Recap: Piedmont Picnic Project Co-Hosts Hot Nuts & Cider on the Farm
Saturday night had me out in the trenches on another taxing reporting assignment. Raleigh City Farm had teamed up with the Piedmont Picnic Project for a Hot Nuts & Cider event on the Farm, and let me just say: man, was it arduous. There was a make-your-own hot spiked cider bar. There were locally picked nuts to crack and roast over a blazing open fire. Next to the fire there was Sarah Osborne on the clawhammer banjo, Austin McCombie on guitar, and Daniel Osborne (Sarah’s brother) on fiddle. The air smelled like hot chestnuts and woodsmoke.
Let it never be said that I won’t go to great lengths to cover important happenings for the sake of this blog.
The Piedmont Picnic Project, for those who are unfamiliar, is the brainchild of Amanda Matson and Elizabeth Weichel. When the two met through a mutual friend not long ago, they realized they shared a lot of similar and slightly obscure interests—in particular, the history of food and drink practices, and where these practices come from. Elizabeth has worked for museums and historical organizations, and is co-author of a cool little book called Legendary Locals of Raleigh. Amanda has a Ph.D. in Psychology in the Public Interest from NC State. She researches communities and helps advocate to make them better places to live.
Out of this new friendship, Piedmont Picnic Project was born.
The new venture—officially launched in August 2014—tests the theory that “the things we eat and drink and otherwise consume can be local, sustainable, and historical without being pretentious.” To that end, Amanda and Elizabeth share on their website a steadily growing collection of recipes, foraging tips, and how-tos, all rooted in traditional Southern food practices. Offline, they team up with collaborators like Raleigh City Farm to host casual events that showcase local food and drink practices and bring people together.
“I’m all about getting people involved in creating the kinds of communities they want to live in,” Amanda says. “I think food is an important part of that.”
I asked her what kind of community she grew up in.
“I grew up in a family of what people now would probably call ‘homesteaders.’ But at the time I just thought we were weirdos! It wasn’t until I came back to a lot of those same practices (gardening, preserving, foraging) as an adult that I saw their value.”
As anyone who has ever been passionate about anything at all will tell you, with passion comes the desire to share that excitement with others. This is exactly what Piedmont Picnic Project has set out to do. Add some warm spiked cider to that, along with some good vibes on a brisk, clear night at the Farm? These women may be on to something.
“We both wanted to put our interests and skills to work and share them in the community, but we had to create our own business to do that! It is a labor of love for both of us, and it’s been a great journey so far.”