Profile d'un Producteur: Alice from Confitures Re-Belles

A homemade batch of  Confitures Re-Belles' jams On a recent grey morning in Paris I waited to meet Alice Blaise at the cosy 18th arrondissement restaurant Soul Kitchen. Alice is one of the founders of Disco Soup, an association that aims to educate people about the prevalence of food waste through hands-on community outreach and organizing.

A typical Disco Soup event consists of claiming a public space, filling a table with recuperated vegetables that, for reasons either aesthetic or pertaining to overzealous eat-by dates, were otherwise destined for the trash bin, and asking passersby to participate in collective vegetable peeling and prep work. The end result is a massive batch of soup that is then shared with all present.

Since its creation in 2012, the association has seen over 50 cities host their own Disco Soup events and has been contacted by people all over the world who are interested in bringing the concept to their country.

But the reason I asked Alice to meet me wasn't to talk about Disco Soup, but rather her most recent venture, Confitures Re-Belles. Not one to take a disco nap, Alice launched her new project after hearing about the British chutney makers Rubies in the Rubble. The concept is simple but brilliant, would-be wasted fruits and vegetables are collected and re-sourced to make interesting and ever changing flavors of jams and conserves, taking the "your trash is my treasure" approach to the extreme.

Pot

Along with her roommate Colette, Alice has tackled the logistics of sourcing and preparing massive quantities of jams in a tiny Parisian apartment, all without having ever made home preserves in her life.

The challenges of living in a 6th floor walk up apartment with minimal kitchen space have slowed production, but the project is still picking up steam. The team is putting together a business plan and looking for sources to fund the materials and working space needed to prepare their creative concoctions with flavors including Grape and Star Anise, Tomato Vanilla, Strawberry Mint, and Mandarine Raspberry.

Alice and Colette at a Disco Soup event

The ever-changing produce that is sourced from area supermarkets, markets, and food banks provides for constant inspiration for new flavors and products. The pair are also constantly on the lookout for new recipes and savoir faire when it comes to the age old art of home canning. Alice's white whale is a banana confiture- which she has heard of but never seen in real life.

But besides bunches of bananas, what the girls really need is a space to call their kitchen. Co-cooking spaces such as Les Camionneuses sponsored shared kitchen are great resources to nomadic chefs, but pricing can be restrictive considering the fact that Alice and Colette have spent entire weekends transforming recuperated produce into pots de confiture. Crowd funding and other fundraising methods are being considered, as well as the possibility of seeking financial assistance from city-based programs.

Pots Confitures Re-Belles

You can show your support for Confitures Re-Belles by liking their facebook page and watching this space for updates on a possible Kiss Kiss Bank Bank campaign.

Until then, you can peel vegetables with Alice and co. at the next Disco Soup Paris event, Thursday February 6 at Dauphine Durable's "Green Week" event.

Paris Vegan Day 2013 + Seed Bombs!!

A fresh batch of Seed Bombs at Paris Vegan Day When my friend Aurelia brought up the possibility of being involved in this year's Paris Vegan Day I was excited about the prospect, but unsure of what to contribute. The event's ambitious and encouraging organizer Deborah, however, knew exactly what to do with me. She swiftly assigned me to brainstorming about all things urban gardening.

Big and small projects alike were dreamt up as the urban gardening équipe grew to include the amazingly talented and creative Luc and Anna. Our team decided that Seed Bombs, or "Bombes de Graines", would be a great DIY project for the event and, after Anna whipped up a test batch at home, we were ready to share this simple project with Paris' veggie community.

cards signs

Urban Gardening is all about finding space- no matter how big or small- and making it as green as possible. Seed Bombs allow city dwellers who may not have access to a garden or other outdoor spaces, to increase their city's flora by throwing a seed-packed dirt bomb into vacant lots, abandoned areas, and anywhere in need of a little beautification. 

Seed Bombs are ridiculously simple and unfailingly fun to make. I was delighted to see people getting their hands dirty as they made their own bombs throughout the day (and less delighted to see the unfortunate few who thought the end product, which resembles a chocolate truffle, was actually edible).

Foodie Underground founder Anna Brones with two eager Seed Bombers

Many people who visited our table asked for instructions on how to make their own Seed Bombs at home or with school groups. To that end, in partnership with Foodie Underground , we've put together some simple instructions for making them yourself.

