by Megan, February 18, 2012 3:30 PM
Gabrielle Hamilton's restaurant Prune, a little 30-seat spot in New York's East Village, quickly made waves when its doors opened in 1999. Hamilton had originally set out to cook for her neighbors but soon found herself hosting visitors from everywhere ? all made the trek to experience, firsthand, her rustic, bold, and unpretentious food.
As it happens, Hamiltion is as adept at expressing herself on the page as she is on the plate. She skillfully chronicles her unorthodox childhood and unexpected path to celebrated chefdom in her captivating new memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter.
We couldn't agree more with Michiko Kakutani's review in the New York Times:
Though Ms. Hamilton's brilliantly written new memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter, is rhapsodic about food...the book is hardly just for foodies....[Hamilton] is as evocative writing about people and places as she is at writing about cooking, and her memoir does as dazzling a job of summoning her lost childhood as Mary Karr's Liars' Club and Andre Aciman's Out of Egypt did with theirs.
Whether reading Hamilton's story leads you on your own pilgrimage to Prune, or simply instills or awakens a passion and reverence for food, we promise it's a journey you'll be glad you took.
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Megan: How do you begin to chart your own life for a memoir?
Hamilton: I think a memoir is supposed to be about a discrete period of time, you know, "My Summer in Tuscany" or something like that. And I guess what I ended up using for myself was basically my entire life so far. [Laughter] Well, not really — it's so edited. But starting from my childhood to raising my own children, that was sort of the arc for me.
And it was edited ruthlessly in that I only wrote about my life inasmuch as it pertains to food — also the people and places, and their narratives, were included only inasmuch as they pertain to food. That's why some of the narratives peter out, because once those people were no longer part of a food story, it wasn't pertinent to the book any longer.
Megan: At the beginning of the book, you describe a lamb roast that your family hosted every year when you were a kid. It's really a beautiful passage. How did you conjure up all of the amazing details?
Hamilton: Oh, that party is indelible in my mind. We had it every year, so it was familiar to say the least. I can easily conjure it now — almost with more than five senses. [Laughter] I can still smell it. I remember the humidity, the color of trees. It was so magical. It made quite an impression on the kids. And it's become a lifetime yearning to get back to it. So, I think I've also been imagining it well past its actual existence.
Megan: I love the section where you talk about how much you like the smell of manure, and how you seek it out in the food flavors. Can you explain that a little bit further?
Hamilton: Explaining certain wines can be difficult in a similar way. You can really taste the wet saddle of horse or the wood. It can be dicey to talk about wine in that way, where you think you're just talking about fruit, and then people start talking about leather and tobacco. But I think that's what I like, which sometimes turns others off. I like cheeses that really stink and can be hard to connect with. I love the smell of skunk. I love that. As long as it's in a distant field and not on your dog.
Megan: You write about an instance where you're hiring people to work in a kitchen, and you instantly weed out anyone who says they're interested in cooking because "it sounds fun." What should the temperament and expectations be of someone who wants a serious career in cooking?
Hamilton: Oddly enough, you shouldn't even really like cooking that much. It isn't for people who think of cooking as something you do leisurely in your own home with great, savory results. Cooking in a restaurant is just a completely different project. It's about speed and repetition and working under very difficult conditions. So, if work itself and hard manual labor turn you on, if that's something that excites you... I mean, what I often ask people is, "Do you love to cook? That's great. But, do you love to cook for 10 hours straight and do you like to cook at 10 minutes before midnight when a table walks in?" If you can say yes to that, then you should definitely go into it. You should have a compulsion for working and sorting, and organizing chaos into order. If those things appeal to you, then I would go into this field.
Megan: You make it clear that even though you've made it as a successful chef and business owner, that there are still aspects of the job that are decidedly not glamorous — which you outline pretty well in the maggot/rat passage. I threw my book on the ground when I read that, I was so disturbed.
Hamilton: I'm sorry.
Megan: Oh, don't apologize! It was effective! But tell me about the most rewarding experience that you've had.
Hamilton: Well, they do live side by side, those gruesome moments and those beautiful moments. Really the horror and the beauty are in such close proximity to each other. The lows, you know, there are dead rats, or sick patrons, or hateful staff members. There's all that interpersonal difficulty. And equally, the pleasures are the beautiful human interactions that you have with staff, with customers, with purveyors. I love my plumber and electricians and refrigeration guys. I can really hang out with all those guys in the trades; they're my favorites.
Also, I think handling the product itself is very satisfying. I love to, oh, put my hands in the flour bin as I'm scooping out flour. That's such a sensual pleasure. The sensual pleasures are many.
Megan: You write about how your experiences backpacking around the world as a young adult would ultimately influence the philosophy behind Prune. For instance, how prolonged periods of hunger translated into you wanting to have something ready to serve customers the moment they sat down at the table. What in your life helped determine what you didn't want your restaurant to be?
Hamilton: Well, I would say that my entire career in catering was a serious influence on what I did not want Prune to be. I have a 30-seat restaurant, which isn't really a moneymaker, because you kind of need to have at least 60 seats to make any money. What I've traded off in lucrative-ness, I make up for in not cooking in volume. It's so nice to not be cooking for 12,000 or 600, or 12,000 and 600 and 350 all in the same day — what corporate catering can require.
I definitely did not want to pack anything up i
by Megan, September 22, 2011 4:27 PM
All this summer, Erin Morgenstern's debut novel, The Night Circus
, has been garnering extraordinary buzz in the book world, which is especially remarkable given that it doesn't go on sale until September. Happily, all of the attention is well-deserved. Morgenstern has woven a compelling story around her beautiful, mysterious circus, inhabited by rich characters you'll have a hard time being apart from.
The Night Circus pulls you into a world as dark as it is dazzling, fully-realized but still something out of a dream. You will not want to leave it.
So says Téa Obreht and we completely agree. Even the toughest of us couldn't get over how enchanting (note, we use that word sparingly) the story is, and we knew we had to share the magic with as many readers as possible. What better way than to make it the latest selection for our subscription club, Indiespensable.
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Megan Zabel: The Night Circus is an amazing story. Where did it come from?
Erin Morgenstern: First of all, thank you. The story came about as an accident. I started writing the novel several years ago, and I never really planned for it. I'm not an outliner; I just like to write and see what happens. Several years ago, I got bored with the story I was writing, so I decided to take all of my characters to the circus, and the circus was a lot more interesting. I abandoned what I'd been writing and just focused on the circus.
