Green Zinger 2 of 2 by child grower Annita Woz

jennysjellystonegreentoesThis is the second of a two part story on a trip to Willy Street Co- op for a class on healthy eating (link to part 1 of Zinger here) 

Kombuchi Girl next to me has an affinity for sweets -sometimes in the middle of the night- and the instructor has a quick response to her question, ” What oil is best to use for baking?  ”

” I don’t bake anymore.”    

KG pushes on, she is kind of in shock that baking is off the allowed activities list  but goes in with the children angle.  “Ok, but I have to bake for my kids, so are you telling me that I should use olive oil in my double nut plus oatmeal chocolate chip cookies?”

The educator relaxes and admits she does sometimes bake for her kids, but throws in that cookies are no longer part of her healthy diet.  Seeing my friend’s face fall,  she hastily adds that if she did bake she’d recommend coconut oil, not to be confused with palm oil, hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil and no more war for oil.

Suddenly, I feel so out of place in this health food class and so odd, so obviously a Woodman’s kind of non-local shopper that I am almost embarrassed in this group of natural fiber wearing people.  I look down to see if I am wearing any non-synthetic material at all. 

Nope, not a stitch.

And my toenails are polished.  I cross my feet under my chair.

And, shamefacedly, I admit I have some very non-organic product in my hair today, likely some that was tested on baby kitties or worse,  baby kitties shipped here from China.   

I am an outsider, pretending to be an East side-enlightened- buyer.  I am a total faker. My eyes widen in revelation!

Then I remember I shaved my armpits that morning. Yup. I was clearly not in the right place.

But when my neighbor to the left raises her arm to wave for a glass of Kombuchi (the green fermented stuff) I see she is friends with the razor, too.  Whew! I take this prickly sign as confirmation that I am supposed to be here, in the present, in the now, as my mantra quoting friend next to me often says.  Presently, I’m thinking that if I start drinking more of these Green Zingers,  I’ll truly turn green.

In all fairness,  I’ll make fun of myself in this post and a little fun of the evening, but I have complete respect for the educator and her efforts to share what she is trained to share with us.  She is a cancer survivor. She takes her food, her body, her consumption, seriously. Her seriousness, her knowledge about how serious food is,  humbles and inspires us on the spot.

Our instructor is the very helpful Terry Klas, ND, RN, CNHP who is a naturopathic doctor at Human Nature, on Atwood Avenue in downtown Madison. She smiles and laughs out loud at my question about whether she still loves food.  She admits she does, and she reminds me that she is also the cooking instructor for the business with owner Katy Wallace.   Together they tackle a number of health issues with a combination of medical analyses followed up by nutritional solutions at their clinic on Atwood Avenue.

Klas shrugs as she admits that she doesn’t have much time for entertaining or cooking for large groups in her rural home where she juggles work, family time and still dedicates Saturday mornings to hospice care.  I wait for the wink when she suggests I can serve healthier fare at my next book club like some of what we are tasting this evening.

There is no mistaking that she still loves to cook as her eyes light up with a tale of making an incredible pudding with gluten free ingredients that she absolutely loves. 

I take a skeptical look at the next ingredient she has introduced.  This is kimchi sitting under my nose and I catch a waft like a forgotten diaper retrieved from under the passenger seat in my van last year.

This digestive boosting saurkrauty looking pile sitting on a very unappetizing rice cracker is not giving me a good vibe.  I resist holding my nose and put the whole thing in my mouth. It is horrible. What gut wouldn’t clean itself up when faced with this? I know it is powerful. I also know I will never buy it. 

Ever.

We follow Ms. Klas thru Willy Street Coop struggling with the new words floating from her mouth.  This is beyond buy-local thinking. We are discussing sprouting our own legumes, the value of cows milk, or any milk at all.  Forget yogurt, chocolate milk, cereal with milk, pasteurizing milk and why in the heck do we feed our kids cow’s milk in the first place? She’s talking organic vs natural, local vs Whole Foods, nutrition vs nourishment and showing me more kinds of beans than I know exist.

The ingredients labels flashing by on the well-stocked shelves of the Willy Street Co-op are new to me but also much shorter and more prounounceable than what I see on the sides of my boxes of cereal. 

Our guide, well versed in determining the value of grapeseed oil vs canola (take grapeseed) shares a brief lesson on how soy messes with middle age hormones and the value of just eating fruit for breakfast in a smoothie, or from my hand in all of its naked natural glory. 

For only a second, I imagine myself reclining on my deck chair,  sipping a refreshing spinach shake on a hot summer evening.

