Hungry Urbanism

Posted Thursday, November 12th, 2009 at 1:59 pm

After the canning class on Saturday, I drove to the Schindler House in West Hollywood where Project Food/LA was hosting a panel called “Hungry Urbanism: Edible Endeavors # 3”. The vibrancy of the Los Angeles community of organizations devoted to getting fresh, homegrown produce to the people is so invigorating. The sense that there is an important social movement going on is palpable .

The event promised to be a “a rapid-fire series of presentations of a diverse set of individuals and organizations presenting their work on behalf of food issues in the city.”  Boy they weren’t kidding.

This was the perfect affair for a newbie to the LA “urban farming” scene.  I was astonished and inspired by how many well-organized people are out there making a difference. I learned so much about who’s who and who’s doing what and where.

Below is a list of the groups who presented and links to their websites.  Enjoy.

Community Services Unlimited
Mission: to foster the creation of communities actively working to address the inequalities and systemic barriers that make sustainable communities and self-reliant life-styles unattainable

Fallen Fruit
They map all the fruit growing in public spaces and organize community fruit pics among other things.

Fed Up With Hunger

Fed Up With Hunger is the community effort to end hunger in LA. It’s a network of food collection and distribution organizations, advocacy groups, policymakers, and faith communities working together to rid our city of the reputation as the “hunger capital” of the nation.

Garden School Foundation
A community partnership with Los Angeles Unified School District dedicated to bringing verdant traffic buffers, sports facilities, native gardens, science gardens, kitchen gardens, and teaching kitchens to public schools

Highland Park Co-op
The beginnings of a food co-op in East Los Angeles.

Locali Market
A corner grocery dedicated to bring fresh, sustainable foods to the community.

M&A Gallery
A group of volunteers spent the last two months developing a fish farm, a shade system, and a new identity for the exhibition space.  Awesome project!

Root Down LA
Root Down confronts obesity and related health issues in South Los Angeles by engaging youth in the educational experiences and skills training necessary to help build healthier food communities.

UEPI at Occidental College
The Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) is a community oriented research and advocacy organization.

Farm To School
Farm to School connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.

Watts Labor Community Action Committee
While WLCAC’s mission is to provide human and social services to all within our service area – it is clear that no matter the ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or gender, the impact of this years election will be like many other major shifts that we have affected


Surfas Canning Class

Categories: Canning , Recipes | 3 Comments
Posted Thursday, November 12th, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Yesterday was full of food adventures.  The day began with a free canning and preserving class I read about in a post on Slow Food LA.  Canning has always been something I’ve wanted to try, but the scientific complexity and potential danger of it was too scary.  I imagined exploding jars sending shards of glass into the flesh of my loved ones, pots boiling over with scalding water, long painful deaths by boticilism, and worse, all that wasted fruit splattered on the walls like a scene from a bad slasher film.  Okay, you got me.  I’m paranoid.

Anyway, this year, I’ve decided to face my fears.  My wonderful husband accompanied me to Surfas, everyone’s favorite cooking store in Culver City.  By the time we got there, the test kitchen was standing room only.  A grandmotherly lady in a cheerful cherry print apron, Bettina Birch, was busy chopping persimmons for a chutney.  She was accompanied by a handsome young fellow, Kevin West with a southern drawl and a quick wit.  Donning a fitted wool vest, his blonde hair cropped and parted to the side, he reminded by of a banker in an old western movie.

My gaze went straight to the colorful mason jars of preserves that decorated the perimeter of the counter. The brazen peppers the color of a bullfighter’s cape, the soft orange persimmon hugging each, the cherries, mysterious in their maroon syrup.


Each jar had a handmade tag lovingly attached to its lid with twine, proudly declaring the the contents within.  There was definitely a craft to this.  It was the perfect intersection between individual industry and art.

