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  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel


love apple

The small golden tomatoes looked irresistibly delicious piled in open tubs at my local farmers’ market.   If you had popped one in your mouth - as I did - you would have agreed they are super sweet.  Like candy.  And I’ve become totally enamored of them.  Is this normal?  I searched Google for a diagnosis.

Strange as it may seem, this small yellow tomato was considered toxic when it was first introduced to Europe in the 16th century. Botanists assumed tomatoes were as as hazardous as the other nightshade plants they knew: belladonna and mandrake. Tomatoes were immediately consigned to decorative gardens, along with the other nightshade newcomer from South America, the potato.   (That’s the official story.)

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  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel

An Illinois Cheesemaker

Illinois farmers are risk takers.  Every year they risk their livelihood when they plant in the spring.   So why would a farmer want to gamble on a new business?  That’s what I asked myself when I learned that the Ropp family who farm just outside Normal, were making cheese from a herd of Jersey cows.

The Ropp Jersey Cheese became the first  cows milk cheese in Illinois when they began production in 2006.  That takes courage when you consider that the competition from near-by Wisconsin has had a 150 year head start in the artisan cheese business. How and why did the Ropps decide to make cheese?  George and I headed down-state into rural McClain Country to  suburban investigate


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  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel

At Monet's Table

The daily lives of the impressionist painters were very much on display in their work.  The subjects they chose - family, friends, domestic scenes - give us a glimpse of French middle-class society near end of the 19th century.   Only rarely are we able to view an artist's private life as if we were family.  The carefully crafted world Claude Monet created at Giverny is one such splendid example.



Before you visit, I recommend you read the short memoir of life at Giverny described in Monet’s Table.  (The author, Claire Joyes, is the wife of Mme. Monet’s great-grandson.) There you discover that Monet kept cooking journals and directed a two acre kitchen garden.   Today, he would be called a ‘foodie’ although I prefer the French word, gourmand.

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