The Cookbook Project: Artist Recipes

Hello, and welcome to another installment of The Cookbook Project! It was my intention, when I started this project back in September, to make this a twice-weekly series, but my teaching schedule made life pretty much catch-as-catch can. That said, now that it’s the new year and my teaching schedule involves a LOT less time spent shuttling between campuses on the extreme north and south ends of the city, I plan to post here more regularly, with fun new features in addition to this one.

So, in my last post about Sampler, I told y’all about the cookbook’s “starring artist,” LuAnn Barrow. The next few installments will center on the recipes themselves. The Table of Contents is divided into discrete categories: Artist Recipes, Appetizers, Beverages, Soups, and so on through every conceivable course through “Miscellaneous Desserts.” I have personally divided the Artist Recipes section into the following two categories: Legitimate (as in, “I can see myself making this”) and Jokey-Joke/WTF?!?

While I am tempted to start with the WTF?!? category, I think I’ll start with the Legitimate ones because I think they do some interesting work, the first being that they are pretty well gendered (all of the WTF?!? recipes were contributed by men) and they also reflect the food trends of the era.


Let’s start with Gay Fay‘s recipe, the first in the book, for “Naccios,” an “Italo/Yuppie version of nachos,” which placed second in the Second Annual Pesto Cook-Off in Austin. A couple of tries with the Google machine yields no information about this alleged pesto cook-off, but those of you who were alive and cognizant of food trends 20-30 years ago will recall that pesto was HUGE in the yuppiefied ’80s and well into the ’90s, so it doesn’t surprise me that the same generation of Austinites responsible for SPAMARAMA also yielded a pesto cook-off. (These days we like to make pesto out of anything that stands still long enough to get tossed into the food processor; I reckon the pesto mentioned here is the bright-green, basil-pine nut-parmesan variety.)

Another recipe, “Autumn Soup,” contributed by Peggy Byars and which “loses no nerve when ‘too busy too cook’ times arrive,” calls for “brown bouquet sauce,” something I’ve not heard of before. Have you? It is apparently a sauce you use sparingly to add brown color to gravies and the like. Wikipedia tells me that bouquet sauce (Kitchen Bouquet) was advertising in the 1903 Boston Cooking School magazine (what’s up, Fanny Farmer!), so it’s been around for a good, long time. It’s also basically caramel coloring and sodium, so it’s no surprise that it has fallen out of favor by now. In fact, I can’t find any other recipes in this cookbook that calls for bouquet sauce (but I do see soy sauce and tamari creeping in), so it may have even been in very limited use by 1986. Side note: Byars describes herself as “coming of age” in her career in 1986, but I will reflect more on the artists’ biographies in a later entry.

Finally, I’d like to talk about “Chicken Paprika,” contributed by Annette Morris. This recipe stands out to me because of the “granny story” attached to it, providing a personal etymology of the recipe and tracing it through a matrilineal line.


I’m also intrigued and thrilled to see that the granny in question is described as “German-Texas,” because I’m guessing that, based on speculation on Ms. Morris’ age in 1986, her grandmother might have been a first- or second-generation German Texan. Unless, of course, this particular line of German-Texans arrived in 1830. Then she’d just be a regular old German-Texan. But the reason this thrills me is that I feel like so much of the discussion around ethnic Texan foodways centers primarily on the cultural influences of Mexico, leaving the Czech and German influences holed in their little Hill Country enclaves; does anyone beyond Central/Southeast Texas know about the Czechs and Germans in Texas? I know I never heard of, not to mention eaten a kolache until moving to Houston. Anyway, German-Texas grandmother. Yes. I am a bit befuddled by the connection to Syria, though, as it seems like this dish more closely resembles paprikash (all that cream and butter!) than any of the Syrian chicken dishes floating around out there. I’m also charmed by the fact that Morris shares the components/sides that make this the “perfect meal,” probably because I’m sort of obsessed with compiling all the “perfect meals” I’m able to pull off at my house (they are few and far between, trust).

