Cooking has always been an interest
of mine despite my lack of aptitude. Sure, I can whip up a tasty
meal courtesy of my ever-reliable crock-pot. As far as I am concerned,
being able to cook an entire meal in one pot is worth its weight in
gold. However, when the task of grilling meat while simultaneously
sautĂ©ing veggies with perhaps a side of you-name-it comes into play,
thatâ€™s when I call in the reinforcements...my husband and sons!
This monthâ€™s Jenâ€™s
always a welcomed guest in our home. A culinary expert in her
own right, she has cleverly combined her passion for cooking with her
love of our bountiful state in a delightful new cookbook, DISHING UP
MARYLAND. From each of the four seasons, she shares with us some of
the most scrumptious recipes indigenous to this area.
From the novice cook to the professional chef, there is something here
As part of this interview,
Storey Publishing has generously donated five copies of DISHING UP MARYLAND for
you, my faithful readers, to win. So, donâ€™t forget
to look for the trivia question at the end.
And as always, thanks for making Jenâ€™s Jewels a part of your reading
adventure. Bon appĂ©tit!
Jen: Cookbooks such as yours are
a special treat! Filled with delectable recipes and anecdotal tales,
DISHING UP MARYLAND is
a delightful adventure from the Alleghenies to
the Chesapeake Bay. So that my readers may have a better understanding
of the woman behind the words, please share with us your educational
and professional background.
Lucie: My background is in public policy, although I also have a
degree in writing. My undergraduate education was a double major in
English and Political Science from Vassar College. I also have
a Masterâ€™s in Public Policy from Harvard University and a Masterâ€™s
in Writing from Johns Hopkins University. I think itâ€™s fair to say
Iâ€™ve always done a lot of writing in my public policy jobs, and Iâ€™ve
brought public policy to some of my writing. Iâ€™ve worked as a legislative
assistant on Capitol Hill for U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland,
I was in Legislative Affairs at the State Department during the Clinton
administration, I spent years at a senior level in county government,
and I went back to work for Senator Mikulski in 2009 as her State Director.
In between that, I worked as a freelance writer for numerous magazines
and newspapers and I co-authored a horticultural book with my husband,
Jen: Not only are you married to
a horticulturist (Edmund Snodgrass), but also your background in agriculture
stems from your love of nature and the environment.
Quite naturally, your passions lead to the writing of this book. Describe
for us the evolution of the project.
Lucie: Well, as you know, I married
into an old farming family, so that in addition to gaining a wonderful
husband and two terrific boys, I came to live on a farm.
And I just fell in love with the farm community in our county and became
a committed supporter of local farms. Both Ed and I are passionate about
preserving his familyâ€™s land, but weâ€™re equally
dedicated to preserving the farmers who live on farm land. Thereâ€™s
a popular bumper sticker in our part of the state that says
â€śNo Farms, No Food,â€ť and that about sums it up for me. Food doesnâ€™t
come from supermarkets, it comes from farms and farmers, and too many
of us â€“ especially children - have lost all connection with where
our food originates. Itâ€™s why I agreed to co-chair my Governorâ€™s
Agriculture Transition Team and why I helped to bring about cookouts
at the Governorâ€™s mansion featuring Maryland foods, and why I was
on the steering committee to start
â€śMaryland Homegrown Lunch Weekâ€ť in our public school system. This
book grew out of my desire to help reestablish that
relationship for people in Maryland and show them how many wonderful
local food choices exist here â€“ year round! And I
also wanted to tell them that when they buy local oysters or watermelon
or rockfish or strawberries or any of the other myriad foods that are
grown or harvested in Maryland, that theyâ€™re supporting a family and
a lifestyle that is part of the essence of our country.
