Nyanyika Banda, For the News Tribune
My love affair with cheese began when I moved to Wisconsin as a teenager with my family. Before that, the only time I enjoyed cheese was when it was on pizza or placed between two pieces of bread that were buttered and then grilled. In fact, macaroni and cheese repulsed me, as did the idea of consuming anything called "blue cheese."
In the U.S., watermelon seems to be the quintessential fruit of the season. It wasn't until I spent a summer in San Francisco about six years ago and learned a variety of preparations of watermelon that I was able to view the fruit as more than the peasant food of the melon family. Growing up, I preferred cantaloupe to watermelon, thinking the latter had not that much flavor and a chalky mouthfeel. But it seemed to be everywhere during summertime. Deep sighs of dissatisfaction would escape me at camp when the presented snack was sliced watermelon.
My ability to comprehend beauty came once I experienced nature in its purest state. I moved to Ely in May 2008 to as a seasonal chef at a Moose Lake outfitter. My mornings started before dawn, and after serving breakfast, I'd make lunch for the staff, who were mostly college students from Minnesota or Utah. They held traditional midwestern palates, for which I had to watch spice levels and ensure I was well-stocked in ranch.
While growing vegetables and raising animals for food is a rewarding process, I find foraging to be more holistic. Consuming a meal composed of found foods gives me a feeling of connectedness to Mother Earth.
In preparation for the arrival of spring every year, I choose to observe the Baha'i 19-day fast. It is a welcomed time of reflection for me, a chance to be more intentional and conscious of all of the food I am eating.
"Soul food" is a term derived from the 1960s and the Black Power movement. It reflects the traditional foods — like collard greens, black-eyed peas and sweet potatoes — of southern African-Americans that have existed since the arrival of black people via the Transatlantic slave trade. Recently, I was exposed to the truth that Africans who were brought to the States via slavery brought food products and techniques for agricultural cultivation that are prevalent in American cuisine today.
Here we are, post-New Year's, with more than a few negative-degree days under our belts and I'm already struggling to keep up with the promises I made to myself to be a "healthier me." (I kept this resolution broad, so as not to be disappointed down the road.)
The feeling of tranquility and contentment is something I look forward to every year upon the arrival of seasonal citrus fruits. During this time, I feast on a lot of oranges. Kumquats, pomelos and blood oranges are the varieties that cannot be found all year round, and it is amid this period that the naval orange is at its most succulent. So in the frigid months, I find solace sinking into layers of thermals and consuming lots of tropical citrus. Not only are they satisfying to devour fresh, the skin and rind carry strong oils and aromas perfect for seasoning dishes and candying.
I took my first line cook job at an Asian Noodle restaurant in Amherst Massachusetts when I was 19. The menu featured noodle dishes from countries in Far East and Southeast Asia like India and Indonesia.
When I was asked to write about food and Halloween, the historian in me immediately went to origins. I realized I had no idea how or why we celebrate Halloween. So I went to the history books (or historical sites) and came to find out that the 2,000-year-old holiday has its roots in Scotland, but variations of Halloween are celebrated across the world. Rather than the tricks or treats or fancy costumes — which do have their place in the original celebration — what ties these various celebrations together is the founding principle of honoring the dead.