That's where the whole finished book came from, exploring this imaginary location that I'd come up with, just for lack of anything more interesting. What would be interesting? A circus would be interesting! And of course it developed its own very peculiar circus flavor as I kept writing.
Megan: Have you had any real-life experiences that mirror The Night Circus or any of the exhibits within it?
Morgenstern: Most of it is imagination based. There are little things here and there that are based on real-life things. The cloud maze is partially based on my childhood memory, which I wrote to be much more elaborate than it actually was. In the Boston Children's Museum there used to be this sort of three dimensional climbing maze that was like jigsaw puzzle pieces layered on each other, so you could only crawl through certain spaces and then climb holes, and it would change. I'm not even sure I'm actually remembering it properly, but that's where the cloud maze came from, this idea of a maze that went up and down, instead of just side to side.
And there are other little touches. The labyrinth at the beginning of the circus, the tunnel that you walk through after you get your ticket, is taken almost completely from this theatrical production called Sleep No More, which was done by a theater company called Punchdrunk. It's immersive theater. You would go in, and you would get a map, and you would explore the space on your own. It's the closest thing to the circus in real life. When first you enter, you go through very long tunnels in the darkness with candles. That was one of the things I liked. I was thinking that this is what The Night Circus needs, that transitional space to get from the real world into the performance world.
Megan: I usually have a hard time reading novels that have a high ratio of descriptive passages, but, in this case, I was totally sucked in.
Morgenstern: I think that part was kind of hard for me, because originally I wanted there to be long, sprawling, detailed descriptions of every single tent. As I kept revising the book, they got shorter and shorter and shorter, and then it became this less-is-more sort of thing. I wasn't actually sure how much I should describe each tent and how much of a feel of the circus to give. I think it definitely works better in the finished book, to have some description but not too much. I think there's enough left to the imagination that you get a feel for it, but it doesn't overload every little detail.
Megan: I was particularly enamored with the descriptions of the food, the clock, and all of the clothing. Were any of these items based on real things? If so, I want them.
Morgenstern: Most of it's made up. There's one particular piece of clothing, the gown that Celia wears, the one that looks kind of like a wrought iron cage, which is directly taken from a picture of a House of Worth evening gown, circa 1900, which I found just randomly googling for inspiration. I think it's actually in the Met, but I haven't seen it in person. It's this beautiful white gown with black velvet overlay, and it looks like a wrought iron cage, almost. But everything else is made up.
Megan: You're an artist as well as a writer. Do those two skills feed off each other?
Morgenstern: They definitely sort of influence each other. I like to say that I can paint what I can't write and write what I can't paint. I think that because I'm used to painting and to thinking of things in a very visual sense, I always picture what I'm writing. It's almost like trying to write pictures sometimes. I sort of know what's going on, and then I distill the pictures into words.
And sometimes just one or two words will fit the picture in my head, and I'll work from there. I think my writing started to mirror my painting in that way, that I sketch more. And, I'm kind of a messy painter. I get paint on everything. I seem to have adopted the same techniques when I'm writing. I write and write and write, and change things, and move things. I don't try to get it perfect on my first try, which I think is really good for me.
Megan: You write on your website that you were reading Stephen King at age 12 and J. K. Rowling at age 21, and that it speaks volumes about your literary development. Could you talk about that?
Morgenstern: I think that's just one of the weird little quirky things about me. I grew up in a time when there wasn't a young-adult section. So, in my very early teens, I was already exploring the adult section of the library, and I have morbid taste anyway, so I glommed onto Stephen King right away. Those are great books to get lost in, as well as Rowling's. I developed a very macabre sense of literature very early on. I read Harry Potter in college for a children's literature class. I think my own sensibilities are a weird amalgamation of both whimsical things for older people and weirder things for younger people.
Megan: Were you reading any other books at the same time that you were writing The Night Circus? Anything that you got inspiration from? Or did you avoid reading anything else while you were writing?
Morgenstern: I definitely avoided things that I thought were too similar. I avoided anything
by Megan, July 26, 2011 11:38 AM
It's safe to say that whatever publisher McSweeney's does, they do with flair. Lucky Peach
, their new quarterly food journal, is no exception.
Lucky Peach is the brain child of McSweeney's Books co-publisher Chris Ying (who serves as editor-in-chief), acclaimed chef David Chang (of Momofuku fame) and food writer Peter Meehan. Each issue of the quarterly will focus on a theme. Issue one, which debuted this summer, is all about ramen, a 170-plus-page "ramencyclopedia," featuring contributions from Anthony Bourdain, Ruth Reichl, Harold McGee, and other big hitters. The final product is a beautifully designed, eclectic collection of essays, photography, travel writing, and recipes.
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Megan Zabel: How did Lucky Peach come to be?
Chris Ying: In 2009, we put out McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #33, "The San Francisco Panorama." In that 300-plus-page newspaper we did a food section, which included a "How to Make Homemade Ramen" spread. Through that I met Peter Meehan and Dave Chang. Their Momofuku book was coming out, and I was trying to get a hold of them to excerpt a recipe. When we eventually met up, we hit it off and had some good conversations about food writing, cookbooks, and cookbook design. Since then, we've kept in touch and continually dreamed about working together again.
Then, about a year ago, I was talking to Peter, and he said that Zero Point Zero, which is a television production company based in New York that produces Anthony Boudain's TV show [No Reservations], had been talking to Dave Chang about doing a show of his own. That idea morphed into this new media iPad app that would feature video, along with text, photos, and art. So there was all this material they were collecting for it. And Peter, whose heart is in print media, asked me if I thought we could also make it into a magazine. To which I immediately said yes.
Megan: The iPad app is still part of the plan, right?
Ying: Yeah, the iPad app is still part of the plan. They're doing some pretty ambitious things with it, so it's still in development.
Megan: I read your interview with Publishers Weekly, where you said you were aiming to create a publication that would appeal to not only foodies but to readers who appreciate good writing and art. Besides the response to the food section in "The San Francisco Panorama," were there indications that there would be an audience for this sort of thing?
Ying: There were no concrete indications that there would be any audience for this whatsoever. [Laughter] It was basically all just anecdotal evidence that motivated us to go forward. I think people in the food world ? the chefs we talk to, and the food writers we talk to ? have a wide breadth of interest. They care about more than food.
Then the people we talked to in the McSweeney's circle of contributors, friends, writers, artists, filmmakers ? all these people whose primary medium isn't food ? are also interested in food. The fact that these crossovers existed in our own social circles made us think that maybe somebody would care about a magazine like this.
