Australia is a huge wine producing country whose depth is apparent in both the assortment of varietals they can grow well as well as the styles they’re made in. For years our shores were inundated with mostly lower end Australian wines, often in the form of overripe Shiraz. As a result, the bounty from Australia is significantly broader than a lot of wine lovers realize. All across the Unites States a larger and larger swath of terrific Australian wines are filling our shelves. It’s a great time to try some interesting Australian wines; here are six recent releases that I recommend.
Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier 2012 Shiraz/Viognier — Composed of 95% Shiraz and 5% Viognier, this wine was produced from fruit sourced in Central Victoria and has a suggested retail price of $18. Violet aromas dominate the nose of this wine, though lighter notes emerge as well due to the lift the Viognier provides. Plums and raspberry flavors light up the nose along with hints of savory herbs. Smoked meat characteristics, earth, and plenty of spices are all part of the finish. This is a gorgeous example of Shiraz highlighted by the soft, lush, and velvety mouth feel. This proportionate wine is a steal at under $20.
Pillar Box 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon — This wine is entirely Cabernet Sauvignon from the Padthaway region. It was aged for 12 months, 30 percent of it in oak. A total of 4,500 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $21.99. The heady nose is leads with leather and red plum aromas along with bits of cinnamon. Black cherry, continued plum, and ripe, juicy blackberry flavors are all in evidence through the full bodied palate. Kirsch liqueur, dark baker’s chocolate, black raspberry, and chicory all come out on the above average finish. This is a delicious, balanced Cabernet best suited to enjoy over the next 2-3 years.
Moss Wood Ribbon Vale 2011 Semillon / Sauvignon Blanc — This wine blends together Semillon (62%) and Sauvignon Blanc (38%) from the Margaret River region. Each variety is picked, pressed, and fermented separately, after which the blend is created. This Bordeaux-inspired blend has a suggested retail price of $27. Wisps of linseed oil emerge from the slightly pungent nose of this wine, and are then replaced by subtle citrus and tropical fruit aromas. From the very first sip, papaya and pear flavors are dominant and they’re supported by a solid core of minerals. The finish shows off tremendous length and remarkable depth with a mélange of citrus joined by limestone and white pepper. This is a crisp and refreshing wine with racy acidity. It’s delicious on its own, but will be stunning with lighter fare.
Flegenheimer 2012 Reserve Red — This red is produced from a combination of Shiraz (85%) and Petite Sirah (15%). All of the fruit is from the Mclaren Vale region. This wine spent sixteen months in barrels with 3 or more years of age on them and has a suggested retail price of $30. The berry-laden nose of this wine also shows off toasty oak, vanilla bean, and white pepper. A complex array of red and black raspberry, blackberry, and a boatload of plum flavors are on display throughout the full bodied, juicy, yet measured palate. A core of spices made up of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper play a supporting role. Savory herbs and earth are part of the above average finish. It has good structure and brooding depth. This is a wine perfectly suited to pair with black-pepper-encrusted prime rib.If you haven’t been drinking Australian wines of late, it’s time to dip your toe back in and try some of their gorgeous, well-made wines.
Glaetzer-Dixon 2012 ‘Avance' Pinot Noir — The fruit for this wine came entirely from Tasmania. In addition to Pinot Noir, a smidge of Pinot Gris was blended in. Aging took place in French oak over 7 months. This wine has a suggested retail price of $41. The Pinot shows off a darker hue than typical for the varietal. Cherry and leather aromas lead a big and welcoming nose. The palate is studded with oodles of black cherry as well as wisps of red plum and raspberry. Bits of green herb are present as well. Black tea, mushroom characteristics, minerals, and touches of earth are all present on the impressively persistent finish. This is quite simply an awesome expression of Pinot Noir that outclasses many others in this price range.
Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier 2011 Lieu Dit Malakoff Shiraz — This wine is entirely Shiraz from the Pyrenees region. Aging took place over 11 months in entirely French oak. This year is the tenth since the premiere vintage of this wine; it has a suggested retail price of $50. A heady mélange of dark fruit aromas is supported by gentle bits of toast on the alluring nose. The dark fruit characteristics continue through the palate where fresh and dry fruits abound; red and black raspberries are of particular note here. A compote of berry fruits comes together with a core of minerals, spice, and suggestions of smoked meat on the lengthy finish. This is a well-structured, balanced Shiraz with length, depth, and a super appealing array of flavors and aromas.
