hang on, baby, 2015 is going to be a wild ride

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Happy New Year 2015!

What a wonderful gift the new year brings.  It kicks 2014, by most accounts a most miserable, stingy, and violent abuser of a year, out the door.  Let’s celebrate!

There are big things in store for me in 2015, and I’m thrilled to announce I’m making plans to become a better writer and photographer.

As you may know, I’ve been struggling with personal loss and injury for the past few years, and my life hasn’t been terrific.  My divorce and shift in teaching position at the university and the realities of this small town have made it so I can no longer live the life I had.  Nor do I really want it any more.

What I do want, I realized, is to live more fully and richly in the skin I feel most comfortable in, as a food and travel writer, so I can continue to bring stories of the north to all of you and discover more friends and colleagues in an even wider audience.

So I’m off to do it.  I’ll be leaving Eugene this summer and relocating closer to the city life that can feed my need to tell these stories. This means I’m losing my home, which is almost unspeakably difficult as one deeply in love with this place.

It also makes the continuation of my cherished issue, Culinaria Eugenius, an impossibility in its current form.  Culinaria Eugenius is the story of a place, and Eugene is the small hearth upon which I will no longer be able to warm my stories.   It’s rather scary, but I am confident that all my years with you have provided me a strong and everlasting flame that will fuel me wherever I go.  I’ve been writing this award-winning local food blog for almost seven years, nearly 1000 posts.  In its virtual pages, I have documented the dramatic change in the Eugene food scene and offered countless original recipes and stories about our local food shed.  It’s been a transformative experience, and I’m deeply thankful to all my readers who have joined me.

There’s still plenty of time before I make the final transition, so I hope you’ll continue to read my work.  You may know I maintain a Facebook feed for CE, which is far more active than the blog, and that I write a quarterly column for Eugene Magazine called “Eat, Drink, Think” (featuring local farmers and my favorite recipes using seasonal produce) and some features that appear there.  I’ve written in the past for other places, including NPR’s The Salt, Acres USA, and Gastronomica, as well as our two local newspapers.   I’ll still be teaching as an adjunct professor at the University of Oregon and other places, and will keep you informed about cooking classes and demos.

I’ve been writing more and more travel stories, interviews with cool Oregonians, and the latest in Northwest tastes for AAA’s Via magazine, work I really love and want to undertake in greater quantity.  I am working on a cookbook for single people, a food history book, and a number of articles that will be announced as soon as they find a home.  I’m also proud to say I’ll be interviewing Novella Carpenter and moderating a panel on Diana Abu-Jaber’s food writing at the CSWS Northwest Women Writers Symposium this spring.

To raise funds for the move and upcoming travel research, I’d love to hear from you if you have paid freelance needs for food features (writing or photography) or book reviews or judging gigs, and I’d be deeply appreciative if you could pass my name along to folks who might be interested in someone with this experience.  I am not only a writer and budding photographer, I’m an accomplished public speaker for both academic events and cooking demos, and an event organizer.  I have served as a panelist, panel moderator, interviewer, and judge at myriad venues, including for international book awards, our local Iron Chef competition, and academic panels in the U.S. and abroad. I’ve interviewed some of our brightest culinary lights on an NPR-affiliated food radio show (as a co-host for the late, much lamented Food for Thought on KLCC) and at live events, and have curatorial experience working with 600 years of rare books related to food history. The best email address is wellsuited at gmail dot com, and I’m happy to provide a full CV upon request.

May 2015 treat all of you, of us!, with the dignity and respect it should, and grant you the gift of good eating and great companionship.  Happy adventuring!

 

thanksgiving 2014

IMG_0025For the first time in as long as I can remember, I traveled during Thanksgiving week.  It was my first time in the south, and a very, very happy reunion in Atlanta hosted by my friends Ryan and Ashley Stotz, whom you may remember just as fondly from Marché Provisions or (in Ryan’s case) our dearly departed radio show, Food for Thought.  They’re doing very well in the South!

They showed me the city, market by market and restaurant by restaurant and grocery store by grocery store. We visited some of the best little local joints for breakfasts of fried everything and sliders, the massive international grocery store called the Buford Highway Farmers Market (where we spent four — FOUR — hours), and some pretty wonderful bars and restaurants.  We drank icy orange frosty beverages at the Varsity drive-in and ate foie gras duck soup dumplings at The Porter.

And dinner, of course, was fabulous. We cooked and drank and ate and laughed and stayed up all night playing Cards Against Humanity.  Then we watched this, which is seriously messed up and will worm into your brain — warning, so we suffered the song in about a thousand different jokes.

I hope your celebrations were as warm and lovely and filled with good company as mine were.

IMG_7006 IMG_0057 IMG_0019 IMG_0039 IMG_0017From top to bottom:  pumpkin pie infused with bay, fried chicken on a biscuit with cream gravy at Homegrown, some cheap swill with dinner, breakfast of vermouth-scented scrambled eggs with chicken livers, radicchio salad prep, collard overflow at the Piggly Wiggly (dba IGA).

 

culinaria eugenius in germany: mushrooms, here and abroad

IMG_6727IMG_9182IMG_9179IMG_6816IMG_681520141018_174446 20141020_142010IMG_6864 I’ve been in Germany, fitted with a stylish orthopedic boot for my lame foot, and sampling wild mushrooms and newly fermented wine and sausages.

Now the foot’s healed and I’m back just in time for our own mushroom festival at Mt. Pisgah Arboretum today, rain or shine.  They’ve decided to experiment with cooking demos, so I’m hauling my little portable cooktop down to the festival to whip up some delicious soups and dumplings featuring the ingredient of the day!  Thrilled to be a part of one of the best festivals we hold, with a huge mushroom display and walks, activities, music, and food.