Megan: It seems like the response has been amazing.
Ying: Yeah, we're definitely very surprised at how positive the reaction has been. We really did make this quarterly more or less in a vacuum, not knowing how the reception would be, and people have really responded to it. It's a relief. It's just nice to see that we can start a print magazine and people will still go out and buy it.
Megan: Have there been any surprising champions of Lucky Peach that you didn't expect?
Ying: It's always really pleasant to hear from chefs that we don't particularly know very well, reaching out and asking about their subscriptions and complimenting the issue. We saw that Andrew Zimmern blogged about it.
Megan: Is he the guy who eats all the gross stuff?
Ying: Yeah, he's the Bizarre Foods guy. I don't think any of us knows him, but he blogged about it and said something nice.
Megan: Were there aspects of food publications that you specifically wanted to avoid?
Ying: You know, I don't think that we had any specific direction in mind. This is not the best way to run an editorial process. But, in the conversations between Peter and Dave and myself, I felt like we were just all on the same page in regard to what we wanted, though we'd never formalized any set of parameters the magazine would follow. I think what ultimately emerged was this magazine that we would want to read, that our friends would want to read. We didn't try to necessarily make it have universal appeal. Some of it is a little insider-y, I think, but still open enough that people could figure out what we were talking about. We didn't want every article to be an introduction to something, for an audience who was completely in the dark. We figured that the people reading this magazine, and people who read food magazines generally, already have a pretty good basis of knowledge.
Megan: What's your background in food?
Ying: I worked through college as a line cook in the Bay Area, and again for a little while after college, when I was starting as an intern at McSweeney's. Most recently my friends started a restaurant called Mission Street Food, in 2008. I was helping them cook in the early days, until they outgrew my incompetence.
Megan: Do you consider yourself a foodie? That's such a... I don't know, I feel kind of gross every time I use that word.
Ying: I think that everybody feels gross about every label that describes them. But, sure, if a foodie is somebody who eats too much food.
Megan: Food geek feels better.
Ying: Yeah, I feel like I'm a food geek. I don't know that much about restaurant openings, and I don't really track things that are happening in the restaurant world, but I definitely like reading about food, and I constantly overeat. [Laughter]
Megan: The first issue of Lucky Peach is 174 pages about ramen. Was the focus originally that specific?
Ying: Yeah, from the beginning every issue was going to have one specific topic. Ramen is probably more hyper-specific than the topics will be in the future. I think it will be a little bit more expansive and a little bit more abstract. And even in the ramen issue, a lot of it is tangential or digressive. But we certainly didn't set out to do 170 pages about ramen; it just kind of materialized.
Megan: How did you assemble your contributo
by Megan, June 13, 2011 6:00 PM
When I discovered Artemisia, a treasure of a shop in Southeast Portland which primarily features terrariums, I remembered how mind-blowing terrariums seemed as a kid. The ability to build a tiny world felt so powerful and important ? you could create a climate! In Artemisia, I felt that same sense of awe all over again, only this time it was a result of the sophisticated aesthetic applied to the craft by shop owner Amy Bryant Aiello. Her terrariums are simple, yet otherworldly, and somehow convey a sense of calm; I feel like just gazing at them lowers my blood pressure ? not to mention how stylish they look perched on the bookshelf.
In Terrarium Craft, Aiello shares 50 of her enchanting terrarium designs, all perfect hybrids of gardening plus crafts. Each project is captured with beautiful photos and straightforward directions on how to create them yourself.
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Megan Zabel: How did you get into making terrariums?
Amy Bryant Aiello: Growing up, my father worked as a naturalist. He taught children and adults about nature and plants and animals. I basically grew up in this place called the Wood Lake Nature Center.
Megan: In Minnesota, right?
Aiello: Yes. My father just passed away, so I was back there for his memorial and funeral, and I went back to the Wood Lake Nature Center. It's such a sweet little place. They have a gazillion taxidermied animals, and everything is really hand-crafted, made by all the naturalists there. It's a funny little, hokey place. Well, not hokey. It's beautiful. But you know what I'm saying: it's not slick; it's the perfect size, and they have so many little things for you to discover and interact with. It has a lake and a woodland area and a floating bridge so you can walk around in the woods and look at ducks and birds and turtles.
Megan: It sounds dreamy.
Aiello: It's super sweet. I was surprised at how beautiful it was, because you don't know if you remember things differently as a kid. It's exactly how I remembered it.
So, I grew up with my naturalist dad, and then I went to art school and studied installation art and photography at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland. I was a creative person and had a background of being immersed in nature, paired with a love of plants. I opened my shop, Artemisia, which started off as an outdoor plant nursery and indoor plant store, then I started collecting materials that I really loved and putting them together, and as part of that I started making terrariums.
I didn't actually know much about terrariums to begin with. I just started playing around with plants. I planted succulents in sand in glass bowls, and things kind of grew from there.
Megan: It seems like many people think of terrariums as something that you only make when you're a kid. Why do you think grown-ups should give them a shot?
Aiello: For one, they're really easy and fun. There's a beautiful creative element involved that anybody can attain. For people who think that they aren't artists or people who feel like they can't grow plants, a terrarium is a really perfect little space in which both of those things can come to fruition. What I frequently hear people say when they come into the shop is that it's an easy way for them to be creative.
I get a lot of people, especially a lot of young people, who have apartments and they don't have garden spaces outside. We all crave nature. So, it's a really wonderful way to bring that into your own home and also be able to have this really incredible design inside your home, as well.
Megan: Who comes into Artemisia for terrarium workshops?
Aiello: Gosh, everybody comes in for workshops! I have young people. Some people bring their mothers in. I have older women. It is a lot of women, but then I get some guys, too. I have people doing corporate team building. Some people come in with wine. And then there are kids, and they're fantastic because they just throw it together, and they know exactly what they like. They don't get in their heads too much about it.
I started writing a story for each of our designs, because when I see people at the workshops make their terrariums, they're all basically using the same materials, but each one looks significantly different and artistically very individual. I feel like there are stories that come out of this, stories about a space that we really want to be in or we really want to look at.
So, I started writing a story for each of the terrarium kits that we sell. I think what people truly get out of the terrarium is something that that terrarium evokes for them. The terrarium itself is just the object that goes along with that story. It's a little esoteric, but...
Megan: It makes sense to me. [Laughter]
Aiello: Good. It's really true. People make these little desertscapes with bones, or forests with birds in them. Everybody is so different, but you can see each person's personality and story coming out. It's really amazing.
