Harvest and Honey

An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.


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root vegetable & wild mushroom cobbler with a white cheddar & chive biscuit crust

Root Vegetable and Wild Mushroom Cobbler with a White Cheddar and Chive Biscuit CrustRoot Vegetable and Wild Mushroom Cobbler with a White Cheddar and Chive Biscuit Crust IMG_8209

I stood at my bedroom window, and gazed in wonder at the nighttime sky above. The sweet sound of summertime crickets and late evening breezes made a perfect backdrop to my imagining, and I think made things feel even more magical. I folded up the pieces of paper that I had stacked neatly in front on me, on my windowsill. One after another I let them fly; twirling and twisting … up a bit .. and then gracefully down to the ground below they went, these little airplanes of mine. This was going to work, I just knew it. Root Vegetable and Wild Mushroom Cobbler with a White Cheddar and Chive Biscuit CrustRoot Vegetable and Wild Mushroom Cobbler with a White Cheddar and Chive Biscuit Crust IMG_8232Root Vegetable and Wild Mushroom Cobbler with a White Cheddar and Chive Biscuit CrustRoot Vegetable and Wild Mushroom Cobbler with a White Cheddar and Chive Biscuit CrustIMG_8457

“Of all the delectable islands, the Neverland is the snuggest and most compact, not large and sprawly, you know, with tedious distances between one adventure and another, but nicely crammed. When you play at it by day with the chairs and tablecloth, it is not in the least alarming, but in the two minutes before you go to sleep it becomes very nearly real. That is why there are night-lights. ” J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

My favorite story, when I was a little girl, was the one about Peter Pan. The notion of a friendly, boy who could fly whisking his friends off to a land far away, past all the clouds and blue skies and stars was positively fascinating to me – the stuff my dreams were made of. Literally, I dreamed about this happening to me, never really sure if my dreams were real or, well, just dreams. Night after night, I would sit up in my bed with a start, checking out the window to see if anyone was there. Is that you, Peter? I could’ve sworn I saw his shadow … Hmmm maybe tomorrow night. I don’t really consider myself the jealous type, but my jealousy of Peter Pan’s Wendy was a fierce affliction with which I struggled on a regular basis. Battling pirates, swimming in a mermaid lagoon, running barefoot through the forest with Tiger Lilly, sleeping in the treetops with the lost boys … for the life of me, I couldn’t dream of a more perfectly perfect existence. Still can’t, come to think of it.

At one point in time, during the height of my love affair with Peter Pan, I wrote a letter in an attempt to contact him, in the hopes that maybe I could steer his attention from Wendy just once – to get him to come to MY bedroom window, and whisk me away to Neverland with him:

 

Dear Santa Claus,

Do you know God? If so, could you please tell him to send Peter Pan to my house?

Thank you.

Love, Lauren

 

Scrawled in red crayon on wide-ruled paper, it felt like a reasonable request. Or maybe it was a prayer, disguised as a casual request? Up for debate I suppose. Anyway, I was so certain my wish would be granted that I told my brother about it and we both did our very best to prepare for Mr. Pan’s impending arrival. We dressed for the occasion of course, my brother securing an old towel to his shoulders with two clothespins in an attempt to fashion the most noble of capes, and I took great care to select the perfect dress; one that was pretty enough to impress the lost boys, but also sensible enough to make the flight. If only I put this much thought into my wardrobe choices today.

We played music and danced and belted out every Disney song we knew, hollering the words out my second-story bedroom window, completely oblivious to any and all innocent bystanders outside. When bedtime finally rolled around, I said goodnight to my little brother and promised him that I would wake him up just as soon as Peter Pan arrived. Crossed my heart. Continue reading


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citrus & olive oil coffee cake with lavender-thyme glaze

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I found Elle this morning sitting by herself in the dining room, staring at a series of citrus fruits that she’d lined up on the table. Like spherical, neon-hued soldiers all lined up and ready for duty, Elle sat very calmly in front of them with her hands folded in her lap, just staring. Laundry basket in hand, I stood and watched her from behind a corner, not wanting to disrupt her from whatever it was that she was doing. I watched in curious anticipation, waiting to see what exactly was going to happen with those pieces of fruit.

“Elle?” I asked, having growing tired of balancing the laundry on my hip. “What are you doing? Do you want some fruit or something?”

“Sure don’t, Mom.”

Oh. Okay.

“Mommy?”

“Yes, Elle?”

“This fruit is very beautiful. Do you think it’s beautiful?

I told her that I did.

