Savoring Kentucky

It's good all over.

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Savoring Kentucky showcases the wonders of Kentucky's food, farms, farmers, restaurants, chefs, distillers, brewers, orchards and markets. We applaud local food, its producers and champions. We delight in news of improvements in food and food systems. We take pleasure in fine food. We thank our wondrous sponsors for supporting our work and local goodness all around.

Oh Yes—Eggs!

In case you have lots of hard-boiled eggs on hand, set up teams in the kitchen and hold a deviled egg competition. Southern Living shares 20 Ways With Deviled Eggs. The New York Times's inimitable Mark Bittman suggests three deviled options and nine other great ideas for savoring hard-boiled eggs in Get Cracking.

You may find your neighbors or farmers' market offering eggs from hens that add natural color to their egg shells. Cherish these!

Egg salad made from nothing more than hard-boiled eggs and homemade mayonnaise adds simple happy lusciousness to any day. Grate the eggs on the large holes of a box grater to get a scrumptious texture.

Add what's handy—like spring green onion tops—if you like.

Access to perfect, healthy eggs from small farms and backyards marks one of the great improvements in local food systems in the last 10 years. Eggs offer good, no-waste protein that's affordable even at the top of the price range, and their uses in the kitchen approach infinity. Nothing beats an egg. (Ahem.)

This Particular Spring

This is not the spring we imagined. Not the one reverse engineered in our memory—an orderly succession of blooms: wondrous witch hazel and helleborus cross-fading into crocus and star magnolia, then forsythia and daffodils, then weeping cherry and saucer magnolia and tulips and orchard fruits and crab apples and redbuds and straight on through dogwoods.

This particular spring jags and twists, delivering as it pleases. Crocuses bloomed before hellebores. Plum blossoms opened alongside forsythia. 

All springs proceed fitfully, really. This spring more so, with its long stretches of days and nights that feel too warm and look too grey. We can't tell if it's still early spring—it's March in Kentucky, so maybe—or if we had early spring in January and summer will race in ahead of Derby Day.

And yet, this spring is wonderful. It's the only spring we get this year. The only daffodils and parrot tulips, the only tender green spring onions, pointing the way out of winter foods toward Kentucky's lush growing season.

In March, food from elsewhere nourishes as we wait for Kentucky's own good foods to appear.

In March, food from elsewhere nourishes as we wait for Kentucky's own good foods to appear.

The shy heritage daffodil, Mrs. R. O. Backhouse, liked this particular spring and showed it in numbers.

The shy heritage daffodil, Mrs. R. O. Backhouse, liked this particular spring and showed it in numbers.

Mount Hood, too, bloomed more than ever this spring. 

Mount Hood, too, bloomed more than ever this spring. 

Lots of good work and ideas sprout all around us this spring. As in the natural world, some, like visionary Chef Ouita Michel's forthcoming Honeywood restaurant, root deeply in the people, culture and natural assets of Kentucky and its land. Ouita explains beautifully here.

Good Foods Coop hosted a day dedicated to seeds, soil and gardening, where I relearned something forgotten since childhood: some vegetable bits can grow more of themselves, helping us boost fresh food in winter via "scrap gardening."

Some veggies regrow—some.

Some veggies regrow—some.

Beet greens fans, rejoice!

Beet greens fans, rejoice!

Chef Tanya White, who heads up the fine teaching kitchen at UK Food Connection, found local winter vegetables to use in teaching student Chef Ambassadors how to teach others to cook.

As part of the University of Kentucky's Year of South Asia, the Food Connection kitchen accommodated dozens of cooks and eaters for a Parsi meal, guided by guest chef Zavera Kanga. Volunteer helpers eagerly stirred from both sides of the stove, set up additional cooking stations on side counters, and made a feast together. Then, of course, we ate it.

Cooking Parsi celebratory dishes for Nowruz 2017 at UK's Food Connection.

Cooking Parsi celebratory dishes for Nowruz 2017 at UK's Food Connection.

Oh, and a basketball game or two occupied a lot of people. The players on the University of Kentucky's men's basketball team this year endeared themselves to us through their good natures, smarts, and of course their skill with the lob. It ended sooner than we wanted, on a brilliant Sunday afternoon. The Gardener and I watched, as is our habit, at West Sixth Brewery, which turns five this weekend and feels like it has been in place for a lifetime. The romance continues between West Sixth beer (and Kentucky Kombucha) and the remarkable dishes Smithtown Seafood produces just through the open passageway, to the happiness of all of us patrons. 

The tap room at West Sixth Brewery.

The tap room at West Sixth Brewery.

Fun with radio continues. Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio broadcasts every Tuesday at noon ET on 93.9 WLXU LP-FM, thanks to Lexington Community Radio, founded by social entrepreneur, public servant and State Farm insurance agent Debra Hensley, aka Astonishing Human.

My marvelous Hot Water Cornbread co-hosts Chris Michel (left) and Ouita Michel.

My marvelous Hot Water Cornbread co-hosts Chris Michel (left) and Ouita Michel.

For our latest show, Cathy and Harkey Edwards of Harkness Edwards Vineyards described the trials and triumphs of learning to grow great wine grapes in Kentucky and then "not mess them up" when making great wine. From left, Chris Michel, Ouita Michel, Harkey Edwards, Cathy Edwards.

For our latest show, Cathy and Harkey Edwards of Harkness Edwards Vineyards described the trials and triumphs of learning to grow great wine grapes in Kentucky and then "not mess them up" when making great wine. From left, Chris Michel, Ouita Michel, Harkey Edwards, Cathy Edwards.

