Posts Tagged ‘food’

Is the local growing season changing?

Chart of frost dates in various NY locations. Photo: Lucy Martin

Chart of frost dates in various NY locations. Photo: Lucy Martin

Like many All In readers, I like to garden and I’m fond of books.

One of the more useful books I collected shortly after moving to this region was something called “Taylor’s Encyclopedia of Gardening.” This was the 1948 edition, by Norman Taylor (1883-1967). Checking on line I discovered it’s still being produced, with a different editor, naturally.

It’s a great book, just stuffed with useful information, including small maps and charts showing the average frost-free growing season by state or province.

After 14 years of puttering around in this growing climate, here’s what I’ve noticed: it seems like every year’s been different. Cold and rainy. Hot and dry. Late spring, early spring. Once or twice it felt like we got just the right amount of sun and rain. But who can guess what to expect? Old timers, you tell me: is so much variability normal around here?

It also feels like the growing season has been getting longer. September is often a full growing month. Oh, there may be a light frost that can be dodged with sheets and blankets. But I’ve come to expect no killing frost until early Oct. Sometimes mid-October. One time it didn’t come until late October!

Here’s an article from USA Today about crops “moving” north, thanks to warmer/longer growing seasons. And something closer to home about growing-season shifts near Rochester, NY. The USDA updated their benchmark plant hardiness zone map in 2012. This New York Times article cites at least one researcher who thinks it is already outdated.

Map of typical growing seasons for Vermont, circa 1948 from Taylor's Encyclopedia of Gardening. Photo: Lucy Martin

Map of typical growing seasons for Vermont, circa 1948 from Taylor’s Encyclopedia of Gardening. Photo: Lucy Martin

It’s hard to complain about gaining September as a bonus round of growing and eating. But “they say” winters are getting shorter and/or warmer, with less snow than was previously considered normal. It turns out I quite like winter. The possibility of losing that season’s many pleasures is worrisome.

Old, but useful. The 1948 edition. Photo: Lucy Martin

Old, but useful. The 1948 edition. Photo: Lucy Martin

Do you have a favorite reference for gardening Qs?

By now I have about 5 linear feet of books about gardening in this part of the world. For modern tips and inspiration I admire some of the books by Elliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch. I still turn to my trusty Taylor’s, of course! In these modern times there’s also tons of stuff on line, including Cornell University Cooperative Extension.

There’s no profound point here. It’s just been another lovely, gorgeous week of warm fall weather. It made me want to ask long-time area residents about any changes in the growing season they may have noticed, good or bad.


Oct 24 postscript: A light frost returned to my back-yard garden Oct 23, followed by a hard frost the next day. We had annuals in steady bloom and could harvest green pole beans right up until those dates.

Plums! Pie!

I’ve just moved back to the North Country from Burlington, Vermont. It’s meant some big changes. For one, I now work in a real office, not at my kitchen table. It means getting dressed in more than just sweat pants in the morning, and actually seeing my colleagues every day.

And I’m also making the transition to rural living. Before, we lived in a densely packed Winooski neighborhood. You could hear the neighbors’ dogs — and, let’s be honest, the neighbors–plus the dull roar of planes flying in and out of the Burlington International Airport. Now, I live Winthrop (or maybe West Stockholm, I’m not totally sure which), and hear a different sort of cacophony:  birds, crickets and frogs, the brook pattering by, punctuated by an occasional car.

photo001The joy of both of those transitions was made evident to me last night and this morning. My partner Joe and I discovered a plum tree in the yard, and spent the evening harvesting these:

And this morning, my colleague Tasha Haverty emailed the office with an offer we couldn’t resist. The subject line: peach raspberry pie. Cue a mass migration of NCPR staff  to the kitchen. As you can see, we made short work of it!

It’s good to be back in the North Country. And if you have any good plum recipes, share them below!

My 100-foot diet

Pesto, roasted vegetables, cucumbers with dill.

Pesto, roasted vegetables, cucumbers with dill.

Here’s what’s going on with us these days. Work, weeding, some swimming, and lots of great eating.

