Michele Graham grew up on the border of upstate New York and Vermont but has spent most of her adult life on the West Coast. She has been a paint maker’s apprentice, cheesemonger, graphic designer, and a tiny roadside cafe owner in Baja California. Michele works at an arts non-profit in Portland, Oregon, where she lives with her husband and young daughter. She also creates and mixes drinks at small events and gatherings. She loves food anthropology, cocktails, gardening, photography, knitting, and taking walks.
on the nightstand:
- The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi
- Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold
- The Craftsman by Richard Sennett
- A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
- A pile of magazines: 3191 Quarterly, Taproot, Imbibe, Sunset
- A cat toy
- Water glass
- A notebook and pen
- Working in the garden with my husband
- My daughter’s joy as she begins to learn how to read and write
- Salmonberry flowers
- Cocchi Americano
- Making pizza dough with poolish
- Dappled sunlight
what’s one item in your spring wardrobe you can’t go without?
Rain/mud boots. They are essential for rainy day walks, yard work, and getting good puddle photos.
what’s your idea of the perfect spring meal?
We just had our first local asparagus of the season. Mr. Graham roasted it with olive oil, salt, and pepper – I could eat it every day. I would add grilled Copper River salmon for the perfect spring meal.
what are three constants in your day?
- Waking up to cat yawns and stretches
- Cup of coffee
- Bedtime snuggles/stories/battles with our daughter
tell us about the inspiration behind these photos.
Puddles reflect the world back to us in unexpected ways. I am compelled to look in puddles not to search for mystical messages, but as a way to see the world differently, to shift the lens a bit. I was drawn to study cultural anthropology for this reason – we take many of our cultural norms for granted: keeping to the right side of the sidewalk, blessing someone after a sneeze, etc. Why we do these things interests me as does finding ways to stretch the borders of the dominant culture. The camera gives me a way to start a dialogue to try to soften these borders. It is also a way to find beauty in objects that I usually find mundane or ugly, such as power lines or garbage floating in a filthy puddle.
michele’s springtime cocktails:
the nootka rose + rhubarb ginger soda (non-alcoholic)
I prefer wild roses over most hybrids. One of my favorites is the Nootka rose, a native from Western North America. Like the rose, this cocktail is deep rosy pink with a gingery aroma.
Makes one cocktail.
1.5 – 2 ounces rhubarb ginger syrup (recipe below)
1 ounce lemon or lime juice
2 ounces bourbon or rye
2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters (also good with aromatic, orange, or cardamom bitters)
Add the rhubarb ginger syrup, lemon or lime juice, whiskey, and bitters to a cocktail shaker or mason jar. Add ice and shake well.
To serve, you have two options:
1. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an edible blossom or citrus twist.
2. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice and top with seltzer. Garnish with an edible blossom or citrus wheel.
Rhubarb Ginger Soda
Makes one soda.
1 ounce rhubarb ginger syrup (recipe below)
Juice from half a lime, plus lime wheels for garnish
Add 2 or 3 ice cubes into a juice glass. Pour syrup over ice. Squeeze juice into glass. Carefully pour seltzer over the back of a spoon into the glass to maintain layers, or stir all together for a pale pink drink. Garnish with thinly sliced lime wheels.
Rhubarb Ginger Syrup
This syrup is easy to make and you get a bonus jar of rhubarb ginger compote from the process. Don’t you love recipes where you get more than one product and nothing is wasted? Yields vary, but expect almost a pint of syrup and a jam jar of compote.
3 cups chopped fresh rhubarb (use the rubiest red stems you can find for the prettiest syrup color)
3 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (spring ginger if you can find it)
1 cup sugar (I use organic cane crystals, so my syrup ends up a little cloudier than if I used a more refined sugar, but please use what you prefer)
1 cup water
Add all to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Bring heat down to a simmer and cook until the rhubarb is barely tender, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or colander. Place the strainer over a mason jar to collect the syrup. Do not squeeze the cheesecloth to extract more liquid; just let gravity do the work or the syrup will be cloudy and a little too viscous. Feel free to give it a gentle stir or two with a spoon but no more than that.
Be sure to save the rhubarb ginger mixture from the cheesecloth, as this is a tasty compote. The syrup will keep in a jar for a week or two. You can use the syrup in the drink recipes above, but it would make a pretty gin fizz or rhubarb ice cream float. The compote is good on scones, ice cream, yogurt, or oatmeal. I made a cheddar and rhubarb compote sandwich on spelt bread for a simple, tasty lunch. The compote should keep in a jar for about a week.