Saturday, 8 November 2014 | 37 comments

Bonfire night

“Moreover to light a fire is the instinctive and resistant act of man when, at the winter ingress, the curfew is sounded throughout Nature. It indicates a spontaneous, Promethean rebelliousness against the fiat that this recurrent season shall bring foul times, cold darkness, misery and death.”
—Thomas Hardy

It’s difficult to explain about the bonfires. It started five years ago, right about the time I returned from living in Tanzania, just a few months before I created this site. Most people know about Guy Fawkes Day from the movie V for Vendetta. If this is your only acquaintance with the day, you probably picture eerie masks and explosions.

If you don’t know anything about Guy Fawkes Day, here’s your primer: on November 5th, 1605, a group of Catholic extremists in England tried to blow up the House of Lords and kill King James I. They were thwarted, and a man named Guy Fawkes was arrested. People lit a bunch of bonfires to celebrate and hated on Catholics. Like everything in England from Henry VIII on, it was about Catholics versus Protestants. Bonfire Night (a.k.a. “Gunpowder Treason Night”) caught on.

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Sunday, 21 September 2014 | 11 comments

Postcard from Tabora

Hello. I’m posting this from the first place I’ve had web access in a week. A lot of people write to me asking me to post more photos of my work. I hold off because I don’t really want to be a poverty monger; nor do I wish to be latest in your social media stream of white girls holding African kids. Moreover: work is work, and at least half of my time is spent sitting at a desk, and I worry it will be boring.

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Monday, 8 September 2014 | 23 comments

Chickpea & barley salad with toasted spice vinaigrette. Also, the Internet.

In the wide world of the Internet, it’s easy to get cynical about how rapidly and easily ideas are repackaged, reposted, and reshared, ad infinitum. You could say this about serious subjects, like news coverage, or about less serious subjects, like celebrity gossip. You could also say it about food-related content. Take, for instance, the phenomenon of what I call the “wedding salad” (because nearly every catered salad you’re served at a wedding is a variation on this). It consists of spinach/arugula, goat cheese/feta, dried cherries/cranberries, nuts (sometimes candied), and a vinaigrette. The wedding salad is omnipresent, and for good reason: it is delicious and time-tested. It’s hard to mess up. But the public does not need four million recipes for this salad. Moreover, I worry that all the recipes detailing minor variations on this wedding salad esotericize* something that should be simple. In other words, maybe the recipe should really be: Here is how you make a salad. A nice template for a salad is a tender green + a soft cheese + something sweet + something crunchy + something acidic.

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Tuesday, 29 July 2014 | 32 comments

Tomatoes. Notes.

Summer conjures images of lazy days, hammocks, beaches, bare feet, lemonade…all that good stuff. Let’s pretend for a moment that that’s why I’ve been so absent here.

That was nice.

The real reason is that I’m in a season of lots of work, work travel, and more wedding weekends than a person should be able to attend and still come out sane on the other side (we’ve had to turn the experience into a Bingo-style game to survive). Combine this with the fact that I coordinate our summer farm market, a few black bear incidents, the death of one friend, the birth of another friend’s baby…I’m a little spent.

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Sunday, 27 April 2014 | 45 comments

you ought to prize this

I was the lucky recipient of an unexpected windfall last weekend. Ben’s grandmother is in the process of moving out of her home of 50 years, and, in that sad-ish but grateful way, her son and daughters are kept busy divvying up the accumulated belongings that would otherwise become the casualties of downsizing.

My haul from this process was a yellowing envelope, cracked and brittle at the corners. Ben’s mom placed it in my hands, telling me, “I knew this was for you.”
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