I don’t have a mega-garden. Really, the only things I put up in any quantity for winter are tomatoes (slow-roasted, canned, frozen, plus chili sauce and tomato conserve), garlic, and easy-keeping winter squash. Otherwise, we eat it up as the summer winds down into fall.

This summer is a little thin, to tell the truth. NO eggplant, no peppers. Tomatoes still green, which is very worrisome given my heavy reliance on them all winter and the fact that they take up about a third of my space. I used space that would be zucchini now for the eggplant, so that corner’s a total bust.

All gone!

All gone!

The peas were great, but now gone. I actually forgot to plant carrots, but have parsnips and beets doing nicely. Garlic and onions all fine. We’re still eating romaine lettuce and volunteer arugula, as well as a mesclun mix that features some tough-looking and tough-tasting leaves.  There’s always lamb’s quarters if we’re short on salad greens.  Delicata squash is coming, despite skirmishes with squash bugs. I planted beans late so they wouldn’t be coming in till after vacation in mid-August. I think they’ll be ready when we get back.

And we have great herbs.

Herbs bring me to our fall-back meal: Roasted vegetables, salad and pesto. My definition of pesto is very loose. Last night’s was a small nub of pecorino-romano cheese, some fresh garlic, olive oil and two big handfuls of parsley and basil, with highlights of green coriander seeds (AKA gone-to-seed cilantro) and mint. I skip the nuts entirely. Serve with beets and parsnips (they need thinning), roasted with an onion and some more of the garlic… bon appetit!

I wish we could produce our own olive oil…now THAT would be great.


What do coffee chains say about culture?

I never learned to like coffee, so I can’t weigh in on the java side of this pop-culture question. But I have been very grateful for access to washrooms on long road trips. Or for the use of free wi-fi when away from home. So, I have my own favorite stops and have purchased a pastry or two as thanks for those other features.

Tim Hortons. According to the photographer, "The one thing that unites Canadians of all backgrounds, languages and ethnicities..." Photo: Doug, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Tim Hortons. According to the photographer, “The one thing that unites Canadians of all backgrounds, languages and ethnicities…” Photo: Doug, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Here in Canada, it’s all about Tim’s. Named for a real hockey player, Tim Hortons has become part and parcel of modern Canadian culture. (Dear grammar police: I don’t know what to do about possessive apostrophes in this post. A person’s name would need those, but the corporation seems to eschew them. We’ll just muddle through, shall we?)

Tim’s has a back story of a merger with the Wendy’s restaurant chain that’s too complicated for the purposes of this post. But I recall a flurry of speculative excitement here when Tim’s had a public offering of shares in 2006, alongside of efforts to venture into the large and tempting U.S. market. The thinking ran: hey, better get in now! If America takes to Timmy’s the way Canadians have, here’s a chance to get rich! (Like buying shares of Coke or Microsoft before they hit big.)

Well, thus far that doesn’t seem to be going very well. As recently reported by Lauren S. Murphy in Bloomberg news: ” Tim Hortons is a flop in the US“.

Why? Don’t American like coffee and doughnuts? (Silly question, of course they do!) But that market was already very well-served and continues to be fully saturated.  The expansion of Tims served no pressing need abroad. (With the possible exception of a rapturous reception for the Tim Hortons that operated in Kandahar, Afghanistan from 2006-2011.) Tim Hortons may have to just steadily chug along in its birthplace, without the explosive growth or expanding profits once dreamed of.

Coffeehouse culture has seen a modern revival in places like Seattle, or the surge or Starbuck’s. But it’s quite old, even if Europe was a johnny-come-lately to the habit. As discussed by Fordham University and the Internet Modern History Sourcebook, this page addresses The First English Coffee-Houses, c. 1670-1675:

As you have a hodge-podge of drinks, such too is your company, for each man seems a leveler, and ranks and files himself as he lists, without regard to degrees or order; so that often you may see a silly fop and a worshipful justice, a griping rook and a grave citizen, a worthy lawyer and an errant pickpocket, a reverend non-conformist and a canting mountebank, all blended together to compose a medley of impertinence.

