Factovore - or Fact-based Eating

I could never be a vegetarian. There are simply too many members of the animal kingdom that have had the misfortune of being made way to0 tasty by whichever process you tend to be believe in (whether God made the yellowfin tuna such a tasty sushi treat or it evolved over millions of years to find itself a desired part of my diet). I've also read and carefully considered the arguments made on both sides of the vegan/vegetarian vs. omnivore debate side for why we humans may or may not have evolved to eat meat. I'm not one to judge the choices anyone has made and I do think there is little argument against the idea that Americans in general eat waaaay too much beef, poultry, fish, etc. (a trend that is catching on around the world as developing countries try to be like us). So no. I won't be going cold turkey on cold turkey anytime soon. I do, however, want to try to line my own diet up with a sustainably acceptable (not to mention healthier) ratio of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to meat and dairy. But until recently, I struggled to find a simple rule or method to help me settle into that acceptable ratio (which I estimate is probably 2-3 servings of meat per week rather than the normal 2-3 servings per day that "the market" with its artificially low meat prices would guide one toward). Thankfully, right around the first of the year (when you're most likely to find such work) I read an account by a writer who was undergoing a similar struggle. Francis Lam writing for Salon laid out his "No Cheap Chicken" manifesto after being exhorted by a lunch meat brand to avoid its competitors' products by asking "How do you think the make cheap chicken?" The commercial was right. I have no idea exactly how they make cheap chicken (or cheap beef or cheap fish for that matter) but I've read enough Omnivore's Dilemma-type work and seen enough Food Inc.-type movies to know I don't really want to know. So, similar to Lam, I've made it my goal to eat only foods whose origins and production methods I am reasonably sure of. Food with facts. I will be a factovore. (Yep, just what you need, another term to throw in with ovo-lacto-vegetarian, locavore and agrarian-urbanist.) How does a Co-op (or a CSA of which Alison and I are members) help with this process? Answering this question goes a long way toward explaining my primary reason for wanting a local food co-op in this area. It can be about connecting consumers to the producers of their food more directly and minimizing the role of the agro-industrial complex that has come to touch almost every part of our food system. With the owners of the co-op being its customers (and not some number-crunching corporation) I can be assured that policies on what products to carry will be thoughtfully considered and be based on more than just the lowest possible price. How's the resolution going? On the meat end of things fairly well. The only beef I've eaten this month were hamburgers that came from cows raised on Alison's aunt and uncle's farm (so I REALLY know the producer) and I've avoided almost all other meat entirely (aside from the pepperoni I had a pizza a couple weeks ago). I'm still working on eating only fruits and vegetables whose origins I'm aware of and the Greens Grow CSA is helpful with that. Admittedly, giving up Reese's Peanut Butter cups and several other processed foods has been difficult. For all intents and purposes, choosing my diet based on knowing where my food comes from effectively rules out a lot of choices. How do I know exactly where the yellowfin tuna on the sushi came from? It also means paying a little more for other choices. But in the end, the price of a pound of sustainably-raised beef is an effective signal for just how much of it should be in my diet (which, in theory, could reduce other health-care related costs in the future). Feel free to share in the comments your own thought processes as you decide what foods to buy, cook and serve. In the future, in order to make this kind of decision-making a little more universally accessible, I hope to do a little more research into how to make these choices on a tight budget when "cheap calories" in processed foods and $0.99 per pound ground beef can be so tempting.

Warrior On

A big thanks to Genevieve Sherrow, author of Gluten-free Warrior, who braved the cold to come out and speak to South Philly Food Co-op this past Sunday. Genevieve first discovered she was gluten-intolerant after she moved from Philly to the Pacific Northwest to enroll in a Master’s Program in Nutrition at Bastyr University, a Seattle-based institution that specializes in natural health science degree programs. While her symptoms were partially triggered by stress, Genevieve didn’t find any stress in the transition to gluten-free living in foodie-central Seattle, host to grocery stores and restaurants stocked with lots of gluten-free options.

