When I first came across the Lexicon of Sustainability project, my first thought was “Damn this is so cool! I wish I had thought of this!”. This project combines some of my biggest passions in life: photography, travel and food. I love that the photographers are using their skills to educate themselves and the public on the complicated terms used in the modern food system. I agree with their philosophy that “people can’t be expected to live more sustainable lives if they don’t even know the most basic terms and principles that define sustainability”. More information is never, ever a bad thing – although you can choose to ignore it at times (like when a funnel cake at the State Fair seems like the best idea in the world). Access to education, learning, knowledge is how change and improvement are born and I love that these photographers have found a creative way to do that.

My lovely little herb garden, on a bookcase in my apartment.

This is a subject that I have become more and more passionate about over that last few years. In many ways, it feels very natural. As a Midwestern girl, I come from a long line of farmers and “sustainable”, “local”, “real” foods are what my grandparents (and parents) grew up eating. They just called it “dinner” or “food”. I grew up eating from gardens and homemade canned items – not because of a “food philosophy” but because my brothers and I thought it was pretty cool that you could plant a carrot seed and a few months later have a carrot (and because my grandmothers lovingly kept our pantry full of home-canned tomatoes,  yummm).

The point of these ramblings are to say that I think the Lexicon of Sustainability is a wonderful project. I love that they’re educating the public. I love that they’re supporting small farmers. And I love that they’re using their photography to improve the world (in their own way).

Below are a couple videos from the Lexicon of Sustainability project. Enjoy.

What do you think of the project? What words would you like to see added?

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If you’re interested in learning more, these are a few of my favorite blogs*:

100 Days of Real Foods

Take Part – Food Blog

Deliciously Organic

Poor Girl Eats Well

Food Babe

*To be clear, I didn’t write these blogs so I don’t necessarily agree with 100% of the content. But, I think they’re all doing good things by encouraging people to know where their food comes from.

This past Friday, my host University put on an International Night. It was a chance for all the international students to mix and mingle and for the local students to meet some foreigners. Students from each country decorated tables with information showing the history and culture of their homelands. Each country also brought in traditional food and, of course, booze from their regions.

The party started off with a group of us from my tango class performing a choreographed tango show. I can’t say we were very impressive, but it sure was a lot of fun!

My tango partner, Eugenio, and I.

For me, the winning tables were the United States, Germany ,China and Mexico.  The USA table featured liters of Budweiser (I never realized how awful that beer was until after drinking really good beer in Argentina for two months), Cheeze-Its (yes!) and Oreos with peanut butter (double yes!).

The USA table after some major damage to the Cheeze-Its.

The German table featured men dressed in lederhosen, liters of Warsteiner and Becks, pretzels and radishes (I still don’t understand the latter).

The German table.

The Chinese table had a variety of homemade traditional Chinese dishes – which were all delicious. They were so popular that they ran out of plates and chopsticks so I ate my food out of a cup with a knife – college ingenuity at its finest.

My favorite table was the Mexican table. They showed everyone how to do tequila shots “like real Mexicans,” according to my tango partner Eugenio, who is a “real Mexican”. These consisted of a tequila shot with a drop of hot sauce, followed by a chaser of chili powder. Don’t knock it ‘till you try it, I was pleasantly surprised. Most importantly, the Mexican table had homemade quesadillas and chips with homemade guacamole, beans and hot sauces. And it was actually spicy! (It’s impossible to get spicy food in Buenos Aires)

The Mexican table.

I loved having the opportunity to hang out with my classmates in a more informal setting. I was also amazing to see so many different cultures in one place – we have so much more in common than we have differences and I loved being in an environment where we were able to appreciate and learn about those differences rather than criticize them. Maybe the way to solve the world’s problems is to get everyone in the same room with some good food, good drinks and lots of dancing. Well, it’s worth a shot!

Thanks to my friend David for letting me use some of his photos for this post! Check out his blog here.

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“Researching” San Telmo

August 25, 2011

This post first appeared on July 18 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

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Our latest class assignment was to explore one of the 48 neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and give a presentation about the barrio to the class.  My group and I decided to explore San Telmo, the smallest barrioin the city.  Therefore, I spent last week exploring the various sights in this small corner of Buenos Aires.

Back in the 17th century, San Telmo was an industrial area home to the city’s dockworkers and brickmakers.  Later on, in the mid-1850s, the neighborhood started to improve with the addition of better housing, cobblestone streets, running water, lighting and the addition of the still popular wholesale market in the center of San Telmo.  These improvements drew the well-to-do porteños to San Telmo until a yellow fever epidemic struck in the 1870s, pushing the wealthy to Barrio Norte and Recoleta [for a previous post about the Recoleta Cemetary, click here].  During the wave of immigrants in the late 1800s to early 1900s, the large old buildings were converted to tenement housing that was home to communities of British, Greek, Italian and Russian immigrants. Beginning in the 1950s, San Telmo began developing the bohemian reputation that it still maintains today.  San Telmo’s multi-cultural history, cobblestone streets and artsy vibe makes it a wonderful place to go for a walk or sit in a café and people-watch.

