Category Archives: Vegetables

Restoring Order

We’re just dealing with old snow here.

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Dude. What a mess. The birds and other fauna like it, though.

 

So! I’m daydreaming about 2016’s garden and the seeds I want to order, like I do most Januarys.

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[Perennial food not noted above: Blackberries, asparagus, apples.]

I’m considering this list of food to plant in my yard and, in some cases, start in my basement (which I haven’t done for 5 years). I’m having two thoughts.

The first is: This list is rather pedestrian.

Beans. Tomatoes. Peppers. Carrots. Part of that could be because I didn’t include any fancy variety names on the list (“Romano” [pole beans], “Solar Yellow ” [carrot], etc, although it could be argued that “Romanesco” is a fancy variety name. I mean, it is, but when I buy it, I never refer to it as broccoli. Only Romanesco. Anyway.), but this list is actually pretty, uh, garden variety

…which brings me to my second, related thought: This is the same garden I’ve grown for the last 15 years.

It’s the garden I grew for my kids when they were much younger and I just haven’t deviated much; I’ve been coaxing the same stuff out of the ground, year after year, long after it was necessary to encourage lots of fresh vegetable & fruit consumption or for them to understand how food grows. They’re 17 and 23 now. I think they get it.

Sudden third thought: It’s entirely likely that Jim and I will be the only permanent residents of 909 by September. 2016 will probably be the last year I grow a garden of this size, with this food, unless something happens and we have to grow more of our own food as opposed to supporting the indie farming scene to balance our own production.

I want more flowers, see. Big, weird flowers. I’m seeing flowers everywhere, even in the dead kale.

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Note to self: Manufacturing epiphanies & forcing transformative experiences ≠ any real progress for you. The question is: Are you ready to receive such things when they visit?

 

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs, Saved Aggressively):

My Macbook charger is on its last legs, after almost 4 years

Aforementioned Macbook is also almost 4 years old. Years? Mileage?

Ira Glass wants more new voices in public radio

The Cactus Blossoms’ new record made me catch my breath

How the media blew Flint

Great piece about the business of Girl Scout cookies

Some of David Bowie’s favorite records

I’d love to do this, but the price tag is rather steep

Down to the Studs

Rows and piles of cookbooks most often elicit feelings of happiness and pleasure from me, but occasionally there is guilt and recently, there is the sudden understanding that I WILL NEVER MAKE ALL THE THINGS, no matter how many years I live. I mean, I don’t even make dinner most nights, for Pete’s sake. I’ve thought about privately cooking my way through one of these books as a personal, unblogged homage to the Julie/Julia project (remember the early 2000s, when the Internet was not yet a full contact sport and the idea of getting a book deal from a blog seemed downright ridiculous? No? I barely remember those days myself), but then I realized cooking from one book would be terribly limiting.

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Behold how I (completely unintentionally) stuck the paleo cookbook on top of the baking cookbooks. Ha.

[OT: As I write, the sparrows are “singing” (I use the term loosely) at the feeder I filled just yesterday. While I enjoy the sparrows, I’m always hoping for other birds to show up at the feeder. Unfortunately, the only other bird to show up regularly at the feeder is a bird of prey, probably a red-tailed hawk. It plunges into the giant yew bush in front of our house, which is precisely where the sparrows go to hide. Definitely a case of be careful what you wish for.]

In any event, I am (literally) facing the shelf of cookbooks and thinking about all the recipes I haven’t tried. Personal schedules, household food preferences, and especially last year’s epic pickled asparagus fail (EPAF) have taken the wind out of my sails a bit.

Oh, wait. I didn’t tell you about the EPAF of 2015? Interesting. See, it wasn’t really the end result of failure that helped take the wind out of my sails as much as it was the idea, in the back of my mind, that my inattention to detail had caused the EPAF; that I wasn’t all there, that I was engaging in this activity despite my subconscious saying to me, why all this extra work? That you don’t reeeeeally want to be doing right now? 