“I really like the colors. The grapefruit is my very most favorite.” 

I told her that I favored the lime, unable to hold back a smile. I watched her a little longer, as she sat there happily admiring her small collection of fruits, gazing at them appreciatively as if they were some prized trove of valuable treasures. I am always very grateful for the innocent, effortless ability of children to make you stop and appreciate the little things in life, the simple moments of beauty that might (probably would) pass you right on by otherwise. I need to do more of that in my daily life, as little Elle does; appreciating and seeking out the special in things … finding wonder in the everyday, uncovering the magic in the mundane.

She started smelling the fruits at this point, delighting in the bright, fresh scents offered up by their vibrant skins. “Mommy would you like to join me? I’m going to make a pie.”

I sat and joined her in her make believing, enjoying her enjoyment. The laundry, and the cleaning, and the emails, and the cooking … it could all wait. It should wait, in fact. Some things are just more important. Continue reading


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the liquid generation (and a chocolate stout float with homemade hazelnut coffee crunch ice cream)

Chocolate Stout Flout with No-Churn Hazelnut Coffee Crunch Ice Cream IMG_7498Chocolate Stout Flout with No-Churn Hazelnut Coffee Crunch Ice CreamChocolate Stout Flout with No-Churn Hazelnut Coffee Crunch Ice Cream

The hum of hungry, progressively caffeinated patrons. Chairs scooting around on floors. Partially used butter and jelly tubs strewn across tables. Syrupy smudged fingerprints from small, eager hands. The crack of an egg. The flip of a flapjack. The waiter or waitress paused, pad and pen at the ready, about to take the next order. 

“What’ll it be ma’am?”

“I’ll have the ginger-carrot-apple juice, with a boost of ginseng please. And also a coffee. Actually, I’ll do a decaf latte … I already had two cups before we got here.”

“Mmm hmm. And for you, sir?”

“I’ll just have a cup of black tea if you’ve got it. I think I’d also like to try your wheatgrass tonic and a large orange juice. And a coffee to go – black – but extra, extra hot. Can you do that? Like   s c r e a m i n g   hot?

“You got it. I’ll put those drink orders in for y’all and be back with your waters.”

 

Name your restaurant. Name your town. Name your decade, even. The weekend breakfast rush probably looks and feels and smells and sounds almost exactly the same, no matter where your map dot may be and no matter what year it might say on the calendar. That is, of course, with one glaring exception …

Continue reading


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chestnut & white chocolate babycakes

Chestnut and White Chocolate BabycakesChestnut and White Chocolate Babycakes Chestnut and White Chocolate Babycakes

I’ve never been any good at skipping stones. It’s a game requiring a special skill –  a knack – that I just don’t appear to possess; a flick of the wrist, an arm-angling swagger that, it would seem, has evaded me entirely … for going on 33 years now.

“The gravity-conquering grace of a well-thrown rock has inspired bomb makers, aircraft designers, and physicists – not to mention countless idle hands.” (discovermagazine.com)

No, I don’t have a knack for skipping stones.

Chestnut and White Chocolate BabycakesIMG_6883Chestnut and White Chocolate Babycakes

There was a pond not too far from my house when I was a kid. Down the hill and just around the bend in the road, I went there sometimes with a boy who lived in my neighborhood. We’d stand on the water’s edge, side by side, leaning over just far enough to see our reflections in the water. Trying his best to get a laugh out of me, he’d open his eyes real wide, pull the corners of his mouth to the sides as far as his two index fingers could manage, and stick his tongue out. Even though I tried my hardest to keep a straight face, it usually worked.

This boy would reach into the zipped pocket of his pants and retrieve the requisite bag of “pond snacks” that would serve as fuel during our skipping session. Arm outstretched, he’d always offer me first dibs of whatever goodies his Mom had sent him away with that day. Trail mix. Powdered doughnuts. Fruit roll-ups. Ritz crackers. Usual suspects so far as snacking is concerned, I would say. All funny business would cease, however, when it was time to start skippin’. Because, as you may or may not know, skipping stones is serious business. I learned this truth at that pond. Quiet and serious like two old men on a fishing boat hoping to get a bite, we’d stand there on the edge of that small, unassuming little pond and practice our skippin. I never really played with him outside of those stone skipping occasions, so that’s how I knew this boy, how I identified him: the stone skipper. He was so good at it too. I’d stare in amazed appreciation as he tossed his carefully chosen stones over the top of that water … like tiny geese skimming for fish, just dancing over the surface like gravity wasn’t a thing. Continue reading


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rosemary & parmesan garlic knots

