I CAN Believe It’s Not Butter


By Daniel Meyer

I was going to post this picture without comment. Butter-flavored syrup (which clearly contains no traces of actual butter) is a product just ridiculous enough to not require introduction or description. Or so I thought. But then I tasted it. 

The problem with Krasdale’s “buttery” syrup is not that it’s totally repulsive, but that it’s kind of delicious (in the same way that Top Ramen with two seasoning packets is delicious). I have parted ways with many of my childhood food desires, but there must still be a portion of my tongue (if not my brain) that remains susceptible to these crunchy-salty, sugary-sweet lab experiments that all-too-often pass as “food”, especially to kids. 

I am fortunate to enough to be able to cut myself off from butter-flavored syrup after just one drop, as tasty a drop as it was, because I know that it’s horrible for me, that there’s such a thing as real maple syrup that comes from trees, and that you can make your own (much better) version of Krasdale’s product by melting a pat of real butter in real syrup. But imagine if you weren’t lucky enough to know those things. You might never see a reason to stop. And that’s even more alarming than butter-flavored syrup itself. 


Garden Candy


By Edward Schneider 

I’ve said before that it gives me a thrill to pick and immediately cook produce from my father-in-law’s garden in the UK. I’m a city boy and the son of city folk: my father was born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and, although my mother’s parents kept a few chickens in their yard outside Czestochowa, Poland, their emigration to Brooklyn when my mother was twelve marked the end of animal husbandry for them. So, I am innately ignorant of tilling the soil. My limbs, like those of Mrs. Sullen in George Farquhar’s 1707 comedy The Beaux’ Stratagem, were not made for leaping of ditches and clambering over stiles. Much less for hoeing and weeding. 

But I’ve long harbored the illusion that, apart from die-hard Londoners (who are just as bad as us New Yorkers), Britons are universally garden-mad and raised to be familiar with small-scale agriculture centered on a quarter-acre behind the house or in a public plot (an allotment). Some of you who have read more than a few of my posts will know that Jackie’s father has always been an enthusiastic horticulturalist whose big garden yields everything from fennel to rhubarb to elderflowers. Granted, when he bought the house, back in the 1950s in a then-new suburban development, he picked the one with the largest garden, but all the houses in his neighborhood sit on pretty substantial parcels of arable land.  

Continue reading

Sunday Supper: Pasta with Pork Ribs

If after a summer of barbecue you’re looking for something else to do with those spare ribs, this pasta will do them justice (and then some).  Adapted from How to Cook Everything.

Andrea’s Pasta with Pork Ribs

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 11/2hours

One of my favorite pasta recipes, a Neapolitan specialty—taught to me by my old friend Andrea—that can make just a few ribs go a long way.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 small dried hot red chiles (optional)

3 cloves garlic, chopped

6 to 8 meaty spareribs, separated

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

One 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes with the juice

1 pound ziti, penne, or other cut pasta

Freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese (optional)

1. Put the oil in a deep, broad saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the chiles if you’re using them and the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the ribs and raise the heat to medium-high; cook, stirring occasionally, until the ribs have browned and given off some of their fat, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, crush the tomatoes with a fork or your hands, and add them to the pot.

2. Turn the heat to medium or medium-low—enough to maintain a nice steady bubbling, but nothing violent. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the ribs are very tender, nearly falling off the bone, about 1 hour. Remove the chiles from the sauce if you used them. (You can make the dish ahead to this point; cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Gently reheat before proceeding.)

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the pasta until tender but not mushy. Drain it and sauce it; serve a rib or two to each diner along with the pasta.Pass the grated cheese at the table if you like.


No More Foreign Oil!


By Kerri Conan 

This time of year, Kansas is usually lousy with sunflowers. Precisely what you’d expect from “the sunflower state.” Several small-headed varieties grow from ditches and cracks in the pavement, while fields of commodity plants—with their massive faces and sturdy stalks—bow in the wind like a battalion of chorus lines. Here in the eastern part of the state, where the weather has been strange even for tornado alley, we’re not getting many blooms this year. Fortunately, our co-op in Lawrence started carrying local sunflower oil this summer: So everything is coming up golden in the kitchen. 

Bainter is the producer, from the small town of Hoxie. Maybe I’m stretching the standard “local” radius a bit. But in this case—since single-source cooking oil is a rare foodstuff in America—I’m counting 333 miles across my beloved state as nearby. Bainter oil isn’t cold pressed, but claims to be refined without chemical solvents. I believe it. The slightly cloudy color is the shade of melted butter, with a moderately assertive balance of grassy, floral, and nutty flavors. The viscosity doesn’t turn your mouth furry. And to my pleasant surprise the oil doesn’t smoke, burn, or go bitter when super-heated. If you have to ask about the price, you can afford it. This is the Midwest after all. Check out the company website. (And while you’re there, feel free to add a piece of Bainter’s patented hydraulic farm equipment to your shopping cart.) 

Continue reading

A New Way with Tomatoes


By Laura Virginia Anderson 

It’s gotten to the point of the summer where I’m getting a little tired of my go-to recipes for the vegetables from my CSA share. Don’t get me wrong; I still love slow-cooked Greek-style green beans (one of my friends describes them as “everything a green bean was meant to be,” and I’m inclined to agree), beets baked in foil and then sautéed in garlicky olive oil with their greens, and ripe tomatoes and peaches sliced and eaten raw with a splash of sherry vinegar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. It’s just that these dishes no longer thrill—they’ve become almost banal, a weekly occurrence.

So I’m trying to inject a little creativity into the process of cooking and eating my vegetables and fruit. This week, I received a pint of lovely little cherry tomatoes in addition to four soft, heavy slicers. The thought of eating them all in salads didn’t appeal, nor did that of broiling them with herbs or making tomato sauce. But then I noticed the bag of whole wheat flour sitting in my pantry, and one of those thoughts arose, one of those ideas that is either brilliant or idiotic, one of those recipe-notions that takes on a life of its own and demands to be made: tomato muffins.

Continue reading

“The era of cheap, abundant food is over.”


There’s a lot more to say about this, and I’ll be saying as much of it as I can in the next few months (and years, I suppose), but my review of Julian Cribb’s The Coming Famine is an opening salvo. The book is convincing, scary, and filled with details about things that most readers of this blog – and most people who consider themselves “substainabilists,” to use an impossible word – already know, at least in broad strokes.

I’m not saying “buy this book,” though it reads pretty well, especially for something so dense. I’m saying it addresses issues to which attention must be paid. The sad thing is that if you’re reading this you probably are already paying attention.