Out of doors, this spring's surprises continue. Viburnum (V. x judii) flowered early, making for an unusual combination in a recent tiny bouquet: delicate Kentucky native blood root (white, in the center, Sanguinaria) along with grape hyacinths (Muscari) and the deeply fragrant white-pink viburnum. At the very least, this particular spring smells heavenly.

Subscribe here to get Savoring Kentucky blog posts in your email inbox. No hassle, no spam, just Kentucky's growing goodness.

FCC disclosure: this post mentions Chef Ouita Michel, of The Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants, three of which sponsor Savoring Kentucky. Other sponsors included in this post: Debra Hensley's Social Stimulus; Good Foods Coop, Smithtown Seafood. Thank you. Our sponsors keep Savoring Kentucky going.

Keeping Up With The Radio

Only a lucky few in central Lexington get to listen to Lexington Community Radio's WLXL (95.7, El Pulso) and WLXU (93.9) live, right on the radio, as a broadcast. People anywhere in the world can listen through the live stream on the stations' website. And many show hosts publish recordings, aka "podcasts," after each live show.

The Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio shows that I get to do each week with Chef Ouita Michel and Chef/Sommelier Chris Michel help us get to know friends of Kentucky's own food system better. The one-hour on-air visits introduce us to new ideas and new people, too. 

Two weeks ago we enjoyed our time with Kristy and Steve Matherly of Sunrise Bakery. Listen here.

Steve and Kristy Matherly of Sunrise Bakery, Lexington, Kentucky

Steve and Kristy Matherly of Sunrise Bakery, Lexington, Kentucky

Photo credit: Copper and Kings

Photo credit: Copper and Kings

This week we learned from Lockbox Chef Jonathan Searle about the first birthday party for 21c Museum Hotel Lexington, and then we got inside information on an impressive new opportunity in Louisville to attend an intensive 14-week course in spirits, hospitality and bartending. Listen here.

The Ideal Bartender School, inspired by Louisville native Tom Bullock. One hundred years ago Mr. Bullock, an African American bartender, wrote a cocktail recipe book, The Ideal Bartender, still in use today. Copper and Kings intends for the course to provide in-depth skills and technical preparation for people facing face disadvantages in finding good jobs. The deadline to apply is March 31.  

Barbour's Farm in Hart County: One of 0.5 Percent of Kentucky Farms with Black Ownership

André Barbour and Teheran Jewell of Barbour's Farm want to bring their farm-raised Hart County goodness straight to your door—even if you live in Lexington or Louisville. After some years of ramping up production of vegetables, chickens, dairy cows, beef cattle and hogs on the Barbour family's 150 acres—and after three previous generations of farmers in André's family have tried other markets—it's time to connect directly with eaters, and bring the goodness to new customers. "We sell in four states," says Teheran. "We don't sleep much."

André and Teheran came to Lexington, and brought their friend Shanika Chappell of Bowling Green with them, to be our guests on this week's Hot Water Cornbread radio show. Listen here.

From left: Teheran Jewell, André Barbour, Shanika Chappell

From left: Teheran Jewell, André Barbour, Shanika Chappell

André and Teheran want their new CSA (Community Supported Agriculture subscription) to feed you during this growing season, even if you think you might not be able to afford a CSA. To introduce their farm and food to Lexington, Louisville and other cities, get 10 interested friends together and get in touch with them. They will bring samples and meet with faith groups, neighborhood associations and others. (They can cook.) Text or call André at (270) 777-5881 and Teheran at (270) 392-1399.

This year Barbour's Farm also launches an aggregate station just off I-65 in Hart County where restaurants and the public can buy a wide array of farm-raised foods. André says this fixed cost, accessible, one stop shop will make buying good ingredients much easier for cooks and chefs.

In 2014 the Courier-Journal's Jere Downs wrote this excellent article about André Barbour's farming and his importance in provisioning early Fresh Stop CSAs as part of Lousville's New Roots, Inc. Downs reported that African-Americans own 437 of Kentucky's 77,000 farms, according to the 2012 census. That's about one-half of one percent, in a state with a black population of about eight percent.

Quite a crew outside the toasty WLXU studio at Lexington Community Radio: from left, Matthew, a videographer/intern from the University of Kentucky, Teheran Jewell, Chris Michel, Ouita Michel, Shanika Chappell of International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green, and André Barbour.

Quite a crew outside the toasty WLXU studio at Lexington Community Radio: from left, Matthew, a videographer/intern from the University of Kentucky, Teheran Jewell, Chris Michel, Ouita Michel, Shanika Chappell of International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green, and André Barbour.

Encore: Here's what will be useful to these farmers, their farm, and you: Organize a group of 10 people or more and invite André and Teheran to introduce their farm and food, and their new direct sales options. They will explain the benefits of their CSA, with all its options to make good food affordable. They will come with food, experience, good humor, and crucial access to a season of excellent food. Text or call André at (270) 777-5881 and Teheran at (270) 392-1399.

Do you want a little more? See André Barbour on Facebook and check out A Taste of Jewell Farm.

Busy Busy

The crocuses came early, and our community sweeties, the honeybee pollinators, buzzed out of their hives early too, and went straight to their fuzzy-legged work. 

February 12, 2017. The first time I've seen crocuses blooming on Lincoln's birthday. Busy bee came immediately.

