need not be costly or extravagant to be the best, nor served on fine china and
linen. The ingredients may be humble and inexpensive, the dishes uncomplicated
and quickly prepared but suited to the occasion. Memories of some best eating
experiences do include a few very fancy restaurants, but the most memorable stem
from a north woods rustic table of wild greens and venison in cabin sans electricity
and plumbing; the rocky Maine coast where razor clams and periwinkles, gathered
with friends at low tide, steamed on a bed of seaweed in an iron caldron; in a
mosquito-net tent in northern Michigan slurping wild blueberry pancakes, drenched
in butter and local maple syrup, just griddle-cooked on an open wood fire; and
at our own family dining table, a summer supper of corn-on-the-cob, cold sliced-tomatoes,
steamed, buttered summer squash, and green beans, all quickly hustled from backyard
garden to stove and served with hot corn bread and just-brewed iced tea.
memories nourish me time and again because they evoke moving images of people
and cultures; places and special occasions; the sincerity and generosity of the
hosts; the immediacy of the sensations -the aromas of food, wood fire and candle
or bodies in a crowded restaurant; the feel of the food on the tongue, the textures,
the flavors, the colors; the friends, new or old at your elbow or across the table;
our feelings and what we talked about. And what brought all these together was
By now you have discerned that "Beyond Food" is as
much about how we experience food as what we consume. The food we eat, who prepares
it, how we eat it, where and with whom, all affect who we are--our identity as
members of families, communities and cultures. Food connects us to nearly every
aspect of our lives.
Join me in an exploration of fabulous food from garden to kitchen
to the table and picnic basket, to the art museum and the fashion
daisum, yes, wearable food.
We will celebrate the joys of food but travel even further
"beyond food" to some of the lesser known aspects of food production
and distribution that bring food to our table in a global economy. We will learn
something about cheap prices and the real costs of "cheap" food.
best of all we will be championing many the great things happening on the food
scene in and around Detroit: community gardens, community supported agriculture
(CSA), Pick-Your-Own farms, harvest festivals and seasonal celebrations of local
And, yes, there will be recipes. - Rima
For Rima's Column: Harvest Time - Discovering Winter Squash
please click here.
"Beyond Food" was conceived during a prolonged
family gustatory evening last May. Rima had been seeking a way to blend her experience
as a writer and her passion for all aspects of food. Nick was open to trying a
food column in thedetroiter.com.
As a journalist, Rima has worked
for newspapers in Maine, Tennessee, Mississippi and Montana and co-authored The
Insider's Guide to Glacier. Montana Magazine, Appalachian Trailway
News, UpRiver-DownRiver and other periodicals have published her articles.
She self-published Different and Better: A Handbook for Allergy and Alternative
Cookery in 1982.
She calls herself a food adventurer because during
her many travels and residencies in North America and Britain she makes a beeline
for the market places, super markets, green grocers and local restaurants. She
claims her earliest food memory-sitting alone in front of a bowl of cold oatmeal
after everyone else had left the tabledidn't warp her love for food. Overriding
that feeling of abandonment were the aromas and comfort of warm, freshly prepared
meals shared around the supper table by a loving family.
"I grew up
in an Appalachian-immigrant family who moved north seeking jobs in Detroit during
the Great Depression. When my parents moved to Cranbrook, where my father worked
at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, the food traditions they brought with them
were as distinctive as their Kentucky drawls. It was essentially a peasant diet:
simple, healthful foods, made from scratch and freshly prepared, or home-canned
by my mother, enlivened by hot cornbread or biscuits. It was not meat-centered
as we had little money and no refrigeration those first years at Cranbrook."
exposure to Italian cuisine at the neighboring Vettraino family table, visits
to the Eastern Market and international fairs in Detroit began expanding her food
horizons, which keep growing.
"I've done just about everything you
can do with food except wear it," she says. "I've bartered my food skills
and offerings for rent, for knowledge and adventure." She has prepared meals
in situations from a charcoal pit stove in rural Mexico, to portable propane field
stove in Alaska's Brooks Range, to commercial kitchens and now is a personal chef,
preparing custom gourmet meals for select clients.
As a home gardener, commercial
market gardener, greenhouse and farm stand employee, and food educator at both
elementary and college levels, it was a logical step to become a food activist.
In the early 1990s, Rima joined the successful effort to incorporate conservation
and sustainability measures into the 1995 Farm Bill by working with the Campaign
for Sustainable Agriculture.
After traveling around North America,
living in 14 states, Mexico and Canada, Rima has settled in rural Vermont where
she still gardens, writes and cooks. But her time in Detroit last May rekindled
so many memories and emotions, she has no reservations about writing a column
for thedetroiter.com about the area where she grew up.
"I was impressed with the positive transformations I saw in
all aspects of the city and the metro area. I was intrigued and
inspired by the loyalty of people like Nick and his readers who
seek ways to be active in fulfilling the promise of Detroit and
I wanted to be a part of it. I look forward to sharing food experiences
of the 40s and 50s in and around Detroit and informing them about
many of the area's exciting current agricultural and culinary activities.
I'd love to hear from readers about anything food-related."
Write Rima at email@example.com.
This is the first of a recurring series. For Rima's Column:
Harvest Time - Discovering Winter Squash please click here.