" Feeding people graciously and lovingly is one of life's simplest pleasures. A most basic way of making life better for someone, at least for a while."

- Anna Thomas from The Vegetarian Epicure.


Pesto Swirl Bread from The New Heirloom Garden. Photo Matthew Benson.

Hello Everyone.

Gathering around the table for food and conversation is the one thing that is getting me through this dark month of January. Not a large group of people, yet every week, I invite a close friend to join me at the kitchen table, to share in the important ritual of dinner. It gives me a chance to plan a menu, to cook, to set the table with placemats, cloth napkins, and candles, and to look forward to the hour when the sky darkens in the evening.

The very definition of comfort food varies for each of us, and for me, it is something that combines vegetables with a creamy cheese sauce. This winter, I signed up for a CSA share from Clearbrook Farm, riding my bike to the pickup location nearby, and walking home balancing a heavy bag on the seat. I expected squash, potatoes, onion, and garlic, yet delighted with the occasional bag of sweet spinach, arugula, and lettuce (all greenhouse-grown). My appreciation is akin to that first salad of the season, yet better because it is so fleeting. In spring, I know there is more to follow, yet this time of year, I am beholden to the limited quantities growing under hoop houses.

Setting the table is an act of gratitude, a nod to the fullness of our senses that comes from eating. Choosing cloth napkins, paired with brightly colored placemats, lighting beeswax candles, and adding a sprig of parsley as a garnish to the plate all give the message of care and attention.


Roasted Winter Beet Salad


Borlottq Bean and Farro Salad


Growing up, this was the way we often ate. The family around the table in the dining room, plates warmed before we brought food in from the kitchen. It may sound elegant, yet really, it was a way to slow down and be together. Sure, it was not always convivial, yet it was an opportunity to share something and to leave the table feeling full and with a sense of connection.

Preparing nutritious meals is always important but where the magic happens is in the conversations. My mother did her best to have us linger at the table and she did this through dessert; apple crisp, chocolate pudding, and sometimes simply ice cream. For my children, sometimes I even served healthy desserts for dinner; Indian pudding, pumpkin pie, and lemon soufflé.

At the table, we enter space and time completely differently; we are present, and our senses open to far more than just the food we are tasting. Making the ritual of setting the table part of a daily routine brings about small yet powerful changes in how we nourish ourselves and those we love.
As always,
Ellen Ecker Ogden

Author of The Complete Kitchen Garden and The New Heirloom Garden. Designs and Recipes for Cooks who Love to Garden.

clam chowder

Clam Chowder


Kitchen Table Shepherd's Pie


News about my Substack newsletter

I started writing this newsletter almost a decade ago to let you know about my upcoming lectures and classes and to share tips and resources to give you the tools to bring home to your own kitchen garden.

Like a garden, I am ready for a change. I've been transferring attention to a newsletter on the Substack platform, where I will focus more on personal reflections and interviews with other gardeners who grow food gardens. The goal is to keep widening the circle, and with Substack, I can add podcast and video links to enhance your experience, knowledge, and involvement as a gardener.

Please become a free subscriber. You have an option to become a subscriber, too. Thank you!

I've always had one foot in the garden and the other in the kitchen, and I am eager to teach classes in both garden design and food writing.

My next virtual class, How To Write a Family Cookbook writing class will start in early March. But I need your help to figure out when to offer it, and how often.

In the past, I have taught it as a six-week series which seems just right, yet perhaps you would prefer a shorter weekend class? Please let me know your thoughts. Copy and paste your answer below.

▪ One-day weekend class is best (six hours)
▪ Two-morning workshops on a weekend ( three hours each)
▪ One day a week for six weeks (11/2 hours each)
▪ Not sure -- please sign me up for the free introductory class.
One-day weekend class is best (six hours)
Two-morning workshops on a weekend ( three hours each)
One day a week for six weeks (11/2 hours each)
Not sure -- please sign me up for the free introductory class.

Most Grateful!

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"We practice in order to nourish the flower within us."

-- Thich Nhat Hanh

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