Posts filed under ‘food’

Warming up to tofu

tofu

Ok, so remember I said before I couldn’t stand tofu. Well, seems like things are looking up on the meat replacement front. I still can’t stand plain tofu. But it has been a learning curve. I have discovered that I can tolerate firm tofu if it’s nicely pressed and well seasoned. And by well seasoned, I mean with it’s natural flavor well disguised under a thick layer of sauce. It has to pressed though because it’s natural texture is pretty gross… IMHO anyway.

But then I tried smoked tofu. Which was actually good enough to swallow without any preparation and all… And I…. I… dare I say it… I LIKED IT! It was quite a revelation, actually. Normally I never buy anything that is pre-made, or pre-seasoned or pre-cooked or pre-anything. But this flavored tofu stuff might actually be a good thing!

And there are all these different flavors to try… Teryaki… Indian… Thai… Ah… a world of possibilities has just opened itself to me.

I admit that the crumbly kind still scares me a bit… But, we’ll get to that. Baby steps, it’s all about baby steps…

So if you excuse me, I gotta go eat my tofu now 😉

Tofu prepared by DeathByBokeh, on Flickr.

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August 1, 2007 at 10:07 pm 6 comments

Ceci n’est pas un Post.

Ceci n'est pas une pipe

Haha… just kidding. Yes it is. I have just been away for such a long time I reached the point of not knowing how to start a post… Sad.

So I tried to put the blog on hold while I focus more on finishing my thesis, but this seems to work even worse than before. It seems that the more time I don’t write the worse my writer’s block gets. So I guess I am back to blogging, and will try to keep up with more regular posting from now on. Doesn’t it always seem like the more we get done, the more we are able to do? Although, the opposite is usually more noticeable. Whenever I don’t do work, I am not able to do anything else because I feel like I should be doing work. I don’t do work, but I also don’t do other things I have to do, and I especially don’t do things I like doing. But now I am trying to reverse this tendency. Get back on the horse I guess.

Anyway, let’s move on to what I actually wanted to talk about today. I went to Germany last weekend. And yes, the sad part is that I have been meaning to talk about this all week, and only now was I able to overcome the Block.

I have mentioned before that I have a really had time keeping up with my best green intentions when I am out of my element. And so it was once again. I was visiting family for a whole weekend and I my biggest achievement was refusing the bottled water everyone was insistingly offering me. And indeed, I won that battle but lost the war. These Germans really do put up a fight, I didn’t even stand a chance. It wasn’t just the fact that I had meat shoved down my throat 3 times a day. It was more than that. It was experiencing a lifestyle that seems so distant now, and so capitally opposed to everything I stand for. It is hard to face the facts. How can something that means so much to me be so insignificant to everyone else?

But the worst indignity was still to come. Never mind the meat, the overpackaging, the bottled beverages, the fake food, the obliviousness to the our food values. The most frustrating part of the weekend was on the train ride back. That was the last drop. After that I was fuming so much I thought my head was going to explode. But why don’t I tell you about it and you will see what I mean.

There was a restaurant wagon on the train. I brought my own lunch wrapped in my nifty little wrap’n’mat. I had my handy little travel mug. So I thought, ‘why don’t I go over to the restaurant car and fetch myself some cappuccino’. Surely they would have a proper coffee machine, capable of pouring out cappuccinos into peoples mugs! And that’s because the Dutch had me spoiled. Their standard coffee machines are able to produce a half-decent cappuccino. And I was innocent enough to believe that the Germans would live up to their neighbors standards. But no. That’s not how it went.

When I did get to the train bar, I asked for my cappuccino, presented my mug and was very clear to demand that my cappuccino be served in my mug. But before I could realize what was happening and scream “Nein! Nein!”, the guy was opening a little plastic sachet and pouring some powder into a paper cup. At this point, I again indicated to the guy that I wanted my cappuccino in my cup and not a disposable one, with still some hope left that the sachet and the paper cup were destined for someone else. The guy only seemed to ignore me. And then what? And this is the part that left me perplex. I told the guy again that I wanted the cappuccino in MY cup. And to my horror, the guy nodded and then proceeded to fill the paper cup containing the sachet of gross cappuccino powder with boiling water and then pouring it into my cup!!! I was mortified!

