Archive | About RSS feed for this section

Street life

26 Aug

One of the goals of this project is to encourage street life, and it’s something I feel very strongly about but which often gets overlooked in posts about headwinds and cows. So I will dedicate a post to just that – why I love street food and want to see more people out on the streets in their towns and cities.

Riding the ferry in Istanbul is the setting of one of the best “meals” possible, anywhere in the world:

On a glorious spring day, buy a simit (a sort of crunchy sesame bagel) and a packet of cream cheese from one of the dozen vendors yelling “Simiiiiiit!!! Buyurun!!” outside the ferry dock. Once on the ferry, choose a seat outside – my favorite is along the side, on the benches where you can put your feet up on the side of the boat, just feet from the water splashing up in the wake. Then, buy a glass of tea, served in real glass glasses, with a spoon and a lump of sugar. There is really no better way to experience Istanbul than eating a simit and drinking a glass of tea surrounded by others crossing the Bosporus for myriad other purposes.

Eating outside is the first essential part of my love for street life and street food. The best meals are often summer feasts at a restaurant with a beautiful terrace on a busy pedestrian street, but they are also just as often picnics in the park with nothing more than a watermelon and a good hunk of cheese. Simply being outside during a meal makes me feel like I am experiencing my environment completely. More important , however, is the inexplicable joy I find in eating outside — when the trees and fireflies and passing neighbors and friends are invited to partake in the feast of the senses.

Then there’s the element of those passing neighbors and friends. I’m riding my bike through the Midwest right now, and I’m meeting so many amazing people. Without these new friends and acquaintances – even the fleeting ones who question my destination or purpose in the parking lot of the library or gas station – I would most certainly have given up by now. It is for these people that I battle the headwinds and creep painfully up the hills, because my goals are always to inspire curiosity and communion with our environments. And by “environment” I don’t mean the trees and rivers and smog-filled air, although that’s a part of it. I also mean the human and built environments; who are our neighbors? How can they support us, challenge us, make us laugh? What are these streets and buildings that we live in? What stories have they seen, what events will they stage, what actions do they encourage, and what character do they lend to our communities?

Without populating these environments, and engaging others in them, we can never truly know the answers to these questions.

Holly Whyte wrote in The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, “If you want to seed a place with activity, put out food…Food attracts people who attract more people.” And this is why I am so passionate about the Yogurt Pedaler inspiring street life; because bringing people together on the street, over food, is the best way to inspire new encounters with neighbors and visitors, to discover new uses for our built environment, new ways for cities to create spaces that nurture the people and businesses and homes that communities so need in order to survive and flourish.

We all recognize the spaces we love in our towns – they’re not parking lots, or tiny sidewalks next to busy roads, or dirty alleyways. Perhaps they’re tree-lined residential streets where children play on sidewalks and neighbors mingle on front porches. Or busy urban plazas where businessmen and tourists eat lunch, and perhaps there’s a concert in the evening. They’re neighborhoods where friends meet at the local coffeeshop, ramble down the street to the park, or up the block to the bookstore, and can buy their groceries or visit the post office along the way. They’re places where people feel safe, because they are familiar with the landscape, because there are other people around, and because there are spaces to do the things we like best. And doesn’t everyone love to eat?

Chambana press!!

25 Aug

Thanks guys!

I met two great yogurt fans outside of the post office in Champaign, and I just got a link to their blog, where they posted a freecrappyportrait of me. Check it out!

Also, one of my hosts Kelly is a writer for the Champaign-Urbana independent online newspaper, Smile Politely, and he wrote a great piece about the Yogurt Pedaler.
Check it out here.
Thanks, Smile Politely, Kelly and Emily, and all the folks at the Bike Project.

A celebration and an appeal to readers

25 Aug

First, the celebration. I would like to propose a toast – of electrolyte drink, your choice of flavor – to public libraries! Since much of this tour has been about updating readers on this website, I’ve taken full advantage of the libraries in towns that I’ve passed, and I’ve been very impressed. Champaign’s two-year-old library was grand and shiny and new, and their wireless was great. The Urbana Free Library has a fantastic stone porch on the east side, shaded by flowers and trees and an awning, and I sat for hours at the tables and chairs scattered outside the cafe. Today I visited two libraries – Danville’s was easily the highlight of the town, and I hope residents take advantage of it more than they do the other old, vacant buildings I passed. But Covington, Indiana, wins my prize for most picturesque library. Nestled on a tree-lined street corner a couple of blocks from the main square, its huge stone steps were the perfect place to send that forgotten email, and there was a steady stream of people filing in and out the door, despite Covington being a remarkably small town.

