Harvest and Honey

An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.


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summer melon soup & sunrise toast

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Processed with VSCO with a2 preset

Summer. It’s dog days aren’t quite upon us here just yet, but you can sense their impending arrival. The low, lazy hum of the bugs outside my bedroom window creates the score each morning now, making room for additional bandmates … the lawnmowers, ice cream trucks, and the ch-ch-ch-ch of the neighborhood sprinklers. Those are the sounds of summer these days, kicked off every morning by those relentless bugs. Their chanting, screeching vibrato just reeks of hot, humid midwestern summer days. “Cold days are quiet. Hot days are LOUD!” Elle mentioned the other afternoon, licking the sticky orange juice that dripped down her arm as she worked her way through a popsicle. Passion fruit, I think it was. “That makes this an extra fancy one,” I informed her.

It begins right after the sun has comfortably situated itself up in the sky, that sound to which I refer – the call of the katydid – and it gets louder and louder as the morning minutes tick by. “Get out of bed sleepyhead!” It seems to say. Another summer day has begun. It feels like nature’s cheeky alarm clock, alerting us that the heat is on, that the humidity is here in all its glory, and that we’d better not forget the insect repellant today. It’s gonna be a scorcher …

The siren songs of summer. Lawn mowers! Cicadas! Sprinklers! Playing children! Weed Whackers! Ice cream trucks! Thunderstorms! Fireworks! Like a conductor, August tends to bring them all up to a full crescendo before the Fall months ease them back down to a dull roar … then a low hum … and then finally, winter’s cold blankets the world in silence for a few quiet months. Show’s over for a while. That’s the final act.

Just like the sights, smells and tastes of it all, a year can be pretty interesting if you pay attention to how it sounds.  Continue reading


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miss american pie

We spent last week at Lake Michigan, doing and not doing the things you do and don’t do when on a proper vacation. We skipped rocks and hunted for beach glass. We played games and drank beer. We saw lots of family and ate loads of food – the classic summery vacation types of foods that one comes to expect on these sorts of occasions. There were bratwursts simmered in really good beer and then grilled to charred, snap-crackling perfection. There were succulent and juicy Italian beef sandwiches with spicy roasted peppers that just might make a beef-eater out of me yet. There was taco night. There was pizza night – from a local pizzeria … called “Villa Novas” I think. I made a big jalapeño and pistachio pesto pasta salad with fresh grilled corn, strawberries, avocado, and pistachio-crusted goat cheese fritters that will make its way here to the blog in the near future. And then there was the fruit.

Michigan is appreciated as a cherry and berry-picking haven and I visited with every intention of sampling their goods as much as I could. We ate tons of blueberries and strawberries throughout our weeklong stay, but it wasn’t until our drive home that we procured some cherries, much to my fruit-loving daughter’s delight. I think I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the tedium associated with pitting a bunch of cherries, so I tend to steer clear. But my Aunt Pam casually mentioned that she just smashes her cherries with her palm, pops the pits out and then proceeds right along with life. Huh. That was one of those “now why didn’t I think of that?!?” moments.

Our time in Michigan also brought about my first actual taste of strawberry rhubarb pie. I know, I know. I sort of can’t believe that I’d never tried it prior to that first slice last week, but I think I just assumed I wouldn’t like rhubarb. Growing up in Virginia, I had a friend who loathed the stuff and I must have absorbed some of her negativity along the way. And so. I took a casual, somewhat messy, over-sized, spur-of-the-moment bite of a gorgeous strawberry rhubarb crumble pie last week and was instantly and forever changed. I knew immediately it was going to trump the ranks and become my favorite pie, and that 33 years of lost pie time needed to be made up for. That’s a long time to go without knowing your favorite version of something … a long while to wait for a true love, be it pie or otherwise.  Continue reading


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chasing summer

Photo cred: Krauter Photography

Sitting in the way way back of their old, clunky station wagon, I watched the world go by. The best was when we’d come to a stop at an intersection with an extra long light. Green … then yellow … then red. Red lights, I’d come to understand, made for some of the best world-watching around. 

I waved at the people riding in the cars behind us and found nothing particularly awkward about it … I’d just keep right on smiling and waving until the light changed again. I’d watch families cross the street together, dressed in their Sunday best and holding hands as they scurried down the road toward church. You could hear the church bells even above the car’s radio – another perk of being in the way way back. I loved their happy sound … it always seemed like someone had just gotten married. I’d see couples arguing and couples laughing, people watering their gardens and watching cartoons inside their living rooms, dogs being walked and kids learning how to ride their bikes. You could see it all from back there, the whole world. 

One day, just as the car was taking off again (the light having turned green once more), I caught glimpse of a large amber-colored jar of something perched on a front porch stoop. It looked funny sitting there all by itself.

“Wait! No, hold on! What’s in that jar there on those people’s porch?” I asked.

“Oh that? That’s just some sun tea. Continue reading


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the liquid generation

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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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the rule of four, and a summer tian with chermoula

When you’re younger, and your brain is busying itself with all of the learning and absorbing and soaking up of life’s information, somewhere along the line, people will inevitably tell you exactly how you’re supposed to eat in order to live your best life. You will be shown a towering pyramid of food, a pie (chart) of dietary percentages, statistics justifying all of the rules and myriad food-related edicts … and you might even be given a fun rhyming song to sing that espouses the tenants of a healthy, balanced diet.

