wmrubel wmrubel

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William Rubel  I am a writer living in Santa Cruz, California. My books are "The Magic of Fire" and "Bread, a global history."

This is a bouquet I have just picked from my Spring kitchen garden. The four petaled lavender flower in the upper left is radish. The white and purple racemes are from two kinds of fava beans. The yellows are brassicas like kale and collard.

In the 1600s, the English split open mature artichoke stalks and ate the pith raw or boiled and then dressed with Spring butter. I can report that pith is delicious. I taste the pith of the artichoke stalks as slightly smokey. My more discerning eleven-year-old daughter finds it slightly bitter giving way to a smokey sweetness. Her summation, “It’s really good.” #artichokes #organicgardening #kitchengardening #earlymodern

September 25, 2003. Veronica lived just off road 114 a few kilometers up from Kaltanėnai towards Labanoros. The collective farms had been destroyed a few years earlier so she was back to be being an independent subsistence farmer. Winter is in the air. The unprunned apple trees had produced their crop the apples gathered in. #lithuania #labanoros

What you see here is a watering hole for cows, goats, and sheep in a dry river bed near Lengusaka, Kenya. The photograph is from 2016. While I say that the watering hole is for cows, in fact, there are few cows left in the Samburu lowlands. Climate change and over grazing have taken their toll. At the same time, industrial affluence approaches A Chinese company as recently brought electricity to the area with a tarmac road on its way. I would read this image as a liminal state. The way of life that this watering hole represents is ending. The new life — urban rather than rural — a life connected to a power grid and municipal water (the ditch for the soon to be installed water pipe is about 300 meters from top of the ridge is impinging on the community. Already, it is no longer pitch black at night as electrified shops are already contributing their light to the night sky. #samburu #lengusaka #wamba #pastoralism

What you see here are two men operating a wood fired bread oven in Istanbul, 2015. The man in the foreground loads the oven, manages the fire, and supervises the baking. He standing below grade — in a pit. The man standing by the wall is standing at grade. He hands the emptied boards and shaken-out cloths that line the boards through an opening into an upstairs room where the bakers produce the dough and form the loaves. If you have seen photographs of industrial bakeries with their myriad of conveyor belts, then what you are seeing here is a man working in lieu of a belt.

Istanbul had changed profoundly between my previous visit in the early 1990s and a return visit in 2015. Older foodways, like wood fired bakery ovens, were much harder to find. This cart stacked with small caliper branches in front of a bakery whose oven was fired by wood reminds us of the chain of jobs associated with wood fired baking the are otherwise invisible. How far did this wood come from? Through how many hands did it pass until it found its way deep inside the megalopolis that is Istanbul? For those of you with wood fired oven take a lesson from this stack of wood. Cord wood is much less efficient to burn than branches or faggots. If you have a direct connection with your wood supplier you may be able to get small caliper branches for a good price.

Beet florets growing on the stalk of a beet from last year’s bolting. This plant is part of my experiment in Life Cycle vegetable gardening. What happens when you leave plants normally treated as annuals as if they were perennials.

Mushroom collecting Christmas Day. A delicious Suillus. One of my favorites.

Cinnamon Cookies from Malinda Russell, 1866, first African American cookbook author. Light, delicate, good flavor. Merry Christmas.

Boletes. Gualala, California, 2017.

This illustration of white wheat is from Gerard's Herbal. At the time, wheat with a lighter colored bran was used to make the finest white flour for the best breads and cakes. Today, bakers use white wheat to make whole wheat loaves that look white.

A young Samburu near Lengusaka, Kenya. Jane Levi and I visited his mother in the context of our work with the Samburu smoke cured fermented milk. #samburu #samburumilk

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