A Instagram page on food philosophy and affordable health through real food, developed into a series of zines by the same name.
Where Do Bananas Come From?
EAT SHIT & DIE
Chicken of Tomorrow
726. My mother sent me this photo today. And I took this video this morning. Pay attention to the cycles of life and the sensory portals that take us to another time and place, and embrace the reminders that we are on the right path.
725. Sprouts giving me life again, life I’ve missed for the last few months because honestly, our space hasn’t been poppin so well.
As I’ve spoken about plenty, we’re practicing “do-nothing” gardening, trying to interfere as little with the Natural processes as possible. This is not a model of abandonment, but rather a “set it and forget it” mentality. Which includes no tilling, no weeds removal, and no irrigating.
Earlier this year the process produced fantastic results, yielding over 100 pounds of turnips, plus a ton of greens, oats, potatoes, and mustard seeds. We prepared the soil, planted with intention, and then barely did anything until harvest. However towards the end of the crop we received a huge swarm of harlequin beetles and decided to harvest everything and cut back what was left, in order to get rid of the population Naturally. Since then, we have not had much success producing, and here are my understandings why.
1) In order to operate in a Natural farming way, it must all be done Naturally. Because if you prune once, you must prune forever. I’ve been trained to soak seeds to encourage germination, just before rainy days are expected. But if the rains don’t come, and the seeds have been soaked and sprouted, they will dry up. Casting the seeds dry allows them to protect themselves until rains do come.
2) Speaking of, we have been in a drought (see graph) where we’ve received barely any rainfall since mid August. Our surplus from the spring completely gone. This is not great, but it has been made worse because of our mass harvest. Death begets death - cutting back the garden in mass made for an environment that was more vulnerable, less able to hold water and less prepared to go weeks without it. Had we let it be, the bugs would’ve taken over, but by cutting back everything we made it hard to start anew.
3) This one is difficult to prove, but I think that infestation was the result of trying to grow Naturally within an unNatural environment. Letting our garden go Natural led to swarms of bees, butterflies, fireflies, birds: the yard spilled over with life. Which brought the bugs we didn’t want too. Continued below.
724. To make #mead (honey wine) Naturally, mix a quart of raw, unfiltered honey with 3 quarts of water. Then acidify the mixture with the juice of a fresh squeezed lemon. A slightly acidic environment is best for fermenting these sugars to alcohol. Then stir as frequently as possible, at least twice a day. Stirring incorporates air into the mixture, a vital ingredient in growing yeast, and it keeps the surface from developing bacteria.
This is the constant balance of fermenting: you want to encourage the bacteria and yeasts that you want, and discourage the bacteria and yeasts you don’t want. In the case of making honey wine Naturally, stirring is the necessary tool for balance. When the last batch wasn’t stirred, it produced a scoby and eventually mold, while never actually fermenting.
The solution we came up with here was to leave the jar on the counter, right in the face of anybody who comes in the kitchen, with a sign that says “stir me.” As soon as I did this, I was struck with the similarities of how the Tainos indigenous to Puerto Rico constructed their lives around producing alcohol.
Remember, when produced with intention, alcohol is a medicine. Around the world different peoples have medicinal alcohols, and until you have tried an alcohol that is made with the intention of being a medicine, it is hard to describe the euphoria that it brings (as opposed to the distilled, processed garbage that just puts you on your ass.)
The Taino houses were constructed around the brewing of yuca (cassava) alcohol. Literal round houses with an elevated fermentation vessel in the center, and everyone participates in the fermentation process by putting their energy into the healing substance for the community. That’s what this mead serves as for us, a center point we can all contribute to, and then share together.
After about a week, the fermentation rate visibly slowed, the brew was still sweet but not bubbling. So I added a very ripe mango we had in the house. The yeasts in the mango were enough to bring the brew to life, and the chunks will become preserved, boozy, medicinal, punches in the mead. Takes 15 days til ready, costs equal to $5 bottles of wine.
723. #Arroz con #gandules (rice and pigeon peas) was one of my least favorite foods growing up. I used to pick the gandules out of the rice, but then I wasn’t allowed to leave the table until I finally ate the now rice-less pile of gandules I’d wanted to avoid. There’s something deep about colonization wrapped up in there.
There were a number of Puerto Rican foods that I didn’t like growing up, as my family was moved by economically forced migration, then by military dictation, and the foods my parents grew up with eventually became just a few options in the “international”, “ethnic”, or “hispanic” sections. So we didn’t have them often outside a few holidays. I’m a product of hamburger helper and store brand cereal.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I fell in love with Puerto Rican food, that I felt the privilege of reclaiming my family’s foods, and I even felt the ownership of calling it my own. I’ll never forget the Christmas I was able to teach my mother how to make pasteles, she nearly cried (it’s been a family tradition to make them together ever since). Arroz con gandules is apart of this journey for me in reclamation.
