Simple, Good, and Tasty's August Bookclub Selection: The Minnesota Table

How many times have you unsuspectingly picked up an amazing cookbook, tuned into the Food Network, or flipped through a copy of Bon Appétit and found yourself with a rumbling stomach and watering mouth? Well, this month’s Simple, Good and Tasty book club pick is just about guaranteed to put you in the same state.

In August, during what I personally consider to be the most amazing local food month in Minnesota, we’ll put the spotlight on seasonal food. In their beautifully illustrated book released this spring, authors Shelley N.C. Holl (also an artist) and B.J. Carpenter (also a chef) take us on a food tour through the Midwest and clue us in to some of the best producers in the region. Behold – The Minnesota Table: Recipes for Savoring Local Food throughout the Year. And, don’t say I didn’t warn you about the growling tummy. 

Inspiration originated during Holl’s time in Louisiana getting to know the roadside stands and local butchers. When her friend Carpenter came to visit, Holl played culinary tour guide. After a long day of reveling in local food, the seed was planted. Would n’t it be great to guide others through the Minnesota bounty? And reconnect with seasonal eating?

Says Holl, “A mere fifty years ago, our grandmothers ate local foods in season out of necessity. They would be shocked to think something so fundamental is now considered a lost art.” And she’s right. Though I may not be typical, my experience growing up with a single mom meant meals out of cans and boxes (quick and easily mastered by a latchkey kid), very little fresh or seasonal produce (too expensive), and no canning or preserving (who had the time?). And this has, perhaps, inspired me more than anything else – I wasn’t raised with this knowledge around me. Seasonal eating meant little until recently.

Organized by month starting in spring, the book sprinkles recipes throughout essays about food history, the farmers' and producers' own personal stories, and relevant tips such as freezing beans and drying herbs. There are also resources for finding seeds, local lamb, and all kinds of other regional goodies. You’ll find favorites such as Love Tree Farms, Thousand Hills Cattle Company, Alexis Bailly Vineyards and more. And talk about delicious: while the recipes aren’t complicated, they certainly accomplish the job of celebrating Minnesota food with panache. 

There’s nothing controversial about this book. Nothing to dissect or analyze. We don’t even get to compare notes on political or social agendas with others. This book is just a striking ode to local Minnesota foods – enlivened with photographs, Holl’s own illustrations, and Carpenter’s recipes. And that’s something to talk about. We’ve each come to Simple, Good and Tasty along the path of our own journeys. And, if you ask me, there’s no greater time of the year to celebrate it. So jump in, soak up the inspiration and share your own story.

Some question to kick off the discussion:

  • Holl and Carpenter’s lifestyles and life experiences certainly shaped their perspectives on The Minnesota Table authorsThe Minnesota Table authorsseasonal foods. Were you raised with traditional seasonal eating? How about canning or other food preservation? Do you use these practices in your life today?
  • To what do you attribute your interest in eating more local and seasonal foods? Was there an inspiring motivator – a person or a situation – that got you focused?
  • How has the rest of your life changed, adapted, or been modified by your commitment to seasonal eating?
  • And, how committed are you anyway? What do you find to be the biggest roadblocks?

As usual, we will gather on the last Thursday of the month – August 26 – at Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op’s Selby location from 7 to 9:00 p.m. and at the Harmony Co-op in Bemidji from 6 to 8:00 p.m. We look forward to seeing you there!




Tracy Morgan is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. She also runs Segnavia Creative, a business development and marketing firm, and serves on the board of directors for the Mississippi Market Natural Food Co-op in St. Paul.