All-local grocery stores take off

The Argus Farm Stop local food store in Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Argus Farm Stop local food store in Ann Arbor, Michigan

 

This story was originally published in the February 25, 2017 issue of Model D. All photos by Doug Coombe.

By Patrick Dunn

As a Cordon Bleu grad who grew up in Detroit’s Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood, lack of access to fresh local food in Detroit is a particularly personal issue for Kiki Louya.

“You go to a grocery store and I remember since I was a kid: your meat is brown, your produce is rotten, and you get used to it,” Louya says. “You have to wait for that one day at Eastern Market, because it was only open on Saturdays before, and you have to drive really far out to get really good meat or good cheese … It’s just this way of life that we as Detroiters became used to, and it’s not the way that we should have to live.”

When Louya and business partner Rohani Foulkes set out to change that last year by opening their Corktown grocery, the Farmer’s Hand, they found a unique model and invaluable mentorship in Ann Arbor. Argus Farm Stop opened in 2014 on the western edge of downtown Ann Arbor with the express goal of creating a year-round grocery stocking exclusively local food.

Argus co-owner Bill Brinkerhoff says that once the store got up and running, his second goal was to inspire more like it.

“This was meant to be a demonstration project,” Brinkerhoff says. “We’re the first one that’s done it as a business. I think all the other ones across the country are done as nonprofits or cooperatives, which have some advantages. But we said, ‘Let’s put it as a business so we can hire employees and reduce burnout.’”

Building a model

First, however, Argus had to develop a viable business model. Brinkerhoff describes the business as a “hybrid” between a traditional grocery store and a farmers market. The store works on a consignment model, paying farmers 80 percent of gross sales of their produce and allowing them to set their own prices. Argus co-owner Kathy Sample says the model takes a traditional farmers market to the next level, making local food more readily available to local consumers with minimal added effort for farmers.

“Farmers markets are so charming and that’s been such a traditional model that I don’t think people realize how confining that is for a small farm,” Sample says. “That’s why I think food got industrialized. These small farms can’t do more than one market a week.”

Although the business is young, it’s been hugely successful thus far. Argus has paid out $2 million to over 150 Ann Arbor-area farmers and some Detroit producers since it opened. Sample and Brinkerhoff keep the operation profitable for themselves by also running a coffee shop out of the compact 1,300-square-foot store. And farmers seem thrilled with the setup.

“It’s so dang convenient,” says Tyson Gersh, cofounder and president of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative in Detroit, one of the earliest farms to sell produce through Argus. “It’s everything it needs to be. I don’t have to think about any of it. All I’ve got to do is do the growing and drop it off and they figure it out.”

Kathy Sample and Bill Brinkerhoff at the Argus Farm Stop

Kathy Sample and Bill Brinkerhoff at the Argus Farm Stop

A helping hand

Argus first came to Louya’s attention while she was having exploratory conversations about opening an all-local grocery store and people kept mistakenly assuming that she was associated with the Ann Arbor business. When Louya looked into Argus’ model, she was skeptical at first.

“My thought was, ‘How does this make money?’ Because that’s the bottom line,” she says. “I didn’t believe it at first. It was almost like a dream.”

Louya requested a meeting with Brinkerhoff and was surprised when he walked her through Argus’ business model and finances in detail.

“Really, once you see that, it was amazing because it was like, ‘This is possible and we can do this,’” she says. “But I needed that assurance because there’s just nothing like it.”

Foulkes, too, discovered Argus while she was pursuing options to start a community-oriented food business in the metro Detroit area. She describes Argus as “an attractive, functional, non-traditional grocery that every neighborhood should have,” reminding her of the neighborhood groceries and butchers that were more common in her native Australia. Foulkes and Louya immersed themselves in the Argus model, shadowing at the store to get a thorough grasp on how Sample and Brinkerhoff’s business worked.

Argus’ influence is clear at the Farmer’s Hand. The Corktown store’s layout is compact – at 390 square feet, even smaller than Argus’. All produce at both stores is clearly labeled with the name and location of the farm it came from. The Farmer’s Hand’s consignment model gives farmers 70 percent of gross sales of their produce, though Louya and Foulkes hope to bring that up to 80 percent soon. And while the Detroit store doesn’t have a coffee shop, it does have a revenue driver in a prepared food counter and the recent addition of beer and wine.

