- Pickle Everything. Or, How to Make All Your Vegetables as Interesting a...
- How to Get the Most Out of Your Kitchen Knives
- What to Put in Your Coffee This Fall
- How to Make an Awesome Meat and Cheese Board for Fall
- Food from Fields and Forests: How to Get Started Foraging
- That Dragon, Debt: How to Give Yourself a Break as You Conquer the Beast
- School Supplies: The Essential Tools You Need to Remain a Lifelong Learner
- Meet Angelo Pellegrini, the Original Maker Almost No One Knows About, b...
- Truth, Justice, and the American Cheese
- Book Review: Michael Pollan Turns from the Stomach to the Mind
I knew I had a problem with pickles when I was a kid and the jar of Claussen's or Batampte's in our fridge wouldn't last a week without me finishing it. Something about the perfection of cucumber plus garlic plus the salty-sour of the brine made for something refreshing, savory and just perfect. I craved pickles as the accompaniment to a sandwich, but I also ate them straight out of the fridge, getting through at least a spear or two before the door closed shut. Pickles are, simply put, one of my favorite ways to eat vegetables.
A kitchen knife is an unusual tool, in that the point of contact between the tool and the medium upon which it works is actually extremely delicate. Imagine if a wrench were as delicate as an X-acto blade that had to be replaced regularly, or if bar clamps would routinely stop holding things in place because they became all wonky with use. Most non-cutting tools are blunt, hearty and reliable. But blades have to be cared for, stored carefully, and sharpened (somewhat) regularly.
But if there is an abused and neglected blade in your home that is used frequently but cared for rarely (okay, maybe not YOUR home, Mr./Ms. Attention-to-Detail––but the average home), it is the knives in your kitchen. Unless you are a professional ice sculptor or sword swallower, it is likely that the knives in your kitchen are the ones that get the most daily use. And if you are anything like me, it is way too easy to just grab one, use it, and put it back without special care for these knives. Despite my best intentions, it is easy for me to leave a dirty one on a cutting board, haphazardly toss one into the sink, clean in the dishwasher and store them in less-than-ideal ways (i.e., cluttered together in a drawer. I know. I'm an animal.)
Its the season of nippy evenings and crisp mornings and the smell of leaves gathering over mossy ground. For most of the nation at this point in the calendar, the temperature has finally started tipping toward a chill. It is also the season when the entire world of marketed goods becomes pumpkin spiced, cinnamon sprinkled and otherwise given a taste that makes it seem like you're sucking on a mouth full of allspice berries. And you know what? I love it. I really do. We don't have a lot of big, broad ways in which we all, as a people experience the passage of time. So we might as well let our common appetite for sugar and spice become something that binds us together.
One way to let this explosion of cliché fall flavors come into your world, responsibly, is in your coffee cup. Because why not? Coffee is a daily part of many of our lives. And unless you are the Scroogiest grouch when it comes to the amusements of the months of October through December, why not let the occasional cup get gussied up with the joy of the season and its holidays? So, if you are the kind of person who likes to drink a little whimsy now and then, here's how to bring all of the warmth and cheer of the fall into your morning cup.
You want your meat board to be a statement of your ambition. Not as a cook, but as an eater. If you can avoid it, don't just let this be a venue for a dinner plate. You want a board that seems deliberate and larger than life. Wood is good. But so is slate or stone or anything smooth and safe for food. In this moment, when you are putting together a board, you are not a chef, nor even a cook. You are an artist in front of a fresh canvas, but your paints are going to be the foods that you most love.
For my whole life, the idea of foraging has had a romance that I can't quite put my finger on. Way before it became a punchline about hyper-local hipster foodies, to be a forager was a signal of a deep wisdom about the land. To know what could be eaten was to have access to riches that were all around us. In a world beset by industrial foodways, foraging is a reminder that the world can sustain us (or at least some of us) without our machines, if we would simply let it.
