goat cheese with a french 1A rustic farmhouse surrounded by fields of wheat and sunflowers is the first thing guests see when driving up to Pas de Blénac, Jean-Paul Cohen's property in southwestern France. Part of the beauty of buying from the markets of France is knowing that the artisanal headquarters aren't far away. In this case, the farm is 30 kilometers from the beach town Royan, where my family lives.

When visiting Monsieur Cohen's farm you see the care that goes into raising his goats. Spending most of the day out in the fields, the goats come into the barn in only to be fed and milked. The fermented grass that is fed to them is what makes Pas de Blénac what it is. The flavor in the resulting cheeses changes with the seasons and with each variety of grass fed to the goats. The nutrient-dense fermented grasses come from Monsieur Cohen's fields and are cared for by the boss himself.

Read more: Goat Cheese with a French Twist


tastes like teen spirit 1On a Friday evening in early December, inside a cozy home on 45th Street, a motley crew of home chefs are working in harmony to prepare a five-course gourmet dinner. Year after year this particular home-cooked feast is known to leave diners with memories of exquisite food shared with good friends, all in celebration of a local organization that benefits inner-city kids.

This feast is prepared for the winning bidder (and their guests) of one of the most coveted auction lots at Sacramento Young Life's annual fundraiser.

The annual auction, called the Sacramento Vine & Dine, benefits Downtown Sacramento Young Life, an organization whose mission is to help teenagers develop authentic spiritual relationships with themselves, each other and their community. Bringing together some of Sacramento's top food purveyors and winemakers from around our region, the Sacramento Vine & Dine is a wonderful opportunity to bid on creative and unique food events while providing life-changing opportunities to inner-city kids.

Read more: Tastes Like Teen Spirit: Vine & Dine Helps Worthy Efforts of Young Life


the world beneath 1When schoolchildren visit the farm, I make a point of digging up some uncultivated soil and handing chunks of it around. Most have never examined soil before.

It's not dirt. It has a complex architecture to it, and it is permeated with little crooked passageways, some the work of worms and arthropods, and some where roots have died and decayed. Slightly larger tunnels may be bored by burrowing spiders or sand wasps. And on a coarser scale, there are vertebrates that burrow in the soil; voles, gophers and squirrels are the most industrious, and the lazier animals (snakes, toads, lizards, small owls) will occupy those burrows when the rodents have abandoned them.

The native soil is full of life. Every crumb has an abundance of micro-organisms in it: algae, bacteria and fungi. The delicate hyphae of fungi are easily seen without a lens; following a rain, they may push a mushroom up to the surface. Invertebrates are numerous and, with any luck, you might surprise a big carabid beetle snoozing in his den. The roots of plants—trees, weeds, crops—lace it all together into a vibrant, active ecosystem.

Read more: The World Beneath Our Feet: Farmers Reduce Cultivation to Let Nature Work its Wonders


eat your veggies 1On a drizzly afternoon in December, Amber Stott is slicing radishes in the basement kitchen of Capitol Heights Academy. Surrounding the table, volunteers grate carrots or cut up cabbage and swap stories.

Stott is wearing a green shirt that cheekily orders "Raise Kale!" as sleeves smattered with strawberries poke out from under the shirt. That she has decked herself in fruit- and vegetable-inspired attire is no mistake—the mission statement of her nonprofit, Food Literacy Center, simply states "Our mission is to get kids to eat their vegetables."

In Stott's backyard a pineapple guava bush blooms next to navel orange, Valencia orange, lime and Meyer lemon trees. Five bushes of blueberries cozy up to finger limes, epazote and spineless nopal cactus. A Pink Lady apple tree thrives next to a Fuyu persimmon tree and an Asian pear tree.

In the right season, her garden beds are full of nine kinds of peppers, and tomatoes dangle from their vines. She has created her own personal food system that deeply connects with her passion for food literacy.

Read more: Eat Your Veggies: Cultivating Community Health Through Food Literacy


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Woody Tasch with Taber Ward of Boulder's Mountain Flower Goat Dairy—a soon-to-be recipient of Slow Money investment in Boulder, CO.

