Warm bread, the crunch of walnuts, the sweetness of local honey that tastes like caramel. Fall spices, crumbs, and a warm mug. Breakfast is a time I have come to appreciate as sacred. I find ritual in routine, and reverence in the first pour of coffee.
“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.
The light rain saturated the sky like watercolors bleeding onto paper fibers- gradations from grays to bright blues seeped into the clouds. Below, branches swayed back and forth, growing fuller by the day with a captivating chartreuse. Inside, the curtains billowed and floated in the flicker of the returning sunlight. The cool air breezed through the fine mesh of the screen. Its worn, frayed holes caught flecks of light like tiny prisms on the periphery, and I listened to a rosined bow glide purposefully across four strings.
The lyrics, the light, the corner chair… it was that precise moment when the sun is warm, but the air is crisp, cool, and carries the scent of fresh rain. It’s not too hot, not too cold; not too damp, not too dry… it’s the perfect cusp, teetering on the edge of tan lines and summer wanderlust. The shadows and rays teased one another through water droplets on weathered wood, and the window framed the moment, like a long, slow detail in a film. These cusps call for deep breaths, far off gazes, closed mouths, quiet pauses, quiet thoughts and meandering minds. That window, that corner, and that chair is the best part of my day. It’s my corner of spring.
From my quiet perch, the distant traffic became a wave crashing on a shoreline. The neighborhood had yet to emerge fully from winter’s dormancy, and the lull allowed the birds their due spotlight. They sang their return from every corner, and every now and then, there was a faint hum of a little bee at work.
I made this cake for the keepers of bees (the Urban Farmer amongst them). The apiarists gathered in a beautiful barn, where flowers hung from aged beams to dry. These men and women gathered to share the many lessons they had learned in their quests for liquid gold. If ever a spoonful could evoke what my spring corner embraces, it would be a spoonful of honey. This cake was an ode to the way a taste of honey distills a season into amber sweetness, with notes of a region’s beauty, so I featured a liquor that’s an ode to the region’s apiaries.
Wigle Whiskey is a local distillery on a mission to restore Pennsylvania’s whiskey history, a mission I salute! Their playful approach to craft spirits always has them exploring and experimenting. One of their curious pursuits led them to create a Pennsylvania interpretation of Rum in celebration of our region’s prolific apiaries.
Made from scratch and pot-distilled from Pennsylvania buckwheat honey, this distilled mead is a uniquely inland approach to island spirits with whole, organic botanicals–roasted orange peel, cocoa nibs, whole vanilla beans and cinnamon–to complement the buckwheat honey’s distinctive character. Simply put, Wigle’s Landlocked Spiced is just the right touch for a beekeeper’s cake (and for a beekeeper’s glass too!).
To spring, bees & landlocked libations!
Whole Wheat Orange Cardamom Honey Cake with Honey Candied Oranges & Whipped Cream featuring Wigle Whiskey Landlocked Spiced
About This Recipe: This recipe starts by candying oranges with honey, instead of the traditional sugar approach, which yields a more complex flavor. The remaining syrup finds its way into each element of the dessert. Add a Tablespoon or two to the whipped cream, and use the remaining syrup to seep into the cake when it’s fresh from the oven. Be sure to use a local, raw honey for the most flavor and to support your local beekeepers. If you’re not in Wigle’s shipping range, you can road trip to Pittsburgh, or substitute your favorite rum or mead. For a simple cocktail, add one of the honey candied orange slices to a glass of Landlocked Spiced on the rocks, and sip slowly.