Back To Work for the Beekeepers

w200-5c388ba3aa6d2a3fe8351bc00f887b3bNow Congress has reopened the government, this means we’ll be seeing Charlie Brandts, the first Official but semi-retired White House Beekeeper. He is buzzing back to the White House Garden to make sure all is still well in the hive.

He is a sweet guy.

Here’s some FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

The average worker bee flies 15 miles an hour and produces one-twelfth of a teaspoon of during its entire lifetime.

To produce a pound of honey , a bee colony will visit 2 million flowers and fly 55,000 miles. (That is more than eight times the distance from New York City to Toyko, Japan.)  Continue reading

How Wine Turned Me Into a Citizen

It was Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer, astrophysicist, and cosmologist, who suggested, “It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.” I mention this proposition to emphasize how vital it is to do serious but skeptical research before embarking on any business endeavor—or any endeavor at all, for that matter.

For instance, the only way to learn the retail business is to spend a few years working in a store. I learned this the hard way . . .

After spending a shockingly short time at the London Cordon Bleu School of Cookery,  I decided to open my very own cooking school in Greensboro, North Carolina. I named it La Bonne Femme.

La Bonne Femme, Greensboro, NC

La Bonne Femme, Greensboro, NC

Of course, nobody in Greensboro had the least idea what La Bonne Femme meant. As a dish, it is a seductively tasty combination of garlic, onions, bacon, and mushrooms in a red-wine sauce to accompany a thick veal chop or chicken leg. As a namesake, it evokes “The Good Wife.”

I preferred to think of myself, and of the shop, as The Good Woman.

I set up my cooking school in a beautiful, isolated little house in the woods where nobody could find it. Nevertheless, word of mouth was generous. The school thrived. It thrived so mightily—on a small scale mind you—that I decided to expand, into a shop where I could sell the same soufflé dishes, rolling pins, and other gadgets and utensils I was using in my classes. That worked, too.

Next, I considered how neat it would be to sell what then were quaintly called “gourmet” foods. A glass-door refrigerator displayed great cheeses. There were exotic coffee beans, teas, chocolates, and all manner of good things to eat. I arranged to have baguettes, croissants, and brioches flown in from New York every Friday.

There were only two things missing in my little corner of paradise: one was wine . . so I decided to import it. The law required wine sellers to become U.S. citizens. I became a U.S. citizen. The other thing that was missing was enough customers to keep the enterprise afloat!

Lesson One: Don’t choose a fancy name for a business or for your identity as a personal chef or for a service or for a blog or for a book title.

Lesson Two: Each town has a doomed location. There, every enterprise is destined to fail. Before investing in a cash register, make sure that you know that you have chosen the best possible location. Know who your customers and suppliers are likely to be. Make sure there is enough parking for the crowds that will flock to your store. Check the zoning. Get insurance. Explore all the hidden costs including taxes, garbage and snow removal. Register your name. Make friends with the bank manager. Have a marketing and publicity plan. Be realistic about drawing up a profit and loss statement. Think carefully about your ability to withstand extreme stress.

And as a rousing chorus of Les Bonne Femmes would say: Bon Courage! (Good luck!)

Food Job: Entrepreneur/Gourmet Store Owner

 

Dumplings & Dynasties

James Beard Event-Dumplings & DynastiesA Eureka Moment: an idea for specialization can spring from anywhere. A while back, I saw a poster at the James Beard House announcing an event titled, “Dumplings and Dynasties.”

Wow!

An entire career could be initiated from this concept. It could even become a kind of Alex Haley Roots, Joseph Campbell Power of the Myth or Ken Burns’s The Civil War PBS documentary series — with music and dance!

How fabulous that could be: Dumplings and Dynasties: The Origins of Everything Edible!

Imagine: a series of wedding ceremony traditions around the world with Edible Dumplings and Dynasties animated in living color!

How Wine Turned Me Into a Citizen (And A Shop Owner)

It was Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, who suggested, “It pays to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out.”

My La Bonne Femme

The front door sign from my shop, La Bonne Femme

I mention this proposition to emphasize how vitally it is to do some serious research before embarking on any business or any endeavor of any kind.

The only way to learn the retail business is to spend a few years working in a store.

I learned this the hard way…

After spending a shockingly short time at the London Cordon Bleu School of Cookery (today, Le Cordon Bleu London), I decided to open my very own cooking school in Greensboro, North Carolina. I named it La Bonne Femme.

Of course, nobody in Greensboro had the least idea what that meant. (As a dish, it is a seductively tasty combination of garlic, onions, bacon and mushrooms in a red wine sauce to accompany a thick veal chop or chicken leg. As a namesake, it evokes “The Good Wife.” I preferred to think of myself and the shop as The Good Woman.)

I set up my cooking school in a beautiful, isolated little house in the woods where nobody could find it.

Nevertheless, word of mouth was generous. The school thrived. It thrived so mightily (on a small scale mind you,) I decided to expand it into a shop so I could sell the soufflé dishes and rolling pins and other gadgets and utensils I was using in the classes. That worked.

Then I thought how neat it would be to sell what was then quaintly called “gourmet” foods. A glass door refrigerator displayed great cheeses. There were exotic coffee beans, teas, chocolates and all manner of good things to eat. I arranged to have baguettes, croissants and brioche flown in from New York.

There were only two things missing from my little corner of Paradise: one was wine…so I decided to import it. The law required wine sellers to become U.S. citizens. I became a U.S. citizen.

The place was simply charming.

There now remained, only one thing missing: customers.

Lesson One: Don’t choose a fancy name for a business or to as your identity as a personal chef, or for a service, a blog, or book title.