Indeed, the effects of coffee and the atmosphere it fosters are much loved:

Lastly, for diversion. It is older than Aristotle, and will be true, when Hobbes is forgot, that man is a sociable creature, and delights in company. Now, whither shall a person, wearied with hard study, or the laborious turmoils of a tedious day, repair to refresh himself? Or where can young gentlemen, or shop-keepers, more innocently and advantageously spend an hour or two in the evening, than at a coffee-house? Where they shall be sure to meet company, and, by the custom of the house, not such as at other places, stingy and reserved to themselves, but free and communicative; where every man may modestly begin his story, and propose to, or answer another, as he thinks fit.

I like that phrase “…man is a sociable creature, and delights in company.” Where is that taking place in your life?

Do you still find good conversation and a lively mix of class and political discourse at coffee shops? Or is it now more about dispensing a mild but legal drug in an efficient manner, with heads glued to smart phones and heads stuffed with earpods?

I suppose NCPR functions as a local dispenser of NPR brand coffee: a big, local community that talks – and listens. Just not in the same room at the same time!

Eating your supper cold

I'm guessing this particular flat bread is from an Eastern or Southern European tradition. Photo: Mirona Liescu, via Creative Commons, some restrictions.

I’m guessing this particular flat bread is from an Eastern or Southern European tradition. Photo: Mirona Liescu, via Creative Commons, some restrictions.

In the middle of the winter, hot food seems essential–oatmeal rather than Cheerios, soup over salad, and great hunks of coarse-grained bread straight from the oven.

But this is summer. It’s hot. And, this summer, humid.

Reading Lucy’s wonderful post about sourdough bread, I wondered if Lucy has ever tried breaking off small pieces, rolling them out, and simply pan-frying the dough. This is what I do during much of the hottest summer weather. Every culture has some kind of simple fried bread tradition–including, as Lucy points out in her article, the tortilla, and her mother’s pan-baked English muffins.

We’re a bread-on-the-dinner-table kind of family. But baking in this heat (while I await the installation of the range on our screened porch to create a summer kitchen) is unpleasant. So, I mix up some bread dough–white, mixed grain, rye–any type works. If it’s a recipe for four loaves, I divide it into four pieces and freeze each in a separate plastic bag.

About a half hour before cooking, I remove a bag from the freezer and then break off small pieces, rolling each into a thin circle (or whatever shape forms under the rolling pin), and fry in a hot, ungreased cast-iron skillet for a few minutes on each side. (You can use a bit of oil in the pan if you prefer, but I generally fry the dough dry.) If you don’t use all of the dough, it will store in the fridge for 10 days easily–and you don’t have to go through the semi-thawing process.

I like to think that I’m doing what early settlers did when they made Johnny cake from cornmeal–if there was no oven or it was too hot to get a wood-fueled cookstove oven up to temperature, fried bread was a solution. And it tastes really good.

Of course this kind of bread usually accompanies a cold supper of assorted salads, or simply cheese and sliced fresh vegetables.

What’s on your summer table?

Dinner in Mombasa

Street food vendors, Mombasa. Photo: Conant Neville

Food vendors, Mombasa. Photo: Conant Neville

Those who read my post last week already know that I spent last semester living and learning on a St. Lawrence semester abroad program in Kenya. Others might like a bit of context; please bear with me for a minute.

I spent almost five months traveling and studying abroad earlier this year. During this time, I studied Kenyan culture, politics, conservation, history and language. This was a formative time for me–I grew as a student and an individual, constantly adding skills and stories to my repertoire.

Food is love, right?

Digging in, at a restaurant outside Nairobi. Photo: Haley Burrowes

Digging in, at a restaurant outside Nairobi. Photo: Haley Burrowes

Maybe I don’t agree with that mantra entirely, but I do love food. I love American food, French food, Italian food, Chinese food, Mexican food, Indian food, and more. Now, I love Kenyan food, too. After you finish reading this post, I trust you’ll understand why.

