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Month: February 2010

Wheaton Village – A Glass Menagerie

“A Glass Menagerie” originally appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of Cape May Magazine.

Like most people who grew up in this area, I’m familiar with Wheaton Village, way up in Cumberland County though it is. All good little schoolchildren on the Cape know that springtime means a field trip to the Victorian glass blowing theme-park to buy marbles at the general store, play on the jungle gym and watch a man make a pitcher out of a glowing glob. Or at least all good little schoolchildren in 1986 knew that. Now that you mention it, I’m trying to wrack my brain for the last time I was there.

I decide I should drive up to Millville to see the Village again. Oh, sure, you can see the glass blowing demonstrations at the Physick Estate right here in Cape May, but I’m trying to reconnect with my childhood here, if you don’t mind. As soon as I enter the park, the nostalgia is overwhelming. I head into the General Store to see if they still sell marbles – my third grade obsession. They do, but I’m distracted by grown-up stuff like cut glass decanters and dish towels that say quirky things about marriage and housecleaning. How horribly mature.

The gift shop at Wheaton Village

I walk out by the pond. This is the same pond I remember from those field trips. Well, some things don’t change. For example, I remember well Canada Geese as a menace. I immediately encounter two fat, sleek specimens of feathery hatred who lower their heads and charge me. Funnily enough, this has actually happened here before. I run at top speed right back to the old red schoolhouse from Centre Grove, 1876. I remember learning important lessons here as a child on school trips, like how teachers were allowed to beat you back in 1876, and students had to chop wood or bring food as payment. Oh, how my teachers loved that part of the tour! And just past the schoolhouse, the playground, completely redone to become a safe, splinter-free wonderland with cushiony landings below each swing. Does anyone get skinned knees anymore? The character building rite-of-passage known as a concussion is almost impossible to come by now. “How will kids ever learn to adapt to the dangers of the world, sheltered and soft like this?” I ask. But just then the two geese find me and the air is filled with evil honking. Seems like the Museum should be having a tour soon, right? I run as fast as my feet can go.

It seems so familiar as if I’d just seen it only yesterday. Wondering if déjà vu can become locked in the “On” position, I ask a lovely woman named Mary at the front desk about the next tour. She tells me I have 10 minutes, and I should enjoy the collection of paperweights they have in the side gallery until then. “It’s all one person’s collection,” she says. As long as there are no geese, I’m in.

“Macchia” by Dave Chihuly. Made at Wheaton Village in 1989. Picture courtesy Wheaton Arts.

One glance at the case of paperweights here, and it’s clear to me that Mr. William Drew Gaskill was not what we think of as a “collector.” He was, in fact, an obsessive. Fifteen hundred pieces! The American original and its Chinese copy? Czechoslovakian mourning paperweights, with pictures of dead children in them! Paperweights commemorating the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, the 1876 Bicentennial in Philadelphia, and a great place to buy a suit in Beaver Falls (et tu, advertising?). Mr. Gaskill was inspired by his collection to form the American Paperweight Collectors Association, of which he was obviously the president. How can anyone else be a member? There must be four paperweights left on earth that were not owned by him.

Mary begins herding everyone back into the main lobby, where a man in a Mr. Rogers’ sweater is waiting. Meet Mary’s husband Bill. Bill explains that he’s the guide, shut off your cell phone, and this Museum building is a reproduction of another Victorian building. Oooh! Wait! What one? “The Mainstay Bed and Breakfast in Cape May,” says Bill, and my head explodes. “But it’s painted in different colors. They chose the Victorian era because that was the heyday of the glass industry.” This must be how amnesiacs feel when it all comes rushing back… now, I can totally see how obvious that is. But Bill is moving on.

