Wednesday, July 27, 2011

deep thoughts from the firing...

Actually more of a musing. As I look forward to opening the kiln tomorrow, I think back to the waning moments of last night's firing.

Having pushed into reduction a little early and slowing down my early pace, it was a bit later than I had hoped as I waited for the last cone to drop. Maybe it was being in the warmer clime all day, maybe it was the pace of the week leading up the firing finally catching up to me, but all sorts of strange things float through one's mind at these times.

I do believe, that at some point while waiting for cone 10 to just move-already-is-that-too-much-to-ask on the bottom shelf, I may have solved the debt crisis and perhaps come up with at least three solutions for various world conflicts. But just as those lucid moments of a really interesting dream seem to fade away as I open my eyes in the morning, so too did these profound discoveries when I finally pulled the peep and saw enough of a bend in that last cone. What was it I was just thinking? Who cares, the cone is bent! That may not remove the debt crisis, but it sure removed the final obstacle between me and a cool pale ale at home.

So those big secrets are still locked in the far corners of my mind, but I do believe there will be many fine discoveries when I open the kiln tomorrow.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The North Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project

To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, 
of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, 
from the effort of loving to the making of bread. — James Arthur Baldwin

The North Carolina Organic Bread Flour Project (NCOBFP) aims to link the farmer, the baker, and the miller in North Carolina with the goal of providing a viable market for organic hard and soft wheat and other small grains.

The vast majority of bread wheat in North Carolina is trucked in from other parts of the US, so the price of wheat is compounded with the increasing fuel costs.  

NCOBFP works to foster the relationship between the grower, miller and baker to provide a tangible level of security and sustainability for all three.

Learn more about what they're doing and how you can support it at their blog.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

sexy food: feed your head

One of the sexiest aspects of good food is the interactive nature of its preparation and enjoyment.  It could be with a large group, sharing memories and stories while chopping, mixing and cooking.  It could be sharing the sensations of eating a lovingly prepared dinner with that special someone.  It could be standing over the sink in the summer, because that's the only way to fully enjoy a fresh peach without regard to the extra juices that just can't be contained in a single bite.  It involves all the senses at one time or another, and as with any sensory experience, in person is the very best way to do it.

However, there are times when there may be a desire for more introspection.  Here are a few tasty nuggets that may give you, as they do me, inspiration for your next hands-on experience.

  Tradition. Simplicity. A Sense of Place.  Their own descriptors and perfect for this wonderful quarterly out of Vermont.  I find myself approaching Edward Behr's pieces the same way I do a novel when I'm already half way in and can't wait to keep reading.  Get a cup or glass of a tasty beverage, a comfy seat with good light, turn off the phone, let the dog out and dig in.

 This is a brand-spanking new quarterly put out by restauranteur David Chang that looks very enticing (haven't even gotten the first issue yet), from the fresh graphics to the first issue dedicated to ramen noodles, this does not seem to be just another food magazine.  

 The image is small here, but click to the link and you'll be well rewarded.  Fred Shively is a freelance creative director, photographer and digital artist based in Spain.  The set I've linked focuses on the bars, bodegas, tabernas & cafes of Granada.  In the course of this slide show, I could at times practically hear, smell and even taste what I saw on screen. Beyond the tantalizing images themselves, it's also the photographer's perspective that takes me in further.  I feel like I'm getting a secret view that I wouldn't normally get to see, and it makes me want to see each of these in person that much more, preferably with Fred as my guide.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

food security is sexy

A few posts and websites have popped into my view over the past few days, and I thought some of them were good enough to share.

When you have food security, you feel safe, you're satisfied, you're confident.  That's sexy. Finding cheetos on sale at a large box store or getting a 2 for 1 at the drive thru is not a sign of food security (nor is it sexy).  It's a rather strange paradox to be living in a country that can have a headline about growing childhood and adult obesity in the same paper as an article about how taxed food banks have been during the recent economic challenges. But that's a whole other conversation - I could post links to the Hunger Report, so you could see just how big an issue food insecurity is (and if you don't know, go look it up), but for now, here are some groups that are talking about things that contribute to food security.  Lasting, sustainable, affordable and good-for-you food security.

