Phillip Manning and Andrea Reusing on Wednesday's Bookwatch

Good news for book fans! Two authors, Phillip Manning and Andrea Reusing, will be featured this week on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch.

Manning and Reusing will appear Wednesday, June 6, on UNC-TV’s MX channel, which is available on Time-Warner Cable digital channels #172 or 4.4.

Phillip Manning’s “Islands of Hope: Lessons from North America’s Great Wildlife Sanctuaries,” first published by John F. Blair in 1999, is still in print. Manning’s Bookwatch interview airs Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. for the first time since 1999.

Manning traveled to ten different North American wildlife preserves to find out how successful they are–and what lessons can be learned from their efforts. How big does a preserve need to be? Once the preserve is established, should man simply let nature take its course? Or should there be enough intervention to be sure that “nature” doesn’t destroy the species we want to protect? Does a wildlife preserve have a responsibility to foster the preservation of other species and to promote biodiversity? How do preserves respond to changes outside their boundaries?

Lake Mattamuskeet in eastern North Carolina once served as a preserve primarily for Canada geese. But fewer geese come each year, and tundra swans have taken their places.

Why? The decline in geese is influenced by the new availability of grain on farms near the Chesapeake Bay–enticing the migrating geese to stop, and feed, and stay and forget about going further south to Mattamuskeet. Meanwhile, the swans have moved in to fill the vacancy–finding the lake and the surrounding farms to their liking.

What to do about the changes is a puzzle that neither Manning nor the managers at Mattamuskeet can solve for sure.

At the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in Oregon, Manning found another dilemma. The land set aside for antelopes also contains a strong population of coyotes who feed on young antelopes. If the coyotes are unchecked, they might completely destroy the antelope population. But when the managers of the refuge began to kill some of the coyotes, groups of animal lovers protested and closed down the program.

How much should man intervene to protect one species by killing another? Manning leaves the question with the wildlife managers–where it remains unanswered. They just keep doing the best they can, imperfectly, but effectively.

Manning’s unanswered questions are part of his book’s appeal. He is patient with the people of good will who disagree about the best way to respond to man’s pressures on wildlife.

He quotes with approval the management principle of Dr. Sam Pearsall, who was director of science of the North Carolina chapter of The Nature Conservancy. It is called the “science of muddling through.”

“It says that the best decisions are made by people who operate on the information at hand to make decisions that seem to move them in the right direction and that foreclose as few options as possible.”

Pearsall’s skepticism of inflexible comprehensive solutions to the challenges of wildlife preservation and Manning’s tolerance of the competing ideas could be good lessons for our political leaders.

Also on Wednesday (at 11:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.) cable viewers have another chance to watch Lantern restaurant owner Andrea Reusing talk about “Cooking In the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes.”

About that book, Clyde Edgerton wrote, “… [I]f you sometimes feel (as in that old gospel tune ‘Drifting Too Far from the Shore’) that time and modern life have put space between you and good food, then Reusing’s book can flat take you back home. And if you like to cook, ‘Cooking in the Moment’ can change the color of your time in the kitchen from gray to rainbow.”

Good Stuff: Eight Foods to Eat Before Climate Change Takes Them Away

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this is the week for my post to get heavy. 

While catching up on my blog backlog, I read a great piece from Good* about the Eight Foods You Should Stock Up On Before Climate Change Takes Them Away. And. It. Was. Scary. 

Being a food-oriented person in Chapel Hill is easy – lots of people like to geek out about their favorite specials at The Pig or Lantern (OMG! She posted her recipe for White Sweet Potato Soup!) We love our locavorism, but as dozens of folks on the chowhound board prove, we have resources that provide us with obscure hard to find items from around the globe like Ajvar at Mariakakis Fine Food and Wine, yogurt soda from Jahan International Market and Landjaeger, ahem Southern Season – woot woot! 

