Small is the New Big: Drinking Local

Courtesy The Brewers Association

Courtesy The Brewers Association

The other day I was enjoying a beer on my porch when my neighbor, who lives a luxurious ten feet away, came out of his garage lecturing his friend about the evils of Wal-Mart. His friend, who floated lazily behind him on a skateboard, remained silent. My neighbor went on to say he hadn’t shopped there for years and stopped going to McDonald’s as well, since they were epitomes of capitalist nonsense (I’m paraphrasing). His friend attempted an ollie in the driveway.

His fervor surprised me because it’s not the usual rhetoric I hear spouted in neighborhoods like mine, which is to say, poor ones in central Ohio. It cheered me to hear someone outside my little blue bubble of artist friends who understood what megagiagantoconglamamarts do to the local economy. The word is spreading, my friends. And just as the buy local and eat local movements are gaining ground, so the drink local fad is rapidly becoming not a fad.

Allow me to share some statistics directly from the Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade association that supports small and independent American brewers. They will blow your hops off! In 2013, there were a total of 2,822 breweries in the US. Of those, 2,768 were craft breweries. That’s 98%! Continue reading

American Eats: Locavore Bonnaroo as Pop Community

IMG_1246Food is culture, that’s a given.  But what about food as pop culture?  Is there a second tier of American food, an equivalent of The Bay City Rollers occupying some déclassé rank beneath Flannery O’Connor, Mark Rothko, Paul Robeson?  And what do we do with that which is both, people like Chuck D. and Jack White, pizzas topped with baby arugula and farm-fresh cheese, hamburgers made of Kobe beef? Is the cuisine of the United States spread across the low- to middle- to high-brow?

At Bonnaroo this year, Mr. White twisted the universe into songs simultaneously brand new and immutably old, smudging all concepts of sonic social class out of existence.  The food for sale, however, presented a more complicated arrangement. You could at the beer stands spend seven bucks on a tallboy of Coors, but also spend eight on one of dozens of microbrews in the Broo’ers Festival tent. You could spend six bucks on a slice of pepperoni pizza or eight on a bowl of green veggie curry over rice.  Bonnaroo’s food, vastly more diverse than that of most public events of this size, included both the low- and middle-brow.

Except Bonnaroo is always trying something new, and this year a few lucky folks jumped on the festival’s first high-brow dining experience open to the general public. Bonnaroots, a four-course, farm-to-table dinner made entirely of ingredients sourced within 100 miles of the site, was a collaboration between the festival, Oxfam, and a non-profit named Eat for Equity. Eaters sat at long tables beneath an arbor while on a nearby stage a woman in a frog-green bodysuit played trumpet to the beat of a drummer with more hair than “Islands in the Stream”-era Dolly Parton. Cultural tiers converged. Continue reading

Concrete Jungle: The Kids, Various Neighbors, Garretta’s Laugh, & a Hundred-Plus Sunflowers in a Hurricane of Enthusiasm

Two Sundays back Shannon and I followed through on an idea I cooked up last winter.  We would start seeds indoors, organize a children’s morning in our community garden across the street, and lead a hand’s-on, dirt-on-the-knees lesson in, well, all things Plant.

So I started some sunflowers inside, staggered the timing so we had one about six inches tall with its new yellow face and five just green, half-inch sprouts with plump leaves.  We armed ourselves with about a hundred seeds of sunflowers of various heights and colors, two boxes of crayons, and a big bottle of tangerine orange juice.

We had, as we explained to Garretta, our neighbor and grandmother of our first four participants, an educational program.  The explanatory exchange went something like this:

Jason & Shannon: Okay, kids, let’s talk a little about plants for a—

Garretta: You four get on over to that plot and start pulling those weeds!

(Kids shoot from the picnic bench like bees are at their butts.)

Jason & Shannon: Well, first let’s talk about roots. See—

Garretta: Pull those weeds because we aren’t gonna be here all day; we have to go to that park to play in the water.

Jason & Shannon: Damn, Garretta, we have an educational program planned here!

Garretta:  Ha-ha-ha-ha….. Continue reading

Concrete Jungle: Pencil Pod Yellow Wax Beans, Manhattan Bridge, NYC

These are the source seeds. They are tenacious as hell. Props to Botanical Interests.

The Seed Saver Exchange, an organization that does just what the name states and with the authority deserving of proper noun status, has 4,000 types of bean in its collection.  Among these is the Pencil Pod Yellow Wax heirloom variety.  Pencil Pods are bush beans, meaning they don’t need the high vertical supports string beans and other pole beans do.  They were developed around 1900, soon after folks started trying to breed the pesky “string” fiber out of beans (Check out Monday’s post) and are best raw or lightly steamed.  They also have little black seeds nestled in golden flesh, giving the bean a cool bumblebee color scheme or—if you happen to be appreciate your Christian Hair Metal—making it a fine tribute to Stryper. Continue reading

Concrete Jungle: Laxton’s Progress Shell Peas, Manhattan Bridge, NYC

One of my pleasures in life—one that combines in a strategic way my humanistic impulses with my unbecoming “Told ya so!” competitiveness—is proving to people that they will in fact enjoy foods they now despise, so long as they have them my way.

Dark greens like kale and collards are prime catalysts for achieving this conflation of the altruistic and the vain, but so are peas, an early treat from the year’s bounty.

Most of us know peas as at best little green balls filling up a freezer bag best used as an ice pack and at worst mushy gray globs taking up plate space next to the mashed potatoes.  This is a travesty.

Continue reading