This week, on Earth Day, my baby turned seven! She has become a literary number, a good luck number, a Biblical number. This week, the love of my dog reminds me that time, all time, even socially-distanced time, is extremely precious and not to be taken for granted.
“It’s not fair,” could be the rally cry of middle class children, to which parents respond in the most condescending way, “Life’s not fair.” How bitter is that first taste of injustice- the crayon the kid brother stole and ravaged when mom wasn’t looking, the unquenchable desire for that new, expensive toy that will hold attention for mere minutes, the inarguable need for that acid-washed jean jacket with neon accents (I was born in the 80s after all). We stomach that frustration, then we grow up, and it’s all too easy to give credence to this notion. Life simply isn’t fair.
Our parents were not wrong. Life is utterly and completely unfair, but the phrase ends so succinctly- a glaring period. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. There is no further discussion to be had. Life is unfair.
That period is fine when the injustice in question is a neon-accented, acid-washed denim ensemble (let’s be real- we dodged a bullet on that one), but what about the larger, looming unfairness? Do we end our sentence with a period and turn our heads? Many do, but there are others who turn their eyes toward those injustices, seek to understand them and be so bold as to look that unfairness in the eyes and defy it.
I am no beacon of holiness on this issue. I try to live my life in a way that supports fairness, to sustain myself without depleting the stockpiles, but I am not above the blind eye or the cheated corner. I lean too heavily on the excuses of time and money and “someday,” but then I’ll find myself confronted with my own bullshit, typically when enshrouded in the darkness of a theater.
As a student, I found myself passionately involved with my university’s film festival. Had it not been for the new director, the event would have been a scrappy assemblage of films, but under her guidance, we skimmed the world for the most relevant and artistic films, many of them dark and emotionally daunting. Through the weight of these screenings, I saw injustices from corners long ignored by our media outlets.
Through the screening of Black Gold, I saw how my coffee habits affected others. I saw just how deeply unfair life is, how those in the thick of the unfairness are seldom, if ever, the ones to utter “it’s not fair.” I also saw ways to inch towards fairness, towards “Fair Trade.” These two words, when stamped on food mean we are saying “life can be fairer.”
That stamp of equality extends beyond food, a fact which crystallized at yet another film festival. Watching Fair Trade: The First Step, a short film at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival exposed me to the realities of cheap clothing (and on the brighter side of the festival- to Desert Dawg!). My fair trade coffee and chocolate are not enough. Food, clothing, decor, gifts… I must consider how and where these items were made.
Tomorrow, May 13th, is a celebration of that effort- World Fair Trade Day, an initiative of the World Fair Trade Organization.
The World Fair Trade Organization believes that Fair Trade is a solution to trade injustices and imbalances of power in the supply chain. It is our inherent power to make change. Together, hand in hand, we can work for a fairer world.
To celebrate this day, I’ve partnered with Ten Thousand Villages, a beautifully shop, but more importantly, an agent for change. Growing up, I loved shopping at TTV, the collections offered some of my first glimpses of the world and planted seeds for the extensive journeys I would one day make.
The stone slate tray you see here, with these chocolate splattered scones, is an example of how we can go beyond food choices to defy unfairness. TARA, the fair-trade initiative behind this handcrafted tray works for fair wages, educational programs, health and environmental awareness for its artisans, so adding this tray to my home collection is not in vain.
Our parents were not wrong. Life is not fair, but that doesn’t mean we have to sit still. We can make strides, big and small, toward a better system, so join the movement and celebrate the impact Fair Trade has on the supply chain. If you live in Pittsburgh, maybe we’ll cross paths at the Ten Thousand Villages in Squirrel Hill. I might just be the girl in the acid-washed neon jean jacket, defying my parents on all accounts.
p.s: If you’re celebrating World Fair Trade Day, don’t forget to use these hashtags: #fairtradeday #agentforchange
Disclaimer: I did receive product in exchange for this post, but all opinions and acid-washed, neon-accented jean jackets are all my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support With The Grains and stand up for good causes.
Whole Grain Dark Chocolate Cardamom Scones with a Hint of Coffee
About this Recipe: Loaded with fair-trade coffee, chocolate and vanilla, these whole grain scones are a responsible and sweet way to start the day. The coffee flavor is very subtle in comparison to the chocolate and cardamom, so up the intensity of your brew for a stronger flavor.
At every gathering I host, I like to add at least one little detail that will get guests to say, "oh girl, oh no you didn't!" Infused butters will elicit that remark. They're that 2.0 moment, the little cherry on top of the sundae, and best of all, you'll likely have enough leftover to continue spreading all that flavor on subsequent pancakes, morning toast or quick breads long after the party dust has settled.
Vegan gravy may seem like an oxymoron, but this mushroom version will appease vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike, which is why I also recommend it if you want to follow my lead and throw a Biscuit Buffet Brunch. If biscuits feel intimidating, pair this gravy with a whole grain or gluten free pasta or mashed potatoes. The possibilities abound!
