I listen to the wind
Change is blowing through my windows. This week will be the last week of Carly’s Cupboard. Alice is going on a cycle break and will resume in mid July but I will be closing up shop.
This project was always meant to be ephemeral, and while I thought I’d make it to the fall, pressures to make space for what’s sprouting out of my graduate studies has become too great. I’m feeling really excited to keep walking the path of an herbalist, integrating my 10+ years of experience working with plants and cooking, with my new found passion for Functional Nutrition. I know at some point I’ll teach again or host another feast, but for now I’m surrendering to the work of a clinician with full focus. I may still continue writing through this time, because what wants to flow must flow, but not with the same regularity as this newsletter. How that will look is yet to be revealed to me.
Cooking for you this last year buoyed my spirits and kept me anchored to the earth and seasons. Your praise and kind feedback made it all worth it. Thanks for your adventurous palates and spirits. This was a truly experimental project and your willingness to explore made it happen! Your support helped me grow as a cook and as a person.
A hundred strong chorus of singing whales could not begin to offer my thanks for Alice and the last 11 years of her mentorship, generosity, and friendship. She opened her doors and heart to me in the widest way possible. Her guidance and wisdom has led me through major challenges and helped me persevere. She shared her kitchen with me, let me buy ingredients from her, packed and delivered my food, sanitized the jars, hugged me when I’m exhausted and tearful, accepted my enormous vessel collection into her home, and nourished me with an endless stream of wholesome food. Alice is a master of leading with the heart, has impeccable spatial reasoning, and knows how to charm a crowd---features beloved inside the kitchen and out. She’s been one of the most influential people in my life and I know will continue to be. If I could get one thousand bears to give her the safest, warmest hugs right back, I would.
We’re ending on a familiar note with some of the staple snacks and a little rose lemon curd to start the summer on a bright note.
About 15 years ago, while driving on 116 near Umass, I spotted a snapping turtle lumbering across the road so, of course, I stopped. I was only 20 and this being my first snapping turtle rescue, I wasn’t making much progress. We were locked in a dance of mirroring fierceness. Cars were whizzing around us and soon a cop pulled over, shouting at me, “What are you doing?!” After explaining the obvious, he offered his cynical take I will never forget, “the snapping turtles don’t stop for you, so you shouldn’t stop for the snapping turtles!”
Last week careening down Route 2 mid-state, where the lanes are double and busy with traffic, I saw what looked like a hubcap in the middle of the road. Great, I’ll just center my car so my wheels don’t hit it, I thought, as it was a bit too close to change lanes. Suddenly I saw what was actually a huge snapping turtle thrashing his head in a battle pose just as my low-rider Prius made audible contact with his shell. There was no shoulder to pull over, no looking back, just that image of the turtle with no chance, going down fighting.
I have a great deal of room in my heart for creatures whose instincts are to bite me and never let go, hitting that turtle broke my heart. I feel responsible as part of the human community that’s fragmented wildlife habitat and disrupted migratory patterns with roads and dams. Serendipitously, there was a whole article in the NYT a couple days ago about this very problem, worth reading and full of intriguing animal crossing footage. Linking landscapes is a Massachusetts initiative endeavoring to answer the need for safer wildlife traverses and does work in multiple ways to this end. They collect roadkill data on their website to best identify where to focus their efforts.
Felix, my roadkill-processing-mentor (and long time friend) always stops for the animals but most notably the dead ones, principally because they may not be dead (and need help), but also may be good food, or perhaps be better off relocated so others can eat them in safety. It’s a good practice, and a modicum of penance for the tragedy of roads. Thanks to Felix's intrepid ways, I’ve had snapping turtle soup before.
I remember a friend telling me that a friend told her that when she sees a slain animal on the roadside, she imagines that animal as a baby, curled up next to their mother. This morning I woke up to this little video from Greg. It was a baby snapping turtle just hanging out on the bike path. Greg helped him to the side and took in the turtle’s impossible cuteness at this size. The little one was still as you’ll see in the video, quite fearless for a turtle. It felt like a good omen.
