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!

 

barilla and bigotry: not in my home

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Why would a heterosexual woman who plays the “central role” in her family and someone who deeply respects agricultural labor and good products and disgusted by waste throw away an entire unopened box of Barilla pasta?

Because it makes her sick to her stomach to support bigots who judge what kinds of relationships are appropriate and inappropriate.  So, from now on “where there’s not Barilla, there’s home.”  Join me and thousands of consumers around the world in cutting Barilla‘s revenue stream dead.

what thoughts i have of you tonight

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In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went

into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!

– Allen Ginsberg, “A Supermarket in California

OK, Eugene Saturday Market, step it up.  If a food cart pod South of Market under the freeway overpass in San Francisco can serve gravlax, Korean barbecue pulled pork sliders, and Peruvian ceviche with yam and parched corn, so can you.  Change the zoning laws or stranglehold on licenses or backwater policies or narrow aperture in the City Hallways or whatever it is that keeps new food carts, with glorious ideas and international treats, from opening up on the streets of Eugene.

Love,

Your childless, lonely old grubber

duck, duck, goose, ice cream PARTY: food for thought today

IMG_3276Don’t forget to party with Boris and me today at noon on Food for Thought. We’ll be chatting with James Beard Award-winning author and wild foods expert Hank Shaw, who will discuss his new cookbook, Duck, Duck, Goose, morel season, and fishing in Depoe Bay.  And we’ll hear all the news downtown from Chief Churners Stuart and Emily Phillips from Red Wagon Creamery and Chef Mark Kosmicki from Party Downtown.

Coming your way fast and furious: Food for Thought on KLCC Sunday at noon (PST) on 89.7FM in Eugene, or its sister stations all across Oregon, or live on the web.

butcher your own meat, poison, and razor clams: psychopathy or just another episode of food for thought?

Camas Davis. Photo nicked from Chef’s Catalog

I might say both.  It’s Ryan and me again hosting another dark and dangerous episode of food radio programming for maniacs, Food for Thought on KLCC, today at noon (PST) on 89.7FM in Eugene, or its sister stations all across Oregon, or live on the web.

Updated:  Listen to the show’s archive here.

We’ll be chatting with Portland Meat Collective‘s Camas Davis, former food writer and butcher extraordinaire.  Isn’t she absolutely fiercely beautiful?

The PMC teaches people how to break down their own meat, an important element of understanding how the food system works and how we can relocalize and improve meat processing.  She’s raising funds for seeding meat collectives across America in a Kickstarter campaign, and will be discussing a forthcoming class or two planned for Eugene where YOU can learn the skills and take home pounds of premium meat.  You can watch a video of Davis on her Kickstarter page, listen to her on This American Life, or read the article that made her national news in the New York Times Magazine.

We’ll check in with Chef Gabriel Gil of the soon forthcoming and long-awaited Soubise restaurant, and sharing meals of the week. Mine came from an unexpected and marvelous gift of Oregon coast razor clams, one of the sweetest and most delicious shellfish around.  And get this, they’re free if you dig your own!  They can be prepared in many more ways than you will hear from the locals, including the way I ate them last night…

next week’s dream team: food historian charlotte biltekoff visits, farmer paul atkinson chats

I’m pleased to announce the University of Oregon Center for the Study of Women in Society Food in the Field Research Interest Group Visiting Scholar Lecture for AY 13-14.  Dr. Charlotte Biltekoff, Assistant Professor, American Studies/Food Science and Technology at the University of California at Davis, will be speaking on her forthcoming book, Eating Right in America: The Cultural Politics of Dietary Health, on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 3:30 p.m. in Lillis 111. The talk is free and open to all.  Yes, parking is difficult near campus; sorry.

1304_Biltekoff_flyer_WEBDr. Biltekoff’s book is an important contribution to the field; it analyzes the relationship between moral campaigns and food reform movements in American history.  Trust me, this is a fascinating topic. Our breakfast cereal industry was founded on a thoroughly American mix of sexual abstinence, fresh air exercise, and commercial crop potential.  And that’s just the beginning.

And you may be interested to note that Dr. Biltekoff has served in leadership roles in the burgeoning Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC-Davis and the Association for the Study of Food and Society, so she’s a great person to chat with about the future of the field as well as the past.

We’ll be hearing more about the upcoming talk on Food for Thought on KLCC, Sunday at noon (PST) on 89.7FM in Eugene, or its sister stations all across Oregon, or live on the web.

img_5252And if that’s not enough to grab your attention, how about our other guest on this week’s show, farmer Paul Atkinson of Laughing Stock farm? YES!