On the whole, I see that many of the Legitimate recipes come with descriptions of feeding families, references to how successful a recipe is in terms of feeding a busy family (regardless of the sex/gender of the contributor), and even how the recipes fit into the artist’s/contributor’s sense of community (see: “Roberta’s Ratatouille,” which is described as the perfect dish for dinner party guests to contribute because “a pound of zucchini or a small onion or eggplant was not too much to ask of a friend,” particularly when feeding a passel of starving artists).

Up next: Chicken fried rattlesnake and bologna cups, or WTF?!? recipes that suggest a few artists might be poking fun at the audience for this particular cookbook.

Smitten Saturdays

So, the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook came out this week and I know it’s short notice, but I want to do a cook-and-blog-along from the book. Please join me! Here’s how we’ll go: Following the Baked Sunday Mornings model, I’ll plan out a schedule of recipes from the book for us to cook “together” every other weekend. You make the recipe, blog about it (please don’t post the recipe on your blog), and come back here with a link to your entry. I’ll publish a “leave your link” entry on Friday night, and you leave a link to your blog entry in the comments by noon your time on Saturday.

We’ll kick things off with Mom’s Apple Cake (p. 239 in the book, and also here, although it is likely different from the version in the cookbook) because apples are in season! Hooray! So, if you want to play, leave your link in the comments section of this post by noon your time tomorrow. And tell your friends!

The Cookbook Project: An Introduction

Hello, friends! Remember me? It has been a while since I checked in on Ye Olde Blog. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of what’s been going on in these parts in the past TWO MONTHS (oy):

1. Went to Colorado for a week (I have been and am still planning to do a couple of Foodie Field Trips posts about our culinary adventures in Denver and Boulder).

2. Started adjuncting at two different schools (three classes up north, one class down south), which eats up much of my time.

3. Still freelancing.

4. Juggling family, friends, craft projects and whatnot.

5. I’ve lost 13 pounds since April! Have been pinning heaps of low g.i. and paleo-friendly recipes because, y’all, I’m turning a certain milestone age tomorrow and I would really like to get down to my pre-pregnancy weight and fitness level before completing my next rotation around the sun.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me tell you about my next project. Let’s call it my “I’m finally recovered from all of that dissertating, where will my research take me next?” project. You may recall that I swore a while back that I’d never write a book on women’s cookbooks as material artifacts, but I may have changed my tune a little bit. You see, last fall, when I was in the throes of completing and defending my dissertation, one of the students in my Rhetoric of Eating class brought in a cookbook belonging to her mom. It’s called Sampler, and it is a community fundraising cookbook put together by the Women’s Art Guild (now the Art Alliance Austin) of the Laguna Gloria Art Museum. Because the topic of women’s community cookbooks was fresh in my mind, I was all over this cookbook like a duck on a Junebug. Fortunately, Madison and her mother were kind enough to loan this cookbook to me to study, along with a healthy armful of other historical Austin community cookbooks.


So, over the next several months, my intention is to acquire my own copies of these cookbooks and pore over them in hopes of piecing together a portrait of Austin culture and foodways past, which will, in turn, help put our contemporary culture and foodways in their context. I hope. Maybe. A very wise woman once said that it is a bad project that has all its questions answered before it even begins, so I just want to make it clear that I have lots of questions and absolutely zero answers.

After a few passes through the cookbook, I think I want to divide up my analysis into a number of categories: the art, the artists and their biographies, the food, and the stories attached to the food. I think the most interesting part of this cookbook is the section of recipes contributed by artists in the Austin/Central Texas community. There is everything from ratatouille to bologna cups with peas to fried rattlesnake. These, paired with the artists’ stories of themselves, make for compelling reading, especially when juxtaposed with the stories told by and within the recipes contributed by Guild members.

I want to start with a discussion of the cover art. The piece is a reproduction of an oil painting by LuAnn Barrow called “Cooks Gathering.” I think it speaks beautifully to the title of the cookbook, Sampler, in that it evokes quilting, at least in my mind. The women are gathering with their contributions to the table: one assembles a salad, one sets down a pie, while still others converge with their creations. A sampler quilt is one in which each block consists of a different pattern. In hand-stitching and embroidery, a sampler is a way to display your skill with various techniques. Along these same lines, an art-guild cookbook entitled Sampler suggests that everyone brings a different skill to the table, whether it be facility with pies or crab dips, or prowess in oil paintings or pottery.

