Dirty Green

Eco-friendly living can’t be fluffed off as a passing fancy anymore. These days, it is considered a full-on lifestyle. There are, however, different levels of commitment to green living. From my experience, there seem to be three categories that most people fall into. Since it’s Earth Day, let’s have a look, shall we?

Light Green:

Light Green people are those who haven’t fully committed to green living, but they feel they’re making an effort, and a difference.

Light Greens drive hybrid cars, they recycle and they won’t run a dishwasher unless it’s full. However, their kids leave lights on all over the house and their air conditioning runs without interruption from May to September.

My family is Light Green. I’ve tried to make us greener, but some things just won’t fly. For example, I put a moratorium on paper towel use. Everybody had a fit, but I remained steadfast. I bought a boatload of ShamWow cloths (as seen on TV) and instructed my family to use them in place of paper towels. Then one day, my husband hired a cleaning company to give the inside of our barn a good going over. When the crew arrived, they explained that they didn’t bring rags (I know, it’s a head-scratcher). So my husband gave them all of my ShamWows and they never gave them back. I think the whole thing was a set-up, but I’ve never been able to prove it.

Deep Green:

Deep Green people are serious about the eco-friendly lifestyle. They do it properly and without fanfare.

My friends Christian and Debra exemplify the Deep Green couple. They both drive hybrids (hers plugs in), they built their house with sustainable materials, chose a floor plan designed to maximize the efficiency of their heating and cooling systems, they have solar panels on their the roof (I’ve watched their electric meter run backwards as they add energy to the grid) and they belong to an organic food co-op. Incidentally, they are both very attractive (which may or may not have anything to do with their lifestyle, but I just thought I’d mention it).

Here’s the best part about Debra and Christian: they don’t cram their philosophy down anybody else’s throat and they don’t think being green makes them “special.” It’s just the way they live. If you want to ask them about it, they will happily discuss how and why they do what they do. Otherwise, they have plenty of other interesting things to talk about.

Dirty Green

Perhaps the most confounding of all green groups are those I classify as Dirty Green.

Dirty Greens are the most vocal about pollution, filth and the decay of our environment. Yet, their homes are smelly, sticky, greasy and grimy. Why? They don’t “believe” in cleaning products. Huh? They also do not “believe” in shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste. Who knew there was dogma attached to shampoo?

Dirty Greens are to be avoided at social gatherings and are never to be invited as houseguests. At parties, they will take time out from harassing the hostess about using disposable tableware, to corner you with a  lecture about global warming. The first thing they’ll do is ask you what you drive. Unless you say “a horse and buggy” or “I walk everywhere – barefoot,” you will play right into their clammy hands. Then they’ll grill you about your eco-related habits, and wince as you pop a pig-in-a-blanket in your mouth. “Do you have any idea what industrial pig farming is doing to the planet? Have you ever stopped to think about the sewage generated by a pig farm?! Do you have any idea what that thing is doing to your body? Don’t you care about consuming something so toxic to the environment?…”  Their comments, opinions, know-it-all-isms and unsolicited advice will be endless.

If a Dirty Green waylays you, here are two exit strategies: 1) Look at your watch and excuse yourself because it’s time to take your digestive enzymes, or 2) Pretend you don’t speak their language (which probably isn’t too far from the truth, in a manner of speaking).

As houseguests, they are a nightmare. They will bring their dog without asking. They will let it soil your lawn but not clean it up because “it’s good for the environment.” They do not flush toilets. They will bring their own food and refuse to eat any of your pasteurized, processed or farmed-raised groceries (basically everything you’ve bought in anticipation of their arrival). No matter how hard you try please them, you’ll be a loser. That quiche you whipped up, with organic cage-free eggs and whole-wheat crust, will fall short because you prepared the dough with hydrogenated Crisco. And you can forget about serving those gluten-free bagels unless you have wild-caught Pacific coast lox and dairy-free cream cheese (an oxymoron, if ever there was one).

Under the guise of a benevolent gesture, they will offer to do the cooking. Don’t fall into that trap, or you’ll be eating a mixture of brown rice, seaweed and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with kale juice to choke it all down. There is not enough Beano on the planet to handle the “pollution” that menu will produce.

Dirty Greens are full of beans!

Dirty Greens are full of beans!

By the time they go home, three things will have transpired: you will hate yourself for “poisoning” your children with name brand breakfast cereals; you will feel single-handedly responsible for punching a hole in the ozone because you dust with Pledge; you will be bloated.

