As I look at my stack of current to-be-finished books, I consider the recent proclamation of the death of the book, so called by some bloggers and news outlets. This isn’t really what was declared. But Seth Godin, marketing guru, announced that he would no longer publish (e-books included) the traditional way. He didn’t announce the death of reading. Though some might interpret it that way. Consider this exchange in the comments section from a blog post yesterday that elicited 2500 tweets.

Charity FootballClub: I’m SO OVER reading…it’s why i stick with twitter cos it’s quick , short and sharp. Linchpin the hard copy book is the last I bought and it’s taken a while but I’m getting to the end! as for eBooks! nah…click , close file …game over!

Then Thefriendraiser suggested that reading would help gain comprehension and critical thinking skills. To which this commenter suggested:

I disagree Thefriendraiser. I think Charity FootballClub should stop reading so he/she does not gain anymore comprehension and critical thinking skills. That way there will be one less person i have to compete with for a job!

Well said.

A story like this is a good example of how we apply our own spin, based on our fears or desires. Would-be slackers (above) see it as permission to not read, because they’re already looking for an excuse. Would-be writers fear there will be no use for the book buried inside them. The tech-obsessed feed like vultures on stories like this as proof of the e-medium’s superiority over all other mediums.

Here are two good pieces on the publishing industry. This New Yorker piece “Publish or Perish: Can the iPad topple the Kindle, and save the book business?”, despite being about the battle between e-readers, nonetheless does a good job of explaining the traditional book publishing business and its impact on authors. This NY Times article on self-publishing offers some statistics on the trend.

There are three parts to this dialog: reading, books and publishing. They are independent of each other in a sense. Reading (of the deep and focused kind) is under threat from all sorts of distractions. Books (actual books of the dog-eared, margin-scrawled kind) are under threat, if you can call it that, from the electronic variety. I say “if you can call it that” because an author’s work is still being read, a book purchased. (The delicious visual pleasure of good book design might slowly disappear. But find hope in AIGA’s 50 Books 50 Covers for award-winning book design. Alive and kicking.) And well, it appears that the world is calling on traditional book publishing to change, and maybe that’s a good thing, from a democracy standpoint.

Ventures like Good Bookery, that I’m involved in, along with co-creators of the collaborative book Portland Bottom Line on small business sustainable practices, offer the potential for a much more rich, multi-faceted experience than traditional publishing—the social book, as Peter Korchnak calls it. Our Portland Story is another example that takes the tangible artifact that is book and puts a new spin on it. Collaborations are not new, but creative people, who happen to love books, are figuring out ways to make books…differently.

What I really came here for, though, was to praise books.

I will always want to smell and touch a book, to scribble notes in the margin, to dog ear pages that hold special meaning. Loaning and borrowing books are acts of love and connection. When I have to wait for weeks or months for a book from the library, I can’t help feeling connected to the hundreds of people who wanted or needed that book as much as I did. I have a hard time imagining a world where we won’t gather with strangers in a store like Powell’s Books saying “excuse me, pardon me” as we squeeze past each other in the aisles. A book satisfies like a long, deep conversation or a several-hour meal. In a book, you can fall in love, fight a war, solve a crime, cross a sea. Yes, you can do all those things online, but not in the same way. Why? Because staring at black words on a white page is like staring at a blank canvas. You can spill your mental pictures onto it, heightening the experience.

I’ll leave you with this:

The Death of Reading

By Jeffery Deaver

I’ve got what I think is the very best job.
I have no commute; I can dress like a slob.
I get paid to make up things–isn’t that neat?
Just like at the White House and 10 Downing Street.

Only in my case there’s no dereliction.
In fact, lying’s expected when you’re writing fiction.
So imagine my horror, imagine my fear
When I read in the press that the end was near.

But not Armageddon or crazed terrorists.
No, the death of reading was the article’s gist.
Teachers and parents and critics all share it:
That like Monty Python’s proverbial parrot

Reading is dead, deceased, pushing up daisies.
People are growing increasingly lazy,
lured by the siren of electronic toys
That fill up their lives with meaningless noise.

PlayStations, Facebook, big-screen TVs
And mobile phones smarter than I’ll ever be.
We pray at the altar of our brand-new God,
Who’s powerful and wise and whose name is iPod.

Now, if people are no longer going to read,
Then writers are something that nobody needs.
This made my heart tremble and made my hands shake
And I considered what other jobs I might take.

But looking for work to find something new,
I decided that I all I could possibly do
Involved making lattes and learning to say,
“Let me tell you about our specials today.”

But before heading off to my overpriced shrink,
I decided it might be best to rethink
these terrible rumors that we’ve all heard
About the demise of the written word.

Now, if truly readers are dying off fast,
That suggests there were masses of them in the past,
But I can hardly imagine when that might have been.
Who had, after all, any time to read when

You were fighting off lions with your bare hands
And wandering nomadic across desert sands.
True, reading wasn’t past everyone’s reach,
But stone tablets weren’t popular reads at the beach.

