Culinary and Pastry Arts: Handmade Holiday Gift Idea

The Gift of Food!

Bûche de Noël from Bread Euphoria in Haydenville, MA. [Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield]

Tis the season to pay special attention to spreading kindness to those around us! Families can spread kindness by sharing homemade foods with neighbors, and can expand this activity to include studies of world cultures by baking foods enjoyed internationally!

We explored food preservation earlier this month – now it’s time to put those skills to use!  Pumpkin or apple butter make great holiday gifts and are something the recipient can enjoy for the entire season! Jams and jellies are also a nice gift idea! Want to help the gift recipient get ready for sugaring season in the late winter?  How about preparing a ready to go pancake mix in a jar? Finally, freshly baked cookies and pies are always a great gift idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Culinary & Family History Through the Apple Pie

Hearth

Where did the saying “Upper crust” come from? According to the U.S. Apple Association, in early America, when times were hard and cooking supplies were scarce, cooks often had to scrimp and save on ingredients. Apple pie was a favorite dish, but to save on lard and flour, only a bottom crust was made. More affluent households could afford both an upper and a lower crust, so those families became known as “the upper crust.”

In 1828 Lydia Maria Child published her book The American Frugal Housewife.  It was a popular book utilized by many 19th century women for its recipes, remedies, and home economics advice.  It also includes a few apple recipes, such as a common recipe for apple pie.  In her 12th edition from 1833 of The American Frugal Housewife, Mrs. Child writes:

Apple Pie
When you make apple pies, stew your apples very little indeed; just strike them through, to make them tender. Some people do not stew them at all, but cut them up in very thin slices, and lay them in the crust.  Pies made in this way may retain more of the spirit of the apple; but I do not think the seasoning mixes in as well.  Put in sugar to your taste; it is impossible to make a precise rule, because apples vary so much in acidity.  A very little salt, and a small piece of butter in each pie, makes them richer.  Clovers and cinnamon are both suitable spice.  Lemon brandy and rose-water are both excellent.  A wine-glass full of each is sufficient for three or four pies.  If your apples lack spirit, grate in a whole lemon. (p.67-68).

Curious to try your hand at apple pie?  Not sure which apples to use?  Ask a farmer!  At many pick your own orchards, or at local farmers’ markets, farmers can usually tell you which apples are best for baking and best for eating. Read the rest of this entry »

Culinary & Cultural Education via Local Resources & Events

Nutritional Anthropology and Culinary Education

Every culture has its own set of values, rituals, and traditions surrounding food. The staple ingredients, indulgences, and forbidden fruits of a given culture are influenced by agricultural systems, habitat, ethical concepts, and religious beliefs. Holidays and celebrations around the world are associated with traditional and ritual foods. Have you ever wondered why birthday cakes are round? Or why latkes are fried during Hanukkah and Buche de Noel’s are baked at Christmas? Food traditions from fish on Friday to turkey on Thanksgiving are rich in history and a delicious lens for learning about culture.

In western Massachusetts, community meals and culinary workshops offer opportunities for learning about culture through food. The Italian Cultural Center of Western Massachusetts, for example, periodically offers culinary classes, teaching participants to make traditional Italian foods such as gnocchi and tortellini. You can also learn about nutritional anthropology through other culinary art traditions by attending cultural events like the Greek Glendi in Springfield, dining on authentic Tibetan cooking at Lhasa Cafe in Northampton, or shopping at Tran’s World Food Market in Hadley can also expose you to new cultures via food.

Pair your interest in culture via food with a documentary on Israeli cuisine on Sunday, June 5 at 2pm at the Yiddish Book Center. This documentary will teach viewers about the culture of Israli cuisine at a community film screening. The 2016 documentary In Search of Israeli Cuisine poses the question: What is Israeli cuisine? Israel is made up more than 100 different cultures. This film profiles chefs, home cooks, farmers, wine makers, and cheese makers of Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian, and Druze faiths. Watching this film can help you connect with your heritage or learn about a new culture through food. 413-256-4900. 1021 West Street. Amherst, MA.


