Who's that familiar face gazing out from today's Seattle Times?
(photo by Seattle Times photographer Mark Harrison)
None other than Nil Tilija, produce lead at the Greenlake PCC.
Our office is abuzz this morning with pride. Not only does Nil have a fascinating story, he finished last week's Boston Marathon in a commendable 3:14:33 (3 hours, 14 minutes, 33 seconds = whew!).
Fitness folks: Check Stir-fry in the coming months for profiles of our PCC athletes and what they eat to keep going strong. And by all means, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share how you refuel at PCC!
I love it when a plan comes together. Heck, I even love it when another person's plan comes together. In this case, it's my colleague Eli, who had a hunch free chocolate tastings in the stores could be a hit.
She was spot on. More than 75 people made tracks to the Redmond store last weekend (despite it being a gorgeous, sunny day) for the first tasting. If you're in or near PCC Edmonds on Saturday stop by from 3:30 and 5 p.m. to pick up chocolate tasting techniques and taste several different varieties. To take away some of the guilt, try some fresh asparagus from 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. at the Edmonds store as well. Check here for a list of demos in all stores.
We've been cooing over these adorable cards in the office, each from a different student at Maple Elementary School atop Beacon Hill.
Here's an example of what's inside:
About 95 kids and 170 of their parents played Farmers Market earlier this month (how come we never did this at my school?). The play money was fake but the organic produce the kids "bought" was real -- apples, pears, oranges, aspargaus, broccoli, carrots, lettuce and more, donated from our stores. It's a project shared by PCC, Seattle/King County Pubic Health and Seattle Public Schools to teach math and nutrition. Van Asselt Elementary will host the next one.
Who first taught you how to shop, how to select the best head of cabbage or find a good apple? I spent plenty of time watching Mom from my perch in the shopping cart back in the day. I still root through piles of cabbage to find one with a weight that belies its size, a telltale sign of nice thin layers inside, just right to slice up for my killer yakisoba.
On this Earth Day, five earth-friendly things about PCC I've discovered in my first few weeks:
- The Edmonds store is a recycling marvel. There are the wall tiles (recycled glass) the countertops (recycled paper and water-based resins) the pipes (recycled copper) and the tables (recycled bamboo). I could go on, but someone already did. Hey, check out that rain garden in the parking lot!
- You know that handy dandy Seafood Watch pocket guide that advises what's being overfished? No need to fish (ha!) it out of your pocket while shopping, because PCC only carries seafood that's sustainable.
- PCC phased out plastic bags in 2007.
- More than 30 years before that, PCC helped start and administer Seattle's first P-Patch program.
- And yes, we compost!
Joe Hardiman is the produce merchandiser here at PCC, which makes him privy to an immense amount of random factoids about fruits and vegetables. He knows which melons are ripe, how hail, high heat, windstorms or frost will affect the flow of produce into our stores and which types of vegetables can survive beneath snow yet flourish come spring (certain varieties of cauliflower and leeks, for example).
So stay tuned to Stir-fry for regular produce reports I'll gather from Joe. You never know what we're all going to learn together. And if you come across an especially great recipe for fresh and local produce, feel free to share it here. It's always good to have more options in our cooking arsenals!
Local organic asparagus en route: That hard frost we felt last week nipped the organic asparagus crop in the bud, literally. Local asparagus already is in stores but the local organic crop should be in by this weekend from the Yakima Valley, Hardiman says.
On the strawberry front: Strawberries from the berry farms of Watsonville, CA are arriving. But that endless winter we've endured here could delay our local berry harvest to later June, just like last year. The best hope for a normal harvest is for this unseasonably (and absolutely lovely) warm weather to linger for long stretches throughout May.
Broccoli is back in "stalk" (har har).
From Full Circle Farm in Carnation: Spinach, radishes and arugula!
There's often much more to labels than meets the eye. Over the past decade the powers that be have battled over country-of-origin labeling, the meaning of the word "natural," how free chickens must be to carry a free-range label and what we should expect when we see the label "organic," among scads of other concerns.
