Harvest and Honey

An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.


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true north

They say love works in mysterious ways, and I know this to be true.

The love of my life woke me from my sleep last night. The alarm clock I usually keep next to my bed hasn’t been unpacked from our recent move, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it never will. So, I reached for my phone and squinted a little as its screen came to life. My husband stirred and rolled over in his sleep. The large glowing numbers read 3:25 AM and I sighed, quickly shutting it off. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and fumbled for the little brown notebook that I’ve taken to stashing under the mattress so my children’s little hands can’t find it. They find EVERYTHING. The moon last night was particularly bright, almost as if it was throwing me a bone in that otherwise tired and bumbling moment in which I’d found myself. Rubbing my eyes, I scribbled a few words inside the notebook, working with what little moonlight I could and hoping that I’d be able to make sense of it in the morning.

 

Compass directions. Exploration and discovery.

True north.

 

Satisfied, I got back in bed. I’d been laboring over the most deceptively simple question for the better part of a week and had begun to lose hope that I’d actually be able to find the right answer. A food blogger friend of mine, Valentina Solfrini (by way of equally friendly blogger Renee Byrd), challenged me recently to explain or at the very least, simply think about why I love food. Easy! I thought. This post will practically write itself. Right?

Wrong. In fact I’ll admit to never having had a tougher time composing a post here and I think that alone gives evidence to the significance of the question, at least for me. It’s a murky one, this question; its answer wholly unclear and far deeper than meets the eye. But I will try my best to answer it, as there is one thing I know for certain: I do love food. So far as non-human loves go, food is the greatest of them all – it is the love of my life.

I love it in the pure, unabashed, time-tested, born like this, wake-you-from-your-sleep (apparently) kind of way that definitely comprises a big part of who I am, and it always has … in one way or another. Professing that love is easy. I could do it Julie Andrews style from the top of the highest peak with a chorus of music playing all around me, the hills alive with the sound of it all. But trying to explain it – trying to sort out and define it – that’s another story entirely. How do you catch a cloud and pin it down, after all? So yes, the ways may be many – mysterious, strange, some obvious, some not – but there are plenty of them to go around, the ways in which my love for food works. Let me (see if I can) count them for you … Continue reading


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eye scream, use cream

The large, decades-old van lumbered to a stop in front of our driveway, its engine idling loudly … making it impossible not to hear it even from inside the house. I peered out at the time-worn vehicle from the small slit I’d created in the blinds on our front porch and watched as the man in the driver’s seat slowly turned the key backwards, bringing the noisy van to a lifeless state for a moment. The lettering on the side of the van was faded and peeling slightly; it was all matte gray and pink now but I’d imagined that it had probably been a shining blue and bright red during its hey day. “Good Humor, it read. I stood there trying to decide if the faded, worn-out look of the van was more charming –  in a vintage, peddler’s mall kind of way – or creepy, in the “always make sure to steer clear of big commercial vans, Lauren,” kind of way. I settled on the former.

“Who’s that, Mommy?” Elle asked.

“It’s the ice cream truck,” I replied, and then repeated myself to better emphasize that this was supposed to be a happy, positive thing. “It’s the ice cream truck!!!”

“Wowwww. Amazing! What does it do?” She stared in wide-eyed wonder at the ice cream truck that time had all but forgotten and at that moment, the music started playing and we made our way outside. A wonky, slightly distorted version of “Yankee Doodle” was playing and then it stopped suddenly, flatlining for a few quiet moments. We heard one loud, swift thump come from the inside of the van and then the music started up again. Louder this time; more sure of itself. Elle looked puzzled and delighted and happily anxious and rightfully so. A child’s first encounter with the neighborhood ice cream truck is a magical, memorable thing, even if the truck and its musical offerings aren’t in the most pristine of conditions. Bless its heart. Continue reading


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a summer to savor

Saveur {fr}:  

  1. to relish, to taste, to savor. 

 

I distinctly remember the first issue of Saveur magazine I ever received. It came in the mail sometime during the winter of 2010 – the subscription a gift from my “fairy” godmother – and I plucked it from the pile immediately, making my way to the couch on which I remained firmly planted until I’d fully digested each and every page. Little Women might very well be the only other thing I’ve done that with. I drank up that magazine’s contents from first page to last before it even had time to lose its new smell.