In ancient Rome, yes, people read more,
But not mass-market scrolls from their local drug store.
And Latin, oh, please . . . once your lessons were done
Your life span was over, and your neighbors were Huns.

In medieval times, there was always the hope
That you might learn to read—if you worked for the Pope,
Or you were a royal or other elite,
Which left most of Europe up illiterate creek

Then Gutenberg invented movable letters,
Making access to books a little bit better.
Though another small problem existed, of course,
That the smallest of books cost more than your horse.

Victoria’s queen; tuppence novels arrive.
And everywhere interest in reading thrives.
But despite what the doomsayers might be wishing,
The data show Dickens sold far less than Grisham.

Well, if the past hardly proves what the critics say,
Then how ’bout the state of reading today?
To find out if no one reads anymore
I went to–where else?—my local book store,

Which I couldn’t help notice was jammed to the gills,
And virtually every shelf was filled
With books on more subjects than I knew existed
And dozens of posters on which were listed

Upcoming visits by writers galore,
Who’d read to their fans right there in the store:
Lit’rature, poems, true crimes about killers
And self-help and travel, and—oh, yeah—thrillers.

And if crowded stores turn you into a grouch,
You don’t even need to get off your couch.
Click on Amazon’s site and browse online
For ten million titles, all day long, any time.

A few years ago when I was downtown,
Doing some shopping, just strolling around
I nearly died in a massive stampede
Of children, no less, in desperate need

To purchase their latest heart’s desire,
No batteries required, no software, no wires,
A book’s what they sought and they’d waiting all day.
Who’s this Harry Potter guy, anyway?

We love reading so much that the books we now see
Are changing from what they used to be.
Originally written in clay and on leaves,
Books are now “printed” on digital screens.

Why, I got on an airplane the other day
And I heard this announcement on the PA:
“Welcome aboard, we’ll soon be underway.
Please put telephones, e-books and Kindles away.”

So forgive me, the ghosts of Lake Windermere,
And all other poets that we hold so dear,
Not to mention the late and the great Dr. Suess,
For my rhyming transgressions and rhythmic abuse,

But I simply couldn’t sit back and ignore
This lie that nobody reads anymore.
And I’ll share some more proof that there’s nothing to fear:
Why, just look around at our gathering here.

We’ve traveled for thousands and thousands of miles
from the Mideast, from Europe, the Pacific Rim isles.
We’ve managed to get here, whatever it took.
For something immortal . . . our passion for books.

© 2006 Jeffery W. Deaver

(In the spirit of celebrating authors, if you copy this poem, please include the copyright and link to his website.)

What one book has left the biggest impression on you? Why?

A friend emailed with a problem. Her gardening club loved her tales of digging in the dirt and her near-obsessive, homesteader-like canning and preserving activities that they asked her to write an article for their newsletter.

Then panic set in, so she asked me how write an article, which is funny for two reasons. One, that she asked me; I feel like I fumble through this. And two, her emails are already full of article-ready descriptions of her fruits and her labor, like this one:

I’ve been hanging out my bathroom window picking fresh figs. I’ve got a jar of figs in vodka. Will be doing another in bourbon later. Fig jam and chutney are on the list for this weekend. I guess there are worse problems to have.

But her question made me realize that we often want to know what steps to take for a specific endeavor. There is no lack of information out there but there is often too much and not the right information…for what we need. My brother, who is a great cook, once called to ask me how to fry an egg. See what I mean?

This is by no means comprehensive or in order of importance. But this is what I told her, and it’s a good place to start:

Trust your voice. Voice is important and one already exists in your emails to me. It’s too easy to sound stiff and awkwardly academic just because you have to write for publication. Don’t let that happen.

Read similar articles. Reread articles in your cooking magazines but with a new eye. Notice how they’re constructed and what devices are used. I just read one on butter, for example, and the author started with personal anecdotes and then went into history a few paragraphs in.

Write all the way through. Then go back and edit. Don’t rethink or fuss with the words as you go. It’ll stop ideas from coming. Really, DON’T.

Make it make sense. Hint at what you plan to cover in the first paragraph. If it’s a longer piece, add subheads. I find that adding subheads forces me to create a logical structure. Ideally, there should be an overall point; and not just be a rambling essay on your thoughts about growing and preserving food, mainly because there’s too much to say on that topic in one short article.

Add a quote or cite a reference. This adds credibility and texture to an article. (I looked back in one of her emails and she was one step ahead of me as she quoted Thomas Jefferson: “On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally’s cellar.” Note the brilliant metaphor!)

Be descriptive. As they say “Show, don’t tell.” Don’t just say fig. Instead, describe its texture and color, its squishiness. Like, “You’ll know a fig is ripe if it feels a bit like a woman’s breast.” Maybe not that, but you get the idea.

