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Joan Menefee has never been a picky eater. She and her husband live in Menomonie, Wisconsin, where they tend gardens in two counties and eat plums and grapes in public parks.

The gamification of cooking

Earning points

By
February 17, 2014

At some point in the last four months, the gathering-cooking-writing balancing act went bust, and I was pretty much just gathering with an occasional spasm of cooking thrown in to make sure the oven stayed dirty. Writing was too hard.

Nonetheless, I kept a list of possible blog topics on the fridge (where else?). It most recently read “Thomas Jefferson’s cookbook? Cheese in Wisconsin. Armenian food. Quince experiments. Interview with a food scientist. Port wine and choc. mousse party. New food drier. Fruit shrubs and related cocktails. Lefse seminar with hardcore Norwegian-Americans.”

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Joan Menefee has never been a picky eater. She and her husband live in Menomonie, Wisconsin, where they tend gardens in two counties and eat plums and grapes in public parks.

All bergamot considered

Flavor behavior

By
September 4, 2013

One place I have gotten hung up repeatedly when trying to write about food is flavor description. I have been fighting a pitched (yet polite) battle against people who insist that most worthy and meaningful things defy description: the “picture is worth a thousand words” school of thought.

It’s all easy to explain. A word person like me, a word-ist if you will, naturally bridles when people give up on language without straining their resources in a manner I consider appropriate. After all, such work sometimes results in an expansion of resources, or the dreaded big vocabulary.

Continue reading All bergamot considered »

Megan Scott has been both a cheese maker and a goat herder. Currently, she’s working with her husband, John Becker, on updates to the American classic cookbook ‘The Joy of Cooking’ and has recently overseen production of their new website. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Let’s hear it for cold soups

Warm days, cool recipes

By
August 14, 2013

When people learn that I’m from the South, they assume that hot weather doesn’t affect me.

“Oh, you’re used to this kind of weather,” they say, almost as if it’s understood that Southerners have a gene that shields them from heat. How else could Southern belles have withstood summer in crinolines and whalebone corsets?

I can’t answer that question. My best guess is that all those Scarlett O'Haras suffered just like the rest of us, with a dash of masochism and maybe a mint julep or two.

In truth, I don’t handle the heat any more gracefully than the average person. While it’s true that I have seen many a scorching, muggy day, my tolerance for them is no greater than anyone else’s.

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A food and nutrition writer for more than a dozen years and a vegetarian since the age of 13, Ellen Kanner is a fourth-generation Floridian living la vida vegan in Miami. She keeps a website and a blog and contributes regularly to the Huffington Post. She is the author of Feeding the Hungry Ghost.

The taste of home

We are all hungry

By
August 8, 2013

If you go to New York City’s Ellis Island, you’ll see a display of some of the items people brought with them over a century ago, during America’s great wave of immigration: heavy brocaded clothing; a fez; sepia photographs of stiff, unsmiling people; porcelain dolls with frizzled hair; silver spoons; terrifying brooches; and a coconut.

Were these things left behind on the ships? Did they have to be surrendered? I don’t remember. What I do remember is the coconut. The coconut I understand.

Jenny and Minnie, two sisters who passed through Ellis Island back then, would have understood it, too. They’d probably never seen a coconut, but they’d understand it was, for someone, what home tastes like.

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Joan Menefee has never been a picky eater. She and her husband live in Menomonie, Wisconsin, where they tend gardens in two counties and eat plums and grapes in public parks.

Science-based cooking

The kitchen as laboratory

By
July 22, 2013

One of my favorite stories about Charles Darwin, which I discovered in Janet Browne’s excellent biography, Voyaging, concerns the collision of science and dinner.

Sorely desiring a rhea specimen in Patagonia one evening, Darwin looked down at his almost-empty plate and realized he had just finished eating one for dinner.

Of the discovery, he wrote, “The bird was cooked and eaten before my memory [of rhea sightings in the area] returned. Fortunately, the head, neck, legs, wings, many of the larger feathers and a large part of the skin, had been preserved.”