Related archived posts:

Local History Through the Lens of Food: Nutritional Anthropology in the Pioneer Valley

Exhibit Chronicles Northampton History Through Food

Interested in the history of food? Take a peak at the new exhibit in Northampton. Come see how people produced and sold food and how people cooked and ate it, through the years. The exhibition is curated by Barbara B. Blumenthal, a member of Historic Northampton’s Board of Trustees. Barbara was a museum guide and hearth cook at Historic Northampton in the 1980s and early 1990s. Her passion for local history and food history led her to poke around in our collections looking for tasty tidbits to share with the public.

Historic Northampton offers a food-centric take on the city’s history through Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now, an exhibit chronicling the production, purchase, and preparation of the foods enjoyed throughout two and a half centuries of Northampton’s history. With its focus lying on the city’s food-filled downtown, the exhibit offers a new take on the history of local food : rather than sharing the history of farming in Northampton, the exhibit emphasizes the role that local businesses – especially restaurants – have played in the local food chain.

On view from now until May 1, 2016, Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now has much to offer. Made up of a collection of photographs, food-related objects and tools, and historical information and anecdotes, the exhibit speaks to more than just food history.

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Our Growing Roots: Slow Cooker Warms the Tummy

Cooking Up Some Winter Warmth

In this installment of “Our Growing Roots: Real Food, Real Connection,” Cheryl explores how to create simple, food-based connections during the cold winter months as she shares some of her favorite family-friendly slow cooker recipes.

I lose a lot of people when I talk about how much I love winter. I honestly do. The chilly weather, endless mugs of hot chocolate, and lazy weekend afternoons curled up on the couch…isn’t this what being a New Englander is all about? Regardless of your stance, I think we can all agree that the declining temperatures offer a perfect opportunity to connect indoors through cooking and togetherness. Plus, warming up beside a toasty oven is a definite bonus! It’s also the time of year when kids get increasingly antsy with cabin fever and, this year, a lack of snow to keep them occupied. Children are constantly searching for things to do, so gather them up and allow them to get their hands dirty!

Some of our favorite family meals during the winter happen through the magic of a slow cooker. It’s a winter staple in our home now, however, my love of the cherished Crockpot hasn’t always run deep.

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Soup’s On: How Cooking Shows Teach

Why I Will Let My Kids Watch Cooking Shows

Cooking shows are robbed of their central sensory features – the ability to smell and taste the food being prepared. To compensate, they have to create a full-spectrum visual and audio show that captures and keeps the audience’s interest. How do they do it? By treating the viewers like toddlers.

When our kids are very young, we’re taught to envelop them in a cloud of words – to narrate their actions, what they might be thinking, and to explain the steps of our own thought processes as we maneuver them through the day. It often sounds something like, “And now we’re getting in the car, and I’m going to buckle you in, and then we’re going to the post office…”

A variety of published studies have touted the benefits of talking to our kids, but there does seem to be a cutoff – an age where a child’s questions begin to steer the conversation, rather than our pattering observations. This is totally normal, and kids’ inquisitiveness certainly leads us to a variety of conversations we might have never otherwise had. (“Well, I don’t know if giraffes ever feel angry; what do you think?)

And at some point – much to many parents’ relief – the ceaseless questioning begins to taper off, as kids find their own tools for discovering the world. However, when I teach kids in the kitchen, I find myself reverting to the patter-narrative patterns that I would use for much younger kids. Why? Because like driving cars and tying shoes for the younger set, the methods of kitchen work are often a mystery to older kids, even kids with parents who love to cook. Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: A Story From Cooking Class

On Food, And How to Make It

A Story From Cooking Class…

“It’s not fair!” seven-year-old Ethan cries from the back seat as I reveal the big surprise on this week’s menu.  “Robbie (age nine) always gets a treat because he likes soda and I don’t and that’s always the treat.”

Shopping with Robbie and Ethan is always a bit of a great adventure, and they are terrific sports.  They’re learning their way around the market, tasting new fruits and vegetables with part of every snack (starfruit! pomelo! cauliflower!), and also figuring out what I can be persuaded to buy – and what I can’t.

