Category Archives: Travel

APPLE PICKING and BOOK REVIEW – “The Orchard”

I am mesmerized by farms and orchards.  Though I have never lived on a farm, it is in my blood.  My mother comes from a long line of farmers, and my father grew-up working his family’s orange groves…maybe it is their stories that drew me in as a child and maybe that is why I have such idyllic notions of farming.  My logical mind knows that I realistically have no idea what living and working on a farm entails and the hardships that farmers face daily, but that doesn’t change the fact that living on a ranch has always been my dream.  I am called to the land and the animals and I know that ranch life is part of my destiny when the time is right.

Theresa Weir didn’t have that calling, yet apple farming became her life.  I just finished her memoir, “The Orchard,” and I am numb.  I appreciate Theresa’s courage in telling the story the apple farm she married in to…a farm and family that never truly allowed her in.  While it is common knowledge that farming is backbreaking, constant, and exhausting work, our culture has romanticized it beyond recognition.  Theresa had the guts and honesty to tell the story of modern farming with truth and transparency. Farming nowadays is not the farming of our grandparent’s time; big business has taken over. Pesticides rule and people get hurt.

Theresa’s memoir has elevated my respect for organic farmers (a respect that was already sky high).  Organic farmers are literally risking their farms and livelihood to provide us with pure food; they are one infestation, drought, or awful storm away from losing everything. That is the epitome of bravery.

I truly understand the circumstances that push farmers toward the use of pesticides in their attempt to hold on to the land that has been in their family for generations, but chemicals are not the answer.

Please read this book.  The Orchard was so intoxicating that I could not put it down…I read this book so quickly that it was as if I drank it.

We need to reclaim our farmland.

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This weekend my lovely little girl turned 6!  In honor of her autumn birthday and my recent completion of The Orchard, my family took a trip to Oak Glen for a fun-filled day of apple picking.

Both of my children share my love of the land which made the day all the more special.

We visited Los Rios Rancho which is my favorite organic apple orchard in Oak Glenn.  While there we ate lunch while listening to a bluegrass band comprised of 4 siblings.  It was heartwarming to listen to their music while their parents proudly looked-on from a table piled high with their cds for sale.

After lunch we went into the U-pick orchards and had a lot of fun taking turns with the apple picker.  Since the orchard is organic, there were quite a few apples with worm holes, but I will take worm holes any day over pesticides!  I was just so darn happy while walking through the orchard with my children, husband, and parents.

After picking apples we made our way back to the main buildings at Los Rios Rancho and had our hand at making our own apple cider the old fashioned way (translation…with man power).  The cider was sooooo good and sweet…the kids went nuts for it!

We really had a wonderful day in Oak Glen.  When we got home we set to work making homemade apple pie and apple crumble.  My daughter was having so much fun baking with her Nana.  It felt great to have three generations in the kitchen creating together.  I can’t think of a better autumn “birthday cake” than fresh baked apple pie and crumble.

I highly recommend taking your family for a day of apple picking.  It is so important for us to support our local farmers.

To learn more about Oak Glen click here.

Oak Glen pictures taken by photographer Tony Tseng

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Filed under Books, Education, Farming, Farming, Travel, Vegan, Vegetarian

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: America’s Falling Behind

Anthony Bourdain. Photo Courtesy of Travel Channel

Anthony Bourdain. Photo Courtesy of Travel Channel

This is an excerpt from an interview by Jason Cochran on AOL Travel (Posted Feb 28th 2011 12:00 PM).  I really like the points Anthony makes concerning how good food can be made inexpensively.  While Anthony Bourdain is not vegetarian, he does encourage people to try new things and be more adventurous with their food, which I can really appreciate.  The point Anthony makes about the rising cost of food supports the fact that like it or not (I definitely like it), people are going to have to reduce the meat in their diets.

To read the interview in its entirety click here.  To learn more about Jason Cochran click here.

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Your show seems to be very much about turning other people on to what’s out there.

