Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Eating Well?

I'm listening to an episode of This American Life, where they are playing recordings of folks talking about the Great Depression. Meanwhile, I'm eating a delicious homemade lunch: venison stew with beans and vegetables with a thick slice of fresh homemade sourdough bread and a beautiful salad made with local produce.

As I'm eating my healthy and delicious lunch, the thought occurred to me: how many people don't think they can eat this well? And worse yet: how many people can't afford to eat good, fresh food?

After learning that nearly a billion people worldwide live on less than a dollar a day for food, a couple in California set out to do just that. The NY Times recently wrote an article about their month-long experiment, where they learned that they could not afford the fresh organic produce they were accustomed to, and that junk food is usually cheaper than the good stuff. They also raised money to donate to charity.

I read their blog, and I found it thought provoking. We don't tend to think about healthy food as anything special; everyone can afford good food, right? The people who buy junk food just don't want to eat healthy. The fact that many poor people are fat is just their fault, not the fault of the government whose farm policies have many crappy processed food more affordable than vegetables.

I grew up in a "economically disadvantaged" home. There were seven mouths to feed, and not a whole lot of money to do it. Our meals were spaghetti, macaroni and cheese (4 boxes for a dollar--feeds us all, with leftovers!), hotdogs, and other really inexpensive foods. For vegetables, Mom prepared canned green beans or corn. Occasionally, we'd get frozen peas. We ate lots of potatoes, and usually had bananas. There was usually iceberg lettuce, but I've always hated iceberg lettuce.

We had a garden growing up, and it was from that garden that I learned to like fresh cucumbers and squash and other fresh vegetables. But when we couldn't grow it, we stuck to the standbys: processed food.

And of course school was much of the same, since we either chose between the "hamburger line" (with nary a vegetable to be seen) or the regular lunch line. (Our whole family was on the free lunch program.) You could sign up for a salad in the morning, which I did occasionally, but the salads were piled high with cheese and ham and ranch dressing.

Anyway, now that I can afford to eat great food--and I make it a priority in my budget--I find myself reflecting back on my childhood and adolescence. There are lots of kids like me and people who live on even less than we had. We may not have had money for fresh organic produce, but we didn't go hungry.

As I was contemplating all of this, the thought popped into my head: what if we had a soup kitchen that included a garden? What if this soup kitchen fed people fresh, organic food, and allowed them to help out in the garden and learn the magic of growing things? People within the community could also come help in the garden and volunteer in the kitchen, learning how to cook healthy food, learning the connections anew between seasonality and what you eat (i.e. no strawberries in December, nor asparagus in June). This vision of a community space to feed and teach people about good food was so stirring and beautiful that I wanted it to happen, now.

How could I create such a place?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Back to It

Well folks, I'm back home. I'm sitting in my very comfortable pants and UCA sweatshirt, with a needy kitty sitting on my lap. Lance is off at Sunday night potluck, but I decided to hang out at home and enjoy being home.

I like home. It's great. Travel is fun, however, because I know I have someplace to return to after all the hustle and bustle of the trip is done. I'm actually quite a homebody when it comes down to it. Not that you're likely surprised.

I had a great time: I got to meet and talk to some really neat people, and I even went on an impromptu walk around DC to the Monument and the Lincoln Memorial last night:

Why not go out on a bang? It was a great trip and a great city, and I look forward to my next academic conference!

Saturday, November 08, 2008


I went to eat lunch today with a fellow conference attendee: we went to a fantastic Indian restaurant with served delicious lamb-based dishes. I rarely have lamb, so I relished the food--it was great. And I also had great conversation with the older academic. I miss getting to have non-stop conversations sometimes.

Today I presented my paper, and I think it went well.

After lunch, I relaxed for a few minutes, then set out for a used book store. I've been having fun walking around Georgetown, relaxing and exploring this wonderful sector of DC. I love how old it is, how the houses stand shoulder to shoulder, tall and stately. I love the feel of the city.

Whenever I travel to a new city, I make sure I get out and explore. I decided I would do that when I did travel to a new city, and I stayed in my hotel for most of the trip...and missed out on some wonderful experiences. I've learned to love exploring a place alone, mostly because I'm not really alone--I'm getting to know the place.

Tonight, I'm heading out to eat dinner with another fellow conference attendee. We chatted last night and made plans. It's my last night here, and tomorrow will basically be travelling home, so I want to make sure I soak up as much Georgetown as possible. I believe after that I'm meeting up with another friend (someone from UCA) to have a drink, and that'll be fun.

Ah, new places. Will I ever grow tired of visiting unknown cities?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Jenn's First Conference

My conferencing today has gone very well. I've met many intelligent, gracious scholars--I think this is a group (the EC/ASECS) that I would like to be associated with for a long time.

I have some thoughts about my first conference and realizing how I should present myself professionally (which is different, perhaps, from how I present myself normally). Also, about how as a young female academic, I've been treated not as a fellow scholar--by one or two older folks, anyway. (Mostly everyone else has listened to what I have to say, and I've been happily partaking of the intellectual atmosphere.) But I think I'll save those thoughts for when I don't have to stand at a public computer in the hotel lobby.

Oh, and for the knitter-readers: I bought some lovely yarn from Stitch DC. I felt as though a trip to a new place would not be complete unless I did a bit of yarn shopping. Yay for LYS!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Traveling to the East

Greetings, Dear Readers:

I have journeyed far to the East to a land called Washington, where our leaders gather and issue forth proclaimations. My mission is to attend a gathering of scholars who study the eighteenth-century: On Saturday, I shall myself lecture on Matthew Lewis' The Monk. It promises to be a thrilling adventure.