February 12, 2017. The first time I've seen crocuses blooming on Lincoln's birthday. Busy bee came immediately.

As the world greens and blooms early, busy growers are planting. Even with the utter mysteries of our new climate, we all trust food will grow, and we will eat.

  • Regional farms invite our participation in their growing season through subscriptions (CSAs, many listed here.)
  • Food system architects at FoodChain intend to dazzle and engage us at a purposeful FEAST on Tuesday, March 14 as they build new capacities for teaching, processing, and using more of our region's food.
  • Skilled entrepreneurs keep inventing new ways to encourage healthy eating (see Kate Horning's A Healthy Passion meal kits and menu planning with Whole Foods markets, and Rowena Maloch's Realistic FoodEs blog).
  • Get seeds and get growing (and support a superb organization) at the ninth annual GleanKY two day heritage seed sale, March 4 and 5. 
  • Sing "Happy (first) Birthday" to 21C Museum Hotel Lexington during Gallery Hop on March 17 at ART + Soul (cocktails, art talk and tour). Also in March, Chef Jonathan Searle at Lockbox, the 21C restaurant, offers a Fork + Bottle dinner as well as Jonathan's Table, a series of specially priced prix fixe meals for two; each meal includes a bottle of wine. 
  • At the University of Kentucky's discovery-oriented Food Connection, charismatic Chef Tanya Whitehouse coaches students to become cooking ambassadors, inspires research teams and academic investigations with excellent Kentucky meals, and invites all of us to stretch out into storied cuisines with hands-on cooking classes like Vibrant Table: Parsi Cooking on Thursday, March 9, part of the University's Year of South Asia. (See the beautiful poster. Buy tickets.)

We've been busy at Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio, too. Our two most recent shows:

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Last fall, along with crocus bulbs, fabulous photographer Sarah Jane Sanders and I planted some work that blossomed this week. Enjoy Great Bites in the Bluegrass State: What to Eat in Kentucky, our photo essay for Food Network's online magazine.

Bonus: The Crocus Awards. The crocuses so impressed me this spring with their energy and abundance that I handed out some special awards. 

Most Exuberant, 2017

Most Exuberant, 2017

Best Use of Available Props, 2017

Best Use of Available Props, 2017

Sunniest Surprise, 2017

Sunniest Surprise, 2017

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Subscribe here to get Savoring Kentucky blog posts in your email inbox. No hassle, no spam, just Kentucky's growing goodness.

FCC disclosure: this post mentions Chef Ouita Michel, of The Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants, three of which sponsor Savoring Kentucky.

 

Leo Keene and Blue Moon Farm: Garlic Glory, and Giving Chefs What They Want

Some people in the world of Kentucky food pop up in Savoring Kentucky so consistently they are like those trusted perennials that structure good gardens. Leo and Jean Pitches Keene and their Blue Moon Farm are in that group. I searched this site and stopped counting at 50 posts over the last 11 years. Now we've added Leo's voice to our Hot Water Cornbread podcast collection. Be not afraid! Listen here to the January 31 show. (Click the orange circle/white arrow. Technology does the rest for you, unless you happen to have muted your device.)

Leo and Jean Pitches Keene photographed themselves and their garlic braids before shipping the braids to New York City for an appearance on the "Today" show with guest chef Jamie Oliver in 2006. 

Leo and Jean Pitches Keene photographed themselves and their garlic braids before shipping the braids to New York City for an appearance on the "Today" show with guest chef Jamie Oliver in 2006. 

During our radio show, Leo tells about becoming a garlic producer with a constant additional job of educating new garlic customers, including chefs. He talks chef talk with Chefs Ouita and Chris Michel. He sketches the story of his and Jean's involvement with garlic and where that led. For one thing, garlic led to more Blue Moon crops, and then marketing Blue Moon crops led to helping other growers get their good food into local restaurants. As we learn from Leo about his work as aggregator, distributor, dispatcher and overall nudger of food from farm to restaurants and home kitchens, we sent big radio-wave appreciation to Chef John Foster, unwavering champion of local farms and their products.**

Jean and Leo moved to Kentucky as antique dealers in the 80s, and changed paths a bit after they began growing their own garlic—who knew it was possible then? Who ate garlic in Kentucky? Thanks to Blue Moon, it's a Kentucky flavor now. Blue Moon alone grows 40,000—50,000 garlic plants each year, with separate harvests of tens of thousands of mild-tasting, easy-to-use garlic scapes.* 

If you are a home cook, look for Leo and Jean at the Lexington Farmers Market starting April 1. If you are a chef or bulk buyer of fine local foods, contact Leo at garlic<at>bluemoongarlic<dot>com to become part of his distribution and delivery system.

Bonus for reading this far: here are links to and excerpts from three of many Savoring Kentucky posts about Blue Moon:

Gratitude for Garlic , 2006:

This year when I count my Thanksgiving blessings, I will include the 50,000 garlic cloves Leo and Jean plant by hand in early winter, jump-starting next year's growing season before most of us have finished celebrating this year's plenty. Even more, I will be grateful for Jean and Leo themselves, knowing they may be outside planting garlic as I am buttering my homemade roll. Jean says, "There are many years when we've worked on Thanksgiving Day, trying to get planted before bad weather."

Roots-N-All: Garlic From Nose To Tail (Just About), 2009

Blue Moon Farm's Jean Keene told me this, so I tried it -- tried it out on other people, too. Yes, the cleaned roots of green garlic are edible. Tasty, in fact. Delicious.

