Hello Friends

Photo of my gardenHello friends.

I’ve been avoiding this like the plague, but here goes: I’M FULL. I’m existentially FULL. Stuffed to the gills.

And, I’m as busy. I’m busy doing the things that I’m supposed to be busy doing and it is leaving me unable to think of wonderful new delicious things with which to be busy. And even if I thought of them I’d be too busy to photograph and write about them. Alas, paid work and mothering is taking a front seat to my unpaid ramblings.

Instead of just embracing that and looking around at the new and exciting situation, I’ve been fretting about neglecting PIE, and by extension, you.

Since this is not a mommy blog. I’m not going to blog instead about my day to day happenings. I promise. But I did just want to say this:

PIE isn’t going anywhere. Occasionally, I’ll throw some fun new recipes up here, so sign up for the email alerts and you’ll be the first to know. But they will be slightly less frequent. Approaching PIE’s 4th birthday, it is hard to believe that I posted 3 times a week for a few years. Now, I’m lucky to squeeze in 1 per week.

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Farm to Market 2014: Foodways Texas Symposium, Part II

Friday Dinner at the Farm[Dinner at The Farm at Ronin Cooking Friday Evening]

Our first day of the 2014 Foodways Texas Symposium ended at The Farm at Ronin Cooking. It was a beautiful night. But we had more eating and story telling and listening to do, which cannot be done on an empty stomach. So we had to eventually go to bed so that we could wake up and be fed again.

Breakfast on Saturday was lovely. Sometimes simplicity is called for. Following our meal at the farm, the brilliant choice was made to present a simple toast and preserves breakfast. I said simple, not light. It was so incredibly decadent. Here is how it went. Stephanie McClenny is Confituras Jams. She is remarkable. She makes a wonderful product, and she is a very nice person, to boot. Her preserves are simple but nuanced. They are sweet, but celebrate the fruit. Wonderful. She teamed up with my pal Meaders Ozarow at Empire Baking in Dallas. Meaders was asked to do a version of Texas Toast. This, my friends, was Texas Toast made with challah dough, fluffy and thick, buttered and griddle-cooked on big baking sheets over hot coals. Then, as though that weren’t sufficient, Stephanie brought fresh chevre from Blue Heron Farm which was sublime. It was so fresh and quite spreadable. It was so fresh and light tasting that I found myself having to reach to even identify it as a goat cheese. I can’t say enough about it. I piled the goat cheese on top of my toast and then topped it with a giant hat of Stephanie’s orange chile de arbol marmalade. Dear God. Sausage was provided by Salt & Time of Austin and I heard several people wandering by commenting that it was the best sausage they had ever eaten.

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Farm to Market 2014: Foodways Texas Symposium

Photo of The Veranda in College Station[Welcome Dinner at The Veranda in College Station, Texas]

I spent the last several days at the Foodways Texas Symposium which was held this year in College Station. Driving back to Dallas by way of Mexia on Sunday morning, I had an opportunity to think about my time at the symposium this year. This is my fourth symposium and each one has been important to me. On the backroads which are  just beginning to blanket with wildflowers, I finally slowed my mind enough to begin the challenging task of documenting what I had learned and experienced in the preceding days. It is always fun. But every year I am surprised by just how many great things happen, how many great people I meet and reconnect with, and how many stupendous meals I am served. It is a bit dizzying. And though I needed a nap more than a drive, I was grateful for the generous landscape of Texas through which to ponder this uniquely Texan weekend.

We meet yearly in support of a greater academic archiving project run through the University of Texas to document the diverse cultures of Texas. In fact, Foodways Texas just became a permanent part of UT’s American Studies Department. The panels, talks, and discussions this year were centered on the topic of agriculture at the aptly titled Farm to Market 2014: 4th Annual Foodways Texas Symposium. This alone would have been enough to hold my attention for two days. And, the meals at the symposium would have been enough to justify the cost of admission had there been no discussions at all.

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How to Boil Water: Bear Cooking School…a cub scout den meeting

Cub Scout Cooking SchoolCooking is part of being a parent. Oddly, teaching kids how to cook rarely is. Sometimes a kid shows innate interest. Sometimes we make it so irresistible (chocolate cake batter, for instance) that the little people start sniffing around the kitchen looking for a beater to lick. But, taking the time to TEACH them to cook is a whole different ball game. First, it is a mess. Second, it has its share of actual peril in the form of burns and cuts. And, it makes a job that you are hoping to knock out in a half an hour take a much longer amount of time. That is the biggest issue, frankly.

Even with my own kids, I pick the tasks that I invite them to do. I let them measure for me and crack eggs, for instance. But I rarely get them over to the stovetop to do the actual cooking. And that is a bit sad, really, for several reasons. First, they love it. And, second, as someone once said to me, “every time you do something FOR your child, you are taking away their opportunity to LEARN something.” I think that was a shoe tying quote, but it stands.

Where to start? I let my kids help with whatever I’m up to if they show interest or if I need an extra set of hands. But what do you do if you actually want to teach your kids to cook? Where do you actually start?

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South Carolina Quail Hunt 2014

Gone Hunting ShellsA new hunting lodge can never hold a candle to an old house that has been walked through by generations of people who love it. A 103 year old hunting lodge holds laughter in the wood and stories in the air. When you go back to the same place over the course of a decade or a lifetime you begin to feel a part of the history, even though you are merely a fortunate tag-along.

I returned again to South Carolina last week. I hung the “gone hunting” sign on the door of my work-a-day existence and stepped back in time again. A slower pace. A place of giant trees and Spanish moss and gracious hospitality. People in South Carolina smile and greet you warmly. To be a Texan steeped in “y’all’s” and be charmed by the lovely cadence of a low country accent seems silly, yet I drink in the voices like wine.

It has been hot and it has been chilly. The birds have been scarce. And the wind has been strong. Quail can fly like feathered bullets. I have at one moment wondered if I’d get to shoot at all in an afternoon, and then wandered upon a strong covey haplessly, only to be utterly out-maneuvered by the little beasts throwing shot after shot feet behind the fugitives, being left with the lovely smell of gunpowder, a wide grin, barely withheld expletives, and respect for the enduring fact that my 20 gauge doesn’t even begin to level the playing field when the birds have the wind and a stunning setting sun on their side. I am not particularly great at this. But, God, I love it.

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