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Jersey Girls Love Jersey Tomatoes

As a Jersey girl, It’s hard not to give a nod to Julia Moskin today in The New York Times who did some wonderful reporting on the supremacy of the good old Jersey Tomato--make that the Ramapo variety.  She interviewed farmers who described the “horticultural garbage” they encountered when trying to grow heirloom varieties for a market gone “ga ga.” Well guess what, Ramapo tomatoes--hybrids, bred by laboratories--are better.  They resist rot.  They don’t crack on the vine.  And they have a wonderful balance of sweet and acid.  No they don’t have pretty stripes like the Green Zebra.  They are “nondescript red and round,” and this is a good thing--they are powerhouse producers with great taste. They are our heirloom here.  I can’t help but beam with pride. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/23/dining/23toma.html


Masher

Creative New Uses for Your Kitchen Gear

Wouldn’t I like to be a space traveler, too, with my Kitchen Aid bowl as a helmet and measuring spoon as my weapon?  A bell head with a gong?  A little boy rummaging around the kitchen, age 7, age of grace. I sense reality creepng in.  But here, one blessed moment.  image


Masher

Front Yard Garden Update

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It’s amazing how fast everything is growing.  We’ve got corn on the stalk.  Lots of cucumbers and greenbeans.  Early Girl tomatoes just about ready.  Peppers moving along.  Chard three quarters of the way there.  More herbs than we can handle.  And a serious Zucchini Situation taking over the whole thing.

There have been some real surprises with this garden.  I didn’t expect it to be such a social event.  But it is.  People in the neighborhood frequently comment and look.  They ask us how it’s going.  Or they compliment our progress.  Cool. 

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see also: Tomatoes at my Front Door




Masher

Tomatoes at my Front Door

So as you loyal Jellypress readers may recall, I made a pronouncement on the first day of spring that we’d tear up the front lawn around here and put in a vegetable garden.  Well, two months, three palates of stone, one borrowed rototiller, three yards of top soil, and several aching backs later, I’ve got some results to post. 

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We began the middle of May.  First we had to bust through the sod.  Unbelievably hard work.  Next, we had to turn the hard clay soil.  Now comes the point where I must say that my husband and I could never do this alone.  This is a shared garden created with another family--our next door neighbors Arielle and David (there’s Arielle and baby Olive in the picture).  And the hero of the neighborhood, Chuck, came from a few doors down to lend a hand (see him with the trusty rototiller).  Note three pallets of stone on the sidewalk waiting to be laid down.  Our goal was raised beds at a six-inch height, because the extra soil would be light, and workable.  We didn’t want to use wooden prefab boxes because we wanted something more inspired in the front of the house.  We got a bit obsessed with the stone. 

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Memorial Day Weekend.  Turns out the stone we ordered to match the house was shaped more like boulders than flat building stones.  It was not returnable.  I began to sink into depression.  But David allowed no such thing and instead asked for a sledge hammer and goggles.  Before you know it, the men were splitting stone and grunting.  My son got involved.  It evidently was very cathartic for the guys in the group.  People slowed their cars to watch, and the neighbors definitely took notice of our work--a mixture of admiration and pity.  None of the dramatic chain gang scenes were photographed, alas.  For a while, piles of broken stones were everywhere, and it was a bit worrisome.  Were we fools?  Was it possible?  Could we build these walls? But here you see it all tidily falling into place.  This is the view from my front door.  Stones laid by committee.  And then several wheelbarrows of top soil, manure, peat, and fertilizer put down by garden hero David. 

Read more »

Masher

Really Cooking with Fire

I like nature just fine.  But I like to sleep with a roof over my head. 

Well, guess what? 

Husband likes to camp.  Normally I send him off without me, along with one of our sons.  But a couple of weeks ago, I tried to be a good sport and go sleep in a tent on a family weekend in the woods. 

It rained.  It was cold--like forty degrees at night, and there were moments when you could say I had a rather negative attitude.  But the setting--green green spring of the Catskills--was gorgeous. 

And of course I took the opportunity to cook breakfast over the campfire.  My first ever. 

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Masher

Winepress in the Basement

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Lina knew I’d love this one.  She’s my friend who is a real estate agent here in town and she’d just got a new listing for a house—all renovated and done-up with granite countertops, happy colors, shiny floors and new siding—in short, all history covered over so that it was hard to even guess when the house was built.  But wait, deep in the dark basement—a big old secret remained.  It was too huge to erase.  A clue to the house.  Was it?  Could it be? 