You can find the instructions in PDF form (in French) by following this link. Or you can check out the instructions in English on Anna's site or at the end of this post.

I love the idea of participants spreading the word and spirit of guerilla gardening and hope you will share these instructions with anyone you think may be interested.

Thanks again to everyone who visited us at our tables! I hope to see some wildflowers sprouting in unexpected places around the city this Spring but until then, bombs away!

fleurie la ville

How to Make Seed Bombs

Ingredients:

Clay - you can use clay powder or actual red clay, even clay soil from your back yard - anything that will help hold these balls together

Compost

Seeds

The mixture of clay, compost and seeds can vary, but shoot for approximately the following ratio:

5 parts clay

3 parts compost

1 part seeds (make sure you are choosing seeds for plants that are native and local to your area)

Instructions:

1. In a large bowl combine compost and seeds and mix together with your hands. Wear gloves if you're afraid of dirt. Although if you're afraid of dirt, maybe consider some dirt therapy.

2. Add in the clay and mix together until everything is well blended. The mixture should be moist and easy to form into balls. If it feels a little dry, add in a little water to get it to form better.

3. Form into truffle-sized balls (no, don't eat them).

4. Set them out in a sunny place for about 24 hours. They're ready when they are hard and dry.

5. Throw your seed bombs into any abandoned, urban spaces that are in need of some greenery!

What About Kitty?

As this experiment reaches its “week” point, I find myself facing a bit of an obstacle. Most of my fundamental needs, namely food and booze, have been fun and surprisingly easy to satisfy. I haven't once missed the longer hours or convenient proximity of Carrefour throughout this week and have managed to be a healthier, happier, and creative person since swearing off the mega-chain.

However, this second Carrefour-severed week brings with it a new problem which concerns a certain apartment-bound cat who needs to have his litter box changed. Jack Meower, the cat in question, is not at all exigent when it comes to what brand of litter we put in his box and ever since Carrefour got rid of it's (pretty great) vegetable-based kitty litter-which looked not unlike what we used to feed to goats at petting zoos- we've just bought whatever they had on hand and Jack was pleased as can be. Now I find myself in a quandary and don't know where to turn.

The Leader Price across the street carries a similar veggie-based product at a lower cost. I am tempted to continue buying from them, because I like this product and the price is right, but am not comfortable with replacing Carrefour with another chain store. While it's considered to be the “poor man's” grocery store, Leader Price is owned by the French Groupe Casino which controls other mega markets such as Monoprix and Franprix and Naturalia.

 

While Carrefour is larger than the Groupe Casino markets, being the only chain that even approaches WalMart as a potential concurrent in the market, Monoprix et al are no better. Recent employee strikes at Leader Price stores in Bretagne and the Loire-Atlantique confirm that the chain espouses an all too common disregard for their employees livelihood.

So what do I do about the litter box? The website The Greenists suggest I make my own kitty litter. They even offer a great recipe for how to do so. This is a stupendous idea, and if I had no excuse not to DIY I would, but I don't think my 38m2 Parisian apartment can house the manufacturing set up required by this project. If I had a back yard, I would totally do this though.

Lifehacker.com recommends making your own litter as well, but also offers alternative ideas. The most intriguing of which, for someone in a living situation similar to mine, was suggested by a reader, Brian Roberts, who pointed out that "The easiest and most inexpensive thing we have found is to simply purchase bedding intended for horses...We were at Tractor Supply one day and found a bag of pine horse bedding, which turned out to be identical to the stuff marketed for cats. It was much cheaper, at about $10 for a 50 lb bag. Cheap, economical, and can be found at just about any equine supply store." This sounds like a brilliant idea! Now I just need to find an equine store somewhere in Paris.....

No matter what solution I settle on, this research has yielded unexpected findings on the health dangers of certain types of kitty litter. An article by Jasmin Malil Chua on PlanetGreen.com points out that litter that uses clumping clay technology is a double no-no. She writes, “Not only is clay strip-mined (bad for the planet), but the clay sediment is also permeated with carcinogenic silica dust that can coat little kitty lungs (bad for the cat)”. It gets worse, she adds, “the sodium bentonite that acts as the clumping agent can poison your cat through chronic ingestion through their fastidious need to groom. Because sodium bentonite acts like expanding cement-it's also used as a grouting, sealing, and plugging material-it can swell up to 15 to18 times their dry size and clog up your cat's insides”. No good.

So what is an urban pet owner supposed to do? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!