Louya and Foulkes are lavish in their praise for Brinkerhoff and Sample’s mentorship.

“Had we not had them, we wouldn’t have been as far along as we are now,” Louya says.

Spreading the model

Rouhani Foulkes and Kiki Louy at The Farmer's Hand in Detroit

Rouhani Foulkes and Kiki Louy at The Farmer’s Hand in Detroit

Brinkerhoff and Sample are enthusiastic about the Farmer’s Hand’s success thus far, but they’re already looking ahead to how they might spread the Argus model further. They’ve currently broken Argus’ business model down into 12 steps, which are viewable to the general public at their store. But Brinkerhoff speaks of streamlining that into a four-step process.

“We’re amazed by [Foulkes and Louya’s] energy and that they’ve gone ahead and done it and done it so quickly,” Brinkerhoff says. “It makes me want to put some energy into making the template easier to use.”

Sample says she thinks Ann Arbor alone could accommodate “two or three more Arguses.”

Brinkerhoff agrees. “If you can get two or three Argus-type stores, suddenly you can have farmers that can make a sustainable, healthy income,” he says. “It could really put us on the map for how local food is done.”

But Sample and Brinkerhoff aren’t particularly interested in starting another store themselves – or even profiting from franchising the model. Sample estimates that she and Brinkerhoff are currently working with 15 people nationwide who are interested in replicating it. Locally, Clarkston dietician Angela Bollini is aiming to open an Argus-like business called the Farmer’s Harvest in Rochester [a small town north of Detroit] this summer.

“They’ve been so helpful,” Bollini says of Brinkerhoff and Sample.

Louya and Foulkes see huge potential for the Argus (or Farmer’s Hand) model to be further replicated in Detroit as well. Louya says similar stores could easily take root in Grandmont Rosedale, the Livernois and Seven Mile area, and other Detroit neighborhoods.

But, like Brinkerhoff and Sample, Louya and Foulkes aren’t necessarily interested in opening another store of their own. In fact, they’re finding themselves beginning to fill the role that Sample and Brinkerhoff once filled for them.

“”The funny thing is we have people coming to us now, asking for our help,” Foulkes says. “So if we can pay that forward, it’s like the whole thing comes full circle.”

Story by Patrick Dunn originally published in the February 25, 2017 issue of Model D.

[Editor’s Note: I wanted to include a recipe that uses ingredients that might be available at an all-local store. The only thing in this nice recipe that might not fit is the cream of mushroom soup. If all-local is important to you, saute locally grown mushrooms and add them to a super-thick homemade white sauce.)

Amish Cabbage Casserole

Amish Cabbage Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 medium head cabbage, shredded (about 12 cups)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 Tbs. butter, divided
  • 6 oz. cheese, shredded or cut in cubes
  • ¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Boil a large pot of water and cook the cabbage until it’s tender, about 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a large skillet, sauté the onion in 4 Tbs. butter until soft and golden. Add the soup and cheese and heat, stirring frequently, until the cheese is melted.
  4. Place the cabbage in a greased 2-quart baking dish and pour the sauce over it; stir well. Add salt and pepper if you want to (most cheese is salty enough that you don’t have to add additional, but a little pepper is good.)
  5. In a small skillet, melt the remaining 1 Tbs. butter and stir in the breadcrumbs. Continue stirring until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned. Sprinkle over the casserole.
  6. Bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, until the casserole bubbles and the breadcrumbs are browned.
http://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/all-local-grocery-stores-take-off/

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Categories: Side DishesVegetarian Dishes

Green bean casserole—the true story!

Photo by Phil King via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Phil King via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit:The Spartanburg Herald, April 22, 1955

Photo credit:The Spartanburg Herald, April 22, 1955

Just say “green bean casserole” and almost every American will know what you’re talking about: canned green beans mixed with canned cream of mushroom soup topped with canned french-fried onion rings. Oh you can get fancier versions, like those using fresh green beans and fresh mushrooms, but this is the Real Thing.

