I’ve been a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance for years. I plan to be at the 16th Annual Symposium this coming October, if I can get a ticket soon enough (last year’s event sold out in minutes). The Symposium (as it’s loosely called) is wonderful simply in the fact that you spend the series of days learning, dining, and drinking among such an amazing group of individuals working to preserve the South’s culture and history through food. Last year, Alabama Chanin designed BBQ-inspired dresses for the 15th annual Symposium. This year, we have new plans in the works. As I’ve written over and over again, what I love most about the SFA is their commitment to documentation and preservation of the present, the who’s who, if you will, in Southern kitchens (across the nation) today.
In the February 2013 issue of Southern Living, an article featured a handful of chefs from Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, and of course, Alabama, who are preserving southern cuisine in new and reimagined ways that reflect the changing landscape and demographics of the contemporary South.
Popular culture, social media, and our peers are all embracing a trend in home gardening across the country (though few of these gardens are as radical as Ron Finley’s median-turned-vegetable-garden project in Los Angeles). A guest for dinner last night mentioned that “even Oprah is on trend now,” having planted her own garden. Here in North Alabama, the home garden is hardly a trend. Most people grow at least a couple of tomato and pepper plants every summer. And if you take a drive down one of our many county roads, you’re likely to see large swaths of lawn devoted to food, with neat rows of summer vegetables stretching over red blankets of Alabama clay.
I’ve had a garden since I moved into my house in 2006. Putting it in might take only a weekend, but the cultivation takes years. However, it’s the week-to-week management that becomes difficult. When temperatures reach 98 degrees in the shade (and stays there for days on end) keeping up with the insects, weeds, the harvest, and watering becomes quite the challenge. Making time becomes stealing time. This is why my generous fall garden was still in the ground in late May, every kale or broccoli plant flowered and well on its way to seed.
Cows were born to roam and graze. Hogs were born to root and wallow. Chickens were born to scratch and peck. According to Will Harris and White Oak Pastures, these are the natural behaviors of animals, making them commonsense tenets of how to raise healthy livestock. “Nature abhors a monoculture,” is one of Will’s favorite sayings.
Five generations of Harrises have farmed a tract of land in Georgia that now raises livestock using traditional, multi-species grazing rotation, no hormones and no antibiotics. But, business was not always done this way. Post WWII, the Harris family farm moved away from the traditional ways of doing things and began raising livestock using more chemicals and fertilizers and blending into the industrialized complex of food production. In the mid-90’s, Will Harris, the current head of White Oak Pastures, made what some called a foolish decision to bring the family farm full circle: moving back to the traditional ways of natural grazing, healthy animals, and respectful butchering.
In 1982, Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw opened Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The deli quickly became Ann Arbor’s premiere specialty foods store. As the business grew to include mail order customers across the country, Paul and Ari were presented with an opportunity to open stores nationwide and follow a traditional franchise business model. What they did instead is a great representation of the philosophies that Alabama Chanin tries to embody. Community, sustainability, and education are at the heart of the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, which is made up of eight different, semi-autonomous businesses that operate as one organization. Zingerman’s has remained firmly in Ann Arbor, building successful commerce from within the community, by the community, for the community. This year the organization will have annual sales of about $46,000,000 and employs nearly 600 people.
The Zingerman’s Community of Businesses (aka, the ZCoB) includes a bakery, a coffee roaster, a creamery that makes both fresh cheese and gelato, a candy manufactory, and a James Beard award-winning restaurant. ZingTrain, Zingerman’s business training service, offers seminars that share the organization’s approach to leadership, service, open book management, visioning, etc. They offer baking classes at BAKE, their nationally recognized baking school for the home baker. Zingerman’s also runs a publishing house, which publishes several books by Ari, focused on guiding the small business owner. You can find the titles Building a Great Business and Being a Better Leader in our online store. In the spirit of Alabama Chanin, the books were beautifully designed and illustrated by the Zingerman’s team, printed in Ann Arbor on recycled paper and are not available through mass market distribution.
