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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wisdom #6

Wow! Way back long ago, before I had even read a Michael Pollan book or The Shock Doctrine, heard of WWOOFing or succeeded in not eating meat for a week, while visiting Kristin in San Fran, one of her roommates introduced me to the works of Wendell Berry. I bought a few of his books at the same time that I bought the Derrick Jensen, but hadn't got around to reading them until yesterday, enmeshed as I was in my DJ-inspired book rampage.

Yesterday, I finished Richard Heinberg's "The Party's Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies," and I won't be going to visit Julio at Seoul National University for another week or so to pick up other stuff on my list. So I decided to pluck something off my shelf. It's been so long since I've read with pen in hand!

Without Further Ado:

"In promoting an agrarian culture...it is imperative that we not understand Berry to be saying that we must all become farmers. This is neither practically feasible nor desirable, since there is not enough land, nor does everyone have the appropriate temperament for farming. What is possible, however, is that people, urbanites included, adopt agrarian responsibilities and concerns. Just as we have adopted in our thought and practice the assumptions of an industrial mind-set without ourselves becoming industrialists - we are still teachers, health-carer providers, builders, students, and so forth - so too can we integrate agrarian principles without ourselves becoming farmers.

...We must learn to resist those practices that further isolate us and turn us away from the earth. This can begin practically by cultivating a new relationship with food. Food, rather than simply being fuel, is the most concrete and intimate connection between ourselves and the earth that exists. We often have little sense of where food comes from or under what conditions it is produced. Educating ourselves or, better yet, participating in the production of our own food, as when we tend gardens, or getting to know and working with farmers more directly, will enable us to appreciate a variety of concerns - medical, economic, political, religious - from an agrarian point of view. It will force us to reconsider the meaning of health, and prompt us to see that the context of health extends beyond our own bodies to include rural communities and the land."

- Norman Wirzba, "The Challenge of Berry's Agrarian Vision," introduction to Berry's anthology the art of the commonplace: the agrarian essays of Wendell Berry

Another reason I love my bicycle

My first vacation in nearly 3 weeks is starting tomorrow. After 12 days of work (M-Th, 3 times), I now get 10 days off. I am planning on going with a polish friend to visit an organic sweet pumpkin / acorn squash farm a bit south of Seoul. As it's holiday season, I have been trying to get my train tickets in advance.

Thus, I wasted 90 valuable minutes last night restarting my computer, changing browswers, installing programs, filling out online applications, clicking through schedules, getting sent back to the start, and doing it all again, only to get to the last step, which it turns out can't be done on a computer that doesn't have the Korean version of Windows installed.

So tonight I took my trusty bicycle, clipped on a flashy light, adjusted my pontytail so that my helmet fit properly, biked to the train station, locked up the bike, bought the tickets, came back out, avoided some Mormons, biked home, and wrote a blog entry about how much I love my yellow bicycle. All in about half an hour!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Korean Breakfast, v.2

I mentioned a while ago that, in an attempt to eat both healthier and more locally, I was trying to make the move to a more Korean-style breakfast. Under the influence of my Vipassana course, that mostly meant porridge and kimchi. However, I prefer not to eat rice more than once a day - I'm not carb-counting, it just makes me feel lethargic.

So, first, I replaced the rice with sweet potato. (Later, when I told a friend I was no longer buying bananas in order to buy local, he freaked me out by asking where I got my potassium. Though I generally believe that, 1) since Koreans lived for thousands of years without bananas, their cuisine must provide all essential nutrients somehow; and that 2) any diet that contains a wide variety of plant foods will provide sufficient amounts of almost all nutrients, I still decided to have a look. Turns out sweet potatoes have almost exactly as much potassium as bananas per 100g).

Also pictured, clockwise from the sweet potato: Kong-jaban, a side-dish made by boiling black beans in sesame oil, soy sauce, and sugar or rice syrup; yeon-geun banchan, a side-dish made by putting sliced lotus root through a similar process; kkaetnip-kimchi, made by salting, red-pepper-flaking, and fermenting sesame leaves; and of course kimchi, made of salted, red-pepper-flaked, fermented cabbage. The beans I bought from an organic buffet restaurant I found and will review on my other site later; the lotus I made myself, and will teach you out later; both Kimchis were made by an older friend's even older mother.

This meal left me feeling lighter (though not hungrier) than the rice, and also kept me feeling full much longer than the oatmeal, fruit, nuts, and honey that I had been eating before. Probably also better for blood sugar stability, but I'm not sure about that.

Then I ran out of sweet potatoes and kimchi, so I switched to:

Carrots, cucumber-peppers (so named for their size and blandness), and tofu, in addition to the usual culprits.

And another variation, with better lighting:

In both cases, the raw vegetables are dipped in a thick sauce (visible in the third picture there) made by combining a spoonful of red pepper paste (spicy), a spoonful of fermented soybean past (salty), a few drops of sesame oil (rich, smooth, and smoky), and some minced garlic, if you want. The tofu can be dipped or soaked in a lighter sauce made of soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and pepper seed oil.

Of course, everything should have roasted sesame seeds sprinkled liberally on top. This adds a nice, nutty flavor, provides fat and protein, and gives you more calcium (per gram) than milk (assuming you chew well).

And best of all, everything can be prepared ahead of time. Steam the potatoes and keep them in the fridge; they'll last 4 or 5 days. The beans will last 2 or 3 weeks, no problem. The lotus will stay crisp and tasty for a week or more, and the tofu lasts at least a week after opening, if you keep it moist. All you need to do is rinse and chop the vegetables (less than 1 minute each), mix up each sauce (again, less than a minute each), and sprinkle on the sesame (10 seconds).

The resulting meals are quick, delicious, nutritious, easy to vary (just change one or two of the prepared foods), healthy, and made primarily of whole or minimally processed foods. Plus they cover a wide range of tastes and thus are harder to shovel down in an instant or two. Less time preparing, more time enjoying.