Harvest + Honey

An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.


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a cake walk to remember

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Let me see you do the ragtime dance,

turn left and do the cakewalk prance,

turn the other way and do the slow drag

Now take your lady to the World’s Fair,

and do the ragtime dance. – Scott Joplin

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“Mom! Mom! I want to do the cake walk. Look, I can win a whole entire cake all for myself!”

To a child, the prospect of being victorious at a cakewalk is not unlike the idea of purchasing a winning lottery ticket. You even begin to imagine what you’d do with your winnings: I can eat cake for breakfast! Or, I could eat all of the frosting first. Or! I could share a piece with all of my best dolls. Or not.

I absolutely LOVED the idea behind a carnival cakewalk when I was a kid. This is mostly due to the strong affinity for cake with which I was clearly born. You should’ve seen the dessert table at my wedding. Cake for days and days …. Anyway, my introduction to the cake walk concept fell on a Fall evening sometime in the early nineties, at a carnival-inspired fundraiser at my elementary school. All of the usual festival suspects were present and accounted for at this event. There was a dunk tank (dunk the principal!). There was a “bob for apples” station (gross!). There was face painting. I loved the face painting. Who doesn’t like face painting? But as soon as the cakewalk made my acquaintance, it was like the lights in the rest of that gymnasium darkened, with only a single, shining spotlight beaming right down on that circle of decorated cakes. Why would one waste his or her time bobbing for apples when you can win an entire cake? The question baffled me. That Fall festival cake walk even managed to momentarily divert my attention away from the boy on whom I had a major crush at the time – a feat that is absolutely worth noting. Behold the power of a pretty cake. Or rather, 20 pretty cakes. A cake of which you’ve officially been declared the winner tastes just a little bit sweeter, a little more special.

Today, I am still an active participant in cake walk-ery. Although, my walks have taken on a completely different form; no more merrily going round the cake-rimmed circle, starting and stopping per the music’s cues. No, these days when I want cake, I walk into the kitchen and make it myself, thank you very much. No need for the whole cakewalk rigamarole. It’s like an unnecessary middleman. The day I learned this was the day my life changed forever.

“Wait a minute! I can just ask my Mom if she’ll get the ingredients for me at the store and then read the directions in one of her cookbooks, and MAKE THE CAKE MYSELF.”

Eureeka. And thus, a lifelong love affair with cake baking was born. However, my cake eating is not so conspicuous these days. I often have to sneak my bites in the kitchen when no one else is looking. By no one else, I’m mostly referring to my daughter. If she even detects the slightest hint of a sweet treat in her near vicinity, she will beg mercilessly until I cave and then we’re both left with frosting in the cracks of our mouths and crumbs on our shirts. This is completely fine, on occasion, but stuffing my child with sweets isn’t something I do too often, what with the sugar causing her already highly energetic self to veritably blast off. Yes, when it comes to my typical cake intake, you will often find me walking – ever so quietly – into the kitchen to sneak a covert bite of whatever cake-like confection has taken up residence on my counter. I would say that there is a cake of some sort perched atop my counter a good 85% of the time. You only live once, people. Why not do it with cake on your counter? Yes, there’s a good chance that this is how I will be remembered: the girl who always had cake.

I’m comfortable with that. Continue reading


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spaghetti alla carbonara with crispy pork belly

IMG_5955FullSizeRender-9FullSizeRender-10IMG_5939Janet Jackson.

Paula Abdul.

Madonna.

This group of ladies is what comes to mind when I think about 1989. At the ripe old age of six, they were my life, my love and my obsession. I spent countless hours in our second-story Louisville, KY apartment, just dancing my little heart out in front of the adoring crowd of imaginary friends that populated my bedroom.

Rhythm Nation. Vogue. Straight Up. These eighties ladies’ anthems blasted from my small black tape player round the clock, usually only stopping long enough for me to rewind them. That was such a pain, wasn’t it? The whole cassette tape rewinding hassle? I could hardly wait for that utterly satisfying snap! as the rewind button shot back up from its pressed position, signaling that yes, yes it is time to press play now. Madonna is ready for you. Commence voguing at once.

“Hurry up! Hurrrr-eeeeee up!” I’d shout at the little boom box, eager to begin the whole listening/dancing/hairbrush microphoning festivities all over again. If you need me to describe my attire to get a full mental image of what was going on in that little bedroom of mine, I’m happy to oblige: crimped hair, side ponytail, acid wash shorts, neon, neon, neon.