With her diverse training from Bastyr, including culinary classes focused on Whole Foods Production, Traditional Chinese Medicine Nutrition and Ayurvedic Nutrition, she observed her cooking abilities changing dramatically at home. Her instincts in the kitchen improved and she began experimenting with different foods and cooking techniques, and so began the evolution of Gluten-free Warrior. The cookbook focuses on whole foods that are naturally gluten-free such as whole grains (millet, buckwheat, quinoa, tef), legumes, vegetables with strong nutritional profiles like sea vegetables, root vegetables, ginger, leafy greens, some meats and fish, and Asian-style sauces and condiments (tamari, fish sauce, mirin, cooking sake, umeboshi plum vinegar),


Gluten-free Warrior contains 60 whole foods recipes, each extensively tested by at least 2 people from a group of over 30 volunteer recipe testers. Many of the recipes tested as “kid-friendly” - most surprisingly Garlic Sauteéd Collards. The book is overwhelmingly vegetarian and includes several vegan options. Gluten-free foodies who love brunch will be happy to find more than ten new breakfast recipes including warming whole grain porridges. During the Sunday night book discussion, South Philly Food Co-op was able to taste-test two recipes – The Warrior’s Jewish Apple Cake and the Blue-est Muffins prepared as a cornbread. Both were easy to make and received rave reviews by our group.


Some great questions were raised in the Q & A portion of the talk – specifically “How do you navigate the restaurant scene when your diet is gluten-free?” The future co-oper who asked this question said she had many experiences where she was told her dishes were gluten-free only to suffer a reaction a few hours later. Unaware of the consequences, a restaurant may cross contaminate gluten from other parts of the kitchen when preparing a gluten-free plate. Genevieve suggested sticking to restaurants whose cuisine generally does not contain gluten-filled ingredients. Here in South Philly we are lucky to have authentic Mexican restaurants that use corn tortillas and Vietnamese restaurants that offer rice noodles. Restaurants are catching on to the need to offer gluten-free menu options and gluten-free non-profit organizations are helping them do that. National Foundation of Celiac Awareness hosts “Appetite for Awareness”, a local gluten-free festival featuring a vendor marketplace, cooking demos, and food provided by chefs from your favorite Philly restaurants. Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG) organizes a gluten-free training and certification to restaurant owners and maintains a searchable list of participating restaurants at the website for the Gluten Free Restaurant Awareness Program.  Very helpful if you are traveling and don’t have access to a kitchen or a good grocery store! Beyond that, the best thing to do is to call the restaurant and ask if they offer gluten-free options and how they manage issues of cross-contamination in the kitchen.

If you weren’t able to make it out to the book discussion, you can catch up with Genevieve at book events around the city. Check out the Gluten Free Warrior Blog or sign up for her mailing list (glutenfreewarrior@gmail.com) to keep up-to-date on where she’ll be next. You can also purchase her book at several local bookstores:

Garland of Letters Bookstore, South Street
The Cookbook Stall, Reading Terminal Market
Wooden Shoe Books, 7th and South
Giovanni's Room, 12th and Pine
Headhouse Books, 2nd Street off South

We’d also like to thank Philly Community Wellness for being a great host to the event. Our next community event “There’s an App For That” will be on Sunday February 27th, 2011 at 6pm at Philly Community Wellness (1241 Carpenter). It’s an appetizer potluck and recipe exchange. We will also discuss our favorite food blogs, apps, and cookbooks. By the end of the night will have full bellies, food inspiration, and a community generated blog post! Stay tuned for more details.


Monday Night Dinner

I just finished reading Molly Wizenberg’s book, A Homemade Life, and now have a whole host of new recipes to try. I don’t know about you, but a quick and healthy dinner is just what I’m looking for in January and this salad meets both of those requirements. Luckily, I keep a wedge of my favorite parmesan cheese in the frig.
Red Cabbage Salad with Lemon and Black Pepper by Molly Wizenberg
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pressed garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds red cabbage
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
First, make the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Next, prepare the cabbage by cutting into quarters, remove and discard the white core, and slice the cabbage as thinly as you can. In a bowl, toss the cabbage with a large spoonful or two of the dressing. Add the parmesan and toss again. Top with freshly ground pepper and taste for seasoning.
I think you’ll find that this salad is salty, tangy and crunchy. Serve as a side dish with a some roasted chicken or pair with a crusty baguette for an easy lunch.Simple can also be perfect.

Nobody Bakes a Cake as Tasty as a Tastykake

Your out-of-town friends probably think we're known for cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, or even cream cheese. Maybe it's throwing snowballs at Santa or the late night danger of Independence Hall. Or the best starting pitching...ever. But when it comes to sweets, many Philadelphians' hearts and stomachs rest with the locally manufactured Tastykake. And for a while there it looked like Tastykake might not make it. Fortunately the company has been granted a temporary reprieve through the efforts of our plump former mayor/governor and $6.5 million in public and private financing. While the future is still unsure for Tastykake, it sure tastes sweet right now. What's your favorite? Butterscotch krimpets? Kandy Kakes? Or the fancy Tasty Klair pie?


