just your average oregon homestead: mildred kanipe and her peacocks

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Dateline: the tiny town of Oakland, Oregon, a few weeks ago.   I was pointing at a spot on the map, the ones explorers like best, you know, the ones where just an arrow leads off the grid and names something that lies beyond the edge.

“Well, I haven’t ever heard of that,” the shopkeep said, “but I definitely have heard of Mildred Kanipe park.”

In the odd hopeful spark in her eye, I knew there was something cool in them thar hills.

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And yes, in an old Oregon homestead-turned-county park that was saved by local citizens, it’s peacocks in the hills. And pastures. And barns…

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Peacocks!  There, perched on the woodshed.  And there, strutting down the slope from the cow pasture.  And there, a single Narcissus admiring himself in the pond.  And there in the oak trees, calling out in mournful tones.  And there, roosting on some old farm equipment, startling you when you step into the quiet light of the dim barn.

For nearby Flannery O’Connor fans celebrating her birthday, born on this day in 1925, a visit to the farm might be a chance to pay tribute to the writer’s famous peacocks, including the recently departed Manley Pointer, who did not disappoint.  RIP.

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Even for this jaded traveler, the 1,100-acre Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park is fascinating.  Just an hour from Eugene, it has a day use area next to the crumbling Century Farm house where Mildred Kanipe (1907-83) herself lived from birth to death, ranching and maintaining her livestock — and peacocks.

A half-dozen or so crumbling old barns and agricultural structures and a rural one-room school house listed on the National Register of Places are also on the property, among hiking and equestrian trails and a camping area now being developed. The school house, hidden in the trees above, dates from around 1910, when the area was known as the English Settlement.

DSC00678Yellowing wallpaper. Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park, Oakland, OR.

The farm house itself was built for the original Land Claim in the 1860s, and most recently made the 2015 list of Most Endangered Places in Oregon.  Fundraising for renovation is underway.

For now, we can go around the back of the house near the stream, and spy in to enjoy the uncanny little original two rooms with peeling striped, tree-topped wallpaper, and the crumbling kitchen addition with almost-bright yellow and aquamarine paint and a sink and cupboard set from around 1960, when they added running water and electricity.  There was never a need for an indoor toilet, though.

As I peered in the windows, a peacock settled down on the fence just beyond the window, perfectly framed.

Mildred Kanipe ran a dairy for just less than a decade in the 1940s.  Otherwise, she logged and farmed and ranched and tended the orchard, the remnants of which you can see.  Among 25 or so extant varieties of pomes, there are apples: a ‘Transparent’, a ‘Spitzenberg,’ a ‘Gravenstein,’ a ‘Black Ben’ from Arkansas, a couple of ‘Fall Pippins’, a ‘Graves Golden,’ redolent of coriander, a ‘King David,’ a ‘Stayman,’ an ‘Ortley,’ also known as a ‘White Detroit’, and a ‘Gloria Mundi.’

In this glorious world, Mildred Kanipe, the “Belle of Oakland,” did not let anything stop her.  She bought her first couple hundred acres of land when she was 18 and wore overalls.  When she’d find random livestock wandering alongside the road, she’d throw it in her truck and keep it.  On the internet, there’s an account of her laying irrigation pipe by the light of the moon, since it was shiny metal and therefore possible to see at night.  That way, she could fell lumber and herd cows during the day and not waste time.

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Ever feel like you’ve been bitchslapped from the grave by a pioneer woman who did more in a single day than you’ve done all month, who then stuck a peacock feather in her cap and called you macaroni? Get to work, girl!

Yeah, me neither.

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.

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.

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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.

crawfish and year-old eggnog: it’s christmas at food for thought!

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Never say we didn’t bring you anything unusual!  It’s going to be a fascinating show this week on our merry Food for Thought with Ryan et moi.  Ryan’s booked one of his longtime food heroes, erstwhile New Orleans restaurant critic and food writer Tom Fitzmorris of The New Orleans Menu, who wows us by hosting a food radio show not once a week for an hour like us, but six days a week for three hours daily!