Megan: When did the shop start to focus primarily on terrariums?
Aiello: About four or five years ago. That's when I had my little girl. She's a great form of editing in our life. Instead of doing garden design and a plant nursery and a shop, we decided to just focus on the shop. I think that's when we really blossomed. Around two years ago, I gave the shop all of my attention, and that's when we started getting a high demand for terrariums. It's kind of like everything got knocked out of our shop except for terrariums.
Megan: But it seems like the response has been amazing.
Aiello: It's been really sweet. It's always been nice, but I think we finally are letting our little light shine. It was hard to make the decision to just do terrariums. Business-wise, it's been a little intimidating. But when we finally went for it, we were receiving such good feedback. People were saying that when they came into the shop, they felt like it was magical.
I always viewed our shop as kind of being a small installation in and of itself. Terrariums are even more specific installations, little art installations. People bring their friends in, bring their families in. People tell me that ? and this is something I really love ? that it's the place they come to make gifts for other people. It's a place they come to gift something that they find really beautiful and unique to someone else, for weddings, housewarming gifts, and birthdays.
Megan: I can see that. I sent a terrarium kit to my friend for her birthday.
Aiello: You did?
Megan: Yes. I'm sort of a competitive gift-giver, and it was a win. She loves it.
Aiello: Oh good! I'm glad.
Megan: All of the designers I know are completely enamored with you.
by Megan, May 14, 2011 10:00 AM
Heidi Swanson, creator of the beloved blog 101 Cookbooks
, offers nearly 100 of her go-to recipes in Super Natural Every Day
, the follow-up to her James Beard Award-nominated cookbook Super Natural Cooking
With a focus on whole grains, minimally processed sweeteners, and fresh produce, Swanson's recipes are simple, nutritious, and delicious. We don't blame you if that combination of adjectives leaves you skeptical, but trust us on this one. The results are hearty and satisfying; many of these meals have already become some of our weeknight staples. As an added bonus, the recipes are paired with over 100 of Swanson's lovely photos and her own design work, making Super Natural Every Day a charming package you'll want not only for reference, but to curl up with for some quality time.
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Megan Zabel: What were your intentions when you started 101 Cookbooks in 2003, and at what point did you start to look at it as a career?
Heidi Swanson: I think at the time I was craving a creative outlet. My site is an ongoing recipe journal, eight years old now, and it's where I write about the recipes that intersect my life, travels, and everyday interests. Often the recipes are from my cookbook collection, sometimes not. They might come from a friend, or I might write about a recipe I created myself.
I don't really think of it as a career, it's just one of the things I do. I love keeping an ongoing recipe journal where I can write and share photos and exchange ideas with others. And it's something I hope to be doing for a long time, but I like to do other things too.
Megan: How did you get started as a cook? At what point did you realize it was important to you?
Swanson: I remember liking to bake from the time I was quite young. I was always allowed free reign in the kitchen as a kid ? I don't remember it ever being a hands-off zone. My repertoire was limited though, mostly cakes, brownies, cookies. Oh, and quesadillas! But really, it wasn't until I was in my mid-20s that I really started being interested in cooking as something creatively interesting, as something I wanted to explore more and more. I was in-between projects, and cooking became one of the ways I liked to spend my time. I explored unfamiliar ingredients, cooked recipes from different books. I taught myself.
Megan: You write a beautiful passage in the introduction to Super Natural Every Day where you describe how living in San Francisco influences your cooking. Could you talk a bit about that?
Swanson: Thank you! I wanted the book to feel like it was rooted in a place. And so I tried to use both words and photography to help convey a sense of Northern California, which is where I've lived most of my life. There is something so special about living and cooking there: the ingredients, the light, the city, all the different influences. With the opening passage I wanted to set the stage a bit, tell people about the little details I see and notice in my day to day.
Megan: How have you seen the attitude towards natural foods change since your last cookbook, Super Natural Cooking, came out in 2007?
Swanson: Natural foods ? whole grains, less-refined sweeteners, and the like ? seem to be finding their way back into more and more kitchens because people like how they taste. For a long time, you'd rarely see baking recipes call for anything other than white sugar or white flour, but that has certainly changed over the past few years. I think everyone is excited by the exchange of ideas between cooks, chefs, and bakers playing around in this realm now.
At the end of the day people want delicious, satisfying food first. If that comes out of ingredients that happen to be considered "healthier" ? great. Sometimes, people just need ideas related to what they might make with quinoa, or whole wheat pastry flour, or heirloom beans. And because people are out there exchanging ideas through their websites or books, you see more and more home cooks incorporating these sorts of ingredients into their day to day cooking. All exciting.
Megan: Along with cooking projects, your blog features your design work and photography, and in the process you've sort of created a Heidi Swanson lifestyle brand. What are the pros and cons of that overlap between what might be categorized as "work" and your private life?
Swanson: Before blogging platforms were available, it was just me filling up notebooks and folders with scraps and photos and notes. So, it was exciting when I started seeing powerful publishing tools emerge for individuals. I share as much as I'm comfortable with and maintain a level of privacy and distance in some aspects of my life. It all just depends on how I'm feeling at the time. At the end of the day, I just feel fortunate to be able to share a glimpse into what inspires me: recipes, a city, a book, a friend, or something else.
Megan: There are more and more cookbooks being published from avid home-cooks and bloggers who don't have formal chef training, but along with that, a bit of pushback from some folks who don't think that just anybody should be able to label themselves a culinary expert. (Poor Gwyneth comes to mind.) What has your experience been like?
Swanson: I think it's great that there is such a wide range of voices out there, this mix of professional chefs and home cooks telling their stories, sharing their recipes and techniques. I know my style of cooking isn't for everyone. That's cool. Hopefully that person will find inspiration from another writer or blog.
Personally, I never get hung up on the word expert. I'm self-taught. Cooking is one of those things where you're always learning; that's part of what is interesting about it. I'm happy to learn from an expert, a friend, a blog... I look for inspiring information or recipes first and work back from that.
Megan: What are some of your tried and true favorite cookbooks?
Swanson: I've cooked a lot from Moro East this year and can't get enough of it ? lots of ingredients I always keep in my pantry put together in ways I wouldn't have thought of. There's one soup I love in particular: celery, caraway, tomatoes, and olive oil.
Megan: I am a fairly healthy eater but require a Cheeto every four months or so. Are there any rule-breaking foods that you have to give in to every now and again?
Swanson: I had part of a classic ice cream sandwich today, vanilla with chocolate. Bought it in a gift shop in the middle of the desert. One hundred plus degree heat. Totally hit the spot.