I think that, like eating, travel should be a fairly submissive experience. You should open yourself up to stuff and let things happen. Generally speaking, it’s an amazing world. People may or may not agree with you, but when it comes to eating and drinking it’s a world full of peace and proud people doing the best they can. Hospitality is a feature of a lot of cultures that you might not expect to be welcoming.

Americans often see fine food as something of a consumer item or something for the wealthy, but abroad, as you show time and again, it’s the simplest expression of tradition and of human connection. How did we get so high-minded here?

I think it’s not high-mindedness. Post World War Two, we got lazy. We got spoiled. We could eat 20-ounce steaks. There were restaurants everywhere. It’s all about excessive portions and meat and potatoes. We lost touch with having to cook well because we didn’t have to. The nation had just been through a war, and suddenly there was a period of incredible prosperity, relatively, and it was all about convenience and things other than food. American culture is all about assimilating and moving away from your roots, moving away from your small town or your poor background. Families changed, populations moved, and everywhere we went there were cheap hamburgers and chicken without skin or legs.

And yet on the road, you’re often finding the most satisfying, nuanced food is the cheapest stuff. Why isn’t it that way for us?

We weren’t forced into a situation where we had to find ingenious ways to make something that was not very good, and there wasn’t very much of it, into something delicious. Where people have to cook well, or are forced by circumstances to cook well, they learn to make the most of it. It was just as easy to go out to a Howard Johnson’s or a Horn & Hardart back in the ’50s than it was to eat at home, in fact you were encouraged to do it. The TV dinner was seen as a godsend for people who had more important things to do than feed themselves. That’s changing. We’re much more aware of where our food comes from.

What will it take to get the average American care about their food the way so many people who live abroad do?

I hate to say it, but I think we will see it. As the price of raw ingredients rises, we’ll reach a point where a lot of working families will have to figure out how to cook again to make the most out of what they have. A lot of foods we take for granted now are going to be out of reach. We very well might have to start cooking eventually more like the Chinese, where meat, for instance, is less the main event than the garnish, the condiment, the flavoring ingredient. So we might be forced to eat better, cook better, and eat healthier just by virtue of these food items we take for granted being out of reach economically. Even at mid-range restaurants, any chef could put a big fat fillet of wild salmon on a plate. Now? Not so much.

What do your travel food experiences teach you about yourselves?

You realize how damn lucky you are and how good you’ve got it. In the Egypt show we shot over a year ago, I realize now we documented an important moment without realizing how important. Our government fixers and handlers did not want us – did not want us – to show the everyday, standard, staple breakfast of the working Egyptian. It’s a dish called foul. It’s served everywhere in the streets in Cairo, and it’s basically a watery chickpea stew with a big stack of flatbread. They did not want us to show that, and I didn’t understand or realize at the time what they were so afraid of. But the fact is there had been some bread riots recently, the army owned the bakeries, the price of flour had gone up. Just the change of a few cents per pound for the price of flour or bread – the whole security of the regime rested on a thing like that. I think they well understood and were terrified of that. They understood the power of us saying, “Hey, this is what most Egyptians fill their bellies with every day.” That’s the sort of fact that topples governments, as we’ve seen.

Is there something you want Americans to take away from that? I think some would hear a story like that and be afraid to ever go to Egypt, but I don’t think that’s what you intend.

No. I am not political. I’m not an advocate. I call myself an enthusiast. I’m an old-school lefty from New York. I don’t have a lot in common with the Tea Party. But I’m guessing that we both like beer and we both like barbecue. And I’m pretty damn sure I could sit down with just about anybody in the Tea Party and have a pretty good time at the table drinking beer and eating barbecue. That’s something. That’s about as political as it gets from me. If the people aren’t getting fed in a country, I’m against you, whoever you are. But I think Danny Ortega’s going to be very unhappy with our Nicaragua show.

Do you wish Americans would travel more?

