Last month, we asked for nominations for our next Uncommoner. Submissions poured in: tool makers, bike builders, community organizers, milliners, compost cultivators. The choice was difficult. But after careful consideration, we’d like to introduce you to our newest Uncommoner. She’s an entrepreneur, teacher, food advocate, and Board member of Slow Food USA working at the crossroads of policy, education, and food sovereignty to change the way we eat. And she makes one mean cabbage dish. Meet Katherine Deumling, the Ambassador of Food and brainchild behind Cook With What You Have.
OTG: Describing you as a chef doesn’t fully encompass what you do. Tell me about Cook With What You Have. Sure, it’s intuitive, but what is it all about?
Katherine: It’s about eliminating this fear that food must be fancy, that you must have expensive tools, and lots of expensive ingredients. It’s about eliminating the common perception that cooking and eating is a complicated process only for those with time and money. Because it isn’t. It’s a right, not a privilege. But it’s become this huge divider.
My whole love and joy is to teach people that food can simplify and enrich your life. It can help you feel good— socially, physically, and mentally— and get rid of all the noise. And it’s a great equalizer. Whether I’m working with my Early Head Start families who have rich cultural traditions, but little resources—little time or little money—the joy of simple food is something that can be part of daily life. It’s a way of cooking that enables you to eat with the seasons and support your local farmers. In the words of Michael Pollan, “This is one of the most radical acts we can do, to cook and to garden.” It’s nourishing, relevant, communal, culturally interesting and it ties us all together.
It’s one thing to learn recipes and it’s another thing to shift perspective on how people use ingredients in the kitchen—to spend less at the grocery store and waste less food, yet be inventive, creative and fun.
It’s true. My one-liner is often, Why Not? Because when the recipe says ½ tsp of oregano, people are scared to deviate. Have a leek, but don’t have an onion? Why not? It might not be something you serve to the queen, but why not? And you saved the money and stress of going to the grocery store.
How does your philosophy around food intersect with sustainability, food security, and climate change?
It’s best summed up by the concept of food sovereignty. Unlike food security, which typically references calories but does not go deeper—as in where or how or by whom and under what conditions the food was grown, processed or even prepared—food sovereignty brings all of those elements together. It includes culture and agricultural/agroecological practices that dominated the world’s agriculture until just 60 years ago. Working towards or regaining food sovereignty means farmers having access to seeds in the public domain (rather than patented terminator seeds), access to land, infrastructure for local or regional distribution and hope for a fair price and fair working conditions. All of these things are under pretty serious threat in many parts of the world.
Is this why you’re involved in organizations like Slow Food?
Yeah, I lived in Italy for years, but I didn’t learn about Slow Food until after I came back to the US. The Slow Food philosophy reflects so much of what I care about and it has quite radical beginnings. When Carlo Petrini founded Slow Food, his first two initiatives were longer lunch breaks and fair wages for famers so that they could actually have the time to eat and enjoy the food they grow.
Besides being part of Oxfam USAs’ Sisters on the Planet program where you work as an ambassador of food justice at a policy level, you’re also a teacher. And you mentioned something about a secret project you’re working on?
Yes. I work with companies, government agencies, and hospitals in their wellness programs. For example, I teach at Good Samaritan Hospital in their Diabetes and Weight Management program. I also train Early Head Start in-home staff. I also write recipes every week for multiple local CSAs. I get a list of what is in each farm’s CSA box, and I have 48 hours to write six or seven recipes for each CSA. It’s an inefficient process. So I’m transitioning from creating hyper-customized content for each farm to creating a tightly curated, well-designed, subscriber-based website that archives over 600 recipes. That way, I can market it to far more farms and individuals in the area for less, and it’s a more sustainable economic model.
You have a lot on your plate. So where are you going with all of this?
I want to elevate storage crops. Locally grown beans and grains are unbelievably nutritious. And they’re great for eating economically, eating lower on the economic food chain and creating less of an environmental footprint. There are some great farmers who are taking some big risks at growing them in the valley with huge investments in the equipment and the machinery. I want to help those farmers who are making that investment by introducing consumers to these delicious, affordable and nutritious products.
