A Life Well Lived

by Julia Powers.

Everyone in Hingham knows Pete Rando. For over thirty years, he was proprietor of Pete’s Barber Shop and his warm and engaging manner helped endear him to the generations of Hingham families that patronized his shop. And, as he turns 96 on April 19th, his life is a testament to the value of friendship, working hard at a job you love, and, last but certainly not least, the importance of good food.

Peter Rando and his homemade wine.

Peter Rando and his homemade wine.

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Holiday Ham

Celebrate Easter with locally raised pork.

Brown Boar Farm is actually located in Wells, Vermont, where heritage breed pigs are raised humanely, fed well, and given plenty of room to root. But Brown Boar Farm is local though and owned by Marshfield resident Peter Burrows. His daughter Meaghan, who lives in Scituate, runs the farm’s marketing efforts. Because of these close ties to the area, Brown Boar pork is available on the South Shore. No trip to Vermont necessary!

Photo courtesy of Brown Boar Farm.

Photo courtesy of Brown Boar Farm.

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Posted in Winter | 1 Comment

Who has your favorite…Fried Clams?

We need your opinion. Who has the best Fried Clams and how do you like them prepared? Our readers are our best resource, please comment to give us your thoughts.

Share your knowledge–where are the best fried clams?

Share your knowledge–where are the best fried clams in Southeastern Massachusetts?

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Hop, Vine, and Barrel: Homebrewing

by Matt and Lauren Foster.

Welcome to Hop, Vine, and Barrel, where we serve only the MOST local concoctions around! We’re glad you found your way back again, because we have probably the most local thing you can find anywhere for you today. Today we’ll be pouring from your own stash! What can be more local that beer brewed in YOUR house?

Hops on the vine.

Hops on the vine.

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The Captain’s Kitchen: New England Clam Chowder

by Mark McNulty.

I beg your forgiveness up front. I promised to always deliver recipes that are quick and easy to make without stretching the family budget. This post fails both tests, but for good reason. As requested in a comment on my column last month, I am sharing my recipe for New England clam chowder. When it comes to chowder, there is no simple short cut. A good chowder is a work of art. Of course there are many quality pre-made chowders you can purchase when time is short, but if you are going to make your own chowder it should always be a labor of love. And, yes, there are few things I love more than making my own steaming pot of fresh chowder.

Clam Chowder1

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Vegans: the dime-store idealists

by Alethea Morrison.

I am a beekeeper and proud of it. The hobby has changed me in ways that I can only understand as positive. I now understand wildflower honey as an ecstasy, a chameleon that changes flavor with every harvest, depending on its composition of nectars. I now respect honey bee colonies as complex civilizations, complete with language, social organization, and fascinating behaviors. With the bees and chickens in our yard and our involvement in community-supported agriculture, I now teach my son that growing food and raising livestock is not inherently cruel to either animals or the environment, but that other realities exist on factory farms.

With the health challenges that my bees suffer season after season, I now see, immediately and tragically, what havoc that chemicals and climate change are wreaking in the natural world. I now make an effort to support a species in crisis — a species that happens to pollinate a third of our food supply. My effort is small and in all probability insignificant. I am like a hummingbird bringing drops of water to a raging fire. Yet I try to convince other hummingbirds to join me. Maybe if there are very many of us, it will be enough. Or perhaps the elephants, who can carry so much more water, will take notice and together we can put out the fires that threaten the future of this planet.

By all rights I should be ideologically aligned with vegans. We share a concern for animal and environmental welfare, a desire for healthy food, and a determination to listen to our conscience at a level that rises to activism. And yet, veganism makes my blood boil.

Reason #1: Evangelical Vegans
To these crusaders, there are vegans, vegan flunkies who are not quite pure, and the rest of us — an immoral, benighted horde who are ripe for conversion to the true faith. Here is my faith. Whether you advocate for local food, organic food, or food that only comes from plants, you are not holier than your neighbor. We are all struggling to understand life in a way that makes sense to us, and everyone deserves respect.

Reason #2: Fundamentalist Vegans
To these hardliners, any product that came from an animal — meat, milk, eggs, honey, silk, and wool included — is taboo. To abstain from meat is a half measure.  Even beekeeping is unambiguously, indisputably cruel.

I happen to believe that meat is not murder. Humans and livestock have co-existed for millennia in a mutually supportive relationship. I understand that it is hard to believe that we are supporting animals when we bring them to slaughter, but consider this: With the rise of factory farming, the breed diversity of livestock has alarmingly dwindled. A small number of breeds now dominate — those that do well in confinement and need as little input as possible for the maximum output. However, I feel certain that any animal lover would like to see the amazing Mangalitsa pig live to see another decade. Descended from wild boars and possessing a bizarre coat of fleece, this breed is now rare. The only sustainable way of saving critically endangered livestock animals is to find niche markets for them. They aren’t going to feed themselves.

