Saturday, April 21, 2007

muffin money

We've been a bit strapped for cash. With banking funds low, credit cards can be handy, but the ensuing debt is prohibitive of relying on this too much. I love shopping locally, but for the most part it's a cash only affair, so where do I go from here?

I've been doing alot of baking lately, and receiving very kind compliments and suggestions for opening a shop. I laugh it off, knowing that making this a reality would be a tremendous amount of work. But it has me wondering, could I at least be bartering my foodstuffs? So, in going to the farmers' market this morning, I had a new tactic. I was gonna experiment and try paying with muffin money.

With my money safely in my "wallet" I pedaled to downtown berkeley and was surprised to find this big street festival happening. I first thought that the market had moved over one block, then realized it was part of the big Earth Day events for the weekend. I walked past the vendors and info booths and made my way to the booth and dropped some of my gear. I said hello to some friends, then made my way over to begin my bargaining for the biggest ticket item for the day. Goal number one was to accomplish trading some english bucks for bacon strips.

With bacon procured, and a newfound confidence in the value of my currency, I thought about my sweet tooth. I'm a fiend for lemon quark and some delicious stuff can be found in these parts. Half a dozen muffins later I found myself wanting to go home and immediately start smearing this spreadable cheesecake all over the money left in savings.

I still had a few "bucks" left and needed some produce. Perhaps one of the farming crew might enjoy some freshies. Turns out and I found the right person to talk to, as it seems my breadware reputation preceeded me. The last few and change brought a large smile and a willingness to part with carrots and cauliflower. My muffin money bounty in the bag, and an empty wallet. Time to go. I turned toward the bay and took the long way home.

A very busy railway corridor and an interstate lie in the path, but not to fear, the pedestrian bridge is here! If you have ever sat in traffic on this stretch of highway, trying to wrap your head around the onramp sign that declared it to be both 580 Westbound and 80 Eastbound simultaneously, you may have also noticed the steel structure overhead, often displaying some homemade sign declaring "No more war," "Out of Iraq," or one of my favorites "Buck Fush." Well, today, with crowds abundant and tail lights ablaze, there were none to read for the motorists. Ahhh, road grafitti. How old is that? See, riding your bike does have its advantages sometimes. As if somehow I needed a reminder of my revolutionary actions.

Hell, this morning I accomplished going to the market using my own body power for locomotion, and came home with the bacon. And the quark, carrots and cauliflower. Apparently the muffins were a hit, and their use as an informal currency was a success. Call me a pacifist but I call that one hell of a revolution. Now, I don't know of another food market out there that facilitates my being able to trade in commodities, do you? Please tell me.

Water, milk, flour, corn and salt. See, if you know how to properly care for and combine these items, shape and griddle 'em too, you can trade, barter, beg or grant IOU's in exchange, and make it possible to go hit the local scene without money at all. Today I learned that I can still go to the farmers' market totally broke.

How 'bout that, buying local without money!

Is this the demographic that some critics of the "buying local" credo are thinking of when they call it "elitist?" Yeah, must be. After all, they think of nearly everyone when they state their opinions.

Everyone but me.

Got good stories of food swapping? Please do share. Comment, email me, whatever. Maybe it will inspire me to finally write down the cosmic bagel karma story.


Unknown said...

I want more detail! What exactly did you say to make the exchange successful? Anyone not accept your lovely currency?
This is too cool. I'm thinking of making another batch of manchego chive biscuits and see if this method works down under!

cookiecrumb said...

The wheels on the bike go round and round, and you are indeed a revolutionary.
Well done, you Luddite.

Freya said...

Interesting, muffins in the true sense of the world (i.e. made in the British way) rather than the way I made them (in the American way). I love them (British ones) slathered in butter and homemade jam (but bought will do). No food swap stories to share but I did swap emails once from Arthur Kane from the New York Dolls. And, let's be honest. It doesn't come any cooler than the Dolls.

Anonymous said...

Great story and I commend you for being able to haggle your way into pork and dairy!! Those must be some mighty tasty muffins!!

I've been wanting to make english muffins for awhile. I think you have me ready to go and make some. Not for use as currency but just for me, me, me!!! muhahahaha!!!

p.s. Thanks again for the tips on the bread. My sourdough was wonderful this weekend. The perfect thing to dip into some hot cheesy baked pasta!!

Happy earth day,

Stacie said...

Wrangler, you subversive, no-money using madman!! What a great tale, what a great moment, what a great concept! You must feel so liberated!! Living here in the Midwest, in rural American, I sometimes have these Larua Ingals daydreams, and you, my man, have lived it! Way to make some money... just don't let the Feds know about it!

Monkey Wrangler said...

Leena: Through volunteering some time and giving out some freebies on the Tuesday night market I have gained a sense of who would be receptive to trading goods. Other than that, I tend to walk up and say "pssst! hey, what chew say man, you like the muffins huh?" something along those lines and go from there. Let me know how your experiment goes.

Cookie: Round and round and round we go!
Thanks for the confirmation on my own little revolution. That means a lot, especially coming from you miss activist

F&P: I'm a muffin addict. Admitting this is the first step right? Only I don't want to be cured. Does that make me a pusher?