Think like the reader. What do you want when you read about the same subject? What makes you like an article? What tips do you find useful? It doesn’t hurt to ask the editor what their readership looks for.

I forgot to tell her two things. (Are you reading Eileen?)

Walk away. Then come back a day or two later. The same holds true for any creative endeavor (we’re both designers by vocation; picklers by avocation). You have to put aside your efforts and let the ideas marinate—not unlike figs in bourbon. Active thought, followed by incubation, followed by ah-ha moment…or so we hope on that last one.

Have fun.

July’s produce log has proved a little challenging to get finished. I could blame it on the fact that I’m too busy eating but that wouldn’t be entirely true.

If this is your first visit, you’re seeing a month-by-month log of fresh produce, with a tally to see how my local versus non-local dollars compare. See April Produce Log for an introduction to the project. Here are May and June. You can download each one as a PDF. Here is July. Each month includes recipe ideas, links and PDFs to download.

Scroll down for more on July’s produce, reflections on eating in summer and recipe ideas.

It’s about this time in August that I want to push the pause button. I have yet to consume vast quantities of artichokes and because of that I’m not ready to see cantaloupe or even corn. Oregon’s artichokes are about a month late due to less-than-optimal weather.

This feeling of wanting to slow the tide of earthly delights is really just silly anxiety, stemming from a desire to savor as much and as deeply as possible. No one is stopping me, of course. To savor can imply taking time to create a spectacular dish. But savoring can just as easily mean standing at the kitchen counter eating a peach and licking the juice that drips down your arm.

I wrote about the comforts of seasonal eating and how limiting to what’s in season simplifies and allows you to enjoy eating on a different level. The desire to freeze the moment is that the overabundance from the garden and the sheer variety from the market begs for more time to enjoy it. There are only so many opportunities to cook for friends, which is the best way to celebrate all this bounty. In the absence of guests, I bang on my neighbor’s window with a big zucchini, hand a big bunch of basil to the teenager walking down the sidewalk, or give strawberries to the guy across the street.

Freezing the moment is what seasonal eating does, for better or worse. You’re up to your eyeballs in basil but you have to enjoy every leaf. For soon it won’t be there (except in frozen form, which is pretty darn good).

What’s Cooking?

Berries. Three visits to a local farm yielded 11 pounds of berries (a couple more visits needed), most of which go in the freezer. But not before making blueberry sorbetto topped with raspberries, with a little pinot noir thrown in for fun. And also not before making berry crisp, with marionberries and peaches. For those who don’t like to bake, this is a crowd pleaser and idiot proof (unless you burn it under the broiler). Make your own raspberry vinegar by tossing a handful of raspberries in some champagne or white wine vinegar in a mason jar and let sit in the sun. Strain out the berries once the vinegar has turned nice and red.

Carrots & Zucchini. I bought a large bunch of carrots and then pulled more from the garden, which is too many if you don’t love carrots. So I experimented with pickled carrots (refrigerator style) to make use of them. I loosely followed this recipe but I think I should have cooked the carrots longer. Together with my pickled zucchini (which I modified to make savory with no sugar, added garlic, dill, onions and coriander seed), I have ready snacks to put out when guests come over. See June’s log for other zucchini recipes.

Arugula. It’s growing like gangbusters this year which means eating a salad a day, sometimes two. Because of arugula’s peppery flavor, the sweetness of a raspberry vinegar dressing compliments the kick. When you have too many greens you have no choice but to start eating breakfast salad. There’s at least one other person out there who wants savory for breakfast. Use any lettuce or vegetables you like. Pictured is my take on it with arugula, shredded carrots and sunflower seeds, along with the soft-boiled eggs.

Beans. Last year, my beans died a horrible death. This year, I can’t keep up. I’m growing the Italian romano beans—a long, flat, wide bean with a nutty, sweet flavor that almost double in size overnight. My father used to make stewed beans that we had with polenta—the polenta being a poor man’s substitute for meat in Italy. I loved this dish; there was something wonderful about how the beans almost fell apart. I now know it’s called fagiolini in umido. Like many Italian recipes there are no hard and fast rules, unless it’s the rules of the person whose recipe you’re using. I don’t blanch my beans first and I also add torn fresh basil and shaved parmigiano at the end.

Artichokes. Sorely missing from this month’s log, a bag of baby artichokes are sitting in the fridge. I couldn’t want till next month to encourage trying this recipe. La vignarola is a Roman spring vegetable stew. Because Oregon’s artichokes are late, one can enjoy a spring dish in summer. The Italians are always improvising with what’s available. The catch here is that fava beans are called for and the planets didn’t align properly for the two vegetables to co-occur. The overabundant beans (see above) will have to be the understudy for favas.

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Phew. A long post but there’s a lot to say. If you use one of these recipes, let me know how it goes. If you have a favorite recipe using one of these fruits or vegetables, please comment!

