In late January my husband accepted a four-month position in Belgium, so we made lemonade from lemons and jumped on the opportunity for the rest of our family to visit him as often as we could. It was our kids’ first introduction to “the Continent,” and it had been more than a decade since he and I had been to Europe ourselves for longer than a few days. So because we are who we are—a somewhat food-obsessed family wherever we find ourselves—we made the most of these decadent weeks, tasting our way across time zones and cultures.
The first trip, a kid-centric midwinter whirlwind to London, Antwerp and Amsterdam, was full of Northern European delights: cockles and gammon; crispy fried fish with mushy peas; bacon butties, blood sausage and bangers; sugar-dusted waffles and frites with curried mayonnaise; lukewarm pub ales and malty Belgian tripels; seafood towers brimming with unrecognizable North Sea species and endless platters of Edam, Gouda and real English Cheddar.
The second trip—a solid week in the heart of springtime Rome, senza bambini—was spent gorging on artichokes, both slow-cooked with herbs and crispy deep fried; zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy; whole roasted mackerel with perfect fried potatoes; the tiny local clams called vongole veraci, simply sautéed with garlic and oil; pencil-thin wild asparagus and the most tender young lamb I’ve ever eaten—abbacchio—scented with lots of thyme and wild mint.
Having left behind a late-winter snowstorm and a slow-in-coming spring, we reveled in the availability of real, of-the-moment, in-season foods. We sought out farmers markets, farm-to-table restaurants and traditional food artisans, trying new things and reveling in each region’s seasonal specialties, just as we do here at home.
We’re food people. We seek out the best of the best, what’s perfect today, wherever we are.
It’s with this sentiment that I’m thrilled to announce a new partnership with Cambridge-based Go Ahead Tours: Beginning this fall, we’ll be planning Edible Boston–curated small-group pilgrimages to various parts of the world to better educate ourselves on other cultures’ local foods, their traditional specialties and how they’re made. We’ll walk through city markets and across agricultural land, meeting the makers—Old-World artisans keeping these traditions alive and the new up-and-comers modernizing time-honored techniques through technology and innovation.
Our first tour is in October: a 10-day excursion through Tuscany and Piedmont, visiting vineyards and olive groves, butchers and cheesemakers, farm estates, chocolatiers and the annual White Truffle Festival in Alba. Spots are limited so block your vacation time now! See page 8 for more information and how to sign up. Future tours will include Santa Barbara wine country, Vancouver Island, Lisbon, Oaxaca, Lyon, Cambodia and Vietnam, Ireland, Catalonia, Argentina and more. We hope you’ll join us! And for an event closer to home, check out our upcoming Supper Club dinner at Nancy’s Airfield Café in Stow on June 11.
In the meantime you’ll find this issue deeply rooted in the traditional seasonal ingredients of home and our own native cuisine, with recipes for clam chowder and “stuffies,” summertime muffins, herb- and fruit-infused cocktails, a how-to for live-fire campsite cooking and creative ways to use up your bumper crop of zucchini and tomatoes. You’ll get a glimpse into two burgeoning local food businesses, one making bean-to-bar chocolates and the other fermenting vegetables. John Lee checks in with his ever-valuable farming insight from a seasoned veteran. And Louisa Kasdon reviews a feast of local cooking and food-related books to add to your summer reading list and she introduces us to the out-of-the-ordinary soda fountain at Mamaleh's in Kendall Square.
We also explore some of the more sensitive food issues touching our region: Alison Arnett visits a MA prison property and learns about a rehabilitative gardening program for inmates; Nicole Fleming interviews the duo behind Harvard University’s far-reaching dining services program and their work to keep up with the trends and challenges of feeding the educated masses; and Andrea Pyenson checks in with local farmers to see how changing immigration laws are affecting the seasonal workers arriving to tend their fields, finding that the issue is a complicated one—no matter the administration.
As the chilliness of this endless spring gives way to the warmth of summer, be sure to use our handy Farmers Market Guide (on our newly revamped website!) to plot your course for the season. From now until the first frost, we have precious few months to binge on New England’s bounty. Enjoy every second.
Peace. Sarah Blackburn
Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, vegetable gardener and managing editor of Edible Boston. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org