I mean, really, why? Because we were subsistence farming and I had to? (No.) Because there was a glut of asparagus? (Nope.) Because I love pickling? (No. I love pickles, but am not as fond of the process.) Because I would feel like I was being lazy if I didn’t? (Possibly.) Because there was a “food person” pickling contest of some kind, of which I was obligated to be a part? (Not to my knowledge.)

Oh, that last one is interesting. Hmm. There’s definitely some fierce humblebragging about food on the Internet, mainly due to social media (see above about “full contact sport”), and that engenders this feeling of competition, of the desire to one-up, of the desire to be seen and acknowledged and understood and agreed with. I have totally participated in this. I probably participated in this yesterday (it’s still early in the day today). Online life has gotten that way in general, with the humblebrag or overshare or just plain update du jour countered by the defensive parry, which is neutralized by the passive-aggressive meme, which is responded to by declarations of “taking a break”, with others just agreeing all over the place to a) show solidarity or b) keep the peace. It’s not topic-agnostic – this occurs in conversations about politics, parenting, education, health, whether or not to have a capsule wardobe – and food, of course. Anything that involves people making choices is not just up for discussion – it’s up for angry debate, shaming, ridicule, echo-chambery agreeance, etc. It’s hard to avoid if you spend any time in these so-called “spaces” (which is, I guess, more accurate than “places”). I think it’s incredibly reductive; we’re so much smarter than that…aren’t we?

Anyway, I think my mentioning the epic EPAF now is my way of leaning into the admission of originally not wanting to post about it because it was a messy, gross, expensive failure instead of a (yes) humblebrag. It’s me telling you now: I’m never gonna do that again unless I really freaking feel like it, because it wasn’t fun; I felt obligated to do it as a so-called “food person”; I had to buy asparagus to even have enough for pickling because I’d eaten so much of it and given away more to the neighbors; I made a mistake with the jars and they broke in the canning pot and it was a mess and a complete waste of food, time, and money… and I felt like a jackass for falling prey to “what would the community think?”. 

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Basically, I cropped that whole ridiculous episode out of existence, and no one ever knew. Above is the only photo I took of the EPAF before I cleaned up and sulked about the mess and, embarrassingly, the fact I couldn’t even get a decent photo of the EPAF. (eyeroll)

Here’s the positive thing: I still absolutely want to read about what people are doing around food & culture. I still want to look at photos from trips to wherever, where people ate the most fantastic things; I want to read about the trellises fashioned out of rescued rebar and thrifted Christmas lights; I love seeing jars of pickled asparagus (no, really, I do) and bread dough rising on the counter and omelets made from the eggs laid by beautiful hens in bucolic settings. And I still want to write about my success growing watermelons, of the latest composting victory, of the joys of hanging laundry on the line. Isn’t that part of the reason why people took to the internet with such alacrity back in the day? To get a window into what life was like for other people? But I think it would be interesting to start talking more about what’s happening out of the frame. Mistakes, imperfections, clouds, setbacks… and then figuring things out. Getting on with it – which, by the way, does not mean forgetting about it. Just the opposite. I’m interested in the idea of putting those things out there and carrying on, not getting caught up in the past or in the comment wars. Moving forward, building change, starting in your own house. I was laughing at myself the other day because it seems so simple, yet it’s so hard to do in 2016. It was in 2015. And 2014. Obviously, because I’ve been writing about the same things for ages.

So. Let’s begin. Here’s an uncropped shot of where I usually write.

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RELATED: I was watching a documentary about Studs Terkel and I loved the pile of books in the background contrasted with the fresh flowers, that old lamp, the aging couch.

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I’ll write more about Studs another day, but… Studs. There’ll never be another like him. He definitely put it out there, got on with it, got people to talk about themselves and to each other face-to-face, and only stopped when he passed away at the age of 96.

He probably never pickled asparagus.

Pursuit

I want to give a shoutout to a few random things that happened during those final three moons of 2015.

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The beautiful people at Blue Moon Farm sold me a buttload of tomatoes so we could taste summer once in awhile.

