2022: The Year Of The Charcuterie

Make 2022 “The Year of the Charcuterie!”

I know. You’re sick of the charcuterie. You think they’re pretentious. Boring and repetitious. Unpleasant and unappetizing. Gross and unsanitary because, eww, fingers!

Agree to disagree?

I used to dread cooking for my family. When they were little, it was fun. But as the kids got older (they are 11, 13, 15 and 16), it became harder to serve a meal everyone liked. Besides that, I noticed that there was something stultifying about family meals.

We didn’t really “come together” at the table. The fact that Jesse and I sat at the “heads” meant that the kids were automatically stuck in a place of subservience and expectation. I can’t think of a single meaningful conversation that has ever taken place at the table. It was glorified chit chat and who needs that?

Enter the charcuterie board!

It’s 2022, but I first learned about the charcuterie last summer when I read Julia Child’s book, People Who Love to Eat Are Always the Best People. I was instantly obsessed. I bought a couple boards for less than $20 and when I got home, I immediately started experimenting with the ingredients I had on hand.

My first charcuterie. Gone in five minutes.

By their definition, charcuterie boards are supposed to display a variety of meats but I am a “work with what you got” gal, plus my 16-year-old daughter is a vegetarian. The rest of my family eats meat, but also appreciates the nutritious vegetarian charcuterie, like this Halloween-themed board.

A sugary charcuterie for Halloween.

Sugary charcuteries don’t disappear as fast as boards filled with fruits and veggies. If you have leftover candy and cookies, “take it outside” to a nearby forest preserve. A picnic table easily transforms into a charcuterie board and your hikers will appreciate lots of options (healthy or otherwise) available at the trailhead.

Picnic table set up as a charcuterie for hikers. By the end of the day, the leftover candy and cookies (and everything else) were gone.

When you need a break from sugar, throw together a fresh option like this.

Back inside, spinach and artichoke dips go a long way with the charcuterie. And don’t be afraid to add leftovers. Replenish boards with veggies and crackers and you won’t have to cook that night.

On chillier days when you need comfort and warmth, add cornbread, Brussels sprouts and quesadillas to your boards. You won’t be disappointed.

Tired of raw veggies? Comfort food like cornbread, quesadillas and Brussels sprouts will satisfy your eaters.
Happy Thanksgiving!

The charcuterie comes in handy for holidays, birthdays and breakfasts.

A birthday charcuterie for my newly-minted 15-year-old son.
A breakfast charcuterie of omelettes, toast and fruit.
Late night charcuterie for my daughter who didn’t get home until 9:30 p.m.

The charcuterie isn’t limited to humans. Try creating your own “backyard board” for the birds, opossums and squirrels that visit your yard, porch or balcony. Here’s our Nutcracker-themed spread. I made their “nutcracker” out of stale ice cream cones smeared with peanut butter and bird seed.

A Nutcracker-inspired charcuterie “for the birds.”

A charcuterie board is a clean slate. Every day, it gives you the freedom to be creative, resourceful and fun. They are inexpensive, take less than 15 minutes to prepare and clean-up is easy because most of the food is “clean.”

“Moo Tubes” and little wrapped candies add an element of fun to the boards.
Hummus and pita chips are a charcuterie staple.

Sometimes you won’t have beautiful, colorful ingredients to fill your charcuterie board. Don’t worry! Your spread will be eaten even if it doesn’t reflect every color of the rainbow.

Vanilla pudding, avocado toast, meats, cheeses, veggies, fruits, pita chips and hummus.

Whether you load your board with meats-and-cheeses, or veggies-and-fruits or a combination of whatever you have on hand, your innovative spreads will bring sustenance and joy to your eaters.

Don’t forget the vegans in your life!

The charcuterie has improved my entire culinary outlook. Though I will continue to cook some traditional meals, I am (unofficially) declaring 2022: “The Year of the Charcuterie!”

Thank you for reading. I showed you mine; now you show me yours! -Connie

Silent Hiking & Writing Party FAQ

Join us for a silent hike into the woods, along a prairie, near a river and by a creek. And then write!

Hello friends and family! Here are the frequently asked questions about the hiking and writing party! I hope you come! -xo Connie

Q: What’s going on?

A: A silent hiking and writing party! There will be no talking from 9:00-11:00 a.m. except when I record you reading your new writing, which I’ll explain further down.

Q: Where is it?