This week ends National Farmers Market Week. Even with access to one of the consistently rated-top farmers markets in the country—Portland Farmers Market— I’m still surprised there is such a week. In spite of the gloomy picture of the health of the average American and the crushing power of the industrial food complex, we have something to celebrate. There are now about 6100 markets across the country, a 16 percent increase over last year. Go here to find a farmers market near you.

Following is a tribute to the impact of farmer’s markets, with a focus on the Portland Farmer’s Market and highlighting one of their sustainability efforts. Their clearly defined mission and success at executing goals is an inspiration for any business or nonprofit.

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Beyond Food: A Success Story

One look and it’s easy to imagine how farmers’ markets nurture communities—piles of lush, colorful bounty and smiling people milling about. But behind the sights, sounds and scents are well-crafted success stories. Like many markets, Portland Farmers Market (PFM) has a mission to sustain local growers and food producers, strengthen the local food economy and create community gathering places. There are also peripheral, sometimes overlooked, side benefits that inspire, delight and sustain us all.

Sustaining Local Economies

Every dollar spent at a farmer’s market guarantees the continued existence of farms. The loss of these farms would mean a risk of overdevelopment; the reduction of healthy food options, jobs and local dollars; and an increase in reliance on fossil fuels used to ship food long distances. It is suggested that ninety cents of every dollar spent on locally grown food remains in the local economy as opposed to twenty-five cents if spent on food that is shipped in. In an inspiring reversal of a century-old trend, there has been a rise in new farms—many small and many women-owned—as consciousness rises about the need for more meaningful connection to the sources of our food.

Planning for Change

Farmers’ markets can be agents of change beyond creating thriving local food systems. PFM’s strategic plan includes a number of sustainability efforts—one being a 3-year waste-reduction program named Evergreen. PFM exceeded their first-year goal of a 50-percent diversion rate (from landfill to recycling/composting). With this robust program, PFM calculated waste, set attainable targets, created stations and signage, as well as education resources for vendors and shoppers.

All organizations face challenges when they embark on sustainability efforts. Recycling and composting standards change and vary from place to place, which means that the Evergreen program needed to be flexible to accommodate this uncertainty. An example is what is considered compostable in one jurisdiction might not be in another. Food packaging that claims to be compostable may not meet existing standards. Greenwashing is an ongoing problem, which makes it hard to validate products and services. And like most nonprofits, budgets and staff are often limited, making it hard to do all that you want with a program like this. But as Anna Curtain, brainchild of Evergreen, says, “We try not to let the perfect get in the way of the good.”

Collaborating

Without doubt, these efforts require pooling knowledge and resources. PFM collaborated with many entities—too numerous to list. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a great staff to use the village to create a vigorous commons. They took advantage of a Mayor’s grant to fund the planning and execution of the Evergreen program and sought the expertise of an event greening company to help them measure and predict waste. Adapting an existing model of a farmer’s market recycling station from another organization allowed them to put their energy into tailoring features specific to their needs and our local community.

Fostering Goodness

It is said that shopping at a farmer’s market creates ten times the interactions than at a typical grocery store. These connections that develop among and between shoppers and vendors satisfy a craving that people have to connect in more authentic ways than today’s world often allows. Musicians entertain, chefs inspire, farmers teach. Portland Farmers Market has created programs that range from greater access for low-income individuals to buy market produce, a market-friendly bike station, recipe station, and kids cooking events, to name a few. And many food purveyors like picklers, chocolatiers, popsicliers and bakers have had their start at the market. Over the years, 50 such vendors then blossomed into bricks-and-mortar businesses. There is a ongoing effort to nourish these budding foodpreneurs.

Pictured above (L to R): Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans from The Farmers Feast cooking up mushrooms, Patreece DeNoble with her artichokes, and a market shopper sampling from 30-plus tomatoes at the Tomato Fiesta event. Evergreen booth: photo by Allison Jones.

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Do you have a farmer’s market near you? What do you get out of visiting your market, aside from the food you take home? Has it changed the way you eat?

I was reminded recently of a trip gone afoul back in September by someone who read a review I wrote of a cooking school I attended. Not that the experience was easy to forget; I still wince when I think of where else $3000 could have gone. Then again, that money might have disappeared like ashes strewn in the wind on nothing significant.

I won’t go into the gory details. Because in the end details don’t matter as much as we think they do. When we focus on the details, we miss what really matters. And sometimes we use the details to avoid looking at what really matters.

But a couple details for context. I’d been dumped via email when I got to Italy, which I guess is better than being dumped via a post-it. I was far better off without the relationship, but it was still lame and cowardly. I was alone thousands of miles away and watching randy Italians nuzzling each other on every street corner. They do that…a lot…everywhere.