“Pleeease can we have these? You said we were going to make soda and I don’t want any but I could have this instead!” Ethan’s attempts at negotiation are both understandable and in that particular pitch of whine that could rival a mosquito.  I raise an eyebrow and give my standard line – cool, calm, mildly incredulous.

“That doesn’t look like food.”

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Our Growing Roots: Connecting Across Generations Through Food Traditions

A Holiday Reflection

This holiday, start a new tradition… dig out your old recipe cards, and host a Holiday Food Share, where family members and friends cook a recipe that’s most meaningful to them, while sharing a memory of what makes it so special. What a great opportunity to bake that casserole your great aunt was known for, and to share stories rich in history and nostalgia.

The inspiration for this month’s column came a few weeks ago when my grandmother surprised me at work with a fresh batch of her homemade applesauce. Coincidentally, I had forgotten to bring breakfast that day so you can imagine my delight! As I sat at my desk and enjoyed this unexpected treat, and all of the love and labor she put into it, I felt a heart swell of emotion. I imagined her in the kitchen, peeling each apple by hand, slicing, cooking, stirring, cooling…just to give it away to the people she loves. She bakes pies for the holidays, and surprises us with stuffed cabbage because she knows it’s our favorite.  Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: Trust in the Kitchen

Kitchen Knife Lessons

When kids are trusted – really trusted – with true responsibility, they rise to the occasion. They will always know if you’re holding back, or if you’re counting on them to mess up. But the moments I’ve connected most deeply with kids in the kitchen are the moments in which I was just a tiny bit nervous – and trusted them anyway.

I love the sight of a young kid with a knife in their hands.

I love the transformation that happens when they’re handed a real blade. Even the kids who spend their days turning branches into swords and spoons into catapults and every single blessed thing into a gun (down to their own fingers!) – even these kids pause when they take the knife.

I watch the enormity of the moment settle over them – true responsibility, in its most concrete form. I watch their shoulders relax, and their focus narrow. Some parents wonder why I save the safety talk until the knife is actually in their hands – and this is why. Once you are holding the knife, wielding that power, the safety lessons make much more sense.

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The Magic of Gingerbread: A Call for Gingerbread House Designs

The Magic of Gingerbread Competition

The Springfield Museums are pleased to announce The Magic of Gingerbread, this year’s annual gingerbread house exhibition and competition. They are inviting families and schools to submit design plans for imaginative gingerbread houses up until November 15, 2013. (Houses must be delivered by November 25.)

What does your fantasy fairy tale castle look like?  Are there turrets?  A moat?  Maybe a drawbridge?  Now, what if it was made not out of stone, but of gingerbread, icing & candy? – Gingerbread houses are a great way to engage in creative-free play with your family, and the Springfield Museums is inviting community members of all ages to be a part of their holiday exhibit, “Gingerbread Fairy Tales.” All entries will be displayed in the museum alongside fairy tale backdrops and holiday trees beginning in mid-November. 

The Springfield Museums are inviting bakeries, schools, individual bakers and young people to submit design plans to create gingerbread houses that will be on view at the Springfield Science Museum as part of the holiday exhibit, “The Magic of Gingerbread.” Entries (due by November 9th) can be created by school classes, businesses, youth groups, etc. – or your family can create one of their own! Participation in the gingerbread contest offers youth a fun and creative way to experiment with architecture and design, as well as kitchen skills & creative-free play! Families with kids of all ages can design an entry together – using careful planning to perfect designs for each wall, window, and courtyard – and can easily incorporate math, problem solving, food science, etc.  It’s also an excellent opportunity to discover and talk about the archetypes present in fairy tales…

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Pioneer Valley Bread House Welcomes Autumn with Community Baking

Pioneer Valley Bread House Connects Community

Bread House gatherings are centered around, but not limited to bread-making. While the bread rises and bakes, bread-makers enjoy conversations, story-telling, and other creative activities. One of the goals of the PVBH is to stimulate community engagement with issues vital to our towns – issues of food, health, local resources, sustainability, and intercultural dialogue.

