Envy, all you New Yorkers. Tender your wistful sighs. You may have expansive culture and arts, stunning cuisine, ingredients odd and rare abounding, but where the yards stretch wide in suburban Chattanooga, we have basements with 14-foot ceilings capable of holding the ultimate cooking convenience—a second fridge.

Here, just in time for turkey brining, is ours, a 15 year-old Amana side-by-side: full-working order, ice-maker equipped, and rusty in all the right places. Thank you, my sweet, anal father-in-law for upgrading your garage unit and bribing those Sears delivery boys with a crisp hundred to truck it to my house.

Let me assure you, readers, this beauty won’t be all work no play. When Chris finishes his MBA next month, don’t doubt that we will hang a dart board, fill that Amana with PBR, and lounge like sorry SOBs playing cricket and admiring her sweet, cold lines.



Now that I have a baby on board, coordination is going to take a bit more, uh, coordination. So, to begin, I apologize that my first post in four months lacks any food photography, but I have included a pic of my bundle of joy, who is, as his grandmothers report, “cute enough to eat.” Potentially disturbing insinuations aside, let’s talk comfort food. Specifically, other people’s comfort food.

Last night, Chris and I exercised our jaws on the budget-friendly dish Welsh Rarebit, specifically Jamie Oliver’s Welsh Rarebit with Attitude from Jamie at Home: chili jam on sourdough, slathered with a yolk-cheddar-creme fraiche mixture, broiled to golden and dappled with salty Worchestershire. Delicious? Well, here’s the thing, it’s comfort food…for the Welsh.

As a young Pennsylvanian, I enjoyed grilled cheese (brick, preferably) with dill pickles on Sunday afternoons. Southerners love pimento cheese on soft, fluffy Sunbeam. Baseball fans, nachos and yellow cheese food. The French, brie and flatbread. And, the Welsh, rarebit. What do these fromage-centered delights share?

They are comfortable for those who associate comfort with them. Make them for your international friends and expect satisfied, Thanksgiving-dinner-face grins but don’t anticipate oohs and ahhs. After all, comfort food is that by virtue of our comfortable associations with it. All that broiled, salty rarebit warmth didn’t call to mind any memories of hours in front of a fire on a bearskin rug. No, instead, rarebit was forced to stand upon its own gustatory merit and to face its cheese-on-toast reality.

So, no, rarebit did not emerge as the luxurious, simple go-to I was dreaming of. For my starch-drenched-in-cheese comfort, I’ll take mac-and-cheddar or parmesan-crusted garlic toast, thanks.

But, gentile rarebit, do pop by for tea again sometime. Won’t you?



Not me, not quite yet anyway, but postings on this blog are long overdue. Looking back through my camera, minutes ago, I noticed that my last real food photos were from the excursion Chris and I took to Pittsburgh a few days after Christmas and the day I seriously began to suspect that I was pregnant. While that was, obviously, a life-changing time to for us, rest assured, we have continued eating and cooking and even enjoying food like normal non-expectant human beings. I was always a lover of dill pickles and ice cream and dry cheerios and so, I suppose, the second and third trimesters of this pregnancy haven't been as much a departure from me in terms of tastes as they have in terms of energy. Our meals are markedly simpler, as complexity of any sort interferes with my nap schedule.

We have had a great deal of other changes as well. On March 31, Chris and I sold Alchemy Spice Company—trading one baby for another, I suppose. After 160 hours of consultation work with Alchemy, then, I became virtually unemployed. Finding a job for the months between May and August seemed a futile exercise, especially in consideration of my hard-to-hide "bump," so I am spending this time working to build a respectable freelance writing career, finishing my book, and, of course, preparing for our little one's arrival.

Chris and I both lost a grandparent recently as well. In March, Jerry (Chris's father), Chris, and I traveled to Springfield, Massachusetts to attend Jerry's mother's funeral. Amidst the proceedings, there was a good amount of time to visit Jerry's favorite haunts and eateries, tour his childhood stomping grounds, and get to know extended family. Best of all, we loaded the trunk with Millie's Pierogies, Chicopee Provisions hot dogs and brats, Moxie soda, and devil dogs and brought a taste of New England back to Tennessee, some foodie salve for a son in mourning.

Our other loss occurred just two weeks ago, my grandfather died July 3, and, sadly, I was deemed too pregnant to travel by my midwife and, therefore, missed the services. They were reported to be a good celebration of his life and family, however, replete with the food of my grandfather's western Pennsylvania heritage: rigatoni, halupki, and ham sandwiches.