Lesson Two: Each town has a doomed location where every enterprise is doomed. Before investing in a cash register, make sure you know you have chosen the best possible location. Know who your customers and suppliers are likely to be. Make sure there is enough parking for the crowds that will flock to your store. Check the zoning. Get insurance. Explore all the hidden costs including taxes, garbage and snow removal. Register your name. Make friends with the bank manager. Have a marketing and publicity plan. Be realistic about drawing up a profit and loss statement.

Think carefully about your ability to withstand extreme stress.

And as a rousing chorus of Les Bonne Femmes would say: Bonne chance! (Good luck!)

Farmers’ Markets Bloom

A handwritten sign tacked to a tree announces: CORN, NEW LAID EGGS, STRAWBERRIES, and the driver’s foot eases off the pedal. The car slows as we scan the road ahead. And there it is — the roadside farm stand, that is as much a part of the rural landscape as the white-steepled church, standing calm and quiet on the fresh-cut lawn, and the blue-painted clapboard houses with the American flag moving softly in the summer morning breeze.

Around the rough, wooden lean-to, there are small family groups reaching for the just-picked fruits and vegetables. A wooden plank stretched between two sawhorses holds homemade jams and jellies and honey with their labels written in a spidery hand. There are mushrooms and berries; strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and on two or three days a year, red currants and gooseberries and raspberries as sweet as sugar and as intense as stained glass.  Fresh-baked breads and pies and cookies, gingerbread and muffins and scones are proudly arranged in doily-lined baskets, and at the end of the table are bunches of basil, parsley, thyme and sage, and jugs of newly pressed cider.

On the ground are bushels of baskets filled with apples and pears, plums and peaches, potatoes and onions, leeks and carrots, zucchini (always heaps of zucchini), burstlingly ripe, juicy tomatoes, and big and baby black eggplants. There are beets and lettuces, and shuddering green greens and brilliantly red radishes. On a side table are the eggs, brown and white, laid this very morning before the cock crowed.

The car is filled with more vegetables than we can eat in a month of dedicated consumption. But, we will worry about that later. Nostalgia drives us to buy too much. Temptation always overcomes reason.

The simple country farm stands are miniatures of the urban green markets that’s are springing up everywhere. These city markets are places where friends run into friends and pretty women wear straw hats and toddlers sleep in strollers while their parents amble from stand to stand. Here there are even more choices than in the country.

There are dairy stalls displaying fresh goat and cottage and artisanal cheeses. There are a dozen kinds of wholesome breads, dark and raisin-studded along with a scattering of onion wisps baked into the crust. There are trays of ‘good-for-you’ sprouts. The chickens are free-range, the ducks plump, and the little poussins come from local farms. Smoked meats, bacon and pork and venison sausages sell fast, as do the blush wines from the neighborhood vineyards.

And in the fall, there are a dozen kinds of apples, tiny squashes and pumpkins big as a bathtub.

Street musicians fill the air with the sound of fiddles, and little children shyly step forward to drop a coin in the hopeful hat.

Shoppers buy from their favorite farmers, whom they know by name. Warm hands receive the money and pass the fresh foods they have themselves nurtured, hand picked, and packed into trucks before the morning’s first light.

These markets are our continuing link with our real or imagined past.

Here, we feel renewed and refreshed, for there are few things that give greater pleasure than shopping at the market, carrying everything home, and transforming it into a beautiful lunch for friends, who will spend the rest of the afternoon with their elbows on the table, a glass on wine in hand. Blissfully satisfied.

Food Job: As Easy as Apple Pie

If there was a parliament of pastry, Apple Pie would be the prime minister and Johnny Appleseed its roving ambassador.

They say nothing is as American as apple pie but Isaac Newton, knowing the gravity of making such a claim, could have upset the apple cart by pointing out humble pies appear throughout the world.

Some think the best apple pie is topped with ice cream.  Others insist an apple pie order isn’t complete without a slice of cheddar cheese. Modern folk mindlessly munch mini-pies nuked from the microwave; others dream of apple pie and visualize Norman Rockwell’s Mom in her red checkered apron with the straps criss-crossing like a pastry lattice across her back.  They say nothing is as loving as a pie, golden, delicious and hot from the oven baked for the apple of her eye.

Adam and Eve, George Washington, Norman Rockwell, McDonald’s and Steve Jobs had vastly different views of apples and apps.

Clearly apple pie is a state of mind.

For the fortunate an apple pie is a pie of cake.

Food Job: Bake your own unique apple pies and become a valued supplier for restaurants, country clubs, food trucks and wherever great food is offered.

Food Writer Job:  Become the world’s greatest expert on the topic of apples. Here are a few subjects to cover:

Apple pie origins

Adam’s apple (was it worth the bite in the Garden of Eden? Were Adam and Eve the only couple who were truly made for each other?)

Apple computer

An apple a day keeps the doctor away?

Apple brandy

Apple cider

Apple in mouth of a pig (why?)

Apple martini

Apple nutrition

Apple picking

Apples that don’t fall far from the tree

Apple use in aromatherapy

Applebee’s (restaurant review)

Apples dippers at McDonald’s (opinion of)

Apples in art

Apples in history

Apples in literature

Apples in religion

Bobbing for apples

Candy apple

Curious customs associated with apples

Dried apple dolls

Golden apple of Hesperides

Johnny Appleseed

Lifecycle of an apple from seed to harvest

Newton’s apple

Snow White and the poisoned apple

The Big apple (origin of name)

Varieties of apples

Where apples grow

Which variety to choose for baking an apple pie

You get the idea?  It is a form of word association. You can do this with virtually any single food subject. Begin a blog.

Quote: The first written mention of a fruit pie:
“Thy breath is like the steame of apple-pyes.”

Robert Greene (1590) ‘Arcadia’