The Pioneer Valley Bread House brings the transformative experience of communal bread-baking to Northampton, MA. On Tuesday, September 24th, from 4-6pm, bread-lovers of all ages are invited to make and share bread with others at the generously donated kitchen space of the B’nai Israel Temple (253 Prospect Street in Northampton). The event is free and open to everyone. Gluten free breads are also made.  Then on Monday, October 14th from 4-6pm, the PVBH will celebrating World Bread Day, also at the B’nai Israel Kitchens in Northampton.

The Pioneer Valley Bread House (PVBH) organizes bread-making events as fun and creative community activities. “We need joy and we knead joy,” says Nadezhda Savova, founder of the global Bread Houses Network, in a recent interview for National Geographic.

“The Breadhouse can be a vital connecting point for all members of our community. We all have something to contribute: a recipe, a story, a song, a smile, and knowledge of how to better use our local resources. You don’t have to be a baker or a talented artist. Just show up and enjoy the company of others and the creation of bread,” says Dr. Leda Cooks who is one of the co- founders of the PVBH and a University of Massachusetts Professor of Communication…

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Let Them Eat Pie! ❥ Tuesday Market Supporting Food Security.

Mash Notes to Paradise by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Note 29, We Eat Pie for Good Purposes

Kids ages 13yo and younger interested in culinary arts and local food are invited to bake their favorite fruit pie using local ingredients to submit to the Tuesday Market annual Pie Contest happening on Tuesday, September 10th. ❥ Baking a pie is a great way for food-enthusiastic kids to learn and/or practice kitchen skills, including basic math and kitchen chemistry. Utilizing local foods (berries, apples, peaches, milk, butter, or maybe even local flour!) in a pie can also help to connect youth with the network of local food that surrounds them here in Western MA.

FoodStampsX2 is the brilliant brainchild of Ben James and Oona Coy, farmers (Town Farm) and farmers’ market managers (Tuesday Market) in Northampton (not to be confused with their brilliant children, Silas and Wiley). The idea was pretty simple: make sure that people could use their SNAP (food stamps) benefits at the Tuesday Market. Then, the idea got better: have the first ten dollars’ worth of benefits doubled at the market for those receiving SNAP benefits. The FoodStampsX2 represents win-win: local food to people that may struggle to afford it along with a boost of dollars to hardworking farmers growing food locally.

Enter Gina Hyams, my Berkshires friend (and extraordinary connector; it’s her superpower). Her Pie Contest in a Box inspired my son. The scene went like this:

My son Ezekiel, on couch, examining Pie Contest in a Box: “Let’s have a pie contest.”

Unattributed idea that belonged to one of us: “At the Tuesday Market.”

Me: “To raise money for FoodStampsX2.”

Ezekiel: “Typical.”

Tuesday September 10th, 2013 is the third annual Pie Contest at Tuesday Market to help raise money for FoodStampsX2…

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Historical Culinary Incidents: Food History of the Pioneer Valley

Historical Culinary Incidents
Lecture Series at Wistariahurst Museum
Holyoke, MA

Come to Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke this fall for a great lecture series featuring local scholars and experts discussing various aspects of the food of the Pioneer Valley and its history.

There are many different entry points for thematically investigating history. In studying the traditional dress of various time periods, we learn about the activities likely done by people based on their style of dress. We read and study classic art and literature as a means of understanding the historical context in which it was written or created. Architecture, similarly, can be examined in order to understand the resources (both material and monetary) of people in a particular place at a particular time.

This fall, the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke hosts Historical Culinary Incidents, a lecture series that examines local history through the role of food in the Pioneer Valley. Held at 6pm on Monday evenings – beginning September 9th – each lecture will focus on a different aspect of the area’s edible history. By attending the events, families can learn together about the important role that food has played throughout the area’s history. Lecture topics will focus on everything from the food enjoyed by college students to former valley vineyards…

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Oak & Acorn: Forage, Farm and Feast with the Family

Tasting the Evergreens

Life in Western MA has its many pleasures. So many times I feel really lucky to live where I do and to be surrounded by so much beauty. The mountains, the rivers, the farmland, the flora and the fauna are just some of the things I appreciate. I live in the Pioneer Valley and I am always trying to find ways to connect with my surroundings. I have a five year old daughter name Thu with whom I love spending time in the outdoors. There are many activities we can do to connect with nature and where we live which bring the two of us closer while helping my daughter form a relationship with nature itself.