Green bean casserole was one of the first recipes I ever learned too make, in seventh-grade cooking class. You couldn’t get much easier than opening a can of green beans, opening a can of mushroom soup, mixing the two with a little milk, then opening another can with the onion rings to top it off.

So I was fascinated to learn that this recipe was popularized by a Jewish woman, Cecily Brownstone. Leah Koenig, author of Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes and Customs for Today’s Kitchen, wrote about the “green bean queen” recently in an article in the online magazine Tablet. With her permission, I’m reprinting a few paragraphs here. You can read the rest of the article online.

———————————————————————–
With an ingredient list dominated by fat and convenience products, green bean casserole sounds like it emerged from the dog-eared depths of a 1950s Midwestern church cookbook. But the recipe actually landed on the American table via an unlikely source: a Jewish, Canadian-born, New York transplant named Cecily Brownstone.

From 1947 to 1986, Brownstone was the food editor for the Associated Press. For almost 40 years, her writing, and the pieces she commissioned, were among the most widely syndicated stories in the country. That includes a piece she wrote in 1955 about a press dinner she attended at citrus magnate John Snively Jr.’s Florida home. During the meal, a green bean dish caught the enthusiastic attention of the table—enough so that Snively’s wife shared that she had recently served the same dish, to similar acclaim, to the visiting shah and queen of Iran. The queen, Mrs. Snively said, had asked the butler which ingredients each dish contained before taking a bite. She did it so frequently that the butler eventually lost his patience and, when she inquired about the casserole, he allegedly snapped back, “Listen, lady, it’s just beans and stuff.”

Brownstone knew a compelling story when she heard one, and set out to write an article about the queen and her green beans. She just needed a recipe to go with it. Variations of green bean casseroles—some studded with chopped hot dogs, others topped, cobbler-style, with biscuit dough—dated back to the 1930s, when Depression-era cooks found ways to stretch limited ingredients to feed their families. But Brownstone wanted to capture the magic of the dish Mrs. Snively had served. As was common at the time, she called up a food manufacturer, in this case Campbell’s Soup Co., to help develop a recipe that would appear in newspapers across America. And so the modern green bean casserole, in all of its soupy, crunchy-topped glory, was born.

Classic Green Bean Casserole

Classic Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 can (10-1/2-oz.) condensed cream of mushroom Soup
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 cans (14.5-oz each) cut green beans, drained
  • 1 1/3 cups canned crispy fried onions

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix soup, milk and pepper in a 1 1/2 -qt. baking dish.
  3. Stir in beans and 2/3 cup crispy fried onions.
  4. Bake at for 30 min. or until hot. Stir.
  5. Top with remaining 2/3 cup onions. Bake 5 minutes until onions are golden.
http://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/green-bean-casserole/

 

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Categories: Side DishesVegetarian Dishes

Hoping the weather cooperates for Sukkot

Zayda Joe Lewis gets help decorating the sukkah.

Zayda Joe Lewis gets help decorating the sukkah.

 

I should be thinking about the meaning of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot that started last night. Instead I’m fretting about the weather.

The Jewish religious calendar is unique in that it is both lunar and seasonal. Months have 28 or 29 days. This means that over the years, the religious dates get out of whack with the secular—and natural—calendar.

Muslims also follow a lunar calendar, but their holidays aren’t connected to the physical seasons–so Ramadan and other holidays can occur at any time of the year.

The Jewish calendar uses a system that adds a “leap month” seven times in 19 years  a second month of Adar, which usually occurs around February — to keep holidays and seasons in their traditional relationship. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for either of the two Jewish harvest festivals—Sukkot in the fall and Shavuot in the spring—to wander through the seasons. It’s hard to celebrate a harvest in January, even in balmy Israel.

Holidays are “late” after a leap year

Last year was a leap year, so everything was pushed back 28 days compared to last year. That means this year, the fall Jewish holidays were “late”–Rosh Hashanah didn’t start until October 3, just a few days earlier than the latest date it can possibly be.

Apartment dwellers can build a sukkah on a balcony. Photo by Katie Chao and Ben Mussig via Flickr Creative Commons.

