2011 Holiday Season–Birth of a New Tradition

 Birch Bay Issues, Environment, Food  Comments Off on 2011 Holiday Season–Birth of a New Tradition
Nov 112011

We don’t know where this originated, but Sandy Brewer of Blaine Community Theater forwarded it us and we whole-heartedly endorse the concept. Despite the frequent references to Christmas, it does apply to the entire holiday season.

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods–merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is!

It’s time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?

Everyone–yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?

Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.

Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamins on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants–all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this
isn’t about big National chains–this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.

Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of lights, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine.

THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.

Forward this to everyone on your mailing list–post it to discussion groups — throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in your city–send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations, and TV news departments. This is a revolution of caring about each other, and isn’t that what Christmas is about?

Sandy ended by saying “…and I would add to the list such things as theater tickets, locally produced movies or CD’s and music by local groups as well. Been in a film lately? Send a copy of it to a friend as a gift.”

Right here in Birch Bay we have restaurants and coffee shops, a yarn and gift shop, a thrift and consignment store and other businesses working hard to stay open. Just outside Birch Bay, a creamery sells delicious cheeses, a dog and cat center offers day-care, and other restaurants and businesses seek your support.

Shop local and build Birch Bay, Whatcom County, Washington State and America.


The Slow Food Challenge

 Food  Comments Off on The Slow Food Challenge
Sep 292011

Slow Food, like many great movements in history, began with a tipping point. That was in 1986 when McDonald’s opened a fast food restaurant near the Spanish Steps in Rome. Carlo Petrini, then writing culinary articles for two Communist publications, was outraged, calling for preservation of traditional and regional cuisine. Three years later the founding Manifesto of the International Slow Food Movement was signed in Paris by delegates from 15 countries, “Not so much as a protest against the restaurant chain as a protest against big international business interests,” to quote Wikipedia.

Now Mr. Petrini heads the University of Gastronomic Sciences whose mission is to bridge the gap between agriculture and gastronomy. The Slow Food Movement has chapters in 132 countries. The structure is decentralized. Each chapter has a leader who is responsible for creating and promoting local events.

Last year we participated in a tuna canning organized by Jeremy Brown, who was recently appointed Fisheries Ambassador to the International Sustainability unit of the Prince Charles Trust. This was an event of the Fourth Corner Slow Food Chapter.

In August the Fourth Corner leader, Diana Campbell issued a $5 challenge for Saturday, September 17. Could we arrange a dinner that would cost no more per person than we would pay at a Jack in the Box (where we have never been but whose commercials we like best)? We asked two couples with whom we dine regularly to join us.

Naomi and Roger brought a large salad with blue cheese from the Co-op and greens from their garden.

Last year we participated in a tuna canning organized by Jeremy Brown, who was recently appointed Fisheries Ambassador to the International Sustainability unit of the Prince Charles Trust. This was an event of the Fourth Corner Slow Food Chapter.

In August the Fourth Corner leader, Diana Campbell issued a $5 challenge for last Saturday, September 17. Could we arrange a dinner that would cost no more per person than we would pay at a Jack in the Box, where we have never been but whose commercials we like best? We asked two couples with whom we eat regularly to join us.

Naomi and Roger brought a large salad with blue cheese from the Co-op and greens from their garden. For dessert, also from their garden, they brought strawberries and blueberries with some wild blackberries.

Irene made a casserole of zucchini, onions, mushrooms and Feta cheese. Jack, her husband, brought a large – and inexpensive bottle – of white Italian wine. We wrapped small portions of Jeremy’s tuna in lettuce leaves for hors d’oeuvre, then grilled chicken breasts with slices of red pepper on charcoal.

All agreed it was the best meal we have had together in memory. While we didn’t request sales slips, we’re reasonably certain we stayed within the $30 budget.

For information about the Fourth Corner Slow Food Chapter, the new leader is Lisa Dailey at lisa@ladailey.com.


Jack Niemann’s Black Forest Steak House

 Food  Comments Off on Jack Niemann’s Black Forest Steak House
Aug 222011

The recently opened Jack Niemann’s Black Forest Steak House is a worthy addition to the northwestern corner of the county.

Since we moved to Birch Bay eight years ago, CJ’s Beachhouse (and its predecessor) has been the place we take visitors. The Black Forest is now our place for special occasions. We will continue to go to CJ’s. (Last Tuesday we were there for two meals – the Chamber luncheon and again in the early evening with Eli Friedlob, Matt Krogh of RE Sources, and Robin Everett of the Sierra Club who were responsible for The Coal Hard Truth event later that evening. Also there was Lindsay Taylor, formerly of N-SEA and now part of the RE Sources team.)

Our special dinner at Black Forest was August 13 for our 201st lunaversary (we celebrate months of marriage). After we split a garlic prawns appetizer, we both had small filets Oskar, a very good use of artichokes, followed by Black Forest Cake – just one piece with two forks, and we took half home. This meal called for two glasses of wine. First a Pinot Grigio, then a Malbec from Argentina. The price, over $100, was well worth this meal.