Bill is a champion of deadpan understatement. He shows us the history of glass timeline. It’s interesting to note that just after “Venice” comes “Millville.” You almost never hear those two spoken of together. Millville was a glass powerhouse – all that sand, plentiful trees for the furnaces and convenient rivers for transport made the Holly City formidable in glass production. Wrap your head around that for a minute. For a period beginning in the late 1700s, Millville, New Jersey, was in the vanguard of technological advancement for one of the most widely used (and longest lasting) resources in the world.

And eventually they even figured out how to make it in colors other than green. Bill explains the iron in our sand made the glass green, until they began mixing in other metals to change the color. One of those metals was uranium. That explains so much. A woman asks about a Colonial pitcher on display, with a small ball resting on top. “That’s the lid,” says Bill, “but the ball itself is also known as a ‘witches’ ball. It was believed that if you hung them on the window, they would catch evil spirits. And since that’s been there, I haven’t seen any. Now, over here…” Bill is feisty! He’s especially concerned with the patent medicine bottles. “Back then, the medical industry was far superior to what we have now,” he begins innocently. “Because they had cures for everything. This was a cure for diabetes. This one cured cancer. Now, they never showed the ingredients,” he goes on. “But the main ingredient was usually cheap whiskey. This bottle here,” pointing at a particularly pretty white bottle with Bitters written on it. “When they analyzed what was inside, they said it was 88 proof. The others were between 70 and 80. But, you could just call it ‘medicine’ then.” Bill’s tone is regretful, almost reminiscent. “You could just say ‘Oh, I need my bitters’ and then go right off to the WCTU meeting.” All of the older tour-goers are losing it. I never realized the Women’s Christian Temperance Union had such rollicking get-togethers. Oh, Bill.

The last wing of the gallery represents the future of Wheaton Village’s role in glass blowing artistry. This gallery holds the “final projects” of the many artists who’ve been awarded fellowships at Wheaton. Bill explains that these artists are chosen from a cut-throat field of competitors. Winners are given a house, a stipend, and all the instruction and furnace-time they can handle for three months. Then, they get kicked out, leaving one final piece of their handiwork behind for the Museum. So everyone can see just what sort of glassblowin’ hijinks goes on around here. These pieces are wild, colorful and huge, and cuddled around premier glass artist Dale Chihuly’s sideways melting bowl, an object that dominates the central room. My question is who can lift that while it’s still liquid and dangerously hot? Bill appears to be unconcerned and recommends we all head to the glass blowing demonstration.

Don Friel, Studio Manager/Head Gaffer, a gaffer is the master craftsman in charge of the team, works on a trophy at the Glass Studio

It’s still a beautiful day. Although I see one downy tell-tale feather drifting across the porch of the Mainstay-like museum, the only honking I hear is in the distance. I run across the little park land separating the Museum from the glassworks and into the belly of the beast.

Today’s demonstration? The famous Lee pitcher. A replica of one of the first successful glass blowing attempts in the area. Our man makes it appear right before your eyes with the practiced smoothness of a magician. We applaud politely. Ten feet away, a skinny teenager is panicking in a way that could only be described as slapstick. He is trying desperately to sort of shake the glass back into the shape it was intended to go in, which is a bit like trying to de-impregnate someone by lightly shaking them. Except, in this case, there is lots of fire involved.

He is swinging the glass to stretch it and gets a little too enthusiastic. The glass becomes one long twisting thing which he isn’t actually tall enough to keep off the ground, but lifting it nearly sets him on fire. When he swings it back down it makes things worse. When he swings it back up he nearly sets the table on fire. It was very Jerry Lewis, except not as creepy and loud. And, he is also trying not to attract the attention of the instructor. The combo of too much glass, too little attention paid to it and no clue what to do next is a fine catalyst for dangerous comedy.

