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Friday, December 23, 2011

Spiced Apples

About a year ago, on the last day of the farmers' market, I picked up 40 pounds of apples. Got a pretty good deal (36 bucks), but still not good enough to make cider that wouldn't have a hint of regret on my cheapskate palate. Most of them are just my winter supply of fresh fruit.

Fresh-ish, anyway. They're winesaps, so they age well.

I'm aging OK myself, I think, and part of the process has been a nostalgia. In this case, for a flavor, for those spiced apple rings that used to be served in steak houses. So a dozen pounds underwent the knife, guinea pigs in my attempt to retrieve a flavor that I may not even remember correctly.

Turns out, you can buy spiced apples, and they look like what I recall, but where's the fun in that?

Nowhere. The fun is in the ridiculous frivolous project. A couple of hours surfing, searching, sorting until deciding on a recipe that matches none of the listed ones exactly. Slicing and coring, trying to find enough containers to keep the growing pile of rings soaked in limey water to keep them from oxidizing. Stirring syrup and steeping the apples. Ladling and canning the results, trusting that a bath in boiling water would absolve the jars of my earthy earthly sins.

Research showed two paths to becoming lord of the spiced apple rings. Normally, I'd go for the more natural, but this being nostalgia for a time before I'd ever heard of granola, when space-age syntheticality ruled, and when I was a wee candy-loving kid, I went for the other, in which a key ingredient is red hots. Yep, those little cinnamony hearts. Anyway, a lot of people taking the 'natural route' advised using red food color, and I'd rather just go whole spam and avail myself of modern convenience in the form of red hots, combining the best in fake color and flavor.

I still used real cloves, because they are redolent of exotic islands. I was a big National Geographic fan back then. (Post-modernists popped the bubble of that particular joy, and I am down to a small collection of issues that are either very old or feature Polynesia. Oh, and a box o maps, just so I can prove that NG once knew about latitude and longitude.)

But I digress (to resort to what must be one of the most common blog phrases). You just wanna know if it worked.

Color-wise, not so much. Ergo the wildly exaggerated colors in these photos (thanks Mac). That's OK, since I am pretty sure the 'real' color depends on carcinogenic dye, and true nostalgia does not demand authenticity, maybe cannot even survive too much fidelity to reality. So I have pink rings. I sampled the not-worth-using-another-jar few, and the texture seems right (somewhere in that limbo between raw crunch and cooked mush). The flavor snapped a synapse back to life (causing the dust to flare briefly), and I think the red hots did the trick in that regard. But this being a quest for something I tasted so long ago, the wait must be prolonged a bit more. Let them soak, stand, and wait for my bite. I'll report back later. (Right. More likely, I'll forget I ever wrote this.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Grain Headaches

Locavore carb porn.

Lately, I've had more headaches. But there's nothing duller than a blog-drone about ailments--except maybe symptom tweets--so rest assured that this entry is not about actual headaches, but the figurative ones that come from searching out locally produced grains.

These turn out to be mild, lately. In her book on a year of locavoraciousness, Barbara Kingsolver reported that finding local grains was one of the hardest things to do, down there in the Virginia-Kentucky border highlands. Local corn is widely available, if you are willing to take it in flammable liquid form. But here, in the last month, I've found oats from an Oregon mill and wheat flour from a Bellingham mill. 

Not from my county, but then again, grain in southwest Washington is just substrate for fungus, and we don't want any ergotine madness breaking out, now do we? So we send geoducks out and ship in grain in return. Most of it is in innocuous bags that don't really say where it cam from, but what can you expect from a commodity distributed by a national grocery chain? They buy the commodity where it is cheapest, and pour it in the same bag everywhere. 

Local mills used to exist nearly everywhere before trains, and now trucks make it all the easier to fan out from a few mega-mills to the rest of the country. If there is any logic, the flour I buy at the Tumwater Safeway came from eastern Washington, but there's no telling; it may have crossed the Continental Divide to get here. The "local" mills a couple or three hours south and north of where I live are the closest source I know of, and Fairhaven even says only that they try to obtain northwest grain, which presumably means that sometimes it may come from somewhere further afield.