A current label that's on our brains here at work is "gluten free." I'd wager that most everyone by now has at least one friend or family member who avoids gluten, either due to allergies, Celiac disease or at the suggestion of their naturopath for better digestion. I've sat in on a few meetings where we've discussed how best to label such items at PCC stores so shoppers can find them easily. When I leave my head is spinning with visions of symbols and color coding and different wordings. One big challenge: If we help the gluten-free folks, do we also want to expand these labels with symbols or colors to represent the myriad other special diets our shoppers possess? If we do so, will the number of symbols and colors render the labels impossible to decipher?
While searching the Internet to see how other grocers handle this situation, I happened upon what may be the sweetest image ever associated with Celiac disease:
Quinoa here is part of a team of gluten-free bears named after several gluten-free grains (his buddies are Teff and Buckwheat). They hail from Montrose, NY, where they serve as ambassadors with the Westchester Celiac Sprue Support Group. Aside from being adorable, these bears travel the country (and in Quinoa's case, the globe) to visit gluten-free kids and attend show-and-tell as a way to start a conversation with classmates about food allergies.
Not sure if traveling bears are in our future, but it's good to learn about new ways of spreading awareness.
I like to bring gifts when I travel, especially local foods. It's an easy (and tasty) way to share a bit of home with people I love, especially given the bounty we enjoy in this part of the country.
I've also spent a lot of time on www.etsy.com lately looking for unique handmade gifts and typed "food" into the search bar the other day just to see what would come up. Take a look!
Groceries (not sure if they're organic ;), by buggabugs
Bacon and egg magnets by rubbishtees
Other bits of cuteness: Dangling "grilled cheese sandwich" earrings, a Hello Kitty shaped like tofu, pincushions shaped like frosted wedding cakes. Happy Friday!
A fun part of working for a food co-op is finding interesting new foods to try and new ways of cooking and eating. Our effervescent office manager, Dana, just introduced me to one of her favorite snacks: Artisana Organic Raw Coconut Butter (perhaps this is what keeps her cheerful day after day? ;)
I mentioned before the diversity of diets at our company and Dana is no exception. She must avoid peanut and tree-nut butters but has found that a tablespoon of this creamy, super rich coconut butter helps hit the spot. She'll also toss it into kale smoothies for an added flavor boost. Artisana's site has some other options, too.
Here's what it looks like up close (I'm sitting here now sniffing the jar, which makes me want to sit on a beach in some sunny place:
We'll feature more favorite snacks in the coming weeks. Feel free to share some of yours!
All kinds of olives! (plus cherry tomatoes and marinated mushrooms). You never know what will be in the office kitchen awaiting a taste test to help determine what to stock at the stores.
Looking forward to heading out to the stores in the coming weeks (between doing the rest of my job here!) to share happenings from all around. Which PCC do you shop? You'll find me most often at the Greenlake and Fremont stores, stocking up on Emerald City Salad at the deli. Kale = good stuff.
I'm talking about KUOW 94.9 FM, one of our local NPR affiliates here in the Seattle area and a radio station we support -- financially and culinarily.
We're told former President Carter AND his Secret Service entourage were fans of our deli sandwiches when they visited the station earlier this year.
This morning a trio of us met with fellow KUOW underwriters (financial supporters) including Seattle University, the Seahawks/Sounders, EMP/SFM and Blink Interactive to mingle, tour the station, discuss the economy and, of course, eat! On the menu: fresh scones and muffins from our bakery, fresh fruit (I'm a huge pineapple fan), a variety of cheeses, fresh coffee.
As an avid radio listener I especially enjoyed their radio collection.
And yes, all those phones you hear ringing during pledge drives really *are* sitting all over the office.
On KUOW I enjoy listening to "The Splendid Table" on Saturdays at 2 p.m. It's also fun hearing all the last-minute Thanksgiving disaster prep advice on Morning Edition during the holidays.