Travel changes people for the better. The more you walk around in another person’s shoes, the more you’ve seen of the world, the better a person you are. If I can convince somebody who’s got the money to do it, the freedom to do it, and if one of our shows has inspired them to, then sure. I hear it a lot. People come up to me a lot and say, “I went to Vietnam, and I tracked down some of the same business that you ate at and I had a good time.” Sure. That makes me happy. I grew up with books and movies and I dreamed of seeing places like those I’d read about. It’s unimaginable to me that people wouldn’t yearn for a peek at the other side of the world, an undiscovered beach, a tiny little food stall that serves the perfect bowl of noodles.

Are you aware that you may be changing lives just by visiting with your cameras?

Yeah. I know the show has been good for a number of small businesses, but I’m also changing the character in negative ways as well sometimes. I have mixed emotions about that. We worry sometimes that that tiny, out-of-the-way, unspoiled place suddenly, after the show, there are people in ugly shorts and fanny packs. But I think on balance it’s something I can live with. And yet I want [to reach] people who wear silly tourist clothes and don’t know how to travel or haven’t traveled well in the past. I want them to have fun. There’s good stuff out there and good people.

Good people is a big theme with your show. You have a reputation as a hardass, but really, your writing is all about finding joy and wonder and connection with strangers. I don’t think your reputation is fully deserved.

I’m angry and hyperbolic about a lot of things, but I’m also very sentimental about a lot of other things.

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Filed under Education, Interview, Travel, Vegan, Vegetarian

TRAVELING AND FOOD – My Methods

Photo Courtesy of Mammothmountain.com

Photo Courtesy of Mammothmountain.com

I love to travel, but no matter how much I enjoy traveling, doing so is stressful…the packing, running to catch a plane or being in closed quarters in the car for hours, making sure the kids are ok, etc.  The last thing I want to do is get sick on a trip or come home from a trip with a cold as a souvenir.

So…there are a few things I do to ensure that I stay well.  On our last skiing trip to Mammoth two of the pieces of luggage that accompanied us were coolers.  There are of course times when it is possible to pack for every meal, but on this trip I knew I would be limited to a mini-bar fridge.  Since I knew my storage options were limited, I chose to bring the most nutrient dense foods possible to balance the restaurant food I knew I would be eating.

Green juice and green smoothies were on the top of my list.  When I got to the Westin Monache, they went straight into the mini-bar freezer.  Each night before bed I would take them out of the freezer and they were thawed and ready for me in the morning.

My Green Smoothies & Green Juice

My Green Smoothies & Green Juice

I also brought a healthy dinner of veggie soup, kale salad, and fresh baked bread.  I myself will probably stick to the soup and salad.  I don’t know about you, but my family is usually too tired to go out to dinner on the first night of skiing, so I always like to bring a healthy dinner with us if possible.

Our After Skiing Meal (veggie soup, kale salad, bread...no bread for me)

Our After Skiing Meal (veggie soup, kale salad, bread...no bread for me)

When I made the soup a home I vacuum packed it and froze it flat.  The soup was then able to act as my “ice” for the cooler and thus did not waste space.  It doesn’t look very appetizing in the picture below, but trust me, it was yummy!

Vacuum Packed Frozen Veggie Soup

Vacuum Packed Frozen Veggie Soup

You would be amazed what you can pack into a mini-fridge.  My fridge has eggs, whole wheat tortillas, Daiya cheese, kale salad (the soup is still in the cooler), prepared oatmeal, peanut butter, gluten free bread, gluten free rolls,  coconut water, almond milk, green juice and smoothies (in the freezer section), avocados, blueberries, and strawberries.

Packed Mini-Fridge

Packed Mini-Fridge

Close-up of Packed Mini-Fridge

Close-up of Packed Mini-Fridge

The next time you go on a road trip, don’t forget to bring your powerhouse foods!

Of course traveling by plane changes it a bit, but I have tips for that too…more on that later.

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Filed under Education, Travel, Vegan, Vegetarian