 

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That’s me on the left, talking with badass Jessica Hopper during a panel we were both on at the Pygmalion Tech Festival (you can watch the entire discussion here). I can’t properly convey how hilarious and awesome this photo is to me on several levels…

…nope, I can’t. (photo by Mike Thomas)

 

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Some friends of mine who shall remain nameless gussied up this statue (“Marker”, by Peter Fagan) at Meadowbrook Park – it gets cold out there. I like random acts of yarnbombing.

 

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Lily and I roadtripped to Minneapolis-St. Paul again in October for more college visiting. We did the Airbnb thing (that’s my room in the photo), and I read most of Patti Smith’s latest memoir. I was inspired by her Polaroids from the book; actually, all of her work has taken on heightened meaning for me as my kids grow up and I move through middle age and am always asking myself THE most important question: WTF? Aside: I wrote this little piece about her influence on me for her birthday, which was a few days ago.

 

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It’s not often we get the band back together, and the dynamic will change again when Lilly makes her move this fall. I’m not ready for that just yet, so I’m going to enjoy this photo from Xmess Eve 2015 while easing my way into 2016.

Happy New Year, friends. You’ve got 2016 in the palm of your hand.

The Teaches of Peaches (and Corn and Basil)

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Organic peaches from Prairie Fruits Farm in Champaign, IL.

I look forward to stone fruit season the most. Every summer when I was a kid/teenager, my mother told me I ate too much stone fruit and that my habit cost too much, so I could only have 3 pieces a day. Does that mean 3 pieces a day of each kind, or…?

I still eat a lot of stone fruit and and invite my family to do the same, which they do. Straight up. With shortcake. Over ice cream. In yogurt. Whatever. It’s expensive, yes, but it takes a lot of work to grow stone fruit (some seasons there’s no crop at all, due to weather), and I’m glad we can support that. Also, the season is short – we only get to eat Illinois-grown for about 8 weeks.

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“Nirvana” sweet corn from Schottman’s in Effingham, IL.

I’m also delighted every summer by the appearance of Mark Schottman’s red pickup truck at the local farmers markets; it means there is delicious sweet corn aboard. I’ve been buying corn from him pretty much exclusively for well over a decade. Why is it the best? I don’t know. The corn is really damned good. I also just really like the guy; it’s clear he respects his customer base and enjoys seeing all of us during sweet corn’s regrettably short (8 weeks, if it’s a good year, 10 if it’s exceptional) season. He’s one of the farmers who always asks me how I’m liking my new job, even though it’s been almost 3 years since I managed the Market.

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Genovese basil from my own backyard in Urbana, IL

I love buying food from other people – people I get to choose, people I’ve become friends with, people whose places I’ve visited – but I love growing it, too. I grow way less food than I used to. But every year I grow more basil than we need. I always talk about freezing it or freezing pesto and I never get to it, so we eat a metric ton of pesto every summer. My recipe for it is simple – basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, and Parmesan cheese – sometimes I go heavier on the garlic. This pesto (and, I assume, most pesto) is super-good on poached or scrambled eggs, especially if you have some fresh tomatoes just lying around, waiting.

Not pictured: The vast quantities of blackberries, beets, Swiss chard, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and beans that we eat during the summer. We eat them because they’re ready NOW, in the gardens and the markets and the stores. But I also eat them to charge up for The Season Which Must Not Be Named. Food = sunlight. I’ll take it wherever I can get it – all summer long and into the fall.

Enjoy the sun, however you get it.

Rogue

This year’s, um, “slow gardening” has revealed a bonus: finding young plants that germinated quite far from where their parent lived the year before. I usually let these rogues do their thing for the full season.

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Pictured: Sunflower with kale; breadseed poppy with golden beets; blackberry lily with … weeds. Not pictured: Dill with salad mix, tomatoes in the compost pile.

Months ago I posted a photo of a bunch of podcasting gear that I received for Christmas from Jim. I got everything out right away and RTFM’d and… that was it. I typically (and this is a terrible habit) generate scenarios that are way ahead of Step One: The Starting of the Thing. This scenario generation then has the unwanted (?) result of discouraging me from further action for a long time.

[In this case, a loooooong time. I admit it. I get flummoxed by the the potential for failure at things I desperately want to be good at and I have to ruminate and angst and hand-wring for awhile before I get off my ass and do something.]

