Dark Days, new year

Posted by Anita on 01.25.08 10:34 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**We haven’t gone in much for New Year’s resolutions this year, but we are making a few small changes. As part of our Dark Days Challenge (and as a side effect of finally finishing reading Omnivore’s Dilemma, two years behind the curve) we’re moving more of our food-budget dollars around. We’d already dabbled a bit in acclimating our palates to grass-fed beef, and we’re going to get more serious about it this coming year.

But possibly the largest change — one that has an effect on something we eat literally every day — is making the switch to pastured eggs. As I mentioned in the comments to our last Dark Days post, I finally decided that spending the extra cash for ethically raised eggs was really not going to put a huge dent in the food budget. But man, $7 a dozen feels extravagant when you’ve been spending $2.25 for quasi-organic eggs.

Which brings me to one of my first food discoveries of the new year: Just because you buy your eggs from a joke-cracking fella at the Ferry Plaza market doesn’t mean they’re ethically raised. (If you get your eggs from Judy’s Family Farm or any of the other eggs at the stand across from June Taylor, do yourself a favor and click that link.) Needless to say, I was pretty pissed off to discover that I’d been duped by what Michael Pollan might call “farmers market pastoral.” It took a dose of righteous anger to open my eyes: A $5-per-week premium isn’t outrageous. It’s a tiny fraction of our food budget, and a drop in the bucket compared to the cost buying of ethically farmed meat.

With that little surprise under my belt, I reluctantly started digging deeper into the true origins of other items that I’d previously assumed were sustainably produced. Much to my pleasant surprise, Clover Organic and a number of other brands I suspected might be greenwashing were entirely on the level. (I’m not sure whether I was more shocked by my egg supplier’s betrayal or the honesty of one of the area’s largest dairies.)

But back to the sunny side: Putting together Dark Days meals continue to feel far too easy. Our summer of canning, salting, freezing, and otherwise preserving the harvest is paying off in spades; sometimes dinner’s as simple as opening the freezer, thawing a bag of protein, and heating up a starch and a farmers market vegetable to go alongside.

We’ve also managed to add a number of new local items to our roster of ingredients. In the first half of the month, we sourced Liberty duck from Sonoma County Poultry (Penngrove – 48 miles); Giusto’s flour and baking soda (South San Francisco – 8 miles), and of course those Eatwell Farm pastured eggs (Dixon – 67 miles).

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Dark Days Ticker — January 1-15
- Dark Days dinners: 7 (out of 15)
- New recipes: Duck burgers, country-fried steak, Cornish pasties
- Old faves: One-day cassoulet (leftovers)
- Freezer fodder: Chile verde tacos; gravlax; linguine Bolognese; fusilli marinara

Dark Days challenge, locavore, shopping



Comment by sairuh

Oh wow, thanks for linking to those resources on eggs and flour! It’s really difficult finding pastry/cake flour that isn’t wholemeal(*) or bleached, yet is also organic and produced closer to CA. (Are there any Californian wheat producers?)

(*) Actually, I don’t understand why wholemeal pastry flour is so common (in stores, at least). Perhaps some aspect of bakery culture I’m ignorant about…

Posted on 01.26.08 at 11:47AM

Comment by Anita

Sairuh: The only CA flour producer I know of is Full Belly Farm, where I bought the wheatberries a while back. But they’re only selling whole wheat flour and wheatberries; it’s a soft wheat, but still wholemeal. The Farm Fresh To You store at the Ferry building sells small bags of the flour, as well as their cornmeal.

Giusto’s is locally owned, but they’re buying non-local grains and milling about half of it locally; the rest is processed in Idaho. Rainbow Grocery sells what I imagine is the entire line of their products in bulk, all labeled in painstaking detail. It seems the wheat flours are all non-local but other grains are largely milled in SSF.

Posted on 01.26.08 at 12:42PM

Comment by Katrina

Anita — Thanks for the flour tip. I can not live on whole wheat flour alone. I’ll try to find Guisto’s in Marin. As an aside – I can not forget those miniature beef wellingtons you had over the holidays. Forget how they must have tasted – they were gorgeous!

Posted on 01.26.08 at 5:27PM

Comment by sam

I think I might have been able to tell you that about the eggs three years ago. If you go to rainbow there is a handy egg chart pinned to the fridge with a table of egg feature – very handy. The only eggs I will buy are Marin Sun, Eatwell or Soul Food. Eatwell I think didnt use to be pastured but now they are? The MSF people told me their chickens can either be locally fed or oranically fed but not both and I can’t remember which they are because they were about to switch from one to the other. If I can’t get one of the above aforementioned eggs then I am eggless which sucks since I am an egg addict.

