Archive for August, 2009

You don’t really think “food writing” when you think of Moby-Dick.  Has blubber had a comeback in the foodie kitchen as lard has?

No, but here’s a statement about food from the whale-obsessed narrator.  He’s explaining why he goes to sea as a sailor instead of as a cook:

…somehow I never fancied broiling fowls;—though once broiled, judiciously buttered, and judgmatically salted and peppered, there is no one who will speak more respectfully, not to say reverentially, of a broiled fowl than I will.  It is out of the idolatrous dotings of the old Egyptians upon broiled ibis and roasted river horse, that you see the mummies of those creatures in their huge bake-houses, the pyramids.

I love the historically-incorporative tangential prose of this passage.  Even more, though, I love the enthusiasm of appetite that is balanced with the sense of taste as judgment.  Reverence, judiciousness, cookery.  These three should go together.

When we were on the Cape, Curtis cooked up some scrumptious, judgmatically salted and peppered broiled fowls.  In other words, chicken on the grill.  He brined and butterflied two fryers, preheated the gas grill to 450 or so, and broiled those fowls for 45 minutes.  Moistness of meat! Crispness of skin! I was reverential.

More on how to achieve this effect, coming soon.


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Tropical Storm Danny is pouring long ropes of rain down the walls of the Truro Public Library.  I’m taking advantage of the wireless, while Jack negotiates with the hordes of other kids for a few more minutes with the trains.   He’s into non-fiction lately, so we’ve just read books about tornadoes, hurricanes, the first railroads, and kittens.

We had a good meal last night, at Mac’s Shack in Wellfleet.  Mac’s original restaurant is more the shack—right on the sandy shore of Wellfleet Harbor.  It’s all take-out from a window, picnic tables, paper and plastic, and BYOB.  It’s a kid-friendly spot that also serves excellent food.  The story about the more expensive and relatively fancier “Shack” is that they hoped it would be less of a kid and family destination, and more of a date or dinner party spot.  But last night—Saturday at 6—almost every table had a child or two. The building’s facade is pretty inviting to those little people for whom reality and fantasy are often blurred:

macs shack

(Jack asked if the fisherman was real, but he knew the lobster was pretend.)

I haven’t been able to persuade Jack to eat fish except in highly disguised forms, so he ordered a bacon cheeseburger.  Good boy.  While he waited impatiently for his fries, I let him have the camera.  He took portraits of everyone, but I won’t embarrass Peter, Anne, or Curtis by posting them here.

me at macs

Local shellfish was flying out of its shells, due to the fast, professional shuckers:


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Late August on the Outer Cape is like one long lazy day.  Mornings and evenings are cool, but the sun warms everything in between—except the Atlantic waves.

collecting tomatoes

collecting tomatoes

We’ve eaten fish, of course, but the food fun I had yesterday we found by the roadside instead of the seaside.  Just down Long Nook Road from Jack’s grandparents’ house, we stopped at a little farmstand to buy some things for lunch.  Jack wanted the pumpkin, but I picked out sungolds, a squash, and the tiniest red potatoes I’ve ever seen.

prayer flags

Then, we went to the playground.

the twirling tire swing is the best!

the twirling tire swing is the best!

resting, alongside a bluefin

resting, alongside a bluefin

Back home for lunch, I boiled the potatoes, warmed some scallions and leftover grilled chicken in olive oil, and then tossed it all together in a bowl with some vinegar and mustard.  A quick, warm salad makes a delicious lunch.

bite-sized beauties

bite-sized beauties

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Eggs make frequent but unspectacular appearances on this blog.  Like dead metaphors–staples of language we barely notice–eggs are ubiquitous, humble, and very nearly necessary.

Aside from windowsill herbs, eggs are probably the easiest foods to find locally.   In every little region, you’ll find someone who keeps a backyard flock of laying hens.  Just ask around.

