mmmmm… cookies.

Last night I made chocolate chip cookies. This may not sound like a huge acheivement (except that having a 9-month old in the house makes everything an acheivement), but these were special: I made them with homemade butter. A couple of weeks ago a colleague mentioned something about making butter. I knew the process, but had never tried it before–and I have to say, this will probably become a regular occurance. I made it while sitting on the couch, using a 1-quart glass jar and a pint of heavy cream. Less than five minutes after starting, I had a large clump of fresh butter. The result was delicious, creamy, and fairly light-colored. The cost of homemade versus storebought is about the same, so I’m putting this activity in the “repeat” column; now if I can just get homemade cheese to turn out as well.

Instructions for Homemade Butter:

1 pint heavy cream

1 clean quart jar, with lid

2 large bowls, one with lid

Let the cream come to room temperature. Better yet, let it sit on the counter overnight or use leftover cream that would otherwise go to waste.

Pour the cream into the jar and seal it tightly. Shake the jar strongly but slowly–using the same arm motion as if you were using a hammer. the cream will coat the inside of the glass, making the whole jar look white. Continue shaking for 2-3 minutes until the butterfat forms a large mass and the buttermilk washes the glass clear near the top.

Pour off the buttermilk (save it for baking!) into one waiting bowl. Add a cup of water to the jar and shake it for another minute to wash the butter. Pour off the water, then empty the butter into the other bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

Here is an interesting YouTube video of the process, and the science behind butter.

Hooray for… millenialism?

Friends may know that I occasionally spend time thinking about peak oil, global climate change, and the like. I feel the change a-comin’–but I do try to avoid saying that doomsday is right around the corner. My personal thought is that the the current system will fade away rather than burning out (sorry Neil). Occasionally, I also listen to conservative talk radio–not because I agree with the hosts, but because I feel like I should be aware of the message that the Right is broadcasting to the faithful hordes. The conservative and American libertarian hosts have been playing to the doomsday scenario crowd by invoking fears of socialism, higher taxes, and general mayhem related to the current administration–and that is a topic for another post.

So, the other day my wife E. got into the car and found the radio set to one of those AM stations, and after a few seconds of the usual screed they cut to a commercial for a Survival Seed Vault. Here is my bind: I’m all in favor of people growing their own food from non-hybrid seed. Seed saving is a wonderful practice: it promotes local genetic diversity, and those seeds don’t just make plants–they carry stories and meaning through time and space. Growing food is educational, may cut carbon emissions from transport, and can take business away from the super mega marts. So far so good.

At the same time, I don’t know how I feel about seed saving and food growing being packaged with a neoliberal politics of deregulation and general fear of ‘those people.’  Ultimately, it looks like a lot of messages about serious near-term change are being conflated into one big ball of uncertainty. My friend P. in Maine has what he calls the “horseshoe theory” of American politics–that the left and the right come together if you go far enough toward the ends. I guess my question is, if people are saving seeds, to what extent does the “why” matter?

Help! I’ve been Disneyfied.

Ok, it isn’t just me. Let me back up and start from the beginning.

This morning, I went out to the local Supermarket to get eggs and bacon. Now, there are places where I can probably get locally produced eggs and bacon*, but the convenience of the Supermarket seemed important at the time since I had houseguests who were hungry for breakfast. I wandered through the isles looking for eggs, and eventually found them anchoring the corner of the Dairy section. I’m not sure what type of historical contingency has led to eggs being classed with dairy products, but there you go.

At any rate, I was looking through the eggs for something that would fit into the budget of a graduate student couple with a small child while still giving at least a nod toward sustainable production when I saw them: Disney Eggs. I think I probably just stood staring for thirty seconds or so, trying to get my pre-caffeinated mind to process this juxtaposition. Of course I bought them, if only to bring them home and see if I was the only one who thought this  was odd.

These eggs are supposed to be “great tasting, fun, and nutritious,” but I had never realized that other eggs were less-than-fun. Looking in the carton at the pure white eggs, each stamped with a colorful picture of a Disney character, I still wasn’t sure. Would putting a stamp of Mickey or Wall-E on a hammer make it a “fun hammer”? Is that really all it takes? They tasted OK, though not as good to me as farm-fresh eggs from friends. I can’t speak for the nutritional value–they were produced by Eggland’s Best, and something about their all-vegetarian feed is supposed to make the eggs more nutritious.  From the looks of their web site, vegetarian fed hens and yoga may work together to keep kids healthy. These eggs have been Disneyfied–turned into a model of homogenized consumption. And I ate them–so since “you are what you eat,” then I must be Disneyfied, too.

Meanwhile, I got two emails warning me about the dangers of bills HR 875 and 759 to local food production, along with another message that the danger might be overstated. The bills in question both deal with the FDA and food safety following the recent US salmonella outbreak stemming from a single peanut butter production facility in Georgia. I found my pre-caffenated mind trying to sort this out, and drawing parallels between Big Peanuts and Big Eggs. Of course, Disney is also marketing in the peanut world through Peter Pan Peanut Butter, which was involved in the peanut/salmonella recall in 2007. I’m not trying to point at any sort of a hidden Disney conspiracy–rather to point at a very up-front marketing campaign, and the ways that ideas about fun, nutrition, and make-believe are linked together to drive the mass sales of homogenous imagined foods like Disney Eggs or Peter Pan Peanut Butter. 

…The Disney enterprise goes beyond the imaginary. Disney, the precursor, the grand initiator of the imaginary as virtual reality, is now in the process of capturing all the real world to integrate it into its synthetic universe, in the form of a vast “reality show” where reality itself becomes a spectacle [vient se donner en spectacle], where the real becomes a theme park. The transfusion of the real is like a blood transfusion, except that here it is a transfusion of real blood into the exsanguine universe of virtuality. After the prostitution of the imaginary, here is now the hallucination of the real in its ideal and simplified version. —Jean Baudrillard

*It is, though, currently illegal here to keep chickens in a residential neighborhood.