Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Food Theory, Part 1: My Community Food History

I've been thinking lately about food and community. I want to do a few posts around this. I doubt they'll be very photo-heavy, so I hope you'll stay with me. Today I'm thinking about my own history of sharing food (and drink) with my non-family communities, what it means to me, and what it could be.

I have some very clear memories of a particular church basement in Southern Minnesota, punctuated with watermelon pickles, 7-Up and sherbet punch, 7-layer salad and brownies.

I have other clear and memories of other basements, school basement cafeterias and sandwiches and juice boxes. That particular smell of old chocolate milk. That particular echo of kids and linoleum.

I've drunk generic kool-aid mixed with vodka in a recycling bin out of a $3 cup.

I've brought a hot dish of my own, or two, to various potlucks across the country.  I hid my roots, though, and called them casseroles. Shame on me. Viva la hot dish!

These days, I share food with my friends and their families at events we call Playdates or Mama Nights or, as in the days of yore, Potlucks. I bring meals to new mamas. I swap meals with friends to give my own family some variety. I preserve food for later in groups.

I'm lucky to have enough money to eat. I'm lucky to live among other people who also have enough money to eat. Shared food, though, is more than just food. It's a gesture of community. It's intimate. It binds us to each other.

Sometimes it's the excuse to get together in a world where slow food is marginalized. Sometimes we give food because we have nothing else to give, because we can't fix the rough spots in other people's lives, but we can feed them dinner.

And yes, sometimes it's an act of faith. I've eaten food that I did not find to be delicious. I've given food I did not find to be delicious. I've made food when I did not have time or money. I have flaked out and not made food when I should have.

Because, sometimes, food made by someone else is exactly what a person needs.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


I turned 40 a week ago. I've been 40 for one week. It feels the same as not-40 felt. All that stuff about age being a state of mind? I think that's true.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Making Space

Yesterday was a day to clean up and clear out. We needed to get rid of what didn't need and make room for what we do need. And mid-July, one thing we need is blueberries. So we must make space in the freezer.

A thorough accounting of the freezer inventory revealed copious chicken stock materials--enough to feed an army--and 3 quarts of tomato puree.

10 quarts of chicken stock and 3 quarts of Bloody Mary mix later, the freezer is ready for blueberries. I love my pressure canner!

Of course, we also filled up the fridge a bit with Cucumber pickles, but I expect those will be gone shortly.

Photo Credit: Ellis
Photo Credit: Ellis

Now, if I could just find a way to clear out and make space in the rest of the house, I'll be set.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cherry Jammin'

Cherries are gorgeous, even at night.

They do, however, take forever to process into jam. First we have to wait until the kid is in bed.  Then we have to pit every. single. cherry. We could use a cherry pitter, but we find it's faster to just do it by hand.  And by "faster", I don't exactly mean "fast." By the time we put the cherries in the pot, the clock looked like this:

Yep, that's 10:43 pm. 

By the time the jars were out of the water bath, we were here:

That's when I went to bed and the lovely Sarah stayed up to finish processing the remaining jars and clean the kitchen. Yeah, I'm keeping her.

Things looked brighter in the morning.

I'm looking forward to blueberries.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Canning Season 2013

It's that time of year. Lots of delicious fruit that has to last all. year. long.  I use a spreadsheet to keep track of my plans.  It lives here.  Feel free to take a look.

So far this year, we've canned Strawberry Jam and Strawberry-Balsamic Jam. I had planned to add thyme but killed my thyme plants and was thyme-less at the critical moment. The jam turned out great anyway. We picked the berries ourselves in the pouring rain. Although I'd definitely prefer it not be pouring rain, it was sort of nice to not get a mega-strawberry-picking sunburn and sweat through all of my clothes. The downside, of course, is we don't really have any pictures worth posting.

We've also done two kinds of pickled asparagus, this spicy dill one and the Sherri Brooks Vinton Put 'Em Up Pickled Asparagus with Mustard Seed recipe. I confess, I've already tried both and both are yummy.

This week, however, is all about the cherries.

Because of our vacation, we miss quite a lot of cherry season.  This year, my awesome friend Anika did some picking for me and will be bringing both sour and tart cherries this afternoon.  I also picked up some farmers markets cherries. They're gorgeous but so pricey.

Maybe someday I'll have a cherry tree of my very own.

In other jar-related news, look what my good friend Anne had for me today. I love cuppow! Ellis also got a blue one. Let the mason jar obsession continue unabated.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Up North, With Photos!

Finally, the lake pictures.  I know I've blogged about our family vacation before.  We do the quintessential Minnesota Week Up North At The Lake. We rent a cabin at a resort, the same one each year. My grandparents, parents, brother, sister and their families all go. And this year my parents' dog Joe joined us. We fish and boat and swim and hang out together. It's a good time.  Too bad this year Ellis has fully entered the weird picture face stage. I didn't get many good smiles from him. The ones I did get are candid.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Up North

We just returned from our annual big family vacation Up North (that's Northern MN for you southerners). As usual, it was lovely.  Our weather was absolutely perfect.  It was 79-81 degrees and sunny.  Every. Single. Day. File that under Big Win.

This vacation was sort of a canning vacation in two ways. First, I served Peach Bourbon Barbecue Sauce from last year's canning season.  I'll definitely be canning more of that this year. I only put up 4 half-pints last year and saved two for this trip. Second, I may have convinced my sister to start making her own jam! She's still a bit nervous about the whole canning/maybe I'll kill my family thing, but I think she'll try out some freezer jam this year (or whenever jam season is in Australia). I did also bring up some pickled asparagus, but managed to break the jar when opening it. File that under Not Awesome.

Ack! Just now, while getting my camera cord to upload my pictures for this post, I set a glass of red wine down on my desk. Too bad that in the dim light, I also set it down on a clothes pin and spilled red wine all over a stack of vintage linens. Most of it is no big deal, but I think I ruined two really lovely crocheted pieces. File that under This Is Why We Can't Have Anything Nice.

I'm going to cut my losses and skip the pictures for tonight.