As with many items in the locavore pantry, there is an issue of expense, and as usual, the effect depends on your focal length. Close up, the flour is expensive, maybe twice what the generic store brand costs. But back away, and home-made bread or pizza dough, even with that precious local flour, earns back that money in a jiffy compared to buying a loaf of bread or a frozen pizza. Local organic products may be more expensive than the grocery commodity version shipped in from who knows where, but they cannot begin to approach the cost of processed foods. Sweat equity is not a term you hear much in the culinary realm, but it applies here. 

And the oatmeal? I think it was actually cheaper than the generic mystery-source brands. 

If these local grains are available right beside the usual stuff in Safeway and Top supermarkets, if locavore consumers don't have to go to the expensive artisan-food section or a specailty organic market to find it, then there is hope that local farmers and mills can make a decent profit. 

I'm not a huge believer in the Free Market, if such a thing actually exists, but I have to think that the easier availability of local grain means that the marketers have recognized a niche with potential. If more people buy it, there may be room for more farmers and producers. The more this happens, the less our money flows out of the region. When the farmers are more secure, so are a range of things from our food supply to the flow of lease money to the School Trust. 

It's a good deal.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Canned for Dried

Ripeberry Jam, not quite done.

Recently, I arranged for a serious breach of locavorism. Fortunately, I am no more orthodox in that movement than I am in anything else. 

But there's enough distance involved that I feel a need to rationalize a little. What's happening is that a friend of mine and I are trading local foods. I'm packing up some Northwest treats, and she's packing things from her farm in Honaunau. Sure, each package will travel about 2800 miles, but the contents were gathered locally. All the processing was done at home: I canned and she dried. (OK, if I'm lucky, there will be some coffee that was roasted down the road from her farm, adding a few miles.)

There are no middle men. No money. No corporate tentacles. Just some taste treats we cannot grow ourselves, could not obtain otherwise without great expense. Two medium flat-rate boxes stuffed with onolicious food, taking up a tiny space in jets that were headed that way anyway. Chewing on a dried banana, I'll travel by tastebud to a place I have not been in years, and I won't feel guilty at all.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Can Chic

I realize that this is about the millionth blog post about canning. People my age and younger rediscovering home economy, tight times and retro sensibility hitting it off big-time. DIY swollen beyond the banks of punkdom, or maybe just punks getting old. Whereas my mom's generation drifted away from home-spunnery and the scent of backwardness and poverty that hangs with it, a few of us drifted right back.

Luckily for me, mom didn't refuse to do do some things, and would turn around and express her pride in being able to. (Welcome to the conflicted mind of a child of Appalachia, reaching for an easier way, but loyal to a culture better than them flatland city folks got.) In any case, she taught me to can and garden and other stuff. Her mom did those things, all my grandparents and greats and ancestors did it themselves, because they had to. My kin were Virginian for centuries, but we were what're called there "middling folk," who done did it themselves.

Canning and pickling, even freezing, are things I recall both grandmas doing. So this summer, when my kids' grandma visited (you may remember her from such paragraphs as, the ones you just read), I bought 40 pounds (sadly, splitwood bushel baskets have been replaced by boxes) of tomatoes and some extra jars, and on the appointed day we set about canning.

The kids weren't getting a lesson, and mostly kept away, which is good when there's a guy exploding jars in boiling liquid. Because yeah, I was learning, about how tightening the lid too much before processing causes catastrophic jar failure. Meanwhile, the kids were being kids, in a house that smells like tomato sunshine and sounds like stories punctuated by the slisking of rings securing lids whose ploinking will signal completion. Months from now, the un-slisking of the jar, the release of the smell, will transport them to a happy summer day. Every time they open those memories, every time yet to happen when they walk in the garden or hear jars rattling in the canning kettle, culture seeps into their cells. 

I think mom enjoyed it. I did, and I learned. I have a bunch of canned tomatoes and sauce from that day and from the good year in my own garden that will feed bodies and spirits. All of us got to enjoy being part of that stream of descendants and see culture flow along with it.

That's about all I wanted to say. Maybe the title made you think I was gonna taunt the chic, but nah. A few of you wonder if it's a typo, or maybe a purposeful use of homophony to call my mom a "can chick," and the answer is yes. And yes, the vagueness--yes typo or yes homophone?--is also intentional. Yes, I am veering off course now, and should sign off.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Recipes? We don't Need Recipes! (Usually)

"Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!" is not only the most famous (mis)quote from Blazing Saddles, it is a guiding principle for many of us, and this holds true in the realm of food, from its growing (I'll never be a certified Master Gardener) to it's consumption (I enjoy what I like with a blissful ignorance that appalls true foodies). So it should come as no surprise that my cooking is only loosely guided by recipes. I am no baker or devotee of Spanish molecular cuisine, so it usually doesn't much matter. 