Up next: A profile of LuAnn Barrow and a snapshot of artists’ lives, as seen in the pages of the cookbook.

Austin City Guide: East Austin Eats

This post is the final one in a series of entries dedicated to the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide 2012, aimed at helping visitors and newcomers sort out the city’s most notable food establishments.

In the past ten years or so, East Austin has changed a lot. As real estate prices shot up, the neighborhoods east of I-35 were pretty much the only affordable places for people looking to buy a house, perhaps their first. My family and I are no exception to this rule. Back in 2004, my then-fiance and I were living in a rented condo on Elizabeth Street, which was super hip and cool and walkable to the super hip and cool SoCo area. But we were getting married and wanted to upgrade our living situation, so we bought a house in an old East Central neighborhood not far from what is now the Mueller development.

In the seven years since we bought our house (which we closed on right around the time I found out we were expecting the Big Kid), East Austin has changed even more. It’s become a vibrant enclave of artists and musicians, not to mention a couple of urban farms, and houses an embarrassment of excellent restaurants.

(There’s an uncomfortable conversation to be had about gentrification here, but that’s a post for another time.)

So, with all of that in mind, here are some of my favorite restaurants on Austin’s east side. Please note that this is totally subjective and not even approaching comprehensive. Buen provecho!

Gourmands is a relatively new entry on the Austin dining scene, specializing in gourmet sandwiches and soups (in bread bowls! YUM!). I think about the Cleopatra sandwich almost every day and how soft and fresh that bread is. My lord. I may have to make a late-night run.

Blue Dahlia

Ham and gruyere tartine

This is a sweet little bistro/bakery on 11th Street that just nails the details, from the sweetly intimate back porch to the little stone trays your check arrives on. I highly recommend the tartines, little open-faced sandwiches in both vegetarian and carnivore options, and totally, totally satisfying. (Pro tip: Get there early or be ready to wait. We’re not talking Franklinlevels of waiting, but I don’t think Blue Dahlia qualifies as a “best kept secret” anymore.)

Ohhhh, Justine’s. How I love thee. I love your French 75s. I love your French onion soup. I love your moules frites AND your steak frites. And I love your creme brulee. I love how the tiny space is so intimate without feeling cramped. I love that middle-aged French waiter who exhibits just a whiff of disinterest without being discourteous. I love that you are the only place apart from Uchiko we’ve dropped $100 on dinner without any complaint from my husband.

East Side Showroom
Part steampunk bar, part farm-to-table bistro, East Side Showroom has gained much notoriety of late as Chef Sonya Cote enjoys her ascendancy on the Austin food scene. Also featured in my friend Christian’s excellent short doc, Local! I’m also really looking forward to checking out Chef Cote’s brand-new Hillside Farmacy, also located in east Austin, this week.

Hoover’s Cooking

We actually don’t go to Hoover’s that much because it’s one of those restaurants that inspires my children to act like complete and total ingrates. But I really like the comfort/soul food on offer — ESPECIALLY the chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes and green beans! — and I’m super excited to go try out the Soular Garden! Hoover’s cobblers can’t be missed, either.

Honorable mentions (either because I’ve already raved about them here or they were suggested by other AFBA members but I haven’t been there): Contigo, Vivo, Nubian Queen Lola’s, Braise, Casa Colombia.)

Austin City Guide: Best Non-Alcoholic Drinks

This post is the third in a series of entries dedicated to the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide 2012, aimed at helping visitors and newcomers sort out the city’s most notable food establishments. Over the course of the next week, I’ll be covering a broad array of topics dedicated to the best places to eat and drink and socialize in Austin.

Today’s topic is non-alcoholic drinks. When you think of Austin, you probably think of Shiner Bock or margaritas (rightly so, in truth). But did you know that Austin also has a vibrant coffee culture, as well as some really solid local sodas?

But there’s also a growing conversation about juice these days. While fruit juices get a bad rap for being chock full of sugar and contributing to the global obesity problem, there’s something to be said for a foamy concoction of freshly compressed fruits and veg to help fill you up when you need a snack or as a bit of a refresher after some vigorous exercise.