Anyway, yesterday I was walking home from work when I realized I could have a lot of fun “failing” at creating a podcast. (Yes, LB-K, it’s OK to have fun.) I thought about the email my friend (and podcaster) Lindsey sent me earlier in the day with a link about podcasting (“You probably know all this stuff from your work at the station, but…” Uh, NO, I certainly do not, good god no, THANK YOU), and I also thought about the Pecha Kucha presentation I gave 4 years ago where I talked about how I started telling local food stories on the radio. I admitted to my ongoing adoration of and identification with Harriet the Spy, and I talked about my beloved tape recorder. I dragged that things around everywhere for a few years as a kid, interviewing everyone I could. I also occasionally recorded conversations where the participants were unaware. You know, like a spy.

There are things we discover we love doing later on, after we’ve done some living. Growing food and just appreciating food are two pastimes (it seems weird to call them that) I never gave much thought to until life events occurred that made me realize their importance in my personal narrative, and that others – many others – felt the same way (although usually for different reasons). I’ll always, ALWAYS, be interested in growing food and following food projects. And eating.

Then there are the things we’ve always loved, since we were kids, that sometimes lay dormant for years or surface in different ways. For me? Words. I’ve always been a talker. I’ve always been a writer. I’ve always loved people, even when paralyzed by shyness at being the new kid (again, and again, and again…). I’ve been talking with, listening to, and writing about people for other people since high school. I thought about being a journalist. My favorite and best teacher in 8th grade, Mr. Cramer (hi, Mr. Cramer) noticed my interest in people and news and encouraged it, telling me I could be a reporter on TV someday; I became a history major instead with a vague goal of becoming… something. Maybe a writer? Easier. Certainly vaguer.

I loved my work as a server in restaurants and bars during and after college because… talking. I’ve interviewed and corresponded with rock bands and culture critics. When I sold records for Cargo in the 90s, I relished the amount of time I spent on the phone talking about and selling the music I worshipped to people who shared my enthusiasm. A regular at the record store I used to work at in Chicago referred to me 20+ years ago as the wordy diva of the alt scene because I talked his ear off every time he came in. (Wordy Diva lives on, by the way.) My relationship to Harriet lived on in the notebooks I carried everywhere in my twenties. They were full of long letters written in bars, setting scenes, never sent. My relationship to my tape recorder (and its microphone) lived on in the radio shows I did at school and later on. It certainly lives on in the Backyard Industry audio and video.

Changing interests  + lifelong passion + nosiness + readily available equipment and outlet = what am I so scared of?

DOING WHATEVER I WANT?

GOING ROGUE?

Stay “tuned”. Tonight I plug everything in and… start talking.

 

Last Day of May

Dear May 2015:

It’s not really like me to say this, but… I can’t say that I’m sad to see you go. There were highlights during your time here, but overall you were unpredictable, difficult, moody, and kind of a jerk (especially for giving us a high of 57° on your last day). But! I’m an eternal optimist, so I acknowledge that by being all of those things, you did provide a bit of clarity in a backassward way. Thank you for that… I guess?

As previously mentioned: Though you rather sucked, you weren’t entirely lacking in sweetness. Check it out.

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Salad mix 1.0.

 

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Strawberry lemonade cupcakes by Hopscotch for a colleague’s retirement bash.

 

Lone tomato given a good home out front.

 

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Cherry tree on the walk to work.

 

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Cute little mobile food operation in DT Urbana.

 

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The lindens are blooming in C-U.

 

Nevertheless, I’m pretty pumped for June.

*****

Here’s a micro-LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs, Saved Aggressively):

Some roadblocks encountered by public media on the way to “digital first”

Provocative headline: “How Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Slow Food Theorists Got It All Wrong” (I have the book referenced in this piece and am STOKED to read it)

Black Hole Sat

I’m not a planner by nature. How about you?

