Friday, May 31, 2013

Where does your food come from?

Where does your food come from? How did it get to you? What the hell is really in it? This question has been on a lot of people's minds lately. It should be on more. I believe, and have believed for many years, that how we feed ourselves is one of the biggest issues in the world. It's why, since college, I have actively taken a role in choosing food that I feel is ethical for my body, and for the environment. It is why I have a job (career?) that encourages and spreads the word about eating fresh local and organic. Why is it cheaper and easier to get food that makes you feel horrible, look horrible, and actually put your health in danger? I can go into all the horrible truths about our agriculture system, but I believe in the power of positive thinking

Today is the day before I start the Eat Local Challenge, in which for the whole month of June, I will only consume foods grown or produced within 200 miles of New Orleans.

The past week I cleaned out my fridge of perishables and took a trip to Hollygrove Market to stock up on local produce. I purchased their "box"; for 25$ I received 2 cucumbers, zucchini, onions, strawberries, blueberries, carrots, potatoes, peppers, spinach, green beans. I also got some local milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, brown rice, tomatoes, and salad mix. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but it all came to about 50$.

I also have some tomatoes and herbs growing in my garden (whoo!) and my friend Matthew has a beautifully wild garden around the corner with lots of makings for tea as well. The New Orleans Food Co-Op along with other participating sponsors are giving challengers discounts at their establishments for the month.

The challenges I think I am going to face personally are:

1. Eating the produce before it goes bad. I love to cook, but my kitchen is so small. It's also hard to cook for only yourself. I am going to need to make an effort to cook at home more and do meal prep, especially because I wont be able to just go and "grab" something somewhere else. I'll have to get use to lugging around a large thing of filtered water (especially with the temperatures getting hot!) It is awesome though, that I work at a place that tries to source most of their produce locally already! We are making some special dishes throughout the month at The Green Fork that are local from start to finish (with pecan oil from Inglewood Farms!)

2. No coffee of pastries. My options on beverages are going to be slim. I've been bottling filtered tap water for the past week (and I have the local milk). I am also looking for some local kombucha, which I know exists but of course the minute you want it, can't find it. If I drank alcohol I wouldn't have so much of an issue; there are tons of local beverages of the drunken sort to imbibe. But my thing is coffee and pastries! I am excited to see the difference no caffeine and sweets makes to my health. And no chocolate. And no cookies...(wahhh!)

I am doing the Ultra-Strict level of the challenge. I am also participating in a health survey. Tonight at the Kick-Off Party on the rooftop garden at Rouse's (Oh-la-la), a Touro doctor will be there to take my vitals, etc. At the end of the month they will check them again and the person with the most improved health will win a prize. Thing is, I'm already pretty healthy! I work at a juice bar, so I eat fresh, local and organic food all the time. I don't drink alcohol or smoke, and I ride my bike up to 10 miles on any given day. That's another thing; getting food on my bike. There are tons of participating farms that are "local", but I can't necessarily ride my bike up to 200 miles to get food (or can I...)

I think I am going to miss those healthy items that are not particularly local the most; my chia seeds, flax seeds, grape seed oil, coconut water. And also being aware of what I am unconsciously putting in my mouth at work will be hard, tasting to make sure the product is right. I may have to flub on that.

There are a bunch of restaurants participating in The Challenge (not even counting the places that use local produce anyway), so eating out shouldn't be an issue. If anything, it'll be an opportunity to try new places. It is one of the things I love about New Orleans.

So today after work, I'll be at a coffee shop, enjoying my last decadent bites before the month of June. Oh, the coffee! I will be attending tons of fun workshops and events throughout the month, so stay posted, and send me some positive energy that I will stay strong willed against sweets and treats!

(I have to also mention in the face of the recent protests against Monsanto company, which I attended and fully support, eating local, organic and growing your own produce is pretty much the best form of non-violent and non-confrontational protest).

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Words from the Dalai Lama

I've always wanted a piece of jewelry that I would wear every day, have forever, and that meant something special to me. I have a couple of pieces, from over the years, that fit one or two of the criteria; cross from baptism, earrings from making my first communion, necklace from graduating, etc. However, nothing that I felt comfortable wearing day to day. Actually, most of those items are in safe keeping at my parent's house on Long Island.

I've had some jewelry that had those intentions, but alas, from daily wear either broke or became lost.

For Christmas this past year, my mother gave me a Kara bracelet. I asked for this gift, and didn't totally expect to receive it. I was pleasantly surprised and have since worn the bracelet every day. It never leaves my arm, fitting snug against my sobriety tattoo (it's a picture of a hurricane Doppler radar, 'Hurricane Rachel', heh). The inscription on the bracelet reads, "Guru Guru Wahe Guru, Guru Ram Das Guru" which translates to "Wise, wise is the one who serves infinity";
This mantra projects the mind to infinity, then allows a finite guiding relationship to come into your practical activities. The first part projects the mind to the source of knowledge and ecstasy. The second part means “the wisdom that comes as a servant of the Infinite. It is the mantra of humility. It reconnects the experience of infinity to the finite by the Grace of Guru Ram Das. It opens the Fourth Chakra, the Heart Center, and allows you to feel and effortlessly radiate universal love
I reflected on these words, as I do every now and then since receiving this beautiful gift, in the moments before the Dalai Lama spoke at the UNO lake front on May 18, 2013.