Garlic Scape Pesto, 2011

In the summer of 2011, when my excellent husband's garlic crop first yielded a pesto-worthy quantity of scapes—the flexible, musical-looking pencil-thin green flower stems of hard-neck garlic—I cheekily asked Leo Keene, aka Mr. Blue Moon, how to make pesto with my own scapes. After all, as I told him, it is his fault that my household now plants 16 square feet of Blue Moon cloves near Halloween each year, harvests tender green garlic in March and April, rejoices in an additional tender crop of the scapes in June, and finally pulls an aromatic harvest of fat garlic bulbs out of the ground the following July 4.

*A scape is a stalk hard-neck garlic produces when it forms the intention to flower and produce seed, but smart growers snip that stalk off when it is still tender, with two beneficial results. First, the garlic plant can relax and put all its energy into those cloves that will be ready for harvest in another few weeks. And second, cooks make fine garlic scape dishes like these.

**Go to The Sage Rabbit for ongoing Chef John Foster goodness. Dishes from last week: 

"Roasted chicken risotto in a rosemary parsnip cream with shiitakes and spinach"
"Oven roasted Elmwood Stock Farm chicken breast with roasted garlic smashed potatoes, roasted greens and a caramelized rum onion pan sauce."

Note that garlic. Thank you, Leo, Jean, and Blue Moon.

 

Well, the Weather. . . .

This ain't right.

Spring crocuses on N. Martin Luther King Boulevard, Lexington, Kentucky, January 31, 2017

Spring crocuses on N. Martin Luther King Boulevard, Lexington, Kentucky, January 31, 2017

Those were the words that popped into my head yesterday, January 31, 2017. As I walked to the wonderful Lexington Community Radio studios to do the weekly Hot Water Cornbread radio show, these blooming crocuses stopped me still. I'd like a word for the mixture of joy strangled by sorrow that welled up. But "This ain't right"—that's what I got. It's too early for crocuses in Kentucky. And there are the crocuses.

Hiroki Tabuchi reported in a strong business article in Sunday's New York Times that midwest growers, who live at the epicenter of what ain't right with our climate, call it "the weather" as they work to adapt to changing farming conditions. The growers who came to Southern SAWG's annual gathering in Lexington last week may use different language while facing similar challenges. 

The people who grow our food now face each new growing season knowing they don't know what to expect. They are pioneering, working to adapt to new experiences each year.  At Southern SAWG, Alfred Farris, who grows certified organic grain in Tennessee, described the successes with weed reduction on his Windy Acres Farm from 30 years of careful, wise stewardship—and then came a crazy weather pattern in 2016. The soybean fields filled with cockleburs for the first time, and the harvest included about half cocklebur-half soybean by volume, requiring massive amounts of extra cleaning work.

We can take the risks with our growers. CSAs are one fine way to do that. CSA signups are happening all over the country right now. Check Local Harvest for good options.

 

Military Veterans Who Farm: Finding Each Other Means Finding the Missing Mission and Community

"Read Tribe." 

Heads nodded all over the room when two military veterans from Texas-based Farmers Assisting Returning Military—FARM—made that suggestion to a full room at Southern SAWG's annual gathering in Lexington last week. I immediately reserved one of the copies available in many formats at the wonderful Lexington Public Library

Tribe's subtitle: "On Homecoming and Belonging." FARM's tagline: "The power of community." The tagline of North Carolina-based Veterans Healing Farm: "Cultivating Life Through Community."

John Mahsie, an Air Force vet who founded Veterans Healing Farm, told the group, "Getting out of the military leaves two big gaps: a loss of community and a loss of mission. And society is not all that patient with people who are trying to figure things out."  For the two veterans with FARM, the cost of those losses include 11 suicides among the returned veterans in their unit.

Around the country veterans are finding a new mission and new community in the demanding work of farming, growing food, and feeding others. The Farmer Veterans Coalition is a national nonprofit group working in support of veterans in agriculture. The FVC includes Homegrown by Heroes, a marketing program the Kentucky Department of Agriculture launched that now operates in many states.  

FVC also operates the Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund, which "provides direct assistance to veterans in their beginning years of farming or ranching." Applications for this year's fellowships open on February 1, with an application deadline of March 20. Details here. Tell a vet, please.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southern SAWG: The 2017 Podcast (with a Chinese Lunar New Year Dessert)

On the eve of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group 2017 annual gathering and trade show, Executive Director Steve Muntz and long-time grower-participant Jane O'Tiernan joined Ouita and Chris Michel and me today on Hot Water Cornbread, our weekly radio show on food and foodways. Southern SSAWG is in Lexington, Kentucky this week. Walk-up registration information here (scroll down).

We talked with Steve and Jane about what makes SSAWG special, what new farmers need to do and know, how SSAWG defines sustainability, and what to expect at this year's event. Listen here. (Click that big red circle with its white arrow.) We finish the show with a short, lively lesson from Culinary Evangelist Dan Wu on how Chinese new year traditions like sticky rice and fish grow out of homonyms in the Chinese language. 

Enjoy photos from 2016 SSAWG, mostly from the trade show. 

 

 

Southern SAWG Makes Your Life Better

To have the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group in town is to welcome the most important people in our world: those who feed us perfectly grown food while making soil, water and air better. It's like having the International Olympics Committee or the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or the National Collegiate Athletic Association in town—except Southern SAWG is matters more. 

Because how do we get food? We either grow it, find it, or buy it. Most people reading this post buy most of their food. When you buy from Southern SAWG members, you buy the best, and you vote for earth's future. Simple and profound.

