Fun With Fermentation 2012

For the second year in a row, the Eugene Chapter had a booth at the Fun With Fermentation Festival!  This event is presented by the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition.  We had a lot of new people sign up at the event to receive this newsletter.  Welcome to all our new members!  For those of you who could not make it to the event, Victoria wrote about her experience.

Fun With Fermentation 2012

By Victoria Schneider

The WOW Hall was packed with folks enamored or at least curious about what this fermentation business was all about. Claudia Sepp, Cherie Anello and I, Victoria Schneider threw ourselves into the hustle and bustle of talking about all the great information we present from Weston A Price Foundation.  We gave out lots of tri-fold brochures and signed up lots of folks for further information. Cherrie brought her electric grain grinder and a sign-up sheet for collecting names for folks who would want to go together and put in an order of 6 machines. I want one of the hand grinders so I can use sprouted whole wheat berries as the electric one can only do dry grains. Cherie has had hers for years and it is a great device.

I brought a 2 quart jar of Cortido and 350 sample cups to give away. I had made it last November and it was very well aged and delicious. I think we were unofficially voted with having the best sauerkraut overall. We also had a bowl of chopped cabbage and both the Kraut Pounder and my new Stonepounder (from Mexico) for people to try out. Lots of activity and the kids especially enjoyed it. By the end of the day we had given away all the samples, so I am guessing we had 350 to 400 people attend.

We saw many friends, ate some delicious samples and really, a good time was had by all. By the time we cleaned up and packed up, we were pooped and ready for some peace and quiet, but for sure, we will do it again, with pleasure, next year.

Deer in the Meadow

Local member and Eugene co-Chapter Leader,Victoria Schneider, graces us with a tale from her past.  She was inspired to share this event after some recent discussions on the ethics of eating meat. It brought tears to my eyes when I first heard her tell this story of the deer in the meadow.

Deer In The Meadow

In the distant horizon line, where the sky meets the sea, an undulating rhythm can just barely be detected among the sparkling ocean rhythms. Tom has excellent sight and his distance vision surpasses most. “Yes,” he says, “Definitely kayakers, two most likely, are working their way into the bay.”  A bright easterly wind is blowing and it will take them an hour or more to work their way into the protected waters near our cabin.  We stop working and sit comfortably on a big log settled high on the beach, staring intently at the horizon line. The possibility of visitors is exciting, as it is May and we have seen only a few from the outside since fall.  Who could it be, especially coming from the South?  Our step quickens, finishing the work of stacking the wood, carrying fresh water up from the creek and tidying up our little cabin.  We are delighted and want to prepare to host new friends into our world.

The year is 1975 and we make our home on the protected southern edge of Burnaby Island, on the Queen Charlotte Islands, later re-named Haida Gwaii. These northern-most islands on the B.C. coast are called the ‘Canadian Galapagos’ for their tremendous biological diversity. An elder in Skidegate village said the traditional name for this bay is L’aanaa Daganag.a, but it’s known to the locals as Swan Bay.  The serene bay with natural barriers to the winter winds welcomed us, creating a first sighting that was epic!  A south easterly wind had been slapping the bow of our freighter canoe, making headway slow until we came around the western point.  The calmer waters of the small bay glistened in the rising tide. The clouds parted and a shaft of light illuminated the emerald meadow, filling our spirits with hope.  We stopped paddling and let the momentum and tide carry the canoe through the giant kelp forest. We knew in the depths of our souls we would call this magical place home.

We have now become three, having built our log cabin in time to birth our first child in the long days of the previous summer. Our first summer was spent searching for a home-site, two city kids longing for a natural life in the wilderness. We paddled down the west coast, high tide falling, to the old whaling station at Rose Harbor then up the forbidding west coast, low tide rising, where the powerful Pacific meets the continental shelf and the steep hillsides of San Cristoval Mountains of South Moresby. In the end, we made our way back to town late in the fall with dancing visions of L’aanaa Daganag.a and the simple life we dreamed of.

Our visitors finally arrive, along with their looks of amazement. We help them up the beach, securing their kayaks against the tide. We invite them in for tea and a warm place near the stove, which they gratefully accept. We soon discover that they are on the adventure of their lives, having dreamed of exploring the southern Charlottes for years. They flew from Seattle and hired a float plane to carry them from the airport in Sandspit to Rose Harbor, where they launched their inflatable kayaks. After a few days, the weather cleared for them to brave well-known rip tides on the southeast coast.  They share the tale of their adventure, inquiring about good fishing and camping sites; all the while drinking their hot tea with relish.

