Welcome to Modern Beet : Thoughtful Eating

November 12th, 2007  |  Published in All, Beets, Veritable Vegetables

Thanks for visiting Modern Beet!

My name is Jen Carlile, and I am an avid cook, amateur farmer, and general food enthusiast. I live in the San Francisco Bay area in a small cottage in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. I came to California in 2004 to attend Stanford’s Music, Science, and Technology Master’s program at CCRMA and have remained here ever since, captivated by the beautiful landscape, delicious fresh food, and wonderful community. During the week, I am a software engineer in the field of Pro Audio.

I’m 26 years old, and this is the second blog I’ve kept. The first is from the year I spent traveling as a Watson Fellow after I finished my undergraduate education at Wellesley College

So, you might ask, what does ‘Thoughtful Eating’ mean? To me, it means being aware of your food–where it comes from, who grew it, who (or what) harvested it, how it is produced, how it impacts the land and the earth, how it impacts your body and mind.

The idea of food accountability and local eating has gained enormous popularity as of late through books like Michael Pollan’s ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ and Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’, and through websites like Ethicurean.com and 100MileDiet.org. The idea of local eating is one that historically has been the norm, but has faded from the mainstream American mindset in the past few decades, much to the detriment of our health and well-being. As we reach a breaking point with health, pollution, and food security issues, the idea of eating locally is once again making an appearance.

I recently read somewhere that every time you buy food, it’s like a vote as to how you would like your food to be produced. This line struck me in particular because it takes the somewhat daunting idea of changing your buying and eating habits and breaks it into many small, manageable actions rather than one, enormous sea-change. Thoughtful eating is not all or nothing; starting with a single action here and there–buying an in-season peach from a farmer’s market, growing a tomato plant during the summer season, replacing one meal of conventionally raised meat with sustainably raised meat–these actions begin to add up and make a difference in our national food system. I’ve gradually been making the change over the past couple of years, and my culinary repertoire has benefited enormously.

Ah, finally to the blog! The purpose of Modern Beet is to share recipes and food experiences. On any given evening you can find me in my tiny kitchen with its miniature refrigerator and miniature stove (emphasis on *small* cottage) trying out this new recipe or that, chosen because it features some ingredient I found at the farmer’s market that week. I cook almost every day, as cooking is my favorite form of relaxation. Since I do most of my shopping at the farmer’s market (both for social reasons and frugality–a pound of heirloom tomatoes is far less expensive at the FM than at a boutique grocery), most of the recipes you’ll find here emphasize local, seasonal, sustainably-produced foods. I find simple preparations that highlight one or two flavors to be the most satisfying dishes, and most recipes will be of that nature.

I also hope to post frequently about my new adventures as an amateur farmer. I recently moved from downtown San Francisco to more rural Los Altos Hills, and for the first time in my adult life, I decided to plant a vegetable garden; now that I’ve done it and figured out that it really isn’t rocket science, I kick myself for not doing it sooner in containers or even old dresser drawers.

And if you’re curious about the title ‘Modern Beet’, I decided to name this blog after my favorite specimen in the entire vegetable kingdom–the mighty, yet humble and proletariat, beet. Believe it or not, I never ate a fresh beet until I was 17 years old. I don’t remember eating a lot of vegetables growing up; whether they were absent or whether they were offered and refused by me, I can’t remember. Oddly enough, my love of beets originates with a quirky, post-modern novelist. In fact, a single story so captured my imagination that as soon as I read the last page, I went to the grocery store in search of this fantastical vegetable I had never tried, save perhaps pickled out of a jar (though I’m not sure I’d ever tried those either). Perhaps I was subconsciously biased since I’d enjoyed the novel so much, but the red beet became my new favorite vegetable–earthy yet sweet, with a wonderful texture–it is simply delicious.

And on an entirely different note, another hobby of mine is alternative energy vehicles, vegetable oil cars in particular. I am the proud owner of 100% vegetable oil powered 1983 Mercedes, which reliably takes me everywhere I need to go. If you’re curious at all about vegetable oil/biodiesel vehicles or are looking for resources, I’d love to discuss it with you.

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