Who cooks and eats here: Lyn Huckabee, co-founder of the Boston Food Swap and rental issues blog Rentwhich.com
Where: Cambridge, MA
When I visited Lyn Huckabee a few months ago in her cheery, apple-green basement kitchen, she didn't know what to do with the mound of cob popcorn she'd recently gotten from her grain share. Cob popcorn? Grain share? That sounded intriguing!
But that's just par for the course for this avid-cook-turned-food-swap-co-founder. Lyn keeps mounds of grains and homemade goods stashed in her pantry and freezer, so she's always only a couple steps away from a terrific meal. Her small kitchen, despite being in the basement, is surprisingly efficient and well set-up, too, but that wasn't always the case...
The first thing Lyn tells me when I walk into her brightly-colored kitchen is that her parents deserve all the credit. The kitchen was "a train wreck" when she bought her condo in 2007. "There was no storage space, the ceilings were crooked, it was just a mess," she tells me.
But it was also really cheap, so she bought the condo and then turned to her parents for help renovating the space — something they knew a lot about, since they'd been rehabbing old condos for years. Over the next two years they completely overhauled Lyn's condo, including the kitchen, which went from a scary disaster-zone to a surprisingly roomy and well-organized space. Now there's ample storage (both open and closed) and plenty of room for Lyn's homemade pantry staples and the dozen or so containers that hold her grain share.
As Lyn notes, the best thing about having to start from scratch in a renovation is being able to decide exactly how you want things. "I cared about using the space. I wanted a lot of storage space, I wanted a lot of work space. I wanted some open shelves," she says. But above all, she wanted things to be functional: "I wouldn't consider myself a style person, so the one criteria I had was I that I wanted things that are all practical. So if we did open shelving, I could put food on it, but it could also be decoration. As you can see, most of my decoration is functional."
Lyn and her parents sourced most things for the new kitchen from IKEA, which was the practical, budget-friendly choice: "They have so many great tools in terms of fitting things in, and they have great options for small spaces," Lyn said. "It made no sense to try to do something else."
And the dramatic green paint color? Lyn had that in mind from the very beginning! "I wanted it to be the color of a lime or green apple.... it's great for basement apartment, especially when you're dealing with not a lot of light."
Lyn's Cooking and Why She Started a Food Swap
When it comes to cooking, Lyn has no problem with recipe failures: "I'm really more of a variety person. I really like to experiment and try things. I like the fun of failing at things. I've been trying to make nut cheese for a year, and I still cannot get it right!"
Her favorite and most oft-used recipes, though, are usually ones that'll help make a dent in her grain share. (When I visited her, she made me the most delicious cornmeal and blueberry pancakes.) Unlike most CSA shares, Lyn doesn't get weekly deliveries; instead, she gets a yearly supply of grain — 115 pounds! — all at once in January. The share includes several heritage varieties of bread and pastry wheats, three different kinds of beans, several varieties of corn, and oats, barley, and rye. (And believe me, seeing all of those grains lined up in containers on the countertop is quite impressive!)
Eating through this abundance of ingredients requires constant innovation, which is part of reason Lyn helped found the Boston Food Swap in 2011. She wanted a way to share the food and ingredients she had, and for others to do the same: "The goal was, if you get a lot of eggplants this year in your [farm share], that you can make some sort of great eggplant dip, and swap the volume with somebody else who got a lot of, say, peppers and wanted to make a Romesco sauce," she notes. It's a way for her to move through the volume in her kitchen, and to support other cooks and food preservers in the city.
And she's still amazed at what comes into her kitchen from the monthly swap. Her pantry is full of jarred food and staples she's picked up at the swap: baked goods, jams, sauces, preserved foods. "I never, ever, ever shop in the middle of the grocery store anymore," Lyn says, "because I never need jam, never need tomato sauce, never need any of that stuff!" It also means that between her pantry and freezer, she usually always has something around with which to make a quick meal.
Coming later this week: Lyn shares her tips for a self-sufficient pantry, and what you should know if you're thinking of getting a grain share!
Resources of Note:
- Refrigerator: Frigidaire
- Stove: Frigidaire
- Dishwasher: Whirlpool
- Wine fridge: Cuisinart
- Food saver: Food Saver
- Mixer/grinder: KitchenAid
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(Image credits: Cambria Bold; Lyn Huckabee)