Apartment dwellers can build a sukkah on a balcony. Photo by Katie Chao and Ben Mussig via Flickr Creative Commons.

This wouldn’t be a problem except for the festival of Sukkot, which began this year at sundown on October 16.

The holiday doesn’t celebrate only the fall harvest. Mainly, it commemorates the 40 years when the Israelites wandered in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. Wherever they camped, they lived in temporary structures, and so on this holiday, we build little huts in our backyards, on our patios or even on our balconies.

These huts are called “sukkot” (singular “sukkah”), often translated as “booths,” which, frankly, I never understood since, while small, they are much larger than phone booths, voting booths or restaurant booths.

We usually interpret the command to “live” in these huts as meaning we take many of our meals in them.

Michigan weather a challenge

In Israel this isn’t much of a problem, but in Michigan, and much of the U.S., it can get pretty darn cold in mid-October, especially after sundown when most of us eat our main meal. And when it rains, eating in the sukkah is just out of the question; the sukkah is supposed to be covered with organic material such as pine boughs, reeds or bamboo, and one is supposed to be able to see the stars through the roof. Unfortunately a roof that lets in a view of the stars also lets in whatever moisture falls from the heavens.

The weatherman is forecasting a high in the low 70s for Sunday in our part of the U.S. Perfect! But they’re also forecasting rain. So while I purchased fancy plastic plates to use in the sukkah, I’ll also be setting my dining room table. In mid-October, you just don’t know!

One thing I will be doing is serving my famous stuffed cabbage, which I make every year at this time. It’s traditional to celebrate the fall harvest by eating stuffed vegetables, a symbol of bounty.

Last year I gave you a recipe for Armenian stuffed grape leaves. Today I offer a nice recipe for apple-stuffed acorn squash. I modified it slightly from a recipe I found on www.food.com, where it was posted by Elana’s Pantry.

.

Apple-stuffed Acorn Squash

Apple-stuffed Acorn Squash

Ingredients

  • 2 small to medium acorn squashes
  • boiling water
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into ¼-inch pieces
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs. butter, margarine, grapeseed oil or coconut oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut squash in half and remove pulp and seeds with a spoon. You may need to cut a very thin slice off the bottom to make it stand flat.
  3. Place the squash halves cut-side down in a large Pyrex baking dish.
  4. Pour ½ inch of boiling water (or apple cider) into the dish.
  5. Bake the squash for 30 minutes.
  6. While squash is baking, combine the apples, cranberries, cinnamon and butter or oil.
  7. After 30 minutes, remove the squash, turn the halves over, and fill the center of each with the apple mixture, packing it down. Cover loosely with foil.
  8. Add a little more boiling water to the pan if necessary.
  9. Bake another 30 minutes. Test to see if the squash is gone by piercing it with a toothpick or skewer; it should go in easily.
  10. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or longer if necessary to get the squash soft.
http://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/sukkot2016/

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Categories: Side DishesUncategorizedVegetarian Dishes

Lessons from the Garden for Passover

The matzoh eaten at the Passover seder is known as "the bread of affliction."

The matzoh eaten at the Passover seder is known as “the bread of affliction.”

Today’s piece is written by Rebecca Starr. Past assistant director of the Detroit Jewish Federation’s Alliance for Jewish Education, she currently serves as an independent educational consultant and an instructor for Melton, an adult Jewish education program. This article originally appeared in myJewishDetroit, the online community journal of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. 

Rebecca Starr, photo by John Hardwick

Rebecca Starr, photo by John Hardwick

I was raised on a sheep farm in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in a small town called Pickford.

This isn’t a phrase you hear very often, especially from a Jewish girl, but nevertheless, it is the life my parents chose for me for the first 18 years of my life.

We lived off of the land. Our farm produced everything we needed to fill our bodies with healthy, wholesome foods and we were deeply connected to the land on which we lived. Our garden produced more vegetables than our freezer could hold and we ate the lamb that we raised.

My connection to food and where it comes from is rooted in my rich past and I am regularly reminded of it as the Passover season approaches.

