it actually began as a hobby of mine when i was quite young--12 or 13, probably--and started learning about global warming and holes in the ozone layer and how aqua net and styrofoam were really, really bad. like most things, environmentalism passed through my life as a phase, but a part of me never quite let it go.
and so now, being a grown up, or nearly so, contemplating my new, unfurnished apartment, favoring a 40-mpg-mini over the SUV that was the pride of my adolescence (i had, by far, the best car of all my friends, and we spent many happy days cruising back and forth from our tiny little suburban town to the shore, the catskills, and brian’s pool), and, worst of all, watching the energy policy debate as part of my old job in the U.S. Senate, i’ve drifted back toward my old tree-hugging ways. i use CFL bulbs. i recycle everything, even aluminum foil. i’ve sworn off water from plastic bottles. i’ve switched to organic shampoo. my house is filled with method cleaning products. i’m researching sustainably harvested wood furniture--i even got quoted on apartmenttherapy.com--and i keep my air conditioning above 70, with the blinds closed, at all times. all of my appliances are plugged into surge protectors, so that i don’t have energy “vampires.” (just call me buffy) i walk almost everywhere, always carrying an extra cloth bag in my purse in case i go shopping. i keep a bowl, spoon and mug at work so i don’t have to use plastic or styrofoam. i buy used books and used movies instead of new ones, and i read newspapers online.
and in the kitchen, bringing us back into the realm of culinary relevancy, i do my absolute best to find responsible groceries. for me, this year, that meant joining a CSA, shopping at farmers markets, and eating seasonally.
do i cheat? of course i do. i still love a big, disgusting fast-food hamburger for lunch, and let’s face it, my CSA delivery still needs to be driven in from long island. horizon milk might be organic, but it’s a factory farm, and my much-touted organic shampoo still comes in a big old plastic bottle. i think the key to finding one’s inner treehugger is realizing that there is no perfect solution, but making the effort to find your own way nonetheless. you’d be amazed at the viral effect of practical environmental evangelism. my mother started buying method cleaning products and biodegradable paper plates, just from listening to me talk about it. my dad, after making fun of me for spending the summer driving my old, now-reviled SUV, has since turned around and began working with the contractors at his real estate development company to investigate gray-water plumbing systems for their newest project. he’s learning about LEED certification while my mother is trying to find a brand of recycled napkin that doesn’t feel like cardboard.
and i continue to cook locally and seasonally. which brings me back to “earth food.” for the kick-off weekend of “the summer of gelato” (thus named because i promised my dad that i would make him fresh gelato every week with whatever looked tastiest at the farmers market), i decided to pair a raspberry gelato with a recipe out of emily luchetti’s a passion for desserts, which makes seasonal cooking easy by dividing each awe-inspiring recipe into an appropriate season. smack in the middle of “summer,” then, is this berry creme fraiche cake, which pairs buttermilk cake layers studded with poppy seeds and a plethora of summer berries, utilizing creme fraiche in the place of icing. in the spirit of meeta’s “earth food” theme, i used buttermilk, butter, cream and eggs from my CSA, and berries from the farm stand on sagg main road.
the best part about this cake, aside from, you know, the cake, and the berries, is that creme fraiche is a milder, tangier flavor than your basic buttercream icing, which makes it more palatable to folks like my family, who don’t eat a lot of sweet or desesrt-y things. i made the creme fraiche from scratch, letting it sit for two days to thicken and then beating it with some cream and just a tablespoon or two of sugar.