Article titled "Taking Back Our Food - Dealing With Hunger and The Land"

 This group represents a 'comprehensive strategy to address many of the ills affecting our society and environment due to an unsustainable and unjust food system.

Those may see very broad and general if you're not personally familiar with the issue of food insecurity.  If you think it's something that only happens in under developed nations, think again.  Look up your area food bank and give them a call and ask about your region's stats.  I think you'll be surprised.

As you can look locally to see the extent of the hunger issue in your own back yard, so can you look and find people working on solutions.  I live in Asheville, and here's one link that will show you multiple solutions in action:

Their mission: "To create, on urban land, beautiful community spaces that produce food in abundance and foster a learning environment for social justice and sustainability."  Good golly, that's sexy.  Click the logo to see a list and description of their partner gardens.  

If you live elsewhere, I'm sure there's something like this going on in your area.  Maybe your neighborhood or region has some gardens listed here:

  American Community Garden Association - you can look at an interactive map to see registered gardens across the U.S.

So if you need to increase your own food security, consider a garden.  If you don't have space for one, see if you can find a community garden.  If it's not an issue for you, that's great.  Maybe you can give someone else a hand?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

in the works

My, but time flies when you say to yourself "I'll post some new stuff as soon as I finish ....". Well that's not going to happen, and while I'm grateful that a new goal is always dropping in front of me, I need get back to enjoying the process instead of fretting the finish.

I admit, the procrastination on writing has also been based in a slight sense of insecurity. Not me personally, I'm all good, but in the studio - just getting back into a dedicated work space after months of floating about, I've taken most of the last month getting back into a rhythm in the studio. And still heavily depending on using other people's equipment for much of my work (for which I am extremely grateful), I feel like I need to work fast and furious to get as much done as I can in each cycle, and of course nothing seems to happen fast enough. I've let those things I can't control become the focus, instead of rocking those things I do control, and that's just not as much fun so let's try not to do that too much, shall we?

Since I'm rediscovering the joy in the process, here are a few process shots of what's cookin' in the studio. Firing in about week, and my next exploration of process after I unload will be trying to get some decent pictures of the finished work!

always more mugs to carve

a new set for The Tree & Vine: olive oil dipping
bowl set inside an olive 'moat'

oil & vinegar bottles for The Tree & Vine

part development of a new form, part fun for Lori.
slab platter with a splash of sgrafitto tree

small plates that splashed out of the same idea as the platter

Monday, July 18, 2011

fig-inspired submission from the field

Bruce saw the post about the figs, and was reminded of one of his own sexy food experiences. In this case, it was stumbling across an unusual fruit in an Asian market in Philadelphia's Chinatown.  

Dragon Fruit, via the Local Harvest website

Being a great food adventurer when he's not busy in his painting studio in Boston, he bought it just because it looked so cool, and was well rewarded as he enjoyed his first dragon fruit.  How'd he like it?

" simply spoon the flesh out like a melon.  The flavor is very mild but quite refreshing, something like a mild pear with poppy-seed tang from the seeds."

Bruce's dragon fruit, ready to eat. exotically sexy!

Since he picked his up in a market in March, it was probably imported (they're imported from Asia, South America, and Mexico), but there are growers in Florida now producing the fruit too.  Word is, if you're looking to purchase one at a market, look for a shinier fruit with thinner skin for the sweetest results.

I think I've seen these in a couple of my local markets, but never really stopped to look as I thought they had to be an international import.  Now that I know they're being grown not too far south of me, I may have to give one a try myself.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

what's doing with the figs

The fig tree is still in its early stages of ripening, so for now it's recipe planning and enjoying a few fresh day to day.  Last fall after reading my friend Arpi's blog, I begged the recipe she talked about, but it was too late in the season for me to get enough figs to try it, so I've started looking it over to see if I want to make any changes in anticipation of the coming 'fig drop'.  I rarely do a recipe verbatim unless it's one of those 'handed down for 13 generations and is perfect just like it is' recipes or comes with very strong recommendations for its perfection.  Those I do verbatim the first time, then we'll see.  Most of the time, it's a case of what I have on hand vs. what's written in the recipe, but experience and taste also kick in, and sometimes a girl's just gotta change it up.

