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butter me pickles

By on Jul 11, 2015 in experimenting, love, preserving, process, snacks, vegetarian | 0 comments

To say I love pickles is something of an understatement. I was that weird kid who, after I cleaned out the house pickle supply, insisted Mom keep the jar of dill pickles so I could drink the “juice.” At every family gathering, being good Midwesterners, there was a platter of veggie and pickles place out before the big meal. And of course we had the dill pickles from the store, but we also had some of what are known as “Grandma Pickles”, which were my Grandma’s sweet chunk pickles with a surprising tartness that smacks you in just the right way. We would fight over them. Now, ten years after her passing, three of the grandkids, myself included, have taken up the Grandma Pickle mantle, which involves weeks of brining in big ol’ crocks. This is not about Grandma pickles. Last week I laid eyes on the first pickling cucumbers of the season. No, these are not just baby cucumbers....

preserved sunshine

By on Feb 8, 2014 in love, preserving, process | 0 comments

(This was originally written (and promptly not posted) before I went off on a film shoot for several weeks that involved many a night shooting overnight, outdoors, in the coldest winter in 30 years, where I redefined how cold I thought I could be. So it seems doubly true, especially as I watch yet another volley of snow fall from the grey sky.)   There is a wonderful episode of Doctor Who where they reference the solstice in December, saying it is celebrated because it is “halfway past the dark.”  This is a lovely sentiment, but as a Midwesterner, let’s be honest. It doesn’t feel that way.  Yes, after December 21st, the days technically do start to get longer. But that just gives you more daylight time to watch the flat grey expanse of winter that is January and February. Maybe this is why so many New Year’s resolutions are broken. You start out with this ideal of the fresh start...

the nuances of brain juice

By on Dec 3, 2013 in craft food, love, process | 7 comments

When I was 14, I started to drink coffee while at camp, thin bitter dark coffee dosed heavily with packets of hot chocolate mix. When I was 17 I was an exchange student in Denmark, where my host father looked me in the eye and declared that he was going to teach me how to drink proper coffee (and alcohol,) because if I learned how to do it in the U.S., I was going to learn to do it wrong. When I was 23 I lived in New York City and became enamored of the barrels of beans at Porto Rico Imports in the Village, making a pilgrimage from Brooklyn every time I ran out. When I was 27 I did a grad school project for an interactive media project called “The Obsessive Compulsive’s Guide to Coffee.” Now, at age 38 I have a kettle that heats my water to precisely to 200 degrees, which I slowly pour into a french press with precisely 4 tablespoons of beans for two cups of coffee, then let sit for 4...

sweet, sweet snow

By on Nov 25, 2013 in craft food, libations, process | 0 comments

Once upon a time, on a sunny fall day on a quiet street in Chicago, a food blogger walked up to the gate of a long and low brick building. Before her was an aging metal panel of buzzers, and a tattered piece of paper taped over half of them with alternate instructions for only certain parts of the building. After a brief head scratch, the food blogger decided to move onto more modern technology and call the person she was meeting. A minute later, a tall woman with cropped red hair and improbably merry round black glasses popped out of a door a half block down the long and low brick building and yelled “RACHEL!” One would somehow like to think all this craft and local food happens in fabulously rustic kitchens or perfect retro factories with just the right amount of hipster grunge, but really? Sometimes it happens in a long and low brick building, and frankly, I don’t give a damn,...

inhale deeply

By on Oct 22, 2013 in love, process | 1 comment

Make no mistake; I am from the Midwest. I was born into a culture of casseroles (or hot dish, depending on your exact location,) rife with of cans of condensed soup, a grind or two of black pepper being the closest thing to spice around. Wait, I phrased that incorrectly. No grinding. A pinch of pepper from a tin canister, already ground, neutering the ethereal bite of a freshly cracked peppercorn. This is not actually all a bad thing. There are still moments I desperately crave a tuna noodle casserole, one of the few possible ways you will ever see me eat fish. And a casserole is a quick way of getting hot dinner to your family. But this isn’t about casserole. It is about that pinch of pepper. It is about spice. While my mother did expose me to a wider range of spices and flavors than the average Wisconsin kid had in the 80s, there was only so much she could do, given what was...

billy goat grilled

By on Sep 22, 2013 in craft, process, sustainability | 4 comments

Behold a sizzling rack of goat ribs. Lovingly marinated in olive oil and a mix of fresh herbs, licked by flames until the surface becomes that beautiful crusty brown that causes an instant salivation for those of us in the human omnivore sect. It does not, by any stretch, taste like chicken. This is not about a recipe for goat ribs.   On a warm dry day on a mesa in Colorado, surrounded by scrub brush and mountain vistas, I was for the first time in my life brought directly into contact with knowing where my meat came from.   Before the ribs arrived on my grill, they were a part of a goat. That seems like a redundant piece of information. Of course ribs came from an animal. But this is the first time I met the animal. This was a goat owned by Ron and Pam Brown, a lovely rancher couple who were generous enough to let me watch the process and carefully explain everything they...