The Bread of Kings by Teresa Lust

Fake Pies and Pig Thighs by Rachel Komich

An Essay in Which Pam Greer Oozes Out of Her Clothes by Richard LeBlond

On Pierogi(s) by Mark Lewandowski

Vegetexting by Jennifer Bal

The Benefits of Eating Too Much in the Desert by E. M. Eastick

A Question of Taste by Meredith Escudier

The Beauty of Pizza by Austin Rogers

Marmalade: The Melomeli of Modern America by Michael Pennell

Three Elizabeths, One George, Hot Cross Buns, and Hampstead Heath by Paula Panich

Duck by Eileen Shields

Food for Thought by Kathryn Jenkins

Playing Mass by Catherine Scherer

My Big Fat Orthodox Thanksgiving by Ruth Carmel

The Astrophysics of a Sandwich by Raychelle Heath

Tantric Chicken by Mara A. Cohen Marks

Full by Kelly Ferguson

Monkey Eve by Carolyn Phillips

Capon by Natasha Sajé

The Paella Perplex by Jeannette Ferrary

The Right to Eat by JT Torres

This Isn't Supposed to Happen in the Morning by Heather Hartley

Recipe for Winter by Khristopher Flack

Step One by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Flour Fool Meets Great Poet and Pie Instructor by Amy Halloran

Everett by Jason Bell

The Intrigue of Aaron Barthel by Kristy Leissle

Personal Sugar Defense Kit by Sari M. Boren

Kitchen Tirade by Eric LeMay

Eat Dessert First by Iris Graville

Parsley by Natasha Sajé

American Zen Breakfast by Dick Allen

This May Make You [Sic] by Paul Graham

Prisoner's Thai Noodles by Byron Case

Lavender Fields by Susan Goodwin

Ménage à Fongo by Kathryn Miles

All That She Could Make with Flour by Katherine Jameison

Weasel by John Gutekanst

Into the Deep Freeze by Jason Anthony

Defining Gluten by Ann Lightcap Bruno

The Text(ure) of Pleasure by Tara Deal

On the Perils of Food-Buying in a Foreign Land by Tony Eprile

Lavender Fields

by Susan Goodwin

February 2013    

We first saw her as she leaned out from the second story window of her centuries-old, limestone-walled home, with a big, welcoming smile on her face, wreathed by her beautiful snow white hair. She spoke not a word of English so all communication was in Croatian through our guide, Ante. He explained who we were and what we were doing in her quiet village that morning.

This village was founded in the fourteenth century, and at one time was very prosperous with wine, olive oil, and honey production, and, most famously, lavender. The fields of lavender surrounded the village on the day of our hike. The air was filled with their rich aroma and the scent of wild herbs. It was one of our island stops and hikes during a ten-day sailing vacation along the Dalmatian coast in Croatia.

Our intrepid group of fourteen consisted of four Australians, nine Americans, and our Croatian guide. We were on the Island of Hvar hiking through the village of Velo Grablje on our way from one side of the island to the other.

The woman leaning from the window was very interested in us—the village's international guests. She wished to know if we would like to see her wine cellar. Of course we would! She came down to the street level and opened the doors to the cool dark first floor of her house revealing three huge stainless steel tanks for making wine. Each held about 50 gallons, alongside of equipment for bottling, and several racks of bottled wine. She grinned with pride and said her sons had moved with their families to the mainland to be nearer to the cities and jobs, but her family came back to the island to harvest grapes and make wine just as the family had been doing for generations.

She was one of only five people still living in the village. All the younger people had moved away. But yet, she stayed and maintained the family home and traditions that her sons would one day inherit. Pleased that we seemed to enjoy seeing her winery, she asked, would we like to see her home? Of course!

She led us around the building, through a small courtyard, made bright with sun shining on bougainvillea—a purple abundance that spilled over the stone walls. She apologized as she picked up bags of freshly picked produce lying by the door. Apparently we had interrupted her as she returned from her gardens. She apologized again as we crowded into her kitchen and parlor. She explained that yesterday was an important saint's feast day that’s treated as a national holiday in Croatia with friends and food. She hadn't had a chance to straighten up yet. The kitchen table was filled with dishes and cooking pots yet to be stored away for the next feast day.

We looked around her small homey apartment approvingly, and turned to go, but she insisted we must accept fortifications for the remainder of our hike. She pulled out enough shot glasses for all and poured us some of her homemade brandies: plum brandy, walnut liquor, and herbal brandy. Ante said this is common hospitality in Croatia, and making good homemade liquors is a source of family pride.

Relaxing in the warm glow of the brandy, losing our uptight hurry-up Americanness, we started asking questions: about the oil painting of the collie that hung over her kitchen sink, the portrait of a much beloved pet, now long gone. About her family. She told us that she had lost her husband just a couple of years ago, and she felt her time on this earth would not be much longer, a health problem of some kind, but she said this with the warmest smile, saying it was in God's hands. We asked how old she was, but she answered simply with another smile. Then she asked if we would like to see the village church. She was the caretaker and had the keys. Absolutely, we wanted to do that!

It was just a short walk from her house to the church. She apologized once again as we went inside through the narthex, sorry that the flowers were left over from the saint's feast day and not fresh. As if we were visiting dignitaries who had been expected on a scheduled visit for months. The church was charming. We thought about all the babies baptized at the baptismal font, all the weddings on those altar steps (including hers in 1956, when over 250 people inhabited the village), all the songs sung from that choir loft, all the memories in a church that is the center of a deeply religious village life and had been for centuries. And then we thought of all those pews for just five remaining residents, who attend mass whenever a visiting priest can stop by.

In Croatia, homes are built as money allows; there are no mortgages, and the home grows as a family grows. The home is intended to be a multigenerational abode. Even if no one in the family wishes to live in the family home, they would never dream of selling it. The village stands as testament to a different way of life, when community and fellowship were everything, and hard work resulted in prosperity and pride in the harvest. The realities of a consumer-driven modern world had made city jobs necessary for the needs of a modern family. And city life in the post-Yugoslavian republic of Croatia may mean living in a sterile, communist-built apartment building that Croatians consider an eyesore. How many Croatians must feel torn between the fellowship of village life and the new affluence of city life?

We basked in the hospitality and generosity our hostess provided. We resumed our hike feeling enriched by the experience and somehow deprived by realizing what lonely modern life has stripped away. She stood at the wall surrounding the church, the sun in her hair, and a warm, vibrant smile on her face, as she watched us go. She said she wanted to create a memory for us, her gift to us, and that she did, a good memory to take back when we returned to our lives. She was beautiful. What a gift!

In horrible contrast, just down the gravel road from Velo Grablje was a small enclave of maybe six or seven homes, all destroyed and standing vacant. In the "Croatian War of Independence" of the early 1990's, Serbian forces firebombed these homes and killed everyone there, presumably pro-Croatian revolutionaries. Were they her friends, or perhaps relatives? Ante told us this place was known by locals as the "valley of death." There are no descendants left to inherit these homes, and no one else will go near them. A further reminder of how precious life is in a place like Velo Grablje.

  Susan Goodwin keeps extensive and beautiful journals of all of her travels. The finished journals are in a basket by her fireplace that visitors sit and read. All of these pictures are from her trip to Croatia.