Jane Lindholm – The Voice of Vermont
This “Edible Voices” interview first appeared in Edible Green Mountains, Summer 2015. Photo by Brent Harrewyn.
In many ways, Jane Lindholm speaks for Vermont. She’s the pleasantly inquisitive girl next door, a friendly neighbor down the street. Since 2007, Jane has hosted “Vermont Edition,” the call-in news program which airs Monday through Friday on Vermont Public Radio. Her interviews cover a wide range of guests and topics.
Prior to a career in public radio, Jane traveled the world as a writer and editor for the “Let’s Go!” travel guides. After giving birth this winter to her first child, Dylan, Jane now enjoys more local explorations and adventures with Dylan and her husband, Adrian. Jane maintains a popular blog, CommonWanderer.com, with striking photography and reflections on nature.
Jane Lindholm grabbing a bite in between callers.
Edible Green Mountains: Jane, you’re an inveterate world traveler. What are some of the more exotic foods you’ve eaten?
Jane Lindholm: I’m willing to try just about anything, especially if it’s part of the local cuisine. Fried insects and larvae sold on the street corners in Bangkok. A rainbow of different moles in Mexico, tiny sweet and incredibly flavorful bananas I could pick off the trees in Nairobi, Kenya. A soul-warming paila marina (fish stew) in southern Chile. Tiny salty dried fish eaten in handfuls like potato chips in Tokyo. And hakarl, fermented shark meat, in Iceland.
The one thing I couldn’t force myself to eat was the fried tarantula that was offered to me at a roadside bus stop on a trip through the Cambodian countryside. My fellow travelers were munching away with glee and I thought I could probably manage the crunchy hairy legs. But the thought of that big round body squishing when I bit into it … well, I just couldn’t stomach it.
EGM: In your opinion, which global cuisines have “gotten it right”?
JL: Wow, I don’t know—I can find things to enjoy every place I travel. Thailand definitely had my favorite street food, and I’m still a sucker for a good tom yum or tom ka gai! In the US, the cuisines I go to again are Japanese and Mexican. The flavors in Mexican food are so much more robust AND nuanced than we typically get to enjoy here in chain restaurants, but many of the essential ingredients are easily found in this country so when you are cooking for yourself or going to true Mexican restaurants you can find such delicious food. I lived for three years in Los Angeles, and even the taco trucks there had amazing Mexican food. Maybe especially the taco trucks! Los Angeles was also a major hub for good sushi, which I absolutely adore.
If I could add one more to the list: I get really strong cravings every now and then for Somali and Eritrean food. I’ve never been to the area, but I find the food so delicious, especially the spongy injera bread used in place of utensils. I haven’t found a good place in the Northeast to get my fix, so if anyone knows a good place, hit me up!
EGM: Based on your world travels, list a few culinary items you would always keep on hand if possible.
JL: Cilantro and limes. They go with so many different flavors and make everything better!
EGM: Most of your photographs celebrate the natural world. Have you also delved into the world of food photography?
JL: I’m usually too busy eating my food to take pictures of it!
EGM: “Vermont Edition” airs during the standard lunch and dinner hours, so many of your listeners are either eating or preparing their meals. When can you enjoy your own lunch, and what do you tend to eat?
JL: Squeezing in lunch is a perennial problem. I love leftovers, so I always try to have extra from dinner (though I often wind up eating my lunch by about 10am). Homemade chili with local venison is a go-to all winter. Quesadillas, salads…
EGM: Describe your typical day at the VPR studio. Is there a staff cafeteria/break room? How are the offerings? And the coffee/tea?
JL: Our days are pretty busy. I get in around 8:30 and it’s pretty intense until after the show. The producer and I are working on getting ready for noon and the other producers are working on future shows. We have a tiny kitchen at VPR and it’s right in the middle of things, so it’s not much of a hangout spot. People like to bring in sweet treats, so there’s often something delicious to grab while we’re on our way to the studio. And we have a couple different kinds of coffee from local companies. There are always complaints about the coffee, but I think it’s kind of a requirement: Newsrooms and police stations have to have bad coffee.
EGM: What beverages or snacks see you through a workday?
JL: Yogurt, black tea (with milk and sugar), black coffee (no milk or sugar!), dark chocolate.
EGM: How do you wind down after each day’s show?
JL: I don’t! Right now I don’t get a lot of downtime. But I try to go for lots of walks in the woods when I can.