Sustainably grown Kentucky food

Sustainably grown Kentucky food

You can walk up and register for any part of Southern SAWG's amazing conference this week. Read and salivate over the full conference schedule. Fill out the registration form here (scroll down) and bring it to the Lexington Convention Center here

More reasons to go: Southern SAWG showcases practitioners teaching practitioners. The people in front of the room or leading tours on farms and campuses practice sustainable agriculture. They value learning from each other, growing new understanding of the intricacies and wonders of topics like seed saving and permaculture and mixed species grazing—and they faithfully share what they know. Women and people of color lead many sessions, bringing the healthy principle of diversity into play even in conference management.

Here's a sample of deep learning opportunities from each day of Southern SAWG, January 25-28, one option from among many offered each day:

  • Wednesday, January 25 Short Courses (all day intensives): Mixing and Matching Cattle, Sheep and Goats on Pasture, with instructors Ann Wells of Ozark Pasture Beef, LLC (AR) and Greg Brann, USDA/NRCS (TN).
  • Thursday, January 26 Field Trip: Permanent Culture: Creating a Commercial Permacuture Farm, at Salamander Springs Farm in Kentucky's Appalachian Foothills, with Susana Lein
  • Friday, January 27 90-minute concurrent session: Save on Farm Costs Through Farmer-to-Farmer Sharing, presented by Frank Taylor (MS) and Tim MacAller (NC)
  • Saturday, January 28 90-minute concurrent session: The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Raising Pastured Poultry, presented by Andre Barbour (KY)

Add in seed swapping, a trade show, a Taste of Kentucky banquet, state networking sessions, keynote addresses and thousands of rich conversations over coffee, in hallways, over lunches.

If you are interested in sustainable agriculture as its most expert practitioners understand it, this is the week to be at Southern SAWG's Annual Conference and Trade Show at Lexington's Convention Center. 

Bonus for reading this far: Tuesday, January 24 at 12 PM ET, Chefs Ouita and Chris Michel and I host SSAWG Executive Director Steve Muntz and grower Jane O'Tiernan on Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio at Lexington Community Radio's WLXU 93.9 LP FM. Watch this space for the post of the podcast from that show.

Bonus Bonus: Southern SAWG events and ties improve the knowledge and skills of growers who work primarily at small and medium scale, increasingly recognized as the most productive and sustainable scale for the earth's future. 

 

 

Pot Lucky

I wasn't there, so I can't be sure, but I'm guessing humans have been gathering to eat together since the very beginning of human-kind. At our house, we host a weekly Monday night community pot luck, Cornbread Suppers, because it's fun. No agenda. Nothing to do but eat, drink and enjoy each other. You are always invited. 

In the 2017 edition of its always interesting annual dining trends predictions, the Sterling-Rice Group included new ways people are finding others so they can share meals.

At the other end of the potluck-and-conversation spectrum, wonderful Kentucky voice for Appalachia and food/farm/foodways goodness Lora Smith recently co-wrote this beautiful NPR story about a potluck in Egypt, Kentucky with Nigerian-born Tunde Wey. Of many available stories about Tunde Wey, this one is particularly rich: Discomfort food: Using dinners to talk about race, violence and America

Invite some people over for comfort or discomfort in the food and conversation. It's good for all the souls. 

Note: this is a corrected post. An earlier version omitted Tunde Wey as co-author of the NPR story. I am sorry (and embarrassed).

Epiphany Wonders, Including Feasts, In Kentucky and Beyond

I knew, from earliest childhood, that old folks somewhere in Kentucky loved Old Christmas, January 6. I knew they loved thinking of animals kneeling at midnight, and speaking. I knew the sweet carol, "The Friendly Beasts." And not much else. On Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio this week (listen here), chef Ouita Michel brought all manner of history of this celebration through time and around the world. Plus recipes! Amazing recipes for an entire feast, offered tonight in Midway (sold out for this year) as a fund-raiser for Midway Christian Church. 

By Post of Moldova - http://www.posta.md/en/filatelia.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5530451

By Post of Moldova - http://www.posta.md/en/filatelia.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5530451

I did not know about the ways Epiphany celebrations worldwide include both feasting and riotousness (a bit like the mountain traditions of moonshine-drinking and firearms-shooting), nor the connection to the beautiful gift-giving story of The Three Wise Men. 

By Ivan Ivanov - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5752127

By Ivan Ivanov - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5752127

Around the world, celebrations are underway today, as they have been on this day for centuries.

By Unknown - Старо Скопје, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24023330

By Unknown - Старо Скопје, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24023330

Gratitude to Wikipedia for the splendid photos. 

By Balkanregion - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5551337

By Balkanregion - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5551337

Soup's Goodness

Soup's appeal goes up as temperatures go down. We're headed into soup season in central Kentucky this week. Once I began making homemade bone broths from Elmwood Stock Farm's perfect, grass-fed, certified organic stock-making packs and bone-y leftovers, I also began practicing French onion soup. 

Let the onions take their own sweet time getting golden brown. The slow cooking releases their sweet nature, adding a delectable counterpoint to the savory-salty broth. 

Let the onions take their own sweet time getting golden brown. The slow cooking releases their sweet nature, adding a delectable counterpoint to the savory-salty broth. 