And I’ve finally managed to corral our favorite bartender in the world, Jeffrey Morgenthaler.  Since leaving Eugene’s Bel Ami a handful of years ago, Jeff has met with great success in Portland, managing the bar at Clyde Common and traveling the world looking for new drink combinations.  Still blogging occasionally, he’s been featured in print all over the country for his famous eggnog and his barrel-aged cocktails, and has recently finished his first book and is opening a new venture, too.  Whew!

All this, more on my Amsterdam trip, Ryan’s dispatches from the front lines of Eugene holiday commerce, and more!  Listen in at 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.

By the way, if you’re thinking of the perfect Christmas gift for your local business, consider becoming an underwriter for our show!  We have a slate of wonderful guests in the upcoming weeks, including renowned authors Naomi Duguid, Paula Wolfert, and John T. Edge. For a few hundred bucks, you will get many months of exposure and your shop announced live on the show each week to a targeted group of listeners interested in buying local food.  Best deal in town!  Contact underwriting at klcc@klcc.org or 541-463-6005.

going dutch

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As those of you keeping up on my whereabouts on my Facebook page know, I’ve been out of the country again, visiting Amsterdam and meeting local folks about the food scene there.  I went to do research on still life paintings for the article I’ve been writing on the curious renaming of molecular gastronomy as “modernist cuisine.”  I also managed to pick up an assignment from NPR to write about Dutch pickles, a project I pursued with all my might.

I’ll tell you more about both of these adventures in another post, but I just wanted to share a few photos and notables.

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To get it out of the way: no, I didn’t partake in Amsterdam’s legendary consumables.  Not really my scene.  But it was interesting to see the effects of the tourist trade on the permissive drug culture and vice versa. I highly recommend the underwear.  Highly.

Amsterdam is a compelling city, and I really was taken with it.  What they say about bicycles is true — they’re everywhere — but what they don’t tell you is that they are massive steel-framed tanks, and one is at great risk of being bulldozed if one isn’t careful! The canals in the winter, especially in the snow, are gorgeous, and there’s so much to see walking along the water, including decrepit old houseboats, swans, sex shops, and old delis turned into antique shops. I was very fortunate to have as a guide the artist and independent food scholar Karin Vaneker, who taught me so much about Dutch culture in the few short days we had together.

I happened to be in The Netherlands on December 5, which is the day Sinterklaas drops off presents with his cadre of servants called “Zwarte Piets” or Black Peters. (Sinterklaas, the tall white man with the beard, is so busy around Christmas with America that it needs to be earlier in Holland, I suppose.)  To Americans sensitive to our own colonial past and the racist minstrel acts of the nineteenth century, it’s very very difficult to see a bunch of blue-eyed white people in blackface and Moorish IMG_3389costume dancing around and singing as anything but horrific.  Many Dutch (including Karin), however, maintain the tradition isn’t racist, and that Zwarte Piet is not even of African descent — he’s dirty from going down the chimney.  There’s a good discussion about the debate and growing opposition to the tradition here. Nevertheless, it was kind of sweet to hear Christmas carols in Dam Square and see the children so excited, and to get gifted myself by a Zwarte Piet distributing handfuls of tiny spice cookies to commuters on a local train far outside of the tourist area.

The food in Amsterdam was definitely the most international of all the cities I’ve visited in Europe.  In places like Italy or France, it’s often difficult to find meals that aren’t closely related to the locality.  But in Amsterdam, I had a hard time finding Dutch food in restaurants and instead opted for Middle Eastern, Surinamese, Indonesian, etc. I can’t complain — it was great!

