Tom Thumb and Tradition…for you Mom

IMG_1627Happy New Year to all.. Personally, I am pleased 2014 has come to an end. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad, it just wasn’t all good either. So, to begin this new year of 2015, I have decided to take no chances! Paul and I plunged into the great Atlantic Ocean this afternoon with several hundred others at the great Penguin Plunge in Atlantic Beach. As I have learned being a Martha’s Vineyard Polar Bear, the cold water is quite restorative. So, we cleansed off the old and are ready for the new.

That accomplished, I returned home to prepare a traditional Southern New Year’s fare. However, this year, I am truly returning to my eastern North Carolina roots. Growing up, my Mom always cooked a Tom Thumb on New Years Day.  I decided to gift her with that this year. I can’t recall my friends ever eating Tom Thumb. If they did, they weren’t fessing up…just look at the beast! It proudly ladened our table every year.

Tom Thumb, for those of you not knowledgeable on  eastern NC food, is ground pork, laced with several spices and stuffed into the pig’s large intestine. It is wrapped with twine and hung to smoke or air dry. In southern Virginia ( I didn’t know this delicacy crossed state lines) it is called Dan Doodle. I’m assuming these funny names are a result of enticing folks to eat this monstrosity of a sausage.

In keeping with tradition, we are also enjoying sweet potatoes, collards and,of course, black eye peas. I did a new twist on the potatoes and black eye peas this year just to kick it up a notch. The finishing touch is fried corn bread. I am pleased to say everything on our table is produced on farms in eastern NC.

I know you are waiting with baited breath for the Tom Thumb recipe.  Here it is…boil it!  Yep, that’s it, just place it in a pot and boil till done.  I confess, after it’s boiled, I do slice it and pan fry it just like you would any sausage. I dare you to try it. You may start your own New Year tradition.IMG_1630

Here is a recipe I procured while visiting my hometown, Kinston, NC.  There was a cooking demonstration at the local farmers market and this was a recipe that was shared. I love the lemon and sherry flavor that permeates this dish. (for traditionalists, you may use Bourbon)

Lemony Mashed Sweet Potatoes

3 pounds medium sweet potatoes
2 Tbl. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup peach preserves
3 Tbl. dry sherry
1/2 stick butter, melted
finely grated zest  and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pierce the potatoes in several places and arrange them on the oven rack in a single layer. Place a sheet of foil on the rack below to catch the drippings. Roast until tender, about 40 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and mash until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients. Scrape the potato mixture into a prepared dish and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.   8 servings

You can make this dish up to one day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat them in the oven, covered, but increase the time to about 30 minutes.

Christmas Gift Extraordinare

Are you looking for that last minute Christmas gift and really want to give something unique and meaningful? A week on Martha’s Vineyard at a wonderful workshop would certainly please someone on your gift list. I, along with my friend Susan Klein are hosting The Savory Scribe workshop the last week of July. The workshop is a fusion of writing and cooking honoring the recipes and traditions that evoke memories and inspire stories.

It’s simple. You supply the recipe that is meaningful to you and we will prepare the dish. My background includes catering, restaurant ownership and variations in the cooking arena.  With Susan’s expertise as an award winning storyteller and author, memoirist, biographer,  and corporate coach, she will provide the guidance to let your creative juices flow.

The workshop is being held at The Noepe Center for Literary Arts on Martha’s Vineyard, a glorious whaling captain’s house located in the charming town of Edgartown.  Each room is beautifully appointed as are the common spaces. Noepe Center is within walking distance of the waterfront and downtown where you can enjoy shopping and award winning restaurants.

So, if Santa needs some more information, please call 508-693-4140 or look on our web page



Trash, Nuts and Bolts, and Fall Memories

I’m sure everyone has a favorite of this tried and true recipe.  The one below is mine and quite a few others, so I thought I would share.  This came to me via my Mom ( any recipe shared by her is always a winner !).

This evokes a plethora of memories for me. Fall, always Fall;  though this can obviously be prepared other times of the year, it is only prepared in the Fall in my household.  This recipe evokes memories of tailgating and tennis season and going back to college.  But mostly, it is the house full of kids that we had while my daughter was in high school. I loved having them come in and out and spending the night and spending the days, too, and laughing and crying and watching TV and experiencing all the trials and tribulations of those teenage years. I made batches of this stuff. It makes an enormous amount, and they went through enormous amounts. They always wanted a bag to take with them and when they grew up and went to college, they requested care packages of this mix.

So, my house is emptier these days, but I continue to make this for the office staff and my friends. Of course, when my kids come home this is a staple they are counting on, waiting for them, as I cherish the sound of young voices permeating my home again, till it’s time to fill those “to go” bags and send them out into the world.


1 Pkg. Ranch Party Dip Mix
1Pkg. Zesty Italian Dressing Mix
2 Tablespoons Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
2-4 Dashes Tobasco
1-2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
1 Cup Oil
2-3 Boxes Chex Cereal
2 Cups Pretzels
1 Pkg. Cheddar Goldfish
1 Can Mixed Nuts
1/2 lb. Pecans
1/2 lb. Cashews


Combine cereal, pretzels, Goldfish and nuts in large roasting pan. Mix together the first seven ingredients and toss  in the cereal mixture until all is coated. Bake 200 degrees for 2 to 3 hours. Stir occasionally.


