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May 27, 2020

Why Do I Ever Eat Beans from a Can?

 

Canned foods are kind of passé these days. And rightly so. If you've ever eaten a real carrot or a fresh green bean, you would never opt for a canned version of either. Canned vegetables somehow end up tasting like boring and extremely soft...pickles: vaguely salty and quickly turn to mush. Canned food has the virtue of being able to sustain your imperial army for part of the distance to Moscow, but they have the downside of basically preserving food that you'd rather not eat unless you are marching across the frozen countryside. (Except for corn. I don't know why, but canned corn is delicious and nearly impossible to re-create from fresh or frozen corn.)

Prevailing wisdom says there are two exceptions for acceptable use of canned vegetables. The first are tomatoes, which seem to have been grandfathered in because of the long availability of really amazing Italian tomatoes like the San Marzano varietal that was so famously grown in Naples and its environs. I'm a big fan of canned tomatoes, but their use as the basis of a nearly ubiquitous kind of sauce makes their role as a canned ingredient unlike other vegetables. No one thinks a canned tomato tastes like a fresh tomato, and no one wants to eat canned tomatoes without doing something pretty aggressive and involved to them. (Or, maybe you do. But why?) 

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May 18, 2020

To Build a Garden is to Embrace that Some Projects are Unfinishable. And That's the Point.

The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.

— Michael Pollan

If you've never gardened before, but you would consider yourself a DIY-er/craftsperson/maker or what have you, there may be some things about gardening that are very different than other kinds of projects. To build a garden entails some kinds of making that are very ordinary and along the lines of any other plan–>materials–>product kind of project. But in other ways, it requires craft and technique that are completely beyond other kinds of skills. But, to build a garden is not to simply make something. It is to embark on an un-finishable

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Apr 28, 2020

Lazy Food: 7 Weeknight Dinners to Keep in Mind When You Don't Feel Like Cooking

This happens to me way more often than it should––the day has gone longer than expected, I didn't plan carefully enough for what I was going to eat, and now I am home and hungry, without a plan. For much of my life, this has been a recipe to order something, pick up something, or heat up something frozen and in a box. But now I live in a place where few things deliver, the only foods close by are not conducive to living (or sleeping) well, and I have stopped allowing myself to buy things that come in frozen boxes, no matter how lazy I may be feeling.

If I have all the time and money in the world, I love to shop and cook. But my foodie

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Apr 23, 2020

If You Can Only Grow One Thing This Summer, Make it Tomatoes. Or...

So I have a friend named Dan. I met him through work. Dan is in his early 70's. For the past––I'm not EXACTLY sure on the time here––30+ years, Dan has grown tomato plants from seed beginning in the very early Spring. And when he hears that you have even a passing interest in the garden, he comes by with three plants––one of each of the varietals he grows––along with a laminated sheet of paper with information about each of the plants. Dan is the definition of good people. And I love my three little tomato plants.    

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Apr 13, 2020

Old School Burns: Ancient People Had Some Amazing Insults and Jokes

Here's something that is completely useless for your everyday life. It will not help you dress well, or create a perfect mothers day gift, or fix your shoelaces, or build a dynamically-planted garden, or anything of the sort. But if you are at a dinner party or out with friends or in a mixed group and you wanna bring out something funny, erudite and pretty out of the ordinary, nothing works like an unexpected joke from an ancient figure whose quotes usually end up chiseled into marble.

Fair warning: some bawdiness follows. Despite the editors of ancient manuscripts, real people in the ancient world weren't above off color jokes.

 

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Feb 25, 2020

Pickle Everything. Or, How to Make All Your Vegetables as Interesting as Possible

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.  

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Oct 11, 2019

What to Put in Your Coffee This Fall

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.    

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Sep 12, 2019

Meet Angelo Pellegrini, the Original Maker Almost No One Knows About, but Totally Should.

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.    

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Aug 07, 2019

Step Up Your Summer with These Three Words: Grill. Your. Fruit.

Photo:  Kelly vanDellen/Shutterstock

My entire kitchen-consciousness shifts in the summertime. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

The mindset moves from something that is predominantly focused on the oven and range to one that is all about live fires, crackling wood, and smoke. This usually leads me to the meat and hard veggies side of my pantry and fridge. After all, it can be difficult to cook rice, quinoa, or other grains on the grill without special equipment, and I've yet to find a way to manage cheese over charcoal. But an underrated grill item may be one that coincides with the best that summer has to offer: the explosion

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Jan 15, 2019

How to Get the Most Out of Your Kitchen Knives

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.) 

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