Archive | Fall 2013

THE LAST BITE: Chick Magnet

Mothering Comes Naturally to a Hen—and a Rare Cat

Silhouette by writer’s mother, Ingrid S. Buchinger 1907–1996.

By Christiane Marks

In the ’50s, when I was a child, we had lots of animals: rabbits, chickens, cats. We often had a hen sitting on eggs, too, which is rare today.

How well I remember the ritual of taking the disgruntled hen off the eggs once a day—very carefully loosening her wings first, to dislodge the eggs that might be under them; putting her down in front of a dish of grain and a dish of water and making sure that she ate and drank; and then she had to make einen grossen Klecks (we were German) so she wouldn’t later soil the nest and the eggs. Not until then would she be allowed back on her nest.

One early spring we took the chicks that hatched first away from the mother hen because we wanted to make sure she didn’t start leading them around and abandon the unhatched eggs to the cold. We nestled the chicks into a soft towel in a bushel basket and placed them under the high-legged oven, part of the old-fashioned stove.

We children got to feed them.… Read the rest

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Staying Busy as a Bee


Aspiring beekeepers learn how to tend a beehive.

Photos by Brian Cruey, Berkshire Botanical Garden

I always come to the fall season with mixed emotions. Part of me simply can’t believe summer is gone—as always, it passes by too quickly and I desperately cling to those dwindling daylight hours, refusing to admit that it’s over. On the other hand, I’m ready for a break from weeding and mowing, and a truce in the ongoing war I have with the chipmunks in my vegetable garden.

RIP, fresh summer salads straight from the garden! But welcome back, baked goods and oven-cooked meals that are nearly impossible to make during the heat of summer.

Time to take one last kayak on the lake—but it’s also time to make that first fire in the fireplace and drink a hot drink while curled up under a blanket.

It is a confusing time for me, obviously. However, to aid my seasonal moodiness, I always try to keep my summer garden in mind during these cool (and soon-to-be downright cold) months.

Fall and winter are perfect times to hone our skills as gardeners and make the next growing season better than ever. There is always room for improvement and gardening, like most things, is an evolving craft that relies not only on time-honored traditions but also new technologies that are constantly coming to market.… Read the rest

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A Fall Variation


Photos by Eyal Dolev

In New England, when I hear the word fall my predictable image is that of leaves changing into a rainbow of colors. When I think of that season in Israel, my immediate association is red pomegranates shiny on trees while the sharp lemony fragrance of guavas tickles my nose. Both fruits are at their peak in fall and chefs love to add them to their recipes. In Mediterranean cooking we incorporate fruits with many dishes. We add them to everything from salads to meat, not just to desserts.

As here in the Berkshires we are blessed each fall with the best-ever pears and apples, here are two of my favorite fall recipes (without pomegranate).


Earthy Celery Root Salad

Drunken Stuffed Pears

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Gardening Beyond Labor Day


Berkshire food gardening is a bit of a game to see how you can outsmart the seasons. If you aren’t completely exhausted from canning, drying or puréeing tomatoes, you could start some more garden vegetables and herbs even though it’s September. It’s also time to bring in the pots of patio citrus trees or herbs for overwintering.

Leafy greens start quickly in warm soils and you can keep them growing through frosts if you arrange a little protection.

Using flexible stems of red-twig dogwood or forsythia, you can form arches over the rows. Also flexible wire forms can be used. When temperatures start falling and frost threatens, you can lay spun polyester fabric or light cotton sheets over these hoops as protection. Just use landscape cloth staples/stakes to hold cloth against frame where it goes into the soil. This is easy to pull back to access your greens, and then return to position.

gardeningLaborYou can continue to sow these seeds in the garden:

  • Lettuce: Thin the plants when the leaves are big enough for salad so you don’t feel as guilty but let some grow on into large heads. Only cut the outer leaves and you’ll have a growing core to provide leaf lettuce for daily salads.
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Malik house solar collectors, facing south (Photo by John Felton)

Tyler Malik and her husband, Richard, decided they wanted their new home to be “really green,” for practical as well as philosophical reasons.

“Our two main concerns were energy efficiency, because we wanted to escape the utility companies as much as possible, and eliminating toxic materials from the home, because my son and I are really sensitive to chemicals. We also wanted to reduce the damage we cause to the environment,” Tyler said. “We think we achieved all of those goals.”

Indeed, the new home they moved into August 2012 is about as environmentally friendly as possible in New England. It has earned an Energy Star award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a high rating on an efficiency index known as the Home Energy Rating System (HERS). The house was designed by West Stockbridge architect John Fülöp and built by Derek Heartquist from Stuyvesant, New York.

The Maliks built their 2419 square-foot house in an open field southwest of downtown Great Barrington—with a spectacular view of East Mountain. The view dictated lots of east-facing windows, but windows tend to be among the biggest energy losers in any house. The Maliks turned to a super-efficient window system, installed by Morrison’s Home Improvement in Pittsfield, that allows in heat and repels cold in the winter; roof overhangs help keep out the sun in the summer.… Read the rest

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Soup Nights Dish Up Full Stomachs and Happy Hearts


Photograph by Matt LaBombard

The best part about working at a publishing house is that every day I look through new and exciting titles. Some books spark my literary curiosity while others inspire me to get off the couch and create something of my own. Either way, I take the opportunity to look at information in new and innovative ways.

