We have done wrong by cranberries. North America has few enough true native fruits; the Great Lakes north country even fewer. Yet here we have not just a native fruit, but one of the original native fruits. The fruit that fueled and healed Native Americans for centuries. The fruit that was served at the first Thanksgiving. The fruit that Thomas Jefferson requested of James Madison, as one of three items from home he especially missed while in France: apples, pecans and cranberries. The fruit that effectively made the fur trade possible, because its acidity, when pounded into venison pemmican, prevented spoilage and made for one of the first transportable meals on the continent.

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The problem with most game and fish cookbooks, somewhat paradoxically, is that they are written by guys who hunt and fish. That is to say, they are written by guys whose primary interest in hunting and fishing is the hunting and fishing part. Their cookbooks, as a result, tend to be filled with a disheartening collection of half-considered recipes that take more or less successful stabs in one direction — at a kind of down-home, open-fire manliness — and more or less unsuccessful stabs in the other direction, at complicated fine-dining sophistication.

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We live in a world saturated by the pursuit of brand and audience. Social media has turned us all into intimate personal entrepreneurs marketing the product of our curated selves. We present to the world evidence that we lead enviable lives, and that we command a following, more or less loyal, that is supposed to translate into some kind of clout, which is assumed at some future time to be exchangeable, like currency, for something of value.

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Yia Vang has a set of classic stories he loves to tell. He’s just told me the one about the guy who comes up after a Hmong cooking demonstration, cups Vang’s big right hand in both of his, looks up earnestly into Vang’s eyes, and says, “I just love Thai food." “I mean, dude, I just spent an hour telling you how Hmong food isn’t Thai food,” Vang giggles. “You know, I get it that you toured Bangkok last year, but can we listen a little bit?”

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She has just answered a question by, in fact, not answering it, and instead deflecting the question to Alan, who adjusts a pair of black, rectangular wire rims and offers a serious, thoughtful response. Let’s not confuse this for what it might look like—a demure kind of deference on Jamie’s part to a male cohort.  Jamie is perfectly in charge of this moment, and, as the rest of the evening will prove, as perfectly comfortable commanding a busy kitchen as raiding a Pinterest board for the perfect shade of water glass.

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Matti Sprague and I appear to be talking about fermentation. We are standing in Jon Wipfli’s well-lighted kitchen, and we are using all the words that you use when you talk about fermentation. We are talking about salting down vegetables, creating anaerobic environments, and encouraging the right kinds of microbial life while discouraging the wrong kinds. 

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Young Joni’s Ann Kim and Adam Gorski on new American food traditions. So there’s Young, and there’s Joni. Two moms. One attentive and skillful Korean family cook: Young. One affectionate and bibulous North Dakota family host: Joni. Right? Okay, so there’s this restaurant: Young Joni. Coming soon. Northeast Minneapolis. 

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