'Portlandia' adds a little levity to sustainable living


Word of a new show on IFC is spreading around all the green-y, food-y, urban-y blogs.  "Portlandia" (starring SNL fave Fred Armisen and actress/musician Carrie Brownstein) pokes fun at the healthy, sustainable lifestyle that so many of us who would support a co-op tend to take so seriously sometimes and which has become synonymous with the title city.  The first episode is available at the Portlandia website.

Holly Richmond at Grist asks "how embarrassingly accurate" is Portlandia in its parody of all things sustainable?

Local, organic food

Portlandia: In the pilot, a waitress tells Brownstein and Armisen that the chicken they're about to eat, Collin, "is a heritage breed, woodland-raised chicken that's been fed a diet of sheep's milk, soy, and hazelnuts." But before they even order, they skeptically eye Collin's papers and snapshot, ask if he was allowed to frolic with friends, and drive 30 miles to scope out the farm where Collin was raised.

Real life: I've never driven 30 miles to check out my dinner, but yes, obviously it matters where our food comes from.

I'm on a recent "know where it comes from" kick myself (which I'll talk about in a future blog post) and I have actually considered taking a ride to check out where my beef or chicken is coming from. A combination of laziness and not having the time has kept me from doing that, resulting in a pretty much vegetarian lifestyle for the last couple of weeks.

It seems like South Philly, with its tightly-packed houses, walkable blocks, public transportation, bike culture, community of food co-op supporters and chronically underachieving professional basketball team is everything that Portland wants everyone to think Portland is.

Anyway, check out the show. If we can't laugh at ourselves, whom can we laugh at? Feel free to leave a comment here, especially if you see a little of yourself in the parody.


Sweet Potato Tacos

We made these tacos twice in the past two weeks. This recipe is adapted from the Sweet Potato Quesadillas recipe found in (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). They are simple, delicious, use in-season, local foods, and are incredibly healthy . . . who can ask for anything more!!


  • 2 medium sweet potatoes

  • 1/2 onion

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tbsp basil, 1 tsp cumin, chile powder to taste (Adjust seasoning to what you have on hand.)

  • olive oil for sauté

  • flour tortillas

  • Brie or other medium soft cheese

  • Swiss Chard, or other greens - clean and chop (Be generous with the amount as the greens will shrink significantly!)

**I've also been chopping the stems of the chard and sauteing them with the garlic and onion

Cut sweet potatoes into chunks, cook in steamer basket until soft, then mash. Chop and sauté garlic and onion in a large skillet. When just about done to your likeness, toss in the greens and steam. Add spices and sweet potato and mix well.

Warm tortillas in oven or broiler (check out Tortilleria y San Roman, 951 S. 9th Street, in the Italian Market for fresh tortillas . . . only available on the weekends!) Fill warm tortillas with sweet potato mixture and top with soft cheese.


Meet a Committee Member: Maria Camoratto

On which committee do you serve?

Vice Chair of Steering Committee

What do you do for a living?

Architect/Community Development

How did you get involved with the food co-op?

I moved to Philadelphia from Brooklyn and asked my neighbors and friends in this area if there was a food co-op nearby. I was interested in meeting some like-minded people as well as shopping at a local food store where I would have a say in the planning and organization. Basically, I sought out the South Philly Food Co-op!

Why do you want a food co-op in South Philly?

My favorite place to shop for food is the Farmer's Market by the fountain at S 11th and Passyunk. I like that the food is locally grown. The problem is that it's only once a week and only a portion of the year. I'm looking forward to a food co-op in South Philly so I can shop somewhere that has healthy local food options as well as an interest in health and community.

Why should people join a food co-op?

There are a lot of reasons to join a food co-op. One would be to have a voice in the business where you buy your food. One would be to support your local community to help provide jobs and keep businesses local. Another reason would be to take part in a unique community where people work and learn and shop. Lots of reasons, but those are the few that come to mind immediately.

What is your favorite meal to cook and why?

I just made polenta with roasted red and yellow peppers and onions over top. It was delicious!

Join the SPFC for a book discussion with Genevieve Sherrow, author of Gluten Free Warrior

Hello Future South Philly Food Co-op Shoppers,

We know that this is a little last minute, but this Sunday, January 23, at 6pm, we will be hosting a lively book discussion and Q&A with Gluten Free Warrior author Genevieve Sherrow. We are excited to have Genevieve be a part of the first of many South Philly Food Co-op educational sessions. Food from the book will be available for sampling, and books will be available for purchase. More about the book and Genevieve are described below. This event is free to the public. That said, we will gladly accept any donations toward our co-op effort during this event.

