Bonny Wolf

NPR commentator Bonny Wolf grew up in Minnesota and has worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in New Jersey and Texas. She taught journalism at Texas A&M University where she encouraged her student, Lyle Lovett, to give up music and get a real job. Wolf gives better advice about cooking and eating, and contributes her monthly food essay to NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday. She is also a contributing editor to "Kitchen Window," NPR's Web-only, weekly food column.

Wolf 's commentaries are not just about what people eat, but why: for comfort, nurturance, and companionship; to mark the seasons and to celebrate important events; to connect with family and friends and with ancestors they never knew; and, of course, for love. In a Valentine's Day essay, for example, Wolf writes that nearly every food from artichoke to zucchini has been considered an aphrodisiac.

Wolf, whose Web site is, has been a newspaper food editor and writer, restaurant critic, and food newsletter publisher, and served as chief speechwriter to Secretaries of Agriculture Mike Espy and Dan Glickman.

Bonny Wolf's book of food essays, Talking with My Mouth Full, will be published in November by St. Martin's Press. She lives, writes, eats and cooks in Washington, D.C.

Every day of the year is a good time to experiment with new recipes. Except, arguably, one.

Thanksgiving is when Grandpa's grease-spattered gravy recipe is pulled from the file and your mother-in-law makes the sweet, sticky pecan pie her grandchildren expect. The sweet potatoes are boiled and peeled for their annual bath of maple syrup, nuts and, yes, marshmallows.

Some erstwhile creative home cooks and food professionals are just like everyone else at the Thanksgiving table.

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Many American towns put the "Closed" sign up by 6 p.m. But night markets are drawing people out in Minnesota, Oklahoma and Virginia, with food, art and music from the local community.

The model for the nocturnal markets is the Asian night market, where people eat, shop and socialize and tourists discover delicacies like live scorpions and roasted sea horse until the wee hours of the morning.

It's time to set the table for 2015. What will be the next kale? Has the cupcake breathed its last?

We're headed for high times. As states legalize marijuana, cannabis comestibles are coming. Pot brownies — so 1960s — are joined by marijuana mac 'n' cheese and pot pesto. There's a new cooking show called Bong Appetit.

Another crushed leaf is this year's superdrink. Matcha is made from green tea and promises a calmer energy boost than Red Bull. The Japanese have been drinking it for centuries.

Add kitchen knives to the list of weapons that humans are using to fight invasive species. I'm talking about fish who've made their way into nonnative waters.

How do they get here? Sometimes they catch a ride in the ballast water of ships. Or they're imported as live food or dumped out of aquariums. Once here, they can wipe out native fish, trash the ecosystem and wreck the beach business.

You don't even have to get out of your PJs to go to the farmers market now.

All over the country, trucks are now delivering fresh milk, organic vegetables and humanely raised chickens to your door — though in New York, the deliveries come by bike.

Fifty years ago, about 30 percent of milk still came from the milkman. By 2005, the last year for which USDA has numbers, only 0.4 percent was home delivered.

At the beginning of every year, we read the tea leaves to see what new food trends we'll be tasting in the coming months. This year, the tea itself is the trend.

Tea leaves will be big in entrees, desserts and, of course, cocktails. Starbucks has opened its first tea shop.

We won't be just drinking tea; Artisan distilling keeps on growing. This could be the year of gin, made with local botanicals as well as the traditional juniper berry.

In case you want to add a pinch of celebratory beverage to your first meal of the year, we invite you to look through the Kitchen Window. A spirited New Year's can come from the kitchen as well as the bar.

We've featured a number of stories using alcohol as an ingredient in cooking as well as in bartending — if it tastes good in a glass, it tastes good on a plate. It's also a great way to use up any leftover libations from your holiday celebrations.

As a Christmas gift to readers, Kitchen Window has compiled some of the most popular stories of the year for another look. As always, you were interested in a variety of subjects, from the simple procedure to the leap of faith, and showed an interest in trending topics — like gluten-free and DIY.

Kitchens are getting smarter.

Some refrigerators can let you know when the door is open, or if the milk is past its sell-by date. They make ice at night during less expensive, off-peak energy hours. There are dishwashers that can contact a repairman.

It probably won't be long before you can become Facebook friends with your microwave.