As we break bread . . . for matzoh

Matzoh (unleavened bread) is the bread of affliction, the lechem oni, or the bread of poverty. The Jewish custom of eating matzoh for seven or eight days (depending on your custom) during the holiday of Passover reminds us that we were once slaves in Egypt. It reminds us that we did not have the resources to diversify or even complete our meals in bondage.

Passover recalls the Israelites' freedom from slavery in Egypt.

Passover recalls the Israelites’ freedom from slavery in Egypt.

The act of eating matzoh takes us back to a place and time when food and freedom were scarce. It is truly amazing that such a simple food can bring such a strong and important message about the journey of the Jewish people. In truth, it also offers a very modern message to us as living in the 21st century.

Bondage takes many forms

Bondage and slavery can present themselves in many forms. The Israelites were literally slaves to the work of Pharaoh, but chains need not be present for us to feel as though we are victims of certain types of injustices today. When we consider the ways in which we access food on a daily basis, we realize quickly that sustainable, healthy, local, fair trade food is extremely difficult to find and even more difficult to find in less affluent areas.

In many ways, we are slaves to a food system that is not just and may even use unfair, illegal or unethical practices to create a product for our grocery store shelves with the single goal of turning a large profit.

The way in which we access food in today’s world looks a lot different than it did even 50 years ago. Local family farms exist, but in smaller numbers; animals are raised in unimaginable conditions that don’t resemble traditional farm habitats at all; agricultural workers are treated and paid unfairly; and food is processed so far from its natural form that it doesn’t resemble real food any longer.

We worry about pesticides and chemicals on a daily basis and we waste unbelievable amounts of food, fuels and resources on production. These are the things that keep me awake at night as I worry about which foods to offer my children and in what state we are leaving the planet for them.

There is no doubt that this message is concerning, and I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but I am hopeful that we can work together to bring about real change. The Passover season is the perfect time to make a commitment to learn more about food justice and sustainability.

Today’s recipe is a vegetable kugel that can be used on Passover because it contains no grain that hasn’t already been baked into matzoh (in this case, in the form of matzoh meal). There are many types of kugel, which simply means pudding. It’s a side dish that is baked and cut into squares for serving.

Passover Vegetable Kugel

Passover Vegetable Kugel

Ingredients

  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) margarine
  • ¼ cup chopped pepper, any color
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 1½ cup grated carrot
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced, optional
  • 1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • ¾ cup matzoh meal

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt margarine in a large frying pan or saucepan and saute pepper, onion, celery and carrot for about 10 minutes. If using mushrooms, add them after about 5 minutes and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated.
  3. Drain the spinach well.
  4. Combine the sautéed vegetables, spinach, eggs, salt and pepper, and matzoh meal and mix well.
  5. Put into a greased baking pan and bake about 45 minutes until set and slightly browned on top.
http://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/lessons-from-the-garden-for-passover/

 

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Categories: Side Dishes

Food at the Smithsonian—and corn casserole

 

Julia Child's kitchen is on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Photo by F. Deventhal via Flickr Creative Commons.

Julia Child’s kitchen is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Photo by F. Deventhal via Flickr Creative Commons.

We spent Thanksgiving weekend at the home of my sister, who lives just outside Washington, D.C.

One of the advantages of being retired is that we can travel home on Monday, instead of Sunday when traffic is heavy on the Ohio Turnpike and there are often restroom lines at the service plaza (for the women at least!).

Julia Child on on the set of her TV show

Julia Child on on the set of her TV show

Since we weren’t traveling on Sunday, we visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. (Another great thing about visiting Washington is that almost all the museums are free–your tax dollars at work!)

The museum has a nice exhibit about American foodways, called “Transforming the American Table 1950-2000.”

Julia Child’s kitchen

The highlight of the exhibit, for us and probably for many other visitors, was Julia Child’s actual kitchen. It was brought from her Cambridge, Mass. home and rebuilt inside the museum.

Next to the kitchen, which is protected from the too-curious by Plexiglas, is a mini-theater where videos of Julia Child’s television shows were playing, starting with the best known, The French Chef, which ran for 10 years on PBS. She also had four later series, Cooking with Master Chefs, In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, Baking with Juliaand Julia Child & Jacques Pépin Cooking at Home.

