Category Archives: Travel

A Tree Grows in Georgia

PLUCKED OUT of my normal routine and my familiar landscape and plopped into the middle of a family reunion (of family other than my own) in coastal Georgia, I am finding my equilibrium in the trees.

Not that I’m climbing them or anything (way too tall for that), but walking among the live oaks, with their gauzy curtains of Spanish moss, and under the towering pines that punctuate the blue (sometimes thunderstorm-black) sky is both soothing and awe-inspiring.

Crepe myrtles and evergreen magnolias are instant reminders that I’m not in New England anymore.

Miles of majestic marshland define these Georgia islands. Though much grander than the marshy coastline of Delaware where my family is from, this, too, is comforting and calming.

Also, just sayin’ – I’m not really an air-conditioning person and it is eternally chilly indoors. The thick, sticky humidity seems somehow more tangible to me, and definitely familiar, a part of my childhood DNA never to be erased. Along with the high heat index, I feel like I’m in a sauna sweating out the long Vineyard winter. 

But the trees are something else. Some are hundreds of years old: Quercus virginiana, the southern live oak, can live for 500 years; Pinus palustris, longleaf pine, almost as many (or so I read!). Many are over a hundred feet tall or wide, with lateral roots extending even farther. They are older, bigger, and I think wiser than us, with survival instincts and subtle communication systems we will never know.

My fascination with trees is partly just a new interest (I’m going to ask for The Tree Book by Michael A. Dirr and Keith S. Warren for my birthday!). But also it’s not lost on me why I’m focused on them here, where I’m experiencing a (gentle) growth spurt in my role as a new limb on an old family tree, a tree that has lost the last of a generation.

We are here to celebrate the life of my partner’s mother (she was the youngest of 11 children), but just as importantly to acknowledge the strength and connection of the remaining branches – the four siblings, the grandchildren, and the people they love and call family.

Branches (like people) grow in different directions, depending on their environment – some get twisted and then straighten out, some spring out ahead of the others, only to get knocked back in a hurricane, some stay safely low and close to the trunk. But all are part of the same tree, with roots going deep and wide.

Occasionally an old branch grows a new limb, which leafs out and gathers sunlight and food for the tree, signaling it to send down new roots to bring water back to sustain the new growth – and the old. Trees are pretty smart, aren’t they?


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Susie On the Road: A Visit to DC, My Hometown, March 1 & 2

DSC_3123I’m saddling up the horses and heading off to America this week. Actually, driving down to spend a night with my parents in Delaware, then a weekend with my sister Eleanor in Virginia. Leaving Roy alone at the farm with 500 chickens, a farm dog, a frisky kitten, and a lot of eggs to wash. Not to mention about 600 farm chores to start on now that the weather is (sort of) breaking. Lucky Roy.

Hopefully I will manage to pick up some farm supplies while I am off-Island.

Though I hate to be away, I’m looking forward to seeing my family, and of course, my official business for this trip is book promotion, and I can already tell that a visit to DC, my hometown, is going to be swell.

lacuisine photo2

On Saturday from 2 pm to 5 pm, I’m going to be at the very fabulous La Cuisine cookware store in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. (The Old Town Boutique District is serious shopping, folks, in case you need an excuse to get out!). I’ve admired Nancy Purves Pollard and her store (mostly from afar in my years away from Washington) for her one-of-a-kind collection of high-quality cookware and cooking ingredients. I’m just afraid of what I might buy while I’m there. I hear she has amazing coffee, too.

lacuisportraitsmNancy and I have cooked up a scheme to serve a selection of yummy recipes from Fresh From the Farm. Nancy’s going to make the Curry-Coconut Butternut Squash Soup and the Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Farmstand Veggies. And I am going to make the Rustic Roasted Tomato Tarts and the Christmas Slaw with Slivered Pears, Cranberries, & Pecans. I’ve even enlisted my Mom to make Libby’s Lemon Blueberry Buckle! (That’s Nancy on the left in the photo at right, with co-workers Val and Larissa and rescue dog Carina.)

While we’re serving tasting samples (I’ll be at the store from 2 to 5 pm), I’ll be signing books, of course, and offering some tips about how to keep a simple, well-stocked pantry for making delicious veggie dishes. I’ll share advice on some favorite tools, as well. (Nancy will have a stash of Fast, Fresh & Green and The Fresh & Green Table available in addition to Fresh From the Farm–at 20% off!–so if you’ve got gifts to buy, this is a good opportunity.)

On Sunday, I’m off to the Dupont Circle Farmers’ Market from 10:30 to 12:30.  I’m excited that my cousin, Dr. Kari Evans, is going to hang out with me at the market, while I do a recipe demo, offer tastings, and sign books. The Fresh Farm Market folks have a program called “Chef at Market,” and I tried to get down to participate in it 3 years ago. Now I am finally making it, though admittedly March is a tricky season. (I will be there, polar vortex or not.) So we decided to pick a fresh, simple, colorful recipe to anticipate the first radishes of spring—it really won’t be too long, now.