A conversation with Slow Money visionary Woody Tasch

Woody Tasch has been working with food and finance for decades. As an economist in the late 1970s he worked on a project at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in El Batan, Mexico, home of the initiatives that increased global food production, somewhat inaptly referred to as the "Green Revolution." He then spent the 1980s in the venture capital world in New York City.

"Here I am 30 years later on the exact opposite end of a big arc of understanding," says Tasch. He views his work today as antithetical to both venture capital and "the big, industrial, technologically driven, monocultural approach to food production" accelerated by the Green Revolution.

Read more: Building the Soil of a Restorative Economy: A Conversation with Slow Money Visionary Woody Tasch


last bite 1 3They say this as if to say eat your vegetables. But what if I bake cakes, and eat them—what does that make me?

Sometimes they are ridiculous, huge and sugared and over-the-top. I call them grand. Sometimes they are coarse, bitter-edged, and not fit for company. I call them humble. What if I want to be like that? Humble. And grand. At times decorated and dressed up, layered and complex, and other times not layered but laid bare, tender and easily broken. They are all of them all-natural. They have integrity, and poise. Could be I am taking this too far, this cake. Or could be this unhealthy habit is the health of healing a perspective: Wonder and whimsy are essential to wellness.

Read more: You Are What You Eat: Cake


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When I was living in France, I first discovered leeks when my neighbor took me to her garden to pull several handfuls. They were still young, she explained, and she would make them into a salad. She instructed me to skip every two or three, then pull one. That meant that the leeks left in the ground had plenty of room to thicken and mature, yet she could benefit immediately from the young ones.

"We planted that way on purpose. That is why the leeks are so close together. It is like your thinning, but we use what we thin." How clever, I thought—but then the French are like that, getting the most out of everything.

Read more: What’s in Season: Leeks


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This is not the secular mundane, when beauty is wholesome oat groat grey. This is when we do the things that won't do for daily: gild the lily, paint a face, bake crazy cakes with three bottles of booze, and ice them, and stack them and eat, plan hoopla and jubilee, carousal and revelry, all in the name of religion or rest or something more ludicrous, like love.

Even ascetics observe feast days. They obey that rhythm where work comes to work and rest comes to rest and if we do the same our bodies so relax our souls well up and spring out in celebration. It could be simple: set our hoes down in the dirt and dance. It could be grand: nod our heads in the blackened direction of something greater than our own two hands. Some call it the collective.

Whatever you name it, feast is prayer shaped like a candied kumquat, look how bright it is. Look, how beautiful. But it is hold in the palm small, sweet like only bitter rind and sour juice can be, balanced, hopefully, smelling of citrus, sugar-soaked and boiled so long. Even ascetics observe feast days, sometimes with food, but they know best, feast is more than eating. It is moments set apart like sacred trays lifting quotidian times up. Some celebrations involve an extra reading, a special color, a public kiss. And those ascetics, and we the profane lovers of this blessed world, and our feasts, some even allow for halleluiah.



Amanda Hawkins writes about food, place spirit and the connections between the three. She posts often on Enchanted Fig, a food site with stories and recipes that pendulum swing from highbrow cakes to humble feral offerings.


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The Bayeux tapestry is a linen scroll, 20 inches wide and 230 feet long, on which is embroidered an account of the Norman invasion, with wonderful illustrations picked out in colored woolen threads.

In 1066 William the Conqueror sailed from Normandy to England, where he defeated the English in the battle of Hastings, setting himself up to become king of England. This was just one of many ancient cross-channel skirmishes and squabbles over the throne.

What makes it special is that it was recorded in an amazing document. The Bayeux tapestry is a linen scroll, 20 inches wide and 230 feet long, on which is embroidered an account of the invasion, with text in Latin and wonderful illustrations picked out in colored woolen threads. The story is engrossing, and the art is lively and compelling.

Read more: An 11th-Century Norman Feast


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Historic Moon Café Gallery on Main Street

A small, aging town nestles up against the levee on the Sacramento River. Inland from the river, grows a garden full of fu gwa, dow gok, hong zou and cee gwa. The bitter melon, long beans, jujubes and luffa are only a few of several edible plants grown there yearly, and every one is a link to the town's rich history.

From each planted seed grows another opportunity to learn about the town's former residents and their culture.

Read more: In Locke, The Past is Growing