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Joan Menefee has never been a picky eater. She and her husband live in Menomonie, Wisconsin, where they tend gardens in two counties and eat plums and grapes in public parks.

Blue-skies cooking

The maple-syrup scorecard for 2013

By
June 4, 2013

Innovation, research, and scientific experimentation have been much on my mind lately. Accordingly, I have been seeing examples of these phenomena in unlikely places: In the woods. Around the campfire. And alongside the maple-syrup evaporator.

Early this spring, during a classroom discussion about “analysis” (not easy to teach, I tell you), a student asked me if I had heard of Six Sigma, a process-improvement technique that he had encountered in the military. Six Sigma was originally conceived to reduce product defects in manufactured goods. Think large-scale factories, dozens of moving parts, and teams of managers each responsible for a set of those many parts learning how to collaborate. Also not easy.

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Megan Scott has been both a cheese maker and a goat herder. Currently, she’s working with her husband, John Becker, on updates to the American classic cookbook ‘The Joy of Cooking’ and has recently overseen production of their new website. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Cooking phases

Change in our kitchens

By
April 19, 2013

We all go through phases — hedonistic and healthful, self-destructive and nurturing, persistent and momentary. We are taught from a young age, often by exasperated parents, that these phases aren’t serious.

“It’s just a phase” is a cliché in almost every household, underscoring their transience and thus their unimportance. The implication is that the phase itself is distracting us from who we really are, a sideshow of ourselves; further, that there is something inherently better about staying the same, and something inferior about changing.

But the reality is that we constantly go through phases. Some are extensions of others or perhaps something traumatic occurs, leading to a dramatically different and new phase. Going through a phase isn’t just peripheral — it is a state of being, and no less important for being in a constant state of flux.

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Can you cook a food you dislike?

Squeamishness aside

By
April 4, 2013

This seems like an appropriate time of year to share the fact that I grew up disliking eggs.

I was not born disliking eggs, mind you. I can recall tucking into soft-boiled eggs with an ardor and noisiness that would embarrass me now.

At some point, though, I revolted against the albumen, or what we call “whites,” and decided that the yolk (why don’t we call it “yellow”?) was guilty by association. It was no help to learn sometime in grade school that an egg was an animal that didn’t quite make it onto its legs, the albumen being the food meant to nourish the fetus or yolk.

Continue reading Can you cook a food you dislike? »

Megan Scott has been both a cheese maker and a goat herder. Currently, she’s working with her husband, John Becker, on updates to the American classic cookbook ‘The Joy of Cooking’ and has recently overseen production of their new website. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Food ways

Getting eating right

By
March 13, 2013

When I tell people that I grew up in a household where we ate dinner as a family almost every weeknight, I get their attention.

When I tell them that my mother worked full time and that I have two sisters, they are surprised.

When I add that not only did she prepare dinner for us after a long day of work, but she also made us breakfast many days of the week, they are incredulous.

But the facts remain: my mother, a working middle-class mother of three girls, kept us around the family table. We didn’t always like it, and the conversation was not always stimulating, but we ate together almost every night, and regardless of what phases we were going through, we all ate the same thing.

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Harriet Fasenfest gardens, cooks, writes, teaches, and speaks on the issues of food security and justice. Her book, A Householder's Guide to the Universe, was published in fall 2010. She is currently working on a new book and curriculum guide for teaching householding and householding economics.

Householding CSA update

A recap

By
March 7, 2013

There are times when a person must go for cover, when life presents obstacles the rational mind cannot digest. At those times, it is best to go all limp and wait for the clouds to clear. Fighting windmills will do no good.

Which is my way of saying forgive my absence, and please welcome the return, for the sun has returned — and just in time for my 2013 Householding CSA order.

But let me not get ahead of myself. First, a recap of 2012.

As you may recall, back in January 2012, my good friends at Dancing Roots Farm and I worked out the terms for a Householding CSA. The objective was to create shares that would allow for big-vat food preservation and storage.

Continue reading Householding CSA update »

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