Yes, a gigantic wine press cemented into the basement wall.  With the owners’ blessing, Lina brought me in to peek.  It was an enormous thing—used now as a storage shelf.  We had fun taking down boxes of outgrown toys so we could photograph it--imagining sweaty scenes of bare feet stomping grapes and immigrant families laboring down here decades ago—the smell of ferment in the air along with the trills of some dialect we could never understand.

But when did this all happen?  And whose winepress had it been? And—perhaps the most interesting question--why was it located in a predominantly African American neighborhood? 

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Masher

Chickens in the Burbs

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Location:  Montclair, NJ.  An expensive, crowded, upscale brain-powered burb, a mere 12 miles outside of NYC.  In other words… Not the kind of place you usually find women raising a flock of chickens.
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But here we are in the backyard of Grace Chow Grund--on a perfect suburban block—amidst fourteen hens in a chicken run positioned at the far end of her flower- and vegetable-filled lot. 

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The question is, of course, why?  Why have chickens in suburbia?

“I keep them for three reasons,” replies Grace. 

“The first reason is for the eggs of course.  We get 9 to 11 on a good day.”

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Masher

Grandma Helen’s Sponge Cake

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My mother lives in Florida now, and rarely, if ever, bakes anymore because she is busy taking care of my father who has been very ill. I miss her. I miss baking with her. Every spring, she made sponge cake with strawberries. It was a revelation. It just wasn’t spring until we had that cake, airy and bright with lemon zest, stained with strawberries in syrup and blessed with a cloud of whipped cream. 

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Masher

We’re in the News

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Jellypress got nice coverage in two newspapers this week. We’re thrilled.  Check it out here:

The Philadelphia Inquirer


The New Jersey Star Ledger

Photo by Michael Bryant, The Philadelphia Inquirer


Masher

Vegetables in the Front Yard

A couple of years ago, my family moved to a smaller house on a small plot of land, the events of which are chronicled in my book The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken. Even if you haven't read the book, you can probably guess why we'd do it. Partly the influence of Italy, where people live in smaller spaces. But surely even more it was that search for that slippery ideal known as simplicity and less stress. Can't say for sure that we've achieved it. That's another post. Or maybe another book.

In the meantime, son number two ran into my office today, the first day of spring, and threw a clump of flowery weeds and its muddy rootball at my feet. He giggled and ran out. It was a seven-year-old's prank, and he was delighted with himself. I picked it up and was taken by the wonderful smell of spring's wet earth and envious of children who get to spend time messing around on the grass.

Read more »

Masher

On Technology

Foodies of the world love to gripe about the horrors of globalization and modern technology:  nectarines from Chile, corn syrup, plastic packaging.  Yes, I agree.  But globalization has also brought some benefits, including a lot of international knowledge and a passion for preservation.  It's made people rally around old recipes and food history.  The Internet seems to be one of our best tools. 

Let me give you one example:  Years ago, I received an email from a woman named Marialuisa Schenone--same last name as mine--from Genoa, Italy, home to my dad's grandparents.

She'd stumbled across my web site and decided to write me.

"I know where your family comes from," wrote Marialuisa.  "They come from the village Lumarzo where all persons are Schenone."

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Jellypress is about Nancy and Laura having fun with what they love: old recipes, art, and ideas--as we find them in our modern lives.  We met...read more »

Quince
Yes, all the artwork on Jellypress was done by Nancy. Go to the Jellypress Art page

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and FamilyTo find out about Laura's search for a long lost family recipe, click [ What's a Jellypress?


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Our Books

A Thousand Years Over a Hot StoveA James Beard Award winning book that tells a history of American women through food, recipes, and remembrances. Recipes and illustrations from prehistory to the present day.
To learn more, click [here].


The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and FamilyLaura's memoir about a search for a recipe, happiness, and mythic Italy--with many unexpected adventures along the way.
To learn more, click [here].


Walking on WalnutsIn this culinary memoir, Nancy Ring combines funny and poignant stories of love and work with warm remembrances of a family that celebrates food with gusto and cherishes memories with passion...
To learn more, click [here].







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