To learn more about Katherine, visit her website at cookwithwhatyouhave.com.
You might have heard; we’ve been eating a lot of Korean food lately. We’ve also been busy celebrating the year of the Blue Horse with a spacious new office, beautiful spring line, and—yes—even new owners. The Korean-based, outdoor brand, Black Yak and Nau have officially tied the knot.
This week in the Thought Kitchen, we’re honored to sit down with Jun Suk Kang, Nau’s new President, to find out what’s ahead for Nau and Black Yak, what’s going to change, and what he thinks about being voted one of Portland Monthly magazine’s most fascinating dinner guests.
OTG: What compelled Black Yak, a Korean company, to purchase Nau?
Jun: It’s an interesting history. It started with my personal interest in the brand. I was in the States studying in 2006 and 2007 when I discovered Nau and this new concept of merging the outdoor and fashion markets. I really like the brand and kept my eyes on it over the years. Then last year, we found out it was for sale. The most compelling aspect of the acquisition is what we both bring to the table. Black Yak is a leading outdoor brand in Asia and we have the resources and infrastructure to make Nau a global brand. And Nau has a tremendous amount of creativity and innovation. We knew that if these two companies came together, we could do great things.
So it’s a merging of cultures, so to speak.
Oh yes, the cultural aspect is quite important. Because at Black Yak, we are good at long-term planning, organizational structure and analytical decision-making. Once we make a decision, we are fast and powerful. On the other hand, the Nau culture is more creative and idea-driven. It is free and flexible. Black Yak can adopt more of the creative ideation while Nau can adopt more organization and structure, which will be very synergetic.
So now that you’ve had six months with the brand, what aspects of the original vision will remain?
At Black Yak, we believe in Nau and in the overall concept and direction and do not want to change it. However, one of the only things that will change will be Nau’s exposure in the market. We want to deliver Nau to more customers in more markets.
I know a big question on the minds of our consumers is “Is Nau’s view on sustainability going to change?”
The sustainability part is one of the core values of Nau. It’s one of key concepts that sets Nau apart. There is no reason for us to change this or give it up. In fact, I believe we should be more focused on sustainable practices like fabrics, what manufacturers to work with, and how to be sustainable in the retail marketplace.
What’s your vision of Nau moving forward?
My vision is to make sure more people around the world know about Nau, what Nau stands for, and why you should choose Nau. My goal is to make Nau the best sustainable brand in both the outdoor and fashion market. I also want to make Nau the most fashionable brand in the outdoor market and the most functional brand in fashion market.
You recently sent out an email to the Nau team welcoming 2014 as the year of the Blue Horse. Why is this significant?
People in Asia believe that the blue horse represents stability, power, agility, stubbornness, perseverance and independence. It represents the beginning of something new. It’s also a very energetic, auspicious and passionate time to start new things. I have a very good feeling this year will be pivotal in Nau’s history. Bring on the year of the Blue Horse!
In December, you were featured in the Portland Monthly as one of Portland’s most fascinating people and someone they would invite to their holiday party. If we were to invite you, what should we serve?
I’m a big fan of Italian food. I’m also a big fan of wine. And good people, of course. Good food, good wine, good people. Another reason why I love Nau. Lots of great people.
At Nau, we value transparency in every aspect of our business. Do you have a question you would like to ask Jun? Send us your inquiries to email@example.com or post in the comments below, and we’ll select a few to feature in our next interview with Jun in the Thought Kitchen.
Four friends. Four days. No limits. What would you create? That’s what a group of friends had in mind when they set out to build a Geodesic dome. Two months later, their passion-fueled venture landed them a coveted spot at Summit, a Davos-meets-Ted conference for young thought leaders. Self-named the Escape Collective, this fledging group of makers, creators and designers are our third portrait in the Uncommoners—our blog series dedicated to exploring the other side of ordinary.
But this isn’t a story about how to build a 30-foot, low-frequency geodesic dome or how to sew a massive waterproof cover composed of 256 panels of unused material from Nike golf bags (yes, that did happen). This isn’t even a story about the Escape Collective and the other 800-or-so entrepreneurs, artists and leaders they joined at Summit’s newly acquired Powder Mountain Resort last July. No. This is a story about freedom, creativity, and the ideas born out of unencumbered space and time. Because as Einstein once said, “Creativity is the residue of time wasted.” And in a world punctuated by deadlines and deliverables, no one embraces this lost maxim more than The Escape Collective.