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Being prepared, planning, listing out steps, having an idea of what I want to do before I start doing something – it’s all very learned behavior for me, and I’m still not great at it. I was never taught, exactly, how to make plans, how to plan ahead, when I was a kid. I was told to do it by teachers and family, and I often experienced the fallout for not planning when I was a young student (I remember, very well, the day my mother told me what “procrastination” meant and I sat there thinking, there’s a word for this thing I do?), but there’s a big difference between knowing you’re supposed to be doing something and knowing how to do that thing. It smarts, especially when it seems to come so easily to everyone else, including your annoying little brother.

Things I’m somewhat hapless at planning in my personal life:

1. Anything with money (I’d just rather not spend it, or spend it on the same things)

2. The future (long-term)

3. What I’m going to wear (or even knowing what I have to wear) (related: #1)

4.What I’m going to blog about (I do have lists of topics now)

5. Leisure time (I just clean instead)

You can imagine how I’m feeling as Jim and I work with Lilly on Planning Her Future, which is a LOT of 1 & 2. None of us are really good at it and it’s terribly intimidating, but we’re trying to relish the challenge. Gulp.

There are certain types of planning I’m pretty good at. I know my way around conceiving, planning, and executing campaigns at my job. I LOVE the strategic planning process for organizations. I’m an excellent (though rather barky, if I’m not getting help) meal planner. And today I realized, after Jim and I did the grocery shopping and I was getting everything ready for the beef stew that’s on the stove right now, I really enjoy prep work in the kitchen. I like the peeling, the chopping, the dicing, the measuring, the mise en place. I enjoy cooking, but prep work makes me happy. When Jim cooks, I often help with the prepping of the vegetables. Our kitchen is small and we are not small people, but I enjoy being side-by-side, working together and bumping into each other.

*****

We’re getting a little more snow tonight. I was just outside to take out some recycling and it was so still and so quiet as the snow fell, the only sound my neighbor practicing his French horn. The stew is done. The biscuits are done (I highly recommend them). Before I go, here’s tonight’s LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

The Clash of Civilizations That Isn’t

Interview with Jeff Wise, who has an interesting MH370 theory

His theory

More spec from Jeff Wise

She Does podcast

The most amazing cattle you will ever see

Reddit AMA with animator Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues) – she lives in Urbana!

I hate the “picked for you” pins on Pinterest and use it less because of them

How to thicken stews

Another World in 45 Minutes

Backyard Industry (Tim Meyers on camera and me asking questions) decided the best way to spend a sunny early fall day would be to spend it here.

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(That treeline right there marks the highest point in Moultrie County.)

Actually, we planned this visit to The Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur, IL weeks ago. In September in Illinois, however, one just never knows with the weather; you take your chances when you schedule an outdoor shoot. Today was clear, warm, and dry. Perfect, really. We were pinching ourselves.

Here’s what getting there is like:

Leave Urbana-Champaign on highway 57 (or, if you’re us, you take Rt. 45 through Tolono and Pesotum until you hit 57). Drive past Tuscola and start seeing signs for various attractions in Arcola, like Rockome Gardens. Exit the highway at Arcola, and start the drive through town, which is when the horse-drawn buggies become evident – suddenly, it’s pretty serious Amish country. Drive through Chesterville. Note the laundry on the line and enormous gardens. More buggies. The air is redolent with the scent of horse poo. Once arriving in Arthur, there are not only buggies co-existing with cars – the Amish are also avid cyclists. (And when I say avid, I mean Amish gents of all ages are on recumbent bikes that fit right in with those in “bike friendly” towns like Urbana or Champaign. Women were on bikes, too, though we didn’t see any riding recumbent bikes. Anyway.) Hang a left in the middle of town, just before the county line, drive (or buggy, or bike) a couple miles, take a right, and there’s TGPP, on the left. It can’t be missed this time of year – there are lots of signs coaxing visitors in last quarter mile, and a huge field of potted chrysanthemums is visible from the intersection. But there’s also this: Fields of drying corn and soybeans are everywhere, but the lack of corn and beans sets TGPP apart. They grow pumpkins, yes, but they also grow squash – hundreds of varieties of squash from all over the world. They sell seeds for these amazing vegetables. There’s also the all-day, every-day bakeathon in a bakery on the premises. It’s like arriving on another planet in about 45 minutes.