"Land snails spend most of their time in the leaf litter layer. There, they consume the dead and decaying vegetation, helping to decompose it. With the nutrient-rich feces they leave behind, snails play a role in soil formation. As environmental clean-up crews, snails’ nutrient-cycling activity extends also to fungi, and some species even specialize as consumers of dead animals. From insects to mammals, snails and slugs rasp away at soft tissues, leaving exoskeletons and bones clean, all the while enriching the soil with their droppings." -Marla Coppolino
Another a bit of snail magic: some species pollinate wild ginger and trillium when few other pollinators are out on those wet early spring days!
Read more on "The Nature and Microcosm of Snails" here.
Thanks for your patience with this week's menu release! You'll find local mushroom duxelles with ground elder, black walnut shortbread and an herby, black garlic, sunchoke salad.
Looking forward to feeding you!
My sunchokes arrived by way of Vermont today from Pete’s Greens. I’m starting to hold these tubers with the same affection I have for potatoes. They may have an earthy acquired flavor, but I believe the tremendous joy they bring to my digestive system has flipped a switch, the microbes are starting to file requests, and I crave them. I’ve been probing for local(ish) sources ever since my cache ran out this winter.
They’re very easy to grow but you need a solid storage system. Well, it doesn’t have to be perfect, actually. The place I used to live I’d store mine in an unheated front porch entryway and a few times they froze solid. I thought they’d be gonners in the way potatoes don’t survive a hard freeze but they were fine!
A checkout line chat sharing praise for sunchokes, concluded with my neighbor declaring sunchokes an ideal zombie apocalypse food. She’s right, they’re a (native) perennial staple food that grows easily and benefits from being harvested. Not to mention a viable summertime privacy screen if you’re looking to stack functions. I finally got some in the ground last fall and their little leafy heads poking out of the ground this spring makes me feel tucked in and safe. Thanks sunchokes.
Last week in class we were exploring the gut microbiome and the new wave of methods to test for specific strains and imbalances. The vastness of villages, improbable cooperation, and micro-dramas playing out inside of us is astounding. There are more bacteria bodies inside me than stars in the milky way and we barely “know” anything about it.
Frankly, studying the microbiome is overwhelming. It’s so fresh and new and there’s constant revisioning, but certain things are clear. We know that some of the species that do good deeds in our colon just adore inulin. And guess what?! Sunchokes are loaded with inulin. Get down with sunchokes and you’ll go a long way to befriend your digestive system.
My parents grow them and slice them up like chips in their air fryer. It has almost convinced me to get an air fryer. I don’t know why diners don't sell these chips across the country instead of fries. Someone start a petition please.
This week's menu includes a sunchoke dip with local flavors, those flatbreads you all love reimagined, and mushroom wild rice burgers are making a come back, now egg-free. Get that fiber!
This is my friend Forest's garden. I found her deep in a cultivating fever yesterday when I stopped by to drop off her food. She'd rearranged and multiplied stands of her favorite plants, and showed me her work snaking behind the house into a private paradise. Despite what looked like hours of hard work, she was buzzing with energy, running on the same unstoppable force that pushes grass to grow inches in between blinks.
My eldest nephew Clark, about to turn three in a few weeks, was caught on candid camera singing Dolly Parton's "I am a Rainbow" after a quintessential spring wander with his grandmother picking dandelions, watching squirrels, and inspecting overwintered acorns. He too seemed fully rocking a spring mood.
Making my journey to Schenectady last night I listened to "I am a Rainbow" on repeat, chanting the lyrics alongside Dolly. It felt like a visualization, see the rainbow, be the rainbow, feel spring, be spring.
The opportunity to take in the glory of living is fully upon us, spirit food abounds. Flower love is everywhere and rain makes life grow! Forest is doing it, Clark is doing it, I am a rainbow, let's go!
New treats this week for your rainbow bodies. Roasted knotweed coconut chutney, wild seed bread, and chicken n' nettle acorn dumplings all offered up to keep to you connected and grounded to this vibrant life.
Spruced up mushrooms, coming soon to a table near you.
