Shopping No Longer Such a Pleasure 🛒 + Recipe: Banana Bread

Issue No. 69 😏

Welcome to this very nice March issue. Enjoy the boycotts and banana bread!

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As a child, I insisted on accompanying my mother on every grocery run to Publix, so I could cash in on their free cookie policy (a diabolically genius marketing ploy). A Publix chicken tender sub with honey mustard and cheddar was my main source of sustenance during my teen years. My friends that worked at Publix seemed to genuinely love the experience, and many got college scholarships out of it. The closest store is a five minute bike ride from my house, the prices are reasonable, and the selection and quality are excellent. 

Yet... I have been asking myself a tough question lately. Do I need to boycott Publix? The corporation regularly donates big bucks to all manner of dumb dumb politicians. They appear to have a tacit policy to not open stores in Black communities. They have a history of anti-queer bias. And perhaps most upsetting, they have notoriously refused to sign onto the Fair Food Program, a campaign that has successfully provided farmworkers in Florida’s tomato fields with protection from the rampant human rights abuses that used to be the industry norm. McDonald’s and Burger King have signed on. Even Walmart has. Publix (along with Wendy’s) is the most high-profile hold-out. Shopping no longer such a pleasure.

Whether a person is refusing to eat chicken sandwiches or making sofrito from scratch, food boycotts have become ubiquitous. They have a long history, particularly in America. Remember the Boston Tea Party? It was the culmination of a years-long boycott of British tea and its hefty taxes. That boycott clearly led to meaningful change. The problem is that successful boycotts— campaigns that actually achieve the aims they set out to, like the Montgomery Bus Boycott or the Delano Grape Strike— are extremely rare. The vast majority of boycotts do not impact a company’s bottom line, let alone influence policy or change hearts and minds.

Even if most boycotts fail, I believe acts of conscious consumerism do have value, particularly in a capitalist culture. Thinking more carefully about how and where I spend my money (which is itself a privilege), from flour to dishwashing detergent, has been a gateway to diving deeper into the nuanced web of economics and food production. If choosing to support or forego a particular company can get me to think more critically about the ripple effects of production and consumption, I’d say that’s a worthy action step.

That doesn’t mean we ca spend our way to a better world by supporting ✌️the right places✌️. Conscious consumerism is still consumerism, and that is never going to be the way to fix the world. In her piece in Vox about the rise of conscious consumerism, journalist Stephie Grob Plant reminds us to consider the scale of potential impact: “Where and how we spend our money does matter. But how much it matters depends on what else we do with our money and what governments and corporations do with their (considerably larger) pots.”

I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all correct answer on whether or not to boycott Publix, or to participate in any boycott. There are certainly bigger fish to fry than where I buy my groceries. But a boycott or another act of conscious consumerism might be the small, manageable action that leads to deeper thought and action on a complicated issue. 

love,

Jackie

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🍢 Tofu Tips + Tricks

Have you noticed home-cooked tofu is just not as good as restaurant tofu? Restaurant tofu always seems more flavorful, the texture is way lighter, and much crispier when fried. Home-cooked tofu is bland and pasty in comparison.

I’m not sure how and when I learned about this, but I have been solving this problem by freezing my tofu years. Freezing and thawing a block of tofu expels most of the moisture, creating a lighter, airier tofu. All the better for absorbing flavorful liquids. Here is some science:

This trick does require advance planning. I throw the package of (always “extra firm”) tofu straight in the fridge when I get home from the grocery. It should be frozen solid before defrosting, so keep it in the freezer at least overnight. Then a day or two before I plan to cook it, I move it to the fridge to defrost. I slice it, dice it, marinate it, saute it, or fry it like I normally would. Et voila! Restaurant-quality tofu at home.

Got kitchen conundrums that need solving? Send an email to sunshineandmicrobes@gmail.com and let Jackie take a crack at it!

💵 The Fight for Fifteen at an Orlando McDonald’s | New Yorker

Follow 21-year-old Cristian Cardona as he survives the past year as a floor manager at a McDonald’s in Orlando. Writer Eleni Schirmer met him as a volunteer for the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee (EWOC), which helps “”support non-unionized workers seeking to organize their workplaces in the face of COVID-19-related threats to their safety.”  

Cardona is a cool, young organizer representative of the Fight for $15 movement. He explains why the movement itself is so important as he and many of his peers deal with accruing debt and supporting family members in similar low-wage jobs. He receives $10 an hour at McDonald’s, a company emblematic of the way corporations benefited from government anti-regulation policies while workers suffered. McDonald’s employees have endured long hours, low wages, and unsanitary conditions. That disparity has only grown wider since the pandemic began a year ago, and it’s what Cardona and millions of other so-called “essential” workers are struggling against.

Cardona told me that he thinks he might have Stockholm syndrome because he hasn’t left yet. Then he thought a bit more and clarified why he has stayed: “I truly like a lot of the people I work with, and they all deserve better. Providing a quick service that feeds a thousand people a day is a valid job and essential, according to the state. No need to feel ashamed just because it’s McDonald’s.” He paused. “The people in charge are the ones that should feel ashamed. They take advantage of people in desperate situations.”

🥚 Egg Slicers | Gossamer

The egg slicer might be the most alluring single-use appliance. It’s simple yet reliable, with gleaming metal wires that never fail to get the job done. That job being to cut an egg into “manageable, aesthetically appealing ribbons of chalky yellow fat.” Luna Adler makes the convincing case that the egg slicer is the favorite appliance designed for just one (1) task. That’s right: better than any milk frother, rice cooker, banana bunker, or hot dog steamer.

