Category Archives: local food

David Bowie, Funny Mirrors, and a Veggie Burrito at the Old Stone Station

old stone station Cambria California

The Old Stone Station became a place of refuge for John

At John’s funeral, friends and family dropped fresh cut flowers into the grave. Willy walked to the edge where the casket lay.  He tightly squeezed a David Bowie t-shirt before relaxing his hands.  Willy let the Ziggy Startdust t-shirt fall into the grave.

Clyde asked perplexed, “What are you doing?”

Old Stone Station David Bowie

Willie replied, “John loved David Bowie.  Remember how many times he went to the men’s restroom at the Old Stone Station Restaurant?”

A year ago, Willie, Clyde, and John met on a sunny day on the deck of the Old Stone Station. They each planned on enjoying the best Mexican food served on Friday. Ironically, they all ordered veggie burritos. The three of them quickly realized this serendipitous moment. Conversations began and three tables became one. A Friday veggie burrito tradition began.

Like a digital clock with a strong battery, Willie, Clyde, and John showed up at the same time every Friday and ordered the same veggie burrito.  The tradition changed when John’s wife left him for a young stud and the L.A. city life.  Depressed, John began to eat 1.5 burritos, than 2 burritos in one sitting.  Willie and Clyde were amazed by John’s overwhelming burrito consumption.

Old stone Station veggie burrito Cambria California

John developed deadly feelings for black beans

John replied in a condescending snarky voice, “How can a person not eat two of a these remarkable creations!  The flavors of the beans, sauces, fresh ingredients, veggie burger and cheese make me forget myself.  I am no longer John who gave 20 years of my life to a woman who didn’t appreciate it.  At the Old Stone Station I am simply a tongue who doesn’t need love – only a burrito.”

The guys noticed John use the bathroom more frequently and lose weight.

One day when John left to the restroom, Clyde asked Willie, “Do you think it’s weird John’s bladder has gotten smaller since his divorce?”

The last known photo of John

The last known photo of John

Willie, “I don’t think his bladder has gotten smaller.   He frequently uses the restroom because the carnival fees to enjoy a circus mirror in private is ridiculous.  At the Old Stone Station the price of the mirror is included in the price of the meal.  He can laugh and laugh as long as he purchases something.  John’s a huge David Bowie fan. He told the restaurant owner he wants first dibs on the David Bowie shirt in the bathroom.  Notice how he looks at the burritos and mutters the lyric, “Oh you pretty thing your driving your mamas and papas insane.”  I’m a huge Paul McCartney fan.  I would pretend to pee a lot more if a Paul McCartney t-shirt hung in the bathroom.”

John heard most of their conversation and paused before returning. He could not let his friends know of his burrito addiction. He decided to mask his bulimia by becoming a David Bowie fan.

The madness turned John into a David Bowie burrito eater.

The madness turned John into a David Bowie burrito eater.

A month of Fridays passed.  John looked more skinny and unhealthy.

Clyde finely addressed the elephant in the room, “John, what’s wrong with you.  You have grown into the body of 17 year old girl who wants to be a model.”

John snapped, “I look like David Bowie on heroine.”

John went to the bathroom muttering a David Bowie song.

Clyde said, “Willie I have a crazy thought.  Did you see how fast John ferociously devoured his burrito?  He reminds me of my cat, Henrietta. She can eat a can of canned cat food like John can scarf down a burrito. When she can’t eat anymore she sneaks off and pukes up her food.  Do you notice how John eats and eats then leaves to go to the bathroom?  Does John remind you of my cat?”

Willie, “I’ve never met Henrietta but I do know John reminds me of David Bowie on heroine.”

The End.

John's now in Happy Burrito heaven.

John’s now in Happy Burrito heaven.

Old Stone Station
713 Main St.
Cambria, CA 93428
1-805-927-4229

Special thanks to Gillian Rowley’s edits.  Check out her blog Allergy Bites

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What are you, Chicken? (local grub)

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the epic tale of one vegetarian farmer’s travels into the world of “humane” animal slaughter

by Casey O’Leary, Earthly Delights farmer

My ideology seized me the night before, as I sobbed and blindly transferred the girls from their usual roosts one by one into the plastic dog carrier that would be their final sleeping quarters, fumbling in the dark until my shaking hands would poke a startled squawk and give away their otherwise stone sleeping bodies. Finally sixteen, tucked away, or so I thought, and tucked myself away then, too, dreading the morning.