I love being an auntie. I’ve got two nephews and another gestating womb side. The stamina, patience, and courage it takes to be a parent I likely will never know, but I am feeling grateful to stand in awe and support of my sisters’ journeys.
My youngest sister Chelsea gave birth last August to a creature resembling a hungry caterpillar, very serious about eating (and growing). He’s now looking like a tiny human with an infectious smile, penchant for jubilant screeching, and robust appetite, which I had the great fortune of experiencing in person for the first time two weeks ago.
He’s in a very special stage between 4 months and walking (not there yet), where he’s inclined to stuff anything within reach in his mouth. This moment, as I’ve learned from books, is a critical window to expose new people to as many flavors as possible and an especially important moment to initiate them into food culture (Greene, 2009). Once they start bi-pedaling around, the culinary adventure instinct temporarily shuts down, perhaps a protective mechanism as their toddling can easily put them out of a guardian's reach (Greene, 2009). When seized, this is an incredible opportunity to shape a person’s preferences and openness to new foods for their lifetime (Greene, 2009).
Chelsea took a poll on which foods family members wanted Cy to have as a first taste. I pushed liver, as it’s a flavor I regrettably never encountered till adulthood so it rarely makes me swoon (unless doctored with loads of butter and cream). Given it’s one of the most inexpensive, incredibly nutritious foods available, I endorsed it. Much to my amazement, Chelsea complied and Cy devoured it with glee. Here’s the video:
One of my favorite moments hanging out with Cy was patrolling the fenced backyard behind Chelsea’s place with him on my hip. Every single plant we visited he grabbed at, urgently wanting to know more via his mouth.
I remember reading a puppy training book once that described a puppy’s tendency to explore the world with their spikey teeth, a desire “to penetrate the essence.” I suppose I can relate to both puppies and babies.
I made sure to show him only edibles and we slowly took a tour of flavor and texture tasting dry, spicy bee balm, mucilaginous violet, bitter dandelion, sweet basil, and lastly, citrusy spruce tips. The towering spruce tree in the corner of their yard was flush with neon green tips. It felt especially meaningful to show Cy food is possible from plants of all statures.
Once back home my sister sent me the below video. I’m so proud; with a belly full of liver and spruce tips, he’ll be unstoppable.
References Greene, A. (2009). Feeding Baby Green: The Earth Friendly Program for Healthy, Safe Nutrition During Pregnancy, Childhood, and Beyond. John Wiley & Sons.
Well, the sun rose
With so many colors it nearly broke my heart
It worked me over like a work of art
And I was a part of all that
Let spring in with some seasonal nourishment and green grass gazing.
Feel a part of it, if only for a moment.
It's the time to stuff your face with green. Loading up on onions, garlic, bitter greens, and brassica family vegetables (garlic mustard) can keep your liver singing and strong. This means clearer skin, a clearer mind, and more pep in your step. Get it while the gettin' is good.
When hope busts through. Celebrating victories small and large, even when there's a whole lot more concrete to crack.
Last weekend on a HOT Saturday I was strolling through the Electric City, feeling electric. The cherry trees, shadbush, and magnolias all bud swollen on Friday had fully unfurled by Saturday. I wound around corners enraptured, chasing floral scent trails like a hound. I finally felt the spark I've been missing; thank you flowers.
One of my favorite moments was sticking my face fully into this flower, who, with some help, I learned is Norway Maple. The flowers have an elegant sweet tea aroma and I was so taken with all the chartreuse glamour, I wanted to know more.
Blanche Derby, a local forager and teacher (who also makes excellent wild edibles videos) gave me the education I was looking for. She created a video honoring this spring flower, which she says she enjoys in salads! I'm going to try that ASAP.
I come from a legacy of cooks and generous hearted folk. My great, great grandmother Julia, my grandmother Therese, and my mother Julie. When I meditate on my maternal grandparents Therese and George Clark, I feel opulence, laughter, joy, and generosity. They love(d) parties, food, and family. I can conjure an inner fullness, gushing warmth of spirit, when I hold their images. My grandfather is the baritone belly-laughing story teller, every sentence he utters seems to have a colorful punchline, his chuckle always on standby. My grandmother was the gourmand and princess of pleasure---she loved babies, music, fine objects, celebration, and good eats.