IMG_3880I had the opportunity to visit two street markets.  At the Albert Cuyp market, the largest street market in Holland (and over a hundred years old), I saw unquestionably the most beautiful fish I’ve ever seen at a stand: pure white and glistening.  The flesh looked like the interior of some creamy white fruit, a fresh lychee maybe? Or whipped lard, for those of you who dream of such delights.  And there were cockles and mussels, alive alive-o, and scallops in huge shells, and smoked mackerel with skin so golden from the processing that it glowed…and these beautiful thin smoked eels, paling.   We ate salted herring with raw onions and pickles, and little fried fish nuggets.  Following that snack with poffertjes, the tiny sweet pancakes everyone loves, seemed a little indelicate, so I opted for tastes of three delicious aged cured Spanish hams instead.IMG_3868IMG_3992

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The Dutch and I both love dark, spicy licorice, so I was very happy to browse all the flavors available in the markets. I had always thought that the shapes were the only difference, but they say each one has a different taste. I settled on novelty flavors to take home — black straps that look like a belt, and little replicas of the famous Belgian statue of a boy peeing, the Mannekin Pis.  Haven’t tried the latter yet, and I hope it’s not pee flavored.  A delicious meal at a charming little bistro called Restaurant Greetje ended with a licorice crème brûlée, topped with a traditional licorice root stick (above, at a Christmas festival booth at Haarlem).  The waiter told us that children liked to chew on the sticks, so I did likewise.  First time I’ve ever gnawed on a stick at a restaurant, and hopefully not the last.

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And I can’t forget the cheese.  Depicted in its art, Dutch cheese is something to be remembered.  If you ever get a chance to eat the caramel-rich aged gouda, don’t hestitate.  But it was also very difficult to say no to the Stilton soaked in port that I saw in an incredible cheese shop next to the fabulous de Leeuw delicatessen.  We opted for Dutch chocolate cheesecake instead.

Next up:  the amazing Mavis, Suriname caterer to the stars and Dutch pickles!

concrete kiss: a czech classic cocktail with an apricot chaser

I’m excited to participate in Food in Jars‘ Drink Week this year.  It features various preservation bloggers putting their creations to use in brand new drinks, and every single cocktail is worth a try.)

My Drink Week post takes us far, far away from Oregon and all the way to the small spa town of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, where they’ve been manufacturing Becherovka herbal liqueur since 1807, served as an apéritif or digestif usually straight up, like this:

At the Joyce symposium in Prague a few years back, we were served complimentary Becherovka shots as we boarded the boat cruise along the Vltava river.  A habit that would be charming imported to the Willamette and the McKenzie, if you ask me.

From Prague, I decided to take the waters in nearby Karlovy Vary, a spa town long known for such activities.  One bathes at spas (as I did, here, hilariously) and lazily strolls along the canals and through lovely nineteenth-century parks, stopping at the many public fountains with mineral waters from various springs.  And once the rather unpalatable water makes your stomach start to rumble, one stops at the Becherovka stand for some healing for the healing.

But one need not just drink Becherovka straight.  The second most popular Becherovka drink is an adaptation of the gin & tonic called “Be-ton,” and it combines, of course, Becherovka with that most British of healing liquids, tonic water. (The Beton is usually a rather herbal mix, but you’re looking for a gentler version of the classic, try this recipe from The Kitchn.)

Beton is a play on words — it means concrete in Czech, so I thought I’d try to soften up the concrete with a little apricot kiss from the remaining jar of brandied apricots I put up last summer.  Don’t have brandied apricots?  Try poaching apricot halves in a simple syrup instead, then use the syrup for the drink.

The syrup and the apricot mellow out the herbs in the bitter tonic, and the apricot garnish smiles up at you like a sunny-side-up egg until you slurp it up and it slides, icily, down your throat.  The perfect summer drink.

Concrete Kiss

  • 1.5 oz. Becherovka
  • 5 oz. tonic water (I used Schwepps but a finer, less harsh tonic would be much better)
  • 1 oz. syrup from brandied apricots, or substitute a sweet apricot brandy (like Hungarian Fütyülos)
  • 1/2 brandied apricot

In a highball glass filled generously with ice cubes, add the Becherovka and tonic, then mix gently.  Pour the apricot syrup on top and garnish with a perfect brandied apricot half.