Upon opening the coop to the usual morning ruckus, a single set of orange wings burst out in search of sunshine and food amidst the sea of black chickens. This old girl had eluded me in the coop last night, and I tried to catch her this morning, to seal her fate with the others of her generation, who had grown too old to lay much and were going to serve as our first foray into the other side of livestock management. Yes I, the former vegan turned egg lover by the good humor and genuine farm contributions of these very same birds, was now going to (maybe) try my hand at ending their lives. I told myself it was a necessary part of raising laying hens. I told myself they had lived very wonderful and happy lives, that their suffering would be brief, and we would know once and for all whether we could in good conscious raise and care for, in all stages, a flock of laying hens.

The single orange bird flapped and ran from me as if her life depended on it. It did. After fifteen minutes of diving into the muck trying to catch her, I named her Lucky (the only one of my girls with a name), and returned to the task of the day.

Our helpers (or, rather, teachers) weren’t due to arrive until 10:00, and I decided the doomed hens deserved a last meal of tasty grass and clover, so I busied myself fencing off a little yard near where the killing would take place, so they could graze contentedly until their untimely end would come.

At 10:00 sharp, Ramon pulled up in his big truck, helping out of it his 86-year-old mother, Miren (mee-DEN), and her sister Mercedes. The two elderly Basque women, clad in colorful aprons, rushed for us, much like hens themselves, hobbling and flapping and squawking their hellos. Miren proudly brandished her favorite tool for this project, a long, sharp knife she had brought over from the Basque country. Ramon slapped Marty (my farming partner) on the back with a hearty hello, while the ladies clucked on in a dance between English and Spanish about how excited they were, how long it had been since they had helped butcher chickens, what a beautiful day it was for this.

“Ay, Ca-See, ¿Como te sientes hoy?” Miren asked me. I told her I was very nervous and maybe wouldn’t want to help at all. She swatted me on the butt, muttering, “Yes, si, si, difícil…la primera vez…”.

We led the three of them to the spot in the grass where we had set up a table with a propane stove and a big kettle. They ordered us to bring more buckets for guts and feathers, sealing my reluctance to participate into a terrified hiding while the first few girls met their fate. Slowly, I crept out to peek, thinking mostly of Miren and Mercedes, of how wise and comfortable they were, how capable and kind. They saw me watching and called me over to where they sat on stools plucking dead chickens. I watched for a moment, not even able to recognize the birds in their adept hands, soggy masses of feathers that did not resemble in the slightest the girls I had loved and cared for the past years. I sat down next to them as they expertly cleaned each tiny, bony bird with tiny, bony fingers. My large hands felt awkward and uncomfortable as I tried to pluck the stiff tail feathers, but the sisters assured me my work was satisfactory.

Ramon was teaching Marty how to slaughter a hen the way they do it in the Basque country, holding the girl between his elbow and waist, slicing her neck, and holding her as she bleeds out and dies. This extremely close contact, cradling the bird as she dies, seemed to me a very tender and gentle way to do it, and certainly a more personal one. No axe-length distance to this method. I glanced quickly at the girls remaining in my makeshift yard, worried they sensed what was coming. They did not. No idea. They were just walking around, pecking and scratching, like every other day of their lives. That made me feel a bit better.

As we sat and plucked, Miren and Mercedes inducted me into the beautiful mindset of farm women, who understand completely the connection between live and animals and food on a table, and all the unglamorous but essential steps along the way. The three of us women working in a circle, sharing stories about life, love, language and culture, is now etched as one of the fondest memories of my life. Although they did not dwell on it, the gravity and tragedy of what we were doing while socializing was tenderly present, as one of them would casually glance over at the pen of hens-in-waiting, shake her head, and mumble, “pobrecitas”, poor little things, then return to the whirr of feathers in front of her.