The reclamation for me is calling it my own, but still recognizing it’s place is the world and in my experience. Arroz con gandules, a dish usually made of rice, pigeon peas, and pork, is made of the ingredients brought to the Caribbean by colonizers. We developed it as our own, and now we serve it in the streets as we protest out two governors in a single week.
The significance of the dish, for me, is in the spirit, the flavors, and the love, not in a strict adherence to ingredients. So I scrap the pork. I also refuse to eat or serve anyone white rice, it’s not food. So instead this is brown and black rice. But aside from those changes, I am working again and again to try and learn from the lessons the matriarchy before me left for me. This is the 4th batch I’ve made in a month.
I use dried gandules because they are cheaper, tastier, and are less labor intensive and energy intensive to produce. Soak these overnight. (Soak your brown and black rice too. Use the water to feed your garden.) Continued below.
722. THESE LITTLE CHICKENS RIGHT HERE! Just last week the second lady in the flock finally started laying. And this is just what we picked up today! (We been gone a couple days.)
I mentioned in the last post our concerns about their stress/food/and even calcium levels. But seeing that these birds seem happy and healthy with beautiful coats, we let them do their thing. We left for the weekend, expecting to come home to 4 or 5 eggs but instead showed up to 9! Meaning bird number 3 (and possibly number 4) is laying.
Instead of calcium via oyster shells shipped in by Amazon, we make sure they have access to fresh leafy greens all the time. Instead of solutions, we try to make room for balance. And in doing so, seek sustainability and holistic health.
The Dorito Effect is a great book which talks about nutritional wisdom, essentially the intuition and instincts that guide our diet choices - when we have options. Left with little to no option, you will eat the poison forced upon you. Left with abundant options, you will avoid the poison on the table.
In the book, the author discusses an experimenter who put goats on a starvation diet full of foods unnatural to them. Most got sick and died. One group stayed healthy and energetic. Though the groups of goats were kept not far from each other, the healthy group found fortune in a nearby tree and the rats that came from surrounding structures and climbed that tree. The bark, which is commonly poisonous to goats, when covered in rat urine, became edible. Not only edible, it gave them the nutrients that they needed to survive the brutal experiment. That wisdom, completely unknown to the experimenter, kept them alive.
That same person conducted more, gruesome, experiments, and through them found that the number of plants a single goat will consume in a day ranges in the hundreds. This is how they balance themselves within a spectrum of different needs. How many different types of fresh foods did we consume today? How is the conventionally raised chicken affected when they are fed a few different grains day after day? Continued below.
¡Long awaited! second chicken is laying now so we are getting two eggs a day!
The first chicken, who we call “La Galla”, (as she developed quickest, and has taken on the protective roles of a gallo) started laying about 3 weeks ago. So we started getting concerned about the rest of the flock. There still is speculation if they are getting enough nutrition or if they are stressed, but we are also fighting the temptation to provide them with things that would encourage them to lay more. We are trying to settle into the idea that they will lay when ready, and if they don’t, they don’t. But it still is very exciting that they are. The lighter, new egg if from one of the black feathered girls, the australorps.
720. The brilliance of oppressed peoples runs the world. Necessity breeds innovation and the generational knowledge and sheer brilliance of black, brown, and poor people worldwide is constantly and relentlessly appropriated and stolen. So it is important to tell the origin stories of what we consider commonplace necessities today.
Baking soda, as a leavening agent for quick breads, comes from Native American brilliance. When you take the ashes leftover from a fire and boil them, you can make lye, you can also make potash. The two are used to make bleach, soap, pottery glaze for waterproofing ceramics, and for leavening breads and baked goods. The ubiquitous equivalent today is baking soda, instead made from mineral salts, but essentially the same thing.
The Native Americans that were forced onto reservations were first noted to use potash as a way to rise breads made from their rationed flour. I posted recently about how donuts have a similar history (post 717) and just considering the prevalence of donut, biscuit, and cookie shops today, it’s striking the amount of money made from Native American brilliance every single day, off of just two of the many, many innovations.
This method of quick bread, made by oppressed peoples, was brought across the Atlantic and became a staple in another home of many oppressed peoples - Ireland. Here, the process of mixing potash with flour and soured milk produced the still-famous #sodabread. Soda bread is a super fast, very easy bread that is somewhere between bread and cake and can be found just about anywhere. It was the poor person’s alternative to the English yeast-risen bread.
Note: The bread has to be made fast, so preheat your oven to 400 before you start.
Mix 3 cups of whole wheat flour with a small spoon of salt and a small spoon of baking soda. Slowly mix in buttermilk, just enough so that it comes together. You want to be able to knead it, but you don’t want to dry it out. When it comes together and can be kneaded, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for just 30 seconds. Roll into a ball and put it on a floured pan, and bake for 35 minutes. Depending on the price of buttermilk, about $1.50 a loaf.
719. Animals can play a major role in land regeneration. They bring beneficial life to the land and can control invasive life. I like to say that life begets life. But there is yin and yan in everything, and having animals secluded into a small area will eventually surpass that point of benefits and turn into toxicity.