In May, Chris visited Chile and Argentina with his MBA class and came back aglow with the energy of new cultures and tastes. He plans for us to visit Argentina in next couple of years and is especially eager for me to taste his favorite calamari at a Buenos Aires Italian joint called Broccolini. Besides the Argentinean cuisine, which he particularly enjoyed, he was impressed by his ability to purchase a good bottle of Malbec and a liter of water for three American dollars. Cheers!

I'm now five short weeks from my due date—feeling very excited, large, unphotographable, and hungry. Chris is out of town for the evening, so I am enjoying one of my favorite single-girl meals, which includes a few pregnancy no-nos that I've chosen to ignore: Fromager d'Affinois double-cream brie; nitrate-free sopressata; chewy, fresh ciabatta; cantaloupe with black pepper; and heirloom tomato salad.

In the language of road-side stands across the country, enjoy the 'maters and 'lopes!



Northern born and bred, six years in the South has turned me into a full blown weather-wuss. Yes, I know it’s only the first week of March, but I cannot wait until warmth and spring—real spring not the kind that visits for a long weekend then heads to the beach when things get rough. During Pennsylvania’s long, dreary winters, the prospect of a possible snowstorm (and the sudden solace of stuck-at-home-ness) kept me anticipatory enough to achieve satisfaction. But, with nary a snowstorm in my Chattanooga history, Southern winter is reminiscent of the Oscars: lots of huff-and-puff, little payoff.

I was quite happy then, last evening, to find a means to pull a bit of sunny shine into early-March: homemade pesto and heirloom tomatoes. The pesto I had made and frozen in ¼ cup pesto-pucks. The heirloom tomatoes, I’d canned. It seemed like something I should have realized mid-November, for what is better than pesto and heirlooms? But, by the grace of the gastronomic gods, I didn’t realized the pairing until I absolutely needed them: low-thirties, the teasings of a cold, and nearly a month until April showers and what follows.

As Chris and I eat a quick lunch at home at least four workdays a week, things get tedious. Tacos: ground beef, chorizo and eggs, shredded chicken mole’. Soup, soup, and more soup. Paninis, my en vogue name for less-than-glamorous deli meat and cheese pressed in toasted bread. But this little glimmer of summer cheered my morning with expectation and my afternoon with sunny contentment. Three lunches in under 30 minutes and a little culinary “save the date,” sunnier days to come.
Simple, Unseasonal Pesto Lunch Pasta
(In true-to-summer form, you can even eat it cold.)

1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
1 T olive oil
1 lb. chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
10 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 pint tomatoes, drained and diced if necessary
5 oz. frozen spinach, drained
¾ cup pesto

· Boil spaghetti to al dente as directed on package. Set aside.
· To a large sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil, then, after oil has a minute to warm, chicken.
· Salt and pepper chicken, though not too heavily. You can taste and adjust seasonings later.
· When chicken is fully cooked, remove from pan, reduce heat to medium-low, and add mushrooms.
· After five minutes, add tomatoes and spinach.
· Sauté an additional five minutes then add pesto, chicken, and pasta.
· Toss and turn everything into a lovely amalgam.
· Taste and adjust seasonings.
· Stow away for bright lunches on wintry afternoons.



There is an excuse for the long period of silence herein—a couple explanations really, and good ones.

To start, there was an entirely-too-soon laptop death. I needn’t go into details, really. The fault was mine, but there was, of course, a period of denial, followed by a period of anger, followed by one of mourning in which I could not think of writing upon any tool other than my poor, dead portable. In retrospect, I can only say that never should a laptop be placed upon a cedar chest covered with a quilt—even if only for a few moments, to burn a Lyle Lovett CD for instance, as one may start to enjoy the company of one’s friends and family and return to find the laptop frizzled to pure uselessness.

Last Friday, however, my new laptop arrived, chocolate brown and quick and memory-rich, signaling a rebirth of independent computing, communicating, and, yes, blogging. Goodbye, office chair and bulky desktop. Hello, world.

But there is more birth in this than the computer. For the last three months have signaled a distinctly strange season of consumption in which my favorite foods consisted of canned pineapple and cheese ‘n crackers. Yep, Chris and I are expecting. And, though we are deeply excited, it has not been a period of fine dining and gustatory discovery. Chocolate milk and grilled cheese, awesome. Double-calcium banana smoothies, yum. Filetto Sopresso; quiche; lamb burgers: no thanks.

Happily, however, first trimester behind me, my appetite for "finer” things is creeping back. Yes, hot fudge sundaes covered in oreos still call nightly (I refuse, of course, most of the time), and Clausen pickles remain one of my favorites, but I’m regaining some degree of normalcy—a brief respite, I suppose, until August.