Behind him is a young girl in a tank top, steel rod poised in her arms like a spear. She is somehow bone-thin and intimidatingly strong-looking. She’s attracting attention even before she begins to work. (I think it’s the tank top next to all that molten glass, although later I realize it’s because she’s beautiful.) Our tour guide tells us this girl is named Charlotte, who has received the Wheaton fellowship. She’s been here almost exactly three months; tomorrow, she has to get out. With what’s left of her free furnace time, Charlotte has come to finish her project. But it’s already 4 o’clock, and most of the staff members are leaving. Even the other students are now leaving. All except the skinny teenager who nearly killed himself with molten glass a half-hour ago. Charlotte cannot work alone. The weight of the glass makes it almost impossible to maneuver while reaching for another tool or prying open the doors of the glory-hole to reheat the glass. The tall, charming kid is so eager to help! A group of us decide to wait and see how this partnership will end.

Charlotte’s project is a moose antler. There is nothing about the moose that is even remotely pretty. The moose is truly nature’s most elaborate joke. It’s a testament to the girl’s skill that the first antler, lying vulnerable and perfect on the side wall, is somehow beautiful. Even the scruffy flaps of skin that peel off the antlers of a real moose are rendered in a way that makes a beautiful texture – a play of amber light winding up into a clear fragile tower. I immediately want to know if she made a freakishly beautiful moose body to go with it, but there’s no time to ask because the boy is walking with a big gob of glass and Charlotte has to go to work. They flatten it. They stretch it. They heat it, reheat it, bring out more color in just the center, squish it, steam it, beat it, flip it over, add more glass, flame broil it, and start over. There must be at least 40 pounds of glass on the steel rod now. One thing, the boy is strong. Charlotte has only to say “Flip!” and the antler is upended before gravity and time have a chance to pull it out of shape.

They are fighting against every element. The heat could make the glass too soft. The cold air makes it too brittle. There are only precious seconds to grab the diamond shears that allow it to (almost) hit the floor. Charlotte seems to have eyes in the back of her head. She also has superior upper-body strength. She can grab the shears and cut through molten glass to create the “fingers” of the moose antler. Since the glass is still molten, she has to hack through within seconds and actually screams a little in the effort. But they manage it. Counting the fingers on the first antler, there are five. This is going to be a long afternoon.

The crowd is gathering closer, despite the face-frying heat of the furnace from 20 feet. Charlotte talks the younger student through every step of the process. She even seems to anticipate the trouble he’s always about to get into before he has a chance to hurt himself or ruin her antler. He starts to gain confidence. He flips the object before she tells him to and, when she doesn’t yell, he relaxes. They’re starting to look like a team – a good one. And this crazy antler thing (Who on earth decides to make an antler?) is becoming increasingly large, pointy, and beautiful.

But it’s also getting harder to work with. Charlotte is struggling for every twist of the glass. Time is of the essence. There’s too much glass underneath to dawdle. If the glass outside cools too fast, the whole thing will crack. If they heat it too much, the sheer weight of what’s beneath will ruin the shape. Their faces in the light of the fire make me think of mythology. Thunderbolt smithies and such. I notice that an older woman sitting down a row from me tenses up every time they get too near the fire. She must be a mom.

Charlotte grabs the finished, cooled antler from the wall and holds it up to its mate. Although they are facing opposite directions (so they can come out symmetrically from a giant glass moosehead – words I’d never thought I’d write) it’s almost a perfect match. People next to me sigh with obvious relief. I think this is better than recent episodes of Lost. Charlotte has to add one finger to the antler to make it match: that means more cutting, more twisting, more gobs of molten glass passing just inches from their skin. But they make it look easy. One slight issue, the base is too big. Charlotte tells the boy to reheat the whole thing just one more time. At its current size, they have to open the widest doors to the glory-hole, but the boy handles it smoothly and doesn’t even trip.