Back in the tasting room I try some fresh goat cheese and a no-wheat blueberry muffin that is of actual portion size- that is, I could fit  six inside one of the mammoth muffins from the local bakery. 

“I can eat these,” I nod, making eye contact with my good friend who has not yet had a satisfying meal after a day at work. We are looking forward to going up the street to Lao Laan Xang for some fresh spring rolls.  Her eyes say stop asking questions so we can get outta here but her grin is telling me she enjoys watching me find my way on this side of town.  We both know that the people on the East side “get it” but now we are left wondering if we “want it”. 

We also realize we don’t have an equivalent place like this on the West side.  And we want one.  

Now our hostess is laughing but not at me. She says, “Sure, I make this at home! I trick my kids into eating good food. I make an incredible bean burrito and they wolf it down and don’t even know it is good for them!” 

I could get into the spirit of the moment now.  I, too,  like to trick my kids into eating healthy.  But can I ever trick myself?

I try to wash all the new info down with my goat cheese sample.  This slab of cheese is nothing like the fresh chevre I get from my CSA share…then, just as this thought about my farm share comes to me,  the heavens open and a beam of light shines down and illuminates my once-gray-now-chemically-altered-and- dyed hair.  I know I am hearing cherubs singing sweet melodies with a cathedral size organ supporting the chorus that loosely translated goes something like, “Yes, she DOES buy local.  Let her enter the golden gates and fan her with naturally grown palm fronds and feed her some seaweed soup in a bamboo bowl and wash her hair back to gray with baking soda and home made mayonnaise. ”

### by child grower Annita Woz.

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Green Zinger 1 of 2 by child grower Annita Woz

connorfeetCan you say Kombuchi?

Couscous, hummus, fermentation, natural probiotics and words like gut flora are swirling around my head.

I imagine how I am going to explain tossing a seaweed leaf or two into my next pot of stew.

“But do you still love to cook?” is my big question to the well informed woman who leads our group of six on a Nourishing Food Tour through the isles of the Willy Street Co-op  on a beautiful summer evening.

The instructor’s goal is to introduce us to unprocessed, fresh, local food that will not poison our bodies with added chemicals or preservatives. We are sticking to primarily to the fresh section which is labeled with name of the farm that supplies the produce.  Information about vitamins, and which body part is most nourished by eating it is also posted.  

At the end of the tour we get to taste some of the items featured on the walk through  and I have just popped into my mouth some mustard made with apple cider vinegar layered beneath some sprouts that look like the unluckiest four leaf clovers to ever grace the top of a gluten free cracker. 

It wasn’t bad.

But it was also something I knew that I would never eat again.

While taking notes as my good humored friend tries each new conconction that is introduced and then passes mine to me.  I sip something very green and zippy from a tiny glass.  This is kombuchi.  Now say Kombuchi three times fast.  It’s kind of catchy. As a name.  I am told that this fermented beverage aids digestion.

Feeling as though I’m in an way off-broadway show imitating Wicked, I reach for another green liquid making the rounds.  The ingredients are simple: green kale, some enzymes, some juiced apple and  the label says Green Zinger.  

We are not prepared for the green Kombuchi and gasp! we have never juiced a veggie, either.    We have never tried a Green Zinger!  The rest of the group silently scoots their chairs another inch away from us.  We are foreigners in a foreign land. 

The puzzled look on my friend’s face has been replaced with a slap to her forehead.  Maybe we need a juicer!  Better head to Walmart – er some east side eco friendly store- and get one on the way back to suburbia.  The rest of the class stares at us.

Eat fruit for breakfast is the advice the group gives for an alternative breakfast.  They can no longer enjoy pancakes, muffins, waffles, cereal, even the cholesterol busting oatmeal is off the table. We learned earlier many of them have celiac’s, gluten allergies and digestion issues that have led them to better, evidently greener food. 

I snap back to attention when I hear about throwing some chia seed (for protein) into the blender with the juice. 

Did the instructor just recommend chia seeds for our morning smoothie?  Yes, think chia pets featured on  late night commercials where people grow grass hair on clay-shaped heads. 

My good friend Theresa raises her eyebrows and stops mid-taste of the green beverage to contemplate the merits of eating a chia pet pre-race. While the green liquid rolls around on her tongue, she imagines running the half-marathon fueled on the green concoction. She is in training and I can see that she isn’t going for it.  Carb loading is what she knows she needs and she isn’t recognizing any on tonight’s tasting menu.

She keeps leaning into my shoulder and tilting her head to the side but won’t squeak out a protest for fear of offending the group who is paying rapt attention to our speaker.  They are here to feel better, not to entertain the two of us.

