Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Angel Food Cheese, Garlic Rings and Tomato Mountains

My dear friend Rachel was working the Custer Street Fair in Evanston the other day. Rachel does the farmer's markets all over the Chicago metro area, selling Tomato Mountain Farm organic products. Unfortunately, Evanston isn't her territory. So I walked down to see her at the booth.

When I got there Rachel was handing out mini-cups of Tomato Mountain Bloody Mary Mix, sans vodka of course. I watched with glee as a mother and her 14-year old son gave it a try. Rachel cautioned, "It's a little spicy." The kid was unimpressed with the amount of capucin in the mix, "that's not hot at all!"

Tomato Mountain products are all organic and come in good old fashion recyclable jars. My favorite is the Tomato Mountain Tomato and Shallot soup. The consistency is great and the flavor is lovingly roasted shallot wrapped around big tomato.

The Tomato Mountain booth was located in the "Eco-Village," sponsored by Whole Foods. Then neighboring booths housed a wind generator company and The Enterprising Kitchen - where I bought a fragrant bar for Orchard Pear soap, autographed by the woman who made it, Chauna.

Suddenly, there was a fanfare and everyone stepped aside for the Custer Street Fair paraders. First came Custer himself, or at least a huge-headed puppet version, with bright yellow yarn hair. Custer was flanked by men dressed in blue Union uniforms. Next came a couple of corseted ladies in period dresses, sporting bonnets (Talk about dedication to cause. It was 90 degrees!), a magician, a juggler and a number of other fanciful characters.

The fair was started in 1972, on a single block of Custer Street south of Main. It has now spread out onto Main, from Sherman on the West to Chicago Avenue on the East, then South along Chicago Ave. for two blocks to Washington. The best spots for vendors are under the "L" because it's cool if it's hot, and dry if it's rainy.

After the event, Rachel packed up her tent and came to our house for dinner. She brought with her two insanely yummy things - a round of Prairie Fruits Farm's Angel Food Farmstead Goat Cheese and a Red Hen Bread's Garlic Ring. Oh, were they worth the calories!

The cheese isn't called Angel Food for nothing. It spread out over the bread like chiffon. Sinking my teeth into the bread, I would find pockets of sweet, carmelized garlic. I'm so glad that Red Hen Bread doesn't have a location in Evanston, Lincoln Park is close enough. I'll have to trot down to the Green City Market because writing this has started me fantasizing about a repeat engagement for my tastebuds!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

10,000 Steps

For 12 weeks I've been part of the City of Evanston's Women Out Walking Program. Twelve-hundred women pledged to change their exercise routines. My goal was 10,000 steps a day, the minimum number of steps one needs to stay healthy.

During the course of the WOW program I only made that goal 6 times. Pathetic, I know. One time I actually started running up and down the stairs in the house at 9:30 PM because I was just shy of my goal by 400 steps.

Sunday was the last day of the program which included seminars on healthy eating, introductions to tai chi and incentives for walkers to upped their steps by 10% each week.

So now it's week 13 and I need to go it on my own.

I usually wake up around 5:30 AM in the summer. Up until 2 years ago, I used to get up and walk or bike first thing in the morning. I switched my routine so I could write while the house was still quiet or clean while no one was underfoot.

Somehow I'd never find the time to walk. Once the day got started I'd be glued to my chair in front of the computer. Net effect? I gained 25 pounds and I had to go on statins.

Throughout the whole WOW program, I was struggling to get over 5,000 steps a day. One time racking up only 3,445 when I had a deadline.

This morning I decided I would switch the routine because the weatherman says today is going to be sweltering after the rain and the warm front moved in over night. So I had a cup of tea and put my walking shoes on.

I started by walking to the post box, then up the street through downtown Evanston, then turned toward the lake. I said hello to construction workers and commiserated about the rising humidity. A dog walker and I exchanged some observations about a baby bunny who was hiding under the viaduct. Before I knew it, I was at the park and joined in with the other walkers and runners.

I watched one woman move from a walk to a trot as runners past her by, as if she was being pulled along in their slip stream. I used to do that, giving my walking routine a little boost. There was also another woman who passed me. She probably outweighed me by 60 pounds and I could see the effort it took to carry that extra weight at a jog. But she was undaunted. I wanted to yell, "You go, girl," but I didn't want her to think I was mocking rather than encouraging her.

All in all it was a relaxed and fulfilling time. I thought. I planned. Then I stopped thinking and planning and just enjoyed the morning. It was kind of like meditation. It took awhile for the chatter in my head to die down but when it did my mood became expansive.

When I got back home I realized we had no milk. So I got my granny cart and hustled over to the local Whole Foods. When the milk was safely in the refrigerator, I finally checked the pedometer. 10,145 steps before 8 AM!

Switching the schedule was all that I needed. The added bonus, if you can call it that, is I'll have to wash the floors tonight, instead of parking myself on the couch to watch TV.

My take away? Exercise first thing in the morning. But don't just get it out of the way. Breath in and enjoy every moment.