9781600859045I have to say, the May Day Radish and Parsley Salad with Lemon and Ginger has the most delicious dressing and really is versatile enough to serve all year-round.  I know because I made a batch yesterday to judge how many portions I will need for the market. I remembered loving this salad when I developed it, and fortunately, my memory wasn’t warped! Of course, I got into a little thing with crystallized ginger while I was developing recipes for Fresh from the Farm, so I actually had to rein myself in and quit using it after a few recipes. It’s an amazing ingredient in vinaigrettes, because the sugar dissolves and the ginger remains spicy, so there is both a nuanced flavor and interesting texture to the dressing.

Yesterday I ate a good deal of this salad right out of the bowl, and then I threw some blood orange segments into the rest (I had half of a blood orange leftover from another test) and wow—loved that color and flavor. Ate the leftovers with roast pork last night.


While I was photographing the salad, I got photo-bombed again by Barney the kitty. He moves like lightening and goes from floor-to-food-dish in a matter of seconds. He is fascinated with recipe testing.

1621945_10152217617255801_1847068504_nIf you would like to make the radish salad, I urge you to click on over to the Fine Cooking website, where the recipe is now posted as part of a collection from Fresh from the Farm. (Feel free to add blood orange segments!) I am feeling particularly grateful this morning to my beloved magazine for the lovely review they’ve published in the April/May issue, and online. Check it out online, but be sure to pick up that new issue of Fine Cooking on the news stand—it’s one of the best I’ve ever read. Grilled cheese, twice-baked potatoes, tagines, meringues, quick ideas for baby spinach, ham, barbequed shrimp—Oh my!

Hope I can catch up with some of you in DC, but bear in mind I’ll be in Chicago mid-March and Montana and North Carolina in April. (Click here for schedule.) Then it’s home for the spring and summer. Roy will be glad, to say the least.



Road Trips are Great, But There’s No Place Like Home

We ran away from home this weekend. Just a short trip to America, and now we’re back on the Island. It seemed like the right time to go, what with the spring equinox and the super moon signaling the big change: Busy Season Up Ahead. The UPS guy deposited rolls of garden fencing on our back step last Wednesday; Roy lucked into a load of free lumber for the chicken coop on Thursday; our bulk order of potatoes arrives week after next, and the baby chicks won’t be long after. Better get away now, we thought.

Sometimes, on a Winnie-the-Pooh-worthy blustery March day such as Friday was, the ferries don’t make the six-mile run across Vineyard Sound (above) to the mainland. We lucked out, though, hopped the 9:30 boat, and headed right for the gas station once we landed in Falmouth. Had to fill up with $3.50 gas (rather than the $4.25 stuff out here) for our drive up to Portland, Maine. When the road lies before you, expectations run high. We were excited.

Oddly enough, though, by the time we were back at that same Falmouth gas station Sunday afternoon, we couldn’t wait to board the ferry for the ride home.

It’s not that we didn’t have a good weekend. Portland, in its haunting old-world way—all cobblestones and fishing wharves and classic architecture—is both stunning to look at and stimulating to walk around. It’s also an amazing food town: Saturday we sustained ourselves with treats from the Standard Baking Company—an assortment that included a vanilla bean-laced madeleine, a chewy dark brownie, a small asiago fougasse, a slice of ricotta pound cake, and one of their uber-flaky croissants—and with a visit to Rabelais Books, an incredible store for cooks that specializes in antiquarian and hard-to-find cookbooks (but that carries new cookbooks, too). Before Roy could drag me out of the store, I had gathered a small stack of purchases, all by British cooks, who I find so inspiring with their reverence for seasonal ingredients. Skye Gnygell’s A Year in My Kitchen and Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries were on the top of the stack.

Rabelais’ proprietors, Samantha Hoyt Lindgren and Don Lindgren, were kind enough to hand us a list of (affordable) dinner suggestions, and we wound up eating the perfect meal that night—a collection of small plates at Pai Men Miyake, a Japanese noodle bar. Everything—ramen with pork belly, crisp-fried flounder with shiitake, seared gyoza—was delicious, but the surprise hit was a warm salad of fried Brussels sprouts with a fish sauce, mirin, and cilantro vinaigrette. Nutty, crispy, salty, tart—Roy called the sprouts “unbelievable.” Who knew we’d find killer vegetables at a noodle place? I’m going to try to recreate them at home some time.

Probably the biggest kick we got was poking through the antique stores on a wiggly drive we took up Route 1A. Trolling for additions to our eclectic collections, we wound up with an old milk can, a couple new chicken-y egg cups, a small yellow ware bowl, and a 48-star American flag.

The car was full of goodies and we were full of good food as we straggled onto the 3:45 boat on Sunday. Car-weary, we shut off the Honda and walked up to the top deck for some air. Standing in the lee to avoid the wind, we watched Falmouth fade and the colors shift on the water as the ferry powered out into the Sound, leaving its roaring wake behind. Forty-five minutes later, rounding the corner into Vineyard Haven, we smiled and raced back to the car. Home.

Coming home, no matter how long you’ve been away and no matter where you live, usually elicits at least a small measure of emotion. But coming home to an Island—a place you cannot reach by car, a place no bridge connects to—feels somehow even more charged. More like a ruby-slipper-clicking kind of emotion. For me at least. As many times as I’ve ridden that boat in the last 3+years, I never fail to have a deep surge of gratitude as the ferry docks. Gratitude, I guess, for this peaceful place in an increasingly noisy world. For me there’s no place like my Island home.