They tell us that the smoke from our wood stove greeted them far out in the inlet, and they wondered where it could be coming from. They couldn’t imagine anyone living so far into the wilderness and didn’t see our little cabin until they were almost upon us. We offer to dry their wet woolen clothes over the stove and soon the aroma fills our cabin, a familiar smell. Gratefully, they accept when we offer them the tiny shelter and a warm meal. After awhile Tom asks them if they would like to share in taking a deer with us and they answer that deer meat would be a delight to compliment their dried rations.

Tom gets out the wooden cutting boards and begins sharpening our knives with confidence. Then he retrieves and loads his 22 rifle as our visitors watch with intense curiosity.  As the evening mist settles, four or five deer come out and begin to graze peacefully on the meadow outside the cabin. After they settle into nibbling the choice meadow grass, Tom opens the upper part of our Dutch door and carefully balances the rifle on the ledge. He silently says to the deer, “If one of you is willing to give your life so we can sustain ours, show us.”  One deer’s head rises up, and looks into Tom’s eyes as the others slowly amble off. He takes careful aim and the sharp crack of the rifle reverberates through the ancient forest. It is a clean kill and the deer hits the soft meadow soundlessly. Calmly, Tom puts down the rifle and walks out to care for the animal that had graciously given its life.

Our new friends have just witnessed something that has become a normal part of our life. We hunt and gather daily, giving thanks for all that is, each season bringing its unique gifts. Salmon in the fall, herring and roe-on-kelp in the spring, seagull eggs through the early summer, and the daily gathering of minor’s lettuce, cleavers and sorrel among the ancient sphagnum moss meadow. We take only what we need and we waste nothing; everything serves a purpose. The rich seafood and deer meat gifted us with a healthy pregnancy, an easy birth, and a beautiful son, who was greeted into this life by only his father and I, gently guided by candlelight.

The men walk out into the falling dusk to honor and clean the deer. The inedible organs are collected in a large wash tub and carried down to the low tide for the crabs to feast on. The liver, heart and kidneys are carefully washed and brought in to cook. I have our deep dish fry pan warmed on the small stove Tom made from a beach-combed barrel. We have wild greens from the meadow, brown rice and gently cooked heart and liver for dinner. They seem skeptical at first, but the meat is sweet and their appetite fresh and they gobble it up. We tell stories long into the night until we find our guests worn out from their adventure filled day. They trundle off to sleep and prepare for another day of timeless adventures. The three of us climb the ladder into the loft to fall into a deep sleep that can only be known to those living within the natural cycles of the earth.

Victoria Schneider

Teaching Fermented Food Classes in Mexico

Our co-chapter leader, Victoria Schneider, and her husband Tom, are currently living in Mexico.  Here Victoria shares with us her wonderful experience of teaching a fermented foods class in Mexico.

Looking across the room of eager faces, both Mexican and non-Mexican was wonderful. They sat in quiet attention as I began the class, starting of course, with the timeless work of our own Weston A Price. Here in Mexico I explain, the country farmers and poor villagers who have adhered to their age old traditions have beautiful teeth “as straight and white as piano keys”. Still today, this is often the case and they nod in agreement. This is because, I explain, they soak their whole corn in limestone water. This releases a form of calcium called calcium hydroxide into the water and some of the little stones remain in the corn. By soaking the whole corn seed, the phytates are deactivated. Then they grind the soaked corn by hand or in the village grinder into Masa Harina

. This they mix with Manteca or pork fat and finally, press them into tortillas and cook them on the top of their stoves. This combination of soaked corn with limestone releases minerals and mixed with healthy pastured pork fat make perfect food to build healthy bones and beautiful teeth!  I have the opportunity to tell them about the dangers of rancid fats that are in margarine and salad dressing and how healthy grass fed pork fat is. The Mexicans especially look surprised, but then the stories of how their grandmothers cooked came out. I ask them how old their grandparents lived to be, eating all this “bad” fat. Many said into their 80’s and 90’s. I tell them of my own grandmother who lived to almost 104. I share how she loved her high fat chicken wings, organ meats and cod liver oil and that she never once had her cholesterol checked!  I tell them the greatest threat to Mexicans is not fat, but sugar. I launch into my sugar as the main enemy and the root cause of heart disease, cancer but especially diabetes. The nodding continues.