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(How cool is this thing?)

The Condill family has been there, on that same land, living and growing food and raising families and going out into the world and coming back, since the 1850s. In 2012, the Summer of Drought, I went down to interview Mac Condill, whom I suppose I’d title as The Main Guy, for Backyard Industry Radio – you can hear it here. (It was an excellent year for pumpkins, as I recall.) I’d known Mac’s brother and sister-in-law, Kit and Emily, for a few years, and Mac and I had corresponded over booth details for Urbana’s Market at the Square when I was working there; I’d also worked with Ginny, Mac’s wife, and Shana, his sister-in-law, to bring TGPP’s educational efforts to Sprouts at the Market. Mac’s parents still live on the farm (and  officially own the businesses) and the other Condills are close by. In short, they’re incredibly nice people, generous with their time and their premises (and trusting, jeez – they gave us our own golf cart to get around), and they run a beautiful operation designed to give guests, many of whom have no connection to a farm or rural life whatsoever, a gentle – but subtly powerful – on-farm experience.

And that is precisely what I love about them, and why we wanted to produce a video there. They’re happy to have you if you want to buy decorative gourds and mums, and they’re happy to have you if you want to spend the day there meandering the grounds and relaxing, but either way, you’re going to leave knowing a little more about heirloom squash and biodiversity whether you realize it or not. They want to meet you where you are. They do not look like farmers. They’re not Amish. They’re a highly-educated and well-traveled bunch who are very well-known in seed and farming/gardening circles. They’ve built walls of squash at the White House and have encouraged Martha Stewart to smash a pumpkin (she obliges at 5:15 in this video). They’re deeply respected by their communities – the local community, the farming community, and the local food community – and that respect is mutual, in part because they have elected to stay, when so many others got out of farming as soon as they could, not seeing potential or, in many cases, not being able to diversify.

The words “passion” and “empowerment” regarding what they do came up again and again in interviews and conversation today. “Are you guys for real?” I asked, but I wasn’t serious. It was evident on their faces and in their eyes as they talked that they are, indeed, for real.

 

Jarred Awake

Spears in jars.

Spears in jars. Click to make big.

 

I meant to have a blog post all outlined and organized, the way you’re “supposed” to, but it didn’t happen because time! Is of the essence! Spring’s in. Even though it’s not yet warm enough for my liking here in central Illinois, the sun is out today and the ground is pliable after some rain earlier in the week, so I have to get into the yard with some of these plants I bought at the first farmers market of the season. A few things, though:

The Sustainable Student farm at the University of Illinois has started a vermicomposting pilot project at their place. Zack Grant, the farm’s manager (and my garlic planting guru), was nice enough to let me be there the day the worms arrived.

Zack's worms.

Zack’s worms.

 

I enjoyed hanging out with the worms (and Zack, and his assistant, Matt) so much that I wrote it into a BYIRadio piece. You can listen here.

After the worm situation, Tim and I shot what will become a BYIVideo, number to be determined, featuring my friend/neighbor Jill Miller. She’s the creative force (well, she’s all the forces, really) behind Hooey Batiks, and a fair amount of her art centers around food and gatherings and experimentation with both. We had, predictably, an awesome time. Stay tuned for more info.

BYIVideo #2 is in editing as I type. People, we gathered some excellent footage there. I love Cathe’s farm so much, god. The piece should be done in a few weeks, after some of the frenzy at work dies down and Tim returns from a work-related trip (to San Francisco, that jerk. I kid.). In the interim, I’ll be tweaking the writing…and working on music selection, thanks to our friends Automatic Empire. ILY,AE.

