WISDOM NUGGET: SOMETIMES CHANGE TAKES TIME - KEEP AT IT!
RECIPE: SLOW ROASTED FENNEL WITH PARMESAN
I detest goat cheese with a fiery, white-hot passion. As a chef and a human, I can’t understand why anyone would want to eat something reminiscent of stinky feet. Vile and loathsome at best.
People make assumptions about me because I’m a chef. Some are spot-on while others are just poetic exaggeration of life in the kitchen. In the grandiose age of food television perfection, it’s important to remind folks that chefs aren’t perfect—we make mistakes and even dislike foods.
Although I ate sardines, liver, mushrooms and other culinary oddities, overall, “picky eater” best described me as a child. Ham sandwiches on Wonder bread were staples in my clunky metal Dukes of Hazard themed lunchbox. A pre-packaged, highly processed Drake’s brand sweet treat rounded out the meal because it was the 1980’s after all.
As the years passed, my palate expanded and I became increasingly swayable.
Onion, my childhood Kryptonite, slowly found its way to the tolerable list but not until my mid-twenties. I appreciated the flavor but still its texture was near gag-worthy. I kept an open mind and kept trying it in various forms and now, at 41 years young, it seems I can scarcely get through the week without consuming caramelized onion.
Open-mindedness aside, there are still some foods I find to be offensive to my senses and downright gloomy.
Beets are unpleasant. I’m happy for them with regards to the latest culinary spotlight in which they’re basking but I don’t enjoy them…yet. Cabbage? I’m getting there but slowly, sliced absurdly thin in slaws that have a lot of additional ingredients.
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WISDOM NUGGET: BE AWARE OF HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES IN FLORIDA, TOMATO GROWERS BEING SUED
Tomatoes abound this time of year in more shapes, sizes, colors and patterns than most folks can imagine. Yet some grocery stores are still featuring flavorless, mealy tomatoes that have been shipped cross country in a gas-guzzling truck. What a deplorable waste of shelf space, especially this time of year.
I believe it is impossible to have a grand, fulfilling life created solely around the existence of perpetual ennui. Life is best when experienced with hearty helpings of diversity—people, places, opinions, the arts…and food.
So appealing is a basket of tomatoes with a variety of dimensions, hues and flavors. Some green and tart. Others small and sweet. Speckled, freckled and often imperfect. Within the assortments of Roma, Black Velvet, Beefsteak, Cherry, Green Zebra and Brandywines, some tomatoes seem elegant, others whimsical.
Looking at such a bounty, I am reminded of how Mother Nature is often a reflection of the best life has to offer—variety. Fill your life and belly with as much assortment as possible.
Don’t be a bland supermarket tomato.
Be a Green Zebra; go in search of Black Velvet and Brandywine. Doesn’t that sound like a more exciting life than being a mealy, tasteless no-name in search of mediocrity?
MODERN DAY SLAVERY? READ MORE - CLICK TO THE RIGHT
WISDOM NUGGET: BLEEDING-HEART? KINDNESS DOESN'T REQUIRE YOU TO FORGO WITH PRAGMATISM.
RECIPE: PREPARING FOR HOMEMADE BROTH
Not often bamboozled, I consider myself a commonsensical optimist. I’m no sap but I do believe in genuine goodness.
Naming my business, for goodness sake foods, was strategic. How food imparts goodness—the illustrations prove innumerable. Cuisine can be nutritious and satiate the soul. Growing or preparing tasty provisions ignites a visceral joy, but foodstuff aside, I also believe in the overarching benevolence of mankind.
I know there is much unrest and turbulence in the world but I’m betting on good and I’m stacking the odds in my favor by putting as much kindness out into the world as I can.
“Finish your chicken soup,” my mother would insist, tapping the bowl with her index finger, still smudgy orange from carrot chopping.
“But it’s just a little broth,” I would retort, in a small but confident voice.
“No, Baby, that’s where all the goodness is,” she would remind me, “Even if you can’t see it, it’s there.”
The word itself, is in my day-to-day vernacular solely because of my mother’s staunch insistence that goodness was in the unseen details of her homemade chicken noodle soup broth. I have given this word so much thought over the years.
IMPOSTORS AMONG HOMELESS? - CLICK TO THE RIGHT
Family dinners are important. Making time to connect over a meal—re-group, share stories, debates and laughs—brings a list of benefits a mile long. This column will not attempt to convince you of this; people generally agree.
Sit-down dinners seem an unrealistic goal to most modern-day families. I’d like to help.
Children are busier than ever, calendars overflowing with academic, athletic and creative endeavors. Parents are busier than ever with increased hours in the workplace and workdays that linger on into the evening.
Everywhere a parent looks, there’s are experts reminding them how valuable family dinners are. Occasionally they toss in realistic advice but these experts can’t magically change the family’s calendar.
Suggestions often include ideas for dinner recipes to make ahead of time or the valid solution of making large batches of food at one time. Sounds great but even the most organized, well-intentioned parents are still having trouble finding the time.
Instead of Family Dinner, how about Family Dessert?
If you truly cannot get everyone around the table at a reasonable dinnertime then start with Family Dessert.
When the chaos of the day relents, sit down at the table without technology and enjoy dessert together, even if it’s later in the evening. Keep expectations realistic—fifteen minutes. Should you give your children a pile of sugar before bed? No. Let’s be strategic, small portions of treats that contain less or no added sugar.
Everyone looks forward to dessert and keeping the duration reasonable makes it achievable. Play one of the common dinner games—simple question-based games that get the family chatting and laughing. Table Topics and Family Dinner Box of Questions are common. Resources such as Winchester’s toy store, Catch a Falling Star, often have a selection.
Choose a near-effortless dessert and involve all family members in its creation.
The Family Dinner Project is a nonprofit organization currently operating from offices at Harvard University. Their website offers information, recipes and realistic solutions.
Grilled Peaches with Fresh Ricotta & Honey
Using a small scoop, add a dollop of ricotta into the hollow area of each peach half (where the pit was). Drizzle the peaches with honey and garnish with generous shreds of fresh lemon zest.
These peaches are tremendously versatile—a light dessert or side dish. Making generous portions ensures a tasty breakfast or lunchbox addition the next day.
Visit my social media pages for a photo of the peaches. Need more ideas or have questions? Let me be a helpful resource, email me.
* with gratitude to The Winchester Star for publishing this column on 7/25/16
chef mel has been creating food experiences for over 20 years. she embraces an "aspiring homesteader" lifestyle & grows over 40 types of edibles when she's not teaching classes & hosting farm dinners. she adores simplicity, new food & edible flowers. her writing reminds us there's wisdom & humor among the seeds, stalks & sauce pots. we're not perfect & that's okay - keep it genuine & journey on!