French onion soup depends on deeply caramelized, thinly sliced onions plus good broth. In our gluten-avoiding kitchen, we don't even make the iconic crouton+cheese topping, and find we like it a great deal even so. I used three large onions browned slowly in a mixture of olive oil and butter for more than an hour. Then up to 8 cups broth (I used both beef and chicken), a little wine, some thyme, salt, pepper, a bay leaf, a sprinkle of rice flour for thickening, and another 90 minutes simmering. It could have gone longer. Start earlier than you think. If you want a more precise recipe, here's a straightforward one, and here's an indulgently long, descriptive one, both good.

What if you don't like onions? Or you don't have three hours until dinner but you do have some celery mouldering away in a fridge drawer. Jane Grigson's Celery Soup is another great comfort in winter, so simple to make with ingredients you likely have on hand, provided you keep stocked up on good broth or stock. 

While your soup simmers, you may need some reading material. How about these:

  • Understand more about the challenges makers of sheep cheeses face in the US, here.
  • Plan a whole year of delicious Kentucky farm-to-table outings here.
  • Read noted chef and food policy thinker Dan Barber's review of the new Gary Taubes book on just how problematic sugar probably is for human bodies here.

Sponsors included in this post: Elmwood Stock Farm.

Cultivate What's Good

It's 60 degrees on January 2 in Kentucky, and we all know that's not right. And yet we know, too, that plants will grow in this new year, and animals, and people. We will all grow; good gardening sense suggests we tend what's already planted, fill bare spaces with promising species, and reduce invasive species when we can. Metaphor, maybe, for life, but also for cultivating a community that nurtures self-reliance and good food for all. 

Sprouts in the London Ferrill Community Garden, Lexington, Kentucky. 

Sprouts in the London Ferrill Community Garden, Lexington, Kentucky. 

In Lexington we can continue and expand our support for two proven, promising, potent forces that work to boost our self-reliance and make good food a matter of course for everyone. Seedleaf and FoodChain each succeed already in what they do, and are poised to grow in healthy ways. Seedleaf needs a permanent urban farm near a bus line. You may know just the spot. See some of what can happen in such a spot, in this marvelous story about Alice's Garden in Milwaukee.

FoodChain intends to add a teaching and prep kitchen to its successful urban fish-and-greens farm this year. Money and volunteer work will help. Here's an interesting historical scan of incubators, which are initiatives aimed at changing food systems, and share a few similarities with FoodChain's mission.

Enjoy these splendid photos from London Ferrill Community Garden, these by gifted photographer Geoff Maddock. And take a look at all those seed catalogues that came in the last couple of weeks. It's a good time to dream, envision, hope, and get ready.

 

Lauren Gawthrop of Good Foods Coop on Local Gifts, Cooperative Roots, and Santa Lucia Rolls

To Savoring Kentucky's email subscribers: Sorry Sorry! Soggy wads of used gift wrap paper to us for sending this post to you so late. The good news is that all news in this post is useful today and going forward, just as much as it was last week. Good Foods Coop and its new Marketing Manager, Lauren Gawthrop, are on time all the time!
At Savoring Kentucky we are having growing pains disguised as technical difficulties, of the kind you'd rather not hear about in detail. We are still working out the mechanics of what comes through in your email inboxes, especially when we are including an audio recording ("podcast") with a supposedly useful SoundCloud radio player built right in, as we are today. I apologize for the problems and hope we are on the way to solutions.

I'm headed to Good Foods Coop today, two days before a certain big gift-giving event. Our family chose gifts to each others' favorite causes this year (with books for the children—we're like Literary Iceland in that way). So I don't need gifts, but I'm happy to tell you that Good Foods overflows with beautiful gift options every single day.

At age 44—which is probably like age 150 in natural grocery years—our priceless Coop now enjoys more contemporary media smarts thanks to new Marketing Manager Lauren Gawthrop. Lauren got up at 3 AM every weekday for five years to make news, literally: she organized and anchored new shows at Lexington's ABC36 from early morning through noon. Four hours of news a day, people! So imagine applying all those skills and all that good energy to continuing the long process of bringing all the goodness of Good Foods to our whole region. 

Lauren Gawthrop, Marketing Manager at Good Foods Coop

Lauren Gawthrop, Marketing Manager at Good Foods Coop

Ouita and Chris Michel and I enjoyed getting to know more about Lauren when she joined us on our weekly radio show, Hot Water Cornbread, this week. (Learn more at http://www.savoringkentucky.com/hotwatercornbread/.) Ouita and Lauren described the wonders of giving luxury foods as gifts: a seemingly expensive, elegant bottle of olive oil, for example, costs much less than most people feel compelled to spend for a credible present, and delights its recipient.

And there's the other wonder of giving useful gifts, food instead of future yard sale items. Sorghum! Coffee! Craft beers! Exotic sauces! These and another 1200 items make fine gifts while supporting our neighbors who grow and produce excellent foods for us.

Or be like Lauren and make your own beautiful gifts. She brought homemade Santa Lucia rolls with her to the show: exemplary guest!

Click the red arrow on the player below and enjoy listening. [Email subscribers, we're still learning how to make the embedded players work for you. If you do not see a place to click and listen below, two options: go to https://soundcloud.com/user-623797398/lauren-gawthrop, or click at the top of your email and access this post online.]

