i've never really liked licorice, and i can now just barely tolerate anise. but i love fennel, and wild fennel is one of my favorite things to cook with. i love going down to the train tracks and collecting it, i love that it grows everywhere, along route 37 on my way to the farm, and on the way to pt. reyes. there's a big fennel plant on the sidewalk outside our apartment building, and my landlord is obsessed with weed-whacking it. i always try to stop him, but it's not necessary. the fennel is a weed, and it grows back quickly, even stronger than before, each and every time.
i love the idea of making something from nothing. chris calls his style "cooking from weeds." one of his favorite cookbooks is patience gray's honey from a weed. it's such a sweet book, and it makes me feel like there were simpler times, once. i also love elizabeth romer's the tuscan year. i love december and january, when she talks about the norcino coming to town, and the pig slaughter.
someone sent us this book and flipping through it haphazardly several weeks ago, i saw the entry by edna lewis about her family pig slaughter each winter. as i was reading the story aloud to chris, i kept stopping to ask him if he thought it was as crazy as i did. each step of the pig slaughter from the time of year to the wandering butcher and the rendering of the lard and blowing up the bladder for the kids to play with was exactly the same as every account i'd ever heard of italian pig slaughtering traditions. it was amazing to realize that these poor southern blacks had come to have the same ways of doing this stuff as the poor rural italians. it's not such a huge mental leap, looking back at it now, but the thing is, as focused as i am on the culinary traditions of all of these other cultures, it never really occurred to me that there are true local american culinary traditions. does that make me sound dumb?