We slaughtered fifteen birds that day, and each soup made with one of them is deserving of a commemorative tale of its own, infused with all the stories of the life and death of the bird. And while I am still by and large a vegetarian, I do respect the place well-raised and well-slaughtered meat has at a loving, healthy table. I feel so grateful to have experienced the transformation from animal to food the way I did, instead of the way it almost exclusively takes place in this country, in huge factories behind closed doors that keep a kind-hearted population supplied with meat they would never buy if they saw the way the animals lived and died. Thank you to all the chickens who have given me wonderful eggs and meat these past few years, to Ramon, Mercedes, and Miren for sharing their beautiful skills with us, and to all of you who make conscious decisions about what you choose to put in your bellies. Bon Appetit!

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The tree down the street (local grub)

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Down the street is rooted a relic adventure
Sown with a relic hope of prosperity
When planting a fruit tree was thought to be
a gift
for children’s children…
annual abundance,
precious sweetness amid unknown hardship

oh grandpa, how you tried…

In a few weeks, it will begin to bloom,
White blossoms garishly splashed over old, twisted bones
In an absurd blasphemy of the prudence of age,
And then the leaves,
Shinier, more modest,
Respite from the relentless sun of a desert summer day
Performing its yearly miracle again,
Without permission,
Without request,
Save the planting of that seed so many years ago.

Through the warming womb of summer’s green air,
Fruit grows plump and heavy, tugging at branches
Like sagging breasts on an old farm woman’s still-strong back,
Sugars swelling and multiplying inside.
They’ll burst out the tiniest nick in its delicate skin
And drip onto the asphalt below.
The ground used to drink this nectar,
Before the street
And the sidewalk

Oh grandpa, how it cried…

You dreamed of sticky kid hands and faces gorging amid twinkling leaves on summer afternoons.

You dreamed of steaming kitchens stocking this extravagance for desolate winter evenings.
Summer’s abundance in winter,
You dreamed…

oh grandpa, how you’d cry…

Now the fruit falls unpicked
Onto an un-walked on sidewalk
As speeding cars carrying downtrodden seeds
Zoom by without notice.

The lady in the house emerges once a week to grumble and bend,
Back
stiff, knees
stiff, body
stiff, soul
stiff, shaking out
stiff corners of a black plastic bag,
Scooping up your dream-treasures
Sealing them out with the trash

Oh, grandpa, how she tries…

But the world is different now.
Treasures don’t exist in supermarket cans;
Instead, we watch pirate movies on TV

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Lori, Casey and Amie making pear butter

Farmer Casey
A native Idahoan and dirt-worshipper with a passion for plants, this is her 3rd season as a market gardener and chicken co-conspirator, and her first as a beekeeper. She also runs a place-based landscaping company in the Boise area. For fun, she likes to make things out of things she grows (tomatillo salsa, elderberry wine, turnip art, etc.). Visit her in the garden, at the market, or weekly through her subscription farm.

Earthly Delights Farm is a subscription farm growing the old-fashioned way (with compost and chemical-free) in 1 acre of NW Boise dirt. Farmers, chickens, volunteers, bees, and worms work passionately together to grow a wide variety of hand-crafted veggies, fruits, herbs, and flowers, which we share with our members.

Volunteers always welcome
Veggies and eggs in exchange for work!…

earthly delights farm
greenSheRa@hotmail.com, (208) 284-3712
3801 N. Tamarack Drive, Boise, ID 83703

Vangviang Organic Farm located in Vang Vieng, Laos

Journey to the Source of the Mulberry Leaf Omelet

Nutritious and delicious, the mulberry leaf omelet at the Organic Farm Café takes the omelet experience directly to my body in a nourishing and satisfying sort of way. After a few bites of speckled green omelet, I’ve fallen in love and want to meet the mulberry leaf’s source of goodness, similar to how couples who are in love become curious about the source of their partners’ good looks. After asking around, I find out that my omelet’s mulberry leaves’ tree parents live only 3 km from town at the Vangviang Organic Farm.

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From the restaurant, I walk across the street to a bike rental shop. Ten bikes are lined up on a patch of dirt accompanied by a ‘bikes for rent’ sign. I hand the man a dollar (the dollar is one of the many currencies accepted in Laos), and the popular LA brand bicycle is mine for the day.