It was then I realized that the guy thought it was his duty to measure my cappuccino with the standard paper cup to be absolutely sure that I was going to get the EXACT amount of cappuccino powder and hot water that I am allowed, and not a sip more. But the most revolting part to me is that the guy was only measuring hot water. The powder was already precisely measured because it came out of a sachet. So tell me. How &@#$% square do you have to be to measure HOT WATER???

And now I am going to end this post abruptly because I am so pissed off at Germans that I fear I might say something less politically correct about them. The End.

July 13, 2007 at 12:49 pm 9 comments

Price perception and the organic (and local).

I have this theory for a while now and I am now going to share it with you guys. and you can tell me if it makes sense or not. It all started with an observation of my patterns of ‘going out on the town’ in a relatively unfamiliar city.

Say, we go to Amsterdam for a weekend. We are quite broke as always, but despite the fact, we go out for dinner and look for a place for an after dinner drink, that hopefully will not rip us off. We pass a bar, and it looks nice, if only a little bit on the fancy side. And, inevitability, the conversation goes something like this:

“Hey, this place looks nice, wanna go inside?”

“Hmm, I don’t know, it looks kinda expensive, I don’t think we can afford it”

And then what happens? We go somewhere else, that looks more like the kinda place we can afford (i. e. hole in the wall). And we end up paying 3 euros for a beer in a crappy looking hole in the wall.

And after this happened one or two times, I developed a new philosophy. This one more satisfactory, and it goes something like this:

“We are in Amsterdam. Gonna get ripped off no matter what we do. So we might as well enjoy it and go to the nice looking place we wanted to go in the first place. I’m sure it won’t rip you off any worse that the others”.

So then I started noticing this little theory applied to other things as well. Like, here in Wageningen, we had this really crappy looking supermarket, the kinda place you don’t want to spend more than 5 minutes in, just get the milk and get out before this place steals your soul. And the strange thing is, this place got a reputation of being cheap. But the fact is, when you actually compared the prices of the same products, it was even more expensive than the nice looking supermarket!

We as consumers are subject to a hell of a lot of manipulation. Why do you think all the prices are always $9.95 and not $10? Never $10. I know, rationally, that $9.95 is really 10$. But for some reason, it just seems a whole lot better than $10, huh? Why you go to the supermarket and buy something for $4.95 and next week it is on SALE, for ONLY $5.45!!! And yet, we still buy (into) this crap!

So, I wonder, even though there is no doubt that most local and organic things are, in fact, more expensive than their conventional counterparts (like the 8E/kg bell pepper), how much of the price difference is real, and how much is just in out heads?

I have, just recently, seen the lettuce heads at the organic market stand for 1E a piece, picked that same morning in Wageningen. In the supermarket, they have them imported from Spain, who knows when and how, for E1,5o! And the 8E/kg bell pepper seems expensive, right? That’s about E1,5 a piece. What if I tell you that about the same time I saw single overpackaged bell peppers trucked in from the Kingdom of Far Far Away at the supermarket at guess how much? That’s right, E1.50. And let’s not forget that said peppers rank at #3 of most evil vegetables in pesticide residue.

I’m not saying this is always the case. It’s true, about 70% of the times (my guesstimate), local and organic is more expensive. But it is also fresher, tastier and pesticide free! Isn’t that worth paying for?

Just because you buy something at ‘Cheap’o’market’ doesn’t mean that it is actually cheaper! I am just making a case for the fact that supermarkets are not actually the cheapest places to buy food, despite what they want you to think.

I’m just saying. Go to the farmer’s market. I bet you will find plenty of local (and sometimes organic as well, with or without certification), cheaper than at Cheap’o’market. Don’t just assume that it’s more expensive and therefore you can’t afford it. Do some research first, and actually compare it. Even better, look into the possibility of buying directly from farms in your area.

On a personal note, I am now going to look into the possibility of buying cherries and strawberries and other fruit from farms just on the edge of town. Yesterday I noticed them from the bus. They had a little barrack by the side of the road with a painted sign saying ‘Cherries for sale’. I bet ya that’s the cheapest I’ll find here in town. And if they are not organic, who cares? They are local, which is cool too.

The point is, you are going to get ripped off no matter what you do. So might as well enjoy it, and get what you really want, and not go for the inferior alternative just because your perception is tricking you into thinking it’s cheaper 😀

Yummy photo by CAZASCO on Flickr.