The well-to-do history of San Telmo is obvious in the beautiful architecture that fills this small neighborhood and the narrow cobblestone streets can lead you to believe that you’re strolling through Rome (or at least, what I imagine Rome is like).  In the center of the barrio is a small antiques, produce and meat market that is always full of interesting things for sale. I even found a store that was selling a U.S. dollar bill – good thing I know where to find one of those now.  All joking aside, the market is filled with beautiful antiques, old record and poster shops, and some of the most delicious looking meats and cheeses I’ve seen.

On Sundays, many of the streets in San Telmo are closed for the feria – the artisans street market – where everything from jewelry to mate cups to underwear is peddled.  The feria gives San Telmo a very congested feeling on Sundays that causes many of the residents to flee, but it is a nice thing to visit once or twice.

My classmates and I certainly preferred San Telmo on days other than Sunday.  One Saturday, we went to a café called Bar Federal on the corner of Peru and Carlos Calvo (in case anyone’s in the area).  It was by far one of my favorite places so far.  After standing around awkwardly waiting for a table to open up, we pounced on a table in the corner by the window before the mozo even had a chance to clear it (that’s just how things are done here).

Our site director Gaby, a San Telmo resident, told us that Bar Federal is known for its “finger food” so we decided to go with an aperitivo platter – the Gran Federal, I believe.  After ordering some cervezas and Cokes for the table, the waiter brought us a heaping basket of various breads.  No one in Buenos Aires is ever in a hurry and this café was particularly relaxed, but about an hour later, the Gran Federal arrived.  It was a large wood cutting board covered with jamón, Roquefort cheese, bite size pieces of tortillas españolas, salami, olives, more cheese, pâté and hearts of palm.

After chowing down and resisting the urge to lick the cutting board, we decided to order another course.  About 2 and half hours had passed since we first arrived so this was already one of the longer lunches of my life.  Campbell and I decided to share a dish of papas fritas (French fries) covered with pancetta and fried eggs while Kenzie and Steph ordered a Spanish tortilla with chorizo and cheese.  Another 45 minutes later, we got our food and it was as delicious as we had imagined.  All told, the lunch was about 4 hours and we all had a fantastic time.  This café seemed to really echo the bohemian sentiment in San Telmo and it was, of course, necessary “research” for our project.  Even though the presentation has come and gone, we still have a list of places in San Telmo to explore.  And, after hearing all the other presentations, I have a list of places in other barrios to add to my to-do list.


Exploring Buenos Aires

August 22, 2011

I realize that I’ve been pretty bad about updating this blog lately. So, here goes, I’m going to fill you in on my recent travels in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the city that makes NYC look like a city filled with lazy people that sleep all the time!

This post originally appeared on June 26 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

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This post is coming a bit late this week because I’ve had some trouble deciding what to write about.  My first week here has been quite busy so I’ll give you the highlights.

La Casa Rosada (The Pink House), the building of the executive branch of the government of Argentina, is brightly lit at night.

I finally flew in last Saturday morning after many delays and hours in the airport.  I think my delays were for the best though, because I sat next to an older woman on my flight who just happens to live only a couple blocks from my house in Belgrano (one of the 48 neighborhoods in Buenos Aires). What are the odds?! She was the nicest woman, and we exchanged phone numbers and addresses so I hope to see her again.

On Sunday we took a bus tour of the city with Gaby, our program director, and since then we’ve had a completely free week to explore the city.  I’ve seen quite a few things but my favorites so far were the Museo de Arte Latino-americano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), the Evita Museum, Recoleta Cemetery and the Japanese Garden.

I had heard a lot about the Recoleta Cemetery before I came here but words truly don’t do it justice.  I pictured a cemetery full of extravagant gravestones but Recoleta is more like a city of elaborate crypts and tombs than a cemetery.  Many of the eternal resting places of Buenos Aires’ wealthiest families are nicer than my house!  There is a saying in Bs As that goes “It is cheaper to live extravagantly all your life than to be buried in Recoleta” and after seeing the cemetery I can see why.

One of my favorite crypts in Recoleta - older and less extravagent than many.

A "street" in Recoleta Cemetary.

I adjusted quickly to the porteño sense of time: dinner is much later (usually 10 although my host mom feeds us around 8), many of the dance clubs or boliches don’t even open until 2 am, meaning coming home at 6 am is a normal night.  I’ve become quite a fan of spending hours sitting in a café sipping coffee or wine and solving the world’s problems with a  friend or reading a book.  Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) know how to relax and always have an opinion about everything – I think I’ll fit in nicely here.

A Spanish-style tortilla (an egg and cheese dish, this one with potatoes) - one of the many delicious meals I've had here so far.