the view from an apartment at Los Piedaos
The recipe for the fig tart I'll share once I make it so I can report on it.  It comes via Spain, with inspiration from Jamie Oliver, from my friends Fred & Arpi who are kindly keeping a room ready for my eventual arrival to Los Piedaos.  You'll hear more about them and hopefully even from them in the future. Fred changes things up too, and I'll take his notes into account as well when I develop my own version, although Arpi did say it was the best she ever tasted, so I may have to try his version ... at least once.  Stay tuned.

Other figs will go into preserves, and when I was looking about for different inspirations, this simple recipe was the one I kept thinking about, in part because it's so simple, and it includes lemon and ginger, two of my favorite things.  I think it was also because of the lovely article that April McGreger wrote last summer (read the whole post here).  Yes, she also acknowledges this sexy food for its sensual qualities, but it goes beyond that.  The fig for her is an inspiration, a muse, and a strong memory of family.  In her description of the fig cake recipe, it's also a community bond.  That's sexy food.

from the original post, figs simmering with
lemons and ginger for preserves
I'll report back when I try the preserves as well, but since there may be others out there with ripening fig trees wondering what they'll do with it all, I thought I'd share one of my current inspirations to wait for each lovely fruit:

Old Fashioned Whole-Fig Preserves (as posted by April McGreger)

Traditionally, these preserves are made with Brown Turkey and Celeste (or Sugar Fig) varieties, but any variety will work.

Yields 5-6 half-pint jars

8 cups small, firm but ripe figs
2 cups sugar (unrefined may be used)
1-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small lemon, thinly sliced
juice of another small lemon
about 1 cup of water

In a wide, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive pot, layer the figs with the lemon slices, sugar, sliced ginger, and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

The next day, add the cup of water and cover the pot with a lid or piece of foil.  Bring the figs to a simmer over medium heat, then turn the heat down to low and cook, covered, for an hour.

After one hour, vent the lid (place askew so not completely covered) and cook another half hour or until the figs are translucent and the syrup has thickened.

Transfer the figs to sterilized jars and refrigerate, or process for 5 minutes in a water-bath canner to store on the shelf.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


So there's a group of us. Friends, colleagues, family. We like to talk about all sorts of things, but there is a noticeable elevation in energies when the topic comes around to food.  I admit I can get pretty animated if I'm talking about a new restaurant, recipe, kitchen gadget or seasonal food find that makes me happy.  Many times at the end of such a conversation, a friend will say to me 'you should write a blog about this'.   So as a way to expand the conversation to include some more far flung friends, I'm writing this blog, and I'm inviting many in my circle of foodies to join the conversation and even offer their own stories and experiences, so it may not always be just me talking.

Why 'Sexy Food'?  It's certainly not a unique name for a blog, I learned that when I started this.  It's just a phrase I use when I'm particularly pleased with a dish or beverage.  A whole meal may be sexy, or even a single ingredient.  Martha's got 'it's a good thing', I'll take 'that food is sexy!'.

So this is going to be me and some of my friends spouting off from time to time about food, drink, and all sorts of related and occasionally unrelated topics.  Now why hasn't someone else thought of this yet?  All we can say is 'you're welcome'.

I'm going to sign off this first post with a grateful nod to a seasonal sexy food: the fig.  I know this fig tree that has been a big tease for the past couple of months, showing off branches laden with fruit, soaking up the sun and rain.  It's just started ripening, and every day there's sweet, sexy goodness ready to be plucked.

Not everything we talk about here will be so blatantly obvious to the title reference, but here it is - these figs ARE sexy food.  And they're really starting to pop, so I'm pulling together recipes now.  I'm starting by hunting down one I got from friends last year when I first met this fig tree, but it was later in the season and we ate them as fast as they ripened, so there were never enough to consider making into a larger recipe.  That's not the case now, so if you have a favorite recipe using fresh figs, I'd love to hear it!  I'll let you know how they go.