A little over two years ago now, Kim O'Donnel and I sat down at a Manhattan restaurant to catch up and talk about food writing. A die-hard champion of home cooking, Kim, as always, was thinking about new ways to increase culinary literacy, with a focus on local, sustainable eating. I knew that the stories we told about specific food items on Ecocentric and our former food blog, the Green Fork, were always among our most popular, and was looking for a fresh way to give our readers what they want.
We walked out of that breakfast meeting with the seed of an idea for a series that would explore seasonal foods. Shortly after, I recruited Megan Saynisch, a former colleague at Sustainable Table and the brainchild behind Brooklyn Farmhouse, to the effort.
By design, Real Food Right Now covers cooking tips, nutritional profiles, historic and cultural background, and important information - including the environmental impact - about how each is cultivated. We figured you all had your own kitchen sinks.
Our idea was not original. Such efforts date back to the works of Pliny the Elder (whose exhaustive Naturalis Historia chronicled all manner of vegetables, among other things, and served as a model for encyclopedias). More recently - in fact, right around the time we launched this series - Deborah Madison released a gorgeous book called Vegetable Literacy.
On the mass media fancy food front, Saveur hosts "recipe collections" by ingredient, as do Epicurious and Martha Stewart. Nutrition sites like World's Healthiest Foods have put a world of nutrition information at your fingertips. And there are many ag extension and gardening sites that will tell you all about how to grow your favorite foods.
All of these efforts have been impressive; we frequently cite their works in our series. But what does our series bring to the table that others haven't already covered? In short, a little of everything. By design, Real Food Right Now covers not only the best ways to cook seasonal ingredients, but also, nutritional profiles, historic and cultural background, and important information - including the environmental impact - about how each is cultivated.
We figured you all had your own kitchen sinks.
So here we are, two years later, with nearly 100 posts behind us. We started with the quintessential spring food, asparagus, and our offerings since have ranged from hot dogs to grapefruit, from sunchokes to ramps. Our most popular so far (who knew?) has been fresh shell beans.
Each quarter, we gather by phone to line up the season ahead and every time, I get nervous that we've already covered the most interesting foods. But it turns out there's a world of interesting foods out there - by the end of each planning call, I've got another three months of exciting Real Food coverage planned. This coming summer season might be our best yet.
Stay tuned and you'll see what I mean!