To that end, here are three options for yummy, freshly squeezed juices, whether you want to reboot your digestive system with a brief juice fast or just have a tasty (and fairly nutritious) alternative to water when you’re feeling parched.


Deep Eddy Juiceland

I like to go to Juiceland after a run for a “Moderator” (I would link to the menu, but that website is a nightmare), as I find the bracing bite of the ginger and lemon mixed with the sweet finish of the apple and beet to be completely energizing. Juiceland also has a selection of ready-to-eat meals and packaged living-foods snacks on hand to grab and go with your juice or smoothie.

Daily Juice

Daily Juice

Daily Juice is a raw foods cafe at the corner of 45th and Duval streets, smack in the middle of the Hyde Park neighborhood. While parking is a hassle, I really like this spot because not only can you get things like raw durian truffles to go with your juice or smoothie, you can get raw nachos and even vegan ice cream.

Snap Kitchen

Snap Kitchen juices, photo courtesy of Jodi Bart,

Snap Kitchen, which has two brick-and-mortar locations in Austin, as well as a downtown popup, is one-stop shopping for pret a manger meals that are portion controlled and customized to your particular dietary needs. Vegetarian? Yup. Gluten free? You betcha. Diabetic? But of course!!! Dairy free? Lower sodium? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Snap Kitchen recently rolled out a series of juices meant to comprise a Day 0 “cleanse” as part of their 21-day Snap Commit program, but you can also just walk into the shop and grab something light and nutrient-rich, like the Energy Boost (with papaya, lime, and coconut water, among other things) or a decadent cashew protein shake after you’re done pumping iron. I definitely see myself grabbing a juice from the cooler for some relief from the heat when I go to the Triangle Market on Wednesday afternoons this summer.

Austin City Guide: The 5 Best Patios

This post is the second in a series of entries dedicated to the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide 2012, aimed at helping visitors and newcomers sort out the city’s most notable food establishments. Over the course of the next week, I’ll be covering a broad array of topics dedicated to the best places to eat and drink and socialize in Austin.

Spring is nearly upon us, which means you have about a 15-minute window to enjoy your mimosas and eggs Benedict or margaritas and queso outdoors without being mosquito-bit and drenched in sweat. Here are the top five patios to enjoy Austin’s fleeting moments of nice weather.

5. Red’s Porch

Photo courtesy of Michelle Cheng of Foodie is the New Forty,

“Half Cajun, Half Tex Mex, Half Southern.” 100% South Austin.

4. Paggi House

Photo courtesy of Michelle Cheng of Foodie is the New Forty.

Slightly upscale, with lovely cocktails that you can enjoy nestled in the trees. One of the few places where you might run into your snooty Aunt Dora and your twenty-something babysitter on the same night.

3. Perla’s

Photo via

Play some shuffleboard or just kick back and relax while you enjoy your oysters and cold beer in slackadaisical South Congress style. (Word on the street is that this is primo real estate for Robert Plant and Patty Griffin sightings!)

2. Vivo

Margaritas taste better outside. As do puffy tacos, tortilla soup, and enchiladas!!! The water wall and aggressive plant-scaping almost obscure the fact that you’re butted up against the bustle of Manor Road traffic.

1. Contigo

I love this place, and not just because it’s in my neighborhood (East side represent!). Pretty much the entire restaurant is outside, and the feel is homey and welcoming. This picture doesn’t really do it justice, because I took it before they were open on a gray and blustery morning. Just think of settling in together on large picnic tables under twinkling lights (or near a warming fire bowl if it’s chilly), sharing plates of crispy green beans and housemade pigs in blankets. Or tucking into half a roast chicken while your tablemates savor their rabbit and dumplings, everyone trading bites (hygienically, we hope) and sipping cocktails and laughing and maybe challenging one another to a game of washers. It’s happy, neighborly chaos at Contigo, like a backyard block party.

Austin City Guide: The Top 5 Barbecue Joints Outside Austin

This post is the first in a series of entries dedicated to the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide 2012, aimed at helping visitors and newcomers sort out the city’s most notable food establishments. Over the course of the next week, I’ll be covering a broad array of topics dedicated to the best places to eat and drink and socialize in Austin.