Renowned on the West Coast for his pork (which is simply the best pork I’ve ever eaten, and everyone from Chez Panisse diners to The Atlantic’s Senior Editor Corby Kummer agrees) and famous on this blog for his work with friend Del Del Guercio making goat milk cheese and cured meats on the farm for local consumption (as in so-local-it-fell-into-my-mouth local), Farmer Paul will be in our studio!  He’ll chat about the other white meat, dairy farming, duck eggs, heritage squash, land use, curing caves, WWOOFing, and/or who knows what else with Ryan and me at noon.  This is a show that should not be missed.

drunken botanist on the radio 3/24/13

Drunken-Botanist-high-resJust in time to celebrate the beginning of spring planting, we are so excited to have Amy Stewart, bestselling author of The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks, on our radio show today, Sunday, March 24, at noon.

Amy is a garden writer of renown, and her new book compiles a glossary of great herbs, plants, and trees that provide us with all the flavors that make up our liquors, cocktails, and other delicious drinks.  She promotes old-fashioned herbs like borage and new vegetables like the Mexican sour gherkin, discussing everything from suze-and-soda to roll-your-own cinnamon.  Expect some wonderful stories and a wicked charm!

We’re also pleased to host Cottage Grove grower Alice Doyle, whose Log House Plants are a continuing source of joy for so many of us in Lane County.  Alice opens her business, one of the foundations of our garden industry, to myriad local volunteer workshops; I visited her during my Master Gardener training a few years ago to practice grafting.  Little did I know she was hard at work creating the grafted tomatoes that became the nationwide stars of the 2011 garden season.  She’ll be discussing her grafted vegetables and the brand new Drunken Botanist starts collections that she developed with Amy, now available at places like Down to Earth, Gray’s, and Jerry’s.  You *must* check them out, and have a listen!  Food for Thought on KLCC Sunday at noon (PST) on 89.7FM in Eugene, or its sister stations all across Oregon, or live on the web.

red chile sauce and farmers on the radio today at noon

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We eat bean-and-greens tacos about once a week at home, but because I always have fermented hot sauce or summer salsa hanging around in the refrigerator, I haven’t experimented much with all the peppers I dried last year.  When I saw an experimental recipe for dried pepper ferments in the fabulous preservation blog Well Preserved, I remembered that I (1) grew a bunch of Central American chiles this year instead of the Hungarian ones I’ve been growing for years; and (2) dried a bunch of ripe pasillas (which grow very well here, by the way) and other peppers that were languishing in my cupboard.

So red chile sauce it was.  Relying on a Diana Kennedy classic recipe, I knew I couldn’t buy fresh tomatoes at this point in the dead of winter, so I used up my last jar of canned tomato sauce, the frozen tomato sauce having been long depleted.  Because I wouldn’t be able to char the sauce as I’d char the skin of fresh tomatoes for more flavor, I decided to throw in a pretty little ice-cubed block of tomato paste that I managed to put up last fall.  It turns out the tomato paste is crucial for body in the salsa, so don’t omit, even if you’re using fresh tomatoes.  If you’re purchasing your tomato products, you might want to buy a can of tomato puree instead of diced tomatoes, because it’s thicker and sweeter.

I was less interested in authentic flavors than in just getting rid of my chiles, so an Ethiopian brown, scorchingly hot beriberi pepper and I’m sure a Hungarian pepper or two snuck in there.  You will probably be more discriminating.  Also, note that you won’t be able to get the silky smooth texture without a blender, so don’t even try it.  A good local bean for the tacos?  Brighstone, a hearty pinto-like bean, which is a new discovery by Adaptive Seeds/Open Oak Farm this year.

And if you’re interested in farming, Central America, or how things grow in places involving the word Willamette, you’ll most definitely want to check out our radio show, Food for Thought on KLCC Sunday at noon (PST) on 89.7FM in Eugene, or its sister stations in Oregon, or live on the web.  Boris and I are trying something new, an interview with farmer/musician Joshua James, who is performing songs from his new album, From the Top of Willamette Mountain, at Sam Bonds tonight.  We’ll also be joined by someone we’ve wanted to have on the show for a long time: Sarah Cantril, Executive Director of Huerto de la Familia, an agriculture and micro-business educational non-profit that teaches community integration, economic self-sufficiency, and organic farming skills to Latino families in Lane County.  Listen in or be square!

Red Chile Sauce

  • 6-8 medium-sized long dried peppers, such as guajillo, pasilla, or the like
  • 1 large garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (top quality fresh or canned)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water (optional if your tomatoes are very juicy, or you’re using canned)
  • salt to taste

Toast peppers and sliced garlic, being careful not to let the peppers burn.  Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, then add the dried peppers and garlic, pressing them down and turning them over every few seconds until the peppers can be crumbled and you can smell the toasted smell.

Remove from heat. Let peppers and garlic cool until easy to handle.

If you are using fresh tomatoes, char the skins over a gas burner or on the same hot cast-iron skillet, then peel off most of the blackened parts, before dicing.

Place tomatoes, tomato paste, and optional water in a blender.  Add garlic.  Remove stems and seeds from chiles, then crumble pepper shells into blender.  Blend for a few minutes on high, until the sauce is very integrated and smooth.  Add salt to taste.