The trouble with foraging, though, is that unless you grew up in the style of Katniss Everdeen or the Girl of the Limberlost, most of the earthly wisdom and insight needed to forage well is beyond you. And this is definitely a wisdom that you need to gain through practice. Ideally, some Italian-born wood elf––someone like Angelo Pellegrini or Angelo Garro (who at least is still alive)––would appear to teach a willing learner how to gather and find and hunt out the best things available on the earth. But that's pretty unrealistic. So, the only thing to do is to just do it––after all, if we start small, build up some confidence and awareness, and then keep going, before long we might rediscover some of that lost knowledge so that we can pass it along ourselves.
So, from the experience of one free food fan who hopes to be more, here's how to get started as a forager.
I am a defeated knight––noble in my essence (or so I feel), but waylaid and shrunken down while fighting a beast that no man could possibly face undaunted. The beast spits fire, inundates me with dust from its mighty, flapping wings, and seems to pull the very ground from underneath me. I cower behind my shield and do what I can to battle the beast back, but at best I can manage a draw in any of our fights. And day by day, the beast gains more ground. Or that's how I feel. The beast is debt. Random sums of money are my outmatched weapons. And despite my lobbing those missiles as hard and direct as I can, I
I spent solid twenty-five years of my life in school. It began in kindergarten and I then headed straight from high school into undergrad, a master's degree, and then a Ph.D (I know, I know...) One of the things I truly miss now that I'm no longer an enrolled student is the optimism and excitement that comes with shopping for school supplies. Nerd or not, there is something that is just exciting about having fresh notebooks, new pens and pencils, bags, folders––all the "stuff" of school. Adult life may entail the occasional new notebook, but there isn't a season for it in the Fall where everything is potential, and all the success and mistakes are in the future.
That we don't do this as adults is a shame. Because there is every reason for all of us to be ready for school. The longest project in a any maker's life is the constant, endless craft of oneself. And there is no way to make progress on this project without the proper tools. I think most people dedicated to craft have slid into a life of learning whether consciously or not. And there's no reason not to prepare ourselves with supplies to complete this project well. But, of course, a life of learning is not the same as preparing for a school year. It has a different set of requirements and it calls for some different kinds of supplies.
You can barely imagine what the world was like in the proto-suburbs of the Pacific Northwest for a child who had traveled there––entirely on his own, with his mother at home and his father awaiting him––from a small Tuscan village. This was before "a small Tuscan village" was even a thing on the radar of America at large. And it was before America had its culturally and politically dominating century. It was before anyone knew what the Pacific Northwest would become, foodwise.
And yet, that is where Angelo Pellegrini settled. His childhood of 12 or so years in Tuscany gave him an uncanny experience to bring to pre-depression America, including an adult life that coincided with the Cold War in which his heritage could not have been less relevant. He was born at just the right time to enjoy America in a way that few others had. But he was also born just a bit too early to have been the celebrity he would have been if he had emerged in the age of Alice Waters and the Food Network.
I remember when the cheese lovers started telling me what was "real" cheese and what was "fake." I remember taking them seriously because they were talking about cheese cultures (ha. pun!) I knew to be important: Italian, French, Swiss, Spanish, etc. "Cheese is alive!" these experts insisted. And anything that was not the product of natural fermentation and cave-aging was unacceptable. Eating the rind was important. The worship of bacteria in the process was expected. The presence of insect larvae was not necessarily a negative. Out of a world that had room for Cheeze Whiz, handi-snacks, and this bit by Mitch Hedberg, the celebration of authentic, non-adulterated cheeses was completely legitimate.
For years now, Michael Pollan has become the authority on the relationship that human beings have to food in the modern mechanized, industrial world. He has written on gardens, the inter-relationship between specific plants and their human users, the food systems that operate in our world, the ethics of our diets and the deeper meanings behind our cooking traditions. In short, he has become one of the most influential authorities on what we put in our stomachs. In the process he has helped foster a whole new approach to food that has manifested in artisenal pickle shops, kombucha in every store, and a renewed focus on locality in our food