You can’t visit or live in Austin without experiencing the centerpiece of Central Texas foodways, barbecue. (I might know a little bit about the topic.) While Austin certainly boasts a number of remarkably delicious barbecue restaurants, there are a number of long-established, iconic barbecue joints beyond the city limits. Long before Aaron Franklin, the brisket ninja, took Austin by storm (indeed, long before he was a twinkle in his parents’ eyes), these folks have been smoking brisket and sausage to great acclaim.

Opinions differ on what constitutes excellent barbecue. For me, it’s brisket that’s tender and moist (nothing gets under my saddle like dry brisket), with a bright smoke ring and a dark, flavorful bark. Sausage should have a nice snap from the casing, a slightly coarse grind, and a peppery bite. Ribs should have a nice caramelization on the outside from the rub, and the meat should be fall-off-the-bone tender. Sauce is a sacrilege; if you serve me a plate of barbecue smothered in sauce, you’re dead to me. Again, though, this is all a matter of opinion. Some people — people who are wrong, wrong, wrong, I should note — think sauce is important. Some people prefer lean brisket. Some are vegetarian. (I can joke because I’ve given up meat for Lent and am totally okay with that.)

The rankings here are the result of a survey taken of the Alliance’s approximately 100 members. As such, I should note that these rankings do not reflect my personal opinions about what constitutes the best barbecue beyond Austin city limits. That said, I do offer my personal opinions on the restaurants because, well, I have opinions about barbecue.

5. Kreuz Market

Kreuz Market photo courtesy of Matt Abendschein,

Located about 30 miles southeast of Austin in the small town of Lockhart, Kreuz has long been a beacon on the Central Texas barbecue landscape. Indeed, Lockhart is home to so many fiercely loved barbecue joints that it has long been a destination for out-of-towners looking for an authentic barbecue experience. Kreuz Market started out as a grocery store and meat market in 1900, where the proprietor, Charles Kreuz, would smoke the meat to help prevent spoilage. It has been a dedicated barbecue restaurant and meat market since its second owner, Edgar Schmidt, converted it in the 1960s, and is a very popular stop for barbecue road-trippers. (Seriously, go to any of these spots on a weekend and you’ll see great clumps of pudgy, red-faced, middle-aged fraternity brothers in khaki shorts and Robert Earl Keen t-shirts sat at large tables, surrounded by giant Styrofoam cups of iced tea or a dozen six-packs of crappy beer, going at huge mounds of brisket and sausage. It will likely be their first stop of many for the day/weekend.)

It’s been a while since I ate at Kreuz, but I really like their jalapeno sausage. It’s got a nicely textured grind and the zing of the jalapeno is a message from the sausagemaker that says, “Yeah, you’re a grownup. You can take the heat. Don’t be a pansy.” Kreuz is cash-only, and plan to stand in a long line of a lunch hour. Also plan on using your hands (no forks!) and being offered saltine crackers with your meat.

4. City Market, Luling

Meat at Luling City Market. Photo courtesy of Cooking For Engineers,

Head about 15 miles farther south from Lockhart and you’ll find yourself in Luling, home to City Market, another general store converted into a barbecue restaurant. When you walk in, you’ll probably feel some dismay when you realize that not only is the end of the line about six inches from where you walked in, but all of the tables are full. Good luck getting to the bathroom! As you get closer and closer to the pit room at the back of the space, where you will order your meats by the pound, you will have had plenty of time to inspect the display of various chips, homemade pralines, ice cream, watch the cashiers in action, and so on. People watching is part of the fun of a trip to City Market; not only will you see fellow city slickers like yourself, you will get to watch the locals in their natural habitat. (Pro tip: if the locals outnumber the tourists, you’ve found a winner.) But then when you get your meat and you’ve knocked over a little old lady to get your bum in a seat at a recently vacated table, you’ll forget the wait. Brisket, sausage, ribs: you can’t go wrong. (I’m partial to the brisket, tho.)

Part of the charm of Luling City Market is the small-town Texas experience you get as part of the barbecue meal. Another pro tip: if you time your visit for late May/early June, you will be witness to the aggressive campaigns of ambitious high-school girls angling to be elected the Watermelon Thump Queen. (Luling’s trademark crop is watermelons, and they hold an annual Watermelon Thump in the summer. The entire town is decorated with a watermelon motif.)