Long-time faithful readers of Savoring Kentucky know that each year I re-post a piece about the joy of not giving. This year I took a look and decided it needed a rest. Just before Thanksgiving, I re-read a favorite, challenging Wendell Berry essay on the necessity of limitations: Faustian Economics: Hell Hath No Limits. It doesn't sound like light holiday reading, and it is not. Wendell Berry speaks to our deeper interests, to the choices we can each make to live richly and with contentment within natural limits:

. . . our human and earthly limits, properly understood, are not confinements but rather inducements to formal elaboration and elegance, to fullness of relationship and meaning. Perhaps our most serious cultural loss in recent centuries is the knowledge that some things, though limited, are inexhaustible. For example, an ecosystem, even that of a working forest or farm, so long as it remains ecologically intact, is inexhaustible. A small place, as I know from my own experience, can provide opportunities of work and learning, and a fund of beauty, solace, and pleasure — in addition to its difficulties — that cannot be exhausted in a lifetime or in generations.

Gifts, both giving and receiving, are trickier than they seem at first. All the gift-giving holidays give us the gift of opportunity to think and act in ways that contribute to "a fund of beauty, solace and pleasure." May all these be yours during these sweet days.

Sponsors included in this post: Good Foods Coop.

Sarah Gleason of Savory Global Talks Bison and De-Desertification on HWC-2016-12-13

Sarah Gleason (scroll down after you click), Director of Marketing and Communications for the Savory Institute, moved to Lexington a few months ago—just weeks before she started her own bison herd with a South Dakota partner. Yes, she lives a big life! Ouita and Chris Michel and I invited Sarah to be our guest on Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio, and she generously joined us this week. This post has a lot of links in it, to the recording of the radio show first of all, and then to more information about Savory Global, a large scale effort to use carefully managed herds and flocks of livestock to regenerate grasslands, reduce deserts, feed more people, support more farms, and sequester enough carbon to rescue our planet. Yes, Savory Global's mission is huge, controversial, and mesmerizing. Enjoy discovering along with us. [Dearly beloved email subscribers: you may want to click the link at the top of your email page and go to the website version of this blog post so it will be easier to get the benefits of this post.]

Here's a short video introduction to a worldwide event held recently in Colorado. Some of the main Savory Global themes come through here, including how each of us can, literally, save the world with each bite and each buy.

For more depth, here are five suggestions.

Watch Allan Savory's 22-minute 2013 TED Talk at https://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change. You will see that you are joining nearly 4 million others who have watched so far.

Watch these four themed videos (which all share the same opening 3 minutes):

The Story of Meat

The Story of Dairy

The Story of Wool

The Story of Leather

For one thing, I was amazed, and perhaps you will be as well, at the assertions about the importance of fashion in the global economy, coupled with optimism about fashion's potential for positive world change. I am used to thinking in quite different terms about fashion.

Finally, learn more about a current Savory Institute crowd-funding initiative aimed at making it easier for buyers to identify and support producers who practice earth-regenerating agriculture. This is a crowdfunding campaign, and the page contains lots of information.

Our Thanksgiving Challenge: (And It's Not Piecrust)

Last week Elmwood Stock Farmer Mac Stone issued this Thanksgiving Challenge: How can you make this week's big meal as organic, local, farmer-supportive, seasonal, nutrient-rich and communal as possible? Those weren't quite his words, but those are some of the ways to gain points in the challenge. At the same time, our Thanksgiving hosts issued their own challenge: how can we make as much of our shared meal as possible from nearby, decreasing the environmental costs of transportation?

Bluegrass Maple Syrup from Woodford County, one of many Kentucky-grown foods on our Thanksgiving table.

Bluegrass Maple Syrup from Woodford County, one of many Kentucky-grown foods on our Thanksgiving table.

It's easy to rise to the challenge for parts of the meal.

The crucial ingredients we cannot source from nearby have surprised us, too. Some could be produced in Kentucky and are not: salt, cooking oils and vinegar in particular.

Some ingredients must come from far away. We welcome that bringing of the world to our Kentucky table, in a tradition that has timeless origins, as one of our members noted. Flavors and spices are exotic and traded across great distances. Vietnamese cinnamon on the butternut squash from 150 steps away: abundance, and cause for gratitude.

Sponsors included in this post: Elmwood Stock Farm, Good Foods Coop. Thank you.

 

 

Cornbread Carries The (Election) Day(And Night)

Some people may assume I love cornbread. I co-host a weekly community potluck called Cornbread Supper (you're invited.)

Part of the Cornbread Supper community, November 7, 2016.

I co-host a weekly community radio radio show called Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio.  (You can listen any time to past shows here, or join us live—touch the "Listen Now" button—on Tuesdays at noon on Lexington Community Radio 93.9 WLXU LP FM.)

Co-hosts and guests at Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio, October 2015. From left, co-hosts Chris and Ouita Michel with their daughter (seated), Willa, and show guests Ashley Smith and Lacreesha Berry, co-host Rona Roberts.

Co-hosts and guests at Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio, October 2015. From left, co-hosts Chris and Ouita Michel with their daughter (seated), Willa, and show guests Ashley Smith and Lacreesha Berry, co-host Rona Roberts.

The truth is that I don't so much love cornbread as respect it. I'll share some of my reasons, and encourage you to make cornbread tonight. It will shore you up through the important, unpredictable election dramas ahead of us.