June 16, 2007 at 2:58 pm 13 comments

Reusable Bags (and bottles and mugs)

I am not much of an online shopper. I have, on occasion, spent numerous hours on Ebay trying to find fashionable vintage shoes, but never succeeded in spending a single Euro. As I said before, I’m kind of old-fashioned. I compulsively examine all my potential purchases. I poke them, twist them around, smell them, check for the ‘best before’ date, check for suspicious ingredients. So you can imagine the limitations online shopping has for someone like me.

But yes, finally, a while back I successfully placed my first ever online order. It’s been a while that I actually bought anything for myself (or the house), so now it seems that green accessories is the only shopping therapy I can get. So I went over to Reusable Bags, and got myself some shiny new things.

Here’s what I got:

reusable bags

A Kleen Kanteen water bottle, a stainless steel commuter mug (the lid is not on the picture), a couple of Wrap’N’Mats and a few produce bags.

The Kleen Kanteen bottle is pretty cool. It’s a lighter than I expected. Of course it’s heavier than a plastic bottle, but it’s not so noticeable. The only thing I don’t like about it is that when you are drinking from it you have to press this tiny little rubber thingy on the lid to let out the air. That’s not so great, actually. It’s not very comfortable little button to press, for once, and second, the sound of the air sipping out of the bottle can be…well… a little embarrassing, if you are on a crowded bus for example. But that’s something I can live with.

The mug is not exactly what I expected when I ordered it. The size is pretty handy, and the lid is pretty good. You can easily transport hot coffee in it and not worry about spilling. The little annoyance with it is that it doesn’t have the little hole to sip from when the lid is closed. I have seen other cups with a little sliding system that magically uncovers a little hole to sip your coffee through the lid. And I really wanted a little sipping hole 😦 *snif*

The ecobags produce bags are pretty much what you can expect. I am still going through a pile of paper bags I got so I only really used them to buy the said produce once. And the lady at the organic store called my bags ‘funny’. I’m cool with ‘funny’. Better than ‘wacko hippie’ I say.

I’m still a little ambiguous about the Wrap’N’Mats. I mean, they are pretty handy, and do their job pretty well. But. When I first unpacked them, the ‘new shower curtain’ smell was pretty nasty. And they are not even made with PVC, rather they claim to use PEVA, PVC’s less evil twin. Whatever the case may be, I rinsed them best I could and hung them outside on the clothes line to air out. It’s ok now. But I still have my suspicions. Something that smells that fowl can’t be so great in a tight embrace with your cheese sarnies. Oh and if you are wondering why I got the extra-cheesy ‘environmental’ print you see in the picture… Well, it was a hole 2 bucks cheaper than the ‘adult’ versions. And I’m a cheap-ass, what can I say.

Overall, I’m rationalizing that the $50 I spend on all this crap is so totally worth it, but hmm… deep down, I think internet shopping really isn’t my thing. I don’t know if I would have bought some of that stuff if I was allowed to thoroughly examine it like I would have liked.

And yeah, Reusable Bags people… you are welcome to send me free stuff now. I have promoted you plenty over here…

June 10, 2007 at 11:47 pm 5 comments

This is getting really belgium

 The pissing bastards

(Don’t know if you caught the obscure Get Fuzzy reference)

So I spent the last couple of days in Belgium, having a little interviewing marathon for my thesis. 4 guys in 2 days (3 of them on the same day!). It was a very educational experience, I learned a number of the new things, including about myself.

For one, I learned that I really need to be in my own environment to be eco-conscious. As soon as normality is taken away from me,  my ‘convictions’ fly out the window faster than you can say ‘global warming’. I behaved very poorly these 2 days, as much as it pains me to admit it. I was doing it all. Using the tiny little hotel toiletries… Eating mediocre non-organic meat, and worse, unsustainable tuna and salmon sushi…. Accepting coffee in plastic cups at my meetings… I even bought a glass of juice in a pretty little plastic cup, a paper packaged brownie and didn’t bitch about it. I found that it’s really hard to fight the disposable establishment when I’m out of my element like this…

At least I came to my senses at lunch and consciously didn’t eat at this one place  (even though it looked really good) because to say that place was over-packaged would be an understatement. Even their soup was in disposable paper cups… Not to mention the *gasp* Styrofoam coffee cups. So I went to a more traditional place instead, you know, with real dishes.