I corresponded with Heidi Swanson by email on May 9,
by Megan, February 7, 2011 4:32 PM
Make sure you've got a few hours to kill the moment you pick up The Terror of Living
. Urban Waite's debut novel is smart, breathlessly paced, and over-the-top in the best possible way.
Set in the Pacific Northwest, the story follows Phil Hunt, an ex-con who's turned his life around, except for a bit of drug smuggling on the side, meant to supplement his income and pay for his and his wife's small farm. But a routine delivery goes bad, and Hunt finds himself on the run again, from both a sheriff trying to overcome his own past and a hit man named Grady ? one of the most brutal, real, and haunting villains you will ever encounter.
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Megan Zabel: We're really excited about your book.
Urban Waite: I'm really excited that you're excited! I'm very happy and very grateful.
Megan: Where did this story come from?
Waite: I was reading a bunch of really interesting books at the time, and I was feeling a little bit desperate in my own life. I ended up getting this fellowship to go to the Vermont Studio Center for a month, and, at the same time, just happenstance, I got a grant from a society in Boston. Really what I asked was, "Can you give me enough money to pay my mortgage so I can go do something like this?" I was writing a lot of short stories and having a great time doing that, but, as every writer knows, they don't pay so well. I needed some sort of income.
Megan: What were the books you were reading at the time?
Waite: I was reading John Casey's Spartina. I really love that book. And then, of course, Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. I've always enjoyed that book, and I was really excited about the movie, because they didn't change much at all. They took it line for line. Dog Soldiers was another one that I really liked. And Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory. Definitely favorites.
Megan: It seems inevitable that your book is going to be compared to No Country for Old Men. Is that something that you were cognizant of when writing Terror?
Waite: I tried to distance myself from it, but I think it's great if I'm compared with that book. I really do. I really like Cormac McCarthy though I think it might show too much in my writing. I didn't set out to do a book like this, but I was fascinated by the use of different parties' views in No Country; there's the sort of cartel figure, the lone boy, the sheriff, and the killer. I like how they all prey on each other and sort of go spinning off into who knows where.
Megan: So you'd say that writing this book was a departure for you?
Waite: It was a big departure for me. But looking back now, I can see some of the violence in the short stories. The short stories were definitely quieter stories, focused around this Mexican American family living around Long Beach, California. They were mainly about a family coming apart, and they were all connected. But some of the other stories were a little bit more violent, like a conquistador story that I really like. I love short stories. As soon as I finish the revision of this book I'm working on now, I'm hoping to go back and write a few more.
Megan: So how did you end up writing a book like Terror?
Waite: I fell into it. Honestly, I thought I would write something more literary, more like the short stories that I was writing. And then I just had this idea. I wanted to write something about the Northwest, and I wanted to write something about characters that interested me. And characters that interest me are characters at the end of their rope, who are struggling. I asked myself, "What am I really identifying with? What's the most powerful message that I can bring that I feel in touch with?" And this is what came out.
Megan: I read Terror a couple months ago, but I still think a lot about the character Grady. I feel like he's been burned into my brain. [Laughter] Where did this guy come from?
Waite: That's a good question. [Laughter] He kind of scares me. I don't know where he came from. It worries me that something like that came out of my mind. Because, personally, I think characters are a side of the author; that's their originating point. But he scares me. I was talking to somebody recently about this, about how he's kind of a sympathetic character in a very strange way. And that's what's most disturbing about him. He goes about things in a crazy way, but it all seems very rational to me, the way he does it and the way he controls the situation.
Megan: I think what was most unsettling to me was that nothing seemed to stop him. I kept reassuring myself that, in real life, the police would be smarter; there would be some way to get this guy. He's still traumatizing me. [Laughter]
Waite: I feel like people get away with way too much in this world, and I think that's coming out in Grady. I'd like to think that a force like that could be stopped, but, at the same time, I'm not sure it could. I think eventually it would come to an end, but not before a lot of damage was done.
Megan: Could you talk about your writing process?
Waite: Sure. When I was living in Boston, and I was getting my MFA, I worked at a restaurant. What was great about it was that I had tons of time to myself when everybody else was at work, so there was very little temptation to be like, "Hey, let's go get a beer" or something. I would wake up and read for an hour or two and just get in the feel of things and listen to the cadence of the writer in my head. Then I'd sit down with my own ideas and try to get something out, writing for at least two or three hours. And by that time, I'd probably have to go to work.
I stayed true to that process when I went to Vermont. There's a picture of me standing under some bank sign that says it's minus-26 degrees. It's by far the coldest I've ever been. But in an environment like that, where you don't want to go outside, and you're there to get some work done, it was ideal for getting pages and pages of this manuscript done.
Megan: Did you know from the start of this book where it was going?
Waite: No. I really had no idea. I think if I can come up with the first 50 pages, that's probably good enough for me. Then I want to see where it goes. At some point, hopefully, you get a character like Grady, and they start controlling the plot line and controlling where things go, and it's a complete surprise. It makes it so much better when you're writing something and you don't know where you're going. It's exciting to get there.
Megan: You mentioned that you think people get away with a lot. When you were growing up in Seattle, was crime something you thought about a lot?
Waite: Yeah, in a way. I'd heard lots of stories about what was going on with the drug world. It fascinated me, so I kept my ears open. A friend of mine knew
by Megan, January 10, 2011 5:12 PM
We are seriously smitten with Hannah Pittard.
Her debut novel, The Fates Will Find Their Way, is an eerie, perfectly pitched recounting of adolescence that skillfully captures the blurred line between the tangible and the imagined. The story is told from the collective perspective of a group of neighborhood boys who obsess over their missing 16-year-old classmate, Nora Lindell. Fixated on the mystique of her absence, they reimagine the past and can't help but factor her void into their own lives, willfully allowing it to define the men they grow up to be.
It's one of those books that gets passed around the office, talked about at meetings, and enthusiastically recommended to anyone loitering around the shelf of advance reader copies. It had the makings of a perfect Indiespensable title, and we're thrilled to feature a signed and slipcased edition of the book in Volume 24.
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Megan Zabel: Where did this story come from?
Hannah Pittard: I think it's been a long time brewing. I don't think of myself as old at all — I'm 32 — but certainly the older I get the more I marvel at the things I did when I was young and how they've affected where I am today. The more crotchety I get, I think, "Why didn't someone stop me? Why didn't my mom say, 'No, don't do that, ' or my dad say, 'No, don't do that'?" And, of course, they did say it the whole time. It's just that we can't learn it until we've done it ourselves. Now, I look at my nieces, and I look at these children that I teach, and I think, "You're making such mistakes. Don't do that. Don't do that." I guess that's just what life is.