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My route takes me through the center of Vang Vieng a.k.a. Tube Town. While riding, it dawns on me that the challenge of travel is how to maintain a familiar level of comfort while in a foreign culture. Here, it’s easy. Countless bars serve up a mind-numbing cocktail of drugs in milkshakes or on pizzas, TVs show constant reruns of Friends, and low tables surrounded by pillows invite one to lounge the day away.

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A few blocks from the bar scene, the Nam Song River flows through town. The popular tourist activity is to tube the river while wearing small amounts of clothing. Most of the men are shirtless with sculpted hair. The women wear big sunglasses that hide part of the forehead, eyes, and upper cheeks. It seems the women like to show off everything but the upper part of their faces. The bright bikinis make up for the lack of eye color.

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I leave the tourists in Tube Town behind, and continue on the road toward the farm. The road is a transportation utopia – shared by foot traffic, bicycle traffic, motorcycles and trucks. Everyone appears at ease with everyone else. This feeling of serenity must come with knowing the motive behind what you are doing. American drivers always seem perturbed when they drive. I think a lot of that frustration comes from driving without a real purpose.

A conversation between an American motorist and himself:
Self, “What the hell am I doing by myself in this gigantic Humvee driving to the store a mile away from home to buy a can of soda?”

Inner Self, “You look good in a Humvee! You can afford a Humvee, so it is your god given right to drive a Humvee!!”

Self, “This stop-and-go traffic sucks!! This street needs to be widened from two lanes to four. Look at those trees taking up valuable driving space.”

Inner Self, “You should be able to drive freely, and nature ought to be caged in national parks.”

Self, “There are no parking spaces close to the store. Why can’t the store be longer so there can be more storefront parking? I hate walking.”

Inner Self, “Leave the walking to the four-legged critters who don’t have the sense to drive, but you still want to maintain a healthy look. Don’t drink regular soda. You need Diet Coke Plus!”

Self, “I know, I drive by the billboard so many times, I have it memorized. Each 8-ounce serving of Diet Coke Plus provides 15% of the daily value for niacin and vitamins B6 and B12, and 10% for zinc and magnesium – but I only have a coupon for regular soda. I promise I’ll eat a chewable Flintstone vitamin as soon as I get home. Maybe go to the gym?”

Inner Self, “You always break promises. You feel ugly and guilty.”

Self, “I’m going to take a drive in the country to relax.”

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A Lao truck driver would never ask himself why he’s driving a gigantic truck, because the answer is obvious – the 10 chatting people in the back or the sound of a mooing cow.

When I arrive at Vangviang Organic Farm, I find more than mulberry trees. I find a business built on the philosophy of preserving ecological diversity and providing locals with accessible and sustainable technologies to earn a living. Someone here must realize that you can grow a vegetable from chemicals, pesticides and big industry, but you can’t create a salad from thousands of acres of corn.

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Even with the success of the mulberry business, the owners want more than just a mulberry tree empire. At the farm, there are goats, guest houses, and a beautiful vegetable garden. There is also a volunteer program to help build community centers, teach English, feed baby goats and many other projects. The goal of the farm is to grow a healthy community.

As I pedal back to town, I wonder what it would be like to order an omelet in Boise, Idaho and use the omelet as a guide for a bicycle adventure. For instance, would the hash browns be made from local potatoes within bike riding distance? If so, would I get run over by a Humvee along the treeless four lanes of Fairview Ave on my way to the farm? When I arrive at the farm tucked away between the suburban sprawl of Meridian and Boise, will I be greeted by a business that provides a local product and supports local people? Or will I find a dusty field growing one crop only and the topsoil blowing away in the wind?

Thinking of the traffic and monoculture farm practices makes drugs and reruns of Friends seem like a bright future. Actually, I think the future is all ready here. How many times a day can a person watch Friends reruns on network and cable TV? How easy is it to get prescription drugs? Hmmmmm….

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This blog post sponsored by Local Grub.

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Click on the logo to learn about Local Grub

An Afternoon Snack (short film update)

UPDATE: This video will appear on the Travel Channel in the pilot of “What’s Your Trip?” hosted by Anthony Bourdain. It will air Monday, May 21st, 2007 at 8PM and 11PM.

Original music by Brandon Follett, singing with a pig.  Check out his other music projects.  weirdosmusic.com

This video was filmed in the rural, low-income, rice-growing region of Thailand known as Isaan, where few foreign travelers venture. We went there two weeks into our Thailand travels in order to volunteer on an organic farm.