I love hosting friends and family in our home, but I also love sitting and eating, so I always try to strike a balance of effort when it comes to menu planning. I hosted a Biscuit Buffet and provided plenty of whole grain biscuits, a few staple toppings and invited my friends to bring their favorite toppings as well as some bubbly.
A birthday is the perfect nudge to seize the day and gather friends and family for a slow Sunday of rich eats, refills of coffee and toasts of bubbly. I like to make these events a collaborative effort- both to make hosting more approachable and to challenge folks with my themes. Stay tuned for more tips on creating a biscuit buffet with the help of guests.
I felt as though I had found fall.
There she was! Peeking through the tall, green trees, her flames blazed against the bright, blue sky. I was far away from the city (as evidenced by the changes in political fervor), where the trees were still clinging to their youthful summer glow. My little red car, packed to the brim with Nordic sweaters, enamel plates and a menu fit for a cabin weekend, zipped along the winding roads to a shoot location. Yet at that moment, I inched along the road, leaning into my steering wheel and staring as high into my windshield as I could. There was fall!
My “day job(s)” have taken me farther and wider this season, to that cabin in the woods, to a magical old building with chipping paint, where I tossed a scavenged collection of branches and leaves, to the beach with a rosé dipped sunset. Each time, I tried to slow down enough to enjoy at least one little moment, in which I removed my head from the time checks and just inhaled the landscape, the season and the little journeys. It’s not easy, especially when the darkness begins to cloak the creaky trees, sending my imagination wildly into scenes from Stranger Things, but I tried then too.
It’s a time of year when we turn to spices, and pumpkins, and lattes that pretend to include both, in order to be in this season, to savor it slowly in the first hints of crisp fall air, but arguably, we should turn to honey.
Those mystifying, inspiring honey bees, who we as a society have taken for granted enough to push them to the verge of endangerment, are masters in capturing the essence of the season. From the same plot of land, their routines yield honeys so incomprehensibly different. This fall’s honey, is thicker, the sweetness intensifying as it rolls across the tongue ever so slowly, as if to say, savor the lingering golden light, the warmth and the bold colors.
No matter the season, nothing puts me quite in the moment like the combination of sweet and savory, so these Honey Sage drenched Biscuits are just that- sweet, savory odes to fall.
If you’re feeling particularly neighborly or generous, make extra Honey Sage Syrup and give the gift of fall to someone dear. When the biscuits are but mere crumbs, add the syrup to your evening bourbon drink with a fresh sage leaf garnish and really sink into the early sunset.
Whole Grain Apple Butter Parmesan Biscuits
Yield: ~ 12 biscuits
About this Recipe: Sweet enough to eat with breakfast or tea, savory enough to pair with roasted root vegetables and meats or warm butternut squash soups.
Last fall, the Urban Farmer and I made a Westward Wander, or what I dubbed #KyleMeetsTheKogels2015, since this was their official meet and greet. My parents toured us around their icy town in Iowa, where they had begun to settle after moving nearly one year prior. My dad pointed out the expanse of farms, the loss of the smaller family farms, the surplus of corn and of course, the donut shop. My mom’s additions to the tour included the trails where she walked with her new friends and the home of an older woman she helped with cleaning.
She mentioned that last detail so nonchalantly, so humbly. Yet that little detail speaks volumes about my mom. She is a giver, a selfless helper, a patient listener and a constant doer. She sends birthday and anniversary cards to everyone, including my dog! She sends care packages with little recipe clippings and encouraging notes, affirming that no matter my crazy pursuit, my mom believes I can not only do it, but do it well.
I could tell you there is no sweeter woman, and you might say, “that’s what everyone says about their moms,” but in my case, it may be true. After attending a church service with my parents, an older woman approached me, so pleased to meet Regina’s daughter. “Your mother has been such a blessing to this community. She has really made a difference, and we are so blessed to have her.” I bit my lip to stifle the tears my sappiness ejects against my will and thanked this woman for sharing that tidbit with me.
Having barely been in that small town for a year, my mom’s presence had already been felt and appreciated. In that moment, in that wash of gratitude, I felt so lucky to be Regina’s daughter, to have grown up with her as my example, to have the parenting bar set by her devotion and sacrifice. Unfortunately, we were nearly 1,000 miles away on Mother’s Day, but my humble mother, was just so grateful to hear my voice on the phone.
Though I couldn’t spend the day with my mom, I was lucky enough to spend it with some other inspiring moms. The Urban Farmer’s mama, grandmother and sister-in-law have always impressed me with their dedication to their families and the way they welcomed me into them. For all their sharing, they deserved a little indulgence to be savored just by them.
Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all you moms, expecting moms and women who mother everyone around them! You may not know it yet, but you’re making a difference!