The dampness pervades everything, and the clouds hang low, heavy with impending rain—it’s just a matter of when, not if. The fog lingers, gently caressed by a breeze. On days like these, all I crave is the comfort of a warm, hearty bowl of chowder. The soul-soothing embrace of a New England or “white” clam chowder—the creamy goodness that never fails to delight my taste buds.
Recently, I had the pleasure of listening to Here’s to Us by the talented Elin Hilderbrand. Within the story, I discovered four authentic recipes, among them, a tantalizing seafood chowder. As a chowder enthusiast, my interest was immediately piqued.
In the author’s note, Elin Hilderbrand gives credit to her dear friend, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, a renowned food writer and cookbook author, for inspiring her American Paradise Seafood Chowder. The mere mention of it conjures images of a chowder that’s thick and velvety, with the briny essence of the sea dancing on your palate. Just imagine the rich aroma of the ocean mingling with the smoky richness of bacon, complemented by the tenderness of perfectly cooked clams and the unique addition of diced tomatoes. Fresh herbs lend their magic, elevating the flavors to an exquisite symphony of taste.
I must confess, I am a devoted fan of The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, and her scrumptious chowder recipe featuring Yukon gold potatoes. That has always been my go-to recipe. However, this new recipe, raved about by Elin Hilderbrand, has sparked my curiosity to embark on a culinary adventure, despite the absence of potatoes.
As I think about preparing this American Paradise Seafood Chowder, I can’t help but anticipate the sheer delight it will bring to my taste buds. I find myself daydreaming about savoring every spoonful, cocooned in the warmth of a cozy sweater while the raindrops gently patter against the windowpane. Mmm. I wish I had a bowl in front of me right now.
So, with chowder weather settling in, I am determined to set my culinary compass and venture beyond my usual recipe. I am eager to explore the culinary wonders of this American Paradise Seafood Chowder. Let’s embrace the richness of the sea and the heartwarming flavors that await us in this delightful creation. Here’s to trying new recipes and discovering the best clam chowder I’ve ever had!
Mark and I have been on a remarkable sustainability journey for the past decade. Every day, we diligently compost our food scraps and waste. Knowing that there’s a distinction between the two is important. Food scraps are the remnants of the meals we’ve enjoyed, while food waste represents the uneaten and discarded portions. It’s alarming to realize that a staggering 40% of all food in the United States goes to waste, generating a mind-boggling 135 million tons of emissions. This colossal problem stems from the food we never even savored but instead allowed to go to waste.
When we founded Homegrown Harvest in 2011, our mission was crystal clear: to live a more sustainable lifestyle ourselves and inspire others to do the same. We embarked on a journey of selling, installing, and nurturing raised bed gardens to encourage and educate people about the significance of growing their own food. I would often take the stage to deliver engaging lectures on gardening and composting, spreading the message of sustainability far and wide.
Composting, as we soon discovered, could be quite a challenging endeavor. It had its fair share of messiness, odors, and time-consuming aspects. If not done correctly, it could turn into a toxic mess, attracting critters from all corners of the woods. We initially followed the traditional cold process, mixing, mashing, and repeating, but it took an eternity to obtain usable compost. Winter posed another obstacle, making composting nearly impossible depending on where one lived. The barriers to ease and success were abundant, frustrating our composting ambitions.
“Composting is not only about recycling waste; it’s about creating life. It’s a way of honoring the cycle of nature and nourishing the earth that sustains us.”
-Beth Ojczyk, Composting enthusiast
While running Homegrown Harvest, I constantly sought out companies offering sustainable solutions. That’s when I stumbled upon a great Canadian company that manufactured a game-changing machine called FoodCycler. No larger than a bread machine, this compact device could sit right on your kitchen counter, transforming food scraps and waste into compost. With FoodCycler, you can instantly replenish your garden with nutrient-rich compost. Collecting your food scraps and waste in the cast iron container, starting the process in the FoodCycler, the machine would heat the food, eliminating harmful molds and bacteria, and pulverize it into compost. The beauty of it was that even meat, poultry, and fish scraps were welcome, bones included. Vitamix acquired the company a few years back, revamping the design, and while we have yet to try the new version, it’s heartening to witness companies focusing on such innovative products. I’ve heard of another company called Lume with a similar product, but I have yet to have the chance to explore it. It’s incredibly inspiring to witness these companies addressing a solvable problem, offering consumers a tangible way to live more sustainably and reduce their carbon footprint.
During our early FoodCycler days, we were still raising three kids, two in high school and one living with us. As a family of five, our garbage output was substantial. However, with two FoodCyclers running daily, we found solace in having a system that worked for us before moving to New Hampshire. Given the local wildlife, harsh winters, and subzero temperatures, outdoor composting was simply out of the question.