We sat down with Ari Weinzweig to find out more about this unusual and innovative prototype for a new kind of business model.
We’ve loved every plate, bowl and serving dish from our collaboration with Heath Ceramics that has come through the studio. But it’s this newest addition, the Camellia pattern, that is easily my favorite, and the most elegant. Each piece is hand-etched by a Heath Ceramics artisan and comes in Opaque White. The design is offered on the Deep Serving Bowl, Dinner Plate, and a Serving Platter, and is a natural addition to the current Alabama Chanin @ Heath Ceramics collection.
The Alabama Chanin @ Heath Ceramics collection is available in Heath Ceramics stores, on the Heath Ceramics website, and our online store.
Makers and doers Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu, two friends and former Harper’s Bazaar colleagues, have teamed up to produce the first indie food magazine to celebrate women in the food world. Beautifully designed and expertly curated, Issue #1 – The Tastemaker Issue – will be released in May. I’ve just contributed to their Kickstarter Campaign, which ends this Friday, May 3rd.
Kerry Diamond, working on the editorial side at Harper’s, went on to open two wonderful Brooklyn restaurants (Seersucker and Nightingale 9) and a coffee shop (Smith Canteen) with her chef boyfriend. Claudia worked on the creative team at Harper’s, later starting her own design firm, Orphan, and the cult indie publication, Me Magazine.
These Real Women are making tremendous inroads, and doing it (really) well. Read more about Kerry Diamond on Refinery29 and more about Cherry Bombe Magazine on their Kickstarter page. Make a donation and get good magazine.
I think that we all have memories of family dinner with Mom bringing one single bubbling hot dish to the table. I have a favorite casserole from childhood, something that my mother called “goulash” that I’m sure bears little resemblance to the actual Hungarian dish. I’m not sure that I’d even like it if I ate it today, but the thought of the curly noodles and the hearty aroma is enough to make me still believe it was practically gourmet cuisine.
My friend Tasia of Belle Chevre – that wonderful goat cheese I’ve mentioned (a few times) before – has created Make Your Own Goat Cheese Kits. I love this idea for a Mother’s Day gift. Maybe if I let my Picky Eater help me make it, she’ll actually eat it. Kit includes everything you need, just add milk (and Mom).
Find kits here, or visit Belle Chevre’s beautiful new tasting room in Elkmont, Alabama.
Photography by Stephanie Schamban for Belle Chevre.
For Marimekko Week, we wanted to make (and eat) one of the delicious Finnish dishes on the Marimekko Feeling Festive blog. Armi Ratia has been an inspiration to so many, myself included, for decades. The clean lines and graphic look of Marimekko patterns are both simple and exciting to the eye and the bold, bright colors exude confidence and happiness. I feel a distant kinship with Armi and the Marimekko process. There exists a shared desire to create beauty in things that will last a very long time.
That colorful simplicity of Marimekko design finds its way into the Festive blog recipes. This Carrot Butter was well loved by our staff on a very cold, grey day.
We spend a good bit of time in the kitchen, planning meals and testing out new recipes to share, while I spend evenings trying to please the taste buds of my picky eater. I’ve found that kitchen twine has a number of uses, including trussing or tying meat when cooking or when you want to keep a stuffing firmly placed inside of something. Use it to tie fresh herbs in a bouquet garni or bouquet garnish (see recipe below) or wrap bacon on the outside of your roast or bird. I also use my twine for tying up birthday presents and pony tails—and stuffed animals at my house are often doctored with bits of twine. You might also try making our Knotted Necklace with this twine. It is thinner than our Cotton Jersey Pulls but made in the same way.
Twine, especially for use in the kitchen, shouldn’t be made from synthetic materials (they can melt or chemicals can seep into your food), and we’ve found this organic, non-toxic option works perfectly.