Sunday, June 24, 2012

A 'hole' lot of chicken

Here is the recipe you should follow for a superb saturday get-together, a farm-party, and a bbq with a twist.

If you want to eat well, share food with good people, and appreciate where it comes from; this is it. Just follow these simple (but hard-working) steps:

0. Allbeit not a necessary step, plucking and processing a chicken was an interesting experience to witness... If you wanna eat meat, you should know how it gets on your plate.

1. Dig a hole. Or better yet, have someone dig a hole for you. If you are married to an archaeologist, your hole will be a perfect rectangle that measures 1m by 1.5m by 0.5 m.

2. Cover the bottom of the hole with river cobbles.

3. Build a fire on top of the rocks.

4. Once you fire has turned to charcoal, remove all the wood/charcoal/debris but leave the hot rocks.

5. Cover the rocks with fresh grass.

6. Place your food directly on the grass, or if it gets sticky you can cover it in aluminum foil too. Veggies, meat, anything goes. The more food the better!

7. Add more grass on top and then cover everything evenly.
8. Pour about 5 gallons of water over the whole affair.
9. Quickly cover up your hole. We used corrugated tin for a quick airtight 'roof' and added dirt on top.

10. Leave your hole alone for about 4 hours. Your food is steaming and cooking. Go grab a beer.

12. Uncover your hole and see what you got!

13. Have a party.

14. Thank the yummy chickens.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Do we come from monkeys?

This is a question that, unfortunately, I have to explain and defend on a semi-regular basis. How does this relate to ecologics? Well, in order to understand our role, if any, on this big planet, we need to know where we came come. Making smart decisions when it comes to our health and our environment starts by understanding how we fit on this earth. And the answer is not 'poof, we magically appeared here.'

Because I work in archaeology; over the years many people have asked me about:
1. Dinosaurs (that's paleontology)
2. Rocks and volcanoes (that's geology)
3. Monkeys (that's primatology)
4. Aliens and Egyptian pyramids (that's crap)
5. Indiana Jones (no, I don't usually dig up crystal skulls)
6. Evolution

"Well I'm not a monkey, that's for sure. You're a scientist, explain evolution to me"
Well here you have it, I came across this yesterday. Evolution 101, enjoy!

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Peanut Sat on a Railroad Track

So I found this cool book at the library the other day called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. It's a kind of a cook book/diary combo. The author goes through a list of items that most people will buy pre-made at the store and try to replicate it at home. Then she'll compare the time, quality, effort, and price of both food versions and will tell you if it's worth it.

Her point is that over the years, more and more dishes that used to be homemade are now considered 'ingredients' that you buy at the store without question. Who would try to make ketchup? And more importantly, everyone has a subjective line with what they consider necessary to make vs. acceptable to buy.

A few of my personal examples on my personal sliding-scale:
- Toast. We can all agree on that one. Let's make it at home.
- Pie crust. Gotta make it, even though most people would buy it. I don't care that it's messy and time-consuming. I would just feel like a lesser person if I bought it.
- Mayonnaise. Cool and fun to make but still a staple item to buy.
- Butter. That is hard-core. Never gonna try to make it, have no desire to.

Anyway, her book and concepts start with peanut butter. It's cheap and easy to make, but now everyone in America buys either Skippy, Peter Pan, or Jif. It should be only peanuts, salt, and maybe oil, but it has turned into a whole industry.

You got pre-packaged PB&J sandwiches (with crusts already removed), pre-mixed PB&J squirt bottles (no need for a knife), smooth or crunchy peanut butter, peanut butter dip, etc.

So if you feel like sticking it to the man, here is the recipe for peanut butter:

1. Put unsalted roasted peanuts in blender.
2. Push button.
3. Remove peanut butter from blender.

One little note of advice. Don't keep pushing the button (Step 2 of the recipe) non-stop until your peanut butter is silky smooth or you'll fry your blender. Not that I did that or anything, I'm just warning you novices.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Running with Fingers

Jim here. So…I started running about a year and a half ago and I feel pretty good. I have lost weight and feel strong. About a year ago I read the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. In his book McDougall talks about the benefits of barefoot running and the philosophy of running in general. If you enjoy running this book will change your life. It did mine.

After finishing his book I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers (those weird foot “gloves” that have us all doing a double take when we see them on someone’s feet) and was determined to throw off my thick-soled running shoes and to start running (nearly) barefoot. These shoes were not originally designed for running but were quickly co-opted by the barefoot running community. My initial results with them were not good. I strapped them on and ran a nice easy two miles. I could feel my calves growing very tight but the running was easy, so I continued. The next day my calves were so sore that I could barely walk, and after four days I was still clutching the handrail on my way to the basement. I had never been that sore in my life. I tossed the Vibrams into the closet and cursed the shoes to anybody who would listen.

Once the soreness subsided I continued to run in my regular shoes and found my groove again. I realized that, as with many runners, I was a “heel striker”; that is, I would land on the heels of my feet and roll forward. Barefoot running (or close to barefoot) means running up on the balls of your feet, which is the natural way to run. Watch a child run barefoot through the grass sometime and you will see what I mean. You simply cannot heel-strike while running barefoot; your body won’t let you.

My old running shoes vs. my new Vibrams
The transition from regular running shoes (those with a thick heel) to Vibram Five Fingers requires patience. I started this transition by consciously running on the balls of my feet while still in my regular running shoes. I did this for several months before again strapping on my Vibrams. Things went much better this time. After three five-mile runs along my regular paved road route I had no more soreness and felt good. I have since switched to trail running and am up over 30 miles per week.

There is a healthy philosophy to barefoot running. It isn’t about speed, or time splits (and the stress the emotional and physical stress that comes along with these). It is about slowing down and enjoying the act of running. I now measure my runs in terms of hours in motion rather than minutes per mile.

The lesson I have learned is to simply slow down and allow myself to get into the act of running. There is a lot to see and feel. Trail running in Vibram Five Fingers forces you to slow down and focus on the steady conveyor belt of tiny obstacles through which you need to find your way. Pain is a good motivator, and you will naturally slow down and focus on the trail in order to avoid landing on those sharp little rocks that will send little bolts of lightning through your feet. One’s mind shifts from the sometimes negative train of thought to the emotion-neutral trail directly in front of you. I am happy that I discovered these shoes, and fortunate to have easy access to miles and miles of beautiful trails to explore.

Time for my run…