Charlotte is working on the antler base. Now that she knows she’s almost done she’s jubilant. The boy is smiling, nearly delirious. Did he, a gangly local kid, really just step up when no one else bothered to? While he reheats the antler one final time, she pulls what can only be called the “oven mitt scuba suit” from a shelf, carefully laying it behind him so he can climb into it as soon as she takes the antler from him. This he does as directed while Charlotte traces a precise circle along the base of the antler. As we learned with the Lee Pitcher, the cold metal tongs make the hot glass more vulnerable along the hand-drawn “fault-line” – which is the cleanest way to get the finished glass off the rod. The antler is still warm. The amber color inside glows like a fire. It’s like watching two people wrestle with lava. But the boy stands ready to catch the antler as Charlotte prepares to knock the rod off. One gentle tap should do it. She taps! Nothing happens. Hmmm.

The boy stands firm. He’s got all but the very tippy-top of the antler lightly cradled against him. Charlotte traces another fault-line. She smiles triumphantly, jokes with the crowd, and taps again. Uh, Charlotte? Wait just a – she taps again! Much too hard! The boy doesn’t have the top of the antler steady! Horrors!

We can see it coming but can do nothing. And breaking glass always sounds exactly like breaking glass, doesn’t it? Very distinctive. Now make that sound sort of goopy and wet. The still-liquid glass inside the antler is heavy. The cooler glass outside fragile. The top half of the antler, with three of the five crystal-clear fingers arcing skyward in perfect symmetry, smashes on the ground. The fragments melt out of shape instantly. The boy freezes into a position of abject misery. He freezes even though hot glass is bubbling inches away from his chest. All eyes move to young, pretty, tired Charlotte, who has only a few hours to finish up and move away.

Just for the record? I’d have killed him. Even though it was partly her fault, I’d have killed him. And no one watching would have thought less of me for it! In my peripheral vision, I see a middle-aged man cover his face with his hands, and look away, as if to say, “I have seen enough, and I can bear no more.” It is that dramatic! We are so involved! Where is PBS to make a reality show of this – Glass House? C’mon!

Back to Charlotte. The heroine of our piece grabs the rod holding the now ruined antler, and swings it viciously away from the boy. The hot glass inside the bigger bottom half is seeping out of the… well, the only word I can think of now is “wound” where the top of the antler had been. Even with the oven mitt PJs, I don’t think that would have felt good landing on him. She walks resolutely to the heap of broken scrap glass near the corner and without much fanfare, stuffs the antler in. With one practiced, smooth motion, she smashes the remaining antler pieces to dust and gobs again. I can see no reason to do that, unless it just helped her somehow. Then she picks up another rod.

And hits the boy right over the head with it! No, I kid.

Marbles for sale at the General Store

Charlotte walks over to the young boy, still wearing his oven-mitt-suit and trying to be as small and invisible as possible for an overgrown, giant, lanky teenager in a large asbestos “bunny suit.” He has the oven-mitt-hood in his hands and his eyes are down on the floor where ruined glass is still cooling. Someone in the crowd says “ohhh,’ but then Charlotte surprises us. Her voice was totally level as she said, “I have to start all over again. Can you stay and help me?” The boy smiles, his shoulders visibly relax inside the suit, and it is a beautiful sight. Then something else happens. She whacks him right over the head! No, no. Actually, what happens is every one of the women in the crowd starts applauding. Because that was some lesson she just taught him and us. And she’s awfully young. But, if her nifty little grind-the-failure-to-dust move is any indication, this is a girl who learns from her mistakes. And what is it the scholars say about mistakes? “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Or maybe that was Dilbert – the point is, she handled that beautifully!

Long ago, a field trip to Wheaton Village meant the inevitable “report” written afterward. My reports dutifully included facts about glass, favorite marble colors and the occasional goose attack – all painfully scrawled in my crooked child’s printing. By 18, it was pretty embarrassing. But I have to say, you can still learn a lot from this place, even when you’re old and haggard like me now. Today, I learned about Beauty. (Beauty like gorgeous moose antlers? Well, no. That’s unique, to say the least.) But what are you going to do with perfect moose antlers when you’re old and alone and everyone hates you? That’s right. Nothing! But Charlotte’s patient and capable artistic mentoring of a young man at the beginning of his journey will live on and on. By comparison, glass moose antlers would appear to have a limited shelf life.

