WND – Squeals of Girlish Glee

August 13, 2009

corn husks

I got a package in the mail on Tuesday and squeaked with delight when I opened it up and it revealed the folding, reusable plastic grocery bag that I’d ordered late last week. I’d been wanting a reusable shopping bag that was small enough to carry around with me so that I’d have it when I need it (read, for unexpected trips to a farmer’s market during lunch), and that I could carry over my shoulder. I love getting food at farmer’s markets but I hate lugging it home. Baggu makes shoulder strap reusable plastic grocery bags that fold up into a tiny square that’s so small it can get lost in my purse. They also come in a huge variety of colors, and I’m vain and I like having a pretty shopping bag (I got the purple flowered bag, if you’re curious – second row from the bottom in the middle – and it’s adorable).

As I was showing it off to a friend last night, and as we exclaimed over the Wine and Cheese Trails Guide put out by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture we wondered when exactly we’d become these people. When did we become people who name drop local farms and carry reusable grocery bags around with us for unexpected trips to a farmer’s market? Is this just something that happens once you’re over the age of 30? Is the green movement working? Or is it just because we’re all foodies who get excited about finding a new source that sells Hannahbells (without having to go all the way out to Westport to the Shy Brothers Farm)?

We had a friend visiting this weekend who’d been out of the country for a year and thus hadn’t been in my kitchen in a year. As she looked around at the Brita water filter I got because I was vaguely appalled at the number of plastic bottles I threw away every week, and as she followed me around on Saturday morning to the local farm (for 20 ears of corn), and to Wilson Farms (for fruits and vegetables and local organic dairy products) she made a dire prediction. She said that the next logical step for me to take was to start a compost bin. This is actually unlikely for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I don’t have a garden and even if I did I hate gardening. On the other hand I have occasionally looked at the vegetable peelings and corn husks and thought that there had to be somewhere better to put them than a plastic garbage bag, so there is every chance that when the US steps up its game and starts requiring people to separate their trash into a wider variety of recyclables I will become my mother with a small bucket of organic ordure next to my sink which will get tied up into a neat paper parcel for the trash each day.

I am entertained by the variety of responses countries have had to the recycling movement, I think they’re very telling of the national ethic involved. Stereotypes exist for a reason, and one of the most entertaining things I ever discovered in a historical document (Bede’s “Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum” if you wish to be precise) is that the English have disliked the French for millennia, and people have thought that England is a cold damp place with terrible food since the Dark Ages.

Where my parents live in France they have the world’s most complicated system of recycling known to man. There a separate containers for clear glass bottles and colored glass bottles, but they don’t get picked up by the municipality, you have to take those to a recycling bin yourselves. There is a pick up for plastic, for paper, and for organic ordure (which is to say, egg shells, tea bags, carrot peels, etc.). Needless to say these pick ups are not on the same day, but are spread throughout the week so that every day will find my parents taking a different colored trash bin to the front gate for pick up in the morning. I have no idea how rigorously this arcane system is followed by the general population. There are dire threats which accompany the state produced literature on the subject for those who disobey, but I haven’t seen much evidence of follow through, and according to my parents they know people who refuse to separate their trash on principle. I’m not sure exactly what principle that is, but I’m sure it’s something that’s worthy of debate on Apostrophe.

In many cities in Germany and Switzerland (German Switzerland, of course) you have to buy your trash bags from the city at an exorbitant price. As a result people recycle everything that can possibly be recycled to avoid filling more than one bag a week, and stores have started to sell things in smaller packaging because people now object to getting a knife wrapped in layers of steel reinforced plastic because the packaging will take up so much space in their trash.

In Brookline, where my roommate works, there were signs up a year or so ago which advertised a cash incentive program sponsored by the town to get people to recycle more. And that, in a nutshell is the difference in all those places. In France they just implement it (with paperwork filed in triplicate I’m sure) and then threaten you ineffectually if you don’t toe the line. In Germany they penalize you if you don’t. And in the US they bribe you. I have a sneaking suspicion that Germany has the most effective method.

Corn Soup
Cheese/Cold Cuts

Corn Soup
The last time I made Corn Soup I said I was holding on to the vestiges of summer with both hands. This time I’m clinging to the glimpses of summer that we’ve been allowed to see. The other night as I left work the fog rolled in so thick and fast that within 5 minutes you couldn’t see the next building over, I emailed Jes to tell her that Boston was doing a stellar impression of San Francisco only without the hills or the farmer’s market. I’m pretty sure the sound I heard was her laughing at me.

Having shucked and cut the corn off of some ungodly number of ears of corn in the last week I can offer the following advice. If you don’t have a handy back porch on which to shuck your corn, the basin of your sink is more practical than your counter. This is particularly true if you have a garbage disposal (I don’t), but even without it’s easier to scoop the corn silk out of your sink than it is to track down all the stray silk on your counter. Similarly when you go to cut the corn off the cob do it in a deep bowl, because otherwise you’ll have stray droplets of corn milk adorning every surface in your kitchen.

Recipe previously given:  Birthday Season 2008 – Part II

soup composite


cheese plate





  1. You may or may not be proud to learn that I have done the research and found an organic grocer who not only stocks only local produce, but who also delivers. I have been eating fresh peaches, nectarines, and heirloom tomatoes all week, thinking of you and Robin.

    Also: That you for know it’s toe the line and not tow the line is one of the many reasons I love you.

    • I am delighted to have been a bad influence on you 😉

      Also, I am horrified, although sadly insufficiently surprised, to discover that there are people who would say ‘tow the line’. That doesn’t even make sense.

  2. I must say that I find it so normal now to separate my rubbish into multiple bins, that I find it downright shocking to find people who jut throw everything into ONE bin.

  3. In another analysis of cultural differences:
    If the French system had been implemented in the US, someone would have made a nice little biodegradable sac for the organic waste before the system was ever put into place and they would have made a tidy amount of money from it.

    As it is, after about two years that neat little sac has appeared in the grocery (made by a large conglomerate who makes plastic stuff) to be bought, and the trash collection no longer accepts neat little paper parcels.

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