Theresa and I love to go to classes and programs and free lectures to learn new things.  If there is a class related to health, exercise, nutrition, cooking, we are there.  We’ve taken many cooking classes together- stews, breads, Laotian food, Pakistani preparation, we are Orange Tree Import cooking class junkies.   

We’ve attended fairs for holistic healing, thought about getting our palms read, had some discussion about magnetic bracelets and balancing our chakras.  We think acupuncture is interesting, yoga is centering but beyond that, we know tonight we are like kindergarteners using our finger to trace under the lines of  Jane and Spot Lose Their Cookies.  

We aren’t paying close attention but suddenly we know the talk is changing and there is an emphasis on cleansing, unmentionables flowing from the body and moving quickly and easily thru the system and we are picking up the not so subtle message that we are some of the worst convenience food consumers in the tri-state area. 

And we don’t know beans.  Kidney beans, we learn,  clean the kidney and uric system because, look,  they are shaped like kidneys to help the uninformed recognize real food’s purpose.  Oh, we need a good cleanse all right. Tsk Tsk! We have been eating all the wrong food. Shame. Shame.

Seriously, we are learning a lot from this class.  And we have a lot to unlearn.

I have been lecturing my tasting buddy for a few months about purging her cupboards of high fructose corn syrup and she has been calling me the Corn Queen in protest.  I think I can now call her Kombuchi Girl and I will make time to choreograph a little dance routine where we can say kombuchi over and over as we dance around a fire.

 ###

part 1 of 2 by child grower Annita Woz.

Bus Number 16 by Child Grower Annita Woz

firstdayofschoolfeetI haven’t put my kids on a school bus for the past six years.

The bus picks up right next to our house at 8 o’clock. At 8:10 I load my kids in the car and drive them to school. Some mornings we pick up a little friend or two and cart them to the drop off zone at the local elementary and middle schools.  Sometimes we sit in traffic right behind the same bus that picks up the neighbors.  As I send mine with a wave down the sidewalk to their classmates, I see the long line of kids walking from the bus drop off point. 

They all seem to be just fine but I cannot help but wonder about the ride.

I wonder, do they have a guy like Ted riding in the back of their bus? 

Who’s Ted? Let me take you back to 1982. 

Ted sits in the back seat of bus number 16 but he routinely stands up whenever he wants to make some kid feel miserable.  He lobs an insult or a trick question over the rows of seats that lands on the latest passenger and no matter the response, Ted gets in another jab that deflates not only this kid, but the weary rider with the open seat that the ridiculed kid falls into.

The rest of us silently hold our breath so as not to incite some similar wrath. We try to be invisible.  We try to be non-confrontational.  We try to plan ahead so we have a comeback that will save us from the same spot tomorrow. 

The standby seat picking rule is older students claim the back seats and the elementary students get the front.  I believe this unwritten rule still stands today.  The sad truth is, wherever the Teds of today sit they can make a ride to school on the bus one of the worst ways to start the day.

Years ago, the Ted of my bus riding days has a small crowd of jeering supporters who back up his running commentary from adjacent seats and sometimes, this same group of young boys carry the taunting into the school hallways. It is as though the arrival at the school entrance has interrupted them mid-sentence and so they finish their one-sided conversation inside the building and punctuate it with a sneer or an elbow jab. 

The Ted of bus number 16 can swear up a storm, too. The language is foul, the volume just low enough to sting but never loud enough to be detected by the driver.  The intent is to demean and though I don’t know what some of the words mean, I know that if my father heard them he would cringe and then start calling the unlces to plan a hunting trip where Ted doesn’t return from the first drive through the woods and everyone comes back with a really sad story to tell.

Toting a required science project to school via bus brings on a stream of questions and negative commentary. As if an unruly box with a poorly glued constellation display is not enough to juggle, learning to sidestep the crushing insults and dutifully holding up the piece at the request of the bus boss is worse than any science fair demonstration.

On another day, the determining factor for rudeness is some small detail, a bright coat, a bad hair day, a new pair of shoes; something will catch this mouthy young man’s attention and start him off.  Ted has no other purpose for the half hour ride other than to stare out the bus window, ogle the waiting troupe of kids gathered at the neighborhood stop and plan another way to be seen and heard. 

Sometimes after exiting the doors of the bus I find a book is missing from my backpack or I find a spitball in my hair but some of my worst memories are from commentary about budding body parts from boys who had a clear line of sight to every aspect of my adolescent development and people who spotted my fashion faux pas and from the head to toe inspections, handed out five days a week, rain or shine, as I boarded the bus and scurried down the aisle to take shelter in a seat. 