By this point, it was 5 o’clock and the park is closing, so everyone calls out good luck to them both, sing Charlotte’s praises and wanders out into the last golden hour of early spring sunshine. This time, I am surrounded by people and the killer geese stay far away. Next time, who knows? Maybe if I find myself here next spring, I’ll bring some bread. Or at least see if I can borrow that oven-mitt outfit.


Soup – A Gardener’s Elixir of Life

A favorite old French proverb seems so comforting on these chilly days, “Eat soup first and eat it last, and live till a hundred years be past.”

Many gardeners like to get outside, even in cold weather. A lot of gardeners also like to cook using their garden vegetables. Many love to have soup simmering in this cold winter season. Knowing you have warm soup simmering on the stove makes doing chores out in the cold a bit easier.

Soup making is basic to life. It changes with the rhythm of the seasons, time and ingredients. Soup is one of those foods that you can almost make from instinct using what is in the cupboard. Most every country of the world has a favorite or special soup that everyone makes and loves. Winter weather often dictates the need for soup in various households. From a fresh asparagus soup in spring, or a gardeny mix in summer, to a creamy pumpkin blend topped with nutmeg in fall and then a hearty dried pea or lentil soup in winter. Soup reflects the abundance of certain foods and the weather.

Plan a fall soup garden. Cabbage and root crops last long into winter. Greens can be frozen and herbs can be dried.

Once you get use to making soup you will find that you can add just about anything you like to a broth. Some cooks say they can read a recipe and know just what they want to change before they make it. With soup, there is much freedom for the chef.

Soup making differs from household to household, but always uses whatever is at hand, creating a delicious product from very humble ingredients. It is a way of life in many cultures that has prevailed since ancient times. The start of the “soup” kitchen was at a monastery where monks provided soup and bread for anyone who knocked at their door. The frequent chore of gathering garden bounty or combining leftovers to make the best of soups was combined with the thought:  Soup can always be made more. Soup making, soup sharing and soup giving makes for joy for all involved.

Gardens …source of life and soup. St. Anthony, often called the first monk, tended his garden to provide food for himself and the other monks; as well as for the poor and the pilgrims. They took to heart that “one must eat from the labor of one’s hands.” This food that was shared was most often soup and bread. St. Benedict in his Rules insisted that the monks grow food for themselves and to feed others. Again the most likely dish that could be made with seasonal or dried produce was soup.

Making Soup. Basic soups can be prepared from either a meat or vegetable stock. This can be started by sautéing an onion and garlic in olive oil and butter. (Margarine just doesn’t “do it.”) When the onions and garlic become light golden in color water, other ingredients can be added. Very few seasoned cooks adhere to a recipe for soup as the variety and creativity is regulated only by availability of ingredients. Always cover everything with water, add seasonings to taste. At this stage many cooks boil and then simmer bones for hours to attain a rich tasty broth. Watch the water level, remove the bones and skim any foam from the top. Proceed with your recipe or add vegetables in order of the time they need to cook. For a typical hearty soup dried beans, peas and grains of course are added first and simmered or about 20 minutes, then the hard vegetables such as carrots, celery and potatoes added in that order. Tender vegetables like cabbage or zucchini and especially bags of frozen mixed soup vegetables are added last so they will not over cook.

Always cook any pasta to go in the soup in a separate pot of water, drain, rinse off starch and add to soup just before serving. Cooked fresh herbs can be added often during cooking, but save some so soups can be topped with chopped fresh herbs and a sprinkle of grated cheese.

Many families have favorite soup recipes that are handed down by word of mouth or made side by side. The mother stands next to the grandmother and watches, her daughter does the same. Now this is good soup!

