How do you name a recipe? Does “polenta” by any other name (“mush,” for example) taste as sweet? As our incontestable authority on naming, Anne Shirley, said, “I’ve never been able to believe it.”

Of course it matters what a dish is called!

That’s why my sister has insisted on calling one of her specialties “Soupe au Fromage” instead of “Cheeseburger Soup” (the unappetizing title on her recipe). This is also why it’s so painful when my dad obnoxiously pronounces soufflé “sow-ful.” And it’s why dishes like Jambalaya, Minestrone, Tapioca and Tamales are always so appealing when planning a menu.


When I made this Mediterranean dish for the first time, I loved it instantly. I knew I would make it again and again — but there was a problem (or five). The book I’d adapted it from titled the recipe “Braised Cabbage with Red Beans and Rice.” Continue reading

A Miner’s Wife

My great-grandmother was married to a miner. What a woman. She washed the coal dust from her husband’s blackened jeans with her own hands, and she could cook to keep pace with a miner’s appetite. Grandma says her daddy ate apples by the bushel, and he took several biscuit sandwiches to work every day.

Copper miners in Michigan were hungry too, but they typically carried pasties (pass-tees) for lunch. Their wives baked meat and vegetables in pastry dough, then wrapped the small pies in cloth or paper to keep them warm. After Cornish immigrants brought the dish to Michigan in the 1800s, pasties became an icon of the Upper Peninsula.


Meat and potatoes—the classic foundation of a hearty meal—sound like perfect fuel for physical labor. But pastry dough is fragile (there’s a reason people usually serve pie on plates).

In my mind, these ladies should have brushed up on their sandwich-making abilities (generally considered an essential part of the domestic female’s skill set). My great-grandma was a sandwich innovator—her husband didn’t like sliced bread, but he loved biscuits. Again, what a woman!

Still, pasties have the charm of tradition. My mom grew up in Michigan, and she loves these—for reasons that have nothing to do with portability.

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Stone Soup

I am always in the mood for soup—especially in winter, when I’m desperate to warm myself up from the inside out.


In the dining hall, I always make a beeline for the soup zone, and at home, you can catch me finishing leftover chili for breakfast.

Speaking of leftovers—this is a great way to use them. Soup is the contortionist of the kitchen—you can twist it into whatever shape you like best.

Or, if you’re a stranger in a stingy town, you can use a rock, plus whatever your gullible benefactors have on hand.

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Simply Smashing

Jack-o-lanterns taught me to be cynical.


They also taught me to be creative—or maybe that was my dad.

He has a talent for carving goofy faces (especially eyeballs). Plus, he was always man enough to take care of the smelly goop.

Pumpkin Goop

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The Golden Squash

Spaghetti Squash

Why don’t kids like vegetables?

They are so cool. They come in bright colors and  amazing shapes.

Okay, some of them are a big frightening, but if you think kids are scared of gross-looking food, you haven’t eaten with any second-grade boys lately (this is much more impressive than, say, mashed potatoes with ketchup and chocolate milk).

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The Naked Zucchini

If ever a vegetable could be called infamous, it’s zucchini.


Poor guy. He didn’t make the superfood list, but he’s still managed to make a name for himself—either trying to end world hunger or terrorizing gardeners everywhere.

Zucchini even has its own holiday. On August 8, Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day offers overwhelmed gardeners an excuse to pass their produce off on someone else.

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