Last year, Mom gave be a little booklet of photocopies of recipes written in her hand and those of my grandmothers and some other relatives. I've referred to it once or twice with re-creation of a family favorite in mind, but mostly it is a talisman, a link to childhood and my ancestors. Mom herself had a wooden box full of index cards, clippings, and various scraps of paper with instructions for construction of all sorts of concoctions, some of which she actually made, and others of which were more aspirational in nature. When the computer age dawned (maybe 'mid-morninged' would be more accurate), she saw the devices as an exciting new form of wooden box, and began a process of entering recipes that continues to this day.

I'll cop to following a few recipes. When canning, for instance, I'm still too new to be automatic and I have a healthy wariness of botulism, so I follow the guidance of people who know better. And for some reason, I still look up the proportion of water to oats every time I make oatmeal. 

But what about when making something new? On occasions when I'm trying to replicate something particular, I'll use a recipe. But it's usually a matter of looking up a bunch of them, discerning the commonalities, and distilling an essence that suits me. Then, adding back on ingredients geared to my own taste, maybe changing a technique to something I'm more likely to pull off without burning myself or the meal. I triangulate, augment, omit, and alter at will. Then, often as not, enough time passes that I have to do the whole process over because I didn't write anything down (so I'm not claiming to be too smart for recipes...just cantankerous).

Some people have trouble operating this way, because they feel like the person who wrote the recipe knows better. Seems mutton-headed to me, since most recipes now come from free-lance writers and amateurs whose main qualification is that they can post to the internet. The same people who bring you fluff and porn, neither of which is all that satisfying, and one of which leads to a funky aftertaste. Sometimes, they're flat out wrong about something, and if you follow their directions, you end up with your meal tasting like someone recipeed on it.

Taste matters, if only to yourself and the people at your table, so that's where I leave the recipe track fairly often. I like grinding pepper into just about everything, whether the recipeer thought of it or not, and go heavy on the garlic. An epidemic flaw affecting many recipes is the under-use of a signature ingredient: one banana banana bread (try as many as you can fit in the pan), a fractional teaspoon of anything. I sure as hell remedy that. Oh, and if it calls for something I don't like, it ain't going in.

Practicality trumps fidelity. I substitute all the time. Like, my cupboard may or may not contain shortening (honestly, I don't know or care) because I use whatever else works, and it only sees use when a grandma appears and wants to make pie crust. Speaking of which, I skip the crust often as not. Gimme the inside, where all the good stuff is. I do not now and never have had saffron (queen of under-used signatures) or a host of other ingredients that are expensive or only good for one dish. Food on hand must sometimes transmogrify: yogurt to cream, pumpkin to sweet potato, nettles to spinach. And as far as cooking method, if it cannot happen with the utensils and cookware I have, then it ain't happening, or it's going to be McGyvered. 

One thing I've never been able to understand about recipes is that they seem to have no sense of reality when it comes to quantity. "Yields a dozen" rarely proves true, unless you are one of those people who likes tiny food, and especially when a recipeer wants to be healthy or lo-cal, they tend to create portions that bear no resemblance to reality in the U S of A.  Another quantitative delusion is that the Recipe is so paramount that cooks should do things like use half a can of something, or a fractional fruit. No, you base your pie on the pumpkin you have, and if there's more than enough filling, you dump the rest in a casserole dish for some creamy crustless extra. Having unused food fragments at the end usually leads to waste, and basing your dish on units such as the amount of tomatoes you picked one day or a 24-ounce can makes life easier.

Quantities expressed not in tablespoons or ounces (or the dullest of all, grams), but in friendly fuzzy terms appeal to me, partly just because they sound cool: shake, smattering, smidgeon, sprinkling,...and that's just the S's. I guess people have tried to quantify dollops and dashes, but I'd rather retain the mystery. Units like these leave room for individuality, they respect autonomy. Handfuls and pinches remind us that the basic scale of cooking is human. 