Lorraine’s Favorite Monk’s Garden Soup

  • 3 to 6 pounds stewing beef or chicken breasts*
  • 2 quarts water, more added as needed
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1 cup each of barley, corn, lentils and beans**
  • ½ cup dried peas, all rinsed**
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • ½ head cabbage, chopped
  • 3 beets, peeled and chopped
  • Any other vegetable you have or like (i.e. beans, cauliflower, etc.)
  • 2 16-ounce cans (With chunks if possible) tomatoes
  • 1 bag of mixed frozen vegetables
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon marjoram leaves
  • ½ cup freshly chopped parsley
  • ½ cup grated cheese

* This is optional if you do not have time to boil or simmer bones for several hours. Go meatless by just adding the water to the sautéed onion with the addition of garlic.

** This is a lot, so a lot of water will have to be added all along.

In large kettle, cover bones with water, heat to boiling. Add bay leaf and peppercorns. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 2-3 hours, remove bones, bay leaf and pepper corns and proceed. If you are only using the beef cubes or chicken sauté, with first onion add water and simmer an hour. Let stock cool slightly, skim off fat. Add dried ingredients to meat and stock. Simmer 30 minutes. Add hard raw vegetables. Simmer 30 minutes. Add frozen vegetables. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until all are cooked. Throughout the cooking time, add hot water to the soup to keep a good amount of broth. Do not allow the dried vegetables to stick to bottom. Keep from a hard boil or it will burn. This soup gets better each day. Add tomato juice or broth if it thickens too much. The barley et al will absorb liquid. Top each bowl with freshly chopped parsley and grated cheese … delicious ~ serve with crusty bread and real butter

Barscazc (Peasant Style Beet Soup)

  • 8 beets, peeled and diced
  • Garlic clove
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • ½ stick butter
  • 2 quarts water
  • Salt, pepper, garlic salt
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • ½ head purple or green cabbage, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons dill
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 large can chicken broth (optional)

Sauté garlic, beets, onions in butter, adds water, salts and pepper. Add potatoes and carrots, cook for 1 hour. Add cabbage, sugar, vinegar, and dill. Tie cloves, peppercorns, and bay leaves in bouquet garni bag or cheese cloth, toss in with mixture. Add chicken broth and cook 15 minutes. Remove garni bag and serve. Top with sour cream and dill.

Chicken Soup with Greens

  • 4 large chicken breasts with bone and skin, or whole chicken cut up
  • 6 large carrots peeled and sliced
  • 6 stalks celery with leafy tops, chopped
  • 2 onions
  • 2 parsley roots
  • 1 cup of barley
  • ½ cup parsley
  • 6 cups of washed and chopped spring greens (spinach, escarole, or a mixtures of dandelion and other spring greens)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the chicken and water to boil. Simmer for at least an hour or two. Remove chicken and add hard vegetables and barley. Simmer about 20 minutes. Add greens and simmer until tender. Some folks like to blanch the greens separately and then add, but there is more flavor and vitamins when cooked directly in soup. Remove skin and bones from chicken. Cut into bite sized pieces and add to soup before serving.
Garnish with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.

Tomato Soup

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 leeks* thoroughly cleaned and then minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2-3 teaspoons thyme (depending on your taste)
  • ½ cup fresh parsley for topping
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 cans large sliced tomatoes or 12 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3 cans plum tomatoes (placed in blender with additional ½ cup parsley, blend)
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon. baking soda
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

* You may substitute scallions or small onions

Heat the oil in a large stockpot and add the leeks, carrots, onion and garlic. Cook for 15 minutes. Add the orange zest, thyme and cook, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Add all the tomatoes, stock and orange juice and stir to combine. Simmer over medium heat for 30-45 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool a little. Working in batches, purée in a food processor or blender. Season with the salt and pepper. Return the soup to the pot and bring it to a simmer add 2 cups sour cream or half and half, do not allow to boil, stir in nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

***

Like the monk of ancient times savor each change of the season. Have welcoming soup in your kitchen to add some warmth to the coldest winter day when it is shared with family and friends.