There is so much more that Australia has to offer. If you haven’t been drinking Australian wines of late, it’s time to dip your toe back in and try some of their gorgeous, well-made wines. If, on the other hand, you’re completely new to Australian wines, each of the six offerings listed above is a fine place to start. Pick the one that sounds most appealing and start your delicious adventure into the wines down under.
Read more about the World of Wine.
These Cheap & Easy Meals Have 5 Ingredients or Fewer
The only thing we like more than delicious is effortless—and OK, affordable is a major bonus. These easy 5 ingredient recipe ideas prove you don’t have to choose when it comes to cheap and easy dinner.
Please believe me when I say I understand how tempting and easy it is to way, way overdo it in the keeping your kitchen stocked department. I might even pass for a minimalist were you not to take a peek in my cupboards and refrigerator, at which point the cat is very much out of the bag. Hi, my name is Maryse and I’m addicted to buying more groceries and kitchen supplies than a single person could ever possibly need.
In an attempt to try and get a handle on this little problem, I’ve recently taken up challenging myself to make meals that skimp on the surplus without sacrificing quality or flavor. And, as it turns out, there are plenty of dishes in which five ingredients are all you need to make a totally top-notch dinner. (For the record, I don’t count staples like salt and pepper or cooking fats like oil and butter as ingredients, those are just necessities of life.)
Check out some of our favorites, and we’ll bet you have most of these ingredients on hand already.
I’m a big fan of dishes that make cooking cheap and easy without tasting cheap and easy. Case in point: classic Italian risotto. Five basic ingredients—rice, chicken broth, onion, a little white wine, and grated parmesan—plus a good, strong stirring arm are all it takes to treat yourself to a luxury-grade dining experience. This lusciously creamy, cheesy dish is the definition of restrained elegance (basically a rice version of the equally awesome Cacio e Pepe pasta), and a hearty, filling meal at that. And this is only the blank canvas version imagine the possibilities on those nights when you get to splurge for six, seven, or even eight ingredients. Get our Basic Risotto recipe.
Always Pan, $145 from Our Place
This cult-fave pan replaces 8 pieces of cookware in one.
Hearty Split Pea Soup
Frozen peas show off their prime time potential in this bright, mind-blowingly easy vegetarian soup. As is the case with any successful minimalist meal, the key is being smart about selecting supporting characters you’re casting for function and flavor. Here, thyme packs a punch of bold, bright freshness to complement the sweet peas. Get our Hearty Split Pea Soup recipe.
I can’t think of a better ingredient duo to carry a small team to victory than butter and garlic. The powerhouse pair are basically the culinary equivalent of having a really great dance partner, they make whoever they’re paired with 10 times better. In this recipe, for example, they’re the Johnny to shrimp’s Baby, lifting the shellfish up to delectable heights. Serve over rice or tossed with pasta. Get our Shrimp Scampi recipe.
Now that summer’s officially in the books we can return to some of our favorite fall and winter foods that tend not to be as coveted in those hot sweaty months. Fettucine alfredo is one of them and though it’s earned a bit of a bad reputation, a good homemade sauce with real cream and good parmesan is fabulous weeknight meal. Get out Fettucine Alfredo recipe.
Spicy Tomato Soup
It’s definitely tomato soup season but keep things interesting with a little red pepper and don’t skimp on the olive oil (or use the cheap stuff, either). Serve with grilled cheese or garlic bread. All. Winter. Long. Get our Spicy Tomato Soup recipe.
Twice Baked Potatoes
If you don’t think twice baked potatoes can make a meal then think again. Use thick-cut bacon, and add broccoli or top with leftover chili and you’re in business with a warming, easy meal that everyone loves. Get our Twice Baked Potato recipe.
Eggs in Purgatory
There is nothing hellish about yolky baked eggs in a juicy, chunky, red pepper-flecked tomato sauce. Trust. Sop it all up with a fat, crusty piece of toast (seasoned with garlic and olive oil for extra dramatic effect) and really savor the sin of this perfect breakfast-anytime dish. Get our Eggs in Purgatory recipe. (And don’t sleep on its close cousin, shakshuka!)
Related Video: This Easy Autumn Sheet Pan Dinner Takes Just 20 Minutes & Four Ingredients
Two Hands’ founder, proprietor focused on producing wines where ‘the vineyard is the hero’
Two Hands Winery founder, proprietor and managing director Michael Twelftree was asked what keeps the work fun for him. 'I simply love wine, and that means loving vineyards and the people in and around them,' he says. 'It’s a fascinating subject matter and I love the wide scoping opinions it finds.'