I have a suspicion about the Dirty Greens. Does it seem to anybody else that they use ecology as a cover-up for bizarre food quirks, poor personal hygiene, and zero interest in housework? If they’re so concerned about cleaning up the environment, may I suggest they start with their own hair?

If you’re Light Green or Dirty Green, we’ve got plenty of room for improvement. Here are some tips…

–       Cleaning Products: There are hundreds of eco-friendly solutions on the market to make your house sparkle naturally. I like Mrs. Meyers Clean Day products. They come in 13 fresh fragrances, are Earth-friendly, and are not tested on animals. Another great brand is Method. Both are reasonably priced and available at most supermarkets.

–       Household Supplies: The ideal is to create as little waste as possible, but if you haven’t mastered that yet, at least you can use the most biodegradable and recyclable products you can find. As part of their extensive, eco-friendly line, Seventh Generation offers recycled paper products like toilet paper, napkins, paper towel and trash bags.

–       Pet Care: You can pick up your dog’s poo (to the relief of your neighbors) and be green at the same time, with biodegradable dog waste bags. There are many brands available and they’re easy to find online. If you’d like your dog’s “business” to make a statement, PetOutSide makes waste bags in a variety of snazzy colors and jazzy prints. After all, why be dull?

–       Personal Care: If minimal packaging is what you’re looking for, a multi-tasking cleansing bar might be just the ticket. You can use it to wash yourself from head to toe. J.R. Liggett’s offers a variety of bars (including one for your dog!). Looking for a product that does even more? Nobody beats Dr. Bronner’s Organic Pure Castile soaps that will wash you hair, body, bathroom, laundry, car, etc. As for natural and organic deodorants and toothpastes, they are available at any health food store or pharmacy. Please, go explore those (I’m talking to you Dirty Greens).

This is just a short list of options to help you achieve a Deep Green lifestyle, without much ado or breaking your budget. And remember to recycle! If you’re unsure of your town’s recycling policies, call your local sanitation department. For general recycling guidelines, visit Recycle Now for lots of information and ideas.

Since today is designated to celebrate the mother ship, I hope you’ll take this opportunity to review your own efforts to respect and care for her. Leave a comment below and tell me: What shade of green are you?

A Perfect Pairing

Recently, my husband and I celebrated out 22nd wedding anniversary.  When people learn we’ve been married that long, they carry on with like we’ve just discovered the cure for psoriasis or something.  But to us, 22 years doesn’t seem like a big deal.  In fact, by our families’ standards, we are rookies.  Hubby’s paternal grandparents (who both lived into their 90’s)  celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary.  My own parents have been united (unified?  unionized?) for just over 60 years.

My parents on their wedding day.

That’s a long time.  Can you imagine owning the same pair of gloves for over 60 years?  Now imagine belonging to another human being for that length of a time.

Lower those hackles, people!  I know, you winced at my use of the words “owning” and “belonging,” but just what do you think marriage is anyway?  I’ll explain: it is a contract…a binding one.  Breaking that contract is usually very difficult and extremely expensive.  If it weren’t such a big deal, it would be as easy to extricate oneself from a marriage as, say, a gym membership.  Oh, wait a minute…

Ok, let me rephrase that:  Even though it is easier to “uncouple” from your spouse than it was for me to part company with Equinox Fitness (a maddening story for another time), you should consider yourself “locked in” like a long-term mortgage.  And I mean this in the best of ways!

To celebrate our 22 years together, Hubby and I invited our friends Jonas and Vanessa to join us for dinner at a restaurant called Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

What’s that you say?  You’ve never heard of it?  Those in the know simply refer to it as Stone Barns.  It’s one of those farm-to-table joints, and practically everything they serve comes from the fields, and the coops, or the pens.  There are no menus.  Instead, you’re given a little Field and Pasture booklet, which lists the things that are in season for every given month.  Then, you are offered two meal choices: “Grazing, Pecking and Rooting” which consists of many little plates (and I do mean many), or the “Farmer’s Feast,” which offers the same amount of food on fewer plates but with larger portions.   Both are designed around that day’s harvest.  Both selections can be ordered with food alone, or with wine pairings.

While mulling over our choices (the whole table must agree to have the same plan), Jonas and I ordered cocktails.  He wanted a cucumber martini, but was told cucumbers were out of season (they’re not faking it at Stone Barns).  I wished I had brought one with me.  Is that a cucumber in your evening bag, or are you just happy to order a martini?