Often I start writing about something that goes missing, or something that's lost. There's an automatic story there. Something has to change. In my short stories, a father will go missing or die, or a dog will go missing, and thus a story is born. I like to see how characters react when something is taken away from them, and, in this case, it was this girl.
I did go to school with a girl whose older sister had been kidnapped, in middle school, so long ago. I was telling my boyfriend that story about two years ago, and he said, "That's the weirdest thing I've ever heard. I've never known anyone who's known anyone who's been kidnapped." I started thinking about that, and I thought, you know, it's true. We see it on the news all the time, but I don't know anybody else who knew somebody who was kidnapped. It's a strange thing to have grown up with.
I kept thinking about how we treated that girl when we were young — the one whose sister had been kidnapped — and we were wicked to her, like it was something that was catching. That was definitely in the back of my mind.
Megan: How did you arrive at a first-person-plural point of view?
Pittard: When I first started it, I wrote 10 pages that are almost identical to the 10 pages that are the first 10 pages now, the very first chapter.
Megan: It's a great first chapter.
Pittard: Thank you. It was the first thing that I'd written in a long time. I'd taken about a year off after writing a very bad novella that didn't sell. And then I thought, "Well, you know, I'm going to shit or get off the pot here, and I'm going to write something or I'm not going to write something." And I wrote those 10 pages. Originally, I thought of the narrator as a collective of children, of boys and girls. I thought of myself being in that school with that girl whose sister had been kidnapped, and I thought, "Well, I want to be a part of this story that gets told," sort of like an apology or something.
And, almost by the second or third page — it was that moment when the boys are thinking about Nora shaving her legs — I realized, no, this is going to be so sexually charged that it has to be the boys. I didn't know how to do a double-gender sexuality. I just knew how to focus on the boys.
But it never even occurred to me, I don't think, to tell it from a single first person. I think I was scared that if I did my voice would come out too much and I wouldn't be able to really be a man or tell this story the way that it needed to be told.
Megan: I'm so impressed with writers who seem to effortlessly put themselves back in adolescence. It's so hard for me to channel what I thought about and what I was like then. How did you get there? How did you put yourself in that place?
Pittard: [Laughter] I'm laughing because my siblings, who are older than me and still make fun of me ruthlessly, would say, "Oh, my God, it's because you are still a child so it's not very hard for you at all." And I think that's probably what my boyfriend and my mom would both say, as well. They would be dying of laughter hearing that question.
This book was bid on, so I got to talk to a lot of editors, and it was just the most ridiculously wonderful experience ever. And one of the editors said that the vocabulary was so simple and really accessible, and I started laughing then, too. I said, "If my siblings were here, they would tell you it wasn't an effort: 'She just has a simple vocabulary.'"
I'm constantly thinking about what I did when I was a child and how terrible I was to other children, and I've always been fascinated by just those things — the dynamics of children. I also had a couple friends who were wicked, wicked little girls who did and said terrible things to me. I think that's always in the back of my mind. So, whenever I go back to adolescence for my writing, it's so simple, because I never left it behind. I have a hard time letting things go. So, it's just there.
Megan: You mentioned a scene that I'd like to ask you about. At the beginning of the book, one of the boys describes how Nora shaved her legs in front of him, and the other boys beg for details, but deep down they really don't want to know. They want it vague, so they can create their own versions.
Megan: That scene kind of sets the stage for the rest of the book. Did you know what this book was going to be about after writing that section?
Pittard: Oh, man. No. I really didn't. I'm sure that the book will get this sort of criticism from people, but I don't know how to plot to save my life. I don't know how to sit down and say this is where I'm going. I'm really driven by a feeling and by a voice in almost everything I write. And where I'm lucky is that the feeling that those boys had at the beginning, that jealousy, it just stayed with me the whole time.
I believe that all of us feel this sort of jealousy for other people's pain because their pain makes them seem so interesting. But, also, that feeling at the beginning, of wanting to keep the fantasy their own because they control it, and they don't want to know the details because then it's not theirs anymore — I think that's something that we all struggle with. Or at least I certainly do. I struggle with that still. So I was lucky to just have that in my brain the whole time.
by Megan, December 13, 2010 2:22 PM
Ten years ago, former New York Times food columnist Molly O'Neill hit the road. She drove coast to coast, on dirt roads and asphalt, through big cities and tiny villages, on a mission to peek into kitchens and debunk rumors that Americans were no longer cooking at home. She was right — after logging over 300,000 miles, she has an 800-page cookbook to prove it. One Big Table is a moving and mouthwatering portrait of the United States, told through the dishes that real people are putting on the table and passing down through generations.
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Megan Zabel: Where did the idea for this book come from?
Molly O'Neill: Well, my very first book was called New York Cookbook. When I did it, I walked around all five boroughs collecting people's stories and their recipes, and I knew that I wanted to do that same project for America. But, America is just a little bit bigger than New York City. [Laughter] So, it took a little while to do.
Megan: Ten years?
Megan: Did the concept of the book change over time, or is the final project what you had envisioned from the start?
O'Neill: There are a couple changes. I envisioned a black-and-white book, and the publisher really saw a color book. I have to say that he was right. And I expected less art and more recipes, but I really believe in the changes. It made a much better book. Now, there are stories. The American story is told through recipes, and it's told through text, and then the pictures and images tell it in yet another way. I love that it can be told in three different ways.
Megan: I was struck by how many photos of people there are. It seems like cookbooks now just have all these huge, glossy...
O'Neill: The heroic shot of food.
O'Neill: I'm not into that. That's not what I do. [Laughter]
Megan: You write in the introduction that you stalked the country's best cooks by region. How did you know where to start, and where did you get your tips?
O'Neill: Well, I was still at the New York Times when I started this book, and readers were always writing to me, and I would write back and say, "Who is your favorite cook in town? Do you have a recipe? Who's the best cook in your family?" I was always out speaking and reporting, and I would get tips that way.
And then, when I left the New York Times, I made an alliance with America's Second Harvest [now Feeding America], the nation's food-bank network. I worked with them to create a movement of potluck dinners across America, which brought in recipes for me and donations of any kind to local food banks.
Those events were really powerful, and I met a lot, a lot, a lot of people who were wonderful cooks who would bring their covered dish and a recipe. And a lot of times, as we talked, we realized that actually there were other recipes that might even be better, and then they would send me recipes, and, you know, it went like that.