A: It’s in northern Illinois, not far from the Wisconsin border. It’s two hours north of Chicago and about ten minutes from I-90. The specific location will be kept secret until you RSVP.

Expect to hike into a forest as well as alongside a prairie and a creek.

Q: Why so secretive, Connie?

A: Because it is the most consistently quiet place I have ever been and though I am eager to share this “secret” with friends and family, I want to keep it that way to protect the wildlife that thrives there.

Q: What if the silent hike clears my mind so much that I can’t think of anything to write?

A: When we meet, I will give you a writing prompt, if you want one. You can use it or ignore it, but you do have to write!

Q: What if I hate writing?

A: I don’t care. Write.

Q: What happens if we all show up at the same time? Won’t the trails get congested?

A: I will send you onto the trails in staggered times so that you have your own space. There are plenty of ways to spread out. It is easy to get lost on these trails and cell phone services is spotty, but if you simply keep walking, you will make it back to the trailhead.

Q: What if I get lost?

A: Then you will die in the woods, alone. Bobcats will eat your rotting flesh.

Q: How much should I write?

A: As much as you want! You can write a haiku or a tanka or a sestina or an essay or a story or song or a play or a monologue or whatever. I’ll record you reading up to three minutes (about 1000 words) of your new writing.

Q: Why are you going to record me?

A: I am going to include everyone’s recordings in a video. Then I am going to share our video through Zoom and Facebook Live on Halloween Night at 7:45 p.m.

Q: What if I bring something I’ve already written? You gonna be mad?

A: Hell yes I’ll be mad! This is a new event and your writing should reflect the new event.

Q: Does that mean I have to write about the event?

A: You can write whatever you want. It just has to be new writing. Like, don’t show up with your laptop with a manuscript you started in 1997. Or even something you wrote last week. Don’t bring something you want to “dust off” or I will sic the bobcats on you.

Q: That’s the second time you’ve mentioned bobcats. Are there bobcats?

A: Bobcats have been reported in 99 of Illinois’ 102 counties, so probably. However, they are very secretive and I have never seen one there.

Q: Is there anything lurking in the woods that might scare me?

A: Not likely, unless you’re afraid of whitetail deer. But there are fox holes and gopher holes, so it is truly important to look where you are going. There are also countless walnuts on the ground, so keep an eye on the trails so you don’t accidentally twist your ankle.

There is one grill and Jesse will be grilling halloweenies on it.

Q: What if I get hungry from all that hiking and writing?

A: There will be blood snacks! Jesse will be grilling halloweenies and I will be serving a gigantic charcuterie. There will be plenty of vegetarian options. We’ll have bottled water, too.

Q: What should I bring?

A: Please bring your own pen, journal, notebook, etc. Bring your own chair if you want to sit alone, and, if you like, a jug of water to wash your hands, should you need to use the toilet.

There is one vault toilet on the premises, but there is another one down the road.

Q: The word “toilet” embarrasses me. Why are you even mentioning it?

A: Because there is only one vault toilet on the premises. No sinks.

Q: Jeez, how remote is this place? Will I be able to legally and easily park?

A: There is a small parking lot and another one nearby. I’ll help you get situated.

Q: What else is there in terms of comfort?

A: There are two picnic benches in the meeting area and one vault toilet. There is parking but no shelter.

Q: What if it rains?

A: If it’s lightly raining, we will persevere, but if it’s truly pouring we will cancel. I will make that call Saturday at 7:00 a.m. on Facebook and through email and texts.

Q: What time?

A: The in-person event is 9:00-11:00 a.m., on Saturday, Oct. 30 but Jesse and I will stick around later if anyone wants to break the silence and talk. There is also a nearby apple orchard and pumpkin patch for anyone who wants to really have a Midwestern fall experience.

Q: What if I get there early?

A: We will be there at 8:30 to set up and you are welcome to join us or get a head start on the lovely trails. Talking will be allowed all the way up until 9:00 a.m.

Q: What time will the video be shown?

A: The online event is Halloween Night from 7:45-8:30 p.m. I’ll send you the Zoom / Facebook information on Halloween.

Q: When will you send me the address to the secret location?

A: I will send you the address once you RSVP.

Q: How do I RSVP?

A: Email me at connievkuntz@gmail.com. Or call or text me at 779-772-0716.

Q: How much does this cost?

A: It’s F-R-E-E!

Jesse and I truly hope you can come! -Connie See Less