miss edna lewis

edna lewis

I always cry when I run across Edna Lewis. I don’t know why, exactly. She just moves me. Her authentic southern style cooking was down home, honest, from the heart and from the hip. Born and raised in Freetown, Virginia, she shared her culinary roots with such grace, pride and elegance.

I first encountered her some 6 months ago when I came across one of her cookbooks The Taste of Country Cooking. Its cover features the very same photo you see above. Her quietly commanding portrait stopped me in my tracks; clearly a regal and gracious woman. Her relationship to food was so richly connected to the cultural history it continues to represent. Miss Lewis died February 13, 2006.

Click here, to view 'Fried Chicken & Sweet Potato Pie'.



jamie oliver

Normally, I am not someone who is interested in hearing about other peoples dreams (the sleeping kind), nor in sharing my own. But last night I dreamed that Jamie Oliver gave me the most brilliant hand massage I've ever had. Lets just leave it at that.


design sponge rocks my world

Design Sponge

Photo by artist Camilla Engman.

Design Sponge is a design site written by (prolific) Brooklyn-based writer, Grace Bonney. It’s pretty and hip. And it’s pretty hip. It’s one of those sites you can check in on daily, consistently getting lost in its quality and its quantity; a zippy wealth of inspiration.

If ever forced, I would be hard pressed to chose between my love of artful design and culinary expression. So last week I was thrilled to learn that d*s has added a new weekly column titled ‘In the kitchen with…..’. Every Friday features a different artist and their chosen recipe, artfully presented through their own photos or drawings. Brilliant idea! It’s like…..chocolate and peanut butter! Not only is it a chance to check out inspiring looking recipes, it's also a chance to discover artists and their work. Camilla Engman (week 1) and Julia Rothman (week 2) are both incredibly accomplished talents I might otherwise not have heard about.


oven roasted tomatoes

I grew up cooking. It’s just something I’ve always done and my parents never seemed to stand in my way. In the early days my younger sister, Lauri, usually kept her distance from culinary activity, only venturing into our family kitchen to make two things; vegetarian chili and hot dogs (the kind with pigs lips, ears, tails, hooves, anuses etc......what? Charcuterie is totally hot right now!).

She moved to San Francisco some twelve years ago, specifically to follow love. She still lives there today, where she serves as general manager at the Michelin star awarded Range. She knows a thing or two about food and wine, still likes vegetarian chili, and wouldn’t be caught dead eating a hot dog (unless it's veggie). When she heard about my surplus of earlybird tomatoes from Peter Linenko, she kindly shared this recipe with me, via the telephone:

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

16 (approx.) small to medium tomatoes, cut in half
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp oregano

Preheat oven to 300*. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Put tomato halves in a large bowl. Then put all remaining ingredients in a smaller bowl, stirring well. Add olive oil mixture to the tomatoes and toss gently. Place tomatoes on the cookie sheets, cut sides facing up. Drizzle a tiny bit of the olive oil mixture on top of each tomato. (save the rest of the olive oil mixture to use for salad dressing or a marinade) Place cookie sheets in the oven and check after 1 hour. If tomatoes are not yet starting to shrink, continue to bake another 15-30 minutes. Allow tomatoes to cool.

Serving suggestions: Chop up oven roasted tomatoes and serve in a salad, pasta or egg scramble, in a sandwich, or on top of pizza or bruschetta.


the rescue of 'pike place market '

Chris Mattock (left) and friend, Joe Garret, standing in front of their Seattle student home, ‘The Excellent House’. (1971)

One of my favourite things about writing ‘global peasant’ is that my entries are just the beginning. Usually, they organically lead me to discover several other stories and, sometimes, one of my readers has a related tale of their own to share. After Vancouver architect Chris Mattock read the entry about my visit to Pike Place Market, he shared with me his own story about how the market had been saved. At the time, he was a student of architecture (and also aspiring to be a bluegrass musician), studying in Seattle and living with friends in the ‘Excellent House’. In Chris' words:

“The Pike Place Market, which stands today as a major Seattle landmark and tourist attraction, would probably not exist if not for the dedicated commitment of a group of activists during the late 60’s and early 70’s. This group included Victor Steinbrueck , who was an architect and one of my professors at the University Of Washington School Of Architecture. In 1963 a proposal was put foreword to tear down the market and replace it with ‘Pike Plaza’. This project would have included a hotel, apartment building, office buildings, a hockey arena and parking garage. The proposal was supported by the mayor, many on city council and a number of market property owners. However, there was significant community opposition. Steinbrueck, along with others on the board of ‘Friends of the Market’ and some of his students managed to raise public awareness. As the result of demonstrations, talks and public information displays, a public initiative was passed in November of 1971 that created a historic preservation zone and put the market in public hands. Since then, the Pike place Market buildings have been restored and renovated based on the original drawings, using historically correct materials.”

Of course the market is an important historical landmark and tourist attraction, but it is also an incredibly vibrant place for its locals, connecting the public with farmers, artisans, collectors, musicians, bars, restaurants and so much more. The Pike Place Market stands today as a bustling, lively and inspiring place to explore (and eat).

Victor Steinbrueck as a young man.

One of several books by Victor Steinbrueck.

In 1970 Steinbrueck was instrumental in the creation of another Seattle historic district, Pioneer Square. He was perhaps Seattle's best-known advocate of historic preservation. While working as a consultant to John Graham & Company, he also played a key role in the design work of the Space Needle. Built in 1962 and standing at a height of 605', at that time it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. He died in 1985 at the age of 74. That same year, Market Park was renamed Victor Steinbrueck Park. It stands just northwest of Pike Place Market.


blind passion

Peter Linenko happens to be 89 years old and legally blind, but he doesn't let that stop him from planting, growing and harvesting between 30 and 40 tomato plants each year, ‘earlybird’ being his variety of choice. Though he did not even begin growing vegetables until the age of 60, his backyard garden in Kelowna, B.C. also grows carrots, beets, garlic, onions, raspberries and radishes; radishes being his favourite, as they are the first thing he eats from the garden each spring.

He plants by feel, using a line of string as his guide and counting in his head. Gardening is a passion for Peter which helps to keep him active and feeling productive. His daughter, Linda, cans some 60-80 jars of tomatoes, salsa and tomato sauce each year, using only the tomatoes he grows.

Though I have never had the pleasure of meeting Peter, Linda is a friend of mine. Last week she generously gifted me with a bag of his beautiful tomatoes. I was so very impressed by his horticultural abilities and accomplishments (not to mention inspired by such fine ingredients).

Here are some resources available online. See (no pun intended) What To Do When You Can't See What You Plant and Adaptive Gardening Techniques For The Visually Impaired.

So....what to do with a big bag of beautiful, fresh homegrown tomatoes? I had eaten a 'panzanella' (tomato and bread salad) during my visit to Seattle 2 weeks ago, at a newish, hip restaurant called Tavolata. The recipe originates in Tuscany, where stale bread is put to use in many ways, often appearing in salads. 'Panzanella' is Italian for 'little swamp'. The name is appropriate, as the chunks of bread are first soaked in cold water and then mixed in with the rest of the salad, where they sop up the zesty vinaigrette. What better time to experiment?

Panzanella (Tomato & Bread Salad)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
8 ounces stale Italian bread, cut into 2-inch cubes
8 cups (about) cold water
5 cups ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup red onion, thinly diced
1 cup thinly shaved pecorino cheese
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn into bite-size pieces

Pour vinegar into small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Then add the anchovies, salt and pepper. Place bread in large bowl. Pour in enough cold water (about 8 cups) to cover bread. Soak 5 minutes. Drain well; squeeze bread to remove as much liquid as possible. Coarsely crumble bread into same bowl. Add tomatoes, onion, pecorino and basil. Toss with enough vinaigrette to coat. If necessary, season salad with extra salt and pepper. Serve topped with a light drizzle of good olive oil.