The following is a transcription (and slight extrapolation) of The Dalai Lama's talk:

[Please sit down]. So formal. I am fed up with ceremony. Formality is a distance [between you and me]. I like straightforwardness. We all have the same emotions. We are the same, as just one human being.

The concepts of "we" and "they" are a dividing basis of violence and war. Unless we all share each other's problems and common interest, we will have more problems. Real world peace is created by ourselves, a peace through action and effort, not just prayer.

There should be a helpful spirit, a oneness of human being, from a central peace within. We need a sense of concern for other's well being. Peace means not just lack of violence, but more compassion. A compassionate heart brings inner peace and peace of mind. A peaceful mind is essential for health, a peaceful mind is important to utilize human intelligence properly. A calm mind is very important to health. Inner respect for yourself and for others brings a balanced body. Concern for others balanced with care for ourselves. If we spread inner peace, it will eventually bring peace to the planet. That is our reality  

Fear stops us from being able to use reality. Fear brings anger, anger brings hatred, and both will eat our insides. The basis of fear and distrust needs to be reduced. Intelligence and will power from the heart are our realistic methods. The non violent method is very very important. It is realistic. A decrease in anger and violence-- that is real gun control.

Educating with compassion is biological positivity. Love and compassion is so important; they are honest and truthful. Trust brings friendship, a biological factor of cooperation. Cooperation is the basis of building a happy society. And it all starts with the individual peaceful mental attitude.

Friday, May 17, 2013


Life can be so full and exciting and overwhelming and crazy and exhausting sometimes all the time. The past couple weeks have been full of beautiful weather, cultivating deeper friendships, showing initiative at work, and letting go of a little control.

The weather in New Orleans right now is perfect. Purr-fect. Which is great, because there are so many events and festivals and happenings I can't keep my head on straight. This weekend I will be bike valeting at Bayou Boogaloo and you should totally join in on the bike second line.

I am also going to see the Dalai Lama speak tomorrow! I was able to make it this afternoon to the Monk's sand mandala sweeping ceremony. I took some video and pictures ('Rachel Williams' on Vine and Gayche87 on Instagram). 

I don't know if I told you, but my neighbors are pretty amazing. I had a chance to hang out with my neighbor and friend Thom a lot this week while is girlfriend was out of town for work. We shared meals and movies, and it was a wonderful reminder of how satisfying friendships can be. I say this as a person who previously was always in a romantic or sexual relationship with the opposite sex. This whole being purely just friends with a heterosexual male thing is new to me. And I don't mean to downplay the importance of friendship with the term "just friends", no, if anything it is opposite. The question of 'can men and women be just friends' is a very real question. If anything, for me, the hard part has been changing my way of thinking about males. I'm not sure if this is just me (pretty sure not), but the immediate "Okay, can I see myself sleeping/dating/marrying this guy" the minute I meet someone new is frustrating and exhausting. Yes, it may be natural (we are animals, roar), but I'd like to go beyond not acting on my impulses, but changing my brain wiring. I can go into my latest thinking on the theory of stereotypes against single people, but that may be a discussion for another time.....long story short; I've been happily discovering that by not focusing my energy and love into one specific person and relationship (getting caught up in the 'us' and future), I am able to share that energy more freely and openly.

So works been cray cray. Since this article in the Times Picayune hit, we have been super busy. Which is great. But not great when your dishwasher walks out and there are only a couple people keeping the show running. Luckily we've rallied a couple of good seeds the past couple days. If anything this experience has shown my bosses (and myself) what a commodity I am to the business. It has made me want to work harder, because I have an invested interest in what we are doing, and I truly believe in it. It's so satisfying and refreshing to like your job.

Speaking of invested interests, I signed of for the Eat Local Challenge. For the whole month of June, I will be consuming only food items produced or grown within 200 miles of New Orleans. Gasp! Everything; salt, oils, beverages. There are different levels of strictness of course, and I am planning on going all the way. It's kinda giving me anxiety, but I am still excited none the less. I will be charting my progress here (hopefully, my laptop broke gaaaa).

Another source of anxiety lately has been my cats. Oh, my cats. My loves, my babies, my itty bitties. I got a plethora of text messages and phone calls at work earlier in the week that my kitties had escaped from my apartment. How they got out doesn't matter, but the fact is they wanted out! After some thought, I decided to give it a go at letting them be outdoor cats. Oh my god, my heart. They don't want to come in, of course. It is the cutest thing, seeing them pounce around, chasing bugs and sunbeams, rolling in dirt (ga), and being animals. They don't want to come in, and I don't get as many kitty snuggles (sob). I am terrified of them getting hit by a car or not coming home for some other reason, alien abduction, I DON'T KNOW, whatever! But....there's no turning back. They love I must be okay with giving up a little control. Some things (most things) are out of my hands...If I learned anything today from watching the monks destroy the beautiful sand painting that took them hours and days to complete, it's that nothing is permanent. Things change. Things happen. So enjoy the right now, as it's happening, in the present. And be thankful that you've had that.