Lastly, Jill (mentioned above) recently told me there was a cookbook by writer Kevin West, Saving the Season, that I had to get. Jill has hundreds of cookbooks – and she reads them all – so her recs are trustworthy. I have too many cookbooks, and the last thing I really needed was to buy another one, especially about food preservation (which this one was). I love the concept of food preservation much more than the execution because, MY GOD, it’s so often presented as being so EASY with this smuggish veneer of utter fussiness underneath the writing, plus the recipes, in my experience, have never been that great. [Note: Paul Virant’s beautiful book, The Preservation Kitchen, is excepted from all of this, but it’s intimidated me from day one. I have more guts now to try stuff now, for reasons I’ll explain in a second, and his book remains one of my favorites. I talk to him about food preservation here.] ANYWAY. What’s beautiful about West’s book is how relatable it is. He’s just a guy who came home from the farmers market with too many strawberries one day and was like, I need to make some jam, and then proceeded to fail at it. The result of that failure is the book. The narrative was so great and everything so simple and attractive, I decided, damn it, I’m pickling some asparagus. The results of my attempt are pictured above. I wrote the experience into a BYIRadio piece, too. Here it is, if you’d like to listen.

OK. If you’ll excuse me, I have weeds to pull, plants to plant, and more asparagus to pickle, oh yes, thanks to my asparagus patch and Tomahnous Farm!

Not Ketchup, Catch Up

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It’s a long weekend, more cold weather is coming, and I feel like making things, so I planned meals for the upcoming week today (you may be surprised to know it’s something I’ve been out of the habit of doing for YEARS), went shopping for the food for those meals, roasted some grape tomatoes in the vein of Nom Nom Paleo and Smitten Kitchen (same basic  principle, slightly different methods), and now I’m patiently (?) waiting for Jim to come home from refereeing soccer matches so he can get started on his chorizo chili so I can just sit here and inhale while he cooks. The chorizo is from Triple S Farms in Stewardson, and – god. Our family has a RELATIONSHIP with this chorizo, an affair. It’s great in fajitas or as nachos, but chili is what is needed tonight. Acceptance-yet-defiance of winter in a bowl, that’s what this chili is.

Post-holidays (is it just me, or do the holidays seem like they happened MONTHS AGO?), I think it’s good to get creative with your comfort food. We’re past everything-pumpkin, we’re past the family traditions that dictate the holidays – now, January/February, before fresh food is truly available here in the midwest, that’s when we get down to the business of really figuring out what we want to eat. For, you know, strength when spring comes. My favorite winter foods come in bowls. How about you?

reading

I am utterly, woefully behind in my reading. I found myself at the bookstore this afternoon (very much a “How did I get here?” moment), looking for more magazines, another cookbook. Never mind that I have the above to read, plus two more cookbooks arriving Tuesday. And I still have two cookbooks I received for Christmas from one of my dear sisters-in-law that I can’t wait to read. It’s a sickness. I LOVE ALL OF THEM and occasionally fantasize about literally building a fort out of all these books and magazines, the better to surround myself with culinary and food (and life) wisdom. I haven’t done it. Yet.

I did, however, finish Provence, 1970 this afternoon. I adored the first 2/3 of the book, and was really excited to find out what happened, but after that first 2/3, I thought it just sort of ground to a halt just when I thought something explosive, some a-ha & super-influential moment that I’d never heard of before, would happen, which it… didn’t. That doesn’t mean I didn’t love it. I did. I cannot get enough of good, evocative writing about the food and farming and conviviality surrounding food in France, especially from that time period. Author Luke Barr had access to all kinds of correspondence between the principals (MFK Fisher [his great-aunt], Julia Child, James Beard, Richard Olney) as well as Fisher’s notebook from her time in France at that particular juncture. Anyway, if you have a thing for France and French food and The Days of Yore, I do recommend it.

I’m thinking ahead to next weekend, when we begin shooting “Ramen Shaman”. We’ll be interviewing the Shaman himself at his place, surrounded by his cookbooks and tchotchkes (the guy has a hundred times the cookbooks/food books I do… he could build a palace), and then filming the preparation for his next ramen event, and then filming the event. I’m a little nervous; I made a drastic change to my appearance ahead of all this filming, because I was feeling very what-the-hell about it, but now I’m more like, what the hell? Oops.

Anyway. The ramen is the story, but Mark is the story, too. I can’t wait to hear it, to help tell it. Right now, though, I’m all about swooning over this chili; Jim’s home.