Category Archives: thoughts on good eating and sustainability

What We’ve Been Up To

Hi everyone!  We’ve been a little MIA for a while, but never fear, we’ve been up to some fun foodie stuff. Namely:

A) The undeniably obsessive baking of macarons. Ask anyone in the house, it’s gotten a little out of hand. I’ve read countless blogs with insane amounts of information that has led to a once, twice, or sometimes even thrice-daily macaron bake.  I’ve purchased enormous boxes of almond flour and gone through at least 10-12 pounds of butter in this month-long quest.  It’s led to some macaron disasters, but also some deliciousness…

B) Over-the-top Thanksgiving cooking!

We visited 3 Massachusetts farms and bought 2 turkeys, 2 pork shoulders, 5 hunks of smoked bacon ends, a ginormous bag of short ribs, and 150 pounds of fall vegetables.  Whew.  Check out our happy food faces:

So much food we jump for joy.  It was an epic 30-person, 14-dishes and 8-desserts night of eating madness. The very best holiday of the year.  And now for the big excitement…

C) We’re starting a sibling food business! Along with our awesome big brother Andy, we’re working on a very exciting venture and hope to hit the streets of Boston within the next few months. Keep your eyes peeled for more information soon…

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Grow your own veggies!

Er – maybe not like this. They are pretty, though! Maybe you want to:

1. Grow your own sprouts(Sprouted chickpeas are great for hummus)

2. Grow random crap from your pantry and fridge! (Special shout-out to potato sprouter extraordinaire Judith Ternes – you inspire us)

3. Check out Carolyn Cope‘s advice for edible windowbox gardens!

4. Find out who among your friends and family are undercover garden wizards! They’re everywhere, and they’ll definitely give you advice, probably bring you their extras, and maybe even deliver you some transplants.

Don’t forget to have fun and not worry too much! This spring, I tried to let go of my desire to read and read and read about gardening, and just gardened. It’s been great. Maybe (read: probably) I’ve made some serious technical errors, but I’m too ignorant to know the difference! And as long as I’m not perpetuating pests, I figure my amateurish behavior is acceptable. And the herbs are hard to kill. And it feels good to eat food you’ve grown. And it feels almost as good if not better to not pay $3 for a pathetically small bunch of “fresh” herbs.

Max and I threw a bunch of stuff in the ground this spring. Click on for some photos of our -likely-unimpressive-to-you-but-totally-life-changing-for-me garden! I’m practicing for my hopefully long career as a slightly senile but very proud grandmother who has impressively but inconveniently learned to use snapfish.

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Pizza Night at Orange Peel: “It’s as much about the people as it is about the pizza”

When the Li-Bruynell-Hull vacation team pulled up for Pizza Night at the Orange Peel Bakery on Martha’s Vineyard, the sun was so bright that I forgave the weather for the past three days of rain, the stone oven so beautiful that I snapped pictures unabashedly, and the people so friendly that I wondered if I’d somehow teleported to the West Coast. In a word, it was heavenly. Special thanks to Amanda for the recommendation!

Here’s how it works:

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Dan Barber TED Talk: How I Fell In Love With A Fish

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Dan Barber on ‘a farm that doesn’t feed its fish, a farm that measures its success by the health of its predators, a farm that’s literally a water purification plant’.

‘We need a radically new conception of agriculture…one where the food actually tastes good.’

Insightful, inspiring, educational. Hilarious.

Promise me you’ll watch it when you next have a free 20 minutes.

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Sunday Farmers Market Trips and an Easy Cheesy Recipe

Since I moved to West London about a month ago, I’ve been trying to make it to my local farmers market at Queen’s Park almost every weekend.  It’s a different style of market for me  – my favorite markets back east were all about discovering and eating the incredible prepared food, from eating extravaganzas and grilled cheese happiness at Borough Market to wild mushroom risotto and salted caramel cupcakes at Broadway Market just behind my old flat.  In contrast, my new local market has some good snacks, but here it’s more about the grocery shopping  – you can buy everything from excellent free-range meat to fresh eggs to heritage cheeses to lots of local produce all grown within 100 miles of the M25.  I’ve been trying to maximize farmers market shopping and minimize supermarket shopping as much as possible, so each Sunday has been a big shopping spree to buy as much as we can for the week.

We’ve been obsessively experimenting with happy chickens – here you can see Old Hall Farm and Fosse Meadows Farm stands, both of which offer a perfect bird for a Sunday night roast with market vegetables. And pretty bunting.

Perry’s Farm and Ted’s Veg are great for stocking up on produce – I’ve been trying all sorts of fun and colorful things like green and red kale, red cabbage, Isle of Wight tomatoes, sorrel, cress, local apple and pear varieties, rhubarb stalks, and purple sprouting broccoli.