At the ripe age of 11, on one nearly forgettable, almost ordinary school day, I clearly recall sitting in health class beside a “well-balanced” plate of plastic food and a very enthused teacher who was pretending to eat it. Things get a little awkward when a sizable gathering of prepubescent boys and girls stares in collective wonder at the grownup who is moaning with delight over how delicious her fake apple is. “Mmmm hmmm!” She then began to sing about the rule of three. “A veggie, a protein and a serving of grains is how to best nourish your growing brains!”

Mmmm hmmm. Perhaps there are better ways to get us to eat right? Aren’t we a little old for this? I thought to myself, feet scuffling uncomfortably across the floor.

I remember sitting at my small, faux wooden school desk, just counting down the minutes until health class ended so I could go each actual food with my friends at lunch. I remember wondering how old those plasticine pieces of fruit and vegetables were and how long they’d been teaching dietary education that way. Wait, did she just lick that fake corn cob?! But to be fair, I also recall feeling a particular fondness for the plastic purple grapes and thinking that they actually did look sort of delicious.

I’ve come a long way since my days at that little wooden desk with those pretend fruits and veggies, and I’d like to think that I am capable of both creating a balanced meal AND encouraging people to eat it without having to rely on any gimmicks. My go-to tactic for creating a special, enticing meal – no matter what type of food is being served – is something called: The Rule of Four.

It is not pretend. It is not a drill. And there is no singing involved.  Continue reading


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last meal on earth

The Red Earth Burger (marinated veggie burger)Homemade sesame seed bunsThe Red Earth Burger (marinated veggie burger)The Red Earth Burger (marinated beet burger)

It is, to me, a decidedly bizarre question: What would your last meal on earth be?

When we could so easily say, “What is your dream meal?” or “What is the absolute best meal you can possibly imagine?” we instead, bring death into the equation. Kind of like when people say, “I swear on my kids’ LIVES.” or “I love you to DEATH.” or “I would KILL for this, that and the other.”

It’s a strange thing we do.

In its figurative sense, the question is meant as fun – it carries a playfully dramatic tone and is designed to drive us right to the point of BEST. MEAL. EVER. I get it. But I’ve been pondering it a lot lately in the literal sense, saddest of truths be told, because someone I know is set to be asked that very question in less than two months. For real. At least I think he is, if it really is a thing. Regardless though, my heart is broken for him and his family, and for everyone who was involved in the gruesome chain of events that led to this current reality, the details of which are unnecessary at this point. That chain of events, though, has led to a sentence of death. It’s nearly unfathomable to me that someone I know – someone I grew up with –  is facing this truth in his life. I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently … the families involved, the friends, the victims, the people who decided his fate, and what he could possibly be thinking. A mind gets to reeling when thoughts wander down a scary road like that. But mostly, I just can’t stop thinking about all of the lasts.

last conversation. last book. last hello. last goodbye. last good dream, daydream and very bad dream. last joke told. last joke laughed at. last best day. last worst day. last sunrise, sunset, and snowstorm. last adventure. last friend. last pet. last great movie. last song. last meal.

last breath. 

The Red Earth Burger (marinated veggie burger)

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laughs in wildflowers

Edible flower inspiration

Edible flower inspirationPesto Gnocchi with Basil Blossoms

I remember reading a quote once, from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“The earth laughs in wildflowers.”

What a picture those few words imprinted on my mind. I imagined a watercolor painting; the moment when a paintbrush touches down, bleeding its contents slowly and haphazardly onto the paper, each fiber coming alive with color. I thought of endless rolling fields, blank like a canvas, grateful to be the recipients of such beauty. Wildflowers exploding across the landscape … giving the most colorful show and perfuming the world with their incomparable smell, and their magic. This is the earth sharing its happiness.

“A flower blossoms for its own joy.” Oscar Wilde

A nice thought by all accounts, and one I shared with Elle recently while she helped me pull weeds and poke around in our backyard. She completely delights in all things that come from the earth – the animals, the humans, the air, the wind, the rain, the puddles, the bugs, and the flowers. Always the flowers.

On this particular day, we spent the afternoon talking about them, picking them, and making things out of them. The lilac bushes out front had burst wide open and their lavender-pink blossoms were ripe for the picking. “We’ll put those in some sugar and use it to decorate a few sweet treats,” I told her. The very thought of sweet floral sugar had widened her eyes and piqued her interest almost enough to lead her astray from the bunch of “flowers” she’d been working on.

“Before we go inside, why don’t you finish that crown you’re making, hmm?” She nodded and her little fingers began working the dandelion stems again, an effort to weave them together into a lovely golden crown.

I felt the first few drops of rain then, signaling that yet another spring storm would be rolling through any minute, further inspiring us to abandon our dandelion crown weaving station for the day. Elle covered her crown-in-progess with a large bucket for safekeeping and ran inside. I heard her shoes thump against the wall as she kicked them off … her feet pounding excitedly up the stairs and into the kitchen, where she waited for me to show her how to make lilac sugar.

Making my way to the house, I gathered up some loose toys to protect them from the impending downfall – our third in as many days. Sigh. It was hard, though, not to appreciate the very obvious and apparent presence of spring. Once inside, we made our extra special lilac sugar and used it to coat some doughnuts that I fried up out of some buttermilk biscuit dough I had in the fridge. They cooled on a plate by the window as the rains began to fall.

The afternoon storm filled the air with the smell of spring rain and wet pavement; flirting, beckoning us out to the front porch for a front-row seat. The neighbors had just cut their grass, and few smells can top that, if you ask me. You wait out the cold months for it to come back again. The dark skies cast a dramatic backdrop for the delicate pink petals that decorate all of the trees. Spring and its many charms. We enjoyed the remainder of our doughnuts right there on the porch.  Continue reading