Takeout coffee lids have changed through the years.

Takeout coffee lids have changed through the years.

When I was a teenager, my younger sister just loved watching Julia Child on TV. I couldn’t figure out why, because she was too young to cook, until I watched it one day with her when I was about17. Julia was just so delightful! I would have gotten hooked too if I’d had time to watch TV.

At the Smithsonian, we could have sat for hours watching clips of Julia whipping up treats alone or with one of her guest master chefs.

Is new always improved?

A exhibit section called “New and Improved!” talked about attitudes towards progress and better living in the 20th century, but raised questions about the long-term effects of mass production of food and of consumerism.

“Resetting the Table” showed how American food changed over 50 years through the influence if immigrants, world travelers and activists. If you were around in the 1950s, you probably ate Chinese and Italian food – and Mexican if you lived in the West or Southwest.  But who knew from Thai, Indian, Korean, sushi  or vegan?

Norton grapes on the vine.

Norton grapes on the vine

A display of “Food on the Go” showed how snack foods and take-out had changed over the half-century.

At the exhibit on American wine I learned something very interesting. There was a variety of grapes called Norton that were native to Virginia, but they were all uprooted during Prohibition. Winemaker Dennis Horton brought some Norton cuttings to Virginia from his native Missouri in 1988 – and bottled his first vintage from the grapes in 1992.

If you find yourself in Washington, D.C., check out this worthwhile exhibit!

I wanted to include a quintessentially American recipe with this piece, and what could be more American than corn? This simple casserole is best with fresh corn, which of course is not readily available in winter, but frozen corn will work almost as well. Serve it as a main dish for a light vegetarian supper or as a side dish.

Corn Casserole

Corn Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (4 or 5 ears)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup diced Monterey Jack cheese
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 1 small can diced green chilies
  • 1½ tsp. salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.
  3. Puree 1 cup corn with melted butter and eggs in a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender.
  4. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the pureed mixture and blend well.
  5. Pour into casserole and bake, uncovered, for 50 to 60 minutes until puffed and golden.
http://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/smithsonian-food-exhibition-with-julia-child-and-corn-casserole/

 

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Categories: Side DishesVegetarian Dishes

Bubbie’s Latkes

latkes 2 wikiAs the eight-day holiday of Chanukah starts, we present Susan Gartenberg’s remembrance of her grandmother’s potato pancakes (latkes in Yiddish). This dish is traditional for Chanukah because it is fried in oil, recalling the Chanukah miracle when one day’s oil in the rededicated Temple lasted for eight days. Susan Gartenberg grew up in Detroit and is a retired preschool and elementary school educator. Her three grandchildren now enjoy their bubbie’s latkes!

Susan Gartenberg

Susan Gartenberg

My bubbie made the best potato latkes and coffee cakes!

Like many Jewish grandmothers in those days, she never had a recipe.

One day, when my children were very young, Bubbie came to help me make latkes. She wore her usual cotton house dress with a zipper in front. She put on a cotton print apron and watched me peel potatoes.

“Oy vay, you’re wasting half the potatoes!” she cried as I continued peeling with my fancy new left-handed peeler.

She took over and, one-two-three, those potatoes were peeled! I invited more families to celebrate Chanukah with us, and before I knew it, we had 15 pounds of potatoes

Many Chanukah menorahs use oil instead of candles to commemorate the Chanukah miracle.

Many Chanukah menorahs use oil instead of candles to commemorate the Chanukah miracle.

peeled and grated by hand (no food processors in those days)!

We fried the latkes, overwhelming our guests with the aroma.

Nothing was too much for Bubbie, not even 50 guests for Chanukah.

Bubbie’s coffee cakes were known throughout our community. She kneaded the dough filled with cinnamon and raisins and allowed it to rise, covered with a cloth, on the top of her gas stove, then baked the cakes in white enamel pans with red trim.

After baking she would cover the warm cakes with a kitchen towel and place them in an empty cardboard tomato  basket. Some of the cakes remained on the stove in her home so she could greet guests with tea and cake and a “shtekel” (cube of) sugar.

