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Kurt Michael Friese's Posts

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For some families, the holidays are all about the grub

  This is the holiday season in just about every culture. I was born and raised a Unitarian Universalist, thus of the Judeo-Christian background, so in my house it's Christmastime. For some folks, Christmas is about peace and good tidings. For others it is a joyous celebration of the birth of their savior. In my family it was, and still is, all about the food. It's about presence rather than presents. There are many items that must be on the table, or else it simply is not Christmas. Among these are the clam dip, the wild-rice dressing, grandma's cranberries, and …

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Reclaiming the beauty of Thanksgiving

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. -- Cicero   In a couple of days, we'll celebrate our best, most important holiday. While celebrations of the harvest have existed for as long as civilization (for indeed it was agriculture that necessitated both), this particular holiday is uniquely American. Or at least it was until other former British colonies started having a festival called Thanksgiving too. There are those who enjoy pointing out the tragic irony of the American Thanksgiving: that it was originally a celebration of the bountiful harvest provided by the …

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To make the Thanksgiving centerpiece a sure triumph, go heritage — and reach for the deep-fryer

Fry ya later, alligator. In the 11 years between the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of the Constitution, arguments raged over the future of the nascent nation. One involved the naming of a National Bird. Writing to his daughter on the subject of his choice for the symbol in 1784, Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Eagles have been found in all Countries, but the Turkey is peculiar to ours." I've often wondered what effect there would have been on our national character had Mr. Franklin prevailed. Nonetheless, thanks to America's best holiday, the turkey has earned an honored place in our …

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How I beat KFC’s ‘family meal’ challenge

    Recently, the American public was issued a challenge by the folks at KFC (formerly "Kentucky Fried Chicken," but "fried" just didn't sound healthy). The fast-food joint argues in its latest commercial that you cannot "create a family meal for less than $10." Their example is the "seven-piece meal deal," which includes seven pieces of fried chicken, four biscuits, and a side dish -- in this case, mashed potatoes with gravy. This is meant to serve a family of four. I'm not really a competitive soul, but this was one challenge I could not resist. When it comes to …

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From Iowa’s apple orchards, a delicious heirloom and a recipe for stuffing

This column is an excerpt from Friese's new book A Cook's Journey: Slow Food in the Heartland.   Truly scrumptious: the "red delicious" apple's heirloom antecedent.     Photo: Kurt Michael Friese   One cool spring morning about 1880, a farmer in Madison County, Iowa, named Jesse Hiatt was walking the rows of his young orchard when he noticed a chance seedling growing between the rows. An orderly man, he preferred that his trees grow in an organized fashion, and he chopped the seedling down. The seedling grew back the following year, and so he chopped it down again. When …

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Try skipping the Pringles

Looking for political information on CNN.com, a headline caught my eye: "How to be sodium savvy." Since I recently developed some concerns in that area I clicked the link. The story was written by a chef named David Hagedorn for Cooking Light Magazine, a part of the CNN/Time/Warner empire. What I found at the outset was some fairly basic but useful information about why too much salt is bad, how much salt is acceptable, and that the less salt we consume the less we crave. It then told me that most of the salt Americans consume is from processed food …

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How to turn black walnuts into a delicious dish

When I was growing up in central Ohio, school began right after Labor Day. This was advantageous compared to today's August start, and not just because of the longer summer break. The extra time also allowed the black walnuts to ripen just in time to give us something to hurl at each other as we walked to school that first morning. Front-yard bounty. They littered the ground all through the streets on my route to elementary school. It was customary to announce your approach behind fellow students by pelting them with the large green orbs. The nuts seemed to have …

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When the basil plants get out of control, reach for the mortar and pestle

Mortarin' pesto. September in Iowa always brings the same delicious dilemma -- what to do with all that basil. Few herbs are as surrounded by mythology and folklore as basil. Its origins are debated, but most seem to think it came from India. There, the plant offered innumerable culinary uses: A devout Hindu has a leaf of basil placed on his breast when he dies, as a passport to paradise. Basil figures in Christian tradition as well. It was the herb Salome used to cover the smell of decay from John the Baptist's head. Then there's Haitian Voodoo practice, where …

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A few thoughts on an amazing event — and a recipe for a delectably slow-cooked pasta sauce

Say cheese: a sample of Slow Food Nation's Taste Pavilion. Photo: Russ Walker It's going to take me more than just a few days to fully understand the effects and implications of the first Slow Food Nation, held in San Francisco over Labor Day weekend. The brain power on display was impressive enough: Wendell Berry, Vandana Shiva, Michael Pollan, Winona LaDuke, Carlo Petrini, Raj Patel, Eric Schlosser, and other luminaries took center stage at panels. Add to that the myriad of other events and mind-blowing food, and you get a truly unforgettable event for the thousands who attended. Despite the …

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When the tomato harvest gets out of hand, the tough get canning

Too much of a good thing? Photos: Kurt Michael Friese For a tomato-loving gardener, what's the only thing more frightening than a failed crop? Try an overabundant one. You become terrified that any of these jewels will go to waste. The specter of fruit flies congregating on the compost heap brings regret of over-ambitious spring garden planning. Even in my restaurant garden, which has the advantage of a commercial outlet, the burden of preserving it all can be heavy. Well, take heart, gentle reaper: There is plenty that can be done with all that red, green, and gold bounty. This …

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