I’m definitely part of the takey takey takey, buy buy buy consumer culture that sucks in food people so quickly – perhaps even Queen. The Eight Foods article gave me a chance to stop and think about the big BIG picture things I like to forget when I’m scouting out the best burger in town. And of course, it also made me think about my favorite places to find these 8 items to stock up on before climate change takes them away. Old habits…

Bread –  Chicken Bridge Bakery at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market (naan and gougeres!)
Coffee –  Joe Van Gogh kiosk now at University Mall 
Chocolate – A Southern Season 
Bourbon – The Crunkleton 
Wine – 3Cups (wine, drinking chocolate, food trucks, fresh NC seafood = my devotion)
Honey – Chapel Hill Bees 
Agave – Weaver Street Market 
Peanuts – Big Spoon Roasters at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market

*Good is a fantastic, crunchy, online magazine, not a blog.

Autumn reading suggestions from North Carolina Bookwatch

It is reading time again.
So, courtesy of UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch, I have some autumn reading (and early Christmas gift) suggestions for your consideration.
Charles Frazier’s new book “Nightwoods” will be on this Sunday’s New York Times best seller list for the second week in a row. “Nightwoods” may not be the same kind of blockbuster that his “Cold Mountain” became, but it is off to a solid start sales wise. “Nightwoods” is set in Frazier’s beloved North Carolina mountains. With engaging characters and a story line of suspense and surprise, this short book could become a favorite. Because it is compact it opens the doors for a wider audience to become acquainted with Frazier’s magnificent gifts. I am betting that many people who did not finish “Cold Mountain” or “Thirteen Moons” will, through “Nightwoods,” become new members of Frazier’s fan club. You can visit with Frazier on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch this weekend: Friday, October 21, at 9:30 p.m., and Sunday, October 23, at 5 p.m.
A new book by a New Bern resident will almost certainly be at or near the top of The New York Times list by the end of October. Nicholas Sparks’s “The Best of Me” is the kind of love story Sparks knows how to tell so well. Set in Oriental, a small town and sailing center on the Pamlico Sound, two high school lovers come back to their hometown twenty years after their last parting. As usual, Sparks makes the romantic sparks fly.  (Oct. 28 and 30)
Andrea Reusing recently won a James Beard award for her complex cooking skills. She owns the acclaimed Chapel Hill restaurant, Lantern, where her amazing Asian-inspired dishes require expert preparation. Nevertheless, her book “Cooking In The Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes” is designed for us normal people who want to cook simple seasonal foods for our families. Using clear language she tells her readers how and when to shop for foods in season. Using the same direct instructions she guides them in the simple steps of preparing those foods. (Nov. 4 and 6)
Jane Borden’s “I Totally Meant to Do That” is a humorous memoir of a young college graduate from Greensboro making her way in a less than friendly but highly addictive New York City. This book should be required reading for every young North Carolinian considering a move to the Big Apple and for the North Carolina parents of any child now living there. (Nov. 11 and 13)
UNC-Wilmington’s Clyde Edgerton’s latest book, “Night Train,” takes us back to a segregated North Carolina town of the mid-sixties. Two teen-aged boys, one white and one black, share a passion for music. The white boy wants to be another James Brown, but the laws and customs of his society make it very hard for his relationship with his black friend to continue. Edgerton explores some of the same themes that the novel and recent movie “The Help” brought to a wider audience. (Nov. 18 and 20)
Thanks to an author who lives in Chapel Hill we can read an up-to-date 007 mystery featuring a James Bond revised for modern times. The author is Jeffrey Deaver, already a very popular and best selling author of a host of thriller novels. The estate of Ian Fleming, the original author of the James Bond series, commissioned Deaver to write the new book, “Carte Blanche.” It is set in current times. Do not worry about James Bond’s age. Today, the original Bond would be about 90 years old, but Deaver’s Bond was born in 1979 and served in Afghanistan. He reminds us of the original Bond, but he is a brand new model. (Nov. 25 and 27)
Enjoy the books and tune in Bookwatch this fall.