EGM: You’re a native Vermonter. Have you seen the Vermont food culture evolve over the years?
JL: My parents divorced when I was 8 and I spent weekends and summers in Vermont for most of my youth, so I don’t have a direct trajectory. Plus, as a kid, you just eat what your parents put on the table. But it’s clear to me today that the local food movement has taken hold in a big way here, perhaps a little earlier than it did in some other regions. We’re a little behind in some of the trends though: food trucks, yogurt bars. Those seem to be all the rage here today, while the big cities are already on to other things (tail to snout, anyone?).
EGM: If you could interview anyone in the culinary world (including agriculture), who would it be and why?
JL: Happily, I’ve been able to interview a lot of the farmers, chefs and entrepreneurs who are doing interesting things in Vermont: cider makers and spirit makers all over the region who are creating really innovative drinks with local ingredients, farmers who are diversifying their products to capture the locavore movement and enhance the opportunities on their land, entrepreneurs who are using food hubs or building their own mini manufacturing plants to make kimchi, caramel, salsa and other delectables.
EGM: Do you and your husband ascribe to any particular dietary regimen: flexitarian, vegan before 6, omnivore, paleo, whatever’s in the fridge, etc.?
JL: We eat everything! Well, that’s not true. Adrian doesn’t like fish, or Thai food (which kills me).
EGM: Describe a typical kitchen scene as you and your family prepare a meal.
JL: We learned early on that one person needs to be the executive chef while the other plays sous-chef. We can’t both be in charge. So one person chops or stirs while the other person whirls around doing everything else! And we alternate who is in charge.
EGM: Name your favorite dishes or meals to prepare.
JL: Adrian is from Wales, so he likes to make a Sunday roast: roasted chicken, carrots, parsnips, broccoli, roasted potatoes and Yorkshire puddings, all smothered in gravy. When I’m home alone, I like to make a mushroom and cabbage stir fry with rice noodles. And when I can get my hands on sushi-grade tuna, there’s a great dish with avocado, soy, cilantro, lime and ever-so-slightly seared crusted tuna that I used to make all the time when I lived in LA!
EGM: Now that you are a mom, have you had to shift your food choices to accommodate the needs of Dylan?
JL: Not yet. Dylan hasn’t shown any food allergies or preferences so far, thank goodness! And he has only just started eating food on his own, so we’re introducing things slowly. I really hope he’ll be an adventurous eater!
EGM: Describe yourself as an eater. What are your go-to foods?
JL: I love to try things. I’m the annoying friend who always wants a taste of what everyone else at the table has when we’re at a restaurant. And I love condiments, the more the better! Sadly, I feel like my meal planning has suffered as my life has gotten busier, so I rarely cook anything new or adventurous these days. Standbys are shakshuka, pasta with homemade sauce from the garden that we freeze each summer, steak and potatoes (made by Adrian) and chicken/veggie kabobs on the grill.
EGM: Name a few seasonal items that you eagerly anticipate each year.
JL: I get so excited when the rhubarb starts unfurling its gigantic leaves in the spring. And I like foraging for ramps, which I pickle, grill or turn into pesto. There’s nothing better than a fresh tomato, so I salivate all winter thinking about the local bounty to come.Practically half of our garden is given over to tomatoes. And, it’s decidedly not local, but I love pomegranates, so it’s one of the few joys of winter eating when those ruddy fruits start to appear.
EGM: Any guilty food or drink pleasures?
JL: Good hot fudge and cheap whipped cream for sundaes. Boxed mac & cheese!
EGM: Secret ingredients in your fridge or cupboard?
JL: Sriracha, HP sauce (Great Britain’s version of A1), garlic paste, truffle salt.
EGM: Name some of Vermont’s food and drink treasures.
JL: You know, for me food has always been about experience. So when I think about food and drink treasures, it’s more about the memories I’ve made over food than about the food itself: the dinner my husband and I shared at Starry Night Café after we got married, just the two of us, in the middle of winter (and the tiny wedding cake the chef made for us after being tipped off). The mornings, too numerous to count, when my dad took me and my brother for breakfast at Rosie’s, a diner-like restaurant outside of Middlebury. The creemees we got all summer that dripped off the cone and gave us sticky fingers as we sat, swinging our legs, on the bench outside. The laughs, tears and secrets I’ve shared over cocktails with my friend Jill in the tiny booths at the Bobcat Café. Food is such a big part of how we share our lives together that the places and the experiences are intertwined.