I’ve just finished up grading for my composition Fall semester and since have been feverishly compiling grocery and shopping lists for our holiday gatherings at camp.  I was thinking about the years of cooking and gathering as I grew up, thinking about my mother, now gone, and my father, now 85, and how we informed one another’s lives in terms of culinary prowess.  Here is an excerpt from my current project:  Woodfire Diaries: Cooking and Writing on the Little Two Hearted River:   


It became clear to me from watching my parents, who had a marriage not made in heaven, that food was a powerful force between them.  My parents were each of them half English and half German and those cultures influenced their cooking some to be sure—Christmas dinner, for instance, was always Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding; but they were adventurous eaters and chefs and explored international cooking before many of those restaurants had even appeared near our small town of Haslett—or in the larger university town of East Lansing, Michigan.  They made Mexican food from scratch, Cajun food, Indian food, Scandinavian food and much more.  They were also influenced in a particular way by my father’s roots — a long pioneer history in Elk Rapids, Michigan, his grandfather a rugged steamboat captain during the lumber boom–and by my mother’s family’s farming background in Michigan’s thumb. 

So as a result, what we ate was not always sophisticated fare, but it was always interesting. 

Pizza was nearly the only junk food my brother and I could talk my parents into, and they cooked every day of their lives.  Leftovers were eaten for lunch or breakfast, though, if my mother had anything to say about it—they were never discarded and this instigated the garbage can wars, wars my mother always won in the short run.  She’d come home sometimes to find my father angrily throwing out small frozen packages of aluminum foil— shiny leftover pieces of her soul—that had been in our freezer for over a year, an act of defiance on his part that would precipitate a two-day fight.

At any rate, they saw feasting and food as a celebration of life, and so powerful was this shared view that it kept them together for the odd 40-some years of their tumultuous marriage.   It was creative, it was fun, no matter which of them was in charge (and my father was every bit the chef my mother was), but above all food was passionate. 

And it was a passion shared. 

For better or worse, they fed one another.

I’ll post a few other excerpts this month as they seem so appropriate to the season.  Cheers!

Jack and Me

Does life get any better than this??  I don’t think so.  Even sick with a cold and stressed to the max, to have the opportunity to share the stage with Jack Driscoll is a once in a lifetime deal. From the time I first read Wanting Only to Be Heard, I was in love with Jack’s words.  The evening was incredible at Peter White Library in Marquette, Michigan.  Music and food and good talk about the writing life.  For anyone who doesn’t know, he has a new book coming out this spring from Wayne State University.  Don’t miss it.

Something from my Woodfire Diaries here shortly…

Thoughts for Fall

That day arrived a week or so ago when you know it’s no longer summer; school started at Northern a couple weeks ago and my two Composition classes seem excellent — good to be back after a year away from teaching; the fall harvest and canning has begun — a tomato harvest unprecedented for me here in the U.P.; the hummingbirds have flown south while the ravens and osprey circle in flocks I’ve never seen here at camp.

My father had a TIA the evening of Labor Day.

His function has returned, but the tests ensue to determine if he should have surgery on a 60%+ occluded carotid artery.  His Lions are not helping his blood pressure as at this writing the Colts have pulled within 3 after a very good Lions first half.

And with all that, food seems to dominate my thoughts as I endeavor to get back into writing my memoir.  A few paragraphs from it:

In the Introduction to my Larousse Gastronomique (which professes itself “the World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia”), it refers to the history of gastronomy as “the story of those who took part in its evolution and [who are] responsible for establishing what is, in effect, one of the cornerstones of civilization.  Gastronomy reflects society, and studying [it] provides a glimpse of the history of society itself.”  Gastronomy, it goes on to say, “is not static.  Like music and the visual arts, it has never ceased to evolve.”

So this memoir revolves around food.  The things we did to one another, the tragedies and failures of our lives, the successes, such as they were, revolved around the things we ate.  Food kept us together, but maybe as important, the particular likes and ways in which we ate this food and drank our libations — the style each of us chose to prepare food for one another –also set us apart as individuals.  It revealed us to one another sometimes in ways we regretted, revealed character in the same way someone’s character is revealed in how they play a poker hand, or the choices they make in appearance—or the music they are drawn to.  However, food’s influence and tendency to reveal character is greater than in any other aspect because one can choose to not play poker, listen to music, engage in sexual activities, or even wear clothes … but one cannot choose not to eat.  

We weren’t, you know, any of us in my family, responsible for “establishing the cornerstones of civilization” in relation to the culinary arts or otherwise, but it is true that food and drink not only reflected who we were, but, for better or worse, influenced and informed who we became.







Road kill

Who knows why the pictures suddenly got smaller, but at any rate, you may be surprised to know that you can drag a gas grill behind your RV for several miles, then run over it with that same RV in the campground and still grill chicken breasts on it…  Now that is some good manufacturing.