Food for the eyes

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about living in “the other Washington” is the abundance of food writing for me to peruse. Granted, I have accepted this somewhat in exchange for an abundance of from-the-farm food from my favorite Skagit Valley farm CSA… but I digress. I am learning to savor exactly what this region has to offer, and it is rich in food for thought.

Wednesdays have become one of my favorite food days. And that’s not just because of a lovely habit I’ve developed of making homemade pizza on hump day (one of the few pre-game meals that didn’t make me want to ralph by the time I reached first base during our weekly co-ed softball games). Wednesdays rank high because they start with me foraging through my Washington Post for its mid-week Food Section. I’m told it’s not as thick as in the past, but that just makes it easier for me to read before my coffee gets cold. I save my favorite sections and clip recipes, most of which are dabbled with over-easy pesto egg drippings from breakfast. Oops.

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Though this week’s Food Section offerings (not pictured) included some Fourth of July recipes on the front, most weeks offer a thoughtful centerpiece on topics like immigration-inspired foods (pictured), new age BBQ and backyard eggs. Oh, the egg story was a favorite. It went on and on about all the wonderful things that can be done with eggs. It included one enduring bit of advice: plop an over-easy egg on top of a salad. The yolk oozes down among the greens and panfried mushrooms and avocado chunks and adds a layer of near-emulsification to my Modena balsamic of choice. It’s a spruce-up-the-salad strategy that will stick with me for a while.

I have also launched a love affair with the periodical sections of the local libraries (that’s right, I have two within a mile of my house). I have a weakness for buying magazines ( and am currently contemplating whether I should take Bon Appétit  up on an enticing direct mail offer I received this week for a $10 annual subscription for “professionals.”) Along with the latest editions of BA, the local lib offers a somewhat random selection of food-ish magazines, including one that I did not expect this past week. Smithsonian Magazine devoted the majority of this month’s issue to Food, its first annual attempt at the endeavor. I was just giddy when I spotted it, a caricature of a regal chicken posing on the front for a story about the reign of chicken in America’s kitchens.

My favorite offering was “Heaven on a Half Shell,” by Andrew Beahrs. I acquired the acquired taste for oysters while living in the Pacific Northwest and was thrilled to see the region’s signature Olys get a shout out in this article — and from Mark Twain himself no less. The story talks about Twain’s favorite — and now nearly extinct retail wise — Olympia oyster. And it features Washington’s flagship shellfish grower, Taylor Shellfish. I’ve dug through the clam beds at Taylor’s Samish Bay facility and had many a chat with the company’s spokesman, Bill Dewey, mostly about water quality issues that often kept them from harvesting.

It was a memory lane sort of story for me, not to mention an inspiration to look for food stories among the foodies who long preceded the term like Mark Twain. Living in this history-infused region, I’ve loved learning about our founding fathers’ palettes at places like Mount Vernon and Monticello, where Washington and Jefferson both dabbled in farming and smokehouse and vineyard ventures. And lots of reading. Though they didn’t have nearly the smorgasbord of food authors to choose from (book wise, I’m currently into Michael Ruhlman), I will continue to follow in their footsteps when it comes to reading and writing about eating.

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