Home Cooking From a Box

By on Monday, March 7th, 2016


Millions of people are ordering boxed dinners and meal services to the tune of $5 billion in sales and growing. The growth and variety of these services is dizzying but basically it boils down to this: recipes, ingredients, and delivery. All you add is cooking and cleanup.

After that it gets interesting. Competitors looking for their piece of the pie offer trimmings such as menus for special diets, recipes created by celebrity chefs, weekly menus designed to cut food waste, biodegradable packaging, etc. All of them promise an easy time in the kitchen and a meal that’s much more homemade than takeout.

10 Years After Katrina, a Chef Comes Home

By on Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Executive Chef Richard Papier opened Arana in New Orleans’ Garden District about a year ago. He is holding a bottle of Kai tequila (Day of the Dead), one of their many varieties. (Photo © Kent Hardouin)

Over 1,800 people died as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Many more fled the city prior to the floods, including Richard Papier. Ten years later, he finally came back.

“I didn’t know if my home was OK. I was sitting at a computer watching the governor on TV talking about the city,” recalls Richard Papier of New Orleans. Although his home was in the Garden District, far from the Lower 9th Ward, he didn’t realize it had been spared from the floods.

Papier had had to flee, along with thousands of others, days before Hurricane Katrina slammed into Southeastern Louisiana in late August 2005. He left for North Carolina, but not as quickly as he planned. Traffic was snarled. Power lines were down.

“Trying to get out of town was crazy. We had to drive to Baton Rouge just to get out of town… Both sides of the interstate were being used, yet even so, what usually took 45 minutes to an hour took about five hours. We couldn’t find a gas station, either.”

Firehouse Cooking

By on Monday, October 19th, 2015

Home isn’t the only place where families bond around the kitchen table. So do firefighters at work. Generally, crews assigned to shifts that extend over consecutive days and nights, spend a lot of time together on the job. Eating around the kitchen table, (yes, fire stations have kitchens as well as dormitories) is a tradition that nurtures a family of its own.

Unlike most families at home, however, fire stations do not have one person responsible for the cooking; usually each firefighter rotates cooking for the “family.” And when you are together for extended periods, on call for strenuous duty, sandwiches and leftovers are not enough–you need hearty meals! Some firefighters are already good cooks when they join the department; others learn on the job.

Hungarians Feed Hungry Syrian Refugees

By on Friday, September 4th, 2015

Syrian refugees fleeing the dangers in their country were put in a camp at the Keleti station in Budapest after disembarking their train. Many of them fled, determined to walk the 100-mile trek to Vienna, because they tired of waiting for a train ride to Austria, where they have been offered temporary asylum. They faced a lack of facilities and privacy as well as a dearth of water and food.

Some humanity in the misery surfaced, though: for along the way to Vienna, Hungarians stopped to proffer bottles of water, homemade sandwiches and whatever sustenance they could manage. At press time, word came out that the Hungarian government was springing for some buses, but no word on whether those vehicles will be adequately stocked with food and drink. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also offering asylum in Germany, the ultimate destination for many; while some refugees are travelling all the way to Sweden, for permanent asylum.

Diane Mina’s Curative Bloody Mary

By on Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

I met Diane Mina last fall as she poured generous amounts of Bloody Marys at a 49er Tailgate party held at Levi Stadium. Let’s face it, when someone hands you a bloody Mary–the likes of which you have never tasted before–you’re going to have a spirited connection right from the start.

Diane Mina’s from-scratch, raw and magical tomato cocktail is intensely flavorful without any added sugars or salt.

I discovered that the fresh and unique combination of flavors my mouth was cheering about was hand crafted by this happily married, pretty, outgoing, smart, great wife and mom—yes, the kind we love to hate but love instantly anyway. Diane Mina, Bloody Mary enthusiast and founder of Bella Mina Gardens.

Then it struck me. Mina, as in Michael Mina, the two time Michelin Star award-winning chef, Mina? Yes, Diane Mina, wife of chef and restaurateur Michael Mina, or as she calls him “my cheffie” has scored a touchdown with her brand of a tasty tradition she and Michael began 25 years ago.

Shared Gardens

By on Monday, July 27th, 2015

Mountain View College is making great inroads in the sustainability and slow foods movement in an area known for fast food joints. (Photo courtesy Mountain View College)

There was a time in 1980s San Francisco, when a reporter could let an apartment from a woman out in the Sunset District and be surprised that there was a garden out back, a patch of land sprouting carrots, lettuce, beets, and luscious tomatoes.

Today, gardens are everywhere seemingly, even as water shortages, zero lots and high-density housing curtail gardening plans. Communities are filling in the gaps, though, and shared gardens are blossoming.

Whether one talks to a university garden manager in Dallas, an urban gardener in New Haven, or a 79-year-old community garden coordinator in New Hampshire, one thing’s clear: the shared garden movement has grown beyond just ‘tree-huggers’ and into the community at large. Kitchen gardens preceded the modern supermarket, and now we’re turning back the clock to reap greater health benefits and social nourishment.

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