A new world was opened to me, now that I now what good towels feel like… And now I have to go back to my crappy ones *sigh* Nonetheless, even though from now on I will probably be coveting towels like those every time I pass a linen store, I have made a resolution (yeah, that’s right, I can make resolutions too you know). I decided not to buy anymore ‘things for the house”. I tend to exorcise my need to consume by buying candle-holders and special cheese-slicers and stuff like that. But now I am trying to slip into ‘moving out’ mode, which means stopping accumulating things and starting to purge all the useless crap I’ve been buying.

I found out that Belgiums are weird. They greet each other with kisses… Now, that would not be strange to me at all, because all of us Mediterraneans do that. The particular thing about waffle eaters is that unlike us meds, guys kiss guys on the cheek… That’s just so odd!!! At first I even thought it was a gay thing, but then I saw regular scrubs doing it, so it must be a cultural thing…
And trust me, they were straight! (I know because I have been accused of having an overactive gaydar, never the other way around).

I realize now how lucky I am to have dutch tap water. I had to refill my bottle in Belgium and man, it tastes horrible! I am starting to doubt if I will be strong enough to keep off the bottle if I have to live in a place with yucky water like that! I was dehydrating all the way back on the train just because of the taste of it…

My rusty french is better than I thought… at least the 357 people I asked for directions seemed to understand me. And I always found what I was looking for, so yay for me. The absurd thing is that at times I had to slip in dutch words into the mix, and my dutch is so much worse than my french!

Anyway, I really like Belgium. It has a sort of chaotic charm to it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to do any of the touristy stuff this time, because Brussels is really beautiful. I didn’t even buy chocolate, can you imagine? Hard as it is to believe, I actually think that Belgium is the European country that is more similar to my familiar old Portugal, at least out of northern Europe. I think even more than France. (I know I’m just talking out of my @$$ cause I didn’t go to ALL of the countries in Europe… yet. But still… the point remains.)

Its amazing how you can clearly see the point where Belgium ends and Holland begins. On the Belgium side you actually have hills, and trees growing randomly in a seemingly natural manner. On the dutch side, everything is flat  flat flat flat. All the trees are planted precisely 5m away from each other. All the farms are exactly rectangular, forming a perfectly geometric pattern, like a masterfully crafted quilt. Seriously, the dutch are so anal… But I guess the Belgiums would have all drowned a long time ago if they had to claim half their country from the North Sea.

And now you ask ‘Wow! How did you manage to insult so many people in such a short post?’ Well… I guess it takes a special kind of talent :p

Army of pissing boys by Mr Jaded on Flickr.

——————————

Edit: I am having some trouble making the Get Fuzzy link work, because it is on an archive of Cafepress. If that link is not working, and you are dying to know what the ‘fuzzy’ reference is, go here, choose ‘strip designs’ and ‘bucky’s unique vocabulary’.

May 25, 2007 at 12:53 pm 9 comments

Wageningen’s Buy Nothing Day 2006

I found this video today, more or less accidentally and I thought I would share it with you. Buy Nothing Day was in November, apparently on a Saturday, and I can’t believe that I somehow missed it! It just totally passed me by, I didn’t even know about it. Damn… It looked really cool… apart from the typical November weather.

It’s here for a few reasons. You can see the small town where I live, you can see the market I always talk about, and you can see the back of Emmaus, the charity shop (where you see the ‘pimp my bike’).

The thing they are shooting the video from is a tricycle, a special cargo bike. I used it twice for moving my shit across town (including one bulky sofa). Apparently it was put together by 2 local organizations, one of which I knew because they give out free food at the market about once a month. That’s the ‘Food Not Bombs’ people, it’s them pouring soup in the video. (also in Wikipedia)

The first two stands you can see are the organic vegetables (the guy who waves at them) and right next to it is the organic dairy guy. It’s too bad they didn’t write ‘free hugs’ in dutch, “gratis knuffels”. Knuffels (the k is not silent) always cracks me up… it’s just such a funny word 😀

Notice in the end, when they are putting the tricycle back, there is a yellow sign in the road and a bunch of bicycles inside. That’s the shared patio of Emmaus and a ‘Bike Oasis’, which is a bike repair shop where I always take my bike when I have a flat. The guy is really nice.

Anyway, I just thought it would be interesting for you guys to see where I live and actually see the stuff I’m always talking about. I hope you enjoyed it.