The variability and vagueness to these also says something about how we've passed on culinary culture over thousands of generations. I've asked old women about how much of an ingredient to put in, and plenty of times gotten answers like "Enough," or "It depends..." They're saying that you cannot reduce a good dish to a list, they're testing to see if you really want to do it right, they're wondering whether you are worthy of receiving their knowledge. Or they're just foggy, maybe cantankerous, or just having fun messing with you. But they have ancient knowledge sometimes, and it's better to learn their way with all its seeming imprecision and archaic measurements. You'll end up with something deeply tasty. 

The tasty things I manage to serve up eventually repeat themselves enough that I suppose I settle in on a recipe, at least in my head. In the past year, as I can and make jam more, I've taken to writing down what I did. Sometimes, anyway. At some point, I may park some of those on this blog, more so I can find them again then to encourage any of you to try them. You may, and it's possible that you'll even like it, in which case I encourage you to write it on a card, put it in a box, and pretend you made it up. But really, you don't need my stinking recipes.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

War Against Terroir

Mmmm. Cascadian huckleberry.

Americans who want to seem high class sometimes adopt Britishisms, but when they want to seem sophisticated, they often resort to French. Sometimes, as with "laissez faire," it's to hide the ugly truth ("unfettered capitalism" sounds more sinister), but the general idea is to make something ordinary sound fancy--"C'est magnifique" has a flair that "yum" just ain't got. Eventually, the word may become American as apple pie, or at least quiche. 

Food is a realm where these migrations occur regularly, and one of the newer arrivals is "terroir," which refers to the peculiarities of flavor bestowed on a food by its place of origin. There is no obvious Engish word that conveys the same concept, which makes sense when you think of most English cuisine (ah, see? the very word "cuisine" had to be imported--I rest my case). But in wine country the soil, climate, and a host of other influences affect the outcome, sometimes on a scale so minute that a location 100 meters away--but on the wrong side of a ridge--cannot replicate the terroir of a prized place.

Americans cling to some remnants of this concept, and seem to be rediscovering it. When I was a kid, Hanover County tomatoes and Smithfield ham had this kind of aura. But for most of my life, farming has trended toward uniformity and commoditization. The 'market' allegedly wanted not just all wheat to be the same, but all cucumbers, tomatoes, hams,...everything. Micro-breweries (and wineries, for you fancy drinkers) and farmers markets, which continue to sprout in new places and thrive where they gain a root-hold, offer hope that we're turning around as a culture, remembering and reviving local flavors.

However, if you get beyond the surface, you see we have a long way to go. The new locavores rail against the authoritarian uniformity imposed on the food supply by Monsanto, ADM, Con-Agra, and...well, the point is that the list is not very long. A lot of ink (how much of it GMO soy-based?) is devoted to lamenting and opposing the monotony of the produce, the loss of diversity and heritage varieties that occurs when all corn is Silver Queen and all cukes are Marketmore. Being a staunch evolutionist, I'm with them on this. Besides being boring, it is incredibly stupid to put all your eggs (mostly laid by just one breed) in one basket. And as a lover of things old, a conservationist at heart, I hate seeing old varieties disappear.

Fortunately, gardeners and small farmers have done a huge amount of work preserving and spreading old varieties and the genetic diversity. There are breeders selecting their way back to plants and stock that were impossible to get a generation ago, and for that matter, coming up with new varieties that do something other than maximize shipping durability and superficial attractiveness. 

Meanwhile, the war against terroir is still winning on the terre itself. Relentlessly pressured by that 'market,' farmers try to eke out more production with bigger machines, mechanized irrigation, and chemicals that kill the soil and pump up the produce. Now that there are enough buyers for organic produce, industrial production techniques have emerged in that realm as well, from hydroponics and greenhouses to cloistered chickens that never see the sun or drink the rain. Organic or not, most of hat you find in the grocery store could have been grown anywhere; there is no terroir when the earth is a platform for industrial agronomy.

I am fortunate to live in Western Washington, where there are abundant small farmers who take good care of their land. Like just about everything else about me, my palate is not refined, but I still think that food grown in black prairie loam tastes better than the same thing trucked in from a mega-farm in California. (And it's not entirely about locavorism, either, coffee from my friend's farm in Honaunau tastes like the volcano, not chemically assaulted Brazilian dirt.) 