After a brief confab, the four of us decided to be grazing peckers.  Since Jonas and I were already working on our cocktails, we two opted to graze with wine.  Then we nominated Hubby & Vanessa to be our designated drivers.  They agreed, and so our culinary adventure began.

While taking in the beautiful dining room, our first course arrived.  We were served, what looked like, four little maroon buttons.  Four.  Each one was about the size of a quarter.  They turned out to be beet jerky.  No, that is not a typo.  It was jerky made of beets, not beef. And it was delicious.  If you’re not a beet fan, well, too bad for you because beets are in season and we were served lots of them, in many different forms.  Jonas is not a great lover of beets (or he would have ordered a beet martini), but he still liked them…pretty much.  Vanessa is an accomplished cook.  In fact she has her own catering business.  So she could probably figure out how to make beet jerky, but I don’t think Jonas will be requesting it anytime soon.

While we were enjoying our “buttons,” the sommelier gave Jonas and I our first pairing.  Now, I’ve ordered wine pairings before and I know the drill: savor that pour, ‘cuz you ain’t gettin’ no more!  Not so at Stone Barns, my friends.  Jonas emptied his glass before the course was over and somebody was there lickity split to refill it.

Following the jerky, we munched on kale and cabbage chips, suspended in this weird contraption that looked like a tree.  Yum!

Kale & Cabbage Sitting In A Tree...

Kale & Cabbage Sitting In A Tree…

After that, the vino kept flowing and the plates kept coming. And everything was incredible.

At one point, our server came to our table and brightly suggested, “Let’s take a walk.”

I immediately assumed I had been talking loudly enough to warrant removal from the premises – like I said, they were not being stingy with the wine.  I stared blankly, first at the server and then at Vanessa, who just shrugged.  Hubby informed us that we were being relocated to dine in the kitchen for a course or two.  Sweet!  Why were we invited to go into the kitchen?  Who cares?!  I’ve learned never to question those little perks life occasionally throws your way.

The kitchen was buzzing like Grand Central Station.  It looked like something out of a stylized, swanky movie – shiny and bright, filled with young, good-looking people (and not just because I was sporting a pair of wine goggles).

There was so much food and it was all incredibly delectable, but I knew I’d never be able to remember it all.  So, I wrote some of it down.  We had:

 

Pig's Liver with Chocolate and Mini Beet Burgers

Pig’s Liver with Chocolate and Mini Beet Burgers

  • Pig’s liver with chocolate (Seriously!  And seriously awesome.)

 

  • Teeny tiny beet burgers (with the smallest sesame buns you’ve ever seen)

 

  • Schpeck fresh pea puree with lime (I don’t know what this means either, but it’s what I typed into my iPhone.)

 

  • Beet tartar with quail egg (I told there were lots of beets)

 

  • Smoked trout with crème fraiche and borscht (more beets anyone?)

 

  • A very special beer that only occurs in nature every 17,000 years!  Apparently the malt grains ferment in the fields because the humidity is only just so every 17,000.  Huh?  How would anyone know what happened 17,000 years ago? But again, mine was not to reason why.  Mine was but to drink that crazy, refreshing beer.

 

  • Kohlrabi tacos with carrot salt (FYI: carrot salt is a game changer)

 

  • Venison
We ate off of bark. I swear to God.

We ate off of bark. I swear to God.

Then, on top of all this, dessert was served.  There were merengue worms, white chocolate eggs filled with something sinfully rich, truffles, honey drizzled ice cream and much more!

Dessert Extravaganza

By the time the meal ended, over five hours later, we were stuffed and I was a wee bit tipsy (and by “tipsy” I mean “blotto”).

Jonas was none the worse for wear and proved it when the check arrived.  With the swift precision of a striking cobra WHOOSH he grabbed it before Hubby knew what happened.  We tried to argue, but our dear friends would not hear of it.  Now, let me tell you, this was far beyond generous.  A meal like that doesn’t come on the cheap.  In fact, to fairly reciprocate on their anniversary, Hubby and I will have to gift Jonas and Vanessa with a vacation home in the south of France.

I look forward to our next visit to Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  Oh yes!  We shall return, but next time, I will skip the cocktail and limit myself to two glasses of their fine wine.  And I will bring a cucumber in my evening bag, just in case they’re out of season.

My parents today. Still belonging to each other.

My parents today. Still belonging to each other.