In our next installment of The Uncommoners: Exploring the Other Side of Ordinary, Lindsey heads to Long Beach, Washington to get her hands dirty and learn what it means to farm with a Social Purpose.
When I accepted an invitation from Starvation Alley Farms to join their cranberry harvest last month, I didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps, an idyllic Ocean Spray commercial or another episode of Dirty Jobs. (Yes. Mike Rowe visited a cranberry farm.). But what I found was hard work, laughter, great cocktails and a deep sense of community with people who were passionate about food, family and local farming.
After a few cranberry cocktails, I sat down with farmers, Jessika Tantisook and Jared Oakes, to learn how this small family-run experiment expanded into a corporation with a unique uncommon product and an even more uncommon purpose.
We all know them, those friends who work behind-the-scenes, who fly under the radar while doing extraordinary things. They build stuff. They make things. They grow goods. And they do it quietly without the need for accolades or recognition. They’re our friends and neighbors. They’re the humble warriors who live their passion everyday and create positive change. They’re people like Katy Anderson. Known by some as the Lady Carpenter, Katy—as her moniker suggests—is a skilled craftswoman in a man’s world. She’s also the first portrait in The Uncommoners, our new Off-The-Grid series dedicated to exploring the other side of ordinary.
Read More »
This week in the Thought Kitchen, Peter Kallen‚ Senior Designer, talks inspiration behind our new fall collection and why we believe good design is efficiency and beauty in its purest form. No accidents. No distractions. Just simple, effortless, uncompromising design. It’s something the natural world has been doing right for some 4.5 billion years. That’s why our fall line-up draws inspiration from the world around us—how we move within it, how we interact with it, how we perceive it—to create timeless, intuitive apparel for real life.
Shop the collection on nau.com.
This fall, our collection takes inspiration from the greatest source of design excellence. We harnessed the most efficient, intuitive and effortless force that has ever existed and transformed it into an apparel line that fuses the natural and the manmade. This means sustainable luxe fabrics, intuitive construction, and minimalist silhouettes. It means more refined style and foolproof technical performance. It means blending the tailored and the technical to create a sophisticated line of apparel that can not be defined by landscape or geography.
Here’s a sneak peek of what’s to come.
We got a nice chuckle out of last week’s The New Yorker cover by artist Marcellus Hall depicting the much-anticipated (and much-hyped) launch of New York City’s new bike sharing program, Citibike. Even though it joins hundreds of bike-sharing programs already in existence, you’d think the media darling was the first of its kind.
Here’s a sobering stat: 80,000 chemicals are currently used around the world today. Most of these chemicals are untested and a surprising portion are used to make your clothes. From dying and finishing to spinning, ginning and even laundering, chemicals are used in every step of the textile process making even natural fibers unsustainable. But the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA)—along with Jamie Bainbridge, our Director of Textile Development and Sustainability—is spearheading an initiative that hopes to change all of that. How? By adopting a mission of continuous improvement and establishing a carefully cultivated list of preferred chemicals. Sounds simple, sure. But first the OIA has to convince an entire disparate and often complex global manufacturing industry that sustainable chemistry is good for business.
Last Friday, around 2pm, Mark, our GM disappeared. It was shortly after consuming a pomegranite margarita (no salt) and a taco platter. Of course, this is not unusual. Mark has been known to mysteriously vanish only to suddenly reappear days later with a grin and a suntan. This time, he resurfaced on a Monday morning smelling of sulpher and parched earth, surely evidence of a desert escapade. But he was gracious enough to write us a virtual postcard so we wouldn’t have to rely on an Edward Abbey quote to complement these few captured moments.
The desert is a diaspora for the displaced, a refuge from our hyper-saturated social scene, attracting the margins of society— mystics and malcontents, desperadoes and drug runners, rednecks and ranchers, artists and anarchists.
It’s an environment that expands our visual and perceptual horizons. —Mark