I imagined my kitchen counter bedecked in such a way, creating a sense of culinary joy and pride such as I have never before experienced.  I grabbed one of the canning kits stacked before me and listened with rapt attention.

When my husband learned that canning doesn’t necessarily imbue the food with enhanced flavor, he lost enthusiasm.  “What’s the point?” he asked.  Especially in Santa Monica, where there is a farmer’s market practically every day of the week and everything grows all year round.

Well, there is the aesthetic value I described above.  Also, there is the “Little House On The Prairie” effect.  I love the idea of carefully preserving food to survive the winter, even though the temp may only drop to 60.  And we can always give them away as gifts for the holidays!

Below are the recipes and my notes.  Reader, these are the recordings of a half-cocked lady.  Please consult a USDA approved canning recipe book like Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving before tryin’ this at home.

Canning Recipes

The chutney recipe above also calls for  a 1/2 teaspoon cardamon!


- The key to canning is getting as much air out of the can as possible. Canning kits come with a special wand designed to help you pack down the fruit and remove air bubbles from the jar.

- When choosing fruit that is firm and maybe even slightly unripe.  You want it to be able to withstand all the cooking.

- Botulism can only exist in low acid/PH environments.  Most fruits are already high enough in PH (raspberries, strawberries). However, if not, vinegar or lemon or lime juice will do the trick.

Preparing The Jars

- They must be hot before adding hot food. Wash jars and then dry them by putting them in a 225 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Not necessary to “sterilize.”

- When placing a jar in a boiling pot of water use a canning rack to elevate the jar above the bottom of the pot.  Placing glass on metal can lead to accidents.

- Put jar in water immediately after putting on the lid.

- Start the timing of the “water bath” from the time the water starts to boil.  Boil the water and then put all the jars in at the same time.  Turn up to a boil again and start timing.

- Sealing the jars. Essentially you just want to seal the jars as airtight as possible to protect it from the world of pathogens.  People over the centuries have had many techniques including using beeswax, or even paper soaked in brandy.

- Jars lids can take up to 24 hours to “pop.”


Fall Fruit

Posted Thursday, November 12th, 2009 at 11:55 am

November. Persimmons, apples, pomegranates, squash (acorn, spaghetti, butternut).

This morning I took great pleasure in creating this arrangement. A flourish of marigold orange persimmon slices in the center, surrounded by the cream-colored flesh of apples.

Fall Fruit Plate

These past two years of shopping at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, and especially after joining CSA California I have become aware for the first time in my life of what’s in season. I find myself looking forward to the bounty of fruit in June and July. This Fall, I have been perplexed as to what to do with all this squash. I’ve been astonished by the largesse of a single pumpkin, which I turned into two pies, one pot of soup, and two loaves of pumpkin orange bread.

And now persimmons. For the second week in a row, our CSA has given us a total of 8 of the orange-yellow fruit, which I have to say, I found intimidating. I knew nothing about them. I did some research and discovered that there are two varieties.

The first, Hachiyas, are acorn shaped and can actually kill you if you eat them before they’re ripe. I was relieved to discover that Fuyus is what we ended up with. Fuyus can be eaten at any time, without the threat of early death.

So I peeled the leathery skin to reveal the sunny flesh inside and timidly took a bit. Crunchier then I expected, the flavor intoxicated me. For the synesthete, it tasted like the smell of honeysuckle. A hint of maple syrup, summer sweetness in the middle of Fall.

As I write this, I am distracted by the the fall delectables in my fruit bowl, which are profoundly pleasing to gaze upon. A pomegranate peaks over the rim, it’s magenta gourd curving toward a star-shaped tip,  filled with a galaxy of sand-colored sepals. Next to it an apple, a timeless fruit that has fallen off the tree and into the middle of our culture. Here it sits, acorn shaped, its deep rose skin flecked with pale yellow-green. And beyond that a persimmon, a shade of orange only slightly deeper than the sugar pumpkin that sits, so sculptural, just outside the bowl.