Come see me at 11-12:30 on the Moon Stage!  I’ll be sampling wild mushroom broth with spaetzle and creamy mushroom sauerkraut goulash for the soup demo, and oyster mushroom potstickers for the dumpling demo.  Recipes later!

The images above show the Alps from Garmisch; wild mushrooms at the Kleinemarkthalle and little marzipan boars rooting about in acorns in Frankfurt; pork medallions with spaetzle in Heidelberg; and glorious fall leaves in Wuerzburg.

ozette potatoes and a sauce from garden herbs

IMG_8647I bought some delicious, glossy PNW-native ‘Ozette’ potatoes from Turnip the Beet Farm at the Lane County farmers market on Saturday.  I’ve written about them before, and think they’re fantastic for the locavore and armchair anthropologist.  They taste good, too!  As far as I know, Turnip the Beet is the only farm that produces them around here.  Farmer Lela says it’s the second crop of the year and they should have them at the next couple markets.

I like the Ozettes because they’re waxy and flavorful, so they make good fried potatoes and potato salad.  Or simply boil them and serve with the brilliant German green sauce, Grüne Soβe (or in the dialect of Frankfurt, Grie Soß).  It’s more of a spring thing, but if you’ve got a burgeoning herb garden, it’s a great summer dish.  All you need is seven herbs, a binder (e.g., sour cream) and something sour (e.g., lemon) and a little mustard.  The herbs that are traditional are sorrel, chervil, parsley, borage, burnet, cress and chives, but there are many variations.  Why not make a PNW herb blend?  I’ve seen basil and dill and marjoram included in some recipes, even.  Here are a few variations:

Mine was made with my very thick homemade sour cream (read: too thick for this sauce), a little milk to thin it out (bad idea, as it de-emulsified the fats), wine vinegar, mustard, and the traditional herbs minus cress.  Sorry about the poor picture, I was hungry.

I’m particularly excited about these potatoes because they represent yet another young farmer couple who are making a go of it in Lane County to bring us heirlooms and unusual produce, produced in a sustainable and labor-intensive way.  They’re worth supporting.  Even better, they just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign for new greenhouses, so they’ll be able to extend the season in the future.  Congratulations!

 

 

 

 

express your love: oregon coast

IMG_8332IMG_8276 IMG_6045Express your love, my birthday horoscope said, it’s the key to a successful year.  So here are some images I love from my recent travels.  From top to bottom:

1)  One of several illustrations that are part of a history exhibit on the Tillamook Country Smoker at the Museum of People’s Art in Bay City, OR, an adorable little gallery devoted to celebrating Oregon’s labor that’s attached to a café and indoor produce and provisions market facing the ocean.

2)  Now defunct but still, like the Giving Tree, giving, the first Oregon Heritage Tree, a 17-foot diameter Sitka spruce at Klootchy Creek County Park in Seaside, OR.  Not only is the tree alleged to be the oldest standing thing in Oregon (estimated around 750 years old when it was partially felled by a storm a few years ago), it’s situated at the site of a grisly pioneer ptomaine poisoning in 1899 that wiped out a group of lumber scouts and their guide, the doughty Seaside entrepreneur Antoine Cloutrie. A good reminder: a storm is more than a hill o’ beans, but sometimes those beans, when canned improperly, CAN KILL.

And

3) A lone surfer girl pondering the rocks at Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park, between Cannon Beach and Manzanita, OR. Surrounded by water, drinking a glass of water, made of water.  How vitally we are of the seas that make up the majority of our planet.

 

 

thanks, judy

263926_10100441385122531_2250107_nFor every delicious mouthful.  I made your roast chicken for my Thanksgiving-for-One feast this year, just before you passed on to the great dinner party in the sky.  Of course I would.  It was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had in my life.  Bright, simple, balanced: the chicken was roasted ’til golden fat in the big brick oven, then pieced out and laid atop peppery greens and crispy whisps of bread crouton, which mingled with the juices.

269465_10100441385237301_8280984_nA revelation each and every time.  A needed reminder that there is a moment or two of grace left in the world.

I took these photos at Judy Rodgers‘ restaurant, Zuni Café in San Francisco, a few years ago.  The roasted chicken bread salad had been served there for many years, and it was such an iconic dish it even made it into her NYT obituary twice, once in text and once as the image of Ms. Rodgers at work.  I don’t often say this, but the dish was more than just poetry or symphonic taste, it was a reflection of who we are and what we mean to do in creating food to share.  I learned to cook in the late 80s as a high school student in the Midwest who would soon find her way out to Northern California for college.  The new landscape, the wonders of Berkeley Bowl, and a boyfriend who shared the adventure with me were instrumental to my own education.  And all of this was fed by the revolution going on around me, one Judy Rodgers was helping to foment.  So for me, California cuisine was cooking.

Sitting in front of that platter of chicken bread salad many years later, and taking it in for just a moment — understanding the room California cuisine gives us to ponder the elements, thinking about the life that was sacrificed, the hands that formed the bread and picked the greens, and the unerring creative mind that knew one classic dish could resist dining fads and fancies — was almost better than the first spear of juicy chicken dressed with a little balsamic and olive oil, a stray leaf, a shattered bit of bread.

Let anyone who dares argue that food is not art take on a dish like this, emblematic of a life and a movement and a time and a place.

282367_10100444363947941_2325507_nAnd so good I just might just make it my Thanksgiving tradition from now on.

264256_10100441384848081_6046104_nFor a recipe, see Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation, or buy the Zuni Café Cookbook, one of the absolutely best American cookbooks in existence.

Chef Judy Rodgers, with the greatest respect, RIP.