Oct 292008

A study tracking salmon in the Fraser and Columbia rivers has determined that dams are not the main cause of Salmon collapse.

“dam modifications to assist migrating salmon have led to much-improved survival rates since the 1970s, the study team suggests.”

In other words, the core issue with Salmon survival is in the open ocean. This does not bode well for an easy fix.

“Possible negative factors include ocean warming and changes to salmon prey distribution, increased salmon predation by seals and sea lions, and lethal parasite infestations of wild smolts spread by coastal salmon farms.”

Aug 132008

A Scripps researcher has a paper out called Ecological extinction and evolution in the brave new ocean. The findings are not for the faint:

Human activities are cumulatively driving the health of the world’s oceans down a rapid spiral, and only prompt and wholesale changes will slow or perhaps ultimately reverse the catastrophic problems they are facing.

…habitat destruction, overfishing, ocean warming, increased acidification and massive nutrient runoff as culprits in a grand transformation of once complex ocean ecosystems. Areas that had featured intricate marine food webs with large animals are being converted into simplistic ecosystems dominated by microbes, toxic algal blooms, jellyfish and disease.

To stop the degradation of the oceans, Jackson identifies overexploitation, pollution and climate change as the three main “drivers” that must be addressed.

The oceans are going through a major collapse that will impact our lives in many ways.

How to help

  • Before buying or ordering seafood, check the Seafood Watch.
  • Avoid eating meat or food from factory farms if possible (runoff promotes toxic growth).
  • Use UV shirts in the ocean instead of sunscreen (it damages coral)
  • Clean up trash or chemicals on streets that flow into storm drains (plastic is a killer)
  • Switch to biodegradable soaps & cleaning products, avoid fertilizers, eliminate oil leaks, don’t dump chemicals or medication down the drain.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint (pollution, warming, and ocean acidification).
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium has a number of ways you can help in their Take Action section.
Oct 162006

Last Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving. I couldn’t put up with the torturous IM’s from up north about turkey dinner and stuffing, so I had a mini-thanksgiving dinner. No one had thawed turkeys in store, so I bought some legs and drum sticks and cooked them up with some yams in the oven. I also cooked up a batch of oven pan stuffing. Since most people either suffer through the boxed kind, or risk food poisoning and overcooked turkey with the stuffing in the bird method, I figured I should share my rough recipe for stuffing.

Oven Pan Stuffing

2 good quality baguettes (rustic french is best, no sourdough), chop into 1″ cubes
1 stick butter for the heart attack version, I like to substitute half with olive oil
1 celery stalk, diced
3 small/medium onions, diced
3 teaspoons dried sage
3 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground pepper
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 carton of chicken stock (4 cups)
3 eggs

Rough instructions:
1) If the bread is not stale, put the bread cubes on cookie sheets and cook in the oven at 400F for about 20 minutes until crunchy, stir every few minutes.

2) In a pot, saute the celery and onions in half a stick of butter and a few table spoons of olive oil – for the heart attack version, add only the stick of butter. Cook until the onions start to turn clear. Add in all the spices and cook for another minute, then turn off the heat.

3) Preheat oven to 400F. Butter a large baking tray(s), and have a lid or tin foil hat ready for it.

5) Add the carton of chicken stock to the pot. When that cools it down, beat the eggs, then mix them into the liquid.

6) Put the bread cubes in a very large mixing bowl and gradually pour the pot of liquid over them, mixing it all evenly.

7) Put mix in the baking tray(s), cover with lid or tinfoil, and bake for 30 mins.

8) Take the cover off the dish and bake for another 25 mins or so. Pull it out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes before dishing up.

Serves 6 that really like stuffing. This mix can be a bit on the ‘spiced’ side. For those sensitive super tasters out there, just half the spice measurements.

Sep 112006

One of the things I love about California is that you can grow pretty much anything here. I don’t own a patch of dirt, but I’ve got a patio with potted fig, mandarin, lemon, and avocado trees. The yield isn’t spectacular, but I still love it. In fact, if I had my way, we wouldn’t plant anything but fruit bearing trees in our public spaces. Why do we bother planting and watering park trees that don’t produce anything? Fruit for the people!

Village Harvest is a group doing some great things. They get neighbors and community organizations to provide food for the hungry by harvesting extra fruit. The California Report did a great story on them:

A Backyard Bounty – California is celebrated for its bountiful produce. Residents love the fresh fruit the growing climate provides. But there is another side to it for some homeowners, like rotting plums on the driveway and smashed oranges on the lawn. How do you keep up with the bounty? In the Santa Clara Valley, homeowners can fall back on some unique help.

