On the weekend after Labor Day in the hilly town of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, a group that totaled 80,000 people gathered to celebrate. Many drove across state lines to get there. They weren’t commemorating a monumental day in history or an important win at the Little League World Series. No, these people had arrived to celebrate the humble little mushroom at the town’s 29th annual Mushroom Festival.
Located about 30 miles outside Philadelphia, Kennett Square isn’t that unusual of a place to host such a quirky event. After all, it is renowned for being the “Mushroom Capital of the World,” an area where half of America’s mushrooms are grown. As you drive through it, you’ll occasionally catch a mildly unpleasant whiff of the nearby farms and the compost used to grow their prized product. You’ll also see Kennett Square’s nickname branded on the town’s water tower. If there’s anywhere that deserves the rights to a funky fungi festival, it’s here.
But what is it about mushrooms, exactly, that draws such an enormous crowd year after year? I was curious. So I went to find out. MORE
Ask ten Londoners what a traditional English breakfast should include and they’ll give you ten different answers.
“I swear by blood pudding.”
“No way! I only eat white pudding. I don’t want blood in the morning.”
“As long as you fry the bread, puddings don’t even matter!”
“Fry the bread? Just buy a toaster already!”
The squabbling could go on forever – though it’s in a British accent, so who’s complaining? Most can agree that a traditional English breakfast includes fried eggs, bread – either toasted or fried, sautéed mushrooms, fried tomatoes, sausage of some kind, bacon, and Heinz beans. And yes, it must be Heinz, the same company we all know in the States for its ketchup. Even restaurants will boast Heinz brand beans on their menus. Sometimes black or white pudding is included (black is fat, oatmeal, and blood in a sausage casing, while white is everything but the blood).
Every Sunday morning growing up was marked by the same sight: my father hovering over a griddle making pancakes, my sister requesting that he put strawberries in the batter, me reminding him to make mine without the berries, and my brother standing in front of the fridge drinking milk straight from the gallon. We all live in different states now, but our first question when we all come back home is if Dad will make pancakes in the morning.
Away from my family, I’m more likely to be sitting at a table with friends on a Sunday while a waitress takes our order. Being on my own in the city has opened my eyes to new kinds of breakfast treats aside from my Dad’s tried-and-true pancakes. My new breakfast delight? Eggs Benedict.
For many vegans, chickpeas and chickpea flour are saving graces. Full of good fats, protein, and fiber, these delicious legumes are like hitting the nutritional jackpot.
Most people, vegans or otherwise, know chickpeas for their role in Middle Eastern cuisine; the ever-popular hummus is the classic example of a chickpea-based dish. One of the last places one might expect to encounter a flatbread composed of chickpea flour is Nice, in the southeast of France.
Yet that’s where socca, a pancake-like unleavened flatbread made almost exclusively of chickpea flour, water, salt, and olive oil, originates. Socca is a staple street food in the city of Nice and in the surrounding region. It is generally made quickly, using large cast-iron skillets in an open oven and is served in roughly chopped pieces, dripping with olive oil, with nothing but a generous dash of black pepper as accompaniment.
Such a plain, unglamorous dish may seem unappealing to some, but socca’s modesty intrigued me. What could it be about a simple preparation of flour and water that would purportedly make people devour entire pans of the stuff within minutes? I intended to find out. MORE
I’m a self-professed foodie, and it took me nearly three years to be able to say that. Learning about food is like learning about anything else—trial and error and lots of “learning as you go along”—and this story is no different. While some food lessons are more obvious than others (like removing bay leaves and adding cornstarch to cold water instead of hot), others can seem downright tricky. In my journey up until this point, I can think of no harsher (yet surprisingly popular) a lesson than learning about truffle oil.
The seemingly classy ingredient might very well be as crooked as the evil stepmother in Snow White, luring you in with false promises. When you think about quality ingredients, it’s not entirely uncommon to also see an increase in price, like better beef, organic produce, or vanilla beans instead of extract. So when looking at a bottle of truffle oil, everything seems to make sense. At $30 for a bottle just over three ounces, it has to be good stuff; the yellowish liquid surrounding the few flecks of actual truffle sitting peacefully down at the bottom. When I first saw it, that bottle of oil seemed so authentic and impressive until I did a little research.
Let me be explicit about the conflict that informs my “Conflicted Kitchen” column here: I love food – making it and thinking about it and reading about it and eating it – but I hate gaining weight.
They say the average person gains 3 to 7 seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. One holiday season, I managed to put on 17 pounds in 21 days. This feat is easier than you might think. That year, there were cookie binges so intense that I ate every available Christmas cookie my mother had baked for the family and went on to pillage the neatly ribboned gift bags of treats she made for other people. MORE