In the Kitchen with Alana Chernila | Weekends with Yankee

Packing the perfect Tanglewood picnic with cookbook author Alana Chernila.

By Amy Traverso

Feb 21 2019


Cold Buttermilk

Photo Credit : Jennifer May
Alana Chernila’s latest cookbook is Eating from the Ground Up: Recipes for Simple Perfect Vegetables (Clarkson Potter, 2018).

Making a television show inspired by a magazine is like leaping from a 2-D world into a 3-D one. In one medium, words and photographs set the scene. In the other, there’s movement and performance (and behind it all, the logistics of moving a crew from one shoot to the next). Every winter, we sift through dozens of story ideas, looking for the ones with “legs”—a promise of visual beauty, surprises, a better understanding of New England. We factor in geographical diversity. We look for characters with a good story to tell and the ability to do it on camera. In short, we control for everything we can.

And then there’s the weather. Take this season’s segment on picnicking at Tanglewood with cookbook author and Berkshires native Alana Chernila. Sitting in a sterile WGBH conference room during a planning meeting, we imagined orchestral swells, golden late-afternoon light filtering through the trees, candles, and a soft quilt.

But on the actual day of filming, in late July, the moody Massachusetts skies emptied as we unpacked our basket. And while our location near the Music Shed was acoustically ideal, it was, we soon realized, downslope from the storm drains. Still, there was no option to pack up and try again tomorrow, so we went on, umbrellas in hand. Luckily, as a Tanglewood veteran Chernila had seen worse days on that Great Lawn. And sure enough, by the time she was handing out jars filled with zingy buttermilk borscht, the sun was out again, drying up all the rain. Except for the quilt—that remained soaked, as did the knees of my white pants.
Cold Buttermilk Borscht
Alana’s perfect Tanglewood picnic includes jars filled with zingy buttermilk borscht.
Photo Credit : Jennifer May

Get the Recipe: Cold Buttermilk Borscht