May 11, 2007 at 3:34 pm 5 comments

Success and Failure

Environmental dialogues with a catClick to see full size.

I just couldn’t resist posting this strip from Get Fuzzy, my favorite comic strip. It describes my kitty dialogues very accurately.

It’s now been more than one month since I started this blog, and taking all things environmental a little more seriously… So I guess it’s about time to have a little recap on our “struggle”. I know this is kind of a random time for a recap, but please, be patient with me. Take into consideration that this is the blog of a highly UNorganized person, who probably qualifies as Attention Defective. Such is my condition, condemned to starting blogs on ordinary days, and having random unannounced recaps. And I am a little short on time and blogging topics, and it finally seems like I have enough to recap about.

Bad news first:

  • This week, the kitty-litter experiment has been officially declared a failure. Kitten fought the system and won. I tried to make him realize that it was better for the environment and for his kitty health but he would not have it. Believe me, he made it verrrry clear. “Oh Boo Hoo! Every time a microwave dings an angelfish looses it’s reef”
  • That means, back to the nasty clumping litter, and back to the ‘scooping plastic bags’. No kitty litter composting 😦
  • I still can’t stand tofu… My taste buds reject it like my cat rejects eco-litter. Lucky I didn’t leave any surprises around the house like some orange citizen I know (who will remain anonymous to preserve his dignity).
  • I keep getting a load of free newspapers, in dutch, despite the ‘No unaddressed advertising’ sticker on the mailbox. Talk about waste of paper. They sit in the mailbox till it’s recycle day. Grrrrr…
  • I kinda dropped the ball on monitoring my utility bills… I have no idea how much money, if any, I am saving. I know this sounds strange but we’ve had this arrangement 1,5 years now. The bills are included in the rent and we are adjusting it when we move out.

And now for the good stuff…

  • The freezer is unplugged! Hoorray!
  • Bringing Your Own Bags is old news here, everyone does it (plastic bags are a expensive commodity here, you know). So I took it to the next level, where I am viciously storing and reusing EVERY single bag I already have. This includes stuffing my totes with paper bags for fruit and veggies on the verge of disintegration, piles of price stickers on top of each other. I am also religiously reusing egg cartons. If the eggs are not packed yet I just put them in My Own Carton. At one organic stand at the market, I ‘exchange’ my empty cartons for a full carton, their cartons are all reused as well.
  • We are now unplugging all our electrics from the socket. Except the microwave… I use it as a watch in the kitchen. Being disorganized also means having improvised watches, like the cell phone, the microwave and the church tower.
  • I recently discovered that we are actually using green electricity here. I would never suspected that of my landlords, judging by the stashes of disposable plates, cups and utensils we inherited. Oddly, I found out because it says so on the mailbox sticker. Awsome!
  • I am growing herbs on the balcony, which are just starting to be big enough to use. We are also growing arugula and spinach (even though I’m pretty sure I’m messing up the spinach).
  • We are buying organic veggies exclusively (unless there is dinner emergency), and buying as local as possible. And strangely, I don’t think I am spending much more money than before. At least not enough to notice.
  • What I am noticing is that we are buying less quantities of veggies, and using them. Because organic stuff is so expensive, we really cut down on food waste. When we were buying the cheapest, we would often get a bunch of stuff and let it go bad.
  • We stopped relying on meat for every meal. Now we have an agreement on once-a-week meat, but ironically, we forgot to honour it this week. Our tasty organic steak this week was, sadly, replaced by some crappy supermarket salami.
  • And finally, a very satisfying change is that I don’t buy my stuff at the supermarket anymore. Now I just go there on emergencies, like the above mentioned dinner, as well as breakfast and litter emergencies. That means that I am also avoiding the plastic invasion of my kitchen by the packaging army.
  • Oh, and I almost forgot! I got the Diva Cup, no more disposables for this gal!

I’ts looking good, everyone! I don’t think that any of the changes I made are very hard to do, but it does take a lot more ‘thinking investment’ into my daily life. And it requires me to be constantly on the look out for the packaging scum of the Earth trying to infiltrate my home. I know that supposedly I am spending more money on food, but somehow I am not noticing any cash flow shortages. And I do think what we’ve been doing has the potential of saving me more money than what I am spending. So in the end, it’s all peaches and cream. As long as they are organic of course 😉

May 8, 2007 at 1:33 am 7 comments

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