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In 1838, the land that would soon be officially recognized as Central Texas was ripe, fertile and largely untouched, and the first Swedish immigrant to arrive and make his way in the pioneering country—20-year-old Svante Magnus Swenson—did so just 10 days before the Battle of the Alamo. Swenson opened one of the first general stores on Congress Avenue in Austin, the capital of the newly founded Republic of Texas, but the entrepreneurial Swede didn’t stop there. He also established a small farm east of town that he called “Govalle” (Swedish for “good grazing land”). And he continued to grow his interest in the area by acquiring land in Travis and Williamson counties, as well as in North Texas. In addition, with the help of his uncle, Svante Palm, Swenson became instrumental in bringing thousands of other Swedes to Texas in what became known as the “Swedish Pipeline.”
The smell of onion, garlic and spices fills my noisy and chaotic school cafeteria during lunchtime. Today in my lunch, I have basmati rice and a lentil soup with vegetables called dhal. Whenever I bring Indian food to school, my friends are always fascinated. They constantly pepper me with questions such as: “What is that?” “Is it good?” “Can I try it?” or “Is it spicy?”
My family is from tropical south India, where there’s an abundance of root vegetables and very colorful, juicy fruits. At home, we eat a lot of whole grains, rice, dairy products, vegetables and especially dhal. Both of my parents, although engineers, are great cooks, each in their own way. A typical dinner might include curried dhal with collard greens, baby potatoes and basmati rice or fire-roasted eggplant cooked to perfection with a bell-pepper-tomato-onion sauce in a blend of cumin and coriander spices and a side of baby okra curry with roti (flatbread). They are always experimenting with recipes that incorporate Indian spices into international dishes. Being at the crossroads of culture right now in the U.S. feels very familiar to people like me, as India herself has been at the crossroads of culture ever since the Silk Route.
From day-to-day life, to celebrations and festivals, to just maintaining health, there’s always a large portion of time devoted to food and eating in my culture. When we visit our family and friends in India, we are always welcomed with hot chai and a variety of homemade snacks, which is heartwarming and proves that even everyday food can be soul food. And one of the most prominent festivals we celebrate is called Diwali (the festival of lights). During this time, people host immense parties, shoot fireworks, perform poojas (ceremonies that include guests of honor) and prepare lots and lots of food. And even on “normal” days (or especially when I’m sick), foods prepared with ingredients such as turmeric and ginger help create well-being and promote healing. (This method of natural healing where diet plays a major role in health is part of ayurvedic medicine, where ingredients such as herbs and tree bark are used to prevent and even cure diseases.)
Some of my friends feel that eating a vegetarian diet is only to stay healthy and maintain weight, but it probably means I’m missing out on some key flavors and foods. Even though I don’t eat meat, I believe that I still get all the different flavors and textures, and I never feel left out. When we go grocery shopping, for example, the entire cart is filled with different types of produce—including several greens—and it’s very colorful! My friends and I have very different cultures and we all eat differently, but their cultures surround me and I get to experience them through their food and our friendships. And they get to experience some of my culture through my food, too.
When I am old enough to cook and go to college and beyond, I hope to be able to continue my family’s food traditions, which not only bring satisfaction for the stomach but also for the soul, by providing nourishment, warmth and a sense of belonging.
By Shreya Ramanathan
Shreya Ramanathan is 13 years old and lives in Austin with her mom, dad and 10-year-old brother, Vedanth. When she grows up she aspires to be a doctor who has holistic knowledge to heal ailments. Among many other things, she loves food, especially potato-cheese tacos and her mom’s special jack fruit curry.
Gardening in the backyard one day, Debra Knox needed to get one of her 40 chickens out from underfoot, so she handed it to her mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law suffered from dementia and made little sense when she spoke, but something changed as she stroked the bird. “Her face lit up and she started talking about growing up on a farm—conversations we’d never had,” says Knox. “It gives me goosebumps thinking about it.”
The title of “chef” evokes images of someone orchestrating in a restaurant or hotel kitchen—creating masterful dishes that amaze and delight diners. But opportunities for chefs abound beyond the kitchen line, and local chefs are expanding their culinary horizons to explore new careers outside restaurant kitchens.
“Did you find copper or did copper find you?” I ask Jonathan Beall, founder of the Mexico-based artisan copper cooperative, Sertodo Copper. “Let’s say we stumbled into each other,” he replies. “I was spending time in Mexico living on the severance package I’d received after the bubble burst at a dot-com, and trying to figure out what to do next.”
These small, tasty crustaceans, sometimes called mudbugs, look like miniature lobsters. They are often boiled with a hefty pour of Cajun spices. If your Southern host dumps a pile of them in front of you, don’t fret. Shelling them is easier than you’d think.
Kevin Russell might just be one of the best frontmen in America today. We’re a little light on frontmen these days, too (2016 took Prince and David Bowie; 2017 took Chuck Berry and Tom Petty). I hear David Lee Roth gave up his paramedic job a few years back to beef with Eddie on the road, but I missed it. I do, however, cross paths with the inestimable Russell—known musically as Shinyribs—on occasion, and he always brings down the house. You get the feeling that bras are being unhooked as minds are being unhinged. Musically and artistically, that’s a really nice place to be.
When artistic inspiration strikes, some write, some paint, some perform. De J. Lozada makes popcorn. Nothing less than the muse of kernels struck Lozada when she dreamed up and perfected nearly all 14 of the unique varieties for her company, Soul Popped, in the course of a single week. They came to her in a series of flashes—flavors unlike anything else on the popcorn aisle: chicken ’n waffles, nana (banana) pudding, sweet potato soufflé, Auntie’s best pecan pie, red velvet cake, buttered corn off the cob and others.