I also wanted to encourage people to eat seasonally, because that helps
to support our local food producers, as well. When you eat a tree ripened
peach that was picked that morning, it
didnâ€™t come from 1500 miles away, expending hundreds of gallons of
fuel in the process. It probably came from less than ten miles from
where you purchased it. But part of that equation is that you can only
find local peaches from July to September in Maryland. Iâ€™m fine with
that, partly because I can my own peaches and so have them for the whole
year, but also because it makes the seasons meaningful to me and gives
me the pleasure of anticipation. Sure, we all buy bananas
and many other things that arenâ€™t local or seasonalâ€“ I love them
as much as everyone else does â€“ but I consciously try to grow or buy
as much local food as I can, cooking and eating whatâ€™s in season as
much as I can. In the book, I try to show that there are lots of good
things to eat in each season, but that it varies, so that you wonâ€™t
find strawberry recipes in December, say.
Jen: At the forefront, how
did you go about deciding on the format? How did you choose which farms
to include? And, what was the most challenging aspect of organizing
the writing process?
Lucie: Well, I knew that I wanted
to organize the book seasonally, so that gave me the structure I wanted.
I then made a list of the ingredients that I wanted to include in the
book, starting with asparagus in spring and ending with cabbage and
kale in winter, for example, and then adding in seasonal seafood like
oysters and crabs, and then including local meats, cheeses, etc.
Then I began thinking about farmers and watermen and chefs who might
be good to include because of a crop they grew, or livestock they raised,
or for their commitment to purveying local ingredients in the food they
cook. The hardest part of the book, by far, was having to limit the
number of farmers, watermen and other people I could include. I had
so many wonderful choices from across the state that it was agonizing
having to make cuts. I did try to feature a farm or a waterman or a
chef from every part of Maryland, and Iâ€™m proud to say that I was
able to do that, and I attempted to include a lot of diverse products
â€“ like maple syrup â€“ that people wouldnâ€™t necessarily associate
with Maryland. Now, Iâ€™m sure someone will say that I didnâ€™t do enough
about their part of the state, and theyâ€™re right. That will give me
the excuse to write â€śDishing Up More of
Jen: Dividing the book into seasonal
sections makes the cookbook very user friendly. With that being said,
how much research was needed prior to each season in order to be prepared
for its arrival? At any point in the creative process, did you feel
time constraints due to the necessity to use seasonal ingredients?
Lucie: I wrote the book in a year, so I went through all the seasons
as I was
writing and cooking, which worked well. I began in the fall and finished
in the late fall, although the book starts with spring. I did research
as I went along, shopped at farmers markets around the state, and I
relied on lots of tips from the Maryland Department of Agriculture
and from others across the state who became
interested in the project. The only real pressure I felt was when Edwin
Remsberg, the talented photographer for the book,
asked to do the crab feast shoot in February, for scheduling reasons.
I cheated then and my sister in law and her husband, who own a seafood
business, shipped up crabs from their plant in
Texas and we bought Florida corn and cooked it and arranged the whole
spread on newspaper, just like you would in the summer, and it turned
out wonderfully. And I hate to admit it, but those Texas crabs were
tasty, too, even if not as sweet as Maryland crabs!
Jen: Are the recipes your own? If
not, from where did you collect them?
The book has a mix of recipes. Many, probably half, are my own, while
others come from farm families, from chefs, from watermen, etc. Itâ€™s
a great mix of old and new, borrowed and blue (as in crabs!).
Jen: A question I just have to ask,
did you actually prepare each recipe included in the book? If so, which
was the most challenging and why?
Lucie: Yes! I did prepare just about every recipe in the book, often
times to get it right, with a very few exceptions, and those dishes
were prepared by the chefs who created them.
And truth to tell, I despise oysters, probably because Iâ€™m allergic
to them, so I left the oyster dishes to others.
