Learning through the Lens of Food: Apples

Poetry, Place & Hearth: Apples

Food connects us. It’s an integral part of our cultural identity and is often prepared with the idea of sharing, giving, and enjoying together.  Nothing indicates the beginning of autumn and the fall harvest in Western Massachusetts like the crisp bite of a local apple picked right off the tree, or the sweet taste of a freshly baked apple pie.

Apple season is a beloved time of year in New England with apple orchards preserving our heritage, regional identity, and local landscape. By visiting pick-your-own apple orchards, we meet the farmers that grow our food, learn firsthand how apples grow, and engage in the seasonality of the land and the sense of belonging it instills within us. Traditional recipes, the scenic orchard landscapes, and the representation of apple-picking in literature and art remind us of how the apple has become a rich part of our cultural heritage. Read the rest of this entry »

PYO Apples

Pick Your Own Apples in Western MA

Apples, one of the earliest (and most delicious) signs of fall, have been an important part of New England agriculture for centuries. McIntosh apples are undeniably the most iconic of New England’s apples, and make up over two thirds of the regions apple crop! Macs and countless other delicious and fascinating varieties of apples are grown at orchards across western Massachusetts, and families can enjoy this year’s fantastic apple crop by visiting an orchard to pick or purchase a bushel.

Participate in the tradition of apple-picking and support local agriculture! Check out these orchards and farms in Western Massachusetts for Pick Your Own Apples!  Read the rest of this entry »

Poetry of William Cullen Bryant: The Planting of the Apple-Tree

Poetry of William Cullen Bryant
“The Planting of the Apple-Tree”

Did you know that William Cullen Bryant, a 19th century poet (and Schoolhouse Poet like John Greenleaf Whittier) planted over 800 apple trees on his farm property? While the orchard is no longer active, you can still visit the poet’s homestead in Cummington, MA. A property of The Trustees, The William Cullen Bryant Homestead is open for house tours and other activities in the fall.

While visiting the property, take a look at the scenic Hilltown views of the Westfield River Valley, take a picnic lunch (don’t forget your freshly picked apples!) and read Bryant’s poem “The Planting of an Apple-Tree.

The poem’s various stanzas walk through the passage of time, starting with the planting of the apple tree and ending with the apple tree in its old age, as well as the poet who planted it. The tree is more than just the bearer of fruit, but as Bryant nostalgically mentions, is a tree that represents childhood, home, and identity.  It provides shade on hot days, perfumes the air with the fragrance of springtime, and offers a resting place for playing children in the summer. The apple reminds the poet of New England’s seasonality and the apple-tree represents a unique  American spirit beginning to blossom in the mid-19th century.  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 »

Community Apple Celebrations: Featured Events 2016

How Do Apples Grow?

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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The Universal Language of Food

Cooking for Intercultural Competence and Compassion

By Andrea Caluori-Rivera
MassLIFT AmeriCorps Member at Hilltown Land Trust & Kestrel Land Trust

Submitted by Andrea Caluori-Rivera

Food connects us. From the hands and land that grow and nurture our ingredients to the moment we gather together and share a meal, food has the power to reveal the cultural layers that help us learn more about identity and place.

While living in Italy in 2008, I stayed with an older couple in Cernusco sul Naviglio, a town along the outskirts of Milan in Northern Italy. The husband was from Morocco and the wife a native Italian.  As a foreigner in another country, it wasn’t easy making new friends.  Even though I spoke the language and understood the culture, I often found myself alone, reading a book in my room or taking long walks to the center of town. The husband, Ahmed*, noticed my loneliness. One afternoon, he brought me to a nearby small city where his extended family lived. It was one of the few times I ventured outside of Cernusco.

When I arrived, everyone was helping to prepare an early afternoon meal.  Ahmed’s nephew, (later to become one of my few friends in Italy) asked me: Vorresti una forchetta? (‘Would you like a fork?’)  I thought, “A fork? Of course I’d want a fork if I were to eat, wouldn’t I?”  Before I could answer, Ahmed responded. To be sure I understood, he spoke in Italian rather than his native Moroccan dialect: No, lei mangerà come noi. (‘No, she will eat like we do’).

We all sat down at a small round table, a large plate in the center with couscous and lamb stew.  Each person was given a large piece of bread, a small plate, and a napkin; I saw no silverware. Ahmed looked at me as I watched everyone else use the bread to scoop up delicious mouthfuls of the tender lamb and I understood. So I picked up my bread and joined in the feast.  It was the most memorable meal I had in Italy.

I share this story because it was one of the first few moments in my life where I understood what it meant to be culturally aware.  Food became the door to not just being an outsider but rather a companion.  When I came back to the United States, I took a basic course on intercultural competence, the ability to communicate with other cultures appropriately and – I would also say – compassionately. I realized that the preparation of a meal and gathering together in the spirit of community is a profound way to reach beyond the point of observation and build the foundation for empathy, awareness, and most importantly – friendship.  Read the rest of this entry »

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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