I set my sights on the cooking adventure I was about to embark on. But because of sloppy handling of details on the cooking school owner’s part (enough to justify a refund I was too chicken to ask for), and a rather morose personality to boot, I found myself in place that should have otherwise been pretty blissful. In light of my recent cyber dumping, exhaustion from travel, speaking in my non-native tongue, and a nasty cold coming on, I was in a pretty fragile state.

Here I was doing something I love—cooking—and seeing the joy sucked out of it. And I was pissed off that I was letting someone suck my joy.

Is there anything good in this story, you might be wondering right about now?

Well, yes, I did enjoy a lot of good food and wine. It all sounds pretty privileged to have this opportunity, which was one reason I had to get hold of myself. I reminded myself that travel isn’t supposed to be all fun. I thought about how it would sound when I returned home. Friends and family would want to hear about my amazing week cooking in southern Italy. And how much of an ungrateful jerk I’d sound like if I told them I’d been pretty miserable.

Jonah Lehrer talks about the cognitive benefits of travel, which you can read here. In it, he says “…if we want to experience the creative benefits of travel, then we have to re-think its raison d’ètre. Most people, after all, escape to Paris so they don’t have to think about those troubles they left behind. But here’s the ironic twist: our mind is most likely to solve our stubbornest problems while sitting in a swank Left Bank café.”

We travel, I decided, to go up to and beyond the edges of our comfort zones. We don’t envision missed trains, hotel rooms that smell funny or someone stealing our credit card information to charge $777 worth of WalMart goods. (There went my never-shopped-at-WallMart streak.) We want not to bawl on a sidewalk at 6:00 in the morning in a town in the middle of nowhere because we’re exhausted, confused and missed the only bus of the day. But bawl we do (or at least I do). But then angels with packages of tissue swoop down from above and you have no choice but to embrace your sloppy mess of humanity right then and there.

It doesn’t traveling to force us to embrace the uncomfortable. But when we travel, we’re not at the top of our game like we are when we know our surroundings. We take this familiarity for granted. Familiarity is great. But it doesn’t push us.

We’re more alive when we’ve gone to, and beyond, our edges even if what’s happening sucks by most travel standards. We look back months or years later and forget the mishaps. That’s all well and good. But there’s gold in these mishaps. Mining it in the moment, instead of looking back much later on the good stuff, makes us learn more about ourselves and what we’re made of. Those necessary evils of deciphering train schedules, avoiding cultural gaffes, and calculating tips in a foreign currency are when the brain synapses really get going. This is the gold.

The same gold is found in other discomfort zones when we learn to paint, swing a racquet, utter foreign words, play the guitar—and stink at it. We’re too eager to make the uncomfortable part to go away. Embracing our fumbling is what they mean by Beginner’s Mind.

One night at the cooking school, we had dinner guests. A kind, soft-spoken man named Alessandro sat next to me. A writer and an olive oil producer, he and I talked in half English-half Italian most of the evening. I sensed he was a kindred spirit, and when we were alone I asked how I could travel halfway around the world to find myself in a kitchen with this guy (reliving experiences with my father). He told me three things. As soon as he said them, I knew I had gold. I was thankful for the presence of mind to know I had gold despite my pounding head and stuffy nose. (He was the second angel.)

One of them was this: “Perhaps you had to travel all this way to figure out something important. And you must write about it.”

I’m not sure yet what I figured out. But I do know it’s perfectly normal to come back from a vacation feeling like you’d wandered into a war zone.

Got a travel-weary story and a lesson learned? Share it!

I bought tomatoes today.

This is not earth-shattering news. But they were the first fresh tomatoes I’ve bought in months except for some romas for a friend’s Mexican-themed dinner party. This didn’t take a heroic feat of delaying gratification. But that’s what is so interesting about seasonal eating. It can come on slowly and naturally to the point where it’s just comfortable and sensible.

Aside from the obvious benefits of seasonal eating—health, taste and supporting local agriculture—there are several no-less-important aspects to it.

The joy of novelty.

There is a certain kind of joy when we experience newness. This is why the anticipation of a first kiss is so good. The desire for the taste of basil or sweet corn never dies. But the wait makes the getting so much better. What comes with nearly always getting what we want when we want it, is often an unsatisfying gratification. The forced slowing down and waiting till the tomato seed germinates, flowers and then bears fruit makes tomatoes taste much better than if you’d been eaten them all year—whether it’s you or someone else doing the growing.

Cupping the velvety warm tomato gave me a little jolt of excitement. It was just waiting for a drizzle of good olive oil and some basil that finally decided to produce some leaves. A mouthful of summer.

Simplicity and creativity.

The tyranny of too many choices can suck the potential joy out of any endeavor, leaving you spending more time deciding than enjoying. Within the limited parameters of eating with the seasons, you’re free to be more creative. Without limits, there’s more chaos.