3. Smitty’s

Smoking sausages at Smitty's. Photo courtesy of Cooking For Engineers,

Smitty’s was established in 1999 by Nina Schmidt Sells, the daughter of Edgar Schmidt, in the wake of a bitter split with her brother, who now owns Kreuz Market. Smitty’s is situated in the original Kreuz space on the square in Lockhart. I’ve never been to Smitty’s, but I hear the brisket is the star here. Smitty’s also offers a smoked pork chop, which is pretty unusual for a barbecue place.

2. Louie Mueller

Wayne Mueller, son of the late, lamented Bobby Mueller

This is hands-down my favorite barbecue outside Austin. If you love Franklin Barbecue, you also love Louie Mueller, because Aaron Franklin learned from the masters. Located in Taylor, about 30 miles to the northwest, Louie Mueller’s, like so many other barbecue joints in Texas, started its life as a grocery store in the 1940s. Bobby Mueller took over operations at the barbecue place in the 1970s and established himself as a major player on the Texas barbecue scene. When he died suddenly in the fall of 2008, he had worked more than 150,000 hours at the pit, and his loss was keenly felt. His sons, John and Wayne, were forced to contend with the business; Wayne took over the business in Taylor, while John foundered for a while before opening his new trailer in Austin. (The February 2012 issue of Texas Monthly has a very moving profile of John Mueller and Aaron Franklin, and I highly recommend you check it out.)

At any rate, the brisket at Louie Mueller in Taylor is the best brisket I’ve ever had. Period. Hands-down. Yeah, if you get there too late in the morning, you’re going to wait in line, and it’s smoky and the sticky brown patina on the walls and photographs bear testament to decades’ worth of that smoke. But the brisket, my god, the brisket.

1. The Salt Lick

Finishing pit, The Salt Lick. Photo courtesy of Cooking For Engineers,

Okay, here’s where I part ways with my AFBA peers. I don’t think that the Salt Lick has very good barbecue. But, whatever. It’s a fun experience to drive the 22 miles west out to Driftwood (BYOB, by the way), hang out with your friends and family while you wait for a table, and eat family style at the same picnic tables I scrubbed down as a drink girl (and waitress) in high school. But just know that when you go to the Salt Lick, you’re not getting the same quality of meat that you would at Mueller’s. I will say, though, that the blackberry cobbler is the best I’ve ever had. The bottom line? Go for the experience, not the food.

Foodie Field Trip: Eating (in) Arizona

One thing I like to do when we’re traveling is check out the local food scene. Yes, this is a big NO DUH, but go with it, yes?

We spent a week in Arizona (mostly the Phoenix/Scottsdale area) over Christmas, and Matt and I made it a point to check out some new places and old favorites while we were there. I didn’t really have much of a bead on Arizona’s food culture, apart from the research I did for an entry on Native American foods for this encyclopedia, before heading out, and I didn’t have time to conduct research via the area’s scant food blogs, so I was pleasantly surprised to find an article in the local paper spotlighting the best new dishes in Phoenix in 2011.

One of the dishes on the list was a salmon rillette at the Arrogant Butcher, but after some research which included a Yelp review that said that two salads and two iced teas at lunch had cost $50, we scratched that place off our list. So, we decided to check out Big Earl’s BBQ instead, whose hot link hoagie had also made the cut on the list in question.

Located in old town Scottsdale, Big Earl’s has only been around for a little less than a year, and I suspect that the good press had led to an unexpected uptick in business, as the two waitstaff were slammed. They were out of hot links, so Matt and I split some brisket sliders and an order of mac and cheese, which was good, but not as good as what I make at home. The brisket in the sliders was tasty, and highly recommended (with the caveat that no brisket touches what you can get at Franklin. The end.).

Of course, no trip to the Phoenix area is complete without a trip to Fry Bread House and Chompie’s. While you can get all kinds of Indian tacos at Frybread House, from ground beef to a green chile pork, because I am picky about meat, I went with the vegetarian Indian taco, which is basically beans, cheese, and your typical veg on a large piece of fry bread. It is really, really tasty but simple food (and we always share an order of fry bread with honey for dessert), and there’s something deeply satisfying about supporting a local- and Native-owned business that has turned a food of suffering into a profitable business.