Taste Lorraine’s homemade soup following the plant walk and talk on March 14 , Look for winter interest and signs of spring on this tour of the gardens. Free event but RSVP required. Call 856-6694-4272.

lorraine-kieferLorraine Kiefer has gardened all of her life. She is a garden writer, floral designer and professional horticulturist. Lorraine teaches many classes at Triple Oaks nursery and Herb Garden in Franklinville, NJ. Email Lorraine@tripleoaks.com for garden help or leave your questions below! www.tripleoaks.com


Tavern OF the GREEN: Sustainable Cooking

The buzzword for the new decade in culinary circles is sustainability. In a biodegradable nutshell, sustainability is the capacity to endure. It relates to our food in that we need to be better stewards of our planet’s resources. I am not getting on my persnickety pulpit and preaching about the evils of cheeseburgers and bottled water and proclaiming all tasty foods we enjoy evil. But the food production industry, from farming, packaging to shipping leaves a Yeti-sized carbon footprint on the globe, and if we hope to be eating cheeseburgers in the future we need to become more aware of how we consume our resources. Some of the key principles of the sustainability movement are: Use local seasonally available ingredients; use foods from farming systems that minimize harm to the environment; eliminate at-risk or endangered seafood from the diet; and promote health and well being in our diets.

Looking at these principles one by one, we can see the benefit not just for the planet, but our palate as well. Local produce tastes better because the food is allowed to ripen naturally. By not picking the food three weeks before it has time to fully develop flavor and nutrients, and by not shipping it cross country and chemically ripening it, we wind up with a better-tasting, better-for-you product. We all bemoan grocery-store produce that looks great, but has no flavor. Quit buying it, thus forcing the grocery store chains to offer foods that come from organic, healthful farms and businesses. Case in point, most grocery store chains offer cage-free, antibiotic-free eggs and free-range meats. Not only are these foods healthier for people and the planet, but they taste better. If these foods become the standard, they will also become less expensive.

Locally harvested fish means the seafood is fresher. It also means jobs and money for the local economy. Fishing responsibly also means ensuring this precious natural resource for future generations.

Greening our kitchens can be relatively painless. Buying local can be as simple as stopping at Duckies on Broadway or other local farmers’ markets to buy what is fresh and in-season before you drive off the island to hit the local grocery store chains.

This approach will require some culinary flexibility. You may not always be able to get what is on your shopping list, but the produce you do buy will taste better. When at your local fish market ask for what is harvested locally. Avoid farm-raised fish like salmon and tilapia and enjoy scallops, flounder, oysters, clams, tuna, bluefish and squid. All are harvested by local fishermen.

This spring, as the sun returns to our island and gardens begin to sprout, use local ingredients in your cooking. The following recipes feature local produce and proteins: Spring Peas and Pearl Onions with Amish Bacon, Pan Seared Scallops and Leek Potato Hash with Beet Horseradish Puree, Mushroom Vinaigrette Salad, and Poached Local Eggs Florentine using Jersey Spinach.

Remember, in the kitchen think global in flavors and cook locally. Until next month, Bon Appétit.

Spring Peas and Pearl Onions with Amish Bacon

  • 4 cups shelled fresh peas blanched see blanching procedure below
  • 2 cups peeled and blanched pearl onions
  • 12 ounces slab bacon cut into ¼ cubes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 8 mint leaves, chiffonaded

Tip: To conserve water, blanch onions first. Remove with slotted spoon or strainer and leave water in pan to blanch peas.

Blanch peas in 3 pints boiling salted water for 3 minutes until peas are slightly tender and still bright green. Shock in ice water to set color and stop the cooking process.

Peel pearl onions. Blanch six minutes and shock.