Rosemary & Parmesan Garlic KnotsIMG_7267 Rosemary & Parmesan Garlic KnotsRosemary & Parmesan Garlic Knots

The summer I turned sixteen, I was fortunate enough to go on a trip to Europe with my mother, her sister (my Aunt Emma), and my cousin Rachel. It was two weeks that were filled to the brim with unforgettable first-time experiences for me. The first time I saw the Mediterranean, for example, in all its glistening azure glory. It gave me reason to believe that it must have inspired the vivid blueish-green “cerulean” color in the Crayola crayon box, my personal favorite as a child. So THAT’S where they came up with that color …

It was the first time I tasted alcohol, however minimal it may have been. Fluted glass in hand, I tried a Kir Royale while sitting on a street side cafe in Monaco and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that cool.

It was the first time I’d ever tried fondue, a uniquely enjoyable food experience that you don’t soon forget.

It was my first time seeing (and hearing) a herd of bell-wearing goats being ushered through the street by a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fair isle sweater-wearing Swiss boy. It was my first instant crush on a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fair isle-sweater wearing Swiss boy. First and last.

It was my first slice of real-deal Italian pizza … my first time petting a pigeon (ah, Venice) … my first time really wondering where in the world I was going to end up, what small corner(s) would be my one-day, someday homes. Continue reading


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double layer pavlova cake with marshmallow cream frosting

Double Layer Pavlova Cake with Marshmallow Cream FrostingDouble Layer Pavlova Cake with Marshmallow Cream FrostingDouble Layer Pavlova Cake with Marshmallow Cream Frosting Double Layer Pavlova Cake with Marshmallow Cream Frosting

Christmas memories come in many shapes, sizes, textures, and colors, don’t they? This, I would imagine, is probably true for most who have celebrated the holiday their whole lives. There are big, rough, awkward memories, like the time I fell off the stage at my elementary school’s Christmas pageant right as we began to sing, “Feliz Navidad.” There are delicate, soft-edged memories as well, like the way I marveled over how perfectly my Grandmother’s hands had managed to create such a beautiful Christmas dress for me … all from the pattern and material my mother and I chose at the local fabric store. The black velvet and red/green plaid bolts of fabric were so fancy to me, and it felt very special that someone would and could create something like that for me.

Some memories are darker, coarser, and more tricky to feel. Like the times I helped deliver food baskets to centers for families in need; an experience that was a crossroads of sorts, a juxtaposition between feeling excitement over all to which I looked forward during that season, and feeling a growing awareness of those who maybe didn’t get to share in that same feeling. Continue reading


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homemade bourbon vanilla extract & a tour of lexington ky’s distillery district

homemade bourbon vanilla extracthomemade bourbon vanilla extractsalty bourbon chocolate espresso bars homemade bourbon vanilla extractIMG_6834

The sour, unmistakable smell of fermenting whiskey filled my head as soon as I stepped inside the distilling room. There’s not another scent quite like that and I recognized it immediately, harkening back to a visit I made to the Woodford Reserve distillery several years ago. I listened attentively as our tour guide explained the bourbon distilling process, showing us the various bottles for purchase, and making friendly small talk with my Dad, who had accompanied me on my visit to the Town Branch Bourbon distillery in Lexington, KY. As I took my first sip of their single-barrel Kentucky bourbon whiskey, I will admit to the fact that I sort of tuned everything out for a second or two, surprised by how much I enjoyed the flavors contained in that small, unassuming plastic cup and its amber-colored liquid. I’ve had bourbon plenty of times before, but it has almost always been paired with something else, something to cut the intensity – that one-two punch it so often has when served neat. Ginger ale or ginger beer, Coke (Diet or otherwise), a healthy squeeze of lime, water, etc. So, I was genuinely caught off guard by how easily this was going down; this sip of small-batch, single-barrel bourbon I took while standing in the tasting room that day. I didn’t even have to feign composure or grapple with my facial expression, and that is really saying something (I am, you see, the opposite of cool).

“Would you like to try the rye as well?” Our tour guide asked.

Don’t mind if I do. Nope, don’t mind at all, I thought. I reached across the counter and happily retrieved my second plastic, bourbon-filled cup and tossed it back, perhaps a bit too swiftly this time … a little too enthusiastically given that it was not yet 10:30 in the morning.

Our guide smiled as I placed my cup back down on the counter. “You know the feeling you get deep down inside when you take that first sip of bourbon? The sort of slow, easy burn? That’s what we call a Kentucky hug.”  Continue reading

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