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!

 

marcel duchamp, a barrel, and dutch pickles on npr

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I am reminded of Marcel Duchamp: a readymade.  You know the story of the most famous one, right?  To make a point about art and modern culture in 1917, he acquired an ordinary porcelain urinal, placed it business end up, signed it R. Mutt, and declared it art.  Art not just for the eyes; instead, it was meant to question the very notion of seeing art, to stimulate the senses with a much wider range of stimuli — even repugnance and a reminder of unpleasant, necessary truths.

How is a herring barrel in a history museum similar?  This one, the preserver preserved at Amsterdam’s Jewish Historical Museum, is quite handsome, actually: sturdy, rotund, golden brown, made antiseptic in its lit vitrine, but grimed and bumped and nicked as it traveled around the globe.  Who knows: did it go from the Baltic seaboard to the New World, filled with the salted herring that nourished the sailors and enriched the burghers? Did a slave from Ghana scratch a doodle into the side during a moment’s rest, or was it kicked by an angry Chinese tradesman upon a sour deal with an unscrupulous VOC rep? Or did it get rolled around the streets of the Albert Cuyp market by Jewish vendors eking out a living in fishy carts circling the city?

And how did this ordinary, workaday object become extraordinary?  Survival alone? (Hey, who could knock THAT.) Or did the herring work some artistic magic?  Did the salt slowly, batch after batch, mellow out the rough-hewn lumber planed and strapped into barrel shape?  Did the artiste (or machine?) who penned the flourishing ‘H’ of ‘Haring Ton’ feel pride in that specimen?  Did he (it) squint with a critical assessment, cough to clear some inky dust out of his (its) throat?  When we ask these types of questions, we don’t just see it as a barrel, or even just as a historical artifact.  We appreciate it for its singularity, beauty even.  And then we think gosh, it must

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Herring with pickle and onion at the Vlaardingse Haringhandel stand, Albert Cuyp Market, Amsterdam

…smell.  I’ve got good news and bad news today.  The good news is that my piece for NPR’s The Salt appeared this morning on a topic very much related to this herring barrel: Dutch pickles and trade.  See it here!

The bad news is that something weird happened with my images, and the resolution is too poor to accompany the article.  I’ll figure out what went wrong, but in the meanwhile, I wanted to share some of the wonderful pickles I captured in Amsterdam at fourth generation pickler Fred Ooms’ de Leeuw Pickles and renowned Dutch-Surinamese caterer Mavis Hofwijk’s Surinaams Buffet Catering.  I’m so thrilled to have met Fred and his wife Monique, and their charming son, and Mavis and her charming daughter Candice, all thanks to artist and scholar Karin Vaneker.

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Amsterdam onions at de Leeuw Pickles, Amsterdam
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The beautiful colors that inspired Vincent van Gogh at de Leeuw Pickles
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Mavis Hofwijk macerates a genoise cake at Surinaams Buffet Catering
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Mavis’ mixed pickles
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Mavis’ marvelous brew (all the vegetables spend time in this spa to become pickles)
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Special spiced grape pickles for the holidays at de Leeuw Pickles
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Rollmops at de Leeuw Pickles — herring wrapped around a pickle? No complaints here