My zadie believed women shouldn’t drive, so Bubbie, wearing a flowered front-zippered housedress and a white sweater, and I would walk – and

Susan and her bubbie, Esther LeZebik

Susan and her bubbie, Esther LeZebik

walk, and walk – to bring her fragrant coffee cakes and latkes to family and friends for the holiday.

I could never replicate the coffee cakes but I can remember that the most important ingredient was the love Bubbie incorporated into every recipe. I can feel it even as I remember her cooking.

Another thing I remember is that I, as the first grandchild, could do no wrong in Bubbie’s eyes.
When my mother would become  angry at me for some childish infraction, Bubbie would say, in Yiddish,  “She won’t do it again.”  I always felt very special and very loved.

The recipe below is adapted from Epicurious.

Bubbie’s Potato Latkes

Bubbie’s Potato Latkes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound potatoes
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Accompaniments: sour cream and applesauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
  2. Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes 1 to 2 minutes after last batch is added to water, then drain well in a colander.
  3. Spread grated potatoes and onion on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible.
  4. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and stir in egg and salt.
  5. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4 latkes, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per latke into skillet, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork
  6. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes.
  7. Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes more.
  8. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt.
  9. Add more oil to skillet as needed.
  10. Keep latkes warm on a wire rack set in a shallow baking pan in oven.

Notes

Grating the potatoes, soaking them briefly in water, and then squeezing out the liquid (as we've done here) keeps the batter from turning brown too quickly.

Latkes may be made up to 8 hours ahead. Reheat on a rack set over a baking sheet in a 350°F oven, about 5 minutes.

http://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/bubbies-latkes/

 

 

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Categories: Side Dishes

Grandma’s Stove

Today’s piece is by Sharon Buttry, an ordained pastor in the American Baptist Church and licensed a social worker. She works as associate director of training and education at the International Hope Center based in Hamtramck, Michigan, and is active in civic affairs and interfaith work. Sharon is married to Dan Buttry, the international peacemaker who frequently contributes to Read the Spirit.

Sharon Buttry with her replica antique wood cook stove.

Sharon Buttry with her replica antique wood cook stove.

Every summer during my childhood my family traveled from central Ohio to southern Illinois to visit my grandparents. They lived in a sturdy old farmhouse up in Pancake Holler, one turn off the Mississippi river road between Pleasant Hill and Grafton.

I loved watching my Grandma Crader take biscuits, cherry pie, and roasted, stuffed chicken out of her old wood cook stove. She had a water pump in the kitchen too! The big silver handle on the pump required a strong arm to get a steady stream of water from the ground to the kettle. And that chicken–well, it was alive earlier that morning. And the cherries in the pie–they came from my favorite tree to climb, right outside the kitchen door.

My grandma knew how to do things that my mother also knows how to do, but no longer “has” to, being a modern woman with a modern kitchen.

Sharon's grandmother, NAME, in 1912 when she was 17.

Sharon’s grandmother, Cordelia Jane Crader, in 1912 when she was 17.

A connection to Grandma

One of my dreams came true this year, when I installed a wood cookstove in my Hamtramck, MI kitchen. My wood stove is my connection to my grandma and the pioneer strength and spirit I so admired in her.

We bought an old house in Hamtramck in 2008. It had a leaky roof and needed a lot of work. We put in our own sweat equity and the rest we contracted out with the vocational training program that is one component of the ministry where I serve part-time in Hamtramck.

We tore out some walls to expand the kitchen to make room for the Elmira wood cook stove I found on Craigslist. It was not an antique but a replica, so we could meet the fire code standards required by the city for installation.

We bought a load of antique salvage bricks in nearby Highland Park and my neighbor bought a diamond masonry saw blade from Arizona to slice the bricks into “tiles” to make a firewall behind the stove. My husband and I cruised around north Detroit looking for downed trees near curbs. We found and sawed enough wood for the winter. A neighbor took down an elm tree and offered us enough wood for a second winter.

Fire in the hole!