Take asparagus, for example. If you ate asparagus only during the weeks it was in season near you, you’d be more likely to make soup once, try a risotto next time, toss it on the grill after that, add it to a salad one day, throw it in a pasta another day. Frankly, till you’re sick of it! This simplicity of choice forces culinary creativity. If you ate asparagus whenever it appeared in the grocery store, you’d prepare it the same way you always do.

The clarity of seasonal.

There is no doubt that you become more sensitive and aware of what grows when, how it grows, what it pairs well with, how weather impacts a harvest and what is involved in getting it to you, when you eat with the seasons. In other words, the whole picture becomes clear, and with that clarity comes knowledge, intelligence and respect.

Once, heavy rains prevented the artichoke farmer from showing up at the market, which meant nixing my dinner party centerpiece of grandma’s stuffed artichokes. I could picture and appreciate mud-caked wheels and freeing a tractor stuck in the earth.

Many wince at the cost of raspberries. But there’s no better way to appreciate their high cost than to squat next to a raspberry bush, scratched arms and all, gingerly plucking the succulent jewels off the vine. You can only get this kind of clarity when the fruit is in season.

The conviviality of local.

By definition, seasonal eating is local eating. It is said that shoppers at farmers markets have 10 times the number of interactions than at a typical grocery store. The visual appeal of markets and farms puts people in a more open and engaging frame of mind. Recipes, stories and information shared among shoppers and farmers fosters a sense of community. This lively exchange is not happening in the cereal aisle at Safeway.

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I often remind myself that I live in a bubble here in the Pacific Northwest. There are many food wastelands in this country. In the middle of the heartland in Peoria, Illinois, for example, where my mother lives, fresh, seasonal food is nearly nonexistent. This, despite the ocean of corn (for animal feed, sweeteners and additives) spreading out for miles and miles. I am under no illusion that access—not to mention a 10-month growing season here—makes seasonal eating much easier.

This is just [good] food for thought. Do you have a seasonal eating tale? Is it easy to do where you live? Do you grow your own food? Share your thoughts.

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There are many great sources on seasonal eating. Here are just a few:

• Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

• Epicurious: An Interactive Seasonal Ingredient Map, including other goodies on that page like interviews with Alice Waters and Michael Pollan.

A New Way to Think About Eating, review by Jason Epstein on Michael Pollan.

Here it is July 2nd already. June required several new drawings as more and more produce is becoming available. The color palette is opening up, which, in addition to beautiful meals, also means a larger variety of vitamins and minerals. An Eat the Rainbow post is soon to come that explores the range of antioxidants in the many colors of foods, and their benefits.

If you’re new here, visit April and May produce logs for an introduction to my yearlong project to track my fresh produce dollars. You can download each one as a PDF. Here is June.

Even those of us who cook often find ourselves stymied by what to do with our market or garden loot. The pressure to be creative or break out of eating ruts can conspire to overcomplicate what can be simple. Most foods that grow in the same season go well together. Foods that are fresh and seasonal don’t need much fussing. Instead, let the real taste of the fruit or vegetable sing. Two great sites I refer to often are Culinate, which posts wonderful food stories and seasonal recipes, and Epicurious, which is my go-to recipe source. Instead of trying to figure out what to cook for the week, I simply buy what looks good and is in season. Then I plug in what I’ve got into the search field and modify recipes if I don’t have an ingredient the recipe calls for.

How did I eat this month’s produce?

Artichoke: I lamented to chef Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans of The Farmers Feast that I preferred the versatility of baby artichokes and had lost my interest in basic steaming of large artichokes. She suggested tucking chopped fresh herbs like basil, mint and parsley and chopped garlic into the leaves. For a dipping sauce, I melted a little butter and added slivered garlic, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. Wonderful! But I await the baby artichokes to make one of my favorite dishes, a Roman stew called la vigniarola, with fava beans, pancetta and peas. See my artichoke piece in last year’s farmer’s market newsletter.

Kohlrabi: Veggie Borg, I like to call it. A truly bizarre looking vegetable. Kohlrabi has a nutty, fresh flavor and is wonderful shaved onto salads or cut into sticks and used for dip. It reminds one of jicama.

Cabbage: The reason for all this cabbage? Homemade sauerkraut, which is brewing in the kitchen. It smells, like, well, sauerkraut…in a good way.

Zucchini: Though many say baby zucchini are tastier than large ones, they can be expensive. I’d rather get more bang for my food buck. Summer squash is great grilled or slow sauteed in a skillet till they caramelize. Just add a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of fresh herbs and crumbled feta. See my piece on summer squash in last year’s farmer’s market newsletter. I’m also making refrigerator zucchini pickles. Here’s a recipe from the Zuni Cafe, but I’m cutting down on the sugar and may add other herbs. You don’t need to do special canning. They’ll keep in a jar in the fridge. Pictured is Deborah Madison’s recipe for zucchini circles. Saute on low heat for a long time till zucchini starts to brown and the sugars caramelize. Squeeze some lemon, sprinkle crumbled feta and chopped herbs like basil, parsley or mint…or all three.