You learn a lot about a culture through its food. Local foods and the recipes used to prepare them tell stories history sometimes can’t. In our modern global culture where language, religion, art, and folklore are dying, lost, or forgotten, food lives. Food is one of the most pure and enduring aspects of culture, thriving from generation to generation.




While you may no longer have your grandmother’s fur boas or cigarette box lying around, I bet you have one or two of her recipes etched into your memory or folded into a coveted heirloom cookbook. Maybe you’ve even inherited the crock-pot or cast iron cookware she used for some of your favorite dishes back when you were a kid. Food and cooking are nostalgic and comforting. Food brings us back. Food keeps us going. Food lives.

Kenyan cuisine, especially on the coast, is very diverse. There, the food is inspired by centuries of tradition combined with a rich history of trade with Europeans and sailors from the Orient and the Arabian Peninsula. Kenyan food is as diverse as the people who serve it, a population that ranges from members of the 42 indigenous tribes to transplanted British and Italian expats. Centuries of trade with Asia have created a unique coastal culture that is evidenced well in the foods of the coastal Swahili people.

Bags of spices in Mombasa market. Photo: Conant Neville

Bags of spices in Mombasa market. Photo: Conant Neville

During my travels I spent a month living and learning in the heart of Old Town Mombasa, a city that is the economic center for millions of coastal residents and is among Kenya’s largest and oldest hubs. Predominantly Muslim and the home of the Swahili people, the old town has a culture and a food unique to the coast. There, seafood and spices meet in open-air markets and food is plentiful. I enjoyed a lot of Swahili food during my time in Mombasa and even learned to cook one or two dishes from a local Swahili mama (that’s the endearing term assigned to Swahili ladies).



In my "kitchen." Photo:

In my “kitchen.” Photo:


Kenyan kitchens are much different from American kitchens. They can be set up in the street, in the hallway, in the stairwell, or even on the rooftop. They are simple, low maintenance, and full of excitement. Cooking over a wood-fired cooker produces a lot of heat, an aspect of cooking I had to get used to, considering I was already sweating while learning to peel potatoes with a machete in the heat of the afternoon sun. Sometimes in Mombasa, even in the shade it feels like it’s 100 degrees.

I had a blast combining foreign ingredients with spices I had only ever wondered about when I played with my mother’s spice rack as a child: Yellow rice, long brown rice, red rice, Indian saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and more. I was overwhelmed. Sometimes all I could do was take a step back from the busy kitchen and just watch, something I was quickly scolded by my mentor Mama Judy, who would laugh at me standing in the middle of the busy kitchen with my eyes large and my hands in my pockets.


Rice, fish, vegetables, prepared by the author.


My experience learning to cook was also culturally enriching. I had to do everything from gathering ingredients from the open-air market to building a fire for the coals I needed to cook over (thanks to countless camping trips with Boy Scouts, that was the only task I impressed them with).

Along the way I met several characters, including the Indian spice trader who had a friendly laugh at my expense when he asked me to identify spices. There was also the Omani butcher down the road who showed me how to butcher my chicken. And when I joked about not being able to make the same cuts with my dull knives, he told me to bring the knives to him and said he would sharpen them for me. That’s the way people are on the coast.


Combining spices and fresh seafood with ripe produce from upcountry, coastal cuisine is a food-o-phile’s dream. If only I had a couple more weeks to master some of the techniques. Anyways, now almost five weeks have passed since I returned to America, and I’m still struggling to recreate the meals I enjoyed over there. As a gift from my host family when I left I received a giant bag of cooking spices. Although I’m trying desperately to remember how they combine in dishes like spicy pilau rice dishes and curried chicken biryani, it’s simply not the same.

I’ll keep trying though, if only to bring back the memories of an amazing people and a new-found cuisine.

Through your own travels, is there a cuisine you came to love–and attempt to recreate in your own kitchen? Please share, including specific favorite foods from other countries.