Today I know bullies are bullied, and some do it for attention and some do it because they need to make themselves feel big by making someone feel small. That is little consolation for the singled out kids out who already feel like miniature as they swim upstream against the vast and varied social rules the define ” fitting in.” 

I have little sympathy for a sad bully.

I have none for naughty bus drivers. You don’t want to hear the story about the a little girl and the thirty minutes that passed before she was finally released from the unsupervised and empty bus, as the last rider of the day.  

My family reminds me that sometimes it isn’t the environment that is to blame, but each person who bears his or her own responsibility for how they act in situations.  

Maybe Ted knows who he is, knows who he was. Maybe he has kids of his own.  Do they ride the bus?  I bet they are prepared to handle themselves and oddly, I find that makes me a bit jealous of Ted.

I was a quiet kid and rarely got hassled on the bus but I was afraid of the day when it would be my turn.  Though I know that my kids will fight different battles than I did, like most parents, I seek to save them from the ones that I fought. 

So, I drive my kids to school so they don’t experience the Ted’s on the bus but as my friend’s tell me, this behavior is everywhere.  It is a part of growing up they say. It is a part of developing character, finding inner strength, learning to operate in a world with not-so-nice manners. 

They assure me that I can protect them from a half an hour bus ride but remind me that the same behaviors, bad language, sexual innuendo happen in various places in school, perhaps through the whole day and until they are back home. 

They send their kids on the bus where they defend themselves (or fend for themselves as I say.) They believe their kids are learning good lessons on handling what life throws at them and the bus is actually a pretty safe place to practice.  

I pause at this truth.   

### written for EP, August 23, 2009 by child grower Annita Woz. note: this post is, like all of mine, still a work in progress. Thank you for your patience…

Recipe Day- Fennel & Cuke Slaw from A. Woz

bare feet at I T

It is good to see that in 2009 women, should we choose, may cook, may explore recipes , may take pride in throwing on an apron if we wish.

With the same enthusiasm as taking a trip to a foreign country, we test new ingredients, new flavors and we purposely spend time in the kitchen creating something memorable, edible, beautiful even, or we are allowed to simply step back from the stove entirely, and smile while watching someone else give it a go.

Our bodies don’t need all the food that we dream up, but our minds and hearts might.  A good meal provides a transport to conversation. Breaking bread together can take us to a level of pleasure that is acceptable to express in public.  As we experience intense emotions over a sublime flavor, a good recipe gives us permission to reach inside someone else’s personal space and grab their arm and make a connection.

Find those women and cook together if you can. Don’t spend one minute of time eating a meal with people who fail to feed your soul or to fill up your conscience or challenge your mind.  

This recipe is a combination of flavors from the combination of two good friends.

The dressing for this slaw is adapted from one served by my friend Nancy Rohrman.  She poured a slightly sweeter version of it over fresh fruit- blueberries, strawberries, fresh grapes, and pineapple. 

The coleslaw I created in this post was served for the same Red Tent book club that Nancy has been a part of for many years and she phoned-in to join us from a friend’s home in a far away state.  Since we weren’t set up to Skype , we passed the phone around to hear how the transition was going,  did our best to raise our glasses in several toasts in her honor and served an ice-cream dessert on my deck as she scooped out a bowl for herself  in another time zone.

For the fennel part of the slaw,  I owe thanks to another friend, Karen Johnson.  Though I have no doubt that she could turn any fresh ingredient into an excellent meal, I’m giving her credit for the fennel as it first arrived in my weekly community supported agriculture (CSA) farm share, that I pick up from her garage each week in the growing season.  She turned me on to the farm share and I am forever indebted.

The farm delivers 2-3 bulbs of fresh fennel each season as part of a variety of fruits, veggies, eggs and cheeses from a farm co-op out of Blue Mounds. Karen’s garage is the host location for about 100 local families.  When she’s around at pickup time on Thursdays,  I get to chat about good recipes for all these good veggies, some of which I had heard of but would not have recognized, and most certainly I would never have tasted until I joined Vermont Valley Farm. Kohlrabi, turnips, leeks and buttery eggs from free range chickens -that honestly do taste better than what is available in the grocery store-  have all found their way into my recipes. And my mouth is happier for it.

I tested this coleslaw recipe for my family last week and my kids couldn’t believe how much fennel tastes like black jelly beans. Have fun experimenting in your kitchen with this new recipe and cheers to Nancy and Karen. 