Mimi: I had to make a double batch. To have enough to eat and trade, I needed somewhere near 30. With only making one, our family will go through the lot in a few days. In fact, they've never stayed around long enough to warrant freezing.

So good luck in making yours, just watch out because you're gonna plow through at least four or five of them the first day.

Stacie: I am feeling quite liberated and, well, damn proud. I call this one, a smashing success of a 'speriment.

Who are the feds? Is that one of those bands of yesteryear? New-wave?

Kevin said...

Great idea! I'll have to try that when our markets get started again -- and finally have something to offer.

Callipygia said...

Good for you/all of us. Just as I left school Ithaca was starting Ithaca Dollars, a grassroots local currency system. I always wondered why Berkeley didn't do something similar- About food swapping, a friend and I would each make a meal for the week and share half with the other. It gave us both variety w/o the work of making more meals and the burden of days of leftovers. I always thought it would be a great thing to do with 3 or 4 people since many meals serve 6-8. This would work best for single people though.

Vivian Mahoney said...

Oh this is so neat. So many muffins was considered fair trade for the bacon, quark, carrots and cauliflower? I am so impressed. I can't imagine that happening here in Massachusetts. You're so lucky.

meathenge said...

Here's my last attempt at leaving a comment. I had to create a bloody gmail account, gack.


Anonymous said...

That's really cool.
There's a lady who works at Arizmendi that always goes to the Tuesday market with a basket of muffins and scones to try her luck at the same deal. The farmers all seem really receptive to it. I think they're used to trading, as they do it amongst themselves all day long, offloading produce and procuring good s to take back to the farm with them.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Kevin: I'm sure whatever it is you turn out, you won't end up needing many, as they will demand a high price in barter. I can't wait to hear the results.

Callipygia: I knew yhou had some swapping in your bones. I just knew it!

Hip: Overall, it was around 15 large ones and about 5 smalls, or somewhere around a batch and a half. And truthfully, I still owe the bacon guy a few more this upcoming week. The muffins also work as a form of credit.

Doc: It's called stamina my man. It's in that big jarry thing to the right of the bbq and it helps you endure just a bit longer. No, not the lard bucket bro', the other one.

Aaron: Hey, I think I know who you are talking about now, and I believe I have seen her there before taking goodies out of a largish basket and handing them out to vendors. Now it all makes sense. Those farmers are always trading amongst themselves......I'm just trying to become more like them I suppose.

Erin S. said...

nice work!! Next time I'm in Berkeley, I'll bring you the treat of your choosing from LA if you give me some muffins!

Anonymous said...

So I hear through the grapevine that you have a worm colony. Do you keep it inside? Does it smell? How fast do they eat? I too live in an apartment, but would love to be able to compost, so any info you can share would be great.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Aaron: Yes, it lives inside (the red wiggler worms like it mild and even temps), right next to my trash can. It does not smell in the slightest bit, unless you take the top off. And then it smells like......damp forest floor. I find it rather pleasant actually, although I do leave the top on, as suggested. All of the children I know who are under twelve and have been to my house ask upon arrival: "can we see the worms?" The worms, ideally, can eat about half their own weight each day. This is a ton for such a tiny critter, and that's the rub, you need hundreds to thousands of them to have an effective means to dispose of large quantities. For one or two people, I'd guess that a bin could help you compost upwards of 25% of your veggie scraps. My bin is some 5-6 years old, with a population of worms that is probably under a thousand. My biggest problem is forgetting to feed them, but no big deal, they just re-chew whats around, but don't breed as well, so my population maybe hasn't grown as much as it should. If worms don't gross you out, I'd HIGHLY recommend getting one of these. Even if they do gross you out, you don't really have to touch them, and unless it's about to rain, you hardly ever see many roaming about when you open the lid. After having it a while (6 months or more depending on the amount of worms you start with ) you can harvest some of the material inside for solid fertilizer. However pretty much right away (okay maybe a month or two) you will be able to start using the "tea" that comes out of the spigot as a liquid fertilizer. It's powerful stuff, so diluted that is.

Hope this helped. If you don't live here in the bay area and can't get one as part of a local recycling program, I'm sure you could order one elsewhere, as I received mine as a gift from my sister.

Anonymous said...

I do live in the Bay Area...
Part of a recycling program?
Which one? I've seen that guy at the farmer's market, so I assume that's what you're talking about?
I'll totally inquire.
Thanks a ton.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Aaaron: Both Alameda and San Mateo County for sure have these worm bins available at a discount to encourage folks to use them. The guy you are talking about at the farmers' market (I think, if it's a Berkeley one) sells worm castings for fertilizer and worms for inside your bin once you have one. The Ecology Center has a booth with info on where to get worms and using them for composting and I'm sure you could call their information line and be pointed in the right direction.

Good luck, and may the vermin be with you.

Mallika said...

Very clever! I have used curry to talk my boss into a promotion in the past. You never know where you can go with your bakng skills...

Tea said...

I love this! I worked a booth at the SF market one weekend and was amazed and delighted to see the underground barter market in action amongst the vendors. I've never participated myself, but I get a little thrill that my regular vendors now give me a discount on stuff (the savings is nice, but I love even more the delicous feeling of being an insider).