Listening Post: Concerning pie

The other evening I discovered our house to be in a dessert-free state. While poking around in the fridge I discovered a couple of frozen pie shells, bought with some thought toward making a quick quiche, or a pot pie from leftovers. And on a shelf underneath the freezer was a bag of apples from the fall crop. So I discovered that one can peel, core and slice 10 apples in front of the TV during a single NCIS re-run, and end up with hot apple pie well before bedtime. Bliss. And doing the math–two people, eight slices–problem solved for the next three days, too.

That's what I'm talkin' about!

That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Apple pie just never gets old. While I was waxing rhapsodic over this modest culinary accomplishment at work, Ellen Rocco asked, “What is it with guys and pies?” While I have been known to opine that “even so-so pie is better than no pie,” I had never considered it as a gender thing before. Maybe it’s not–Ellen did grow up within a pie-challenged food culture. But it could actually be a guy thing, and being a guy myself, I naturally lack insight into what guy things are.

In my case, pie gives me a feeling of being taken care of–if it’s served to me by someone else, or a feeling of taking care of myself–if I participate in the making. I grew up in a two-parent, two-outside-job home. Dinner was whatever could be whomped up between 5:30 and 6:30, before us kids began to chew on each other. So homemade pie was an infrequent weekend and holiday treat. Diner pie was another option–one I never passed up when I had a chance–but that’s a whole different conversation.

I consulted my wife, Terry, our household’s resident expert on which things are guy things, but she was no help in this. She shares most of my pie opinions with a few exceptions. Apple is best for me–everything else is distant second. She thinks pumpkin pie pushes the pie button just as well as apple. But cream and custard pies lag far behind for both of us; they lack the substance and gravitas to produce that true pie repletion experience. I know I have had pie when I emit something between a groan and a sigh when I put down the fork. If it’s possible to eat a second piece, the first piece didn’t do a proper job.

It being the season for both rhubarb and strawberries, take a look at this NPR Kitchen Window recipe for strawberry-rhubarb hand pies. Single serving pies–what could be a more welcome addition to the lunch pail? An apple version, maybe.

Feel free to wax rhapsodic on a memorable experience with pie (or other allegedly guy things) in a comment below.

¡Me encanta poutine! Pero ¿qué es tourtière?

Image from Ag Canada info bulletin on the”Canada Brand” program

Food is hot. And effective marketing can make or break whole industries. But not every effort in that direction pans out.

At least, that’s the view on one such promotional pitch, as reported by the National Post: “Ottawa sets up taxpayer-funded food truck in Mexico to promote Canadian cuisine (whatever that means)

Canada has wonderful produce – and enjoys good food – but does Canada have a defined cuisine? As the Post article reports, some think this approach is wrong-headed:

David McMillan, co-owner of renowned Montreal restaurant Joe Beef, is tired of the trying.

“This whole ‘Canadian music, Canadian art, Canadian wine’ [thing] has to stop. It’s just ridiculous. All the time, it’s like everyone’s financed by insecurity and the CBC. It’s true, it’s a joke. We have to stop thinking that way.”

As the Post recounts – apart from very, very specific regional products – McMillan is among those who think food is bigger than borders. Marketers may need to think in terms of “shared identity” like “Pacific Northwest Cuisine”.  

Another expert in the Post story also took a dim view:

John Higgins, director of Toronto’s George Brown Chef School, feels attempts like the Canadian government’s in Mexico City – the Agriculture Canada initiative is costing $50,000 – are well intentioned but a little bit lacking on execution, not exactly showcasing what Canadian food really is.

“It’s embarrassing,” he said. ”The thing is, we’ve got a wonderful country and all we can do is French fries?”

According to this CBC article this is a three-week pilot project running from April 10- 28. It (or something similar) could return, depending on the response. The truck is “operated by Mexican chef José Carlos Redon with the help of celebrity chef Jorge Valencia”. CBC host Robyn Bresnahan  interviewed Valencia for “Ottawa Morning” earlier this month, that archived audio can be heard here

A promotional announcement describing this aspect of “Canada Brand’ outreach by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada was issued on April 2nd. Here’s the menu it described:

The food truck will offer an appetizer, main dish, dessert and drink.

