Browngirl Going Green


First Broccoli Harvest
May 21, 2010, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

I’m about to enjoy tasting the first batch of broccoli from the vegetable beds I’ve been tending in my friend T.’s backyard. They were a short-season variety that I bought at the Temescal Farmer’s Market a couple months ago, and they sprouted up quickly! Here’s a picture from a couple weeks ago of the broccoli bed:

And here’s a picture of the first few huge heads of broccoli that I harvested today from the garden. I think I probably should’ve harvested the largest ones a few days ago, but I didn’t have time to get out there until today. Lesson learned for next time.

As I was working in the garden today—as I’ve mentioned before, the beds are actually in my friend’s garden, and I visit there about once a week or so to weed, water, harvest, plant, etc.—I realized how luxurious it seemed to have the time to do this. When I was working a regular 9 to 5 job, there was no way that I would have had the time or energy to drive even 10 minutes to a friend’s house and work in the garden for an hour after work. It just wouldn’t happen. But now that I’m working more humane hours (about 4 days a week on average, thanks to my burgeoning fundraising consulting business), I usually have at least a couple hours a week to garden.

As I watered in the ‘urban quiet’ (the sound of birds chirping, wind rustling through trees, and cars rushing by a few blocks away on busy thoroughfare) I thought to myself how much I enjoy gardening. And how much my mother, and my cousin in LA, and my aunts and uncles who are all immigrants from the Philippines, love gardening. Regardless of class background or how long they’ve been in this country. Along with love of pork, fried foods, gambling and the Roman Catholic church, love of gardening is one thing immigrant Pinoys seem to share in common.

I remember though, that when I was growing up in the South Bay, and my mother and step-father both worked full-time in San Francisco, we didn’t have a garden. We had a yard yes—a pretty good size one too, that was mostly made up of lawn, some hedges and an olive tree or two that never seemed to make the kind of olives I saw in the store. But my mom, I’m guessing, didn’t have time to garden. And I bet that that was a bummer for her. Now that she’s semi-retired (she only works a couple days a week), she gardens a lot more, and grows lots of flowers as well as some vegetables (eggplant, tomatoes).

I knew I didn’t want to wait until I was semi-retired to grow a garden. Not just because that seemed like a long way away, but because I NEEDED to have a garden. It’s one of the few things that us city-dwellers can access on a regular basis to put us back in touch with nature’s cycles of birth (seeing the tender young leaves of a seedling), growth (watching the seedling turn into a plant and then a vegetable or fruit that you can eat), reproduction (bolting and flowering) and death (watching the leaves of my crops turn yellow or brown and wither away). Watching this cycle and being part of it by taking care of these plants, these living things, has been immensely healing to me. I crave the solitude and quiet productivity of my weekly garden-time. I have grown to need it the way I need time with friends or good food or even sleep.

So I’m thankful—even though it’s taken me a long time to realize it!—that I always had some form of nature around me, in the form of a garden, when I was a child. From helping my Mom and Aunt weed in the front yard to picking Meyer lemons from our small bush to watching my grandpa grow lush and overflowing cherry tomato plants against a fence in his backyard, next to the carport. I must’ve learned something about the soothing, healing power of nature from these suburban oases of green living things, and I’m grateful and glad.



First Poem Dedicated to Browngirl Going Green
February 25, 2010, 6:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’m so honored that my friend and fellow Pinay writer Jean Vengua was inspired to write a poem for me after reading about my recentsustainably-raised-pig purchase. She posted it on her own blog,Local Nomad. Thanks Jean for the ‘pig-poem’!

For a Brown Girl Going Green
by Jean Vengua

kayumangging babae, the cogon
grass has turned to rye
and wild radish

on your birth day someone
sacrifices a pig
it’s not

the same, yet
it’s always
the same

Oakland, Elkhorn,
Pangasinan, each day
lived,

gleaned, killed, tasted; eating
flesh, stems, leaves
hoping

that this time we
will see
clearly



Pig, Beautiful Pig
February 21, 2010, 3:26 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

Okay, so we didn’t get the ‘whole’ pig, alive and in its natural form. And yes, it was all cut-up and frozen and plastic-vacuum-bag-sealed. But still, this pig was beautiful to me. Not just because I could envision the many meals that my husband, friends and I will enjoy from the pork, but also because I’m amazed at the sheer bounty that one animal can provide to—in this case—six households! And while of course none of us are living exclusively off pork for the next six months, this is definitely enough protein (not to mention fat) to keep us all satisfactorily fed for a good while.

Pigs occupy special place of honor in Filipino culture, as well as Chinese culture (my husband is Chinese) and in the cuisines and cultures of many people from around the world. One of the few non-negotiables that I required for our wedding reception last year was that we have a whole roasted suckling pig (Filipinos call it lechon, and it’s served with the head and skin and everything), which was the big hit on the menu. Really, Filipinos can’t get married without a lechon. It’s a symbol of abundance and our connection to nature as much as a food source at these special celebrations.