Hometown Proud

Kinston_oAs I told you previously, I am from Kinston, NC. It was wonderful growing up in Kinston, which was, back then, a thriving vibrant town. Tobacco and textiles were the stable products that were the backbone of this eastern NC town. Sadly, when these slowly dissipated,  so did the town.

Kinston,  however,  is regaining its buoyancy,  all thanks to some smart entrepreneurs in our small town who have currently achieved national recognition. Mother Earth Brewery is making and distributing some mighty fine craft beer in downtown Kinston. The owners are big on sustainability and even did a green renovation to the crumbling old building which now houses the brewery.   Next time you are thirsty for a delicious craft beer, select one from this award winning brewery.  You will quench that thirst and be quite satisfied.

Our other claim to fame is the nationally accredited restaurant, The Chef and the Farmer. The food is truly farm to table. Chef Vivian Howard uses locally grown products and her culinary expertise to bring unusual, delectable dishes to your plate. Call ahead, way ahead,  for reservations. Chef Vivian is currently in her second season of “A Chef’s Life” aired on PBS stations throughout the country. The series recently won the coveted Peabody Award. I encourage all of my followers to tune in each week. Check your local PBS listings for days and times.

My last,  but not least,  hometown proud shout out,  is to my friend Francis Civils,  who published the cookbook “For The Love Of Food……and Family”. It is a compilation of her family’s recipes that she painstakingly collected and bound together to give to her family members. She is currently on her third printing!

Though the first two have achieved national recognition, the third is equally as important.  They all remind us of who we are and where we come from; our families,  our love for food, and the little eastern North Carolina town that nurtured All of This!

Blue Ribbon



Paul’s red wagon exhibit at the fair

He’s a winner…every year, every time. I’m talking about Paul Jackson, the best gardener I have ever met, who takes home the blue ribbon at the Ag Fair on Martha’s Vineyard for his fruits and vegetables. His garden is a feast for the eyes. I’m not alone in that thinking. My artist friend Joni, has painted his garden not once,  but twice with a third one on the way. It is that unique and inspiring.

It could be the scallop or mussel shells that circle his trees. This is his fertilizer. He goes and collects the shells wheel barrow load by wheel barrow load. The blue hue the shells cast off and the luscious fruit dangling from the limbs is a site to behold. The rows and rows, immaculate in their keeping,  of vegetables and flowers that produce for him, his touch, year after year are awe inspiring. You walk with him through his gardens and listen to this man talk about his craft. There is a unique method for cultivating most everything he produces. He is frank, no frills, just conversing about this land he loves. My favorite quote I heard from him this summer was, “I see those people playing Frisbee on the beach. When the day is done, what do they have to show for it?” When your days are done, Paul Jackson, you have an abundance to show.

Paul Jackson, is not just a blue ribbon recipient at the fair, he is a winner in life. He has found his passion, his work, his lot in life. He is comfortable in his skin. He is consumed with the land he so diligently works and treasures.  And this man works from sun up to sun down, no matter the temperature. Did I mention he’s in his eighties? Were we all to be this fortunate. I thank you Susan for sharing Mr. Jackson with me and I look forward to more visits to this treasured space of magnificence. There is no other like it!







Cucumbers… the North vs. the South

Growing up in the South, I knew it was summertime when a big bowl of cucumbers in vinegar appeared on our table. Simple, sliced cukes (I like the small pickling ones) white or apple cider vinegar, salt, lots of pepper and a sprinkling of sugar. Nothing else like it! When the tomatoes are ripe on the vine, slice those along with some Vidalia onions and throw them on in with the cucumbers. The best trifecta.

This summer, on Martha’s Vineyard, the Northern version of summertime cucumbers shattered my Southern heritage a bit. I was invited to an outdoors jazz concert at Featherstone Art Center.  My friend provided the snacks, and I brought the wine. We put up our beach chairs and I opened a bottle of Vinho Verde, a light, perfect for summer, Portuguese white wine with a hint of bubbly. I recommend Casal Garcia. The label says “young and refreshing”….after a few glasses I certainly feel that way!

IMG_1249     IMG_1395

Renee opened her bowl of cucumbers laden with dill. After the first bite my cucumber horizons were expanded! They were delicious. A little hummus with chips and some fresh fruit rounded out our picnic fare. Combined with the music and our beautiful surroundings, this was one of my most memorable evenings of the summer – it was really the cucumbers that made it so.

So you decide…the North or the South? Or maybe we can just call it a truce.

 Southern Cukes                                                               Northern Cukes

   3 or 4 pickling cucumbers                                              3 or 4 pickling cucumbers

 vinegar to cover sliced cucumbers                                Juice of 2 to 3 limes

s&p…lots of p                                                              s&p…lots of p

a pinch of sugar                                                              chopped fresh dill    

                                                                                          2 chopped green onions       

Slice and peel cucumbers and add remaining ingredients. I use kosher salt and  course ground pepper. I have also used English cucumbers. Much of this recipe is to taste, so it’s all about your culinary creativity! Remember, some of the simplest recipes are the best.