Today, I boarded a flying machine from the mountains of Arkansas, journeyed forth to the Deep South (Atlanta, y'all), and arrived in DC. I then wound my way through the maze of the public transit system. I found myself the object of a kind gentleman's charity: he gave me 35 cents so I could make my bus connection. Alas, his kindness went awry when the connection fee was in fact 45 cents. The bus driver took pity on my poor travelling soul, and allowed me to board anyway.

All was well, until I could not find the Inn. It turns out that Georgetown University Conference Center and Hotel is cunningly hidden, tucked into campus behind (a freakin') hospital. I arrived sore and sweaty from hauling my luggage. Ah, should a shining knight had resuced me! Alas, I must care for myself. And in the end, I much prefer to be independent, alone in a strange city and loving it.

Tonight, the conference opened with much lauded performances of poetry, music, and a staged production of Mr. Pope's "The Rape of the Lock". It was splendid, dear readers, splendid. Afterward, I conversed with many scholars, all of whom were kind and welcoming to me, the young academic setting forth for her first real conference.

It is now time for me to retire my soft quarters. Adieu, dear readers, adieu.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Time to Celebrate

When I returned from my run a few minutes ago, a horrible sight assaulted my eyes: there, peering from two different apartments were fully lit Christmas trees.

Christmas trees! And it's just the beginning of November.

Now, I love Christmas a lot. In fact, I'm already working on my Christmas gifts (because I'm making them, mostly). So I have nothing against Christmas. What I do have a problem with is people not celebrating when it's the right time. These two tenants have completely skipped over enjoying Autumn and Thanksgiving.

How can anyone think about Christmas when the trees look like this? Lance took this picture of me on our walk up to the Farmers' Market on Saturday. Fall is in full swing in the Ozarks, and people who are putting up Christmas decorations and listening to Christmas music are forgetting about how cool the current season is.

Christmas comes "in the bleak midwinter" for a purpose: it livens us when the days are short and the nights are cold. It gives us cause to celebrate, even when the world seems dead. Autumn is all about harvest and life and color.

Also, it's about presidential elections. I will comment that I'm quite pleased with the results of last night's voting. Another reason to celebrate this season!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting Day

I participated in democracy by voting early last Friday (No way I was standing in line today). Women have only had the right to vote for 88 years. You bet I voted in this election--and proudly. I believe the best way to appreciate rights is to exercise them, and I did.

Anyway, go vote if you haven't yet...or you might end up looking like this fellow:

(A friend's sick sense of humor)

Tonight, I'll be alternating watching the poll returns with preparing for my conference--I leave for DC on Thursday, so I'm trying to get everything ready early so I don't forget anything. Also, I need to practice reading my paper slowly. Basically, I'll be trying to distract myself until Obama is officially declared our next President. This is so exciting!

Monday, November 03, 2008


Last year, Lance and I started eating greens. You know, collard greens and the like. I'd never really had them before until his sister-in-law fixed us some mustard greens that were delicious, so we started eating them. And they are delicious.

This weekend, we picked up some beets (with gorgeous greens attached) from Patrice* at the Farmers' Market. Beets are a delicious, nutritious, often overlooked vegetable. There are many ways to cook them, and when you buy them with greens attached, you get two vegetables for your buck. (A giant bunch of beets cost us about two bucks from the Farmers' Market). You could make this. Or this.

We made a simple stir fry of beet greens, sweet potato, and beans. Sounds a little funky, but the beet greens (unlike kale, for example) are sweet and tender; they aren't bitter like some cooked greens can be. Lance seasoned them with nutritional yeast, garlic, and onion to make something really delicious. One thing to know: the greens and the beets themselves will turn any dish you put them in a brilliant shade of magenta.

Now, I just need to use up all the beets I have lying around. Shall I grate them, or roast them? Slice them thin and make beet chips? The possibilities are endless!

*He's an awesome farmer who we always chat with. He has a charming French accent and gushes about how few young people (like us) eat delicious vegetables.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

In Which Lance Acquires a Bike

Remember a few months ago when I bought a bike? I've been riding it around and enjoying myself immensely. One drawback, however, was that Lance did not have a bike. So I had no one readily available to go with me on rides to the grocery store.

For several months we went back and forth, until finally Lance was committed to finding one. There were debates about buying used versus buying new. Lance, very frugal, so he didn't want to drop much money on a bike. We looked at used with little luck.

Meanwhile, I'm getting the hang of riding, making new biking friends, and longing for the day that Lance acquires a bike. Well, folks...that day was yesterday.

I've been asking various friends with bikes to keep an ear out for an appropriate one for Lance, and yesterday while talking to Kyle at a pumpkin potluck*, I talked to him about our quest for a bike. He then told me about a bicycle that's been sitting in his garage for 10 months, and how he might like to see it have a new home. I immediately jumped on the opportunity**, and a few hours later, Lance was the owner of his very own awesome bike. Seriously--it's a fantastic bike. And it was just the right price.

Today, Lance, Kyle, and I set out to explore the Fayetteville trails. We rode to the start of the trail a short skip from my house and we biked roughly fourteen miles without interacting much with road traffic. We figured out we could get to many of our favorite places by bicycle, likely almost as quickly as by car. Yay!

So, the lesson? Although I may hate waiting and being patient, persistence eventually pays off. Also, Lance is lucky to have me.

*I made these amazing cookies and pumpkin brownies. Yum.

**If you know me, you know that once I set my mind on something, I want it accomplished right THEN. So after peppering him about price and what the bike was like, we set out to go look at it, brought it home, and I paid him. It was a good day.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Weekend of Halloween.

Friday and today were spent attending various Halloween celebrations--because, after all, white people LOVE Halloween. And we love Dr. Horrible.