(Matt loved the egg slicer as a kid. Heck you could say his first “cooking” successes involved toasting a bagel, slicing up a hard-boiled egg, and sliding the chunks onto a bagel with cream cheese 👨‍🍳)

🌨️ I’m Tired of Living Through Extraordinary Times | The New Republic

OK, the full title of this article is actually “I’m Tired of Living Through Extraordinary Times in Texas.” But the message here could apply to any part of the country: Extraordinary weather events are becoming much more ordinary — and our leaders refuse to prepare for them. And that’s especially true in Florida, as well as Texas.

Caitlin Cruz describes surviving the Texas winter storm in late February. Cruz and her girlfriend spent multiple nights together in freezing temperatures, without electricity for days. Millions of Texans experienced similar conditions, and dozens of people died.

Why did Texas' own power grid fail so miserably? The main culprit appears to be a lack of regulation by the state government, which refuses to learn anything from or about climate disasters. Texas officials even were warned in 2011 after a less extreme freeze to prepare for a moment like this. They chose not to act. Not only in the face of icy temperatures but also when dealing with prepping Texans for hurricanes and extreme heat. And of course the COVID-19 response has been disastrous. Elected leadership cannot keep pretending these events are once-in-a-lifetime nor keep loosening regulations that leave so many people vulnerable to disaster.

The reality of a changing climate is that we will only become more reliant on each other, and we must decide what kind of world we’d like to live in as it burns—or freezes. In an interview with Texas Monthly, energy consultant and U.T. Austin research assistant in smart grid and bulk electricity systems Joshua Rhodes said that while it’s theoretically possible we might have avoided this week’s energy crisis, there’s also tangible reasons why it happened: Powerful people made choices.


Ali’s Banana Bread

One of the most delightful people I met during my tenure at the Rauschenberg Residency was the multidisciplinary artist Ali Van. She spent many peaceful afternoons in the kitchen with me, and I got to teach her the basics of sourdough. Ali has become an exceptionally creative baker over the last year. This banana bread recipe that she shared with me is a gem. It will most definitely become an Otto’s Bread Club staple. It’s extremely adaptable, so feel free to get playful, as Ali would most certainly want!

For those of you that like your baking with a side of contemporary performance, check out Ali’s video piece “parterre”, a healing visual meditation on the transition from one season to the next. She’s also on this month’s Florida Ferment Fest program with “An Archive of Foraged Ferments”, happening on Zoom Saturday at 3pm EST. Register here.

Makes 2 loaf pans

Ingredients

  • 3 very ripe bananas (the blacker the peel, the sweeter the banana)

  • 2 ripening bananas

  • 3 room temperature eggs

  • 1/2 cup coconut OR granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 3/4 cup oil of choice (coconut, olive, canola)

  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds

  • 1 cup flour of choice (feel free to use an alternative grain [or combo] here...buckwheat or rye or spelt!)

  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed

  • optional: 1/2 cup sourdough discard

  • optional: 1-3 teaspoons other spices of choice (cocoa powder, nutmeg, sage, chai spice, ginger, go wild)

  • optional add-ins: 1- 1 1/2 cup nuts, seeds, dried coconut, cacao nibs, chocolate chips, raisins, fresh berries, or whatever else sounds good, in whatever combination!

  • optional: 1-2 teaspoons citrus zest

step-by-step

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease pans with butter or oil.

  2. In a bowl, mix flours, baking soda, salt, and spices.

  3. In a separate bowl, roughly mash the three ripe bananas (smoosh with hands for efficiency). Add eggs, sugars, vanilla, oil, and sourdough discard if using, and whisk until smooth.

  4. Add flour mixture, hemp seeds, and any add-ins to wet ingredients and whisk until just combined.

  5. Pour batter into pans.

  6. Slice the two ripening bananas lengthwise and arrange, cut side up, on top of batter. Make it an offering to Hestia, goddess of the hearth!

  7. Bake for about 60 minutes, until an inserted toothpick or knife comes out clean.


Submit an event to sunshineandmicrobes@gmail.com

Conversations in the Neighborhood: Gainesville’s Food Producers | March 13 at 1 p.m. | Free! | University of Florida

The Buzz on Forage & Food for Pollinators and People | Jennifer Holmes | March 12 at 7 p.m. | Free on Instagram | FL Ferment Fest

An Archive of Foraged Ferments | Ali Van | March 13th at 3 p.m. | Free on Zoom| FL Ferment Fest

Foraged & Infused Sea Salt with Jackie | March 18th at 6 p.m. | $15 (for charity!) | FL Ferment Fest


Not-so-happy anniversary of the covid-19 lockdown! Remember when we thought this thing might only last like five weeks?

What were you panic buying one year ago today?


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Send in your comments, mailbag questions, recipe mishaps, or cooking tips: sunshineandmicrobes@gmail.com. Also do us a favor and follow us on Facebook and InstagramVisit our website and cook yourself something nice.

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Sunshine + Microbes team
Jackie Vitale is a cook and kitchen educator based in Stuart, Fla . She is co-founder of the Florida Ferment Fest. Her newsletter explores the intersection of food, culture, environment and community.

Matt Levin is a communications specialist at the ACLU of Texas. He edits Sunshine + Microbes and contributes other scraps to each issue.