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Archive for the ‘adventures/field trips’ Category

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It may be cliché, but Paris calls to me. Softly, quietly it’s a sirens song that pulls at my heartstrings. And my stomach. Everytime I visit, she welcomes me back like an old friend, no matter how much time has passed. I love nothing more than to wander about with no real plan, looking in shop windows and discovering little pastry shops on every street corner. The bakery culture in France, Paris especially, astounds and delights me. It’s not uncommon for me to start early in the morning with a list of patisserie shops and purchase something from each of them, six or seven easily depending on the neighborhood, before noon. I love to experience a city through it’s food and this is my favorite way to go about it in my favorite city. Paris’s lure may be quiet and subtle, but my friend Jane is more persistent. She’s been on my case to come for a visit for months and truthfully, it has been a few years since I’ve walked those beautiful streets. I was due. So this summer in the middle of my countryside visit, I hopped a train north and found myself in the middle of the Montparnasse train station in a mere 5 hours.

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So. I took a little break. I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision, necessarily. Life, as it sometimes does, interceded. Distracted. Took up more time than I had anticipated. I had wandered back into the business world full time, full of hope and promise and came out the other end uninspired and unfulfilled. Disappointed in people and their promises. If there’s one thing I know for certain, it’s to not stay in a situation that makes me unhappy. I was too busy to cook; didn’t want to cook and things weren’t turning out anyway. So I made some changes.

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2012 was a crap year for Michigan fruit, particularly tree fruits, particularly apples.  An unseasonably warm spring coupled with a late frost dealt a crippling blow, knocking out by some estimates up to 80% of Michigan’s apple harvest for the year.  It was devastating and maybe you didn’t notice, satisfied with Washington apples or imported fruit, but those of us who frequent Midwest farmers markets noticed.

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A farm turned my weekend around. Really. I was in the far western reaches of the Chicago suburbs last weekend for a wedding and thought I’d visit a nearby orchard bright and early Saturday morning. I’d pick some apples, maybe grab a few cider donuts and head home to make a pie or two. Instead, what I found was my personal vision of hell. The signs in caps and excess exclamation points should have tipped me off that this would not be one of the bucolic orchard experiences I’ve had in the past. PUMPKIN PATCH!!! APPLE PICKING!!! CORN MAZE!!! God help me.

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Until this weekend, I had been morel foraging exactly once and planned to keep it that way.  I was visiting family in Southern Indiana around Easter time and my rather eccentric uncle decided it would be a great idea to trapsaise around the woods looking for elusive fungi.  For 5 hours we tromped up and down hills and ravines, half bent over looking for things that closely resembled the forest floor.  It was cold, damp and generally miserable and my uncle pushed us on and on, long past the time I was ready to call it quits and head in for a beer. When all was said and done, the lot of us had found exactly 6 mushrooms, one of which I discovered the moment before I stepped on it.  This was supposed to be fun?

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Last fall, I took part in a fantastic weekend adventure and it all centered on meat.  Butchery to be specific, both pork and beef, with side forays into charcuterie, sausage making, bacon smoking, a lot of cooking, more eating and wonderful camaraderie.  It was part summer camp, part serious food skills and part female empowerment.  My French friend Kate (a bit of a misnomer as she’s actually an American living in France) concepted the idea of a Grrls Meat Camp where woman in the butchery field, culinary world and farming realms could gather, discuss their challenges and begin to build a support network in a field where woman are few and far between. Which is how 17 of us found our way to a little lodge at a YMCA camp in northern Illinois.

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Last year, about this time, I did a real jackass kind of thing. I invited myself along on someone else’s vacation. It was St. Patrick’s Day, we’d been enjoying all that Chicago has to offer on a gorgeous, unseasonably warm 70 degree day where everyone is Irish. My friends mentioned they were going to Napa and asked for recommendations. I then say “What? I’m going with you! You need me with you! I know people.” Obnoxious, right? I immediately apologized the next day and gave them an out, which they declined and invited me along anyway. That’s good friends for you.

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