If you look to the right of this post, or maybe scroll to the very bottom of the page if you are reading this on your phone, you will see that I am a finalist in the 2016 Saveur Blog Awards in the category of “Best New Voice,” a fact around which I am still trying to wrap my head. To food bloggers, this is a wonderfully exciting honor and an incredible opportunity for our sites to grow and expand in myriad ways. If you click on it, the image will take you to a voting page where you can cast your vote(s) for bloggers around the world who have been selected as finalists in a variety of categories, chosen by the editors of Saveur magazine. Me and five other wonderfully talented bloggers are in the running for the award that goes to “the best new food blog of 2015 and 2016,” (there will be a reader’s choice winner and an editor’s choice winner), and if you have a minute, I’d very much appreciate your vote! Also, if you nominated Harvest and Honey during the nomination phase last month, then I am so, so very grateful. Thank you! My little blog has been slowly but steadily growing over the past (almost) two years and to be selected as a finalist is beyond amazing to me. Cheezy and canned as it may sound, I sort of feel like I’ve already won.

And so, I will fly to New York City late next month – Brooklyn to be exact – and join all of the other finalists, people whose work I have admired for years coming from all over the world to celebrate together. To say I’m excited is an understatement and, win or lose, you can be sure that I will report back here with stories and the full lowdown on the event.

I feel like a kid at Christmas. Continue reading


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soda jerk

Fresh Grapefruit, Blackberry & Vanilla Bean Sodaimage4(7)image3(8)Fresh Grapefruit, Blackberry & Vanilla Bean Soda

I muttered my lame excuse over and over again in my head. I supposed it was more believable and certainly more original than the age-old, “my dog ate my homework” bit. It was Friday. The school day had ended with bells on, ringing throughout the building … letting us know that yet another day had drawn to a close. The hallways were emptying at the typical fever-pitched speed, as hoards of teenagers filed out of the building and into the awaiting weekend. Not me though. No, at that exact moment to which I refer here – on that sunny, Fall Friday afternoon – I was standing awkwardly in the doorway of my high school History classroom, nervous and panicky, my sweaty hands gripping the pitiful remains of what was supposed to be my big term paper – of what HAD been my big term paper, prior to the unfortunate incident in the cafeteria that afternoon.

Oh hi, Lauren! Come on in. Got a paper for me? You can just put it there on the edge of my desk …

Oh, I like you. I thought to myself. You’re nice. Please have mercy on me. He was one of the nicest teachers I’d ever had, actually. With oversized glasses and an impressive collection of sweater vests, I’d been amused by the way he tapped his knuckles on the blackboard when he was really enthused about a particular bit of information that he was sharing with us, me and the rest of my 2nd period classmates. The tapping would start slow and then build up to a veritable frenzy by the time he’d finished explaining whatever it was, and it was both endearing and distracting all at the same time. I looked down at the grayed and somewhat sticky pile of stapled papers I was holding, and instinctively loosened my grip so as to not crumple or crease the edges. Silly me, I thought. The papers had already met their unfortunate and premature demise when I’d clumsily knocked over a can of Coke right on top of them in the lunchroom that day. Soaking right though all 10 pages, the soda had caused the ink to run, fade and smear all over the place, rendering the whole thing useless. It looked more like a Rorschach test than a paper on the Franco-Prussian War.

When I was in high school, we couldn’t just magically beam our files up into the cloud, sending them to anyone anywhere in the world in an instant … free of staples and paper waste. I’m not saying the internet didn’t exist yet – I’m not that old – but no one did those kinds of things yet. You typed up a hard copy of your work and turned it in, live and in living color … right on the edge of your teacher’s desks.

Unless, of course, you spilled an entire can of soda on them. Then things got a little more interesting. Continue reading


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london fog

Chocolate London Fog Cupcakes with Honeyed ButtercreamChocolate London Fog Cupcakes with Honeyed ButtercreamChocolate London Fog Cupcakes with Honeyed ButtercreamChocolate London Fog Cupcakes with Honeyed Buttercream

It was foggy the day I left for London. A thick blanket of low-hanging clouds swallowed the Blue Ridge mountains that surround my small Appalachian hometown that day and I couldn’t decide if it was a good omen for my travels ahead, or a foreboding sign of impending doom. I went with the former, seeing as how I’ve always fallen more on the optimistic end of the attitude spectrum. Tired from a long red-eye flight, I wiped the sleep from my eyes and stepped outside Heathrow airport, my bags heavy with an overabundance of unnecessary belongings … my heart heavy with the first inklings of homesickness. The fog, I’d noticed, had followed me all the way to London, and I was having trouble seeing anything thanks to the dark, cool mist that had settled in all around me in the early hours of that first morning in England. Continue reading


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barfly

Homemade Moonshine Hot SauceSpicy Roasted Chicken with Boozy Hot Sauce

“Poor old fool,” thought the well-dressed gentleman as he watched an old man fish in a puddle outside a pub. So he invited the old man inside for a drink. As they sipped their whiskeys, the gentleman thought he’d humor the old man and asked, “how many have you caught today?”