Chris and I took these pictures in Pittsburgh’s Strip District over the holidays. Our time in the Strip signaled the first moments when I actually considered that I might be pregnant. The sight of Chris’s cappicola sandwich was terribly disturbing to me, though I knew I should be delighted at the sheer indulgence of it. The Strip District is food-lover's perfection—raw and wild and expansive. Enjoy!
Cappicola & Egg at Primanti Bros.

Delicious Baccala (Salt Cod) at Wholey's

Wholey's Oysters

Biscotti's at Biscotti Brothers

Fresh, Homemade Tofu at Lotus Food Market



I am pleased to say that I am not the only individual so driven by the craving for leftovers that they cooked a second Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, I spoke to quite a few serial-seconds yesterday at market. It’s a natural inclination, I think, for those of us who spend the Thanksgiving away from home. The bustle of the big day (in our case, ten adults and eleven kids) leaves little time for the sort of slow enjoyment that comes from snatching finger-fulls of stuffing from the fridge late evenings and eating it cold in the dark quiet of the kitchen.

Second-Thanksgiving also provides the opportunity to focus on favorites. No rutabaga or sweet potatoes for us. Instead, I made our two family dressings (a French-Canadian meat stuffing of pork, beef, and potato and a simple, buttery bread stuffing); braised cabbage with bacon and veal stock; homemade apple sauce with honey and vanilla; and butterscotch pudding topped with salty pecans. At my preference, we drank red wine, rather than the appropriate white, and fed a few bits of extra meat to the dogs. After a cold, grey day at market, second-Thanksgiving was wholly soothing experience.

And on the subject of market, next weekend marks the final Chattanooga Market of the 2008 season. Though I’ve now celebrated five market-season finales, this year, for a number of reasons, I’m balancing a measure of relief (free Sundays!) and sadness. To start, our good friends Susanna and Joe moved to Bozeman, Montana this week. Susanna was a constant help at the market with her happy, knows-no-stranger outlook, and Joe was actually an inspiration of sorts for conception of Alchemy, having farmed and marketed under the pseudonym “Tomato Joe” for at time. In addition to that, the current economy creates a constant supply of what-ifs for small businesses. Some vendors may return next season; some may not. Needless to say, all of us are hoping for a strong, celebratory conclusion to the year, replete with spirited buying and locally-inspired gifting. If you’re in the Chattanooga area, grab your gift list and head over. If you’re not, find some artisan outlets in your town and give them your holiday dollars.

In closing, the final weeks of market produce came down to apples and popping corn. Pictured above is Rainbow Farm’s lovely, purple popping corn which rises to tasty fluff in a bit of sizzling olive oil. In these difficult times, if you must sit down with the Wall Street Journal or any news for that matter, I highly recommend that you have some fresh, hot popping corn alongside. It’s four ears for a buck, after all. And it really does offer some significant contentment when the final bowls of turkey soup have been slurped.



Think of this blog as your virtual Indian summer. Yes, I know, Pennsylvanians, you’re expecting six inches of the white stuff this evening, but let your mind roll back a few weeks to orchards, the apples within, autumnal leaves, and Christmas card photo ops aplenty.

Fall and winter are hiking season for Chris and me. Freed of my ophidiophobia (yeah for hibernation), not to mention Sunday market, we scour the surrounding counties afoot, bundled and tobogganed, a sack full of odd foods that qualify both as light (weight-wise) and filling (tummy-wise), and we intended to begin our season a few weeks ago at the Georgia commencement of the Appalachian Trail near Dahlonega.

But we were distracted. The first of many roadside apple stands offering fried pies, cider doughnuts, bushels of dozens of apple-ly shades, and*sigh*boiled peanuts was cause for a turn about. We bought a gallon of pulpy cider (the good, unfiltered sort with matter suspended at jug bottom), one of the doughnuts, one fried peach pie (who thought that they’d offer peach in autumn at an apple stand?); a half bushel of Pink Ladies; and a sack of their boiled peanuts.

Now, just to be clear: Chris and I adore boiled peanuts. It’s true, for years we resisted. All through grad school as our South Carolinian friend Joel raved of their goodness, we turned up our noses. To be fair, the canned versions lurking in the canned vegetable aisle—and the only kind Chris and I had tasted—are poor representatives, leaning more on their legume heritage than their nutty nature. But good boiled peanuts are a unique experience, as authentically snacky as potato chips but paired with the feel-good warmth of a shot of whisky. And then there’s the shelling: sucking the spicy juice from them, tossing them on the ground or out the window—an inherent dose of relaxation in the whole process, like pinching Royal Reds from their tails at a beach bar.

(the peanut boiler at Reece Apple House where we bought our second bag)