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


whats in season 1

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


last bite 1 4

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.


an 11th century 1

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


in locke the past 1

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


edible travel 1

Chawri Bazar is its own India. One step into the market, colors, sounds and smells magnify in intensity. The narrow streets pulse with stories. Every vignette springs from chaos; every movement catches your eye; every person is eager to tell you something.

The food looks and smells seductive: Sweets decorated with flowers, steaming curries, deep-fried delights all tempt you as you pass by.

Read more: Edible Travel: Essence of India


recipes for the holidays

There is nothing like the holidays to bring out the cook in us. No matter how many seasons have passed, there is still an excitement about entertaining family and friends with food, whether it is buffet style or all sitting around a table.

I can spend days dreaming up menus, making lists, considering different decorations—that's half the fun of it for me.

Here I've put together some favorites from several of my books. For a full meal, there is an appetizer, first course, a main course with a side dish and a dessert. However, any of these could stand alone.

I've also included a fun and festive one-dish meal, Seafood Paella.

Happy holidays!


labeling farm to fork 1"By definition all food is coming from farms and ending up on our forks. It's crazy that our food system got to the point that we have to create these things to put an emphasis on nutritious food. There's a revolution of just wanting to get back to the land the way it used to be and should be." - CHEF ERIC ALEXANDER CARPE VINO

In the last issue of Edible Sacramento, I began a journey to understand how our community feels about defining our Farm-to-Fork Capital with a set of criteria. When we label a restaurant as "farm-to-fork," how does that restaurant meet certain standards? Or does anyone sourcing products from farms in the region, no matter the size or the quality of the farm product, have a claim to use the farm-to-fork seal?

I started this series of articles by asking regional food thought leaders for their opinions on the matter. For them, what mattered most was increasing education, both of chefs and consumers, to improve the sustainability of local food. (Be sure to read our previous September/October 2014 issue for the whole story.)

For this article, I talked to chefs throughout the region who cook with local, seasonal ingredients. What do they think about having a farm-to-fork standard by which they must operate? Even among chefs, opinions vary. Some think the effort should be bigger, others fear it could become nothing more than a diluted marketing campaign.

Read more: Labeling Farm-to-Fork: Chefs' Opinions


wine for the masses 1You've picked the date, you've invited your guests and you've selected your food. Now the tiny beads of sweat start slowly trickling down your forehead as you vacillate back and forth on that final element of your celebration, the one that can make even the savviest of entertainers doubt their party-throwing capabilities: the wine selection.

I talk with a lot of people about wine. It is safe to say I do that every day. As a known wine educator and writer, people love to chat with me regarding my recommendations and latest reviews. During these interactions, what I hear time and time again is that most everyone is quite intimidated by wine. Just standing in the wine aisle at the grocery store is overwhelming for most. Whether I'm conversing with a manicurist, lawyer, grandpa or grad student, the same words are spoken, "Which wine should I buy" and "I don't want to spend a lot of money."

Somewhere around the ninth century BCE, Homer said it well when he opined that "The wine urges me on, the bewitching wine, which sets even a wise man to singing and to laughing gently, and rouses him up to dance." Seriously, when a beverage has the power to do all of that, it should be a part of any significant event you may be planning.

Read more: Wine for the Masses: A few tips to ease choosing (and buying)


malty matchmakers 1

Emily's idea was to offer a similar style of locally sourced ingredients for cooking classes and include wine pairings, but Darin had a different idea for which their endeavor is now known: beer pairings.

A salty hot afternoon of sunburns and beach volleyball? There's a beer for that.


Sweatshirt clad in the Sierras gathered around a crackling winter fire? There's a beer for that too.

In fact, since the number of craft breweries began springing up a few years ago, there's a craft beer for just about any situation you can imagine, and for food too. Where once wine and cheese pairings were the only matchmaking advice to be found, more and more restaurants and connoisseurs are enjoying the flexibility and variety that beer offers to complement everything from steak to seafood to roasted veggies and sweet desserts.

Read more: Malty Matchmakers: Local Couple Pioneers Beer Pairings