Before traveling to Thailand, a Thai friend in the States warned me about our plans to volunteer on a farm in Prakonchai, Thailand. She wrinkled her nose at the thought, saying that the people of northwestern Thailand talked funny and ate gross food, such as fermented fish. She said this region was like the Texas of Thailand.

For ten days, we stayed near Prakonchai, working on the farm and living with a Canadian man, his Isaan wife, and their two children. Our farm work included cutting rice, raking straw from the rice fields, and scooping up water buffalo manure to mix into compost. Since we don’t speak Thai, we couldn’t tell if the people spoke standard Thai or not, but they do speak their own local language in addition to Thai. The food was good, but it was definitely different from the meals we’d eaten at Thai restaurants in the U.S.

One afternoon, our hosts took us with them to the local market. The fruits and vegetable stalls were piled high with various shapes and colors we’d never seen before. The meat section was fresher, bloodier, and included a lot more animal heads than we were accustomed to seeing. We were also fascinated to see all sorts of fried insects for sale, with the vendors sitting nonchalantly behind their neatly organized displays of fried bugs. Our hosts’ five-year-old daughter loved the tasty snacks and munched her way through a bag of fried insects while her parents did their shopping.

Brandon also purchased a variety bag of bugs and enjoyed their flavor and crunch. He wanted to share his delight on camera, so we filmed “An Afternoon Snack.” The film was made in a moment of pure Follettry.

Special thanks to Stacy McBain for giving the English language the word “Follettry.” How have we managed for so long without it?

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Ban Kumuang School located in rural Isaan, Thailand

Why are you trying to make me FAT?
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My belly is getting bigger. Not that it’s news worthy that an American is getting fatter, but never thought I’d gain weight as a result of eating rice, eggs, fruit and vegetables.

I always figured it was fast food and processed food that made people fat. I thought people got fat from slurping down soda, licking sugary ketchup off their fingers, wiping the fat from burgers off their lips, and pretending white bread with some injected vitamins has nutritional value. When these people couldn’t get enough fast food, they would then super size meals, call Domino’s Pizza, buy a Twinkie at the convenience store, or lose themselves in the isles of processed food found at the supermarket.

All my life people told me to eat healthy by saying no to processed food and yes to fresh and local. While volunteering Ban Kumuang School in rural Isaan for a month, I ate breakfast and lunch with the teachers, and dinner was at the home of the director and his wife. With no processed food in sight, I didn’t think twice about watching my waistline.

Within a couple of days of starting my job, the Thai teachers noticed the chicken feet and spoon-sized frogs left uneaten on my plate. I’m vegetarian, I explained. Then next day, and for the rest of the month, eggs became the substitute for meat. The omelets became like the endless soda machine at Taco Bell. I never felt a minute of hunger while staying in one of Thailand’s poorest provinces.

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Getting fat off eggs, vegetables, fruit and rice came as surprise. I told the Thai teacher, “In the U.S., food corporations and fast food restaurants treat me the same way you indulge me. They try to get me to stuff myself with product. You put omelets in front of me and say, ‘eat, eat, eat.’ Then when I’m full, you put more omelets in front of me and say, ‘eat some more.’ Food businesses are always trying to get me to eat more than my stomach can handle. The food and drink marketers use coupons, two for one specials, happy hours, super size, buffets, and sexy women to sell large quantities of merchandise to make a profit. You, on the other hand, push food and drink on me with the same intensity as the corporations, but you don’t make me pay. Why are you trying to make me fat?”

The teacher replies, “Thai hosts are happy when you get fatter. It means they are taking good care of you.”

Luckily, my weight gain was not the cause of someone trying to make a buck off my consumer-dulled mind. My weight gain is a testament to our Thai hosts’ generous hospitality.

Fishing for Breakfast Ko Chang, Thailand (short film)


Filmed on the island of Ko Chang in eastern Thailand. One side of the island is full of white sandy beaches and resorts for tourists. The other side is more of what the island used to be like—mangrove trees and fishing villages. We opted for a quiet, peaceful bungalow among coconut trees on the fisherman side of the island. Local fisherman, Visarn, let us tag along while he worked.

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