The old man replied, “You’re the eighth.” – from A Prairie Home Companion

Homemade Moonshine Hot Sauce

“They call ’em the flyover states because no one wants to spend any time in ’em, you see, they’re just for driving through and flying right on over, you know?” He motioned with his hand in mock airplane fashion, making a whoosh! sound as it passed in front of my face. I do the same thing to my son when I’m trying to get him to eat something. Open wide! Here comes the airplane … 

I was perched at a relatively empty old bar in DC, waiting for a friend to join me and trying my best to appear intentional in my lonesomeness. The man sitting catty-corner from me, just across the worn corner of the old wooden bar, had scooted his bowl of half-eaten peanuts to me as he carried on about the merits of coastal city living, wondering why anyone would want to live in the so called “flyover states.” Originally from Oklahoma, he’d moved to DC two decades ago, raised two kids and didn’t give two flying leaps about the fact that he’d left his home in the literal dust. Where’d you say you were from again? He’d asked me, swirling his whiskey around in its glass and circling back to the question that had kickstarted the conversation in the first place.

Indiana.

Oh, right. Sorry. Continue reading


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strawberry & rose meringues

Strawberry and Rose MeringuesIMG_1595Strawberry and Rose Meringues Strawberry and Rose MeringuesIMG_1624

I didn’t even really like strawberries before that day. But, there they were on the table right in front of me, sitting ever so fetchingly in a small plastic Tupperware container practically begging to be eaten. Alright fine, I thought. I’ll try you. Before I knew it, I’d eaten the entire container and was busy checking its corners for any remaining juice and/or bits that may have escaped me. I’m not sure, as I sit here now, whose container that actually was. But they were so good, those strawberries. Too good, really. Why were they so delicious? Have I been missing out all this time? I sat there in my chair, fidgeting, with my folded arms resting under me on the table as I perched over the now empty and bone-dry container, pondering the mysteries of these especially sweet strawberries. Mixed with the ever-present smell of chlorine and SPF 30 sunscreen, these berries solidified the season for me that day – it was officially summer.

I sat back in the chair and checked my reflection in the window across from me, making sure my hair looked okay. My legs were now tucked underneath the oversized t-shirt that I used as a cover-up, stretching out the neckline and giving my Mom good cause to scold me for it. Lauren! Your shirt! You’ll ruin it! Oops. Forgot. Sorry! I stared down at the sparkling blue swimming pool that I knew so well and shaded my eyes from the nearly blinding sun that danced over its surface that day – that perfectly bright blue summer day. I remember feeling nervous excitement as I removed the giant, slightly stretched-out shirt and made my way down to the pool in my navy blue swim suit, ready for my close-up. I was going to be on the news – on TV! For my swimming! The awesomeness of that notion didn’t escape me, and I wondered how many of my friends would see it, how many people in my town … in the world even!

You’re special. They said.

You’re amazing. They told me.

One of a kind. 

“Richmond, KY native Lauren Angelucci was born without her left hand and doesn’t let that slow her down! Something about making my own waves … something about winning blue medals despite this and that …”

I don’t really remember the newscast at all; don’t remember much of what they said (the interviewers) or what I said (the interviewee). I’ve mostly just held onto a few scattered soundbites. I really didn’t see what all of the fuss was about or why I was getting any attention. I didn’t feel like I was any different from anyone else. I was just me. I did really like to swim though, and I was pretty good at it … even compared to “all of the other kids.” I thought getting to do it on TV would be pretty amazing – wasn’t going to pass that up, no way. This could be my big break! I daydreamed. Maybe I’ll get to be a movie star after all! Never know who might be watching.

And I also liked strawberries – I learned this truth about myself that day and it’s the one aspect of the whole experience that I can recall very clearly. Just before the little red light on the camera came on and the man started asking me questions, I remember wiping my chin to make sure there wasn’t any juice leftover. That would be the last thing I needed on this most special of days.

No, I’d never seen a movie star with strawberry juice on their chin.  Continue reading