Two Hands Winery was created in the summer of 1999 with the aim of making the best possible Shiraz-based wines from prized Shiraz growing regions throughout Australia.
According to the background of the winery that’s featured on the Terlato Wines website, the intention always has been to showcase the diversity of Australian Shiraz by highlighting regional characteristics and giving the fruit the opportunity to be the primary feature of the wines. the name “Two Hands” refers to the personable approach taken with each parcel of grapes, no matter how big or small.
Proprietor and Managing Director Michael Twelftree and his dedicated team carefully guide the process through both viticulture and winemaking stages. Michael Twelftree, who founded the winery with Richard Mintz, runs the day-to-day operation.
Premium fruit is now sourced from six of the finest Shiraz growing regions in Australia, and Two Hands work closely with their own vineyards and band of growers to ensure the full potential of each vineyard is reached. You can find more on the winery and its operation at this link.
Twelftree brought a construction background into his current role, so immersed with the quality of the wines and the growth of the brand. He told an interviewer that he was 23 when a friend said to join him at a wine shop to buy a few cases of wine. “There was a (free) tasting going on and this wonderful world unfolded right in front of my eyes,” he said.
According to his bio on the Two Hands website, his love of wine is the catalyst for a large amount of time on the road, traveling globally to taste some of the greatest wines from the most revered wine regions.
From the bio: “From day one, Michael’s role has been multifaceted being involved in the day to day running of Two Hands from vineyard management through to winemaking and production. With a flair for marketing and creativity, Michael is always injecting fresh ideas and constantly nutting out new ways to keep the brand evolving.”
Here are answers to questions that PennLive sent to Twelftree about the winery and the wines, which you can purchase through Pennsylvania’s Fine Wines & Good Spirits stores. Here’s a link to the product sold the PLCB.
Q, Michael, I saw you mention this in the description of the journey: “I really love the perfume and textures in our wines and the fact that the fruit is the hallmark and the hero.”Can you expound on that a bit? What are you doing that might be different than many other Australian producers?
A, My tastes are formed by the attributes in wine that give me the most pleasure. I have traveled to some of the world’s great estates and vineyards over the past 25 years and the styles that give me the most pleasure is what I want to show in my own wines. I am not a fan of over-oaked or heavily manipulated wines – I believe the vineyard is the hero and I very much want the winemaking to enhance the sites. Skin integrity and a ripe tannin profile matched with ripe fruits sympathetically handled in the winery is our way. I deliberately try to not focus too much on what other Australian producers are doing I am 100% focused on what we are doing.
Q, You sell a lot of your wines through the Pennsylvania wine and spirits stories. For those who see the label at the store, what are some basics they should know about Two Hands?
A, We were the first Australian winery to highlight regionality in Australian Shiraz. We work across six distinctly different environments to make a compelling statement about the nuances in Australian wines that sometimes is lost on the world stage. Australian wine is more than just Sunshine in a Bottle and we are serious about telling that story yet ensure we have fun at the same time.
Q, You’re up to 5 lines of wines now. I’m not sure in which order they were created, but what are a couple of key differences among them?
A, Our entry level is the Picture Series. Regional celebrations of Shiraz [and Cabernet, a GSM blend and Riesling or two] that allow us to have a bit of fun in the naming of the wines – think, Gnarly Dudes, Angels’ Share, Sexy Beast. These are high-quality fruit sources that are graded in the vineyard and then when they arrive in the winery, the wines are focused on fruit purity and age barrel for on average 11 to 12 months.
Sexy Beast is one member of Two Hands Winery's Picture Series, what it calls its entry-level group. Still, per its marketing materials, 'these are still serious wines, with a focus on purity of fruit and sensory pleasure.'
The next level up is our Garden Series collection – six different Shiraz from six different regions. The best known are Lily’s Garden from McLaren Vale and Bella’s Garden from the Barossa Valley. Again, these are the same source vineyards as the Picture Series but they are made from blocks or ferments that show extra depth and character and are then aged for a further six months before bottling. Lily and Bella’s were also the first wines we produced, followed by Angel’s Share.
The Single Vineyard Series is just that – a specific single vineyard collection that aims to highlight an amazing vineyard’s individual terroir.