Victoria (in blue) teaches fermented foods in Mexico

I also share with them how their ancestors made tamales, wrapping them in soaked corn husks, cooking them and packing them into clay jars. The jars were then buried in the ground and left to ferment for 2 weeks. The result was a delicious corn fungus that coats the tamales like a cheese. Again I get a room full of nodding Mexican and the Gringos look at me with skepticism; corn fungus! Yes, I say, it is delicious and when I see it on a menu, I always order it.  I shared all this with my students, most of which were middle class Mexicans who have seen the beautiful teeth on the poor villagers who obviously have no money for dental care. I wanted them to understand why we value the traditions of our ancestors and to look back for solutions, rather than buying into modern foods of commerce.

My booklet of collected fermented foods was translated into Spanish, complete with a photo of Dr. Price. After this introduction of traditional foods of Mexico, I launch into the many benefits of eating fermented foods, also included in their booklet. Finally, we begin cutting, chopping, mixing and explaining the how one creates the magic of fermented foods.

At our fermented foods classes in Oregon, my Co-chapter leader, Lisa Bianco-Davis and I always share samples of what we teach,  and here in Mexico I made no exception. To accomplish this, I had to start my scavenger hunt in advance.  This included a week long quest to find all the things one needs to make fermented foods; a sharp knife, large bowl, glass jars, spices, fresh organic vegetables and in-season fruit, and since I hadn’t brought my Kraut Pounder along, I would need a pounder. It was an adventure that took me through the many small markets and specialty stores challenging my growing ability to speak in Spanish with the shop owners.

In the large public market, where I was directed to find all the spices, I encountered a mother and her two young sons working together in their small but bursting-to-the-seams store. Piled around the outside edge were large burlap sacks of every kind of seed and bean one could image, a wall of jars filled with herbs lined across the back wall, plants hanging from the wooden rafters completed the sense of earthy, wild but edible foods. The market itself is full of brilliant colors and aromas and the herb store alone was a delight for the senses. In my best Spanish, I politely asked the boy of about 10 years, for coriander, fennel, cumin, green pepper corns, chili flakes and on and on…. Yes, he says, how much do you want of each?  O lordie, here we go, liters!  He is patient and kind as I struggle through my list, translating carefully which constitutes major mental gymnastics for me. Finally, the paying part, which I continue to struggle through as the translation of numbers is challenging. The total is astonishingly cheap: under $4.00!

A few stalls further on and I spy what looks like a perfect “pounder”. It is a small stone cone with a rounded bottom, made for grinding in a stone bowl with 3 legs. I hold it in my hand and it feels just right, it feels like it would comfortably crush whatever I put beneath it. I ask again, in my best Spanish, how much it costs. She tells me $40 pesos or just under $4.00. I hesitate because we travel very light and it is pretty heavy being made of stone. She smiles and says how about $35 pesos. I smile and tell her it is perfect for my project. Then I bravely launch into a conversation about fermented foods and how I will be using it to make Mexican sauerkraut called Cortido with cabbage, chilies, onions, carrots and spices. I show her the many spices I had just purchased from the lovely woman and her two sons. She knows them.  I tell her I will be teaching a class on April 1st at Via Organica. She is patient and kind and seems to understand me. We stick to the formal language of mutual respect as she wraps my stone pounder in newspaper and hands it to me with a warm smile.

Finally ready, I constructed, in my very tiny kitchen apartment, cortido, sauerkraut with juniper berries, beet kvass, ginger carrots and apple and pear chutney. I made enough of each to sell after the class as this was a fund raiser for Via Organica Finding a way to fit it all into our refrigerator was a jig saw puzzle!

April 1st, begins with a fresh breeze in the air, but promises to be blisteringly hot by noon. It is the dry, hot season here now. The summer rains are still a month or two away and already are yearned for. Students begin arriving before the hour, which is unexpected. We give out the booklets, serve them a cold glass of keifered Hibiscus tea without sugar and direct them to their seats.

By all counts, the class was a big success. There are about 30 students and we shared pounding the cabbage, cutting the veggies, mixing the salt and spices. I have a translator and the cadence of our talking meshes well. People are nodding, smiling and enjoying the many samples I have provided. Questions are constant, as always. I try to answer as many as I can in Spanish, then remember I have to translate back to English!

We run over time, no surprise, but only a few leave. The questions continue as we make our final touches of sliding long thin sliced carrots around the outside of the jars, just for the beauty of it. The Mexicans love this. Everyone does. We clean up our mess, as people file out. They buy almost every one of the products made available. We count our money, deduct expenses and feel more than pleased with the money we were able to raise for Via Organica. I am surprised and delighted when presented with a beautiful pair of hand-made silver earrings!