The first microwave oven — the Radarange — weighed 750 pounds and was bought by a Cleveland restaurant in 1947 for $3,000. Later home models had a pull-out box for recipe cards. Paper recipe cards. So quaint.

It's delicious, it's nutritious and it's basically rotten. Fermentation is a hot culinary trend, and, as Weekend Edition food commentator Bonny Wolf explains, the preservation process gives food a flavor unique to time and place.

People you know may intentionally be growing bacteria in their homes — on food, outside the refrigerator. And they are doing it to make food safe, and nutritious.

They are doing what cooks have always done: fermenting food.

In Colonial Virginia, oysters were plentiful; Capt. John Smith said they lay "thick as stones." But as the wild oyster harvest has shrunk, Weekend Edition food commentator Bonny Wolf says the market for farm-raised oysters is booming.

The local food movement is expanding from fertile fields to brackish waters.

Along the rivers and bays of the East Coast, where wild oysters have been decimated by man and nature, harvests of farm-raised oysters are increasing by double digits every year. At the same time, raw oyster bars are all the rage.

Weekend Edition food commentator Bonny Wolf offers her predictions of what we'll eat in the new year.

Asia is the new Europe. It's been gradual: from pan-Asian, Asian fusion and Asian-inspired to just deciding among Vietnamese, Korean, Tibetan and Burmese for dinner.

Should we have the simple food of the Thai plateau or the hot, salty, sour foods of southern Thailand?

Wild turkeys and buffalo have more in common than you might guess. Both were important as food for Native Americans and European settlers. And both were nearly obliterated.

There were a couple of reasons for the turkey's decline. In the early years of the U.S., there was no regulation, so people could shoot as many turkeys as they liked. And their forest habitat was cut down for farmland and heating fuel. Without trees, turkeys have nowhere to roost. So they began to disappear.

Harvest season is upon us, but in the U.S.'s northern lakes, it's not just the last tomatoes and first pumpkins. Through the end of this month, canoes will glide into lakes and rivers for the annual gathering of wild rice, kick started with the popular Wild Rice Festival in Roseville, Minn., on Saturday.

I get saltwater taffy. You're at an ocean that is made of salt water. But doughnuts?

I'm clearly missing something, because many summer communities have doughnut shops, often open just for the season. Critical summer doughnut mass seems to be concentrated in the north and east — maybe because it's always summer in California, where they have their own different doughnut culture.

The summer shops usually are simple shacks with awnings and screen windows, no inside seating and a picnic table outside in the hot sun.

I ordered a side salad with my dinner the other night, feeling the need for something green. This usually is an afterthought — for me and, it often seems, for the kitchen.

What I got, however, was the product of obvious thinking — a plate of baby greens, sprinkled with pieces of cauliflower pickled in turmeric, tiny rings of pickled shallot and tasty cherry tomatoes, all dressed with a light, creamy vinaigrette. The greens were arugula, spinach, kale, mizuna and tatsoi (Asian mustard greens). The salad tasted like spring.

Travel often brings the unexpected. But I was unprepared to find some of the best food I've ever eaten in Australia.

On a recent trip, we stopped at a café for lunch. An Australian woman we had seen earlier at a sheep dairy ran over and recommended the marron salad. "What is marron?" I asked.

"Well," she said, "you know what yabbies are."

Popcorn and movies (or the Oscars) go together like Batman and Robin. And nowadays, options stretch far beyond plain or buttered.

Food critics call one brand the Rolls Royce and another the Prada. They are designer labels for the simplest, most American snack food.

In the U.S., wine drinking has held its own during these hard economic times, and even grown in some unlikely corners. Moscato, for example, the Italian dessert wine, has gone from relative obscurity to the toast of the town.

Hip-hop singer Drake, in his song "Do It Now," gives it a shout-out. It's also the wine Kanye West orders for special parties. And it's the wine Real Housewife of Atlanta NeNe Leakes has just started selling under the label Miss Moscato.

Come 2012, there's a new food vocabulary: authentic, craft, small batch, artisanal, rustic and, of course, local. It's the opposite of processed, mass produced and factory farmed.

What might be called urban neo-ruralism has apartment dwellers canning tomatoes, keeping bees and churning butter.

The small farmer is the new gastronomic superhero, sourced on restaurant menus. Independent butcher shops are opening across the country with unfamiliar cuts like Denver steak, petite tender, flat iron. Expect more specialty meats, too, like bison, elk, goat and rabbit.