This past Saturday we went to the art show at Birch Bay Square. Should we eat at the burger place? But we had seen the Black Forest Happy Hour Bar Menu in the Northern Light. Between four and six we could eat as inexpensively as burger prices. When we sat down in the big dining room where we had eaten the week before, we were quickly told that the Happy Hour menu is only availablein the bar. There we found more people than in the dining room, yet Bob the bartender was prepared to treat us well.


This time we split the Scallops Christina and three glasses of the same wines as the week before.

Ruth ordered Olympic Crab Cakes and Al a “naked burger” (no bun) with mushrooms. For each of these items we paid less than $10, bringing the total to $45.60 with tax before tip. When we got home we found a little piece of last week’s Black Forest Cake in the fridge. We both had enough with glasses of Citra Merlot from Rite Aid.

For someone who started his first restaurant in White Rock in 1968 and now has 49 of them, Jack Niemann may be the most modest owner in the world. The hostesses are dressed like LA, the waiters wear black pants and white shirts with ties, but Jack sports worn jeans and a simple golf shirt. And he enjoys talking with people – no airs.

He quickly agrees that the room, converted from a bank building, is too noisy (he is hiring an acoustal expert to change that), and he is delighted with success: “Friday night was crazy!”

“Bob, the bartender,” Jack says, “was explaining to a couple that we have this nice little local wine; the couple said ‘That’s us; we own the Dakota Creek Winery’.”


P.S. Steve, the master waiter who used to work at CJ’s – he smoothly served the BBCC luncheons by himself – is now at Black Forest.

Learning About Community Gardens

 Environment, Food  Comments Off on Learning About Community Gardens
Jul 122011

For six months we planned a trip to Boston for a commencement ceremony of Ruth’s granddaughter who finished at Emerson College in December; they have only one ceremony in May. Originally, the plan was to drive the whole way there and back, and we spent hours plotting distances between what we thought would be interesting points along Highway 2 – there weren’t very many.

However, after filling our gas tank one day for almost $50, we concluded in unison: “Let’s fly.” We boiled our “interesting places” down to two: Cape Cod, which we had both visited years ago, and the Berkshires that neither of us had explored before.

On the Cape we had a timeshare with room enough for Ruth’s son and his family, four people including the graduate. This was at Falmouth, a very nice town at the inner Cape. But the weather was disappointingly like Birch Bay: rain most days.

On a walk in Falmouth one morning we explored a neat housing development – houses are spiffy on the Cape – that led to a community garden, which supplies a food bank. Spaces with water and tools are free with the understanding that participants will donate half of what they grow to the food bank, as explained by this local. He said most of the growers work hard. Generally, the beds looked impressive. Only one plot looked abandoned, and our friend said the other gardeners would be patient until taking action to expel that individual to make room for someone on the waiting list.

For several years we have talked about developing a community garden on the small lot where we’ve been “Farmers Growing Trees for Salmon.” This Fall the trees will be gone and the program closed.

Last year we built and planted a sample raised bed. When we returned from our trip we found our lettuce was growing well. But the cost of the raised bed makes that approach impractical. In the Spring we will offer ground spaces for planting.

For the Berkshires we scheduled a visit to the Nutrition Center in Great Barrington that is operated by Peter Stanton, nationally known for helping children prevent obesity. His message is, “Eat more vegetables.” He finds that when kids learn to cook vegetables they will want to eat more. In his kitchen the appliances and table are at kid height.

Naturally, he has a community garden on his property and the weekly farmers market is held on adjacent property that belongs to the hospital that is nearby. While clients of the Nutrition Center are all ages and incomes – half of the Center’s revenue is from physician referrals paid by insurance – he wants to garden to have low-income growers who are charged $30 per year. “When people pay, they care,” Peter explains.

Unprocessed meat less deadly than processed products

 Food, Safety  Comments Off on Unprocessed meat less deadly than processed products
May 312010

We’re back from Tofino, B.C. and a stimulating Congress of the International Society of Ethnobiologists. Despite the focus of this congress being on botany, in which neither of us are scholars, we learned much and met some impressive people. But more about that later.

Today, we’re absorbing the findings of a Harvard study that separated unprocessed meats from processed forms in exploring their connection to heart disease and diabetes. This news was in The Peoples Pharmacy column of Sunday’s Seattle Times.

The study showed that eating processed meat led to a 42 percent higher risk of developing heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk of developing diabetes, according to Renata Micha, the lead author of the study and research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The good news here is that eating unprocessed beef, pork or lamb showed no increased risk of either condition. Eating just one serving of processed meat per week does not significantly increase the risk, says the study.

A more detailed discussion is on the Harvard Science Web site at http://harvardscience.harvard.edu/medicine-health/articles/.