Next, the call to arms. I am sure some of you readers are practiced at yoga, and I would like your advice. What are your favorite poses or stretches that will ease the tension in my neck and back, strengthen my shoulders and abs, and stretch out my hips and knees without straining them? At the end of the day, and the beginning, I yearn for a peaceful balance and strength and flexibility that my volleyball stretches are just not getting me.

I see a lot of views like this these days...

incubation experiments.14

19 Aug

It’s my first “field” yogurt incubation experience! I was excited to make yogurt from Jersey milk, the same kind of milk I learned to make yogurt with back on the farm in France. Matt pulled a half gallon of straight milk for me – not “skimmed” down to the 4.5% milkfat required in whole milk for American supermarket standards. Kilgus yogurt is drinkable – not my favorite texture of yogurt, but how could I use any other cultures and any other milk while on the farm? After some struggles with the stove, thanks to Cooper’s guidance, I got the milk on the flame and Camlin and I sat back to wait patiently.

Of course, I let the milk overflow.

Not to be discouraged, however, I let it cool down…slowly. After an hour, it was finally cool enough to inoculate. I put the pot of milk in the freezer for some of that time, but I have since learned from David that due to some strange property of air, even immersing the pot in room temperature water would cool the yogurt faster. I set up my tea light and ceramic plate in the cooler in the garage, and I headed to the fair.

The next morning, I helped milk the cows, got distracted with the goats, and left the yogurt on the heat too long. The texture turned out fine – drinkable, like the Kilgus cultures – but it’s a bit sour for my liking.


14 Aug

I tell people making yogurt is a pretty simple process, it just requires a lot of trial and error…and it’s pretty messy.

What I don’t tell them is when you become a Yogurt Pedaler, this is what your kitchen looks like:

(click on the picture to go to flickr for notes)

learn about the magic of yogurt-making

13 Aug

Check out new teaching materials on the “Yogurt? How?” page!

incubation experiments.12&13

12 Aug

I’m getting down to the wire. At least the last two runny batches of yogurt were …yogurt…
This time, I decided to try my new heat dissipation method, using my new terracotta flowerpot plate, and testing my new yogurt jar (the exact replacement of the one I used in the past, which was kindly shattered by Mushkilla the cat).

The result: two more jars of burnt yogurt milk.

I felt the terracotta plate with my hand, and it was actually just as hot as the pilot light surface on my stove. Granted, that means it was so hot I couldn’t keep my hand there, so it’s a pretty imprecise comparison. What it does mean is that I think I will make two changes…with a third in the wings. First, I’m going to stop using my heat blanket and go back to dish towels. Second, the tea light is going back on the ground, because there is plenty of heat coming out of that candle without me propping it up closer to my yogurt. The third adjustment waiting in the wings will be the adjustment of the cooler top – I think it’s not really necessary to close it as much as I did, although a little bit of cover probably isn’t a bad idea. The problem with this method on the road is that the temperatures and atmospheric conditions will probably vary greatly, so I’ll have to keep a better eye on ambient air temperatures than I have been. That’s what my thermometer is for, right?

An addendum:
The backstory: I was lucky to have an internship at the Exploratorium Museum of Science, Art, and Human Perception in San Francisco during the summer of 2005. (Particularly, working with Peter Richards on the Invisible Dynamics project.) It was amazing. The museum is one of the most incredible institutions I have known, encouraging exploration and experimentation and creativity and curiosity like nowhere else.
And I had a realization: the Yogurt Pedaler is a perfect example of the Exploratorium’s ideas in practice: it’s a project about science, about art, and about exploring the way people perceive their environments. Creating and experimenting and asking questions and discovering answers are all a necessary part of the process, which is (and this is where my research from 2005 is manifested) not the artistic, scientific, or any one particular process working independently, but it’s all of them at work together.