The Farmhouse Chef

The Farmhouse Chef, Recipes & Stories from My Carolina Farm by Jamie DeMent, UNC Press 2017, hardback $35.00, 276 pages

How luscious lies the pea within the pod.  

Emily Dickenson

In her book’s introduction, Jamie DeMent writes with mild amazement about the fragile anomaly of today’s family farm–that seems to be an agritainment economy. The New York Times writes about her chickens, people pay to hear her talk about fried chicken, students apply for a chance to harvest turnips.

Things that were once survival, perhaps chores to be escaped, have been branded and styled. It’s a new kind of rural romanticism that works when the Times catches on and you set up your own rural economy.

DeMent and her husband farm at Coon Rock Farm in North Carolina’s Piedmont, and their heirloom vegetables and heritage breed meats are served at their Durham restaurant, Piedmont, in a Golden Triangle of people who appreciate and can afford real food.

DeMent describes the book’s seasonal recipes as “southern in spirit” and easy to cook, meant for busy people. That said, she does start the book with summer and plenty of pantry-stocking recipes like Watermelon Rind Pickles and Pickled Okra.

Other dishes are up-to-date with international ingredients and inspiration, like Cretan Lamb Kabobs, picked up on a college study abroad stint  or Zimbabwe Curried Chicken Gizzards, learnt from one of their first student interns. Dishes like quiche, pesto, fresh fruit cocktails add polish and style.

Like her farm life, the book is back to basics–good food cooked well and simply will keep you, and everyone around you, happy and healthy.

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Farm to Fork in Montgomery County

We’re dining this weekend from Farm to Fork with the Montgomery Countryside Alliance–celebrating and savoring the full and delicious menu of food produced on the 93,000 acres of Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve–a deeply diverse and beautiful place created in a remarkable act of stewardship.

Can you believe it–all this food is created, as we always say, just miles from the White House.

At the dinner, we’ll introduce a new book that we’re proud to be working on, Bread & Beauty, A Year in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve. Prepare yourself for lots of forthcoming information, more beautiful photographs, historical stories, and insights from farmers on the rewards and challenges of local farming. 

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Food Cults in CHoWline

CHoW, the Culinary Historians of Washington, DC are excited about their 2017-2018 speaker season. We begin on September 10 with Washington Post columnist John Kelly. Join us in person or on Facebook!

This book, reviewed in the September issue of CHoWline, is a fascinating read and will make you question some of your own food decisions, from green smoothies to fish on Friday. And the internet isn’t helping!

chow review

Food Cults, How Fads, Dogma, and Doctrine Influence Diet edited by Kima Cargill, Rowman & Littlefield 2017, hardback 271 pages


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Savor the South–Ham


Ham by Damon Lee Fowler, UNC Press 2017, hardback $20.00, 128 pages

Carve a ham as if you were shaving the face of a friend.

Henri Charpentier

For a Yankee like me, there is a mystique surrounding Southern ham. Are they all cured and smoked and salty? Do you soak it and slice it thin, or grin and bear it?

In this book, Damon Lee Fowler brings his expertise to bear–gleaned from his grandmother and his own research and writing into both Southern and international cooking.

So alongside an Old-Fashioned Southern Hambone Soup, is a recipe for elegant Ham Crisps made with Italian prosciutto. He knows how to intensify flavor, using those crisps in a BLT and making the soup with an overnight broth from the bone, then sautéing onions in the rendered fat.

Along with de-mystifying ham, the book will make you a better cook. In the chapter on Ham and Eggs, Fowler gives precise but not fussy  instructions for fried eggs, omelets, frittatas, and baked eggs. He recommends sprinkling cooked potatoes with dry vermouth before blending them into a Ham and Potato Salad and will guide you through the particulars of biscuits to make Classic Southern Ham-Stuffed Buttermilk Biscuits.

He rings similar changes with sandwiches and pasta, offering flavors and techniques that are both  classic Southern and international. It’s your choice–potluck-ready Ham and Macaroni Pie or Ham Lo Mein. Sandwiches get a similar treatment from a diner-style Grilled Ham and Cheese, and around the globe with a Monte Cristo, Cubano, Croque Monsieur, or Panini.

As with all the books in the Savor the South series, Fowler begins with some orienting background, explaining how hams are made, how to buy them, and how to cook them. He also offers some cultural context–the history of ham in Southern foodways and a happy note that the skill and expertise in curing is making a comeback. And he reminds us that prosciutto, speck, iberico, and Smithfield are an international family.

After reading this book, you may not be ready to take on a whole ham but you will be inspired to eat beyond the flabby wet deli slices at the supermarket.


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in Nashville…

Ostensibly for the Great American eclipse, (We’re not taking credit for this inevitable phenomenon, are we? That would be just too Trumpian.) but also for the eats.

and meat & three, hot chicken, and Husk

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Cookbook Digest–Sweet Stuff

It’s county fair time, an opportunity for the nicest competition there is, the baking contest. Up your game with these books, reviewed for Cookbook Digest. Bake with Anna Olsen will give you some pro tips to ensure your genoise is a spongy delight and Flapper Pie and Blue Prairie Sky will appeal to the judges’ nostalgia for all-American home baking.

Aprons on!

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Cleaning Out the Basement–Cordon Bleu Baking I


Cordon Bleu Baking I, B.P.C. Publishing, 1971

I think baking cookies is equal to Queen Victoria running an empire. There’s no difference in how seriously you take the job, how seriously you approach your whole life.

Martha Stewart

And if you run a good empire, perhaps you’ll get a cake named after you. And if you find this book, you can bake that cake.

There are plenty of jokes about British food and cooking (though in this day of Borough Market, Ottolenghi, and Mary Berry, most  are unwarranted). But there is and always has been something wonderful about British baking.

Elizabeth David recognized years ago in her book, English Bread and Yeast Cookery. She recorded the home-based and regional breads–something warm and floury for breakfast and tea. Recipes made different with a change in ingredient proportions, or cooking technique, or serving tradition.

You can find all of that in this little book, which I found at my usual haunt, The Saint John’s Opportunity Shop. It starts out with the basics, parsing a simple loaf of yeast risen bread into Household Bread, Light Bread, Wholemeal Bread, Fine Wholemeal Bread, and Cottage Loaf. And then there are the appealing oddities–Baps (a soft roll), Girdle Scones (cooked on a griddle), Crumpets (a wet batter, cooked in molds on a griddle), Huffkins (oval cakes with a hole in the middle), Revel Buns (saffron), Chelsea Buns (currants), Parkin (oatmeal), and Singin’ Hinnie (a kind of giant currant scone cooked on a griddle).

And like Elizabeth David, the directions, especially for an instructional book, are pretty scanty. In fact, refreshingly scant directions–no descriptions of types of flour or exhortations to weigh your ingredients. That said, there are no small ambitions here. This little book covers a lot of ground–croissants, American cakes, and gingerbread. There are recipes for a tiered wedding cake, a maypole birthday cake, and a chocolate swiss roll.

But let’s not forget the cake of empire–a brilliantly simple Victoria Sandwich–a sponge cake split, spread with lemon curd or jam, and dusted with powdered sugar. It’s good to be with the queen!



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