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Apr 13 / Matt

The Shackleton Dinners


Sir Ernest Shackleton was a famous explorer who lead a group, albeit unsuccessfully, to hike across Antarctica in 1907.  What is remarkable about this venture was not the mission itself, but the 100 percent survival rate amongst the group.  Jamie Masefield, founder and mandolin player of the Jazz Mandolin Project, has celebrated Shackelton’s venture for the past 8 years with a group of friends.  Using the foods grown in his garden and local Burlington, VT farmers, Jamie leads his fellow adventurers in an exploration of food. 

I caught up with Jamie, where he spoke of this dinner he held approximately a month ago.  In addition to this annual foray, Jamie spoke of the local food movement (as local as his own backyard) and how cooking food is similar to the creative process behind music. Jamie also recalled his love for Jacques-Imo’s Cafe of New Orleans and his college trio with Mike Gordon at the University of Vermont.

Growing up in the Kitchen

Jamie’s cooking was influenced by his entire family, in Orange County, NY.  He took that love to Vermont, where he has been since 1984. Tuning into his creative side, Jamie now likes the architecture of creating a garden and the cooking of the foods he grows.

JM: “I really love the creative process of cooking and find that is very similar to making music.”

Living in Vermont, Jamie is able to be a “localvorian”, sourcing all of his produce and meat all within mere miles of his home.

Peasant food and Why Gandhi Would Beat Him With a Wiffleball Bat

Some of his favorite things to create are simple, whole meals, which Jamie calls “peasant foods”.

JM: “I tend not to really use cookbooks, I just cook.”

A favorite example of this is the French dish Cassoulet, chock full of duck confit, sausage, and beans.  Other staples in his cooking repertoire include his own renditions on Indian food. Here, takes all of the spices in his household and develops his own dish.  On this, he says “Gandhi would probably beat me with a wiffleball bat.” Jamie also likes to make a simple baked salmon with olive oil, capers, salt, pepper, and maybe some chopped onions. Another staple he creates in the winter time is roasted root vegetables. He added, “it’s amazing how sweet beets, onions, and even potatoes can become when roasted.”

Destination : Jacques-Imo’s Cafe

Unfortunately, Jamie is unable to take his passion for eating on the road, as it is not conducive to going 90 mph.  While on the road, his favorite stop has become Cracker Barrel, where the band is sure to ask for extra syrup.

JM: “I had to kinda put a kibosh on that whole idea, because these little bottles were rolling all over the bottom of the JMP van. We were concerned we would end up with a van covered in maple syrup.”

His favorite stop on the road is Jacques-Imo’s Cafe, a favorite also mentioned in EM’s interview with Col. Bruce Hampton. When traveling with Jazz Mandolin Project, this was their very first stop on their first visit to New Orleans. The first time Jamie ate there, he learned of a connection between the owner and John Fishman, from Phish, who are both natives of Syracuse, NY.

Goat Commodities Will Rise

Jamie used goat legs from a local friend and farmer for this years Shackleton dinner.

JM: “My prediction is that it will be the next food fad in 5 years. Also did you know that goat is the most eaten meat in the world?”

Phish Food

In 1984, Jamie and members of Phish attended the University of Vermont.  When descending a stairwell in his dorm, Jamie came upon a man, Mike Gordon, playing the banjo. Jamie, also a banjo player, joined in. Along with Jamie, they developed a trio. Eventually, Mike had to leave the trio to commit to a new band, Phish.  To continue this Phishy connection, Jamie also has the privilege of having John Fishman as one of the drummers in JMP.

Lightening Round!

EM: Favorite Breakfast?

Jamie: “This is a hard one. I guess, I’d go with granola, fresh fruit, and maybe some yogurt.”

EM: Coffee or tea?

Jamie: “Lately, coffee with milk or cream. I am not a big coffee aficionado, but I do like good coffee. I mean, truck stop coffee is really the worst.”

EM: Hot dog topping?

Jamie: “I am a sauerkraut guy.”

EM: Favorite dessert?

Jamie: “Oh man, I am a big dessert guy.  Maybe I might say strawberry shortcake, but only when strawberries are in season.”

EM: Worst meal to date?

Jamie:  “Probably, eating of some of these pre-packaged deli platters back stage, those baby carrots that are white, and those terrible looking deli meat and bad bread…What I really hate the most though, is a chicken breast sandwich.”

He also mentioned his dislike for factory farming of chicken breasts and notes how much better chicken cooked on the bone can taste.

Musical Ventures on the Horizon

Jazz Mandolin will be playing with John Fishman on April 24th at the Belfast Free Range Music Festival, in Belfast, Maine.  You can also see Jamie participating with the Everyone Orchestra in Colorado this May.

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