Date/Time of Event: Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 6:00

Location: Philly Community Wellness, 1241 Carpenter St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Gluten Free Warrior Website: http://gfwarrior.blogspot.com/

As space is limited, please RSVP for this event by doing one of the following:

1) Filling out this form http://tinyurl.com/spfcjan2011event

2) Emailing: cassieplummer@gmail.com

If you can’t make this event, be on the lookout for future events, we hope to have one every month.

About the Book:

Gluten-free Warrior is a therapeutic whole foods cookbook designed for individuals living gluten-free and wheat-free. Inspired by Indian, East Asian and Contemporary North American cuisines, the book includes 60 hand-crafted and field-tested recipes featuring warming breakfast porridges, egg scrambles, soulful soups, uniquely inspired vegetable sides, and satisfying main dishes.

Also found in the book are invaluable educational resources for gluten-free living including a guide to GF grains and tips on budgeting for GF diets. Gluten-free Warrior transforms the word nourishment, and will undoubtedly unearth the warrior inside you.

About the Author:

Genevieve Sherrow is a nutritionist, food writer and natural foods chef based in South Philadelphia. In 2009, she earned a Master’s of Science in Nutrition at Bastyr University in Seattle.  As she was entering her graduate program, Genevieve discovered that she was gluten intolerant. Her nutrition and culinary training gave her the resources she needed to begin using a whole foods approach to gluten-free cooking. Inspiration from her nutrition studies motivated Genevieve to write Gluten-free Warrior, a therapeutic whole foods cookbook for individuals with gluten and wheat allergies. Genevieve has written extensively about gluten-free living for the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Bastyr University, and for her own blog, Nourishing Foods (http://wholefoodreflections.blogspot.com/).

Meet a Committee Member: Cassie Plummer

On which committee do you serve?

Steering and Legal/Finance - I am the Inter-Committee Liason, fondly known as ICL.

What do you do for a living?

Pharmacist/Medical Writer

How did you get involved with the food co-op?

I saw a flier and attended one of the first organizing meetings. At that time, I was looking for a way to become more connected to my community.  I bake a lot and would like a source of more local, and less expensive dry goods. The desire and need for good healthy food is something we have in common and it's exciting to think about a diverse community coming together, sharing and learning from each other under this common theme.

Why do you want a food co-op in South Philly?

I think the community aspect of a food co-op is the one of the biggest draws. I come from a small town where everyone knows each other. I play ultimate frisbee, a very community driven sport. Food should be about community too, including shopping for food!

Why should people join a food co-op?

Being a member of a co-op gives you a voice in how the business is run, what foods/products are carried, and what services are offered. Every member will have an opportunity to run for the board of directors, and every member will have vote on key issues. As a community run business, your voice will be heard much more clearly.

And did I mention community? You'll have the opportunity to meet and know your neighbors better!

What is your favorite meal to cook and why?

Forget meals....let's move to dessert. I love dessert. My favorite thing to bake is chocolate cake with raspberry filling and chocolate frosting... 4 layers = a meal, one layer for each course!

The Food Lover's Cleanse: Not a Contradiction in Terms

A friend and I have been doing the Bon Appetit Food Lover's Cleanse for about a week now, and since we haven't yet broken into Paesano's in the middle of the night, I thought I'd mention it here.

She’s doing it in preparation for her February wedding, and I’m doing it to cast out the demons of Hanukkah brisket, Christmas cookies, hanging-out-with-an-old-girlfriend meatballs, and about half a pound of mortadella at 3AM on New Year’s Day.

I‘m usually iffy on diets and cleanses, but this is more of a set of guidelines to give your digestive system a rest after holiday indulgences. The recipes are sourced from popular  everyman-foodie blogs like 101 Cookbooks and Orangette. The term “weight loss” is never used.

My cleanse buddy and I are each cooking a few dishes from the program and sharing them with each other. Here’s a seasonal recipe that I really loved. For the sake of budget and convenience, I used extra virgin olive oil instead of the oils listed. I also shredded the celeriac in my food processor instead of breaking out the mandoline during a hangover.

PS: Even though the program suggests it, we are NOT giving up coffee. That would require a medical emergency. Have any of you tried a cleanse? Share your success/horror stories/out-of-body experiences below.