Fennel and Cuke Slaw with Sweet Poppyseed Dressing

1 large cucumber, cut in half and sliced with peel

1/2 head of cabbage, chopped

1/4 medium sized red onion, chopped

1/2 cup fresh fennel, diced

1/4-1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Dressing: 3/4 c sugar, 1/2 c vinegar, 1/3 cup oil, 1 tbsp poppy seeds, 1/2 tsp dijon mustard or 1 1/2 tsp dried mustard.

Slice cukes into bowl, add salt, cover for 1/2 hour,  toss cukes a few times in the brine and after 1/2-1 hr hour, rinse under cool water and drain to remove salt.

Combine the cukes with the rest of the ingredients: cabbage, onion, fennel.

Whisk together ingredients for dressing.  Drizzle over salad, toss to coat.  Let stand for 15 minutes, serve.  Enjoy with a citrusy white wine.

### from child grower Annita Woz.

Stand very Still by child grower Annita Woz

Robins Hummingbird

The drawing featured here is a creation of the talented Robin Phelps of Verona, Wisconsin.

Sometimes, if you stand very still you can be a part of something.  It is unseen, has no name, cannot be bought or sold.  Breathtaking in its simplicity, yet hardly worth mentioning because by the time someone else is there to experience it with you,  the moment passes, and all that remains is the imprint on your mind, your willingness to share, and no one near enough to accept your offering.

As she wanders through her chores of another weekday,  her ipod is turned off, no conversation swells around her three foot space of privacy.  She is not prepared, but she sees, was not anticipating revelation, but was receptive.  She gets no answers, but still keeps asking.

A boy is crossing the street’s evening rush hour traffic.  His father, walks along the left side. He is smiling and encouraging the eleven year old.  The son, in the middle of four lanes of traffic now,  balances on the meridian, laughing, he is smiling one of those grins that reaches all the way to his eyes.  He has darted past one car, holds his place separated from his father and from his destination,  and lands safely on the middle strip of grass.  Silently, the woman  watches as he leans off the curve, takes one solid step, but then sees a faster vehicle bearing down. It is nearer now, and interrupts his plan to leap across.  The boy backs up and puts his feet solidly back in place, next to each other, off the pavement and will not move.  Then, with a quick glance at his father, he judges the cars, and again dives into the pathway after one has passed, but before the next is a danger.  He crosses in the span of a few seconds, in a space where no cars exist, where just the wind and his guesswork cuts a path. He clears with his own creation,  the safest passage from the hectic pace of the commuters,  carves a graceful bridge for his ambitions.  He makes it safely, proudly. His father laughs and throws his head back, his shirt blows in the wind under his arms and he claps just once, and bends forward to wave his proud fist in the air.

A small circle of moms sit on their picnic blankets at at the playground, the strollers surround them in a wider circle, all are turned inward with sun strewn hair and baby cheeks all turned toward mothering faces.  The toes of the infants and strolling toddlers, now caught up in a secure belts and fasteners,  keep them suspened from the grass, but they kick with toes to the sky making shoeless heels hit the fabric and the seat rock with their efforts. The babies wiggle and stretched their little chubby legs.  One hand scoops up the cheerio snack and palms a few into a waiting mouth, and the other hand holds tight to the front tray, all concentration,  sure that no o is left unlicked. The stifling stillness of the summer air of August arrives after a strange spring-like July and the need to be in shade and the sun simultaneously causes much consternation and shifting,  but not much real movement at all.   The decision of the moment is whether to run into the sun-filled area, maybe to the bench, warming itself like a cat stretched on a sill, or to simply sit, relaxing,  enveloped by the moving shade that travels nearer as the day moves toward the evening.  The moms do not move their blankets.  The children wiggle and the sun holds its place, witnesses the indecision, and silently, stubbornly, keeps shining.

A flutter of wings and a flash past the patio door and a long beak disappears just as quickly.  Out of the corner of her eye,  a purple blossom has caught her attention.  The fluted flower of the morning glory parked outside on the deck stand still so that a hummingbird can find its center.  With its glorious giving soul, it gives up the nectar to the tiny thing and is no worse for wear for doing so. The morning glory sits, waiting for her to make time to locate a shovel and do the work that will get it  planted on the south side of the yard.  She expects to see it grow to the top of the trellis, to weave its vines around the lattice, to use the green fingers to tenderly reach the top. She expects to see it crawl up toward the sun, and do this slowly,  so she can watch it through the window of the next summer, taking all summer to make its journey as she makes her days labor a moment of simple escape while  she stands at the sink.  She does not move when her mind finally registers what she is seeing.  Yet, in her awareness, something greater than herself makes the tiny wings beat faster and flit out of sight. Her watching is not jarring, the morning glory has not swayed, but the hummingbird moves toward another color and leaves her standing there, drinking it in.

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