One of the things I love to do with Thu is go on an outdoor adventure and forage for wild edibles. You most probably have something growing in or near your own backyard that is edible, and maybe even some wild edibles waiting to be discovered! Once kids start learning about the wild edible growing around them,  families can look forward to what’s going to pop up next. As always, get to know what you are looking for and make sure you properly identify it- if you are unsure, just don’t eat it.

In the Springtime one of the easiest things to forage for are spruce tree tips. Most of us, if not all of us in the Pioneer Valley are in walking distance to one of these trees. If you have never done any wild harvesting or feel that you wouldn’t have a clue as to where to start, then foraging for spruce tips is a great activity. Children love being part of the hunt. They love spotting these evergreens from far away and once they learn that parts of it are edible, it makes it even more fun. Foraging for wild edibles becomes a tool which can help children learn more about what grows around us. Searching for spruce together can help kids start to learn more about different tree species and appreciate their beauty even more.

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Edible Books: Creative Free Play in the Kitchen Meets Literature

What Happens When Creative Free Play in the Kitchen Meets Literature? EDIBLE BOOKS!

If you devour books, does that make you a bookworm?  Does your family sometimes seem to subsist on the sustenance of words alone, rather than actual food?  Creative book lovers rejoice, for the ultimate opportunity to show your love for books has arrived!

The Forbes and Lilly Libraries in Northampton & Florence are again holding The Edible Book, an annual fundraiser for the libraries that requests that rather than turn books into food (for brain cells!), library patrons turn food into books!  Just imagine – a pile of phyllo dough pages filled with grape jelly renderings of Harold and his purple crayon, or a caterpillar (who is very hungry) made out of lime peels munching his way through an array of snacks.  The possibilities are endless… and also delicious!

Check out this Edible Books Pinterest Board with images of edible books, and this video shot by Northampton TV from last year’s event and get inspired!

Edible Book is not unique to the Pioneer Valley – it celebrates the birthday of Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, author of The Physiology of Taste, an early 19th century meditation on food and taste.  In the style of Brillat-Savarin, spend some time meditating on food as a family in order to find creative ways to use it to represent your favorite reads!

This year’s Edible Book event will take place on Saturday, April 21st, 2013 at the Florence Community Center on Pine Street.  Between 2 and 4pm, entrants and spectators can view the many submissions.  Families who don’t create an edible book can stop by to see what others have created – they will be beautiful, wacky, and displays of creative free play in the kitchen!  Prizes will be awarded in many original categories (“sugar overload,” for example), and fun will be had by all!

 For more information, visit www.facebook.com/EdibleBookNorthampton, or contact Bonnie Burnham (413-584-7482, bonnieburnham@comcast.net).

Pie Contest at Hancock Shaker Village

Youth Invited to Participate in Hancock Shaker Village’s Annual Pie Contest
Deliver to Village on Sept 28th.

Hancock Shaker Village’s 15th annual Country Fair on Saturday and Sunday, Sept 29th-30th from 10am-5pm promises fun for the whole family with Shaker-inspired games in the Kids Tent, a farmers’ market with samples of heirloom vegetables to taste, vendors and demonstrations of handmade crafts, wagon and pony rides, antique engines and tractors, a pie contest, and a juried quilt exhibition.

Hancock Shaker Village’s annual Country Fair takes place on September 29th and 30th! The festival celebrates the fall harvest and all of the many food-related activities and traditions that the season brings. Especially exciting is the festival’s annual pie contest, which features an amateur division for young baker-extraordinaires! Entries in the contest must be baked at home from scratch, and delivered to the village between 3-5pm on Friday, September 28th. Bakers may use the crust recipe of their choice, and can choose their own filling or use one of the provided recipes from The Best of Shaker Cooking. By participating in the contest, kids can learn shaker history, practice chemistry and math skills in the kitchen, and begin to develop culinary independence and creativity! For more information on the fair, visit www.hancockshakervillage.org or call 413-443-0188.

Looking for pie baking books to inspire you or the youth baker in your home?  Here are some suggestions you might find at your local library:

[Photo credit: (ccl) Julie Falk]

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