Megan: The book features 600 recipes, but you began with over 10,000 contributions. Can you talk about how you narrowed down that list?
O'Neill: First of all, you have to go through and see, jeez, are these truly original? A lot of times, I might be given a recipe "from my Aunt Dodo," and I don't know that Aunt Dodo's cousin got it out of Joy of Cooking.
So part of my job was to make sure that recipes were really original. And then I looked for recipes that made me think about a dish in a different way, and I looked for recipes that were delicious, and cooks who were just irrepressible and real community leaders.
And then sometimes I had to pick up the phone and call somebody who runs a cooking store and say, "Didn't you tell me that you knew somebody who made a great lasagna, blah, blah, blah," and go after it that way.
Megan: Instead of focusing on the dishes that people automatically associate with certain geographic regions, you instead feature dishes that real people in those areas are actually making. Was the region a factor when determining merit? For instance, did a fried-chicken recipe from the South have more cred than one from somewhere else?
O'Neill: No. The regionality is a huge factor because different things grow in different places — and, you know, food is about two things: it's about agriculture and it's about culture. And agriculture and culture shift subtly from region to region.
But my favorite fried chicken in this book comes from New Jersey, from Cape May. The great grandmother was from the South, but today they are practicing their chicken in Cape May. There's a lot of flexibility. People move between places, so regionality kind of spreads and becomes more national.
Megan: What were the challenges of covering such a broad range of cuisine?
O'Neill: Oh, gosh! There were a lot of times we just couldn't see the forest for the trees. There were times when it was simply just overwhelming. There were times when I needed to call in friends and other people to say, "Please help me with this. I cannot look at these thousands of recipes and know which are the 150 that we absolutely have to pursue." I wanted to choose recipes that will be around for a while. I wasn't interested in trendy recipes because this is a really big and very expensive book. If people buy it, I want them to be able to use it for the next 20 years. I don't want it to fall out of fashion. This is not a book about fashion. And that was always in my mind, too. What will endure?
Megan: You've had a long career in the food business. Were you surprised by anything that you learned during the course of your research?
O'Neill: I was surprised by how much more sophisticated the center of the country has become. I grew up in Ohio, and I couldn't leave there fast enough. But I could live in Ohio now. I'd have no problem with that. Food there has become so much more sophisticated. It's no longer exclusively urban. And there were places that really surprised me. West Texas really surprised me. McAllen, Texas, is Mexico, and it sheds a whole new light on why there are border difficulties. Some borders are political and have nothing to do with culture and landscape.
I was also surprised by the huge enthusiasm among youth for the wonderful things that we do. Growing and preparing and eating food! Thirty years ago, that was very fringey, and to see that it's become so widespread... It's like what rock 'n' roll was when I was 20, food has become that. And that's really cool.
Megan: Were there books that you loo
by Megan, November 1, 2010 2:37 PM
Even if you don't recognize her name, odds are you'll recognize the striking work of Olympia artist Nikki McClure. Using an X-ACTO knife, she cuts detailed pictures from a single sheet of paper, creating bold images depicting simple everyday scenes, with a knack for magnifying poignancy through her lens.
After a decade of having her images appear in journals, note cards, and her beloved yearly calendar, McClure has recently begun illustrating and writing her own books. After teaming up with children's author Cynthia Rylant to illustrate All in a Day, she followed with her own picture book, Mama, Is It Summer Yet?, which was received with rave reviews. Her next book, How to Cook the Perfect Day, showcases the artist branching out in another direction. Featuring simple recipes and her iconic illustrations, McClure’s rendition of her "perfect food day" inspires readers to find their own.
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Megan Zabel: How did you find your medium?
Nikki McClure: I had been working in linoleum and scratch board and wasn't really satisfied with what I was getting. And before that I had been doing more technical illustrations with pen and ink in a very scientific style, but I was finding myself obsessing over details and unable to capture them. I'd spend all week drawing the same fly, or the same leaf, trying to get it perfect, but nothing is as perfect is the object itself, and even then, it's not perfect.
So by trying to do linoleum or scratch board, I had to think about the essence of the object other than its exactness, but I wasn't able to quite get it. And then, when I tried paper cut it just felt so good inside my brain, like it was this very peaceful, meditative feeling. And by cutting, by drawing with a knife, basically, I am able to kind of distill each object down to the thing that makes it distinct, like what makes an apple leaf different from a cherry leaf, but without having to do all the details, focusing on what about that thing that makes it different.
So I really didn't have any exposure to paper cuts before I began. I don't have any art background at all. I very much felt like I was inventing the wheel. My own little wheel. [Laughter]
Now looking and being exposed to it, it's like, "Wow, I'm part of this tradition of craft." But I had no idea when I started.
Megan: How do you get from an idea for a paper cut to a finished piece?
McClure: Ideas come from many sources, but mostly from living. Often when I'm kind of stymied for what to do I just play hooky and have a good time. And then the image will sprout from that experience. So there's the experience, which then feeds the image, and oftentimes I have this memory of my muscle moving through the experience, and I'll recreate that with digital photography and staged shots, and then I'll use those photographs plus my memory and kind of make a new picture based on that.
Then I'll make some drawings, a bunch of little thumbnail sketches. And then, when I finally get the one I like, I draw it to size, and then transfer it onto black paper using graphite. Once I have the drawing, I kind of redraw it on the black paper and just start cutting. So I'm following pencil lines on black paper, and luckily my eyes — I'm knocking on wood — haven't failed me yet. So I'm just cutting along, and then once the paper cut is done it gets glued down or scanned or whatever I use it for. But I really love the process of making it. It's like I'm crafting something. I'm building something by removal rather than adding things; I'm always subtracting. And a lot of the decisions on what's black and white get made as I go along. I don't really follow my lines perfectly, because that's all part of the fun.
Megan: I imagine there's not a lot of room for mistakes.
McClure: Yes. But mistakes are OK. They're not something I really set out to make — that's not really a mistake, is it? But when I make one, it's not the end of the world. It opens all these possibilities for me, because if I've already ruined it, then it can't get any worse. You're free to try all these things that you wouldn't necessarily try if you were going to mess up the most beautiful picture you've ever made. You're not going to take that risk. But once you've made that mistake, you're able to take the risk, and those pictures have actually become my favorite pictures.
