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Archive for the ‘adventures/field trips’ Category

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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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I’ve always wanted to visit Scandinavia. I knew I’d get there at some point, the opportunity just hadn’t presented itself.  Yet.  Then during a trip to Napa Valley last June, there is was, right in front of me.  After many, many glasses of wine my friend Rachel leaned across the bar and said “Kathy, you have to come to the wedding.”  “Of course!” I replied, “I’m game for a road trip to Iowa!”  She looked at me, dead serious, and said “No, it’s in Sweden.  On Thanksgiving.”  “Wait …what?”  “Yep, Sweden. In the town my mother grew up in. Höör.”  And that my friends, is how I came to find myself in Sweden, in late November, in a curiously named town, in a tiny country church built in 1727 witnessing two friends tie the knot and enjoying a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner at the reception.  You can’t make this stuff up.

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My apologies for the radio silence.  Despite my best intentions to get posts ready before getting out of Dodge, nothing is quite done.  I’ve got a queue of half written posts – good ones too – unedited photography and a whole lot of crap to sort through.  I just haven’t gotten to it.  Fact is, I’m in France.  Doing everything and nothing at the same time.

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Once in a while, I get to do some very cool things.  I’m very fortunate in that way.  Last week an email came over the wire from Gale Gand with an invitation to join her at the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy for a demonstration.  That our friend Pastry Chef Meg Galus was giving the demo was an added bonus.  You don’t have to ask me twice.

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Oh summer.  You’ve sucked me in again.  How time flies during these warm, happy months.  Here it is, mid-August and suddenly I’m looking around at pre-season football fans in their Bears jerseys and shorts, wondering where the time went.  Well, I know where the time went.  Five glorious weeks in France will do that to you and I’ve been slow to get back up to speed around here.

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