Running off this success, when later I traveled into the mountains near Guadalajara, where I have been blessed to work in a magical healing spa known as Rio Caliente, I again offered to teach another class on Fermented Foods. Over the last 10 years, I have worked as a BioResonance therapist using the Bicom device when the resident therapist needs to travel.

It turns out, the whole kitchen staff, all from the local village, wants to learn how to make fermented foods, as does many of the visitors to the spa.  I am very pleased by this news as the spa is all inclusive including the vegetarian only menu. Several years back I spent time, politely explaining the dangers of soy to the owner. Today, very little soy is used in the recipes. Adding the knowledge of how to create fermented foods to the menu is an exciting possibility.  Sadly, in the end, the whole kitchen staff hold a silent protest and refuses to take the class due to a labor dispute with the owner of the spa. But still many of the staff outside the kitchen and visitors are thrilled and our plans continue.

We had a small group of only 12, but we made all the recipes from the booklet. I managed to save and pack with me to Rio Caliente samples of Cortido, Ginger Carrots and Keifer water for tasting. In the Fruit Chutney recipe, I decided to use local fruit instead of apples and pears. Mango’s are in season now and absolutely divine. So we mixed mangos, pineapple with small bite sized jicama for texture. All the information was well received and everyone went home happy. Later, I received an email morning, the Mango and Pineapple Chutney was excellent!

It brings me great pleasure to share this traditional knowledge with the local people; however they end up using it. I can imagine Dr. Price smiling from above as we continue to teach, to teach, to teach.

How to make tortillas: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_make_corn_tortillas/
What is Jicama:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jg_a5lGUqg4

Via Organica! Tour of an Organic Mexican Dairy

This article was sent to us by Victoria Schneider, the Eugene co-chapter leader.  Victoria and her husband Tom are spending the winter in Mexico.

By Victoria Schneider

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

My husband Tom and I have escaped to Mexico this winter to the colonial city of San Miguel de Allende deep in the heart of the Sierra Madre Mountains.  As life happens when one’s life interests remain constant, Tom wandered off into the Saturday Organic Farmers Market, which supports all the local organic growers in the area, both Mexican and Gringo (the collective term for non-Mexicans).  As he made his way through the market, he bought naturally-leavened, whole-grain bread, several fabulous types of raw-milk cheese and a few veggies. He struck up a conversation with several people and he found out about Via Organica, a sister organization with the Organic Consumers Association, whose director lives here in San Miguel. They had a day long trip organized to visit their roof top display garden over their organic restaurant, their city-supported demonstration garden on the outskirts of town and a tour of one of the few truly organic dairy farms in all of Mexico.  He signed us up to take the tour right away. That’s our Tommy!  Always supporting a good cause!

Just a few mornings later we began our day with a beautiful organic breakfast with the other participants. An interesting group of residents and visitors had gathered. One young woman was employed by the city of Pittsburgh as the Inner City Garden Director. Her job was turning vacant land within the city into vegetable gardens. Her project was only a year old, but funded long-term. She was all eyes and ears!

After breakfast, the educational director Jennifer Ungemach gave us a tour of their roof top gardens. Vertical gardening is big here with much sun hitting brick and adobe walls, and ground space being very precious. She had the experience of spending 5 years living and working in Cuba and wrote her master thesis on the role of civil associations on supporting sustainable agriculture. The roof-top garden was a simple and effective set up using hard plastic crates filled with organic compost, worms and dirt. There on the roof, among the crates and containers of growing greens and herbs, the director of the Organic Consumers Association, Ronnie Cummins, gave a heartfelt talk about the increasing numbers and the new directions of small family farms in Mexico. They can’t afford the high prices of Monsanto seeds or the bovine growth hormone and seem to be a trend to returning to the traditional farming practices of their forefathers. They increasingly feel that they will have to solve their own problems and return to simpler ways with the borders more effectively closed to the U.S.  In this arid area, they do have difficulty with irrigation and depend on the natural rain cycles. But rivers are polluted and many are channelized and run too fast so water tables are dropping. The soil is depleted and cover crops are not a widespread practice to protect the precious top soil during the 6 months of the dry season.  Still, there is hope that the cost effective, simple methods offered by Vía Orgánica and like-minded organizations will awaken a new generation crop production and carbon sequestering. We felt grateful to be listening to such an inspired human being. This is literally ‘grass roots’ organizing.

