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas.’ 


According to Oxfam, our planet produces enough food to feed every person. But much of that food goes to landfill as waste. So, what to do? Here are a few suggestions if you want to begin at home (because where else can you begin?) to reduce your own food waste. And no, eating your peas won’t save that child in (fill in the blank) from hunger, but if we don’t buy it and waste it here, the resources and investment to grow it might be used elsewhere. This awareness is the beginning of change.

  • Grow something: a tomato plant, herbs, an apple tree. Get to know where food comes from, eat what you grow, share with your neighbors. And come to understand what grows in your area. Buy most of your food when it is in season (hard to do with chocolate, coffee and coconut if you live in northern California, I know….you don’t need to go crazy). You will waste less if you limit your buying to what is seasonal.
  • Buy glass containers or save glass jars for storage. Not only does your food look more appetizing, but you can actually see it! If you store food in plastic it’s harder to keep track of.
  • Make smoothies. Most anything that grows can go in a smoothie.
  • Get a veggie and/or fruit box from a local CSA and plan your meals around the week’s delivery. It’s like getting a present every week complete with recipes. Here’s a link to my CSA. This will get you $10 off (and I get a credit as well….full disclosure). The CSA I’ve been buying from for years is called Farm Fresh to You and is run by the Barsotti brothers who learned farming from their mom, Kathleen Barsotti, who, along with her husband Martin Barnes, bought land in 1976 when they were still grad students at UC Davis. They learned to farm, raised a farming family and now their boys are raising their families in the same manner. Not only are they providing food, they are providing jobs and tending the land in a manner that will allow it to produce food for generations to come. If you decide to join a CSA, get to know them….go visit the farm, read their newsletter, be a vicarious farmer.
  • Check out this English website Love Food Hate Waste for ideas about how to avoid leftovers and what to do with them if you make too much. They even have an app (which I clearly haven’t tried yet…see the next paragraph).
  • We often have lots of food in our fridge from past meals. Since I can’t not make too much food (just deal with the double negative, ok?) one of my family’s favorite dinners is ‘leftover night.’ The easiest meal of the week is the one where I pull out all of the leftovers and everyone chooses what they’d like. This is the only time I’m willing to be my family’s short order cook.

On a larger scale, food waste from restaurants, congregations, farmer’s markets, etc. often ends up in landfill. Here in Marin County we’ve got an organization called Extra Food that picks up larger quantities of food and delivers these leftovers to organizations that feed people in need. They refer to themselves as a ‘food rescue service helping to end hunger and reduce waste in Marin’. Before you scoff, yes, there are plenty of people in need in Marin. Get involved if you want to pick up food, call them if you have food to donate.

Enjoy your version of World Food Day…eat well and consciously and share your bounty.

Keep in touch,

an outstanding weekend

oitf-capay15Saturday evening Steve and I (finally) attended a dinner at the farm that provides our weekly produce. We began buying from Capay Organic (the farm behind Farm Fresh to You) when our kids were small, attended a farm tour when our youngest was still a babe in arms, and haven’t been back since. Until Saturday night. That’s when the good people at Outstanding in the Field set up their third dinner at the farm and, with just a little bit of begging required, I bought tickets. It was truly an outstanding evening.

We arrived a little before 5, plates in hand, and enjoyed wine from Heringer Estates and beer from Sudwerk Brewing Company, served by the owners themselves. Passed hors d’oeuvres were interesting to say the least. We both bravely tried fried pig skin and guinea hearts (from the birds we were going to eat later for dinner. They were about the size of pistachios but not as tasty and awfully chewy. Probably not going to serve them at home. We were welcomed by Jim Denevan (Outstanding in the Field) and Thaddeus Barsotti (Capay Organic) shortly after arriving.

Next we took a lovely walk through the farm. Capay Organic is owned by 3 brothers with day to day operations managed by Freeman and Thaddeus and Noah overseeing wholesale and business operations. Their 4th brother and Noah’s twin, Che, a coast guard pilot, died a few years ago during a search and rescue operation. His presence is still apparent on the farm if you talk with any of the brothers, and a lovely memorial is located prominently near the main house. Thaddeus led our tour and explained the carrot washing machine that he created from an old refrigerator trailer, the quick chiller next to it, the need to drill for water to maintain the farm (something that has never happened in his lifetime), and the growth of the farm since the boys were children. While walking we sampled donut peaches from the tree that Thaddeus planted as an experiment in high school. The bees were enjoying them as much as we did.

After the tour we were led to the long winding table along the edge of a meadow under a canopy of oaks and overlooking acres of farmland. A gorgeous spot made so much more beautiful by the wonderful people we shared it with and the amazing food we ate. The open air kitchen was manned by Patrick Mulvaney and his crew and was set up on the other side of the meadow. Remarkable that they could put out 150 meals of such quality from a tent! Outstanding in the Field began doing these events in 1999 and now Jim Denevan and his crew and their bus (which wasn’t at our event….maybe in the shop?) tour the country and the world connecting diners with chefs at farms, ranches, beaches, orchards and whatever other beautiful surroundings they can find. Steve and I were lucky enough to sit with Kristy and Brian, the owners of Chowdown Farm who provided the guinea hens for dinner, as well as Thaddeus. We talked about farming, writing, food, children. And the difference between a guinea hen and a chicken (they’re smaller and cook faster).

Start putting your nickels together….this is definitely something you should try to experience at least once. I’m already angling for another go.

Have a great week,

ps…here’s a code for new customers at Farm Fresh to You: LESL3898. It will get you a $10 discount on your first box and it gives me a credit…so thanks in advance!



a feast in the field

my weekly produce box from Capay Farm

my weekly produce box from Capay Farm

weekly produce

I love getting my weekly box from the good people at Capay Farms.  It’s like a present every Tuesday. Sometimes I get something new….something I’ve never tried before, like kiwi berries. Party in my mouth people! So when I received an email from Farm Fresh to You last Friday about a party in their field I turned on my best ‘please please honey’ smile.  How could Steve say no when I was looking at him with such pathetic beggary? So yes, we are going.  Let me know if you are going as well….this will be our first time and we’d love to go with friends!

photos from last year's event courtesy

photos from last year’s event

farm fresh2

outstanding in the field

Outstanding in the Field throws those awesome parties that you see in magazines where there is a very long table in the middle of a field or farm with people yakking it up and drinking wine and eating food that you are just certain they picked off the trees moments before. And everyone is all smiling and happy. Well I’ve been to the farm that provides my weekly produce and I know how beautiful it is, and how lovely are the farmers that own and work those fields. A group of brothers who are carrying on their mother’s legacy of growing and sharing her organic produce. So attend if you can…I’d love to sit with you…

ps…and by the way, this is NOT a sponsored post. I truly love getting my produce from Capay Farm. Every week they send me a discount code to share. If you want to try them out use code 6164 and mention my name. Farm Fresh to You (Capay Farm’s delivery program) will give you $10 off your first box. Or stop by their booth at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. That’s where I met them!

Happy Monday….keep in touch,