Some dishes I’m planning to make are pork adobo, carnitas (although I’m not sure if I have the right cut of pork—shoulder—but I do have about a 2.5 pound roast), chicharron from the strips of fat that we got, and maybe even some lard. I have no idea how to make the last three dishes, but half the fun of doing things in more sustainable, natural ways is learning new skills. And if I can perfect carnitas (by far my favorite Mexican dish), I’ll be able to satisfy my carnitas-cravings with humanely raised pork instead of going without or shutting off my conscience for a meal of taco-truck tacos.

Here are a few pictures from the delivery this morning. Thanks to all the other buyers who went in on this purchase with me for your patience and cooperation. Thanks to Brian, Rose and their kids at Godfrey Family Farms for raising the pig. Thanks to the pig for giving its life so that we could be nourished so heartily and happily. And last but not least, thanks to the Great Creator for this bounty. AMEN!

PORK MEAT. Lots and lots of pork meat.


These are the folks who went in on the pig purchase with me. Most of them are friends of mine from social justice work, and a couple are from the Bay Area Meat CSA. The farmer, Brian Godfrey, is the tall guy in the baseball cap and light blue shirt. That's me in the middle with the purple hoodie, holding a big bag of pork fat.



Link Up
February 1, 2010, 5:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

I’ve posted a bunch of new links in the sidebar to the left that I’ve been wanting to put up for awhile. If you’re a person of color looking to learn more or get into some green stuff, check ’em out. There’s a couple links on local Bay Area restaurants where you can eat mostly organic, locally grown, sustainable food (including humanely raised meat) from a variety of cuisines, such as Farmer Brown in San Francisco which has some slammin’ fried chicken. And if you want to have an event catered and need some good vegan (yes, I said VEGAN) Filipin food, check out No Worries Catering, based in the East Bay. No Worries is going to start selling food at the Jack London Farmer’s Market in April—woo-hoo! Guilt-free vegan kare-kare (oxtail soup)!

The Bay Area is a great place to be if you’re a brownperson trying to go green. Not only are there tons of places to get grub that’s wholesome and natural, but there are also activist organizations to support and get involved in, urban gardens to help out in, and tons more stuff. I’m just starting with the links I’ve got up right now—more will come soon. If you have any suggestions for links I should put up—especially blogs by other people of color about environmentalism or going green—please let me know.



Waiting for Our Pig
January 21, 2010, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m in the (hopefully) last days of a seemingly endless wait for the delivery of the humanely-raised, pasture-raised whole pig (yes, I said PIG) that I bought with six other Bay Area foodies via the Bay Area Meat CSA, which is essentially a big, complex network of message boards that help folks self-organize a collective purchase of a sustainably-farmed animal. More about CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture programs) in general here, and a good article about Bay Area folks buying meat through CSAs here.

Since I saw the excellent documentary film Food, Inc. several months ago with my partner, Henry, I’ve been trying to only buy and eat meat from sustainably-farmed and humanely-treated animals. (You have to watch the film to get a sense of why it would cause this dramatic behavior-change). This is a lot harder than it sounds, although it’s much easier to do it in the Bay Area–where there are many local farmers that are dedicated to raising and selling these kinds of animals. I’m not going to get into the vegetarian/vegan vs. meat-eater argument here (but I will at a later time), but I will say that I love meat. I also love animals–and I don’t, thusfar, see a contradiction between the two.

So I figure the least I can do is get my meat from places that aren’t torturing the animals or turning them into strangely mutated creatures (like the conventionally raised chickens that can’t walk because their breasts have been made so huge by hormone-laced feed), but instead are treating the animals with respect and giving them fairly good, happy lives.

Ironically–or serendipitously, depending on how you look at it–‘my’ pig, which we’re getting from Godfrey Family Farms in Marysville, Calif., was killed on my birthday (December 30). This made me pause and reflect on the fact that I was soon going to knowingly eat meat from an animal whose life was unnaturally ended on the day of my birth. And while that knowledge isn’t going to stop me from enjoying that meat, I’m sure, it does make me more deeply respect and honor the animals that I eat in general.

My family is from the Philippines, a largely rural country–and they are mostly peasants. I say this with no irony and with the utmost respect. My people (starting with my mother and going back generations upon generations) worked the land, fished and lived off of nature’s bounty. I’m of the first generation in my family removed from this earth-based culture and lifestyle, and I know I can learn a lot from my family about how to live more in touch with nature. I have family members who have killed animals with their own hands (fish and chickens and goats, and probably pigs), but who I think have more respect for nature and a deeper understanding of their relationship to it than many vegetarian, Prius-driving, organic-produce-buying, self-proclaimed environmentalists that I know. Because my family’s relationship to nature is not intellectual or political or based on something they read in a magazine or a book. Their relationship is based in the way they have fed and sheltered themselves and their children–in the way they had to survive.

And so I strive to have a similar relationship with my food as my ancestors have–in a more modern way. And so I wait, guiltlessly, for my pig, and look forward to eating its meat–with gratitude and respect.