Friday, June 22, 2012

A visit to the city

Last week I lived in a city for 5 days and it wasn't that bad. I was able to attend the annual co-op conference, also known as the CCMA (Consumer Cooperative Management Association) conference. This was the 3rd CCMA that I have attended, and this year it was right in my home city, Philadephia. While I grew up just outside of the city, I spent much time there as a kid... but this was a different experience for me.
My memory of Philly is driving around and looking for parking spots, going to see and/or make art, hanging out on south street, etc... teenager stuff. Then later when I was older and visited some of the not so great parts of the city, I started to become aware of how dirty cities were and how isolated people could be even though they were far from alone.
But this time, I had a new experience.
First off, I'd like to say that while I still don't understand how every single person can pretend that they don't smell sewage when walking down a city street... Philly has definitely cleaned up it's act. Of course (to be fair) I stayed in the marriott downtown, so if there is going to be a nice area of the city, I was in it.
The weather was perfect, even though the hotel was super air conditioned. City walking did a toll on my feet - hiking on pavement is nothing like hiking in the woods! My feet are better now and I have learned my lesson. I also forgot what humidity does to my hair, but none of that really mattered. I was without kids and living it up with (almost) everything paid for. Plus, hanging with fellow cooperators from all over the country, with our focus on something that I can stand behind.

The day before every CCMA, there are always local tours offered. I won't lie, I struggled with the idea of taking a tour in a place that I thought I knew pretty well... but I'm glad in the end that I took the mural tour around the city.
The murals were amazing and have certainly helped clean the city up quite a bit. This is something that has happened since I lived nearby and I'm super glad I got to see some of them.

But let's really get down to it, shall we?

It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be to avoid disposable products... but I will say that Philly has a LONG way to go when it comes to recycling.
I saw a total of 3 recycling bins in my section of the city - and I did a lot of walking. Two of the recycling bins were stuff full with trash, and the third looked promising but I don't have a lot of faith that anything recyclable in it actually made it to a recycling facility.

The hotel that we were in straight up SUCKED at recycling. I'm not going to alter this corporate name, because everyone should know that the Marriott in downtown Philadelphia does not have one single recycling bin anywhere in their gigantic building. After talking to a few employees, I found out that they do recycle in the kitchen, so when I had a glass bottle one day, I found someone who worked in the kitchen and asked them to take it behind the scenes and recycle it for me. I later found a manger of the hotel and had a talk with her, letting her know how disappointing it was that the hotel didn't extend their recycling services to their thousands of guests. She was receptive, but she was also doing her job by taking my complaint... so who knows.

But this is something that we can all do! When you can't find a recycling bin, find someone and tell them that you are disappointed in their business for not being more responsible. It's not much, but it is something.

Downtown Philly certainly isn't the best place to seek out organic and/or natural meals, but we spent some time in the Reading Terminal Market, since it happened to be right next to our hotel. It was ok but of course there was disposable stuff everywhere. However, people were receptive (after they were confused) about me using my own containers. I carried 5 important things on me while int he city:

- stainless steel water bottle full of water (I found spring water dispensers in the conference rooms to refill it)
-  my insulated stainless steel bottle that was perfect for keeping the fresh juices and smoothies cold that I bought at the market
- a small stainless steel lunch box type thing, about the size to fit a large sandwich in... I used this the most
- metal utensils
- cloth napkin
Sometimes I still ended up with a wrapper under my food, but it was still better that using the styrofoam plates that everyone seemed to serve on. You can see my friend's food in the background of the picture above.
To be fair, I did see at least 4 recycling bins inside the market, so that made me feel better about going there!

And so, I had a great visit to Philly despite the fact that no one seems to recycle. It was good to be on foot without a car for 4 days, even if my feet got mad at the lack of earth to walk on. And it was nice to be away and get re-energized with the all of the co-op people who are thinking like me.

To learn a little more about the conference that I went to, check out this NPR show. Scroll to the bottom and you can listen to it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Radishes, or something new

It has been so nice not having to go to school on Saturdays! I can now go to the farmer's market in my town (after sleeping in and going out to breakfast of course).

It's kind of scary and exciting to have so much produce available already in the season here.
The delicious organic strawberries actually came in a little wooden pint container, but I brought my glass pyrex container to put them in instead - the farmers where of course happy to take back the wooden container to reuse. The glass container also keeps the strawberries safe, and ensures that they don't get squished - I can essentially toss it in my bag and not worry about it.

And then there are the radishes... I am always trying to broaden my palate, but it's easy to feel comfortable with the same old shopping patterns - especially when they are based on what I know my family will definitely eat. But the other nice thing about the farmer's market is that I can buy something on a whim because it looks good when I might not buy it in the store simply because I'm not looking for it. This is how I ended up with radishes - I never buy them because I'm not generally a huge fan, plus my family finds them to be too spicy. But they looked so good, so I'm making it a point to enjoy them.
I made some guacamole from the most perfectly ripe avocados (not purchased at the farmer's market, sadly) and decided to use the radish slices in place of chips to dip in it. It was pretty good! They were perfectly crunchy and the spice grew on me. Since I'm always looking for healthier alternatives for munchy food, I think I might be doing this more frequently. By the way, cucumbers are pretty good guacamole vehicles as well.
And since I was enjoying trying to find ways to incorporate radishes into my diet, I decided to make a pressed salad with them. I had a head of cabbage that was looking to be utilized, so I sliced it finely and added thinly sliced radishes and carrots and a clove of garlic, then sprinkled some himala salt all over it and tossed it thoroughly with my hands. Mix it well until it starts to feel wet, and then place a plate on top of it and place a weight of some sort on top of that. I like to let mine sit for a long time, hours or maybe even over night. The longer it sits, the more soft and digestible it becomes - it is like a raw form of cooking. You can taste it to see if you like it and once you are satisfied with the taste, pour the water off and serve. You will be surprised how much water there is, trust me.

Ok, I'm off to find a use for my last three radishes... but I think I might just slice them up, grind a little salt on top, and munch them down. Mmmmm!