I spent the better part of 2012 working on a book on the history of corn/maize. I haven’t heard from the publisher yet when the book will be released — and when it is, I’ll probably start a separate blog for that (we’ll see). But I thought it might be fun to share this video, which went viral earlier this year. I interviewed Greg, the eldest of the three “Peterson Farm Bros,” because I had a lot of older, tremendously experienced farmers and experts in the book, and I thought that it would be good to show the younger, hipper side of farming–the future of farming, as it were. Because the Peterson Farm Bros have a great message that I think a lot of folks need to know: without farmers, we don’t eat. I have found that a lot of folks in big cities have lost sight of that. However, the brothers manage to get the message across in a very entertaining way.
I love a good caramel. I always have. When I was much younger, there was an unincorporated area in Wilmette that everyone called No Man’s Land, and a shop there called The Amber Light introduced me to the first really outstanding, handmade caramels I’d ever had (vs. the considerably less exciting commercial caramels I’d previously encountered).
Since then, I’ve had a fair number of truly splendid caramels in a variety of locations, but so far, I don’t think I’ve had any that were better than those produced by a small, artisanal confectioner in New Hampshire named Tahana Caramels. Now, I realize this may seem like a challenge–everyone will want to tell me about a local caramel they like better. That’s not a bad thing. I like to know where to get the good stuff. That said, if you don’t know someone making exquisite, handmade caramels, then Tahana may be your portal into the splendor of these gloriously soft, luxurious, buttery confections.
The website for Tahana Caramels–http://www.tahanaconfections.com/–shows you where the caramels are available, should you find yourself in New England, but also offer you the option of ordering them online. My preferences run to the original vanilla caramels and the seasonal spice caramels. However, these are not the only options.
If the only caramel you’ve ever had came in a plastic bag that was sitting on a shelf in the grocery store, you owe it to yourself to at least once try really good caramel. If you have a local candy maker, buying local is good. But if not, Tahana is a great option for sampling a really fine example of this confection.
Over the years, I’ve had the great good fortune to visit Annapolis with some frequency. Those who know of my love of history won’t find this surprising, but it was actually love of family that was the bigger draw for me here. My mom’s cousins lived in a wonderful, old 1850s farmhouse–not only on the historic register, but also right on the water. The house had great character, but the setting was the stunner. A sprawling 6 acres rolled over hills and down to a splendid cove. My cousins were great gardeners (of both flowers and food)–and raised three daughters who were/are also gifted and dedicated gardeners. So fresh flowers, inside and out, where always abundant, and autumn inevitably brought a flurry of canning activities, as the wealth of the vegetable garden got preserved for the coming winter.
One cousin, Graham, was an amazingly handy fellow (as well as being a brilliant physicist). He loved building things, and he built decks and patios, stairs down to the water, a pier. And then he decided to renovate the 1850s barn, which he figured actually had a better position, in relation to the water, than even the main house. By the time their second daughter was married and had a few children, he and his wife moved to the now fabulously expanded barn, and left the house to daughter and family).
Graham added a wing to the barn, and they converted the main barn to a Bed and Breakfast — as it seemed such a pity to not be sharing all this beauty with others. That B&B — the Barn at Howard’s Cove — was a huge success. The glorious setting, beautiful amenities, sensational breakfasts, and warm hospitality winning it many friends.
When daughter 2 found herself an empty-nester, she took a cue from mom and dad, and the Farmhouse was soon converted into an equally glorious B&B — The Farmhouse.
Most recently, youngest daughter Wendy, also empty of nest, decided this concept suited her skill-set and lifestyle as well. Wendy is a talented artist but also a great cook and entertainer and avid gardener. So her home on a meadow adjacent to the Farmhouse, is the most recent addition to the group of B&Bs here. As they get more and more popular, it gets increasingly difficult to plan visits — and none can be without advanced notice — but I’m delighted that others get to share what I have so long enjoyed — the splendid serenity of the setting and the warm hospitality of this remarkable family. For more info on Wendy’s place, you can check out her new website for Meadow Gardens B&B.
This is one of those places that can inspire you to write poetry. But even if you don’t versify, the place’s peace and serenity will certainly soothe you. This is a lovely retreat just minutes from downtown Annapolis, cut off from the noise and traffic of the city. I’d want to visit again even if my cousins all left.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views.
Anyone reading this blog has probably figured out that I like travel and food. I also like helping people — and I know a lot of you out there do, as well.
So I thought I’d let you know about an organization that helps you do all three. It’s Go. Eat. Give.
With this group, you book a trip, but on their trips, you also contribute your time to help others. It can be for a day or a few hours or the whole time you’re away. In exchange, you get to immerse yourself in the local culture, including the food.
Hard to imagine a more rewarding way to spend one’s vacation time.
They offer destinations all across Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, so there’s bound to be something that will fit your interests and the skills you wish to use.
As their website says, their goal is to connect people, places, and palates. Check them out. Plan a trip that can make a difference. Go. Eat. Give.
One of the fun things about being a food historian is that it brings you into contact with other people who share your passion. I realize that is probably true of any serious pursuit–birds of a feather, as they say–but I have been delighted with the many acquaintances and friends I’ve made as I study and search for the foundations of what we eat today.
One of those friends is Sandra Oliver. I first connected with her via the magazine she edited and published for many years: Food History News. What an awesome effort that was–one of the only magazines where I’ve kept every issue and even bought back issues published before I first subscribed. Since then, I’ve met her at food history conferences and kept up a correspondence online. She is a remarkable resource, because she has dug deeper into her specialty than anyone else I know.
Besides the newsletter, consulting work, columns in several magazines and papers, and teaching cooking, Sandra also writes books. I have a couple of her works, and they are gems. Her enthusiasm for her topics is matched by the thoroughness of her research. So when I learned that she had a new book coming out, I figured it was worth letting the world know.
If you are an enthusiast for tradition, New England, American regional cooking, culinary history, Maine, good food, or any combination of those, then Maine Home Cooking is probably a book that probably belongs on your book shelf. Hundreds of recipes cover a range from from classic tried-and-true dishes to new uses for traditional ingredients. It is a cookbook that you can actually use, written for the home cook.
And because I mentioned other books and food history, I should probably offer those titles as well, in case you’re interested. Sandra’s other books include Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century, The Food of Colonial and Federal America, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie, which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin.
Food memories–they are strong and important and connect us to where we came from, whether “where we came from” is a place, a time, or a relationship in our personal histories. The iconic example of this has long been Marcel Proust’s waxing lyrical over madeleines and lime-blossom tea. More recently, we saw the food critic in the animated feature “Ratatouille” dissolve back to childhood at the taste of a dish that conjured his past.
But sometimes, those memories are just that–memories–because those tastes have vanished from our lives. Never fear, Monica Kass Rogers is here. On her site, Lost Recipes Found, Monica shares her pursuit of foods from the past, recreating and sharing the recipes for foods that were part of our histories. (To be honest, the great photographs and wonderful descriptions will probably make you want to try the recipes even if the dishes in question aren’t something from your own personal journey.) The site also offers a “swap shop,” where you can list a recipe you are seeking or contribute one, if it’s one you know.
This is a gorgeous site, but it’s also a lot of fun, tripping down a tantalizing memory lane, thinking back to when you last had that pie, cake, sandwich, or other taste treat. So check out Lost Recipes Found–I think you’ll enjoy it.