So I guess I am a terroirist. For the time being, it's not illegal. The US may have decided that it's OK to snoop without warrants, to detain bystanders and citizens indefinitely, and launch missiles at people who disagree with its policies, but consumer choice remains sacrosanct, for now. But when Monsanto can sue a farmer for planting seed that, simply because the wind blows, contains some of its patented genes, we are experiencing a level of corporate power that suggests even that freedom may be imperiled. What happens when the industrial producers--too big to fail because they control the food supply, after all--bribe enough politicians to have non-industrial production be labeled dangerous and subversive, outlawed? Maybe this sounds silly to you, but the harmless hippies who sat in old growth trees were transformed into "eco-terrorists" even a generation ago. 

We are still free to taste terroir. When we support the Columbia River winery and Yakima hops farmers, we support local roots. When we eat a Quilcene oyster or a Mima camas bulb, we enjoy flavors that exist nowhere else. When we learn to appreciate terroir, we develop senses dulled by our bland modern culture.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


V8, anyone? Disclosure: the 8 includes an earwig and various fungi.

Sunday, as many people prayed to Jesus or for grid-iron victory (usually both, where I grew up), I devoted myself to cleaning the Summer's fading cultivations. Turns out that I was right on time, because that night it frosted hard, but I was blissfully ignorant about meteorology other than it being a great day to be in the garden. As they all are.
The pitiful other row of tomatoes came out last week, but this time round I went after the hoop house (there's a post about that somewhere). Maybe a third of a milk crate of pale fruit, some of which can be coddled to ripeness, but the rest destined to be a fake apple cobbler. Or something.

So now the hoop house is planted in spinach and lettuce and again cocooned in its plastic. Other beds are pretty much cleaned up, too, and in the process I've gotten the last carrots, penultimate beets, the tenacious tribe of coriander still on the stalk, and all the other leftovers that populate the Fall garden. Not the beautiful fine fruits of Summer, some of it so slug and bug-eaten it gets flung, but I try to waste not. 

Slowly working my way down the rows and round the beds, I glean also lessons for next year. Like, I'm the only one who east scarlet runner beans, and all the string beans except for Potomac got tough this year. Or, if I don't cut blackberry soon, it'll reach critical mass and become a monstrous task by Spring. If not Winter.

Harvest time is all about the gathering. Sheaves reaped, families around tables, communities around festivities. Amber waves become tides of food, a pulse of nutrition that will work its way through the populace.

Gleaning is more private. Humbler yields fill the gleaner's bag, and there is an individual acuity required to locating and recovering remnants; patience is a virtue, but sharpness of eye and mind is even better. The very fact that you are approaching a field already harvested means that a few people may each get to go home with a meal, but a big group would go home with a pittance apiece.

Another humbleness hovers like a dusty cloud around gleaning. Some people would never stoop so low. Gleaning puts you with the birds and the rodents, picking up leftovers not even worth the effort of decent society. "Reap" is a word of Anglo-Saxon origin, while "glean" is Celtic; our English speaks of old social orders still. At least neither is Latin. 

So for this year, the gleaning is about over. Only melted molded blackberries hang on the vines. The pondering over lessons gleaned can continue inside by the fire all Winter.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Garden 1 - 11

Garden posts 1 - 11 appear at the blog Mojourner Truth. The numbered posts are all from this year (2011), but there are others that are earlier and have no coherent title strategy.

You can find them here, if you want.

Garden 12: The Harvest Touch

For every fruit and vegetable, there exists lore on when to pick it. For most, there are competing versions. One grandma knows a melon is ripe by the sound of of a thumb-thump. Another by the tendrils of aroma reaching out to her nose. Someone else notices the brown of the stem or a slight give to the flesh around it. 

I collect these nuggets of wisdom, and have found some to be true (others, not), but that's mostly the anthropologist in me, collector of ethnobotanical tidbits. As a gardener, I've come to rely on pretty much one indicator for anything I'm picking: it'll come off easily when the time is right.

For once, I'm not trying to be a smart-ass. Fruits and vegetables really do just let go when they're ready. The blueberry falls off in my hand, the zucchini snaps free with a quick twist. You have to know how to pick it--tug at the zucchini and you're likely to get the whole vine--but as long as you have that trick down, the ripe ones come off easy. Most of the time, the technique has to do with bending the stem backward, which makes it snap without tearing off a section of branch. Thumb pushes on that little elbow of a tomato stem while your hand pulls the fruit in the opposite direction, and the ripe globe falls into the basket of your fingers.