Fallen Fruit has a more guerrilla approach, but I still love the idea:

“Public Fruit” is the concept behind the Fallen Fruit, an activist art project which started as a mapping of all the public fruit in our neighborhood. We ask all of you to contribute your maps so they expand to cover the United States and then the world. We encourage everyone to harvest, plant and sample public fruit, which is what we call all fruit on or overhanging public spaces such as sidewalks, streets or parking lots.

We believe fruit is a resource that should be commonly shared, like shells from the beach or mushrooms from the forest. Fallen Fruit has moved from mapping to planning fruit parks in under-utilized areas. Our goal is to get people thinking about the life and vitality of our neighborhoods and to consider how we can change the dynamic of our cities and common values.

Aug 142006

David discovered the burn of Br Bronners, and I’ve finally found a hookup on Blenheim’s Ginger Ale in San Diego. Turns out, it was right under my nose. Grant’s Marketplace in Southpark has a great selection of beer, wine, soda, and produce/drygoods. We popped in to pick up some baguettes to make some blt’s with our killer tomatoes.

That’s where I spied my chemical abuser – Blenheims Ginger Ale with a red top. The red top means it is ‘regular’, which means burn your face off spicy. If you don’t drink it carefully, it will hulk-smash your sinuses and leave you wheezing. If that doesn’t sound like fun they also carry the Blenheim’s Not As Hot, with the gold cap. Still spicy, but not molten. Highly recommended.

Info on Grant’s Market Place
Info on Blenheims

May 252006

While restocking at Trader Joes the other day, I was surprised to find an ingredient I haven’t had in 15 years – fiddleheads. Sauteed with a bit of butter and lemon, they are one of my favorite greens.

When I was younger my family lived in central B.C. (Canada). In the spring we would sometimes collect fresh fiddleheads to eat at home. Thinking back, we used to do a fair bit of wild food harvesting when I was a kid:

Choke cherries – a small, bitter fruit with a large pit. Makes great syrup or jam.

Highbush cranberry – not really a cranberry, but has a bit of a bitter edge. Found near rivers, the berries are usually sweet enough to eat right off the tree after the first frost. Makes a fantastic syrup and jam. This is a flavor I really miss.

Soapberries – crushed and whipped, these make a bitter foam called Indian ice-cream. Add in a bit of sugar or fireweed, and it takes the edge off.

Wild mushrooms – if you know what you are doing, you can find some great wild mushrooms in BC. I remember mostly pine mushrooms, but there were probably some chanterelles and morels mixed in as well.

Wild berries – Raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, saskatoon, etc. The berries are typically pretty small and low to the ground, but the flavor can’t be beat.

Wild meat – Lots of salmon, trout, and kokanee. Occasional venison, moose, and grouse. It is still pretty common for people in rural areas to have full winter freezers from fall hunting.

I wonder if there are many wild foods to gather in San Diego. I can’t imagine quite as many down here, simply because of the desert aspect. I can only think of one wild food I’ve seen around – the lemonade berry. It seems to have a lot more uses than just making a tart drink though.

Mar 062006

After a few hours hiking around Mission Trails Park, Anna and I were famished. Since we were already in La Mesa, we decided to check out a recommendation from a coworker. We arrived at Fix Me A Plate Cafe at 5:15pm. They were supposed to open at 5pm. The cook finally rolled around at 5:30 to let the waiting patrons and the servers inside. Not a great start.

Everything else from that point was fantastic. Fix Me A Plate Cafe specializes in authentic southern food, and they do it well. Anna had the fried chicken, okra, and red beans. I had the ribs, hushpuppies, and cajun egg rolls. Everything was brought out fresh, and delicious.

The entrees are mostly $10-14. But what we didn’t know was that they are gigantic. My leftover ribs were about as much food as I would get on a large order anywhere else. Come here prepared to bring a doggie bag home.

We will definitely be back. I can’t think of any other place in San Diego that offers this much home style southern food, let alone this good, or this cheap.

Fix Me A Plate Cafe
11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
9168 Fletcher Parkway
La Mesa, CA 91942-3424

Jan 122006

Kung Food

Kung Food is back. Sort of. Its not the same people, but its the same location, and the same name. They have split into two parts, a pseudo drive-through, and a cafe. The cafe serves mostly prepared foods, and I’m not that big a fan (seems I’m not the only one). The Kung Food drive-through on the other building has really slow (but friendly) service, and the sweet potato fries are inconsistent – burnt dregs one day, greasy slabs the next. Someone teach these hippies how to use a fryer!

So why am I still talking about this place? The Kung Food drive-through (more of an order-and-park really) is worth the wait and inconstancy for one reason – burgers. Waiting for vegan burgers? Am I nuts? Hell no. These things could fool even the staunchest carnivore. They are very satisfying. Great buns, toppings, and amazing, even meaty, patties. These are really great burgers. Give the (fake) bacon cheese burger a try, I don’t think you will be sorry.

Update: They are dead again?