It’s all excellent quality, grown by small farmers and producers, and a great way to get involved in supporting the local community. Plus, it’s delicious.  Showing up at the market and buying whatever looks exciting is a great way to try out new vegetables and play around with different recipes.

I love broccoli, especially when it’s pretty and purple. I think it’s delicious on its own, but let’s be honest…isn’t everything a little bit extra awesome when you add cheese into the mix?

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Real Bacon, Real Excitement, and a Really Delicious Caramelized Garlic Tart. Obviously, With Bacon.

If  you’ve ever met me, you know I have a thing for bacon.

I love bacon enough for my sister and I to make an all-bacon Thanksgiving feast with 8 dishes including bacon stuffing, bacon mashed potatoes, and bacon-wrapped turkey. I love bacon enough to go to a Bacon Camp and make bacon sushi and take random photos of beautiful bacon dishes. I love bacon enough to do a 4-course Iron Chef-style bacon smackdown that included bacon chocolate and bacon cookies and have been known to make bacon cupcakes and even bacon macaroni-and-cheese cat cakes. Don’t ask. I even love bacon enough to tattoo it on my face.

So you can probably comprehend my fat-kid-in-a-candy-shop-on-Christmas-morning level of excitement when this package arrived in the mail. I actually jumped up and down and squealed like a pig.  A delicious, dry-cured British pig.

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Squat Lobsters, Clootie Dumplings, and Muppet Cows: The Highlights of the Highlands

The Highlands of Scotland!  I just got back from Applecross Bay up at the top west end of Scotland, right across from the Isle of Skye. Accessible only through the vertiginous Pass of the Cattle where you can drive through the clouds, Applecross is amazing for its incredible seafood, the spectacular sky above Skye, the undulating mountain walks over spongy marshes and sheer rock faces, the abundant sheep and wild-roaming deer and ridiculous-looking hairy cows like Jim Henson’s Muppets roaming outside your house and in front of your car.

Yup, that’s a highland cow.  And that’s our house (or rather, country mansion) in the background. Coming up just at the end of the off-season, we got a great deal on the Bramble Lodge in the west wing of the Applecross Trust estate which, most importantly came with a massive kitchen complete with enormous farmhouse table and TWO stoves.  Perfect for sitting and eating hot Oak Smoked salmon from nearby Torridon…

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Community Feasting and the Best Cupcake Frosting You May Ever Put In Your Mouth

I always wish I had access to a table large enough to seat 20 of my best friends around it for an epic dinner party. I still haven’t managed to acquire such a table or a room large enough to put it in, but I got a taste of what it might be like at a great event last night called the Hub Feast.  It’s a potluck and a dinner party,  a chance to meet great people and talk about all sorts of cool food things, and an opportunity to make an unnecessary amount of insanely indulgent peanut butter cream cheese-frosted cupcakes.  What more could you ask for?

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Weekly Link Roundup: Eating Maps, Grass-Fed Beef, Aquaponics and More.

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week. Lots of good stuff.

Most Fast-Food Per Person and Other Food Facts [Daily Yonder] – some cool maps of eating habits across the U.S.

How Eating Grass-Fed Beef Could Help Fight Climate Change [TIME] – that’s as self-explanatory a title as you can get.

Behind the Organic Pasture Rule at the USDA [Chewswise]  – a blog by the author of Organic, Inc.

The Great Grocery Smackdown [The Atlantic] – on buying organic at…Walmart? Plus a blind cookoff between Walmart and Whole Foods. Some interesting results…

The Spotless Garden [New York Times]  – a great article about backyard and basement aquaponics systems and the ‘otherworldly yields’ from this type of growing.   ‘It is either a glimpse into the future of food growing or a very strange hobby — possibly both.’

More photos and cool stuff here. All credits to NYTimes.

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Growing Spaces in Unusual Places: London’s Urban Agriculture and a Super Mini Garden

Seems like everyone is talking about urban agriculture these days, with innovative new ideas ranging from tiny little crowd-funded SF city farms to fantasy skyscraper-high vertical farms.  From pundits to policymakers,  foodies to farmers to futurists, a lot of people are starting to think about urban food production for the sake of local economies, the environment, community resources, jobs creation, urban design, potential food security issues. and many more reasons.  I’ve been reading this really interesting report by the London Assembly called Cultivating the Capital: Food Growing and the Planning System in London (big PDF here) about working with city planners to increase the growing potential of the city.

Nerdy, I know.  In case you don’t want to read the 93 pages yourself (almost half of it is just appendices!), the report looks at the current situation of urban food producers, the barriers they face in growing and getting their products to market, and potential innovative solutions.  It also analyzes the city land that could be used for food production and encourages the use of  unconventional growing spaces, from rooftops to parks to housing developments.  And in terms of specific action, the report recommends that the Mayor of London promote and support policy and planning to increase Greater London’s food production and distribution channels.  They’ve got lots of important reasons to back up their suggestions:

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