The un-ripe fruit clings. If it is not ready, a gentle touch won't make it come. Forced harvest ends in plants peeled and split, scarred and open to attack by fungi and bugi. The apple lands in your palm with a big spur that could have yielded again next year. The berry loses its grip, but tastes sour, and maybe whips back at you with a thorny cane as drupe comes loose. Plants resist impatient reapers. This is why machine-harvested produce will never be as good as that gathered on an idle amble by a sentient being.

The sweetest tastes come from the softest touch. A single finger caress. A gentle twist. Maybe growing the crop took hours of digging and seeding, waiting and weeding, but the best pick lasts an instant, and the fruit of your labor sites in your hand, ready to be eaten and enjoyed, prepared or shared. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

In the Pantry

This year, I stepped up efforts to preserve food myself, even if I didn't grow it all. This may be the most contemporarily boring but historically interesting post about food, an inventory of what's on hand now:
7 quarts - tomato sauce
16 quarts - tomato
9 pints - spiced apple rings
4 pints - pepper relish
2 pints - apple butter
4 pints - serviceberry
8 half-pints - serviceberry
4 half-pints - rose-hip syrup
4 pints - peach butter
1 pint - strawberry jam
1 pint - pickled cherry peppers
4 pints - ripeberry jam (salal-serviceberry-currant)
4 pints - Cara Cara orange marmelade
4 pints - Blood orange and cranberry marmelade
2 quarts - sweet pickles
18 quarts - dill pickles
1 quart - dill pickled beans
1 quart - dill pickled cabbage
1 quart - cinnamon syrup
1 quart - apple butter

Frozen, there is:
8 pounds salmon
1 quart - currants
1 liter - serviceberry
2 quarts - rhubarb
1 quart - spaghetti sauce
2 pints - nettle leaf
2 pints - lomatium root
2 quarts - green beans
3 quarts - corn chowder

So, I can survive on pickles, tomatoes, and salmon for a little while. Not exactly set through the winter, though. Next year, I'd like to can more, and have more of what I canned be stuff I grew. There are still maybe 20 pounds of tomatoes that I may manage to ripen, or use somehow in green form. Various greens have begin their Autumnal volunteering. The farmers market is open for a couple of months yet, and I may manage to add some kraut and pickled something-or-other to this year's list. Divestiture from the corporate food supply continues...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's Mocavore?

Sounds like locavore, and maybe that is part of the picture, but I am not religiously so. I eat things from my garden, from the local woods and weeds, from the Olympia Farmers Market, and yeah, from grocery stores too. I take comfort in supporting local growers and putting as little money as possible into the coffers of corporations with no allegiance to place. But then again, I think I had Italian pasta for dinner the other night, and have no idea where those canned black beans came from.

Sounds like Mo, too, and I'll cop to that. I am egoistic. Why else would I be writing a blog? (OK, several blogs.) I like to think I am unique, while recognizing that I am a product of my time and culture. (And also, I like to relentlessly mock my time and culture.)

My vory varies too much to fit a proper niche in the food blogosphere. I like foods that are wild, that indigenous cultures have appreciated for millennia, and that some people think are weeds, but there are already a bunch of bloggers covering that nicely, and what would the rewilders and foragers think when I started to write about my occasional mix-all-the-brown-drinks soda fountain binge? All that high fructose corn syrup!!

I'm omnivorous, but don't feel any dilemma.

My favorites may fade, and if this blog lasts long enough, I'll contradict myself. I like trying new things, but not all of them, and despite what I said earlier about wild food cannot be counted on to try all things. Like that time on Moloka`i, but I'll post about that later. Believe me, I'll write about that.

I aspire to healthy eating, but sausage tastes too damn good to foreswear, and some of the stuff that's supposed to be healthy tastes like crap.

Fine food's fine, but I define that category widely. I am not a foodie, gourmand, epicure, or snob. Well, maybe a snob. I turn up my nose at Coors, Kraft, and deep-fried fair fads.

I'm a descendant of decent cooks, none of whom were formally trained. My entire experience in the food industry consists of delivering low-end pizzas and making high-end ones for a total of maybe 8 months in the 1980s. I learned what I know from my parents, a few TV chefs, that red and white cookbook, and asking questions about whatever tasted good. Mostly, though, I just played around and experimented. Eventually, I learned how glean some useful info from the web.

Mocavore will have a new post now and then on everything from food archaeology to rants about food's future. Maybe you'll read something new (or very old), pick up a tasty recipe, or write me to tell me just how little I know. Grab a snack and enjoy.