Ambiente–Where the World Goes in February

February 22, 2010

February in Frankfurt isn’t exactly Spring time in Europe, but the clouds and snow didn’t stop the world of housewares from converging at the sprawling Messe trade fair grounds for what is arguably the largest show for house and home in the world:  just over 4,500 exhibitors and 133,000 claimed attendees.  It takes the better part of a day just to walk the show, even if you don’t stop even once.

The whole atmosphere in Frankfurt is different.  The show runs from Friday through Tuesday–five days–compared to just three days (really two and half) for the IHA show in Chicago each March. There’s more strolling around.  The vendors uncork their wine and beer sometime after noon.  Some booths have elaborate kitchens–one so striking some visitors thought it was a restaurant–to serve their guests.  There’s a air of relaxation and friendliness absent from many other trade shows.

Germany's Huge Ambiente Show

The general prospects for 2010 seem good for the cookware and bakeware industry.  There’s still wounds from 2009, but the perception is that things are improving.  High end producers feel like consumers are beginning to let loose of some of their money.  Budget minded Europe doesn’t spend like America does, but they will pay extra for style and their styles anticipate the U.S. market by a year or more sometimes.

Grass-fed local beef supports local farmers

February 8, 2010

Late in 2009, I made the decision.  If we were going to eat beef in 2010, we were going to try and do it as “naturally” as possible.  Fortunately, a friend of mine runs a small farm operation along with his wife in his spare time (he’s a teacher from 7 to 4).  Each Spring, he turns a handful of steers out to pasture in the Sequatchie Valley of Tennessee.  In the fall the steers are ready for processing, at a rural plant that literally is adjacent to the pasture where the steers have spent the year. This operation subsidizes my friends other agricultural pursuits and provides free beef for them, while the rest of us pay about $2.10 a pound “on-the-hoof” or around $5 a pound after processing. Everything comes vacuum sealed, labeled and frozen hard as a rock.

Grass fed beef is different than the product which comes from feedlots (i.e. what you buy in most grocery stores).  It isn’t as tender, I’ll admit, and the taste is more…well, I guess “grassy” is an adjective which can be used for meat as well as wine.  A couple of dinner guests have said they thought it was “tough”, but most seem to like it just fine.

Last week, on a cold night, I sauteed two large green peppers and a large onion after I had browned some strips of loin.  When the vegetables were tender, I popped the beef back in to finish.  Voila:  “Sirloin Tips with Onions and Peppers, a dish I hadn’t done in years.”  The taste was just right and there were no leftovers.

Localizing One's Meat Requirements

Part of sustainable agriculture is finding food sources close to home. That’s a difficult order when it’s the middle of the winter, and when you live in, say, Minnesota.  I have no idea what carbon footprint I make when I keep a half of a beef frozen for several months, but the “feel good” quotient is a definite “plus”.  I’ve helped my farmer friends; I’m enjoying leaner servings of meat; and somehow the steer not having to be trucked to a slaughterhouse or standing around in a crowd eating corn for a month seems like a good thing.