23 November 2010

Onion Pie

Personal favorites, family traditions, and local specialties; these are just a few of the themes that will shape the choices made across America as we prepare our Thanksgiving dinners tomorrow. Almost everyone adds something to the table, somewhere between the turkey and pumpkin pie, that has a special meaning or story. My father-in-law, for example, will whip up his famous wild rice salad recipe. Even though it is not a traditional Thanksgiving dish, my wife’s family has shared this savory grain salad for years and it has become part of their holiday ritual. It is a piece of their story.

For many gardeners, Thanksgiving will include a variety of dishes that represent a very particular story: the story of this year’s gardening season. In Wisconsin, this might mean a creamy casserole made with homegrown green beans or mashed potatoes and roasted carrots that were only recently unearthed from the backyard. Serving a Thanksgiving meal that you partially grew yourself is, perhaps, the ultimate expression of why many people love to garden: eating local, basing your diet on the season, and forming a personal connection with your food and the land (even if it’s just a small plot next to the driveway).

I didn’t put in a garden this year, mostly because we moved in the middle of the growing season. But I will be making at least one dish that honors the spirit of eating with the season and sharing food that has a story – onion pie.

15 November 2010

Peep This

I really dislike the notion of leaf peeping.

First of all, it is a ridiculous pairing of words. Simply forming the sounds and speaking them aloud makes you feel like a bumptious jackass. Meanwhile, it makes everyone within earshot agree that you are, in fact, a bumptious jackass. Don’t get me wrong. Good-hearted people are pleased to hear of a friend’s restful weekend vacation. Just… spare us the Martha Stewart jargon.

I want to be clear, though. I have zero problems with dedicating entire conversations or a whole weekend to the beauty of autumn. Mid-to-late fall is my absolute favorite time of year. I love it. The smells. The weather. The scenery. Love it.

My real problem with “leaf peeping” is the suggestion that it should be confined to a special, schedulable activity. A sane person in a sane world should be able to say, “It’s beautiful outside and I need a break… see you Monday.” No explanation and no itinerary necessary. Just go.

Thank you, preachy blogger guy. I thought you were in the middle of a series on gardening.

Yes, I know. I’m getting to that.

05 November 2010

Masters in Action

Master Plumber. Master Chef. Master Carpenter.

Like most people, I have a certain expectation that someone calling himself a Master Anything has a significant and verifiable body of experience to back up that title. But, the truth is, I don’t always know what it actually takes to become a master or what it necessarily means.

Well, thanks to the Wisconsin Master Gardener Program (which is run through the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension) I do know what it takes to be a Master Gardener in Wisconsin. And I’m impressed.