• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

  • Notable Quotables

    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "‘Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences."
    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
    "Oh, I couldn't take the last piece."
    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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  • Copyright © 2005-2016 Please do not use any of my words or my personal photographs without my express permission.

Kitchen science

The guru of kitchen science Harold McGee writes about what happens when When Science Sniffs Around the Kitchen in a new occasional column, The Curious Cook, starting in today’s New York Times:

It was 30 years ago in a university library that I first stumbled across the scientific approach to food in the pages of Cereal Chemistry, The Journal of Food Science and similar publications. As I browsed through a couple of issues I couldn’t help grinning at the incongruity of high scientific language and high-tech instrumentation being applied to utterly ordinary, everyday things. It was strangely exhilarating to see such intellectual firepower aimed at the kneading of bread dough or the grilling of a hamburger or the mitigation of the gassy effects of beans, to be confronted with startling scanning-electron-microscope close-ups of the bacteria in yogurt, the mold in blue cheese, the surface of cooked spaghetti….

This occasional column, the Curious Cook, will be a window on that big and busy world, on the endless intricacies of foods and the ingenuity of the people who make them and study them. The column is meant to share the buzz, to pass along news of interesting scientific research on food, cooking and eating. Because some of the larger issues are well covered elsewhere — nutrition, the influence of diet on long-term health, food production and the environment, genetically modified organisms — I’ll pay more attention to studies of particular foods, the kinds of subjects that originally drew me away from teaching literature and into the mysteries of emulsions and glutens and Maillard reactions.

Rose Levy Beranbaum has a blog

Go figure.

I’ve been a fan of Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s for years, and have used her Cake Bible as, well, my bible for about 15 years, but only this week I discovered her blog. And not only that, she answers readers’ questions, just about all of them from what I can see. So if you haven’t discovered it yet either, this is one of my gifts to you this holiday baking season, along with the advice that her other books, especially Rose’s Christmas Cookies and Bread Bible, are as much fun to read as they are to cook from, especially if you enjoy the “kitchen chemistry” approach, which is especially handy for homeschoolers…

(Christmas Cookies also makes a very nice present this time of year, especially if you tie a cookie cutter or two onto the bow, or add in some pretty sprinkles or sugars. And don’t forget to give it early enough so that the recipient can make use of it during the month of December!)

A new hunk to help in the kitchen

Last year at about this time my old Sunbeam Mixmaster (more plastic than chrome, unlike my late grandmother’s Sunbeam, and which after 40+ years is still going, though not quite as strong) gave up the ghost after 12 years. Which made the usual Christmas baking routine quite a bit different — some of the usual favorites I just abandoned, others I tried with the hand mixer or by hand.

Every so often, I’d open the Sears catalogue — out here in the boonies my shopping options are pretty limited, and Amazon.ca is a shadow of its American self — but couldn’t get past the sticker shock; $160 for the usual Sunbeam, and $200 for the slightly more chrome “Heritage” model, and about twice that for the KitchenAids I’d been eyeing; the KitchenAid Artisan, with its 5-quart bowl, seemed especially appealing because whenever we doubled our favorite cake or cookie recipes, the dough would come crawling out the top of even the larger Sunbeam bowl.

Last week I hauled out the new Sears Wishbook and started dithering again over my choices. Then my mother phoned and in our chatting I mentioned my dithering to her. A few hours later my mother phoned back to announce that she and my father would be sending us an early present of a new KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer. How’s that for generous, thoughtful, and absolutely wonderful?

Had a phone call yesterday morning from my friend at Sears to say the beast had arrived. Davy and I wrestled it into the back of the truck while the other two were at music lessons, and within an hour of arriving home I was making dinner and the kids were making cookie dough. I’m delighted to report that you can make a double recipe of cookie dough, with four-and-a-half cups of flour, without it coming out the top of the bowl. The power of the machine is a thing of wonder — I’ve never creamed butter so well or with such good results. And unlike my old mixer, the hunky KitchenAid doesn’t skitter gradually across the kitchen countertop; it’s heavy and sturdy and doesn’t go anywhere. It’s a breeze to clean, though the nifty plastic collar is great for keeping too much mess from starting in the first place. I’ve already started thinking about our next project, something challenging enough for the hunk, and I think it just might be West Indian fruit cake…

Recipes to be posted later as time allows.