A blade of grass, once bitten by an animal, takes about 3 days to start regenerating. So as an animal is chomping at grass, most ideally, they have moved along by day 4 in order to let that grass come back. Enclosed, they don’t have that option. This can lead to toxicity for the animal - as they are eating plants that are trying to regenerate, putting out their biological warfare in the form of little poisons. It also begins to expose the animal to all the mites and pests that live under the shelter of grass, along the soil. Having a bit of fresh grass, a few bugs of their choice, and moving along, keeps them safer.
It also causes toxicity in the land. By over grazing alone, soil can become acidic. Add manure, and constant scratching and stomping on the Earth, and the life that is put on this spot can do more harm than good. The Earth will die beneath their feet.
These are ideas I grapple with having backyard chickens. We do our best, by having given them a pretty large space to run around in, by reseeding new plants in their area constantly, and by being sure to give them plenty of food options so they are not scratching the Earth to death in search of food. But it is not perfect, and is one of the many contradictions of this work.
Within the spectrum of the utopian free running bird in the cover of the jungle, or the expertly shepherded animals roaming different hillsides daily, and the factory farmed animal crammed into a big sick herd, we are doing pretty good. Most people would agree that these chickens are very happy and very bougie. But we don’t want that to be enough.
We recognize this extreme privilege to even access a little land. And to have the community network to be able to get an unimaginable amount of free food. And to even have the option to raise animal lives in this space.
718. For your weekly chicken video needs. These chickens receive at least 8 5-gallon buckets of food a week, which we pile into a caged area, to keep it from neighborhood rodents. The food includes produce scraps and fulled prepared foods from restaurants, and will make amazing compost. As the chickens eat the scraps, they add manure, and they scratch it up and help break it down. After these first 6 months, we are now moving their food pile to a different spot, so we can collect the compost.
The compost needs to be strained and aged before it can be used. We will use hardware cloth to separate the large chunks and then we will move the pile to the garden and leave it, mixed in with the dirty straw from their coop, covered by a tarp for after 3 or 4 months before we use it.
This process, though slow, will make some incredible soil nutrition. As opposed to other composted manures, where we don’t know the history of those animals or really know what is the story of everything up in there, here we have knowledge of everything going into our manure/compost, which will eventually make our food.
This incredibly powerful compost will fuel resilient plants that will be more tolerant to stressors and will make healthful foods.
We scratched up the pile to expose the maggots and other tasty bugs doing their job beneath the surface. In this way the scraps we pick up from restaurants feed the chickens (who feed us), feed the bugs that feed the chickens, and feed the soil that also feeds us.
Other ways I’ve seen similar systems work on farms include gathering scrap wood and pallets in order to necessary farm stuff, and if you find a termite nest, pile the leftover scraps near the nest. The termites eat up the scraps, and expand their nest, and every once in a while, you harvest the nest and feed it to the chickens. I look forward to finding more ways of turning trash into treasure.
Until then, these chickens will just enjoy today’s high protein maggot breakfast, which cleans up the compost for us, and helps them produce some high protein eggs for us.
717. Whole wheat sourdough #donuts for @alexmatzke’s birthday. Cause I wanted to make her her favorite comfort food, but I also want her to live forever.
Donuts were invented by Indigenous Americans, around the time that they were forced onto reservations (referred to as Prisoner of War camps in Aaron Huey’s TED Talk - go watch it). They began as sweet fry breads, made from the rations of flour, sugar, and oil that were given to the peoples forced onto barren lands. And to try and provide some type of nutrition, they would be filled with nuts and fruits.
Understanding that simplicity - though fry bread is made with brilliant and skillful technique - demystifies the modern donut that comes floating down a corn oil river, hot n’ ready, or comes topped with the whole candy aisle. It can be as simple as 3 ingredients.
European decadence came in the form of adding milk and eggs to everything, giving a softness and richness to breads. And in the U.S., of course, the sweets come with lots of sugar.
To make these sweet fry breads, as healthy as possible:
Take a cup of sourdough starter (same stuff we use for bread) and add another cup of fresh flour and water to activate the yeast. Wait 8 hours.
Then add a cup of milk (I made oat milk: oats soaked in water and then strained), a bunch of honey (instead of sugar), a little melted butter, and 3 eggs (from our chickens). I diced up an apple and a few handfuls of peanuts super small, and added it to the dough. Then some cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. And I put a pinch of salt and then a little baking soda for extra fluffiness.
Then finally mix in enough flour to start making a dough. It will be very wet and sticky, but should be something that has body and can be held and pulled apart. Keep adding flour little by little until you get there. Let rest 30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with wax paper or aluminum foil and spread some oil on it. Move the dough to this pan, and lightly stretch it out to about an inch thick (its too wet to roll out). Cover and let rest at least an hour, preferably 2 or 3.
Use a deep frying pan with about an inch of oil. Use a glass cup to cup out small circles. Continued below.