If you believe it would be better in the long run to let all livestock perish from the earth so we can return to an Eden in which all animals run wild and free, I will at least consider that an interesting, tough-love argument. What I really consider astonishing is the notion that taking anything from animals is theft and exploitation. Here I throw down the gauntlet.

Any responsible beekeeper does not take honey that the bees will need to survive. What is so marvelous about honey bees is that they will horde as much honey as they possibly can. To those of us that make the effort to provide bees with a home in which the comb may easily be removed, surplus honey is our rich reward. As someone who has practical experience with bees rather than intellectual theories about them, I am prepared to say that in all good conscience I don’t feel like a cruel plunderer.

As an authentic bee lover, here is what I find troubling. Like livestock animals, honey bees are victims of industrial agriculture. Loaded up with chemicals to stave off disease, exposed to even more chemicals through agricultural herbicides, and deprived of nutritional diversity, bee hives are shipped around the country, sometimes even around the world, to pollinate crops. Very few will argue that this system is putting bees under tremendous stress. Opting out of honey to protest this situation is, dare I say it, facile and ridiculous. Logically, vegans should in fact opt out of all crops pollinated by the labor of commercially raised bees. To name just some, this includes almonds, apples, cherries, cucumbers, onions, oranges, raspberries, soybeans, and strawberries.

Within the last half century, eating has become a morally intricate knot, as Michael Pollan so brilliantly observed in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Veganism appears to neatly solve the dilemma, but in fact ignores its true complexities. The question is not simply what you should eat. Where it was grown and how it was grown are important considerations. If being vegan takes the mental gymnastics and worry out of every bite, I applaud the effort to simplify. I just ask us all to recognize that grey exists between black and white.

Alethea Morrison lived in San Francisco before stepping with her husband into the wild yonder of rural Massachusetts to raise their son, keep bees and chickens, brew beer, sew clothes and otherwise slow down to smell the flowers of a handmade life. She is the author of Homegrown Honey Bees.

Posted in Winter | 8 Comments

Cooking the Books: How To Cook Everything Perfectly

by Maria Ribas.

Done002

One of the scariest things for all cooks—from first-time pasta boilers to dinner-party maestros—is cooking food until it is done. Not slightly under, and not slightly over. Just done. This is even more important when you buy a piece of local pasture-raised meat, or sublime mussels, or the season’s best eggplant. Perfect local food deserves perfect cooking.

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Cooking the Books: Making the Books in Mass. – The Lisa Ekus Group

by Maria Ribas.

Making the Books in Mass. This is the first installment in a series on Cooking the Books that will feature the stand-out cookbook talent of our home state.

If you’re ever in Hatfield, MA, take a drive down North Street. Pass the horse pasture, follow the narrow curves of the road, and soon you will see a big red barn, not unlike many others in this part of the state. But this particular barn just happens to house one of America’s foremost culinary agencies.

Ekus005

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The Captain’s Kitchen: Citrus Pollock

by Mark McNulty.

I always like to root for the underdog. Perhaps that is why I am such a fan of pollock.

When you ask anyone about native New England seafood they typically rattle off the usual famous characters. Cod, haddock, lobster, and flounder will come up. When summer arrives bluefish and striped bass rise in popularity. But all too often the poor pollock gets overlooked.  This olive green groundfish is actually a member of the cod family and thrives in the waters off our coast. In the past it was largely a bycatch of fishermen harvesting cod and haddock, but in recent years it has been targeted for sale more frequently. Pollock is a whitefish very similar to your average cod filets, but has its own unique flavor that can hold its own against any other fish. In fact, many local fish mongers will tell you it is the best fish to use in a fish chowder or soup recipe. Also worth noting is its very low saturated fat content and high protein supply.

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Posted in CAPTAIN'S KITCHEN, Winter | 1 Comment

Where Have All the Butterflies Gone?

The Hidden Face of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) Crops

by Joseph Ingoldsby.

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 8.27.06 AM

Image source: Peggy Greb & Stephen Ausmus, USDA.

Bright orange monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) give a warning to potential predators that they taste awful. As caterpillars, they eat milkweed. Milkweed covered the farm fields of the heartland of America. Milkweed fed the monarchs as they travelled south in a mass migration to the temperate forests of Mexico. Here they overwintered by the millions in roosts that covered many miles. Scientists at the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) just published a report that monarchs reaching Mexico from the north are at their lowest levels since measurements began in 1993. Continue reading

Posted in Winter | 1 Comment