December 7, 2016

In Winter’s Kitchen with Beth Dooley + Giveaway

In Winter's Kitchen with Beth Dooley | The Naptime Chef

Last month I had the pleasure of reading In Winter’s Kitchen: Growing Roots and Breaking Bread in the Northern Heartland by Beth Dooley. While I’ve never spent time in the mid-west in the winter, I certainly know what it is like to live in Central New York in February. The very thought of eating local foods at that time seems downright impossible! In this inspiring and warm volume Beth details her experience living in the mid-west and the local farmers and producers that live, and thrive in her area. She delves into food politics, environmental realities, and personalities at play. It is inspiring and heartwarming and I highly recommend this book to anyone interest in slow-food and winter fare.

Luckily, Beth was kind enough to answer a few questions for me and I am thrilled to share them with you today. Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom to find out how to win to enter a copy of this book for yourself!

1) I love this in-depth view of winter in Minnesota and the food that you serve as well as the local and national politics surrounding food production. What inspired you to write this book after focusing on cookbooks? 

I have always been interested in all aspects of food.  Being a lover of cookbooks, my early work focused on recipes. But, I’ve always been curious about flavor so I wanted to find out why locally grown and organic produce tastes better than conventional shipped from far away.  I asked the organic farmers who explained how soil is the key to flavor. In order to shun chemicals, these farmers enhance microbial activity, engage beneficial pests, etc. … These practices retain topsoil, help clean groundwater, provide food for pollinators, etc … Local food isn’t packaged or shipped … farms are beautiful (far prettier than strip malls and housing complexes) … I wrote the book because I wanted to share what I’ve learned about good ingredients …  recipes are just the beginning of the story. I do believe that food is the most important issue of our life time, central to all the things we care about — quality and flavor; health, environment, public health, social justice and equity, immigration, humane treatment of animals, beauty.

2) I grew up in Central NY where winters are long and cold and there is a lot of farmland. I love how you remind people that there is a food bounty in winter as well as summer. When you people ask you about “winter food” what do you tell them to focus on to get them used to cooking with seasonal produce. (Growing up I was always a fan of root vegetable soups!) 

Yes!  Soups, stews, casseroles of root veggies are made with the local storage crops. These are the foods we’re hungry for when the weather turns cold as well. In our northern climates, weather is big a force on appetites, who wants a wimpy salad when January winds blow?  Many of the root crops — especially carrots — actually sweeten as they are stored, so that the ones I buy in our co-ops are sweeter in January than in October. We’ve become better at storing these crops … and … many small farmers are getting better at season extensions using hoop houses, solar green houses, etc. so the they can start their plants earlier in the season and keep the harvest going far longer. I also hope people remember that buying local means more than produce — here, in the Northern Heartland, I can find great butter, beef, pork, chicken, sunflower oil, maple syrup, honey, eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt, hazelnuts, chestnuts, flour, cornmeal from local sources … plus locally grown, canned tomatoes and sauces … just $1.00 spent on local food returns $4.00 to the local economy.

3) Do you have any funny stories about the production of this book? A funny farmer you encountered? The recipe that just wouldn’t come together or that surprised you completely? All authors have them and we’d love to hear yours!

Yipes .. Plenty of disasters. Not so much in this book, as those recipes are from my grandmother, mom, aunts so have stood the test of time. There are stories of my wacky family in NJ that just didn’t seem right (a drunk uncles, sister throwing down her napkin and marching out before dessert) … in one of my cookbooks I published a recipe for pasty that added garlic and thyme to the original. The recipe had been in this person’s family for years and when she read the book she was livid because her mother would never have added garlic and time to her pastys; so in the next printing I make those optional, that kind of thing. I did try one time to complete an assignment on kasha but gave up … just couldn’t make it taste good …

4) As we head into winter what you are most looking forward to eating and cooking again? Are there any new recipes or cooking styles you haven’t tried that you’d like to? Any food that are still working on perfecting? 

Great question … I love broadening flavors and right now, the Middle Eastern spices and cooking methods are most intriguing. This Thanksgiving, I’m roasting sweet potatoes and rather than finishing them with the traditional maple syrup, am tossing them with hot chili oil and fresh lime juice and chopped cilantro.

5) What is next for winter in the Northern Heartland? Where do we go from here? 

Food sovereignty and food security are next. Especially after this election, people are looking for ways to protect and nurture their food resources. In our City several of the public parks are beginning to turn land over to community gardens, there’s a push to urban agriculture. I still have family in NJ and when Sandy hit, there were towns that couldn’t get basic staples delivered. …. There’s nothing more fun or more rewarding than those community harvests and dinners … we’re seeing people getting together in park buildings with kitchens, in churches, in each other’s homes to put up jams and jellies, pickles …

I’m currently working with a Native American chef — Sean Sherman — on a cookbook – The Sioux Chef – Indigenous Kitchen — based on his work nationally and internationally to revitalize indigenous food systems. Think about it, you can find just about any ethnic food in the world in our country, except the food people ate before the Europeans arrived, before there was wheat, sugar, beef, pork? Sean’s food is hyper-local, seasonal, gluten-free, dairy free, very simple and utterly delicious.

Thanks for stopping by, Beth!

To enter to win your very own copy of Beth’s book:

  1. Leave a comment sharing what you like to make with winter foods.
  2. Contest runs from December 12th – December 19th. The winner will be notified December 20th. Thanks!
  • Kelly

    Thank you! I lived in MN 10 years – this would be an interesting view…. In the winter I tend to make soups and casseroles….

  • Christy Spurlock

    I love making vegetable soups during the winter months. Just so comforting.

  • ikkinlala

    Well, soup is the obvious answer and I do love making those. I also love making roast dinners – I start the meat and add the veggies as I go so they all hit the right cooking time.

  • Annette

    I like to make pumpkin curry soup.

  • Judith

    i love making chili

  • Anna

    A hearty stew!

  • mbhunt

    Oh I just LOVE a good Beef Stew!

  • Annette

    I love to make a mixture of roasted veggies and I love to make curried pumpkin soup with crawfish during winter.