Farro Salad with Roasted Beets and Peas: I roasted chioggia beets, and cut them into cubes for a farro (substitute any grain like wheat berry or quinoa) salad. Fresh shelling peas were added along with spring onions, a lemon and olive oil vinaigrette and fresh dill and chives from the garden. Stay tuned for a post about grains and how to incorporate them more into your diet.

Farro (or Quinoa) Salad with Zucchini and Peas: Another great grain salad, but rather than use zucchini raw, grill or saute it till browned for extra flavor, then chop and add it to the grains. A can of chick peas makes this a complete protein—great for your vegetarian friends. Add the herbs, lemon/olive oil vinaigrette and crumbled feta or goat cheese. You can use shelled fresh peas or cut sugar snap peas.

Please share! More to come. Happy 4th!

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…is as futile as waiting for Godot. I’d give a synopsis of the play except that a cursory view of the play as explained on Wikipedia makes it clear there is little consensus on what it meant. Having seen the play (as I have) does not help, at least in my case. My analogy about permission, then, is apt for this reason: nothing really happens in the play and the wait for Godot, is, well, pretty agonizing for its nothingness.

The same holds true in life as far as Waiting for Permission goes. Because while you wait, life goes by and nothing much happens. I’m not talking about those lucky few who grab what’s theirs (and then some)—the ones first in line when Entitlement was passed out. I’m talking about the rest of us waiting for Permission to show up at the door in a cute brown outfit.

Here’s an irony: We think we’re not clever enough to (fill in the blank), but we’re infinitely clever when it comes to constructing a wall of reasons blocking our way. Why is that? Sure, you might want a medical degree before slicing someone open. But you don’t need a degree to slice bread for that sandwich business you always wanted to start.

Here’s another irony: From my unscientific observation, the more clever, talented, kind, resourceful and generous a person is, the more they question their “right” to create or succeed. This is not to say that those who do create and succeed lack those qualities. But none of these people have to worry about egos, just yet anyway.

For years, I’ve wanted to write a self help book. Funny, you seem to have a lot of issues, someone might say. But as the saying goes, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach.” What has stopped me is that I kept picturing the bio in the back of the book below the photo of me with my hand on my chin. It seemed ridiculous to say “Jane is a graphic designer in Portland, Oregon living with a cat that doesn’t belong to her.” Who would buy that book? I did start writing that book but only because I finally stopped attaching the need for special qualifications to the process of writing. I also stopped attaching publication and sales to the process of writing. All along, I forgot to realize that no one has to buy that book if they don’t want to.

A friend embarked on a food business after years of thinking she was unqualified. Every so often she sheepishly corrects people who dare to call her a chef, humble as she is about her lack of “official” training. I suspect she and I are a lot alike in our respect for the focus, dedication and sacrifice that official training can require. So we err on the side of caution. Too much caution.

Are you Waiting for Permission?

Question your inner naysayer. If it’s not unsafe, illegal or immoral, then pick up the guitar, the knife (good knife skills please), the paintbrush, the microphone, the pen, the soldering iron (again, safe operation please) and stop using excuses like talent, education or expertise. Your inner naysayer is really good at asking what the point is of this activity if the painting will never see the light of a gallery, the song an audience, the soup a customer. Your inner naysayer is a clever S.o.B., but so are you, so come up with some good comebacks.

Have appropriate humility. Too much humility stops us from exploring our interests. Too little and you forget there are masters out there whose talent, education and expertise is what makes them great. If wanting to be great is stopping you, then stop needing to be great before you even begin. That being said, know enough to know what is at stake so you can behave responsibly. If you’re selling services or products where quality is an issue, be careful what promises you make, spoken or implied. Many people ask if a degree is necessary before becoming a designer. The bigger issue is whether you’re confident that what you’re selling is understood by the buyer. Confidence is great. False claims are not.

Go where the road takes you. We are too often looking for signposts that say “go this way.” Unfortunately, life is not terribly linear, except when it comes to those pesky birthdays. Sometimes you have to take a convoluted trip to end up in a pretty cool spot you never envisioned. “Well, how in the world can I plan for that? And what if I spent time going to the wrong place.” If it’s any consolation, you probably already waste lots of time doing things that are of no benefit, like hanging out with boring people or watching TV. So don’t get hung up on wondering where the signless road will take you. You might have to take up belly dancing only to realize you really wanted to write poetry. If you have an inkling of desire to (fill in the blank), you will not be wasting time pursuing it. Why? Because you always learn something by engaging in any endeavor. Always. (See next bullet point.) You only have to pay attention. If your problem is Waiting for Permission, chances are you are not about to sink thousands of dollars and years of time into a Masters Degree. Do the small stuff first.