The special Canadian menu has a tasty array of Canadian agricultural products. It starts with a choice of either poutine a la Mexicana or a hardy lentil salad. The poutine features crisp Canadian French fries with melted Oaxaqueño cheese from Mexico–a fusion of two classic ingredients from two countries into one dish. The lentil salad will be crisp and fresh, perfect for a hot afternoon.

Jokes aside, it is an interesting topic. Farmers, grocers, restauranteurs, cooks and householders all want to know what’s good and what new thing (or old classic) they might want to try. 

And hey! If Mexico sends a food truck to Ottawa pitching Mexican food, I’ll be first in line.

Does Canadian cuisine mean anything to you? What would have to happen to enhance that perception?

Getting into the garlic groove

Another way to grow garlic: bulbils from the umbel, or “flower” head. Photo: Lucy Martin

I’ve been a happy garlic gardener for maybe 10 years now. I’ve found it to be among the easiest, most reliable things one can plant. Prep a bed, stick cloves in around October (more or less), keep the weeds down come spring, harvest and enjoy!

We eat green garlic in April and May, and cook with the scapes once they emerge. Lately I’ve been letting some scapes develop into bulbils for another method of propagation. (As pictured above, homegrown from red garlic.)

So far my garlic has only been prone to one pest. Worst case scenario, about 1/3rd of my crop is marred by the hard-to-see insect critters, as evidenced by tunnels in the leaves and scapes. I don’t use pesticides, so I just rotate where I plant and live with some loss.

My garlic pest: onion thrip? Leek moth? Looks ugly. But I still get a crop. (photo by L. Martin)

I usually manage to grow enough to replant and supply household demand until next spring. And give some away. (But that can get tricky because that demand always outstrips supply!) Fresh, tasty, organic, economical and good for you. Go garlic!

Back in May of 2011 we moved from the wee village of Kars to the bustling metropolis of near-by North Gower. Thanks to physically leaving my old garden behind, I had to skip a crop and replant. Given the excuse to branch out, I ordered a number of fun varieties from a Canadian source called Boundary Garlic Farm. They’re out in British Columbia, but in a zone that’s even colder than Ottawa, so I though ordering from them would be safe.

The imports did well enough. Last year was terribly dry and we only had enough well water for the main garden. Outliers fared less well in the baked-to-dust earth. Amazingly, everything survived, although the driest plots were pitifully withered.

Drought made 2012 tough on gardens. Thankfully, enough home-grown garlic came through to re-plant in October. (photo by L. Martin)

Most sources will not ship garlic across the border (soil borne diseases being one concern) so don’t even try. But I call the B.C. farm to American attention anyway because their website is excellent. It shares lots of info on different varieties, on growing cloves the conventional way and on starting garlic with bulbils, including a lovely photo gallery.

Bulbils are what form on scape head (pod?) if left to fully develop. Ted Maczka (“the Fish Lake garlic man”) gave a talk on propagating bulbils at the Perth Garlic Festival back in 2011. The second photo show bulbils he’s sized up once.

Ted “Fish Lake Garlic Man” Maczka explained bulbil propagation at the Perth Garlic Festival in 2011. (photo by L. Matin)

Maczka’s demonstration display of bulbils at what I call “the pearl onion size stage” – plant these out one more time to reach full size. (photo by L. Martin)

I think the first-time-grown bulbils look like pearl onions. Just like regular garlic, these will go dormant. Harvest and plant them one more time and they’ll turn into full-size bulbs.

Yes, this takes longer. But this method provides for a fabulous multiplier effect. (I’ll know more about how this works next year. I am only half-way through my first try at doing this.) By starting with bulbil propagation growers can also avoid spreading soil-borne diseases.

I’m thinking about garlic right now because of a library book I’ve been reading this week: “The Complete Book of Garlic: A Guide for Gardeners, Growers and Serious Cooks” by another Ted, Ted Jordan Meredith (Timber Press, 2008). Meredith has a good blog on garlic too.