While at Texas Tech in the late 1970s, Neal Newsom (Texas High Plains cotton farmer Doyle C. “Hoss” Newsom’s son) had the fortune to encounter chemistry professor Dr. Roy Mitchell. At that time, Dr. Mitchell’s combined personal and academic interest in wine was advancing the Texas wine and grape-growing industry, then in its infancy. Dr. Mitchell had a profound influence on young Neal and, ultimately, on the Newsom family legacy. “I’ve always been interested in alternative crops to cotton,” says Neal. “I’ve examined soybeans and several varieties of grasses, but Dr. Mitchell really gave me the bug to grow wine grapes.”
When we brought our four small children from “England’s Green and Pleasant Land” to Texas in 1975, we felt it imperative that they learned our long-standing British traditions and customs. It was sweltering mid-August when we arrived, but that is almost too late to begin the preparations for the traditional Christmas pudding, and indeed, the Christmas cake! But the pudding was tantamount. We hauled out a huge, deep bowl, and in it we combined currants, raisins, candied fruit peels, almonds, chopped apples, diced carrots, orange and lemon peels, beef suet, flour, beaten eggs, breadcrumbs, brown sugar and sloshes of brandy, then we all kneaded and beat the mixture with wooden spoons until it was blended. We draped a dampened kitchen towel over the bowl to refrigerate.
We’re always trying new local products. Take a look at what our staff is enjoying this month.
Binge-watching shows on Netflix normally yields only tired eyes and a stomach full of popcorn. But for Bananarchy’sLaura Anderson, an evening of too much television led to a unique business idea. “At some point in the middle of the night while watching Arrested Development, I thought it would be a great idea to open a frozen-banana stand in Austin—like the one on the show,” Anderson says. “It was just a joke between my friends and I at first, but I was really excited about it. All I could think about for the next few months was opening a stand.”
A great server can transform a remarkable meal into the dining experience of a lifetime—making you feel welcome and special with well-timed and light-handed expertise. Exhibiting equal parts grace, humility, heart and charm, they know what you need before you need it. These front-of-the-house stars are some of the unsung heroes of the restaurant world and are an integral part of turning first-time customers into regulars.
When Will and Ann Bates’ oldest granddaughter, Hallie Bates, was 9 years old and ready to enter the 4-H program in Poteet, Texas, she told her grandparents she wanted to raise animals—pigs, specifically. Will, a longtime agriculture teacher in Poteet, agreed to help her, but under one condition: she had to grow strawberries, too. “This is a strawberry place,” Will explained.
A couple of opinions about food that I stand by: Hot dogs over hamburgers, cakes beat out pies and pancakes don’t stand a chance against waffles. Yes, hot, crispy waffles straight out of the iron are the stuff of my weekend dreams; a tradition I like to observe when I’m craving a great start to a relaxing Sunday. And when that craving hits, I’m going straight for overnight yeasted waffles.
Texas summer is here! That means temperatures are soaring, swimming holes are packed, and we're thirsting for a refreshing drink. Luckily, it also means that some of our favorite fruits are in season: berries, stone fruits, melons, tomatoes and more! We've complied some of our most refreshing, thirst-quenching seasonal beverages that take advantage of the season's offerings. So grab a glass and enjoy!
SPECIAL ADVERTISING SPOTLIGHT
Moving can be stressful, and the last thing anyone wants to worry about while packing is the constant threat of cardboard boxes bursting open or getting crushed. Fortunately for us Austinites, there’s a local, affordable solution. Bronko Box offers an eco-friendly packing option in the form of reusable, stackable boxes made of 100-percent recycled commercial-strength plastic. These boxes are nearly indestructible and renting them costs half the price of buying cardboard. In fact, when we here at Edible Austin recently moved offices, we used Bronko Box to transport all the highly breakable kitchenwares for our photo shoots—and not one item was damaged. Owner Jackson Nicquette has brought moving into the modern age with the business’ intuitive website. You can choose from preset packages based on your moving needs or make a custom order. They’ll even take care of the drop-off and pick-up for free. And when you use Bronko Box, not only are you saving yourself some sanity; you’re also supporting a local business. If you have any questions about the boxes, you won’t have to deal with a big corporation; any questions will be answered, and any needs met by Jackson himself. “I’m in this business because I really believe in the product,” he explains. “This is a service that Austinites can truly embrace.” If you need help getting the boxes and your furniture to your new place, Bronko Box’s sister company, JACKson of All Trades, is a licensed, bonded and insured moving company that specializes in household and office moves and furniture assembly.
Visit bronkobox.com to get a quote today.
Plants can brighten up the interior of any home, but those who lack experience often avoid them. We’re here to say that the houseplant shouldn’t be feared! With some basic knowledge about light, watering and the right plants to buy, you’ll soon be on the way to growing your own urban indoor jungle.
Dessert is the highlight of any meal for many diners, and we put considerable effort and planning into the cakes, pies and ice creams we serve. But often overlooked are the celebratory wines to complement our sweet endings. Texas wineries offer a wide range of sweet-wine styles that pair perfectly with Grandma’s pecan pie or your favorite aunt’s secret fudge recipe.
To honor longtime East Austin friend, farmer and mentor Larry Butler, the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) has established the Larry Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund for Beginning Farmers. The FARFA board decided to establish the funds soon after Butler succumbed to liver cancer on June 28 at the beloved Boggy Creek Farm that he and his wife, Carol Ann Sayle, started in 1992.