Cooking the Books

How many cookbooks do you have? And more to the point, how many cookbooks do you use? If you’re like us, you’ve got dozens, but you consistently go back to just two or three of them. (probably the same couple of recipes every time as well). Maybe it’s that bread recipe with your mother’s notes scribbled on it, or grandma’s favorite dish that you can never quite memorize (and has decades of drips and stains on the very beloved pages). It might just be that you pull out the same book out of habit, or even, dare we say it, fear? Of unfamiliarity, of not quite understanding the instructions, of knowing that if you make Recipe Tried-And-True again it will be fine, but that new one, well, you’re just not quite sure how it will come out. It’s fine to just enjoy cookbooks. Like travel books, you can enjoy the recipes and the photos and the stories without ever feeling like you have to make every recipe. Don’t worry if you’re a cookbook “tourist”—just let your mouth water over the yummy pictures and clever flavor combinations. But if you really want to use your cookbooks, start by actually reading them. Most cookbooks will have what amounts to a “mission statement” at the beginning—the introduction or prologue will give you a clue about why you should try some of the recipes here. Maybe it’s historic, like Jeff Smith’s great Immigrant Ancestors series—an exploration of where we came from and how we changed when we got here. Or Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (seriously, this guy will teach brides how to boil water, he’s that thorough). Or maybe it’s one of those must-haves, like Julia Child, who breaks everything down into minute steps and careful...

Design Details Behind Victory Today...

In preparation for the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, going down March 9 through March 17 at Navy Pier, we checked in with Mark Kanazawa and Patrick Ewing, two of our volunteer design masterminds behind our Victory Today exhibit. Thanks to their hard work, we have a beautiful display ready for you, celebrating today’s victories in gardening. Let’s see what they have to say about the exhibit: 1). Tell us about the design for the Peterson Garden Project display at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show. Kanazawa and Ewing: The exhibit is divided into three sections: 1). History/Art of Victory Gardens past, 2). A recreation of a PGP community garden featuring Today’s Victories, and 3). The Backyard “Re-use” Garden, which showcases creative ideas you can use in your own backyard and a mini gallery of contemporary artwork by Joe Wirtheim, whose illustrations are inspired by Victory Gardens past, present, and future. 2). What inspired your design? Kanazawa and Ewing: Our jumping off point was definitely Victory Garden propaganda from WWII.  There are so many cool, inspiring images from back then, and what’s surprising is that they are as relevant today as they were back in the day.  One re-occuring image is the concept of “V for Victory.” We definitely wanted to incorporate that iconic symbol into our design. 3). Why do you think the PGP display will stand out at the show?  Kanazawa and Ewing: The Chicago Flower and Garden Show has always featured beautiful, large scale ornamental gardens; gorgeous, but in many cases unattainable to the average urban gardener.  Peterson Garden Project is all about edible gardening in the city, whether that is with your neighborhood community garden or in your own backyard.  Our exhibit hopes to inspire both novice and experienced gardeners alike to...

“Food Patriots” by Jeff Spitz...

              Have you heard about “Food Patriots,” the documentary film in progress? You may have noticed one of our big fans at your Gnomedependence Day event at Global Garden. Hey, anyone who can grow food in a vacant city lot during a record setting heat wave and share their “gnome sweet gnome” with all their neighbors deserves at least one big fan. You all are food patriots! We so admire what you are doing! “Food Patriots” is about people like you: people who are changing the way Americans eat, buy and think about food. Ironically, your update for WW2 Victory Gardens is inspiring a new generation. Your beloved Peterson Garden and LaManda Joy are featured in “Food Patriots,” and we want to work with you more creatively. We made a little video with LaManda’s narration that introduced this year’s Pop-up Victory Garden registration.  We want to share our larger film in progress with you and ask for your help in reaching out to others who are not already rolling up their sleeves. So, we are bringing our projector and DVD to the Peterson Garden Project Learning Center on Wednesday, July 18th, at 7:00 p.m. We’ll have refreshments, a work-in-progress screening and Q&A about the whole “Food Patriots” campaign. Have a look at the teaser video on our website, then surf around to see the other features in our public engagement campaign. Our blog has recent video reports posted by our college interns. “Food Patriots” does not replace or compete with any existing organization, but rather amplifies unheard-of voices and multiplies the fans. This is an interactive film, outreach and consumer education campaign. We can help each other grow and swell the ranks of the good food revolution, even if...

(Greasy) Trash to Treasure: A Tale of Transformation By Mark Kanazawa...

Some were too big…some were too small…some were just plain weird. We’d seen and heard and wished for a lot of different spaces that The Peterson Garden Project could call home…but nothing quite fit the bill. “I just looked at a space today…wanna drive by it?” LaManda would say…and we could never say no, because we wanted it to work out as much as she did. We’d walk around the potential building – peeking into windows, visualizing a demo garden here, a classroom there, a flat roof for gardening, a room with a view for events. Sometimes it was an old storefront, or an empty office building – a car dealership, a firehouse, a warehouse – could this space finally be Our Place? From the outside, 4642 N Francisco is an odd space…half dentist office, half bad eighties mall minus the parking lot. It’s a space that is both easily overlooked and yet cries out for attention…I mean seriously, what is up with that glass block turret?! Walking into the space that first time was an experience…the red on the walls pretty much knocked you over. The floors were a mess, recessed fluorescent lighting flattered no one and the middle room was basically a giant grease trap. But there was a big backyard…and a garage that opened both in front and back…and it was close to public transportation (in fact it literally couldn’t be any closer). It was just down the street from one of our new gardens…and there was something special about it – something that just seemed…not too big, not too small…. With a team of generous and talented volunteers, a fleet of vehicles at our beck and call, and lots of elbow grease – what was once a far off dream...

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