We eat eggs often, and of course not just for breakfast.  Like dairy products, eggs are nearly perfect foods, offering a healthy dose of fats and protein in neatly portioned packages.  They are also relatively cheap, when compared to other sources of animal protein.  And to top it off, they cook in minutes. Find fresh, local eggs whenever you can; the difference in taste and quality is huge.

The easiest, and no less delicious, way to cook an egg is to scramble it with some salt and pepper, heat a pan on high, melt a bit of butter, pour in the egg, turn off the heat, move it around a bit, slide it onto a plate, and eat.  Lunch in our house is often a changing combination of vegetables alongside an 8-minute egg.  Jack loves eggs in all forms, which gives us an easy dinner option when he refuses the bluefish or something “smelly” like that. (Though he did eat bluefish “pate” with relish the other day, when he thought it was just some salty spread.)  Fritatta is an easy dinner we have frequently.  Anything can be thrown in–from last night’s steamed broccoli to a bit of frozen bacon or a handful of fresh herbs.

One of the best, and simplest, fritattas I’ve had was made by a friend of a friend of the family’s whose apartment we were staying in for a night in Paris.  Peter and I were on a post-college trip, crashing for free when possible.  These friends of friends, whom we’d only just met that weekend, invited us to stay with them on the night before our early flight home.  They had a two-year-old daughter, Chloe, who had to be fed and put to bed before dinner.  They’d just arrived back home on a Sunday evening after a weekend at their parents’ in a suburb of Bordeaux.  It had been a long day, and a quick meal was in order.  The meal Valerie cooked up was a fritatta made with whole sage leaves spread in a six-pointed circle.  The eggy texture was perfect–set but still moist in the middle.  There was also a bit of salad and baguette.  Perfectly simple.

Fresh Herb Fritatta

6 eggs
6 fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350.  Whisk eggs with salt and pepper until foamy. Heat an oven-proof skillet over moderately high heat, and melt a bit of butter, spreading it evenly and thinly over the whole pan.  Pour in the eggs and cook until it starts to bubble and form a skin on the bottom.  Lay in the sage leaves.  Pop it in the oven for about 10 minutes or until set.  When set, invert onto a serving plate, slice, and serve.

Or, introduce and endless variety of other ingredients….

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Goodbye, Vermont

After one last wonderful local meal last night, we’re saying goodbye to Vermont until next summer.  Goodbye, friends, new and old!

Today, The Roving Locavore has a guest post on Tribeca Yummy Mummy‘s blog.  Feel like making tomato tart?

Also today, we head to Cape Cod for a visit with family before we leave for Rome.  Hopefully, I’ll do some clamming….

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a contemporary-classic Bread Loaf scene

No, not the food staple, but the writers’ conference.  I went up to Ripton, VT, to spend the last night of the conference with Peter.  It was a great evening.  Peter gave a late-afternoon reading of poems from his most recent book, The Lions, in the century-old clapboarded Little Theater.

After the reading, some went to change into their party-wear, while others ambled across rural Route 125 to one of the little yellow cottages, where the cocktail party was happening.  There was plenty of imported gin going around, along with some local beer.  The choice: Otter Creek Copper Ale.

Peter with friends, old and new

The dinner that followed was full of local yummies, including nasturtiums, though not much grows on this Green Mountain ridgeline but trees.

The conference began as an idea of early-twentieth-century-poet Robert Frost’s, in the 1920s.  I love so many of his poems, it would be hard to choose a favorite, but here is one that has to do with a local crop:

After Apple Picking

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

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umrella hat

The other rainy night, we had a little casual dinner party with my parents’ best friends of four decades, who happen now to live on the same long dirt driveway in Norwich, Vermont.  I’d been wanting to make a recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, Tribeca Yummy Mummy, for roasted tomato pasta with scallops.  It was amazingly delicious, especially with picked-that-day organic sungolds and grape tomatoes and basil.  Here are the tomatoes, slicked with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, ready to get roasty:

roast tomat

We had spicy greens in a salad, and then a berry crumble.  I like making crumble, because it’s so easy.  You don’t even need to look at a recipe for the topping if you just remember “it’s all 1.”