More help for farm fresh food eaters

Last week I introduced you to two authors of new food books that celebrate the joys of preparing and eating fresh farm food in season.

In that column I wrote about Andrea Reusing’s “Cooking In The Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes,” which, as the title suggests, is organized by season, and “Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen,” which uses a more traditional cookbook approach of groups of related dishes.

This week we feature Watauga County native Sheri Castle’s “The New Southern Garden Cookbook,” with groups of recipes organized into chapters on each of about 40 vegetables and fruits. Finally, we introduce Diane Daniel’s “Farm Fresh,” which organizes its information by the geographic location of the farms, markets, and other places to get fresh food.

Castle is a popular food writer and cooking teacher who celebrates delicious and healthy home cooked meals made possible by fresh, local, seasonal food. She has packaged that enthusiasm into “The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes.”

Castle’s book has about 40 chapters, each one devoted to one particular fruit or vegetable from apples to zucchini. She suggests that you go to the market without a shopping list, buy what is the most freshly available and tasty, bring it home, consult her book, and find all kinds of ways to prepare your purchase.

Castle entertains her readers with stories about her mountain family and even a song or two. Because I love tomatoes, here are lines she shares from a song by Guy Clark: “Only two things that money can’t buy/That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.”

But tomatoes are not the only stars in Castle’s catalogue of fresh foods. For instance, she gives great advice to overcome two different contradictory ideas about how long to cook snap beans. “At one time, most snap beans were sturdy pole beans with thick, tough pods that required extensive cooking to become edible. However, subjecting the newer stringless varieties to long cooking would dissolve them into a tasteless mess. … If a bean pod is delicate and tender enough to eat raw, it needs quick, gentle cooking. If a bean pod is thick and has strings…, it needs long slow cooking. When you know your bean, you know your cooking method.”

Assuming that you now are sold on the idea of doing anything you can to get fresh seasonal food on your table and in your tummy, where can you get the your raw materials?

There are good answers in Diane Daniel’s “Farm Fresh North Carolina: The Go-To Guide to Great Farmers’ Markets, Farm Stands, Farms, Apple Orchards, U-Picks, Kids’ Activities, Lodging, Dining, Choose-and-Cut Christmas Trees, Vineyards and Wineries, and More.”

Daniel, a nationally known travel writer who lives in Durham, tracked down farms, farm stores, markets, and other agricultural related places that welcome visitors. She organized her finding by region and wrote them up in travel guide fashion.

As a result, you can find detailed information about farm related places to visit near where you live or travel. For instance, you learn that you can visit the Millstone Meadows Farm near Morganton and purchase daylilies without appointment from May to July. Or, at other times for visits or meals, you need to call in advance.

Daniel includes favorite recipes from farm kitchens. Anticipating my love for fresh summer tomatoes, she included a recipe from Millstone’s co-owner, Sara Hord, for an heirloom tomato cobbler. It combines a pastry with tomatoes, a sweet onion, basil, parsley, and fontina and white cheddar cheeses. I can’t wait.

Should I rush up to Morganton or preheat my oven to 350 degrees and try to make my own tomato cobbler?

Help for farm fresh food eaters—part one

What is North Carolina’s most widely available summertime pleasure that we most often pass by without partaking?

It is the bounty of delicious fresh foods that are available throughout the state all summer long.

I have been spoiled by the year-round availability and wide selection of fruits and vegetables at our grocery stores. So I sometimes forget how much better foods are when they are fresh from the field, tree, or vine.

Then somebody shares a fresh-picked ripe strawberry or peach or tomato.

And I remember joyously the pleasures of in-season eating.

This year I have help. It comes from four new books from food experts who celebrate the value of farm fresh eating. Each author takes a little bit different approach to getting the food from farm to table.