A couple of years ago, one of my calendar covers was a picture all these people wading into this river, with their backs turned, and I totally messed up on it, or so I thought. And so I just winged it for the water, and it became really sort of as abstract as my art could maybe be, or as psychedelic as my art could ever maybe be, and I really love that picture now.
Megan: I really like that one, too.
McClure: It made me think about the paper in a different way than I normally would have.
Megan: Where do you find inspiration? If you're really stuck, what do you do?
McClure: I usually sweep the floor. [Laughter]
It actually needs sweeping. You just finished the picture, so you leave your room. And the next time you come, there's always something to do, right? There's sweeping the floor.
But inspiration is like... It's everywhere. It's food. It's moss. It's mushrooms. It's the bird that just flew away from my feet. I find a lot of inspiration just... It's just life. Life's so beautiful. It's every needle on the fir tree, all the leaves. It's a way to kind of capture it and honor it, and hold on to memories, too. I feel like I'm kind of compiling our family scrapbook and sharing it with the world. It seems to resonate with people even though it's so personal to me, but I really love making pictures of events in my life. I'm kind of recording it, marking it. But the inspiration is just in the day, though sometimes it's hard to wake up. [Laughter] I like sleeping in.
Megan: It's obvious that most of your art comes from a very positive place. Have you ever been driven by anger, or an emotion more negative?
McClure: Not necessarily anger, maybe an obtuse political frustration. Like, "I must save the world, and I'm getting so frustrated," My politics are...
by Megan, August 9, 2010 11:41 PM
Portland is no stranger to the national spotlight. Mention our green initiatives, music scene or world-class public transit system, and we'll blush and demurely bat our eyelashes. But bring up our food, and we'll get downright boastful. When it comes to the quality of what ends up on our plates, we don't mess around.
Food lovers in the Rose City get a unique opportunity that's not readily available in other places: to meet the farmers and artisans responsible for creating the ingredients that make up our meals. Portland is home to a world-class farmers market, a famously thriving food-cart scene, and an abundance of successful small food businesses fueled by a do-it-yourself culinary culture.
Liz Crain has written a guide to these establishments that make Portland such a special place to eat. More than just a restaurant guide, The Food Lover's Guide to Portland contains profiles and interviews with the folks who are getting their hands dirty producing the high-quality ingredients that are largely responsible for putting this little foodie mecca on the map.
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Megan Zabel: What is your food background?
Liz Crain: I've worked in food service since I could first work, when I was 16. My first job was at Cincinnati's version of Coney Island. The Coney Island there is sort of similar to New York's, with the amusement park and the water rides. I worked in the employee kitchen and from there I moved up to working at a mall food court. And from there I've done all sorts of catering and restaurant work. When I first moved to Portland, I waited tables at the Art Museum Café and at Alameda Café and different spots around town. And that sort of naturally came together with my other passion, which is writing. I loved my English teachers in high school and we did a lot of poetry and short stories. And then I went on to Vassar College and I majored in English. So I took the writing and the food and put them together in Portland.
Megan: How did you get involved with the local producers and purveyors, the businesses that you focused on in the book?
Crain: I've always been most interested in the growing and cultivating of ingredients and how they're crafted into specialty foods. I think writing-wise, that came together when I began writing food stories about local farmers and ranchers for the Portland Tribune. They were always a half page to a page long, so I got to dig into the background of the growers — like how a corn farmer got started near Troutdale and how long his family had been in that area. That was just one of the stories I did.
Megan: Was that article about Winters Farms, by chance?
Crain: It was, yes.
Megan: I worked for them at the Portland Farmers Market for four years.
Crain: Nuh-uh! What a weird connection. That's great. How funny that I wrote so many stories for the Tribune and that just happens to be the one that I decided to talk about with you! Those stories were such a gift for me. I would choose a seasonal ingredient for the in-season stories and I'd find a local farm or a food entrepreneur who was using the ingredient to make something value-added. That's how I got really interested in writing behind-the-scenes stories.
Megan: What do you think the Food Lover's Guide to Portland offers that other food guides don't?
Crain: My favorite part of the book is the many quotes, essays, and interviews. If you just want to quickly get the hours or address for a business or some recommendations for seafood restaurants, you can use it that way. But it's mostly profiles of people and their businesses. So it's a little longer — most of the listings are anywhere from one to six paragraphs. And as much as I could, I conducted first-person interviews and hung out in the kitchens. I think that most guidebooks offer less. They dig less deeply; you just get an overview of businesses. Whereas I give the overview, but I want the backgrounds included.
Megan: You write in the intro to the book about how we've been blessed by geography in Portland and the role that that plays in having such a rich food culture. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Crain: I just think it's pretty stunning how many diverse growing regions we have here. I mean you have the central and eastern Oregon high desert cattle ranches such as Wilson Ranches Retreat, which is one of my favorite places in the state; the coastal fisheries and cranberry and wasabi farms; and, of course you have the Willamette Valley, where Portland lies, with everything from locally grown hazelnuts, burdock, and quince to daikon, persimmon, wine grapes, and then some. And it's all really accessible and easy to get to.
We have those who came before us to thank for the great urban growth boundaries that we have here. We have farmland that just is so close to the city. And you need hardly get out of town — there's some in town really. It's nice because you have all of these creative chefs and food entrepreneurs who are taking ingredients and putting them on the menu or crafting local food products to put on the shelves here. "Buy local" is so vibrant. I mean you really can survive on a 100 percent local diet here in Oregon. You can't say that about a lot of states.
Megan: What has the response been to the book since it came out?
Crain: It's been great. I think that people are appreciative of the fact that I didn't focus so much on restaurants. And I think that for most people who pick it up there are a lot of discoveries to be made. I've already found about 40 places in Portland that I wish I could have included. It's just so diverse here. But it's been a good response.
Megan: What are some of your favorite spots you discovered while researching the book?
Crain: Some of my favorites: Boedecker Cellars was really interesting to me. They're over in industrial Northwest and kind of close to Pyramid.
Crain: I think I can actually see them from where I'm sitting.
Crain: Yeah, that's their tasting room in the front. And then they have the barrel room on the south side. On the north side is where they produce. It was really interesting to learn about them. Friends of Family Farmers is a great organization that I had kind of heard about, but I had never attended any of their events. They're a great local nonprofit working on sustainable ag issues.
Megan: The New York Times seems to be particularly enamored with Portland's food cart scene. Do you have a favorite?
Crain: Let me think about that one. I eat at them a lot, because I work downtown. The closest pod that I go to regularly is at Alder and 10th, near the art museum and the library. That one is huge. It seems like every week there's a ne