Cooking the old-fashioned way requires a supply of wood. (Photo by Priit Tammets via Flickr Creative Commons.)

Cooking the old-fashioned way requires a supply of wood. (Photo by Priit Tammets via Flickr Creative Commons.)

The stove and stack installation was done by Alpha and Omega (www.alphomegachimney.com). They are experts and I highly recommend them if you are installing any kind of fireplace or wood stove. The straight stack chimney they built created a strong draw for the firing up of my stove and looks very beautiful from the street.

A retired chimney sweep (another neighbor’s Dad) came for the first “fire up” and showed me how to build a slow but steady fire so I wouldn’t over-fire and damage my stove. The little thermometer on the oven crept up to 250 degrees after an hour and a half.

The Elmira stove is fabulous! Lighting a fire and getting it to draw up the chimney could not be easier.

Using it gives me a profound resurgence of respect for my grandmother and the tedious task of coaxing a stove up to baking temperatures. The fact is, I haven’t mastered it yet. I need “hotter’ wood than I currently have–like sugar maple, hickory or apple–to get my oven hot enough to bake bread, pies or cookies.

I remember now that besides giving birth at home and raising 12 children, my grandma worked as a seasonal worker in the apple orchards near the homestead. I am wondering now if she bartered for apple wood! So now I am back on Craigslist and putting the word out looking for free wood of these varieties.

Using a stove like a slow cooker

Sharon hopes to cook a complete Thanksgiving dinner on her wood stove. (Photo by Jypsygen via Flickr Creative Commons.)

Sharon hopes to cook a complete Thanksgiving dinner on her wood stove. (Photo by Jypsygen via Flickr Creative Commons.)

I currently use my wood stovetop for cooking evening meals that require skillets and covered saucepans. I installed a pot-filler water faucet next to the stoves so that as I get older I won’t have to carry heavy pans of water from the kitchen sink to the stove.

I capture the stovetop heat in large pans and in the tea kettle (see photo) that the editor of this blog kindly gave to me in exchange for a donation to WISDOM, a Detroit-area women’s interfaith organization. The kettle belonged to her grandmother, and I enjoy it so much! I use the hot water for cooking and for washing dishes and sometimes for a bath in my claw-foot tub after a long hard night of cooking!

Since I can get the oven up to only 250 degrees with my current woodstock, I treat my oven like a slow cooker, similar to a crock pot. I slow roasted a whole chicken as my first experiment. I marinated the chicken for two hours while I got my stove up to temperature. I also marinated small sweet peppers (red, yellow and orange) with lemon slices, using a quarter-cup of olive oil, a quarter cup of lemon juice and a little salt and pepper). I started the process so late in the day, I had to set my alarm for 2 a.m. to get the chicken out of the oven!

As time goes on, I hope to become maybe one-third as proficient as my grandmother in the art of wood stove cooking. If I get some red oak to use as fuel, I may even try to roast a small turkey for Thanksgiving. My son is bringing his fiancé over for the day. I wonder what she will think as I pull my slow-cooked squash and stuffing dishes out of the Elmira stove?

Meanwhile, here is Grandma Crader’s standard poultry stuffing “receipt.” (The photo is by Danny Howard via Flickr Creative Commons.)

Grandma Crader's Poultry Stuffing

Grandma Crader's Poultry Stuffing

Ingredients

  • One loaf stale bread, cut in cubes
  • 1½ tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1 Tbs. dried parsley
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped fine
  • ½ stick of butter
  • 1 quart of hot water
  • Giblet meat, taken from boiled neck, gizzard and heart if desired
  • 2 bouillon cubes (or stock from boiling the giblets)

Instructions

  1. Combine bread cubes and seasoning. Set aside.
  2. Sauté the onion and celery and add 2 chicken bouillon cubes and the 1 quart of
  3. water, along with the chicken giblet meat. Simmer slowly for 15 minutes on the cooler side of the wood stove or your modern stove top.
  4. Pour the hot stock over the bread mixture. Mix lightly with a fork, just until it all holds together. Stuff fowl for roasting, or bake in a buttered baking dish the last half-hour of poultry baking.
http://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/wood-stove/

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Categories: Side Dishes