Our town boasts an impressive recycling and refuse center, segregating our waste into at least eight categories. We separate burnable items, including food scraps and waste, aluminum foil, batteries, plastic, glass, cans, cardboard, and newspapers/magazines. This comprehensive recycling system occupies three of my kitchen cabinets and requires a minimum of two trash cans per room, even in the bathrooms. Everything that ascends the mountain eventually makes its way back down. By subtracting food scraps and waste, we significantly reduce the amount of garbage we haul to the dump each week.
It’s vital to understand that when food ends up in landfills, it generates methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. People often overlook this fact, assuming that since food is biodegradable, there’s no harm in tossing it in the garbage—it’s not like plastic, right? Unfortunately it doesn’t work out that way. The problem lies in the way landfills operate. Initially, food waste undergoes aerobic decomposition, releasing minimal methane in the first year. However, the trouble arises afterward when anaerobic conditions set in, and bacteria decompose the waste, producing copious amounts of methane as the food slowly breaks down.
Sadly, landfills and wastewater globally contribute to a staggering 67 million metric tons of methane emissions, accounting for 20% of all methane released. The climate impact of methane is significant, as it possesses global warming potential 25 times higher than carbon dioxide and is a whopping 84 times more potent in the first two decades.
The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that throwing away just one pound of food results in a staggering 3.8 pounds of methane gas. Applying this calculation to our composting efforts, Mark and I conservatively estimate that we composted approximately 1.5 pounds of food scraps and waste daily, which adds up to at least 547.5 pounds of food per year. Over ten years, we prevented a jaw-dropping 5,475 pounds or 2,205 metric tons of food scraps and waste from reaching the landfill. That’s thousands of tons—tremendous amounts of sustainable impact. This equates to 20,805 pounds or 9.437 metric tons (10.4 short tons) of methane we diverted from polluting our atmosphere.
Nowadays, whenever I travel, a sense of guilt washes over me when I have to dispose of food scraps or waste into a non-compostable bin. It’s one of the simplest ways everyone can contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle and care for our planet. Our kids, too, have embraced the benefits of the FoodCycler, even using it in their apartments. They’ve discovered it’s cleaner than letting food waste sit around in the garbage can; even throwing the compost in the trash is a better alternative than filling the landfill. I hope more companies focus on creating manageable and affordable home composting solutions. Moreover, companies in the food industry should be held accountable for composting, considering the significant amount of food waste generated by restaurants and other food-related businesses. Adopting simple measures like these could result in a substantial reduction in methane emissions.
Renowned environmentalist Wangari Maathai once said, “In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.” Living a sustainable lifestyle is our opportunity to embrace this new level of consciousness and leave a positive mark on our planet for generations.
One of my most cherished possessions, and the oldest thing I use daily, is my Nana’s desk. This beloved relic of my daily existence is a testament to the enduring legacy of my Nana—an exquisite dark walnut secretary, which I lovingly still referred to as her desk. This little desk is filled with nooks and crannies, thoughtfully crafted slots to secure one’s belongings, and a pair of drawers discreetly concealing treasures. Whoever made this desk expected its owner to be able to keep it closed when not in use. I have stacks of papers and books and magazines, bowls of paper clips, and God Knows what else in front of all these carefully crafted spaces. My things are assuredly secured behind the clutter.
Throughout my childhood, the desk occupied a place of prominence just outside her kitchen, nestled comfortably in the living room of her modest abode. Such proximity ensured that my interactions with Nana were abundant and profound, shaping the very core of my being.
I remember her sitting at this similarly cluttered desk – her stacks are just the foothills to my mountainous heaps. She would write to her mother in sunny Florida and her two sisters—one down in Virginia, the other out in Arizona. She was the oldest among the three sisters; they all bore the distinction of being born and raised in Macon, Georgia. Her recollections often painted vivid pictures of her eager escape from the clutches of her father’s chicken farm, an existence she deemed suffocating. New York City was the place for her, and despite decades of living there, it did nothing to cut that thick Southern accent.
These days before the sun shows its first light, I start my daily rituals, assuming my rightful place at this ancestral desk, carrying on the torch of creative expression. With pen in hand, I turn to my journal, its pages yearning to be filled with my soul’s reflections, musings, and whispers. Good Lord! She would exclaim if she ever caught sight of the clutter that had come to rest upon this once clean surface. I can see her shaking her head. Regrettably, the disarray is such that the drop-down leaf, where my writing takes flight, can only be closed with much rearranging and piling of papers elsewhere. An unfamiliar sight, indeed, to witness the dark wood peeking through the gaps in my journal’s sprawl. Controlled chaos – I do know where everything is, despite appearances.