Thai fine diner gets NSW’s Southern Highlands buzzing
Michelin-starred chef Bongkoch “Bee” Satongun is making waves in Mittagong.
Pan-seared hiramasa king fish fillet with Thai Yai relish and cherry tomato purée.
It’s a slam dunk. The moment the first appetiser is put in front of me – a generous heap of shredded roast duck that’s been tossed in sawtooth coriander, dusted with nutmeg and served on a rice cracker, a mouthful of gamey goodness that finishes with a satisfying crunch – I know that chef Bongkoch “Bee” Satongun, believes in opening big.
The woman behind Paste Australia, the regional restaurant that has a solid claim to be the nation’s most exciting Thai restaurant, has plenty more dazzling dishes up her sleeve. The introductory fanfare continues with tapioca dumplings stuffed with smoked Snowy River trout, roasted peanuts, coriander and pennywort watermelon balls nestled beneath a feather-light blanket of fried shallots, galangal powder and ground salmon and a dish of slipper lobster and pomelo served with shredded betel leaves and chilli.
Bongkoch “Bee” Satongun may not have name recognition in Australia, but in Asia she is a bona fide phenomenon.
But it is the kingfish served in a Thai Yai cherry tomato relish that stops me in my tracks. It tastes nothing like anything I have eaten in a Thai restaurant before. Satongun tells me that she had exactly the same reaction the first time she tried it.
“When we were travelling in [the northern Thai province of] Nan, some people cooked this for us, and the moment I tried it I wanted to know how to cook it,” she says. “It’s so simple – garlic and soy sauce, salt, peanut and dried chilli – but every ingredient tastes exactly as it should.” She took down the recipe, gave it the Satongun twist, and added another dish to her ever-burgeoning menu.
Bee Satongun may not have name recognition in Australia, but in Asia she is a bona fide phenomenon. The woman named the best female chef in Asia in 2018 scored a Michelin star for her first restaurant, Paste Bangkok, which opened in 2013 and showcased forgotten heritage dishes alongside oft-overlooked regional flavours.
A starter of watermelon with ground salmon, fried shallots, roasted galangal powder and Huon river trout caviar.
Two years ago, she opened her second restaurant in the Laos city of Luang Prabang, following that up with an even more unlikely location for her third: the quiet country town of Mittagong in the Southern Highlands outside Sydney.
Regional dining may be booming in Australia, and the Southern Highlands is a popular weekend escape for Sydneysiders – nearby Bowral was home to James Viles’ acclaimed Biota restaurant until it closed last year – but Mittagong is no one’s idea of a culinary hotspot. Why here?
“Jason [Bailey, husband and business partner] and I wanted our daughter to experience growing up in Australia, and Jason, who’s from Mittagong, wanted to come back – and I wanted to come back here, too.”
It turns out that before opening Paste Bangkok, Satongun and Bailey ran a Thai restaurant in Mittagong for seven years, until they moved back to Bangkok – where they first met – and set their sights on the big time.
Yet if you had told a young Satongun she would one day be an internationally celebrated chef, she would have laughed. “My mum had a street food stall in Bangkok and since I was five years old, I had to get up every morning at 5am to help her set up the stall,” she says. “After school I had to come back and help her with the prep for the next day. When I was 13 I said, ‘Enough – no more’.”
Instead, Satongun trained as an English teacher before working in hotels, where she eventually landed a position as secretary to the food and beverage director and became intrigued with the world of professional cooking.
Paste Australia in Mittagong is the third in the Paste universe.
“Then I met Jason and we shared our dreams. He wanted to open the best Thai restaurant in the world, and I wanted to be a chef. We joined his big dream to my tiny dream and moved to Mittagong, where he trained me.”
It was when they moved back to Thailand, however, that the pair lifted their culinary game to the next level, delving deep into ancient Thai traditions to revive flavours and ingredients that were on the verge of disappearing. A chance find of old family cookbooks for sale at a market gave Satongun insights into aristocratic culinary traditions that in turn led to an internet search for more cookbooks holding more forgotten recipes.
Peek inside Satongun’s kitchen and you will find no fewer than four kinds of coriander.
“We found thousands and thousands of curries, relishes, entrées, some dating back 100 years or more,” she says. “Not all of them were suitable for the modern-day palates – perhaps the flavour profile was too salty or sweet, or the fermentation too strong. We tweaked it, brought our own approach to each one.”
Australian slipper lobster with pomelo, shredded betel leaves and Thai chilli and herbal sauce.