Be on the lookout for hidden benefits. The surest way to kill any endeavor you do embark on is to focus on the big prize, whatever that prize might be. They say people tend to drop therapy the moment they start to figure stuff out, quit golf lessons the moment they really start learning, and so on. This is because we start with confidence or a childlike attitude. We start to learn a little, then we realize how much we don’t know, we get discouraged, and so we stop. You have to have a goal, but if enjoyment or success is dependent on catching that big fish, then you will miss out on all the side benefits, which might be even better. Those unintended side benefits might hold the secret to our success. They might be the signposts on the road.

You’re welcome to sit by the tree waiting. But it might be a long wait.

There comes a time when it happens to the best of us, and it can happen for different reasons. A fumble in the client’s accounting department that takes weeks to sort out, a bankrupt organization or business, or you found the wrong client. It’s a hard pill to swallow. Worse is when you have to pay a subcontractor with your own money because the client didn’t pay.

This happened to a colleague recently. His situation falls into the third category, but my guess is, the wrong client doesn’t think of themselves as such. And for good reason. Problems in business relationships are rarely about business, but we have to pretend they are. In other words, the human condition is at work—fear, confusion, ambivalence, lack of clarity, insecurity, guilt, ignorance, shame, to name a few. As soon as one of these conditions sets in, it is hard to solve the problem by reviewing agreements—however clear and in writing they are. A creative person managing a project might have explained the entire process. But there can still be assumptions made on both sides that weren’t communicated. A project gone awry does not mean it wasn’t well planned. Stuff happens. Visit AIGA’s Design & Business section of their website for good information on business practice for creative professionals.

A challenging client might trigger a gut-level reaction early on. But we ignore it for the multitude of reasons we ignore signs and signals. Maybe the client suddenly became worried about spending money or they lacked a clear vision (and embarked on a project before having clarity). There’s nothing like getting any ball rolling to highlight uncertainties! Hope is a wonderful thing, but not if it prevents us—client or creative person—from speaking up. This is not to excuse bad behavior, only to explain it. There is no choice but to take responsibility.

This post is not about all the steps to take to avoid nonpayment (future posts). It’s about what to do next if a project is cancelled and/or the client just won’t pay. The course of action is not necessarily different from dealing with a flaky accounting department or a bankrupt company. But it does need a different kind of reflection. Note: this assumes you were clear about process, had an agreement, provided a written estimate with terms and developed a clear brief about the goals of the project.

Clarify the client’s position. You may not get paid but there might be useful information to carry into your next project. The client’s reasoning—whether you agree or not—will determine your next step. Ask if there was something specific they did not understand about the process. If they were confused, was there a reason they didn’t speak up earlier? This shows you are eager to understand, and, at the same time, the client reflects on their part in the process. You may find out if they lack funds (and are ashamed to admit it) or are choosing to withhold payment.

Own your part. A martyr is a person who takes more than 100 percent of their share of the responsibility. A victim is one who takes less than 100 percent of their share. Note the emphasis on their share. Taking 100 percent of your share may only mean 30 percent of the total shared between parties. Put your part into perspective. Review it objectively. Mistakes are golden opportunities (you’re laughing now) to improve. If you were clear verbally but didn’t put something crucial in writing, note that, and do it differently next time.

Send an invoice and follow up with a late one. It may not get paid but this is an important step because carrying out your normal business operations takes the personal edge off and gives you some confidence. Describe the work done. Attach the original agreement with terms, if one existed. Follow up, multiple times if necessary.

Clarify your intellectual property rights. If you have provided tangible solutions, explain that their use is a violation of your copyright. Even if it was your intention to allow the client use of or alteration of the design work, that right is understood to be transferred upon receipt of final payment. This is important, not as a threat, but as an education. You help pave the way for future creative consultants by having educated a client. You won’t get a “thank you,” but you’re saving the client embarrassment or a possible law suit. Perhaps you’re not feeling generous, but the good will come back to you another way.

Negotiate partial payment. Restate your case and appeal to the client’s sense of right and wrong. You might just settle on an amount you can both live with. It may happen that the amount is a reflection of each party’s responsibility for the situation going awry.

Surrender attachment to getting paid. I’m not certain what amount of money would cause me to sue for nonpayment but I know that the psychological cost of a law suit, however justified, would be too high. Bad psychic mojo would wreak havoc on me. Sometimes there is power in walking away, but not until after you’ve done due diligence, of course.

There are true creeps but they are few and far between. I have friends who live to tell it. It is little comfort, but a nonpaying client is most likely feeling shame or fear, or both. You can always find more money. It will be harder for the client to bounce back from their actions. If this kind of thing has happened more than a couple of times, your instincts may be in need of a tune up. If you’re sure you were professional throughout, you are better off walking away (after taking the above steps). Gather up the pieces quickly and put that otherwise wasted energy into your next project.

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