Other than that, I cooked like a mad woman for months on end, and let
me tell you I had the highest food bills youâ€™ve ever seen, although
I was so fortunate to get lots of meat and cheese and fruits and vegetables
and seafood donated. And if youâ€™re wondering who ate all of
that food, it was my husbandâ€™s staff. His nursery business is on our
farm and he has a business partner and a staff of six to nine, depending
on the season. So I would spend the morning cooking and then carry the
food across the lawn to the old dairy barn, where their offices are,
and weâ€™d all eat lunch together. It was such fun, because I made them
critique the food as part of the bargain, and we shared a lot of laughs
over the occasional failures. On the whole,
they were one fat and happy crew of people, I can tell you that.
Jen: Letâ€™s talk about a few of
the people included in the narrative. I especially enjoyed learning
about Michelle and Jimmy Hayden from Dorchester County. They are a part
of a dying breed of watermen. No insurance and very long hours, their
passion for the Chesapeake Bay keeps these two afloat. From your
encounter, what sets these two individuals apart, and warranted their
inclusion in your book? And, how has the economy affected their business?
Lucie: Well, many things set them apart: their young ages in that
the fact that they worked together, their determination to stick with
(most would say) a dying way of life, and their love for what they do.
They work so hard and are beset by huge challenges, including a serious
health condition that Michelle is now facing, and yet they donâ€™t give
up. There was both nobility and lunacy in what theyâ€™re doing, and
I just couldnâ€™t leave them out of the book.
I spent one of the coldest mornings of my life dredging oysters,
thinking they were crazy for doing it willingly every day, but there
was such beauty in the gray winter sky and such a sense of
freedom, being out there all alone.
And there were so many others who touched me, too, like Leo Shinholt,
who has been tapping maple trees for maple syrup for over half a century.
He refuses to raise his prices to where average families canâ€™t afford
it â€“ despite plenty of opportunities to make more money. I just loved
him for that! Over and over, I found wonderful people who worked the
water or the land because they loved doing it, regardless of how much
or little they earned. And all of us are richer and eat better for knowing
those people. The Haydens, like many other families, have been severely
affected by the downturn, which is why Michelle makes and sells jewelry
on the side and Jimmy works construction and odd jobs to keep food on
the table. I want people to think about the choices they make when they
buy their food and the impact their purchasing power has on local farmers
Jen: Surprisingly, Maryland has
14 registered bison farms around the state. Who knew?! I certainly didnâ€™t!
On the menu at The Savage River Lodge, one can find this delectable
meat. What makes this charming hide-a-way
a favorite destination year after year?
Lucie: The Savage River Lodge is just a
wonderfully romantic, relaxing, beautifully run lodge in Western Maryland,
where, among other things you can cross country ski and tap your own
maple syrup in winter. Jan and Mike, the owners, have decades of experience
in the hospitality industry, and itâ€™s apparent in everything at the
lodge, from the wonderful food and roaring fireplaces to the beautiful
cabins and the excellent wine list
â€“ including, let me say, some great Maryland wines. Plus, it has great
hiking trails where the occasional bear and bobcat are spotted
â€“ again, donâ€™t you just love everything that Maryland has to offer?
Jen: Our very own Broomâ€™s Bloom
Dairy in Harford County has the best homemade ice cream I have ever
tasted! What makes Kate Dallamâ€™s treat so sweet?
Lucie: Kate is one of the smartest, pluckiest women I know, and I
her ice cream tastes so good because she puts so much of herself into
it. She buys local fruits when she can, so summer offers some especially
delicious flavors for my taste, and she
or one of her employees makes the ice cream fresh every day. Itâ€™s
no wonder that there are long lines out the door year round.
And Kate and her family just do everything right, from the fact that
you can look over to the dairy barn while eating your ice cream, to
the homey ice cream parlor and store that was built by her brother with
local hardwoods, including a downed cherry tree from their farm, artifacts
from Kateâ€™s parentsâ€™ farm, including some old doors, and a chalkboard
with the dayâ€™s flavors written on it. Iâ€™ve never met a person who
went to Kateâ€™s who didnâ€™t think it was one of the most special places
around. If she wanted to, she can franchise her business or open locations
all over, but she doesnâ€™t want to, because she knows that part of
what is so special about Broomâ€™s Bloom is that families get to come
to a working farm thatâ€™s been in her husbandâ€™s family since the
Jen: A fact my readers may not know
is the abundance of wineries in our state. As you mention in the book,
some of these vineyards are second and third career endeavors by their
owners. In addition, their processes for grape production are
unique. For example, Black Ankle Vineyards utilizes biodynamic principles.
