Monday, 30 September 2013 | 18 comments

Basil flower vinegar

Now that summer’s over, I took a few hours to clean up some of the herb plants in our front garden before they get frosted. I collect bundles and hang them high in the kitchen where it’s typically pretty dry and well-ventilated, and where they aren’t exposed to too much sun. » Click to read more

Tuesday, 6 August 2013 | 56 comments

Foibles of local eating (& tomatoes, many ways)

Things seem pretty good for seasonal, local food, if you take a look at my dining room table. I don’t have a ton of disposable income, but I chose to spend a lot of it on tomatoes last week. And from the numbers, you might believe this reflects national consensus. Back in 2011, the USDA projected that local food would bring in $7 billion in sales.

A lot of you who read this site would probably consider yourself “locavores”. It’s a group with which I also identify, but uneasily. The movement is one under which people with very different priorities gather, united by a single objective: buy food grown or produced nearby.

Locavorism alternately emphasizes that local food takes fewer fossil fuels to produce and transport, supports the local economy, promotes biodiversity, preserves rurality, mitigates environmental damage, is grown more naturally and seasonally, and is generally healthier. It seems so simple, really. How can buying local agricultural products be panacea for so many of society’s ills?

The short answer is that it cannot.

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Thursday, 25 October 2012 | 55 comments

Mama’s homemade barbecue sauce

There’s a skeleton in my closet—or, more accurately, a recipe box that I’ve kept hidden and unopened in a cupboard since my mom passed away. I moved it from Michigan to DC to Virginia, shuffling it around, unable to sift through the recipes but unwilling to part with it. Earlier this month, emboldened by a chat with a friend (and a couple glasses of wine), I pulled the box down off the shelf. I’m not sure how many of you have lost parents when you were younger, or perhaps simply suddenly, but my still-raw experience—two years ago, as I write this—is that much of those two years has been some heartwrenching variation on: I wish that I had been able to ask what this was about. I wish I could understand. I wish I could talk to mom about this. When my mom died, I was just coming out of a college kid I-know-everything-and-am-more-worldly-than-you phase and beginning to appreciate my parents as people. We didn’t expect my mother to die.

I am full of questions for her, my mother the woman herself, not just in relation to me. What was that lily-scented perfume you only wore on special occasions? Where was this photo taken, the one of you in the red maillot swimsuit and big oversized sunglasses, the one where you’re standing in front of a car with a canoe strapped to the top? What’s so special about this barbecue sauce recipe? Everyday curiosity escalates quickly to something more desperate, for the mere fact that answers are unattainable.
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Tuesday, 5 June 2012 | 17 comments

Fromage fort

I place myself squarely in the category of people who love leftovers. There are few things that makes me happier than to have the previous night’s soup or stir fry to take to the office for the next day’s lunch, or better yet, to give new life in some other form. Some foods, though, lend themselves better to leftover-ing than others. My cheese drawer suffers from this fact. We love having two or three good cheeses on hand, but at some point I always find myself sifting down through layers of tiny aluminum-foiled nubs of cheese, probably mostly rind.
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