  • Cornbread is nonpartisan.
  • Cornbread stays within budget.
  • Cornbread sustains health and strength.
  • Cornbread flexes when necessary and stays crisp when it matters. (We're talking about the Big Tent of cornbread here, one that allows all regional and cultural variations at the table. Find just a few versions, in all their variety and glory, here.
  • Cornbread comes from around here. This can be true almost wherever you live, but is especially true in Kentucky when made with Weisenberger meal, JD Country Buttermilk, and your own backyard eggs.
  • Cornbread thinks long-term. Leftovers are just as good later if split and toasted, or—so I'm told, and so I have certainly observed countless times without ever being tempted—crumbled into a glass of sweet milk or buttermilk and eaten with a spoon for a classic simple supper.
  • Cornbread doesn't lollygag. Assemble it in less than 10 minutes, and be patient while it gets to maximum gold-brown crunch. Count on it coming to the table in less than one hour, start to finish, including washing the prep dishes.
  • Cornbread gracefully accepts new ideas. Add-ins from bacon to browned onions, or toppings from sweet sorghum syrup to serrano-laced salsa: yes.

Because I usually bake cornbread for the weekly Cornbread Suppers, I have had a chance to try different approaches to cornbread. In a trail of online recipes, the record shows my best thoughts at a given moment and then . . . my position evolves. The main plank in my cornbread platform is that Black Skillet Hot Water Cornbread (the kind with neither flour nor sugar) should marry an attention-getting crunchy crust with a tender, moist interior. I've worked out several ways to get more of what I want without compromising my principles.

The extra steps keep making the recipe longer, but the shortest version, with no extras, still works well: get your oven and skillet really hot, add a bit of oil or fat or bacon grease, stir all the ingredients together however you wish, pour into the skillet and bake until brown.

Here's the version that gets my votes right now. This recipe is also available at One Wonderful Hot Water Cornbread Recipe.

Yield: Serves 8–10 from one standard 9-inch black skillet

Ingredients
·       2 ½ cups unbolted white cornmeal; Weisenberger Mill meal is widely available
·       1 Tablespoon baking powder
·       Scant 1/2 teaspoon soda (a little less than the full 1/2 teaspoon measure)
·       1 teaspoon salt
·       2 cups whole milk buttermilk; JD Country Milk sells a fine Kentucky buttermilk
·       1 egg; from your backyard?
·       1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon browned butter, coconut oil or bacon fat (the extra tablespoon greases your skillet)
·       1/3 - 1/2 cup boiling water, or more

Optional Add-Ins
Coarsely ground black pepper, up to 1 Tablespoon, or other forms of peppery flavor (ground or crushed cayenne, of sliced jalapeños, for example) according to taste. Parmesan cheese. Cheddar cheese. Finely chopped or grated onion, shallots, scallions or chives.  Finely chopped browned bacon. 1 cup corn kernels. 1/2 cup cottage cheese. Some combination of the above. Experiment.

Steps

  1. Optional:  This is not necessary, but it's also not hard. "Sprout" or soak the 2.5 cups cornmeal in the 2 cups buttermilk for up to 24 hours before you begin. This means that at any point from the night before up to a few minutes before you make your batter, your cornbread benefits if you stir together just the cornmeal and the buttermilk and let the mixture stand before you add all the other ingredients. No literal sprouting occurs, but some biochemistry happens that makes your cornbread's interior more moist, particularly if you are using a coarse grind or "unbolted," which is highly recommended for crunch.
  2. Turn oven to 425.
  3. As oven begins to preheat, put fat (bacon fat, butter or coconut oil) in a 9" or 10" black cast iron skillet. Put the skilled in the oven to get hot-hot-hot. Special note about butter: if you encourage the milk solids in the butter to brown to the point of gold or even nut brown, your cornbread will have more flavor. Don't worry about having gone too far unless the butter positively stinks, in which case you must begin again. This cornbread is also delicious with simple melted (unbrowned) butter, and bacon fat is amazing.
  4. Set the water to boil.
  5. In a large, heat-proof bowl, mix all ingredients except water, which means getting the hot melted fat from the oven and adding it to the bowl, too. Put up to a tablespoon fat back in the skillet to help prevent sticking and add to the crunch of the crust. [At this point I borrow from sister Paula and do a small thing that is not necessary but can boost crunchiness: add up to a tablespoon of fat back into the skillet, and then sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon cornmeal across the bottom of the skillet. Set the skillet back into the oven to keep it blazing hot, or set it on a medium hot burner for a minute.]
  6. Stir or whisk the ingredients until nearly smooth, maybe 15 strokes. Cornbread batter does not require much beyond a thorough stir.
  7. Pour boiling water over the top of the batter, a little at a time, and stir, stir, stir. Stop adding water when the batter is like very thick paint or melty soft-serve ice cream. It can be thinner than you think.
  8. Remove the skillet from the oven and pour in batter, carefully.
  9. Bake until nicely brown and crusty. Times and ovens vary. It will take at least 15 minutes and up to 30. Err toward browner (longer cooking) for best texture and taste.
  10. Carefully, with thick potholders, remove pans from the oven and either upend the cornbread onto a platter or a rack.
  11. Eat immediately with butter or flavored butters. Use Kentucky sorghum too. Or Kentucky maple syrup or honey.

Notes:

Cornsticks or Muffins: You can use cast iron cornstick or muffin pans instead of the single skillet. You may find it easier to melt the fat in a separate small pan instead of using the depressions in these pans, but do put some fat in each depression to help with crunch and release. For crispy cornsticks, the batter works better if it is a bit thinner (from hot water) and fatter (from bacon grease or other fat) than these proportions. But nothing matters as much as having the pans or skillets blazing hot and amply greased before you add the batter. Note that cast iron corn muffin pans bear little resemblance to the deep, cupcake-shaped muffin pans you may already own.

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