Please share with us its core principles and how this affects our environment.
Lucie: Biodynamic principles were developed by the Austrian
Rudolph Steiner in the 1920s. They
are rooted in organic farming, but they go beyond that, relying on the
rhythms of the sun, moon and planets for planting;
utilizing vegetable and animal waste and fermented herbal and
mineral composts to boost the soil, and
operating farms as self-nourishing and sustaining entities .
Jen: Crabs, crabs, crabs! Iâ€™d
be doing a disservice to my readers if I didnâ€™t mention
our favorite crustaceans. For all those non-Marylanders out there, what
is a soft-shell crab? And, what is the best kind of crab to use in crab
cakes and why so?
Lucie: Soft shell crabs are those that have molted, which crabs will
20 or more times in the course of their lives. Immediately after they
have molted and before the next shell begins to harden, the crabs can
essentially be eaten whole. I will say that many non-Marylanders
are totally revolted by soft shell crabs, which are most often prepared
by dredging them lightly in flour and frying them. To that, Marylanders
simply say, â€śMore for me, thank you!â€ť Itâ€™s our version of
haggis; you may have to grow up eating them to love them. As for
crab cakes, you want to use either jumbo
lump or backfin crab meat, because youâ€™ll get nice chunks of crab
meat and donâ€™t have a lot of cartilage and shell to deal with. Claw
and â€śspecialâ€ť crab meat is used for other crab dishes, like soups
As the ink dried on the very last page, how did you feel as your beloved
project finally came to an end?
It was bittersweet, of course. I loved writing the book and in one
way didnâ€™t want that experience to end. Iâ€™m an introvert, so writing
the book gave me a legitimate excuse to poke my nose into other peopleâ€™s
lives, which Iâ€™m usually too shy to do,
so I adored that. Plus, I love learning new things, so the process was
wonderful. But Iâ€™m really a results oriented person, and so Iâ€™m
delighted to finally see the book come out, and more than anything,
Iâ€™m excited to have the spotlight shining on our farmers and watermen.
Jen: Whatâ€™s next for you? Will
you undertake another grand project? Or,
is it simply time to savor the sweetness Maryland has
Lucie: As you know, Iâ€™m always on to something new. My fulltime job as
State Director for a U.S.
Senator keeps me very busy, but I also have a huge garden, which Iâ€™m gearing
up for, and Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ll start on another writing project soon
â€“ maybe a novel this time â€“ like my dear friend Jen Vido!
Jen: Thank you, friend, for taking
time out of your very busy schedule to share our bountiful state of
Maryland with my readers. I look forward to trying my hand at some of
these tempting recipes. As the French would sayâ€¦ bon appĂ©tit!
Lucie: Itâ€™s been a joy doing this, Jen. Thank you! And remember, eat
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Lucie. Whether you live in
Maryland or as far away as Washington State, this cookbook is a must have. As
an added bonus, I have included an audio
link. Please check it out. http://remsberg.com/soundbooks/lucie_web/
Also, please stop by your favorite bookstore or local library branch and
pick up a copy today. Better yet, how would you like to win one instead?
the name of the farm that makes the best ice cream in Maryland?
Next month, I will be bringing to you my interview with Alafair Burke. Her
upcoming release 212 is
a roller-coaster ride of suspense. You wonâ€™t want to
Until next time...
2 comments posted.
This looks like a awesome CookBook!!! answer is Broomâ€™s Bloom Dairy in Harford County
(Lori Barnes 2:11pm April 27, 2010)