Making the Most…of Compost

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One of my great weekly pleasures is the Sunday ritual of dropping off my compost in the bins at the Farmers Market up the street from my home, and then shopping for fresh, local veggies and fruit. It’s a full circle, soil cycle experience.

In a final attempt to make New Yorkers and the city they live in healthier, eco-friendly mayor, Michael Bloomberg, wants to create a mandatory food-waste recycling program – that is – mandatory composting! The city is even seeking proposals to build a plant to process food waste into biogas and convert it to electricity. The program should be citywide by 2015/16 and will start out on a voluntary basis, but will eventually be mandatory. Of course Mayor Mike won’t be around to fine New Yorkers who don’t separate their food scraps, but Democratic candidate, Bill de Blasio, says if elected, he will eventually make composting mandatory. It will be very interesting if that really comes to pass since during the NYC Democratic mayoral debate last month, all five of the candidates were asked if they composted and not a single one of them did.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic, though, if the uber-energized city that never sleeps could one day literally be fueled…by a Big Apple!


Our Annual Cook Off – 2012 Theme: Brooklyn

Once a year our daughters challenge themselves with their very own Cook Off in which we are the judges. They usually come up with individual themes, but this year they thought they would share a theme. They asked me for ideas and without hesitation, I suggested: Brooklyn. After much contemplation and research and then several hours of preparation on the day of the Cook Off, they presented us with a full-course meal. I never imagined the clever concepts and creative plating and flavors this would generate. Interestingly, Joie thought of old-time Breukelen and the shores of the East River and Coney Island, while Sophie thought of more modern day artisanal Brooklyn.

As usual we ate well from appetizer to dessert – a “Junior’s Inspired Chocolate Cheesecake” with orange zest and raspberry sorbet  and “A Treat Grows in Brooklyn”- a seasonal cinnamon apple pear crumble inspired by the 1943 novel by Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, complete with a homemade puff pastry tree.

We ate, we judged, we enjoyed immensely. In the end, I think the judges were the real winners!

Secret Garden

Earlier this year I was commissioned to write an essay for a book on ethical eating and food in Jewish tradition. My assignment was to focus on community gardens, a topic of great importance to me. It was part of an interesting chain of events. A few months prior to taking on this task, I was offered the job of Social Responsibility Consultant for JCC Association with a focus on creating a community garden at every JCC around the country with a large portion of the produce going to emergency food providers (e.g., food banks, food pantries, etc…). In D.C. I met with a representative from the United States Department of Agriculture and discussed the USDA’s People’s Garden Initiative (which JCC Association signed on to as the first faith-based organization to support this initiative).

Around the same time, I saw a notice on the community garden across the street from my house in my Carroll Gardens neighborhood, announcing that a few coveted spots had opened up. It’s the same garden where I pick up my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share, but I didn’t realize that individuals could garden there. The woman in charge expressed concern about people in past years who hadn’t kept up with their gardens and they became eyesores. I began to get cold feet. We spend most weekends away in the summer and on top of that, I don’t have a great track record for tending to houseplants (that’s my husband’s domain), mainly because I can never keep up with the amount of watering they need. I considered not having my own plot, and instead for this first year, opting to help tend to the community plot. Realizing she hadn’t been very encouraging, she expressed that she had faith in me, and so I kept my plot. She still had her doubts and even shared them with another gardener—both of whom felt they had to give me a lot of start-up advice. Little did they know that prior to moving back to Brooklyn, I lived on hundreds of acres of farmland. That land was gentleman-farmed, but I did grow veggies and flowers before discovering the wonders of belonging to a CSA in Pennington, New Jersey (one of the first and largest in the country). Or, little did she know that my daughter (who assisted me with the initial creation of the garden) had interned at Garden of Eve Farm, on Long Island, our Brooklyn CSA farm. At any rate, a few weeks before Memorial Day, I was in possession of a raised bed and a coveted key to my secret garden.

Hooray for CSA!

In my adult life I have gone from urban dweller to country/burbs dweller, back to urban dweller, to my current status somewhere in between as resident of Brooklyn, NY, where not only does a tree grow, but flowers and food as well. When I lived rurally, I dabbled in growing veggies then I discovered CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). CSAs got started in the US over twenty years ago. In that time, I’ve been a member of three different CSAs. I love the communal aspect of it, the access to healthy seasonal foods, and being able to support a local farmer.

My daughter, Sophie, took an anthropology class in college this year called, “Feast or Famine.” She was given the assignment to write a paper about a food memory. She wrote about her memories of the CSA we belonged to when she was a young child in rural New Jersey. At 19, she now realizes that belonging to a CSA in the 1990s was atypical. Here’s an excerpt from her paper:

“At a young age, my mother started taking me with her on her weekly pilgrimages to the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Farm. The farm was about twenty minutes from our home. When we got there, my sister and mom and I would pick up our pre-paid share of vegetables from the farm stand and then go out into the fields to pick certain items ourselves. Once there, I loved helping mom pick out the best cherry tomatoes, snow peas, and strawberries straight from the ground. Sometimes I would snack on our pickings after my mom splashed the raw item with a little water to clean off the dirt. Continue reading “Hooray for CSA!”