The family that lived in the apartment right below us regularly complained about my dancing, the loud thumping and thudding posing a major threat to their attempt to lead a relatively peaceful existence. My poor, sweet parents. So tolerant and supportive of my need to dance and shake my groove thing at such an early age. You can’t cage that stuff in. They graciously accepted this, and today I thank them for it. Continue reading


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matcha horchata and a few signs of spring

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Somewhere near Slidell, Louisiana, not far from the shores of nearby Lake Ponchartrain, there is a small gas station with a rundown, rickety old shack attached. Looking like little more than a clapboard outhouse from a bygone era, this diminuitive shack is actually more than meets the eye. Or, it WAS more than meets the eye. I haven’t actually laid eyes on it since the summer of 2003 during a road trip through the Deep South with my Mother, cousin Rachel and Auntie Em (yes I have one, just like Dorothy!). Like so many roadside establishments throughout Mississippi and Louisiana, this little shack claimed to offer some of the “tastiest, freshest and most authentic hot tamales that you’ll find anywhere.” Or, something like that. On a trip that was largely dedicated to eating lots and lots of great Southern and Delta-derived foods, it was these little unassuming tamale shacks that seemed to have most piqued my interest. Decidedly un-Southern in its offerings, this one shack in particular offered a few things that I remember due to their bizarre and seemingly unrelated nature: tamales, French fries, beignets, chicory coffee, and horchata. Proudly advertised on the chalkboard bi-fold menu that was tee-pee’d below the shack’s small service window, this motley crew of menu items hit me as peculiar. That’s why I remember them, I suppose. Continue reading


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street meet (a shredded beef flatbread sandwich and my brush with radiohead)

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Street Meet11Shredded Soy-Braised Beef Sandwiches on Homemade Flatbread

I handed the man my five quid and practically drooling on myself, hungrily grabbed the hot kabab that he handed down to me from his truck’s window. Strategically positioned to receive the ravenous pub goers upon their mass exodus from the neighborhood’s watering holes, this food truck was a popular haunt for my flat mates and me, and I wouldn’t even want to know how many of those garlicky, meaty wonders we consumed that term. Continue reading


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curds + whey

Curds2Pink Grapefruit CurdCitrus Curd, Pound Cake and Ricotta Jars

“Read it again, Mama! Read it again!”

“Alright, alright. One more time, and that’s it! No more times after this one Elle. It’s time for you to go to sleep!

“That’s right Mama. Okay, okay read it please!”

I clear my throat and don my best storytelling persona.

 

“Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet

eating her curds and whey.

Along came a spider, who sat down beside her

And frightened Miss Muffet away.”

 

“Again! Again! Let’s read it again!”

 “Okay, Elle. But this is the LAST time. I mean it …” Continue reading


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ernest hemingway and my fairly traded spanish tortilla

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The year was 1954. The country, Spain. In a quaint, unassuming bar that was caught somewhere between Madrid and Burgos, two imbibing Englishmen were enjoying some libations when one of them said to the other, “You know, this is Hemingway country. Wouldn’t it be a scream if Papa Hemingway was in here having a drink?” As luck and a lovely dose of fate would have it, “Papa” Hemingway was in that very drinking establishment and, highly amused by the situation I’m sure, he moseyed over to the two men and casually asked, “Gentlemen, what will it be?”picstitch-13 Continue reading


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icelandic blue lagoon cake

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Where would you go if you were given a trip anywhere in the world? Do you have a place, sitting right in the very front of your mind, that you have always pined over or lusted after? Or do you need a minute to really chew on the question? For me, it is the former. Or rather, it WAS the former I should say. If you had asked my 18-year-old self that very question, my perhaps not-so-conventional response would have unequivocally been, “The Blue Lagoon.” I’m referring here to the one in Iceland, not the gentleman’s club in Mississauga, Ontario (groans). Anyway, how do I know what my former teenage self would’ve said? Because as a celebration of my graduation from high school, I was gifted the most amazing thing anyone could ever hope to be given: a trip anywhere in the world I wanted to go. By land. By sea. By camel. Whatever means were necessary. Anything was fair game so long as the giver of this gift, my “fairy” godmother Sally, hadn’t been there herself. Seems fair, right? Continue reading

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