But the tour was on and we all loaded up into a big travel van. On the outskirts of town, we made our way down a dusty road, winding through giant cacti to the demonstration garden. It was large, well composted garden and full of all kinds of projects. The green house had all ages of plants, some for sale, many grown to maturity for the high end restaurants in San Miguel to meet the demands of the discerning tourist.  Their great challenge is the seasonal 50-degree temperature swings from night time freezing cold to day time in the 80’s.  They had implemented an ingenious practice of burying lovely clay pots, wide at the bottom and narrow at the top, down to its lip in the soil, approximately two per square meter. This practice comes  from ancient Chinese practices. They fill these two to three times weekly and this was the only watering done in most of the green house beds.  This is winter weather now and almost everything had to be covered outside for frost protection. They had Oregon’s usual winter crops: onions, garlic, fava beans, beets, carrots, basil, cilantro, chard and kale with many plants ready to set out from the green house.  The operation had some government and foundation support and is run by both paid and volunteer Mexican workers. Not self supporting yet but close. A total of 750 campesino farmers have participated in their permaculture trainings in just 2 years.

Then on to the main event: the organic dairy. Located more than an hour’s drive through the varied country side and small towns, it gave us time to visit with our interesting travel companions. The diary owners were Mexicans who decided it was in the best interests of their future to change their 600 acres into an organic diary 8 years ago. They began building their top soil and to plant some fields with alfalfa and others with a 5-grass mix especially for dairy cows. They decided on Jersey cows for the higher butter fat content, with their first 40 cows and one bull shipped from Canada.  Well-recognized for their adaptability, the Jersey’s thrived and multiplied into their current stock of 1000 animals.   The diary follows state of the art practices with field rotation, grazing and milking practices. Manure is collected, methane made to provide some of the power needs and the balance sprayed back on the fallow fields. A strict grazing rotation is adhered to with the use of solar-powered electric fences which concentrate the cows in a section before moving on. This is key to carbon sequestration according to the OCA. An estimated 80% of their calories comes from grazing and makes the milk some of the best I ever tasted.

The milking room was spotlessly clean and plays classical music on large speakers so their girls enjoy their milking experience, twice each day.  In high-tech features, each cow has an ankle-mounted pedometer which not only identifies who they are and how much milk they gave at the last milking, but also how far they walked! The computer dispenses a 4-grain mix for each specific cow depending on their needs or health. The carousel system circles in 12 minutes and if they are not empty, they just let them go around again all the while Bach and Mozart covering the sound of the machinery noise. Now these are happy cows! This farm’s site is in Spanish but has great pics: http://www.saberysabor.com.mx

I asked, of course, about raw milk availability. Our guide said the government does not allow for raw milk sales, but they are allowed to sell it to the workers, which the workers, of course, preferred!  We then trundled back to the farm’s entrance to enjoy a lunch in the shade of a palm covered casita with milk, cheese and yogurt samples from the diary. The ice cream was delicious too!

Our time was well spent getting to know these dedicated organic-loving people here. We felt inspired to help in some way, so I offered to give classes on Cultured Foods as a fund raiser. Seems that they expected enough Mexicans would sign up that my booklet of recipes would need to be translated.  This really got me excited to think I would be able to reach this Mexican community and give them the tools to make Cortido the old fashioned way!

Since I was in my teens, I have dreamed of becoming fluent in Spanish. Well, dreams do come true and life is long. Both Tom and I are dedicating ourselves to studying. We are going to school at the Warren Hardy Spanish School.  Professor Hardy is a great teacher with highly developed skills for teaching people for over 50. We are loving it! This is our opportunity to continue to help WAPF-friendly non-profits move forward as we fulfill dreams of our own. We intend to stay here until the time is ripe to return to the States, but don’t expect to see us any time too soon!  If we the opportunity arises, I would love to mentor a WAPF Chapter Leader here in San Miguel.

BTW, early the following morning while walking up our street in San Miguel, on my way to school, I saw a truck with large dairy-looking cans in the back. I asked him in Spanish if he was selling raw milk and he gave me a big smile and said he was!   The women of the neighborhood had their pots ready for him to fill right from their doorways, their young children with wide eyes holding onto their mothers aprons in tow.  This is a dispersed distribution system at its best! A sweet reminder of how natural and life-giving the humble cow and her raw milk provides great nutrition for humanity around the world and right here in my Mexican neighborhood!