Mixed Berry Crumble

1 c. flour
1 c. sugar (mix brown and white)
1 stick butter, cut into small nobs
1 tsp. salt
1 handful sliced almonds (or walnuts, or oats)


3-4 c. mixed berries (I used blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries)
1/3 c. sugar
a sprinkle of almond extract

Preheat oven to 400.  Mix the filling in the baking pan. Frozen berries are ok.

With your fingertips, blend the topping until it all clings together in clumps.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling. Bake for 40 minutes or so.

berry crumble

Get it before it’s gone!


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When we got to the Hanover Farmers’ Market yesterday, thunder was rumbling in the not-too-far distance.  We wouldn’t be able to linger.  I went straight for the Cedar Circle Farm booth, where I was almost overcome by the vivid colors spread before me!

I spent all the cash in my pocket on this pile of (always organic) beauty:

cedar circ vegs

When we got back to my parents’ house at the far end of Turnpike Road in Norwich, it was still too hot to turn on the oven or even think systematically about a meal.  I pulled out a tub of hummus, and we used it as dip for the celery (the most celeryish celery I’ve ever tasted!) and the sungolds.

In spite of the sky–another storm brewing after some hot sun–we decided to cook out.

dark clouds over the back hill

dark clouds over the back hill

We had some grass fed ground beef from Hogwash Farm, so we decided to do burgers, corn on the cob, and a big chopped salad combining the tomatoes, some peppers, radishes from Killdeer, and cucumbers and herbs from our garden.  Dressed with a bit of mustard vinaigrette, it was flavorful, cool, and perfectly satisfying.

This is the only season when a raw salad like that, with little adornment or special treatment, tastes so vivid.

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It’s Queen Anne’s Lace season, which always brings to mind my favorite verbal convergence of food and sex: “Queen Anne’s Lace,” a poem by the famously philandering family doctor and truly great American modernist poet, William Carlos Williams.

Queen Anne’s Lace

Her body is not so white as

anemony petals nor so smooth—nor
so remote a thing. It is a field
of the wild carrot taking
the field by force; the grass
does not raise above it.
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as can be, with a purple mole
at the center of each flower.
Each flower is a hand’s span
of her whiteness. Wherever
his hand has lain there is
a tiny purple blemish. Each part
is a blossom under his touch
to which the fibres of her being
stem one by one, each to its end,
until the whole field is a
white desire, empty, a single stem,
a cluster, flower by flower,
a pious wish to whiteness gone over—
or nothing.

Mmm….  It’s an incredibly sexy poem.

On another note, is wild carrot edible?  The skinny yellowish root, which smells like carrot, is edible, but is not to be confused with its poisonous impostor, Hemlock, the wild edible long associated in literature with murder and suicide, and about which another great poet, John Keats, wrote these well-known lines:

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk […].

The ecstatic, painful longing for the death Keats knew was fast coming–when he was 25–expressed in “Ode to a Nightingale” brings Thanatos together with Eros and the wild desire we have for the wild and the succor, sustenance, pleasure, or oblivion it may bring.

Photo credit. (Thank you.)

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie


For the crust, check out my post of June 7, 2009, but make a double portion, since you’ll need extra pastry for the lattice. Make the pastry, shape into two discs, and chill for several hours.

For the filling, you’ll need 3 cups fresh cut strawberries and 2 cups fresh or frozen chopped rhubarb.  Mix these with 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 c. sugar, and 1 tsp. corn starch.

Preheat oven to 375.  Roll out two 11-inch rounds of pastry, put one in a 9-inch pie plate, and cut the other into strips.  Pour in filling, and construct an over-under lattice with the pastry strips.  Bake (with a cookie sheet underneath in case of drips) for 45 or so minutes, until the crust is golden.

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