I remember visiting my grandparents touching down in Baltimore after a flight from Minnesota, we were in transition, making a permanent move back to the East Coast and had stopped over for some grandparent refuge. We feasted on blue crabs and onion rings together and my teenage grief-stricken self, wrested from my friends of 6 years, ate ravenously. I remember my grandfather telling me, “You're a good eater,” which I received as genuine praise. That little memory never ceases to make me feel acceptance, shelter, and real love. I think in their platonic forms, this is what grandparents do---spoil with nourishment and soothe with a soft hearted, gentle touch.
My grandmother loved collecting recipes for finger foods and decadent desserts, this penchant forever archived in my facebook feed and in the many magazine clippings stuffed amongst the pages of her Joy of Cooking. She made me a fettuccine Alfredo when I was ten. I still remember those luxuriant cream coated noodles, showcasing her fearless embrace of quiet ecstasies served in bowls.
She also relished gathering stories and family history. One such story about her grandmother, my great, great grandmother, Julia Agnes Ross, is another that reminds me I didn’t fall far from the tree. Julia Agnes Ross was married to a fella named Willis (my great, great grandfather) who owned a shipyard in Baltimore. Julia my grandmother writes in the genealogy records,
...was of Irish descent and a great cook...She cooked lunch for her family and invited anyone who happened to be in the shipyard on business to join them. These meals were not your ordinary lunches. She would have a “dinner meal” ready when Davidson’s chemical whistle blew at 12 noon. I never saw her use a recipe and everything she cooked was fresh. She canned fresh vegetables in the summer.
This excerpt describing my great, great grandmother sounds awfully similar to Monday lunches at Alice and Amy’s and the way of life here on honey hill. Pre-pandemic times, Mondays were driven by “more the merrier” and “food is love” mantras offering the type of sanctuary grandparents provide to anyone who happens to stop by. As a close ally and attendant to the mission here, I feel my maternal line moving through me, giving new versions of materiality to my grandmothers’ spirits, aiding and abetting a weekly ritual of food communion.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another Julia, Julie actually, my mother. She’s an accomplished creative home cook, never ceasing to nail the seasoning and figure out a way to parlay the leftovers into a fresh form. She’s cooked delicious spreads for countless guests and held down the kitchen for many wild barbecues with a cornucopia of family, neighbors, childhood friends, and any stranger my dad strikes a conversation with. She’s got a library of crowd pleasing delights up her sleeve. And now she’s a grandmother, sharing the pleasure of food with her grandchildren. Here’s a photo of her squirting whipped cream into my nephew’s mouth to prove it.
My grandfather just turned 89 exactly two weeks ago on the 25th. I may continue to ask him to describe his grandmother’s peach cake till his last breath, because I’ll never grow tired of his enthusiasm. He’s always carrying his gratitude for this cake, the aroma of it cooling on the window sill, in his back pocket. It’s a little gift he can offer to brighten up the room.
My uncle Dave, who spends much of his time with my grandfather, kindly sent me a special package with a homemade gift I’d given my grandmother when I was a kid, evidenced by the liberal use of puffy paints. It was an apron I’d made her with a large golden sun framed by the words, “Always cooking on the bright side.” I had been thinking about her and of course, my grandfather as his birthday approached. I had also been in a sort of winter funk. Receiving this apron kinda turned things around for me, not right away but like the slow wafting of a peach cake memory, it got under my skin until I suddenly found myself swelling with respect for the greater working I am a part of in the kitchen. I get to help other people find sanctuary and glee, grandmother style, food as the pressure point. It’s a real honor.
The final word is on another Julia who I didn’t know personally but who’s style embodies the aforementioned role model goddesses of the kitchen, Julia Childs. Actually it may be this particular video that consolidates her wisdom atop a track of catchy beats and tantalizing foods. Pleasure making really is “what good cooking is all about.”
"Cooking, cooking, keep on cooking, this is the way to live!"
Carly lives and eats from a hilltop in Cummington, Massachsuetts and part time in Schenectady, NY.