Refrigerate and use within a few days on anything that could use a nice kick of red sauce.

fat girls and barn lights, what a lovely way to spend a weekend!

It’s that time again! Ryan and I will be interviewing the team from Eugene’s new bar/café, The Barn Light, and the marvelous Hanne Blank, self-proclaimed “proud fat girl,” exercise enthusiast, and author of The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts. Join us Sunday at noon on KLCC or livestreaming on the web.

The team from The Barn Light — Dustin, Thomas, and Eric — are here to show downtown Eugene how it’s done.  The bar, located on Willamette across from Kesey Plaza, was designed with a particular attention to detail and quirkiness unusual in Eugene, and the menu for both cocktails and food features bold creations and interpretations of classics that actually taste good (also unusual in Eugene).  I’ll let them tell you more about it.

A79744B13BC94732873E169C918C9681Hanne Blank came to my attention many years ago because she has a strong voice and I’d always look forward to reading her daring, passionate recipes on a now defunct food listserv.  A historian and feminist activist, she has written books on big aspects of sexual history like virginity and heterosexuality, and relationship guides and erotica on big aspects of well, people.  You can see all of her books here.

As an unapologetic fat girl myself, I like her approach to exercise in the book we’ll be discussing on the show.  I’m not a big fan of self-help books, but I gave it a whirl because it was from this delightful writer who loves food and advocates health at every size, and I could really not care less if my ass looks fat in those jeans, and because I’ve been grumpily doing P/T since my car accident in June to rehab my knee.  Quite frankly, I could use an attitude adjustment, and perhaps you can too in this month of resolutions.

Hanne encourages readers to focus less on losing pounds, inches, or sizes, and instead invites us — yes, you; yes, ME! — to spend 100 days with her reaching the goal of a improving particular “body practice,” as she calls them.  In short, focus on one low-commitment act to increase your body’s motion every other day for 100 days.  That’s it.  No starvation, no shaming, just improving one area for a limited time as an experiment. Then you reevaluate and perhaps move on to another goal.

Ok, so what’s mine?  Well, as I said, my knee still hurts quite a bit.  The accident basically destroyed the top of my tibial plateau, and affected the nerves, tendons, and tissues in the immediate area, but also has created problems with numbness in my calf and foot, completely changed my balance and posture, exacerbating hip pain and lower back problems from an earlier injury.  I’m no longer limping except on stairs, which is good news, but I’d like to be limp-free. My goal is to tackle uneven surfaces up and down inclines (walking, biking, trail hiking, climbing stairs) for an hour or so every other day, to improve the strength in my quads and increase flexibility in my knees, ankles, and feet, all currently stiff and owie.  Easy, no?  We’ll see.

Learn more on Food for Thought on KLCC Sunday at noon (PST) on 89.7FM in Eugene, or its sister stations in Oregon, or live on the web.

consider the vegetable: produce as modern art

Squash growing five feet up an elm tree; Eugene, OR
Sweet trompe l’oeil pastries shaped like bok choi mimicking jade sculpture in National Museum, Silks Palace Restaurant, Taipei

Of all the odd patterns I’ve discovered through my study of food in modern literature,  fruit and vegetables as victims of circumstance is probably the one I like best.  Meat, since Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1905), had its battleground drawn between the forces of good and evil.   But produce, it would seem, was contested land.

Red cabbage sauerkraut lacto-fermenting; Eugene, OR
Seed zucchini in the winter rain; Open Oak Farm, Sweet Home, OR

Breaking free from the cornucopia and vanitas imagery that played out in paintings over and over again from the Dutch Old Masters onward, the vegetable in particular was portrayed in new and unusual and almost unrecognizable ways, frequently being destroyed by man’s (or woman’s!) hand: decaying, tortured, forced to adapt and survive in unfriendly conditions.

Display at Food Network’s Food and Wine Festival Grand Tasting, 2011; New York, NY
Native but tropical-flavored pawpaw, first crop in seven years; The Gourd Patch, Springfield, OR
Indian drumstick vegetable (Moringa oleifera), steamed; Oakland, CA

Be a modernist.  Try it yourself. It’s winter and raining and your imagination has nothing better to do to combat the Christmas onslaught of kitschy, rehashed icons and themes. Promote, as M. F. K. Fisher did, a tonic of mixed leftover vegetable juices as a tasty treat.  She fooled no one.  Would you have better luck with an apple-paw paw-drumstick cocktail?

Or think of vegetables not as their perfectly ripe, brilliantly colored, archetypal forms, but rather in a state of decay, too big and fecund, too shrunken, cut into pieces, out of place, misshapen, a seed, growing awry, doomed…

First harvest of Belgian endive, next it goes into deep chill then darkness to grow the familiar pale yellow chicon; Sunset Lane Farm, Brownsville, OR

…or is it dormant, exceptional, whole in its fragmentation, full of promise?