Some items on the Mittagong menu – including the watermelon salad and the slipper lobster and pomelo – are signature dishes from the Bangkok flagship. Others were created for Paste Australia, including the mixed mushroom and Warrigal greens stir-fried with tamarind and galangal.
Satongun says she has not had too many difficulties sourcing the produce she needs. “We had to work closely with some local farmers, but we had to do that when we were opening in Bangkok, too,” she says. “Every region in Thailand has its own flavours and its own ingredients, some of which were hard to find at the start.”
Most critical was finding the right herbs. “When you taste real Thai food, it’s based all around herbs,” she says. “That herbal base – the lemongrass, the galangal, the kaffir lime – is meant to come through before seasoning. That’s what makes Thai food so light, so tasty.”
Peek inside Satongun’s kitchen and you will find no fewer than four kinds of coriander, including the flowering coriander that she uses as a garnish on the watermelon salad. “When you let the coriander nearly go into its flowering state, its leaves change form and flavour – that’s precisely when we want to harvest them,” she says.
Satongun says real Thai food is based around herbs.
When Satongun and Bailey were planning their Mittagong venture, the plan was for Satongun to travel between all three restaurants, keeping an eye on them all. COVID-19 put that plan on ice, but Satongun says that being stranded in Australia hasn’t been a hardship.
“Both [Asian] restaurants had to shut, although Bangkok is now open. But our team has been with us since the beginning, and we can trust them to look after the restaurant.”
NEED TO KNOW
Paste Australia is at 105 Main Street, Mittagong, NSW. Tel: (02) 4872 2277
Deluge of Debt Is Tied to Carbon Emissions and Diversity
Paul J. Davies
BlackRock Inc., Bud owner Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and a plastic packaging maker in Portugal are among a flood of borrowers using financial carrots and sticks to improve their performance on things such as the environment and boardroom diversity. The sticks, complain some investors, don’t leave much of a mark.
Since last summer, companies have issued nearly $240 billion of debt with special rules that reward them with lower borrowing costs—or penalize them with higher ones—depending on if they meet self-made targets for things such as cutting carbon emissions, or for getting more women on boards, according to Dealogic. That nearly doubles the total issuance of such debt over the previous three years.
Lenders have long put ratchets on loans or step-ups on bonds that cause interest rates to change depending on a company’s financial performance. But the idea of tying interest costs to nonfinancial risks, such as reducing carbon emissions, or improving governance, is relatively novel.
The surge in bonds and loans tied to environmental, social and governance performance, known in industry parlance as ESG, is meeting a huge demand from investors for such investment products.
Fund managers like them because they qualify for ESG-labeled funds that they can sell on to investors. One irony of ratchet loans, is that the investors get paid more if the companies fail to meet their objectives. This is meant to compensate investors because a borrower that misses governance targets is a riskier prospect.
Top Colleges in the South for Diversity
A view of the University of Houston-Downtown campus. The school is tied for No. 18 nationally for diversity in the WSJ/THE College Rankings.
The University of Houston-Downtown ranks highest for diversity among Southern schools in the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings.
In the WSJ/THE rankings, diversity accounts for 10% of a school’s overall score. The overall ranking is based on 15 factors across four main categories: Forty percent of each school’s overall score comes from student outcomes, including measures of graduate salaries and debt burdens, 30% from the school’s academic resources, including how much it spends on teaching, 20% from how well it engages its students and 10% from its environment, a measure of the diversity of its students and staff.
Houston-Downtown is one of several schools tied for No. 18 nationwide in the environment category. It’s followed in the ranking of Southern schools for the category by the University of St. Thomas (Texas) and Nova Southeastern University, which are tied with several other schools for No. 28 nationwide for diversity.
Houston-Downtown didn’t make the top 500 in the overall national ranking. St. Thomas (Texas) is ranked No. 318 overall in the country and Nova Southeastern is No. 374 overall. Among the Southern schools with the 10 highest scores for diversity, Emory University has the highest overall national rank, at No. 24. One other top-10 Southern school for diversity is in the top 100 overall nationally, the University of Miami at No. 53.
See the full list of top Southern schools for diversity below. You can also see the top schools for diversity in the Northeast here and the West here. For Southern schools, you can see the leading small, midsize and large colleges here and the top schools for academic resources here.
A Fine Australian Dozen
Australia has many fine producers now making fresh, balanced wines. Here are a dozen worth seeking out from among the wineries I visited earlier this year.