Posted on 01.26.08 at 5:52PM

Comment by Jennifer Hess

A timely topic considering my recent poached egg kick! We buy Shady Maple Farm eggs from our favorite cheesemonger Anne Saxelby, or Tello’s or Knoll Krest Farm eggs at the Greenmarket, and from the digging I’ve done I think we’re cool. (whew)

Posted on 01.28.08 at 12:33PM

Comment by KathyR

The flour and egg information is really valuable. Thank you! Now I’m wondering if Whole Foods or Golden Produce has any pastured eggs. Shopping at Golden Produce seems a nice alternative to Rainbow if you do want meat and don’t need bulk spices that day. I noticed those Judy’s eggs at Drewes recently (not a shocker, I know!!).

Your blog has taught me a lot. Thanks!

Posted on 01.29.08 at 9:32AM

Comment by nicole

Thanks for this … and so glad to hear Clover is on the up-and-up, since I buy pretty much exclusively from them.

Now … do you have a recommendation for a good, local, organic chicken I can buy in SF? I’m a vegetarian, but I want to make roast chicken for my dad’s birthday, and I definitely want it to be local, but Unfortunately, I have no idea where to start!


Posted on 01.31.08 at 11:17AM

Comment by Anita

Katrina: Thanks! We loved those little Wellingtons, too.

Sam: I wish I could just download everything that you and Jen M. know about local eating into my brain. I feel like I am constantly re-inventing the wheel!

Jennifer: Glad to know that NYC has some pastured egg sources, too. Yay!

Kathy: WF has no pastured eggs, to my knowledge, although the Clover Organic ones are at least ‘free range’ and they don’t do anything evil other than de-beaking (I think). Rainbow — which has MSF eggs, occasionally — has a chart on their egg fridge that shows all the pros and cons, and I remember deciding that if I couldn’t get real pastured eggs that at least Clover Organic was less evil than most. I keep meaning to check out Golden Produce, but between being deathly ill and getting so much of our food at the Farmers Market, I haven’t had much impetus.

Nicole: We usually buy our chickens from Marin Sun Farms, as they’re the only readily available pastured chickens. Unfortunately (for us, but fortunately for the chickens) they stop breeding them when temperatures fall; their last market visit was before Thanksgiving. We put a few half-birds in the freezer for emergencies, but we just decided that it’s better to think of pastured chickens as a seasonal item and eat more beef and pork in the winter, like our grandmas did.

If you have your heart set on chicken, though, you could do far worse than Hoffman chickens. Alas, they don’t come to the farmers market anymore, but you can buy them from Cafe Rouge’s meat counter, and from Magnani’s in Berkeley — I haven’t found any SF suppliers.

I suppose the next best thing would be Fulton Valley ‘Sonoma Select’ chicken — large-scale organic and semi-local (they’re bred in the valley, despite their name). You can get them at Guerra’s Meats on Taraval, or Bi-Rite. These are the birds that Roli Roti uses, so they’re definitely tasty.

Posted on 01.31.08 at 5:40PM

Comment by sam

time for you to get chickens for your yard? If I had a yard I would do it.

Posted on 01.31.08 at 11:03PM

Comment by Anita

Oh, Sam, I wish I could. Unfortunately the law says coops have to be a certain distance from any operable door or window, and one of our neighbors has illegally built onto their house so much that they’re within 5 feet of the fence line.

Posted on 02.01.08 at 7:17AM

Comment by The Yummy Mummy

Anita –

You know, I am long overdue telling you how much I enjoy your blog…and how happy I am that I am not the only one who started reading Pollan’s OD a couple years behind the pack! Just shameful, isn’t it?

Your post today underscores how much time and thought is required in being mindful about eating, buying and cooking. It is nearly a second job just checking in on purveyors and processing of everything that gets to our table. It’s all good for us “food enthusiasts” who enjoy the hunt and discovery of it all but, I think, a real gauntlet for folks just trying to get a good meal on the table for their families.

Thanks for writing about your thoughtful pursuit of good food. I’ll be back for more…


Posted on 02.04.08 at 11:20AM

Comment by Anita

Hi Kim — What a lovely compliment — thank you!

I agree that finding sustainable, ethical food is much more of a chore than any reasonable ‘normal’ person would accept. After a year and a half of paying attention and almost 9 months of eating locally grown and produced foods, it’s getting easier for us. I suppose once I’ve researched every possible thing I might want to buy, it will be somewhat more self-sustaining. But yeah, I can only imagine how much harder it would be if I had a family to feed, or limited income, or a lot less interest in food overall. Maybe someday it will be easier — I keep dreaming that someone will open a store that sold only local, sustainable stuff…

Posted on 02.04.08 at 2:27PM

Pingback by Married …with dinner » Blog Archive » What the cluck?

[...] Last year, when I discovered — after reading Bonnie Powell’s excellent post — that the Judy’s Family Farm eggs I’d been buying at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market were the product of an intensive factory operation called Petaluma Farm, I was pretty pissed. [...]

Posted on 04.19.10 at 7:49AM

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