We first learned about Chompie’s when we saw Adam undertake the Jewish sliders challenge on Man v. Food. I will say that on the whole, the food at Chompie’s is fairly average, although the Jewish sliders and the fries are terrific (if a bit on the heavy side).

I also really like their rugelach, although I couldn’t get my hands on any this time around because the line at the bakery was so long. We actually ate there twice on this trip and while I was underwhelmed by our first visit, I was deeply happy with the chicken soup with matzoh balls on our last lunch in town.

It wasn’t all dining out, though. There was a lot of cooking, including the meal I made for the family on Christmas Eve. I got the Brussels sprouts for that meal at the Mesa Community Farmers Market, which, while small (it was Christmas Eve, after all!), was a sweet little market with a lot of handmade goodies like bakalva, pierogi, and lots and lots of preserves. I am particularly excited about the large jar of blackberry rhubarb butter that I got from Made by Bees.

One purchase I regret skipping over was the pickled Brussels sprouts from Urban Survival, which sprung up in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. My rationale was that I never would have been able to transport them back to Texas intact, but who am I kidding? I would have eaten them all before how to get them home was even a question. And seriously, there were DOZENS of pickled veggies and salsas on that table. It was such a complete collection that I was happily reminded of it (and also kicking myself all over again) when I saw this sketch on Portlandia Friday night:

I’m not sure what my next Foodie Field Trip will be. Maybe Boston? Seattle? Providence? Raleigh? We’ll see where the year takes me!

Austin to Boston Food Blogger Swap

Back in December, I had the enormous privilege to participate in the Austin to Boston (ATXBOS) Food Swap. I was matched with Jo at Hungry Crafter, which was a brilliant match, given our shared interests in food, cooking, and crafting.

After a few hastily exchanged emails (we were matched right before my defense) and following each other on Pinterest for a number of weeks, I felt ready to curate a package for Jo that spoke to both our overlapping tastes (hello, salted caramel!) and represented Austin’s local food culture.

In the package that went to Boston, I included the latest issue of Edible Austin, a copy of the Austin Chronicle (the one with my review of Bacon in it), a Bearded Brothers energy bar, some homemade matzoh crack, a small jar of salted caramel pear butter, some peanut brittle popcorn from Cornucopia, small pouches of vanilla bean sugar and Native Texan bbq rub from Savory Spice Shop, a bottle of Goodflow honey, some peppermint marshmallows from Coco Paloma (a last-minute addition that ended up making me miss the December 15 deadline, which was not a huge deal), a salted caramel brownie from Mary Louise Butter, and a couple of dishcloths I knitted. I am pretty proud of this goodie box!

I mailed the box out on December 16 (or 17, can’t recall) and held my breath. Jo was running late on her box, too. As it turns out, our packages probably crossed in the mail, as hers arrived here on Monday the 19th (the day before we were leaving for Phoenix for a week!), the same day that mine arrived in Boston! We really are truly kindred — and tardy — spirits.

Here are goods of Boston provenance that arrived that day: a bag of Effie’s oatcakes, of which I gobbled down two before reading the nutritional information; marshmallow Fluff (BK and LK had their first-ever Fluffernutters yesterday as a result); a bag of Fastachi nut mix; a bottle of maple syrup; some local dried cranberries, which are so delicious that I am rationing them for Very Special Salads and the occasional small fistful for snacking; a couple of pellets of Taza chocolate; and a couple of snack bags Jo made after observing my craft-related pins on Pinterest. She also included a lovely card with an image done by a local artist and tons of recipes and articles about the included products.

I am so pleased with this swap and to have made a new “penpal”! In fact, I may be presenting a paper (on food in The Hunger Games) at a conference in Boston in April and I hope to meet Jo in person (as well as get my hands on more of those cranberries!). Thanks to the organizers for making such a fun exchange happen!


It’s another hell week of deadlines over here, so no blogging for me right now. But I do want y’all to watch Local, the latest documentary in my friend Christian’s 12 Films project. I hope he’s proud of this really beautiful and important piece of work.