By the way, the term “seed garlic” is a bit misleading. Like seed potatoes, it refers to propagation material grown for that purpose, not actual seeds. It is possible to produce true garlic seeds, but it takes special effort and is seldom done. (Read more about true garlic seed at Meredith’s blog.)

Alas, I’m not the sort of gardener who knows the Latin names, or remembers all the technical stuff. But this book has all that and more.

Garlic is a good crop for this part of the world. If you’ve been thinking about it, but are put off by trying something unknown, I say take the leap. Here’s more from Cornell’s vegetable growing guide on garlic.

Looking around to see if there was anything related to garlic happening in Northern New York in March, I stumbled on something called 2013 Capital District Garlic School, happening in Geneva, N.Y. on March 19th, sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension. It seems geared for growers more than gardeners, but I’m sure they’d be happy to see any interested party. (Small fee, pre-registration deadline is Mon. March 18.) 

One of my old neighbors in Kars lost an entire crop to rot in a wet year. So aim for good drainage, or use raised beds.

On the other hand, a small farm that grows market vegetables on the outskirts of North Gower, was totally under water – for days! – in last year’s spring thaw. I was sure they would lose all their garlic, yet it came through alright. Go figure!

I’ve been throwing lots extra details into this post – but you can always keep it super simple.

Bottom line: garlic is worth trying!


Putting food back on the shelves

This is how we build community: one gift, one person at a time. Whether it’s helping your public radio station or restocking local food pantries, we do it person by person, $10 in the hat or a few cans of corn or beans on the shelf. It adds up. The little bit we each do makes a difference if we each do a little bit.

Last month, we helped spread the word about a Saranac Lake benefit to assist area food pantries. Now, the effort moves to St. Lawrence County with a series of three concerts slated for March, and the first concert is tonight.

You may have heard Rick Bates (aka Tas Cru), a well-known north country bluesman, and Mary Ann Casale perform this morning on NCPR to promote this evening’s concert. Rick and Mary Ann, along with other musical friends and special guests, will kick off the three concert series with the 7 pm show tonight at Robin McClellan’s home just outside of Sanfordville.

I’ve reprinted the “RE-STOCK” poster below, along with quick directions to Robin’s home.

Rick (aka Tas Cru) Bates, holding the famous voodoo box (built by local luthier Tracy Cox), and Mary Ann Casales, lifelong singer and musician.


 “RE-stock” Concert Series to benefit St. Lawrence County Food Pantries. Featuring music by Rick Bates (aka Tas Cru) & Mary Ann Casale along with special guests.

Rick Bates is a blues artist and songwriter, whose latest album, Tired of Bluesmen Cryin’ has made its way on to the international/national roots music charts. Recent appearances include BB King’s and the Rum Boogie Cafe in Memphis. Mary Ann Casale is a singer/songwriter with a strong influence from her roots in the New York City folk scene in the mid-seventies. She started playing the coffeehouse circuit in New York State and Colorado as a solo performer and a vocalist in a number of bands. Their unique blend of folk/blues Americana was born out of their shared experiences as young musicians when they met in Potsdam nearly 30 years ago. They have been waiting these 30 years to perform together again!

All concerts begin at 7pm

Admission is a $10 donation or non-perishable food items.

Concert Dates:

Friday 3/8 Robin McClellan House Concert – 465 Old Market Road, Sandfordville, NY

Friday 4/5 Canton Unitarian Universalist Church

Friday 5/10 Massena Chamber of Commerce W. Orvis St

Sponsored and Supported by Robin McClellan, Canton Unitarian Universalist Church and the Massena Chamber of Commerce  – further info contact Phone 315.262.5989

To reach Robin’s house: from the south, headed north on Route 11B, go through Sandfordville and take a right immediately after you cross the bridge over the St. Regis River. You are now on Old Market Road. Take the third driveway on the right, stay straight, and then go past and around Robin’s house to park. Coming from the north on Route 11, go just over 3 miles past “Southville” sign, and turn left just before the bridge over the St. Regis River. This is Old Market Road. Robin’s is the third driveway.