Alkoomi Wide range of wines from Frankland River its black label rieslings are excellent. (Little Peacock, New York)
Best’s Great Western Historic winery, with top-notch old-vine cuvées. (Little Peacock, New York)
Bindi Graceful estate-grown pinot noirs and chardonnays from the Macedon Ranges. (Vine Street Imports, Mount Laurel, N.J.)
Cullen Eco-centric Margaret River estate producing focused, balanced wines. (Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, Calif.)
Frankland Estate Fine Frankland River wines, especially Isolation Ridge rieslings. (Winebow, New York)
Jamsheed Exceptional, long-aging, single-vineyard syrahs, mostly from Yarra Valley. (Vine Street Imports)
Luke Lambert Superb Yarra Valley syrahs, chardonnays and nebbiolos. (Vine Street Imports)
Mac Forbes Wide range of pure, expressive, unforced wines, mostly from Yarra Valley. (Verity Wine Partners, New York)
Mount Mary Fine, classically styled Yarra Valley cabernet sauvignons. (Old Bridge Cellars)
Ochota Barrels Many lively wines with freshness and energy, mostly from the Adelaide Hills. (Vine Street Imports)
Shaw & Smith Polished, pretty Adelaide Hills wines. Look for bottles from Tolpuddle, its sibling wine ry in Tasmania, too. (Winebow)
Vasse Felix Margaret River pioneer making elegant, savory cabernets and chardonnays. (Winebow)
Jackfruit Curry Tacos
Jackfruit is from the breadfruit family and when cooked using this technique, it literally tastes like slow-cooked pork. What better way to serve it than in a taco! This preparation of jackfruit should be in everyone’s repertoire.
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 50 mins
1 large carrot, julienned
1 medium beetroot, julienned
⅓ cup fresh coriander sprigs
1 lime, thinly sliced
For Jackfruit Curry
400g can young green
jackfruit in brine, drained, rinsed
¼ cup (60ml) vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp each garlic paste and ginger paste
¼ tsp ground turmeric
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ cup (140g) Greek-style Yoghurt
To make jackfruit curry
1. Pat jackfruit dry with paper towel.
2. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
3. Cook jackfruit, in batches, until golden brown (5-7 minutes) drain on paper towel.
4. When cool enough to handle, shred jackfruit thickly.
5. In the same pan, over medium heat cook onion until softened (5 minutes).
6. Add garlic and ginger pastes and turmeric cook, stirring, until fragrant (2 minutes).
7. Add tomato cook, stirring occasionally, until oil separates, tomato softens and mixture thickens (approx 10 minutes).
8. Reduce heat to low.
9. Add remaining spices, shredded jackfruit and approximately ½ cup (125ml) water to pan.
10. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and the mixture resembles pulled pork (approximately 20 minutes).
11. Stir through yoghurt cook until heated through (1 minute).
12. Spoon jackfruit curry on roti, top with carrot, beetroot and lemon pickle, green chilli and coriander salsa.
13. Top with coriander and lime slices.
For the Culture magazine celebrates Black women in food. Finally.
When Klancy Miller launched her fundraising campaign for For the Culture in December 2019, the food media world took notice. With the mission of “A magazine celebrating Black women and femmes in food and wine,” it is believed to be the first of its kind dedicated to the task. Now, more than a year later, the inaugural issue has been printed and shipped to supporters — and is available for purchase online.
“I’m feeling very excited. And, frankly, relieved,” Miller says. “And a little bit protective.”
Both as a writer and consumer of food media, Miller, the magazine’s editor in chief, noticed a lack of coverage of people of color in the mainstream for much of her career. And roughly four years ago, “Cherry Bombe asked me to guest edit an all-Black issue, which I found really intriguing,” Miller says. She then entered the nascent stages of putting it together by approaching contributors to gauge interest. “I felt really stimulated,” she says, but for various reasons, the project didn’t come to fruition. A conversation with a friend planted the seed of her doing it independently, which she nursed for a few years until her desire to tell more Black women’s stories, a change in work circumstances and reality nudged the idea forward.
While Miller continued to contribute to a variety of publications over the years, she felt constrained by pressure to focus on stories that would have widespread significance. “But I’m also interested in people and people’s stories that don’t necessarily have to be of the moment or, quote-unquote, newsworthy,” she says.
