Saturday, April 16, 2011
Helping the homeless in San Diego, 1stSaturdays.org, is an organization based in the San Diego area. Comprised of a group of friends, and friends of friends, they get together on the 1st Saturday of every month. Together they distribute clothes, supplies, personal items, and food and drinks to the homeless in San Diego. The group is not associated or affiliated with any groups or organizations. Just friends and neighbors helping friends and neighbors!
Isn't that the way it's suppose to be?
According to 1stSaturdays.org the 1st goal of the organization is to help the homeless community in San Diego. The 2nd goal is to add positive energy and love into the world and into our lives at the same time. So give a shout if you have something that can help out another.
You can check them out here:
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Steve Sando (right) with Félix Martinez Gomez and his family, near Cuicatlan, Oaxaca. They grow chilhuacle chiles, essential to so many Oaxacan dishes but rare now thanks to several years of disturbed weather patterns.
International trade can wreak havoc on small farmers and the global food culture: impoverishing peasants, destroying old ways of cooking, and reducing biodiversity. Now and then, however, international trade can have the opposite effect, building up farmers instead of rolling over them, preserving heritage foods instead of flooding the fields with a few varieties from big agribusiness.Rancho Gordo's Xoxoc Project (pronounced 'sho-shoc,' a word derived from the prickly pear cactus called xoconostle) is one of these rare positive stories about how trade can help small farmers and food artisans. (Grist writer Tom Philpott has some excellent pieces, such as this one, about the negative effects of trade on Mexican farmers and Mexican society.)
Gabriel Cortés Garcia and Yunuén Carrillo Quiroz, founders of Xoxoc
The collaboration with the already established Xoxoc company started when Steve Sando, the founder and owner of the Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Food company, was on one of his frequent trips to Mexico. Always looking for interesting heirloom beans to plant in California and sell to his devoted customers (who include me), one of his contacts told him that he should meet with the Xoxoc collaborative. Sando’s contact was right: Xoxoc led him to interesting beans like Zarco, from Quanajuato, and Ayocote Morado, from Hildago. But he realized that his plan to bring beans back as seed for planting in California wasn’t the best approach — importing beans directly from the Mexican farmers would be better. That way, the farmers could get a good price for their crop and continue to plant heirloom varieties, and his company would get a reliable supply of the beans in the near term. As the project matured, Rancho Gordo added new products to the Xoxoc Project line, including omega-3 rich chia seeds, a Mexican oregano that he calls “oregano indio.” (Although it is probably not related to European oregano, as I explained in a post for Mental Masala.)
The most recent initiative from Rancho Gordo is the tortilla project. Rancho Gordo buys dried heirloom corn from the bean farmers involved in the Xoxoc project, imports it, then has the La Palma tortillaria in San Francisco’s Mission District make fresh tortillas to sell at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and the Rancho Gordo store in Napa. I've tried them several times and they are delicious -- full of corn flavor, lacking that unappetizing chemical aroma emitted by so many commercial brands. And it feels good to be supporting small farmers and heirloom corn varieties.
I first met Steve a few years ago during the infamous Carlo Petrini dust-up in San Francisco (covered by Bonnie at the Ethicurean) and I run into him here and there in the Bay Area at farmers markets, the Eat Real Festival in Oakland, and at his store in Napa. I wanted to learn more about the Xoxoc Project, so I asked Steve some questions via email.
Where do your Mexican farmer-partners live, and what's the terrain like there?
They live in an ex-hacienda in the state of Hidalgo. The closest town is called Chapantongo, not too far from Ixmiquilpan. The land has been ruined by hundreds of years of cattle grazing, and the only thing that seems to grow now are the cactus paddles and their fruit. The locals have a long tradition of making things out of the fruit. Xoxoc took it a step further and made a commercial venture.
The xoconostle look like prickly pears (or tunas) but the seeds are all in the center instead of throughout and the 'meat' is very sour; you wouldn't eat it raw. But it's an essential ingredient in dishes like mole de olla [a spicy meat stew] and certain salsas.. . . Read more . . .