One book that recently crossed my desk is the inspiring story of a tradition that is catching fire throughout the country. Soup Night, by Maggie Stuckey, chronicles communities and neighborhoods throughout the nation that host monthly dinner parties in which, you guessed it, the main entree is soup.

At these intimately inclusive and heartwarming dinners, the host provides the soup, or maybe two—one vegetarian and one containing meat. As the hearty scent of homemade soup wafts down the street, the host’s neighbors and friends show up bearing side dishes, salads, desserts. More importantly, each brings a soup bowl, a soup spoon and an open heart.

Soup Night doesn’t just detail these inspiring stories; it is also a cookbook that dishes up over 90 recipes for soups plus over 40 more recipes for sides and salads. But what struck me most about this book is the benefits of such a simple idea.… Read the rest

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Lunch Boxes courtesy of The Gifted Child, Lenox, MA

As a parent you want only what is best for your child. However, if your child is a picky eater, packing a school lunch can seem like more eff ort than its worth. (Sorry, Mom!) Sometimes it’s just easier to give your child lunch money and hope for the best. Truth be told, public school cafeteria food is not the best choice. The frozen pizza and French fries served to students will not provide them with the nutrition necessary for sustained energy and focus during the school day.

So how can you provide nutritious food for your little eater while reducing the chance your packed lunch will be traded for a package of Ring Dings? Here are some suggestions for putting together healthy, tasty school lunches.


First and foremost, involve your child in all stages of creating her or his lunch, including planning and shopping. A tool that I have found valuable is the use of a blank calendar. Sit down with your child and brainstorm a list of lunches and snacks. From this list, plug five days’ worth of meals into the blank calendar. Give your child choices: “Do you want raisins or apples with this meal?”

By doing this together, your child can take ownership over his/her lunches, making it less likely he/she will trade it away, and you are better able to visualize and make sure all nutritional bases are being covered.… Read the rest

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SEEDS FOR CHANGE: Cafeterias offer Healthy Alternatives


The local and orga nic movement is gaining momentum. Th e increasing healthy options at local grocery stores make it easier for parents to ensure that their children eat well in the home, but what about when the kids leave for school?

That’s where Aleisha and Brian Gibbons come in. Th ey have created Berkshire Organics SEEDS (Sustainable Education Every Day for Students), an organization that purchases food from local farms at a wholesale cost and delivers it to schools at the same price.

“School lunches have been dominated by processed foods such as pizza and chicken nuggets,” says Aleisha Gibbons, co-founder and board member. “The schools want to re-introduce fresh, local produce, but their obstacle is accessing it at an affordable price.”

Gibbons and her husband Brian founded the organization to provide Berkshire County schools with easier and more aff ordable access to healthy, local food each week. They had already forged the farming connections and acquired access to storage space and delivery vehicles through owning the Berkshire Organics Market on Dalton Division Road in Dalton, Massachusetts. Because they run both the nonprofit SEEDS and the for-profit Berkshire Organics Market, juggling both aspects has proved challenging.

“At one point we were losing money because our time was being taken up by so much of the SEEDS programs,” says Brian .… Read the rest

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Italian Wedding Soup According to Carole Murko

soupIt’s that time of year again when the cooler weather triggers that yearning for foods that warm our souls. I had a craving for Italian Wedding Soup. Maybe because my friend Andre Pupek, who I had just met with, is getting married to an Italian. Or maybe because, it’s true comfort food.

Whatever the reason, I have reinterpreted it to suit the ingredients I had on hand and to satisfy some food allergies and sensitivities. This soup is traditionally made with beef meatballs, chicken stock, vegetables and tubettini pasta.

In my house growing up, Italian Wedding Soup was called meatball soup. It wasn’t until I went to an Italian restaurant with my parents as a teenager that I learned it was actually called Italian Wedding Soup. I imagined that it got its name because it was served as a first course at many Italian weddings. Recently, at a lecture on cultural cookbooks, I learned that Italian Wedding Soup is a misnomer. In Italian, it is called “minestra maritata”—meaning married soup. However, this refers to the ingredients: the marriage between the meat and the vegetables in the soup.

After taking their first slurp, my family’s first comment was “Did you put sugar in it?” To which I responded, “No, silly, it’s the parsnips!”

I made it with turkey meatballs because I have eliminated beef due to some stomach issues and there’s no pasta in it because my husband Jim has celiac disease.… Read the rest

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GROWING HEALTHIER HABITS: Garden Program Plants Seeds for Change


Photos by Austin Banach

The first time I learned about where food came from was around first or second grade.

It was a marvel to a 6-year-old’s eyes when we were instructed to place seeds between damp paper towels and discovered a plant “hatching” (germinating) from them in a mere three days. After the seeds sprouted we planted them into tiny pots with soil, watered them daily and watched them grow, inch by inch. I don’t recall if those small plants ever made it outdoors, or if I saw the edible outcome after that plant fully matured, but years later I now appreciate being exposed at a young age to how everything comes from just a tiny seed. A relationship with food is what my teacher perhaps wanted me to learn, a healthier relationship beyond the cereal I ate for breakfast, the pizza I ate for lunch or the spaghetti I ate for dinner.

Today more communities and schools are taking action to not only improve children’s food sources but to teach and empower children to make healthier decisions of their own. One such program is Growing Healthy Garden Program of northern Berkshire County founded by Jennifer Munoz.

Jennifer started Growing Healthy Garden Program in 2007.… Read the rest

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