This beloved desk, a venerable witness to the passage of time, has graced our family for no fewer than eight decades. Maybe it’s seven. But as I sit here I realize that near stands another heirloom—an ancestral chest belonging to my Great-Nana. It now serves as a foundation for my television, while within its protective confines reside cherished remnants of our lineage: old family photographs. Fashioned from the wood of my great-grandparents’ farm, this chest bears witness to its origin through a modest silver plaque that silently proclaims, “This is made of cedar from Knightwood by Jessie H. Moore for Edna E. Knight, August 4, 1933.” This chest will mark ninety years since its creation in a few short months—ninety years of preserving our collective memories.
The presence of these relics, infused with the essence of my Nana and Great-Nana, fills my life with an indescribable sense of connection. They symbolize the strength and resilience that coursed through the veins of these formidable women, who weathered the tempestuous storms of their existence with unyielding resolve. Recently, through the meticulous exploration of our ancestry and the fortuitous acquisition of family archives following my mother’s untimely death a couple of years ago, I have gleaned newfound insights into their remarkable journeys. Oh, how I wish I knew the right questions to ask while they walked among us! Hindsight is bittersweet indeed.
As I sit at this venerable desk, surrounded by the echoes of generations past, I am reminded of the enduring power of lineage and the stories within these treasured artifacts. They are not mere objects but conduits through which the spirit of my Nana and Great-Nana breathes, whispering tales of strength and resilience. With each pen stroke upon the waiting pages, I pay homage to their unwavering resolve and the indomitable spirit that courses through my veins. In this eternal interplay of past and present, I am both custodian and seeker, unearthing fragments of wisdom and unlocking the secrets that bind us together across time. Through these delicate threads woven with love and memories, I honor these remarkable women’s profound impact on my journey. Their legacy lives on, an eternal flame guiding me forward gracefully and purposefully.
Oh, the days before the internet! They hold a certain charm, a nostalgic longing for a simpler way of life. In response to the writing prompt asking whether I remember life before the internet, my answer is an unequivocal yes. The world we inhabited back then was one where imagination thrived, friendships blossomed through outdoor play, and entertainment relied not on screens but on the power of our minds.
During those pre-internet days, children engaged in many delightful activities that ignited their imaginations and fostered friendships. Games like Kick the Can, Capture the Flag, and Four Square filled our afternoons with laughter and camaraderie. Whether it was trading baseball cards or collecting Pokémon, kids relish the thrill of bartering and the joy of discovering new treasures. Forts became our sanctuaries, and we immersed ourselves in endless adventures that spanned entire summers, abiding by the simple rule of returning home before darkness settled in. Barbie dolls and GI Joes became our trusted companions; their stories are interwoven with our imaginative narratives.
As I grew older, Central Park became our meeting place, where we basked in the warmth of friendship and listened to the radio, played frisbee, and roller skated. Rainy days invited us to curl up with books or engage in spirited card and board games, while visits to the bowling alley with our friends added excitement to our lives.
In reflecting upon those bygone days, I am reminded of the words of Henry David Thoreau, the transcendentalist philosopher who sought solace in a simpler existence. Although technology has undoubtedly made many aspects of our lives more convenient, the pace we move through the world today often leaves us breathless. In our relentless pursuit of instant gratification and boundless information, have we inadvertently sacrificed the beauty of living in the moment?
The absence of the internet meant that information was not readily available at our fingertips. Researching a topic required a trip to the library, flipping through pages of books, and carefully selecting suitable sources. It was a deliberate process, one that demanded patience and dedication. But in that process, we discovered the knowledge we sought and the joy of exploration, the thrill of finding unexpected treasures nestled within the pages.
The internet, undeniably, has revolutionized the way we access information. With a few keystrokes, we can unravel the mysteries of the universe and learn about any topic that piques our curiosity. The ease and convenience are undeniable. We can now delve into the depths of knowledge from the comfort of our own homes. Once bastions of wisdom, libraries have taken on a different role in this digital age.
Yet, there is a price we pay for this convenience. The internet, with its allure, tends to make us less sociable creatures. As we navigate the vast online world, we find ourselves glued to screens, be it a computer or a cell phone. Our interactions become confined to pixels on a screen, and the art of face-to-face conversation begins to wane. The simple act of engaging with the person sitting across from us, looking them in the eye, and genuinely listening to their words is gradually eroded.
In contemplating the pros and cons of life before and after the advent of the internet, I find myself torn. There is an undeniable allure to the easy access to information that the online realm affords us. Yet, I can’t help but yearn for a time when our imaginations were the primary source of entertainment when the world beyond our screens was the canvas on which we painted our adventures.
So, do I remember life before the internet? Yes, I do. It was a time of simplicity, of connection with both nature and one another. It was a time when we were not in a perpetual rush and had the luxury of time to play and dream. As we navigate this ever-evolving technological landscape, let us remember the lessons from our past. Let us strive for balance, cherishing the digital age’s benefits while preserving the beauty of a slower, more connected existence.