The Soft Parade

Enough time has elapsed since the beginning of my beautiful friendship with the local raw milk source for me to finally show the evolution of one of my more impressively successful DIY endeavors: Camembert. It could have aged a bit longer to reach its peak, but we had a special guest on Friday night and I needed to break it out to complete the meal (with homemade bread, of course).

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Lamburguesas

Our buddy Rich runs Elephant, one of the best restaurants in the Hudson Valley, down the road in Kingston. If you live at all nearby and haven’t been yet, go. One of our favorites there, which is mercifully always on the menu, is his plate of three little lamb sliders. The strong flavor of lamb makes a superlative burger, and the small size of a slider somehow seems to concentrate it further. I don’t eat his often enough, and I don’t make them at home often enough. Now I confess at the outset that I did not bake fluffy little rolls for these. But that really didn’t diminish the pleasure of eating them one bit.

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Good Shit

This is what arrived today, along with the beaming sun and a nice cool breeze to keep the sweat from getting out of control. I got half the garden planted; almost all the early stuff is in. The rest will wait for the warm-weather crops, so I can concentrate on various fruit beds and getting the asparagus in. I’m exhausted. And, just so you don’t think that every meal here is something lavishly extravagant, behold:

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Good Housekeeping

Even though it’s been raining for days, my mood is much improved. The brief flirtation of springtime warmth a couple of weeks ago was followed by a rude rebuff as unconscionable cold settled back in for far too long. But despite what felt like a giant step backwards, things kept growing. And now that the thermometer is nudging upward, there’s been a burst of verdancy all over the place. In the garden, last year’s spinach, mâche, radicchio, garlic, parsley, celery, and a few random onions are all bursting forth again, along with the first of this year’s plantings. I admire the hell out of these tough-ass vegetables, and the way they can survive exposed to a long, harsh winter and just bounce back like nothing happened as soon as the ground thaws. I show my admiration by eating them.

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I Look Pretty Tall But My Heels Are High

The slight but meaningful increase in temperature from last week to this–from 40s to 50s, basically–has made a huge impact outside, not least in the form of turning our last two winter storm warnings into plain old rain. All those tentative early shoots have emboldened, and are pushing forth with enthusiasm. It rained again today, and I’ve been leaving the plastic off the hooped salad bed so it can soak up the water. Today I got some asparagus crowns so I can put in another bed parallel to the existing one but outside the garden fence since the deer ignore it. I grabbed a few herbs to stick in the herb garden, and some lavender to go in a bed outside the front garden fence. Once it’s in, all four sides of the garden will have mulched beds or just plain mulch outside them, which should provide an extra measure of protection against the tenacious and ever-encroaching lawn.

While I picked this stuff up, along with less-sexy things like rock phosphate, lime, and green sand to amend the big-ass truck full of compost that’s coming tomorrow, I also hit the fish counter since the store in question has a decent one. Soft-shell crabs are in season, and Milo loves them, so I got three. I also bought a nice Pacific albacore steak, figuring that some tataki would be a nice complement to crispy fried crab.

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Solid Cold

I worked in a welding shop as a summer job between sophomore and junior years at college. For the princely sum of $5.50 an hour, I cut, bent, ground, drilled, and otherwise manipulated various forms of mild steel into the shapes the welders needed to make the trailers, truck racks, and various other things that were the bulk of their business. On my lunch breaks I taught myself to stick and MIG weld. It was an interesting learning environment; Bob, one of the welders, who drank a six-pack and smoked a joint in his Camaro every day at lunch, would wander back in, look at my work, and say something like “I fuckin hate mawdin aht” and beat my work apart with a hammer. Obnoxious? Yes. Funny as shit? That too. But also a hell of an incentive to learn; within a month I could really weld and he couldn’t knock my stuff apart any more. Right before I quit (to go be a carpenter’s helper for a whopping $8 an hour) I stick-welded a big rectangular pan of 16 gauge sheet steel without making a single hole. The grudging praise of the guys in the shop meant a great deal to me. I bought myself a welder later that summer, and made a lot of sculptures over the ensuing years. I still have it in the garage.

Why does this matter? Well, the shop foreman, Charlie, who was about 90 at the time, had this brilliant piece of advice if ever I had an issue with a piece of uncooperative steel. He’d look at the thing and say “Why don’t you hit that with a hammer?” and walk away.

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Hasta La Vista, Phytate

The April Chronogram is out, and this time around I delve into the complex and surprising world of sprouts. I learned a great deal, and I suspect you will too, about the nutritional advantages to sprouting or fermenting all of the seeds we eat. There will be plenty more to say on this subject as I work to integrate more germination and fermentation into my daily culinary  routines.

Photo by Jennifer May

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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