red flannel pantry

creative pursuits in the kitchen, garden, library and sewing room

Archive for the tag “food”

good night, sweet prince

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This weekend I put the garden to bed. The days are getting shorter and the temperatures cooler. I picked the rest of the tomatoes (even the green ones) and a load of peppers.

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As I began to remove the tomato plants, out popped Mr. Toad. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of months. I think I woke him.

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He shimmied into the soil and pretended to watch me work. What he really was doing was settling down to return to his nap.

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Ever so slowly he sank deeper into the garden until I glanced back one more time and he was gone. We’ll meet again in the spring.

mr. toad came a’ calling

mr. toad

When I ventured into the vegetable garden today, I almost stepped on our long-time resident, Mr. Toad. We found him several years ago in the yard and put him inside the fence with the raised beds. As you can see, he’s grown fat eating the bad bugs, slugs and snails for us. He loves the moist, loamy soil.


The lettuce, onions and carrots are coming along. The radishes (far left) should be ready to be picked by early next week.


The radishes we planted more recently have sprouted and are making a strong showing.


The dill is looking good. Once it gets a bit bigger, I plan to try to pot some to share with friends–two full rows were planted and we don’t need that much ourselves for pickle making.


I felt brave enough to plant the basil–surely we won’t get cold temps the second week of May?!  Last year I put the basil in pots near the house, thinking that it would make access from the kitchen easier. However, the basil languished–and thus so did pesto production. So it’s back in the ground again.


The rhubarb continues to unfurl its meaty leaves. I have my eye on its red stalks–there will be plenty for pie this year.


The fennel’s feathery leaves are shooting upward like green fireworks.


The best news? The tomatoes have blooms!

food from the heart

Valentine's Day pizzaDinner (my and Daughter #2’s attempt at a pizza heart)

Valentine's Day cookiesDessert!

cranberry cake

Cranberries herald the arrival of fall in my kitchen. Their tartness and scarlet color make them a favorite ingredient.

And when cranberries are in season, cranberry cake is a must. Sugar balances the tart pop of the cranberries, and streusel adds a satisfying crunch.

For those who claim not to like cranberries, I was like you once too. When I was growing up, cranberries meant ruby-red gelatinous slices on the Thanksgiving table, an incarnation that couldn’t be further from the real fruit.  Cranberry cake will make you a convert.

Here is the recipe. One 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries works out to be about 3 1/2 cups.

Eat it for breakfast, serve it with tea, dish it out with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert–and be sure to throw a couple of bags of cranberries in the freezer. The season doesn’t last long.

The American Way of Eating

Nonfiction has held a greater draw for me the last few years, particularly when it deals with food, farming, inequities in the food distribution system, the cost of our ever-growing reliance on processed food, and the effects these systems and choices have on agriculture, health, and the environment. So when I stumbled upon The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan, I knew I wanted to read it.

McMillan inserted herself at three points in our food system: in the farm fields of California picking produce as a farmworker, in a Detroit Walmart as a produce handler, and in a Brooklyn Applebee’s as a meal “expediter”. Although the accounts of her personal experiences were interesting, the real draw for me was insight into the evolution of the industrial agriculture complex and its role in manufacturing, transporting and distributing food products. I also appreciated her clear and sympathetic telling of the challenges of the working poor in finding, affording, and preparing food, particularly fresh, healthy food.

McMillan’s research is thorough and complete. Some of the information makes you stop in your tracks:

Today, Walmart’s market power is so great that it can essentially tell its suppliers how to make their products, and what price will be paid for them. (p. 118)

. . . roughly one of every four dollars Americans spend on fresh produce ends up at Walmart. (p. 150)

Most of the processed food we turn to in lieu of cooking is so high in salt that it accounts for about three-quarters of Americans’ sodium intake. (p. 158)

By 2010, researchers found that nearly every dinner Americans prepared at home involved a convenience food product, a category that included everything from bagged salads to frozen dinners (but excluded basics like canned beans and plain bread). (p. 210)

I found McMillan’s description of Applebee’s assembly line of prepackaged, pre-portioned, plastic-bagged food–which is nuked in the microwave before being plated–completely unappetizing.

McMillan makes a strong case for home-prepared meals and food/cooking literacy, comparing the cost of a sirloin steak meal at Applebee’s ($16.99) and the time it takes to get the meal (45 minutes) to the cost and time it would take to prepare the same meal at home ($3.72 prepared in about the same amount of time)–a discount of almost 80%. It’s a matter of how one choses to spend time, energy and money. Education and training play into those choices.

My biggest complaint about the book is the abundance of footnotes, which appear in teeny-tiny type and are sometimes completely unnecessary (do readers really need to know that capoeira is a mix of dance, sport and music that originated in 16th century Brazil?!).

In emphasizing the connection between farm and plate, McMillan quotes Wendell Berry: “eating is an agricultural act.” In doing so, she pointed to my next nonfiction read: Berry’s  Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food.

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