James Beard award winning chef Andrea Reusing organizes her recipes and advice by seasons of the year. Sara Foster catalogues her favorite recipes and stories by types of dishes, from hors d’oeuvres to sweets. Watauga County native Sheri Castle puts her collection of recipes in separate chapters for about 40 vegetables and fruits. They are in A to Z order from apples to zucchini. Finally, travel writer Diane Daniel organizes by geographical location the farms, markets, restaurants and other places where we can find and buy in-season fresh vegetables and fruit.
We will take up the Reusing’s and Foster’s books in this column and follow up next week with a discussion of those by Castle and Daniel.

Andrea Reusing owns of the acclaimed Chapel Hill restaurant Lantern, one of the former Gourmet Magazine’s top fifty restaurants. Her “Cooking In The Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes” takes its readers through every season, showing how to shop for and prepare the variety of local foods that are available in North Carolina during different times of the year. Reusing’s restaurant is known for its complex Asian inspired flavors. There is some of that influence in the recipes in her book.

But, for the most part, the foods and the directions are simple and designed to take advantage of what is fresh and available. I loved her great advice about my favorite food, the tomato: “The secret to eating great tomatoes all summer long lies not in which variety…, but in watching them—making space for them to lie flat someplace cool near the kitchen, checking them daily, eating the ones that need eating and continuously making plans for the ones that are getting there. Even tomatoes that are picked ripe need a little time out at room temperature to reach their peak flavor. It is shocking how long it can take even a just slightly firm tomato to get there … and how fast a perfect one rots.”

Many folks in the Research Triangle area know Sara Foster for the wonderful food and fellowship at Foster’s Market in Durham and Chapel Hill. Fans throughout the country admire her as a communicator about southern foods, wonderful teacher, and author of lovely and understandable cooking books.

She grew up in Tennessee in the country surrounded by family and other rural and small town characters and family. Her recipes reflect southern cooking traditions familiar to North Carolinians.
Foster also worked for and with Martha Stewart. The elegant photography to illustrate the recipes, the photos and stories about old time home cooking restaurants throughout the South, and the overall presentation of the book show that Foster knows how to produce a product Martha Stewart-style. As a result, when you have finished looking through her book, you will want to stand up and give an ovation for the production.

More next week.

Congratulations Andrea Reusing, James Beard Award winner, Best Chef: Southeast

Congratulations to Andrea Reusing and her staff at  Lantern Restaurant. Last night Reusing received one of the culinary world’s highest honors when she won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast. Well done!

Would you? Could you? Vote for Green Eggs and Ham!

 Michelle Obama has her eye on the school food scene in Chapel Hill. Last fall, through Let’s Move and the USDA she challenged food professionals across the country to help make the cafeteria food in our public schools better by submitting innovative, irresistible new recipes through the Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge

Out of 340 submissions, 15 semi-finalists were selected, and the team representing Culbreth Middle School is on that short list. Chef Ryan McGuire (Chef-Trainer for Chartwells, the food and nutrition provider for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district), Chef Andrea Reusing (Lantern Restaurant) and a student worked together to develop and document a new recipe to be served in Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools. Their recipe for Stir-Fried green rice, eggs and ham will soon be evaluated by a panel of national experts. To determine with winner, the top three teams will compete in a cook-off, and the winning team will have the opportunity to prepare their recipe with White House Chefs. The Grand Prize Winner will receive $3,000, and the Stir-Fried green rice, eggs and ham recipe could win $1,500 if chosen as the first place winner in its whole grain category or $1,000 if it wins second place. 
The winning recipe isn’t just in the the judges hands though–help the team from Culbreth Middle School win $1,500 towards its food service program by voting it as the best recipe in the Popular Choice Awards. Voting ends May 15th, and it only takes about 8 seconds to click through the link to vote for Culbreth Middle School’s recipe for Stir-Fried green rice, eggs and ham. Would you? Could you? Vote for Green Eggs and Ham!! 
Who are the other Chapel Hill-Carrboro chefs you would like to see working to create recipes in our public schools? Add your thoughts below on other ways to improve school lunches in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro system.