In sauté pan, render bacon over medium high heat until almost crispy add onions and lightly brown  for 3-5 minutes add butter and peas  add salt and pepper and toss in fresh mint serve with perfect roast chicken.*

Persnickety Suggests… Serve this recipe with my Perfect Roast Chicken. Check out the Fall 2009 issue of Cape May Magazine for the recipe!

Pan Seared Scallops and Leek Potato Hash with Beet Horseradish Puree

Leek Potato Hash

  • 1½ pounds new potatoes (Note: new potatoes are thin skinned; not all red potatoes are new potatoes.)
  • 4 leeks split in ½ lengthwise and cleaned, then cut into thin ½ moons

Cook potatoes whole starting in cold water bring to boil simmer for 10 minutes or until slightly tender. Drain and cool. Cut into ½ inch dice. In sauté pan melt 4 tablespoons butter. Sweat* leeks until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to high. Add potatoes, cook until brown and crispy.

* A technique by which ingredients, particularly vegetables, are cooked in a small amount of fat over low heat. The ingredients are covered directly with a piece of foil or parchment paper, then the pot is tightly covered. With this method, the ingredients soften without browning, and cook in their own juices. www.epicurious.com/tools/fooddictionary

Beet Purée

  • 4 large beets peeled and cubed
  • ¼ cup diced fresh horseradish root

Place beets and horseradish root in saucepan. Cover with water. Simmer 45 minutes until beets are soft. Replenish water if necessary. Puree in blender until smooth. Season with sea salt. Strain.

Scallops

  • 5 scallops (10 count) per person, abductor muscle removed
  • Olive oil for searing

Pat scallops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in sauté pan. Sear until brown, 3-4 minutes per side. To plate – place hash in center. Ladle beet puree around arrange scallops on top

Parsnip Purée

  • 5 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced ¼” thick

Place parsnips in saucepan. Cover with cool water. Simmer 50 minutes until water is 90 percent absorbed. Add 4 tablespoons butter. Mash. Season with salt and pepper.

Mushroom Vinaigrette Salad

  • ½ pound crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • ½ pound shitake mushrooms, caps only, quartered
  • ½ pound button mushrooms, quartered
  • 4 scallions sliced on bias
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons peanut oil

In sauté pan over medium heat, add peanut oil. Add mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook half way. Place in bowl. Toss with remaining ingredients. Chill.

Persnickety Suggests… Serve with pan seared Mahi Mahi atop mashed parsnips.

Poached Local Eggs Florentine using Jersey Spinach

Creamed Jersey Spinach

  • 2 pounds stemmed spinach, blanched, cooled and squeezed dry
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup cream
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In sauté pan sweat shallots 3 minutes add cream reduce by 2/3 add cheese fold in spinach season with salt pepper and ¼ tsp fresh grated nutmeg

Poached Eggs Florentine

Poach 8 local eggs. Serve with creamed spinach on top of toasted artisan sourdough bread.

Pennsylvania mushroom farmers have reclaimed old coal mines and turned them into mushrooms beds. That’s sustainable change.

persnicketychefJon Davies is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University of Culinary Arts. His work as a chef has taken him to Aspen, Colorado; Cape May, NJ; and the odd private jet for culinary gigs for the rich and famous.


Favorite Photos from Picture of the Day 2009

It’s that time of the year to pick your favorite 2009 CapeMay.com pictures from our Picture of the Day Photo Gallery. We know from your comments and heart clicks that it is one of your favorite sections on the website and your responses were overwhelming. Thank you. Here’s the winners and don’t forget, all pictures are available for purchase.

January: Feeling Small

February: Evening Breeze

March: Lined Up and Ready To Go

April: Path to Happiness

May: Watching the Whale Watcher

June: Highest Tide of the Year

July: Driftwood Sculptures at Higbee Beach

August: Afterglow

September: Final Catch

October: Home Before Dark

November: Homage to Thanksgiving on Washington Street

December: Christmas Eve Morning

Favorite Overall: Painted Sky