Sap is Rising...Adventures in Maple Sugaring

This post comes from Marjorie Taylor, the proprietor of The Cook’s Atelier. She cooks and writes about food from her tiny home in Burgundy, France. See more of her writing on her blog,

It is said that every cloud has a silver lining. Given our current economic situation, wouldn’t it be great if that silver lining came in the form of people taking the time to get reconnected with their food and maybe even spend a little more time learning how to cook?

I am not talking about simply warming up something from your freezer section, I mean really getting back to the pleasure of cooking real food for yourself and your family. Real food doesn’t have to be difficult or overly time consuming. We just need to put good food back on our priority list. With our over-committed schedules, it’s easy to fall back on processed meals and fast food, but if you take the time to make real food a priority, you will be reintroduced to one of life’s simple pleasures. Making a meal helps you to slow down and be mindful of what you eat and it is a ritual you can enjoy as you pursue your sustainable life.

Over the last few decades Americans' have reduced their budget for groceries and have been led to believe that food should be cheap. That’s the first hurdle that you must get over when you start to make real food a priority. Processed and industrial food is cheap, but you get nothing for your money and in the long run you will pay a very high price indeed. If you choose to make real food and fresh ingredients a priority, you will notice the benefits right away in your health, and at the same time you will be doing your part to support your local community and the health of the planet. In my mind, it really is all connected.

Over the last several decades, with the growth of our industrial food system, many people have lost the understanding of what real food is. Real food is not very glamorous. It’s not overly packaged or screaming from the shelf about how good it is for you. It doesn’t come wrapped in plastic or have a little cartoon adorning the box. And it is probably not going to be listed in the weekly coupon section of your newspaper. Real fruit and vegetables don’t come pre-sliced or cut into the shape of baby anything. Real lettuce has to be washed and dried before you make your salad, and if you are lucky, it will actually have dirt on it from a local farm. It’s not homogenized and produced in an unnatural environment or made in some lab. Real food doesn’t come in a jar or plastic pouch, or claim to be reduced fat, cholesterol free or whatever the current trend is. Real food is the same food that our parents and grandparents enjoyed, simply prepared and in season.

You certainly don’t have to be a gourmet cook. In my mind, the best meals are those based on fresh ingredients that are in season and that are simply prepared. It’s more about a shift in the way that you think about food. When making the shift, the little things really do count. For example, instead of purchasing commercial salad dressing or mayonnaise made with ingredients you can’t even pronounce, make your own. Both are very simple and can be made quickly with the a few staples from your pantry.

Let’s take this opportunity to get back to growing, cooking and sharing real food at the table and redirect our priorities for a much more rewarding life.

Aioli with fresh garden herbs

2 small cloves of garlic
pinch of sea salt
1 egg yolk
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, for juicing
herbs from the garden, such as chives, basil, parsley, chopped

In a marble mortar with a wooden pestle, pound the garlic and salt to a smooth, liquid paste. Add the egg yolk and stir briskly with the pestle until they lighten in color. Begin to add the olive oil in a tiny trickle, to the side of the mortar so that the oil flows gradually into the yolk mixture, while stirring constantly with the pestle. As the mixture begins to thicken, the flow of oil can be increased to a thick thread. If the mixture gets too thick, add a drop or two of water. Add the juice of the lemon and the herbs.

Makes about 1 cup