Miller drew inspiration from the passing of one of her favorite writers, Toni Morrison, who said, “ ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’ For me, For the Culture is very much a magazine I would like to read,” Miller says. Contemporaneously, a book proposal rejection freed up her schedule to take on such a monumental project, and the June 2019 death of beloved New Orleans chef and cookbook author Leah Chase “made this project feel more urgent.”
“I decided that I better do this, because if I don’t do it, somebody else is going to,” Miller says. She went on to speak with Lukas Volger of Jarry, Stephen Satterfield of Whetstone and Madison Trapkin of GRLSQUASH to glean advice on launching an independent food magazine. With nearly 700 backers through Indiegogo, more than 200 Patreon patrons, Internet bake sales led by volunteer organizers Jenelle Kellam and Keia Mastrianni, and a handful of donations through Venmo, Miller raised enough funds to get the first issue off the ground with the aim of publishing it in the summer or fall of 2020. But then the pandemic hit.
Facing the duality of the coronavirus and national racial unrest proved to be a stumbling block. “Trying to just, frankly, be present, work with and deal with anxiety and be productive was not always easy for me during this process,” Miller says. And it wasn’t just her. “Everybody was going through something.” Nevertheless, she and her team persisted because the significance of the project required it.
“For the culture” is a common phrase in African American Vernacular English, used to describe the reasoning behind an action that is meant to benefit (often Black) culture at large. “After Indigenous people on this land, Black people helped build the very foundation of this country, including our culture, including our culinary culture and Black women are very much a part of that,” Miller says.
“There is an African proverb, ‘Until lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter,’ ” says Toni Tipton-Martin, the editor in chief of America’s Test Kitchen’s Cook’s Country and the first African American editor of a major American newspaper food section. “Similarly, Black women have been instrumental in creating American food, but our contributions have been minimized, misrepresented, or worse, we have been left out of the narrative. By expanding the story of Black cuisine and who gets to tell it, For the Culture has the potential to change that, securing our place in the written record.”
So, while the magazine does focus on Black women, by doing so it inherently tells an important part of everyone’s story.
“Initially, the theme for the first issue was going to be ‘It’s Personal,’ because not being seen feels personal. To be seen is personal. One’s relationship to food, drinks and hospitality and food media is personal,” Miller writes in her letter from the editor. The pandemic broadened her focus. The result is 96 pages of essays and interviews (plus a few recipes) covering an array of topics broken into three sections related to before, during and after the pandemic (whenever that may be).
“I hope people take away the richness of experiences of Black women and femmes in food and wine, and I hope they take away some really interesting stories,” Miller says. These include Zella Palmer on the achievements of Black restaurateurs in New Orleans past and present, Monica O’Connell on the Black repast and grieving and Kyisha Davenport on why we should build Black cooperatives in food. “I think it is deeply inspiring and thought provoking, especially in this moment, when we’re seeing the unsustainable side of the restaurant industry,” Miller says of the latter. “I love the fact that she fully examines an alternative way of doing things.”
While Miller is taking some time to celebrate this accomplishment, she already has an eye toward the future. She hopes to build in more time for the editing process and to hire staff for the next issue. “I need more help to make this a smoother process and to make the product stronger,” she says. But for that to happen, of course, she has to figure out funding, which is “on my mind every day.”
“I am really interested in the stories that we tell and how we tell them — and by ‘we’ I actually mean humanity — and how those narratives and visuals change depending upon who’s shaping them,” Miller says. On its own, For the Culture is worthy of admiration, but looking at the magazine within the broader context of food media’s shifting landscape, an even better picture starts to take shape.
With the recent appointments of Tipton-Martin at Cook’s Country and Dawn Davis at Bon Appétit to lead large legacy organizations — along with the hiring of Nikita Richardson and Yewande Komolafe at the New York Times, and even my joining The Washington Post, to a certain extent — Black people are better positioned to direct the food narrative in this country. “I think it’s really amazing. I think Black people should take up as much space as possible. Period. Full stop,” Miller says.
For a first course, final course or as part of a meal, you can never go wrong by stocking up on cheese, Devereaux says.
"Cheese is the first stop I make when I walk into the store. Trader Joe&aposs has a wonderful selection! I love their Harbison cave-aged cheese, blue cheeses, and cheddars, all of which are very reasonably-priced. I also love all of their goat cheeses: the honey goat&aposs milk, the fine herb-crusted goat cheese, and their blueberry goat cheese," he says.