Category Archives: Uncategorized

Shell Games


shell game

I knew I’d seen this exact shape before (the dark one on the left) – the distinct, lopsided bowl, the pronounced “beak” and the pastry-like layers of shell growth. I was shucking my way through a sack of Hog Island oysters, freshly harvested from Tomales Bay in Northern California, and hustling to get an order of 12 off the raw bar and out to some hungry customers. I set the provocative little bivalve aside on the ice, and forgot about it until clean up later that evening. Then the connection came clearly – this odd-shaped oyster looked just like one I had seen last summer (the grey one on the right), an oyster from a very different time and place…. a fossil from an outcropping of Mancos Shale in central Utah (photo below), preserved in stone from the mid-Cretaceous – around 100 million years ago!  Utah shell creek

The similarities between the two shells are stunning. What is even more stunning is the obvious question underlying the “sisters from a different mister” – why? Why are these shells so similar, given all that has changed on planet Earth in 100 million years? How many animals living today look unchanged from their ancestors of the Cretaceous? Not many. So what is it about oysters, and the design of oysters, that makes this possible? The answer may lie in the nature of the intertidal habitat that oysters call (and many other marine invertebrates) call home.

to be continued……

Chicken soup for Syria

My friend Kendra put up this great post about the new cookbook “Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate our Shared Humanity” – what a great story!

Kitchen Report

ChickenSoup Chicken soup from ‘Soup for Syria’ by Barbara Abdeni Massaad/Photo courtesy of Interlink Publishing

“Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate our Shared Humanity,” by Barbara Abdeni Massaad, is a cookbook with a humanitarian purpose: 100 percent of the profits goes to support Syrian refugees. Visit to see how you, too, can make a difference.

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Food Geography

Broadly stated, Food Geography is the study of where our food comes from – and why. It is a field that seeks to answer questions about patterns of production and consumption, the geographic origins of crop domestication, and even  spatial patterns of cuisine and cooking methods. Learning a bit about where our food comes from enriches and enlivens a meal, and connects us to larger global stories – peoples and cultures that might seem very distant but are actually quite connected.

Where Our Food Comes From – by Gary Paul Nabhan


Arizona-based geographer Gary Paul Nabhan retraces the seed collecting travels of Russian scientist Nikolay Vavilov, and reflects on the contemporary state of our global “centers of crop diversification”and their importance to global food security.

Review in progress…

Other useful sites relating to this book:

Gary Paul Nabhan’s website

Island Press promotional video for “Where our Food Comes From”

“The Origins of Agriculture and Crop Domestication” Proceedings of the Harlan Symposium, May 1997, Aleppo, Syria

Map Credits: “Vavilov-center” by Redwoodseed – en-wiki [1]. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Change of Perspective: Peppers too hot. Relish just right.

Gary's Worldview

pepper relish and plantWe love padron peppers. Blistered in some hot olive oil, and a few sea salt flakes – it’s one of our favorite summer appetizers. Thanks to the Galicians of NW Spain, these little peppers have found there way to Mediterranean climates around the world. The problem with padrons is this – leave them too long on the bush, and they get fiery hot. By this time in the autumn they are bright red AND hot. Too hot. What a waste to have a pepper bush covered with inedible peppers! At least the color is lovely. But then it occurred to me that you could eat them in other ways…. they didn’t have to be fried and salted. So I merged a few simple recipes for pepper jam, chutney, and relish and today we are eating hot red padrons in a whole new way. A little sweet, tart and spicy. But…

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