“It begins in the wild, in the tangled rainforests of Central America, where leopards roam and parrots screech. The world is wet, the air is thick and the ground is mud. My boots sink into the sucking, slurping bog, and all around it’s green. Everywhere, everything: a chaotic maze of vegetation in every shade of emerald, jade and lime. It’s a beautiful visual monotony, broken by a single, distinctive smell.
That smell, it sings through the jungle, yet it hides. Where? I look high, I look low. I sniff it, breathe it—a little bit cinnamon, little bit cedar, but intensely sweet. I follow my nose, focus my eyes.
“See here?” asks Jorge, my guide.
His fingers aim and his head nods the way, but still: all I see is a cacophony of green.
“It’s hard when you don’t know,” he says, and I don’t. I am not native to the jungles of southern Belize, as he is. “But when you know, then you come straight here.” He whacks his machete through dense reeds and vines. Then he reaches high and grabs. “That’s the vanilla!”
And now I see: vines with thick, stout stems clinging to trunks, branches, logs and leaves. They twist and circle and loop through the air, creeping upward, spreading between trees.
“You see? It’s wild!”
The vines hold tiny camouflaged blooms, just beginning to emerge, no bigger than the tip of my pinky. We are early; but in another month, Jorge says, the buds will pop with flowers—orchids—which, in turn, produce the world’s most coveted beans….
So begins our journey into the ancient Maya forests, on the hunt for wild vanilla. The whole story appears in the newly released Sabor Journal. Do you know about it? It’s more than a magazine, it’s 186 pages of keepsake culinary lit. It’s glossy, sleek and stylish. But you should take a look for yourself. I’ve been working with founding editor Fermin Albert for a few years now as he makes his dream publication real (it started in print, then went digital, and now it’s back to print in a totally new way).
It’s the season of giving, so I’ve decided to host
MY FIRST BLOG GIVEAWAY!
The winner will get three things: a copy of Sabor Journal (courtesy of Fermin), a copy of Best Food Writing 2015 (courtesy of Da Capo Press) and a jar of home-grown cornmeal (courtesy of my mother-in-law, Jenny Redfern).
Here’s what you have to do:
- Message me your interest in participating (send an email, leave a comment here, use the contact page, or get in touch through Facebook).
- Tell me one quick story, just a sentence or two (think: tweet length). Since it’s the season of peace, and our world hasn’t had enough of it lately, I’d like to hear how food brings peace and love to your life. It can be a memory or a tradition, a dish or an anecdote. I’ll include some of those stories in an upcoming post.
- Deadline: Thursday, Dec. 24. I’ll do a random drawing and announce the winner around the 1st of the year.
Now, for more details on those prizes:
PRIZE #1: The all-new Sabor Journal, Arbiter of All Things Gastronomic, proof “the world really does need another food mag” (according to AIGA); full of “solid stories, great photographs of food, vibrant illustrations…” (as noted in Eye Magazine); the sum of “what magazines and the art of storytelling and design are all about: the fervor of one’s dream,” (so says Samir Husni, Mr. Magazine). From cover to cover, you’ll get:
Priscilla Hoback on New Mexico’s micaceous pots
Josh Evans on bee bread
Leonard Shek on lumpia
Aaron Ayscough on Marco Pompili’s Ramerino spritz, and contemporary French chefs
David Diaz on the art of cigars
David Bruce Fonseca Guimaraens and Filip Verheyden on Port
Alexander Lobrano on Paris pastries
Nicholas Coldicott on Akishika Sake
Nicholas Griffin on Ping-Pong
Tom Parker Bowles on pottage
Johnny Drain on Smen, and the sense of taste
Hector Abad Faciolince on ron, platano y arepa
Jon Fasman on eating pigeons
Chris Neill on tripe and love
Christopher Webb on baklava
David Jaggard on Napoleon
Tom Ridgway on bushmeat
Elizabeth Andoh on natto
Heidi Nestler on DIY natto
Paul Freedman on the history of French food
Philip Hyman on bistros
Maggie Kim on Korean food in Paris
David Hepworth on Mourad Mazouz
Wilfredo Sanchez on arepas
Robyn Eckhardt on a Hanoi staff meal
Seb Emina on brunch
Yours truly on vanilla, and jungle food
Plus a wide array of photography by:
And spectacular original art by:
PRIZE #2: Holly Hughes’s annual installment, selected from publications all over the globe: Best Food Writing 2015. You’ll get:
Rowan Jacobsen, “The Perfect Beast
Emily Kaiser Thelin, “Growing a $30 Million Egg”
Allecia Vermillion, “OMFG! It’s the PSL!”
Chris Macias, “Maverick Wine Guru Tim Hanni Rethinks the Pour”
Sara Deseran, “Kids These Days”
Tamar Haspel, “How to Get People to Cook More? Get Eaters to Complain Less”
Molly Watson, “Cooking’s Not for Everyone”
Besha Rodell, “Dinner Lab Hopes to Build the World’s First Data-Driven Restaurant. But Is That a Good Thing?”
Oliver Strand, “At Your Service?”
Todd Kliman, “Coding and Decoding Dinner”
Pete Wells, “Waste Not, Want Not (and Pass the Fish Skin)”
Tom Junod, “The Last Supper”
Ryan Sutton, “No Chef in America Cooks Dinner Quite Like Philip Foss”
Nicholas Gill, “The Meat Prophet of Peru”
Jeff Gordinier, “In Search of the Perfect Taco”
Allison Alsup, “Table Lessons”
Nic Brown, “Kitchen Diplomacy”
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, “The Truth About Cast Iron Pans”
Russ Parsons, “Roasting a Chicken, One Sense at a Time”
Daniel Duane, “The Secret Ingredient in the Perfect Burger Is…”
Cal Peternell, “Ragu Finto”
Kim Foster, “Serial Killer”
Megan Kimble, “It’s Not About the Bread”
John T. Edge, “The Lunch Counter”
Jane and Michael Stern, “Hot Country”
Bethany Jean Clement, “Oyster Heaven”
Yours truly, “The Story of Chicken”
Keith Pandolfi, “Gumbo Paradise”
Matt Goulding, “In Search of Ragu”
Nicolas Medina Mora, “How to Make Carnitas That Will Fix Everything That’s Wrong in Your Sad, Horrible Life”
Debbie Koenig, “The Imperfect Family Kitchen”
Sarah Grey, “Friday Night Meatballs”
Kim Severson, “A Mother’s Cookbook Shares More Than Recipes”
Steve Hoffman, “Of Links and Legacy”
Carolyn Phillips, “Money Eve
Zainab Shah, “Loving Spoonful”
Phyllis Grant, “I’m Just Trying to Keep Everyone Alive”
Sarah Henry, “Leaning in Toward the Last Supper”
Elissa Altman, “Infrequent Potatoes”
John DeVore, “Finding Home at Taco Bell”
Jim Shahin, “The One Ingredient That Has Sustained Me During Bouts of Leukemia”
David Leite, “Yeast Are Never Depressed”
John Birdsall, “Mexico in Three Regrets”
Anthony Bourdain, “Beach Town”
PRIZE #3: Ma Redfern’s home-grown cornmeal. Here’s what Jenny says about it:
“A pint jar of organically raised, hand-picked, small-batch earth-toned dent corn cornmeal, grown in my Master Gardener 3-sisters garden and ground by yours truly in her 45-year-old Osterizer, as well as a recipe for gluten-free corn bread.”
So, bring it on! Let’s hear your stories and I’ll get your name into the hat. Happy holidays.