I’ve been thinking about painting my back porch and deck white since it was built last summer. After all, we spend about fifty percent of our time out there. I’ve long disliked the toxicity of commercial paints on the market. Most common indoor and outdoor household paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs contain a variety of chemicals, some of which give off noxious fumes and may have short term or long term adverse health effects. According to the EPA, levels of some VOCs are 2 to 5 times higher inside a home than outside; when you are painting or stripping paint in your home, particularly in older homes where lead paint may have been used in the past, indoor levels of VOCs may be 1000 times that of outdoor levels. I’ve used VOC-free paints for all of my indoor and outdoor painting since they came on the market some years back.
In thinking about my outdoor living area, I wanted to investigate additional ways to paint more safely, and came across two options that I could possibly make myself: whitewash and milk paint. Whitewashing, which many of us remember from Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, was commonly used for years because it is inexpensive, can be homemade, and homeowners could use ingredients they had on-hand, improvising their own recipes. It is still used in rural areas to protect wooden surfaces like fences and barns, or by designers who want to give furniture a rustic look. The mixture’s base is always lime and water, which makes a chalky type of plaster. Then, ingredients might be added to thicken or strengthen the mixture, like flour, glue, sugar, soap, soil, or milk.
It is a goal of mine to have as many sit-down dinners with Maggie – and our guests – as I can each week. My summer garden continues to grow and I am so anxious for those first tomatoes (my favorite part of summer). You hear talk on all fronts about managing time, finding the right balance of work and family, healthy lifestyles, and “doing it all”. Keeping Maggie, and all of those other things in mind, you can imagine that I was intrigued by a cookbook called, One Pan, Two Plates.
Carla Snyder’s recipes really do make just enough for two adults. If we’re facing one of Maggie’s pickier days, there might even be enough for a small lunch for me the next day. There is little waste, if you follow the recipes as written. Plus, I have found, with prep time included, you can be sitting down at the dinner table well within an hour. That works well at our house, where homework, play time, and bed time all have to be considered in the evening’s plans. There are options on how to enhance each dish for the “extra-hungry” and Snyder has added wine pairings for each meal as well.
A couple months ago, we launched a line of cocktail napkins made with our 100% organic cotton jersey and printed with the Alabama Chanin logo. We also shared a new favorite cocktail: our version of a Maiden’s Blush. Friend Brooks Reitz of the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. sent us some of his small batch grenadine, which set off a quiet frenzy of cocktail experiments and creations around the studio. We work hard, and we like our rewards.
Our latest grenadine-inspired libation is the Alabama Sour (with a Sunrise flare). It’s a twist on the classic New York Sour Bon Appetít shared in April 2013. The classic recipe calls for an ounce of red wine floated atop the whiskey sour. We opted for Brooks’ sweet, yet tart, pomegranate-based grenadine instead of wine. Grenadine is denser than whiskey, causing it to settle on the bottom of the glass, hence the vibrant red, sunrise effect. Over ice, it’s a perfect early-summer evening quaff. We love it.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been nearly three years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and the repercussions still linger. Tar balls continue to wash up on shore as we wait patiently to learn how much BP will pay in restitution. But the fishing, shrimping, and oyster industries have rebounded in strides, as restaurants on the coast and inland support our ocean’s harvest.
Friend and Chef Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama, has played a significant role in supporting the industry, spearheading a campaign with the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission to bring awareness and support to Alabama Gulf seafood, and sharing recipes like his Alabama Bouillabaisse with the reading public.
We try to share a staff lunch once a week here in the studio. It gives everyone a chance to sit down together, laugh, and share ideas. We are, after all, a family of sorts. This week we had hoped to entertain and enjoy time with our friend and collaborator Anna Maria Horner, to whom this week’s journal theme is dedicated. But sometimes life gets in the way, and we were unable to coordinate our time; however, we decided to have a Greek lunch in her honor anyway.
Anna Maria’s family comes from Greece and her grandmother passed down many Greek traditions and treasures to her, including hand-loomed wool blankets and recipes. I love tzatziki, and even though cucumbers are not technically in season yet, we fortunately have a local organic farmer with a solar powered greenhouse – Jack-O-Lantern Farms – and were able to acquire some Alabama cucumbers for the tangy, yogurt dip, as well as greenhouse-grown tomatoes and south Alabama eggplants (still beats vegetables trucked in from Mexico).
We have been working with indigo-dyed cotton jersey for years now. Between Father Andrew and Goods of Conscience in New York City and Artisan Natural Dyeworks in Nashville, Tennessee, there has never been a need for us to start our own indigo vat. And in the quantities we dye, it’s better to leave it to the experts. However, there has always been this little part of me that covets an indigo bath and I dream of one in our studio for “play.”
Since we set about exploring indigo this week, it seemed a perfect time to also explore recipes for a vat (which Father Andrew says is “very much like making beer”). While investigating recipes, I remembered a text message I received last fall from friends A.J. Mason and Jeff Moerchen about an indigo vat they created in the woods of upstate New York. Here they share the story of their vat: