Archives For food memories

Mourning

victoria  —  May 14, 2008 — 3 Comments

Though I try to stick to food and the food related on this journal, this isn’t going to be a strictly food-related post. I have been too busy for my taste and am currently on the hunt for something resembling a 9 to 5, work-a-day world job that doesn’t involve mentally juggling three contract jobs and some freelance on the side. That however is not why I find myself posting at 10 PM on a Wednesday.

I came to mourn a friend. I debated naming names, but am concerned that some may not know of his passing yet and would prefer they not find out online, at a food journal. Suffice it to say that he was too young, too sad and not taking care of himself and all of those ended in collapse on a hot day. At this time, I am unsure of the official cause of death, but I personally suspect a broken heart and pervasive sense of having made too many mistakes to make it better.

In his passing, I have seen others’ perspectives of him and find that he was more complicated than I had imagined. I think the person I knew was different than the person others knew. I’m not sure how many personas floated around him, but the one with which I was most familiar was a nice guy who had some problems but seemed to enjoy his friends and was always quick to invite us to a movie sneak peek or to an impromptu gathering. For awhile we had a regularly scheduled game night. Usually we would play a card game until Julian, our son, had to go to bed. He and Keifel and I would sit around after Julian went to bed, just talking. But first, we would all have dinner together, sometimes rather fancy ones, and sometimes they were rather slap dash, especially when money with us was really tight. He was appreciative either way and always thanked me and always seemed genuinely surprised that someone would go out of their way even a little bit to do something nice for him. That always made me a little sad and I don’t know where that sense of being undeserving came from. As much as we talked about the now and the future, he didn’t much like to talk about his past and I didn’t ask. I’m okay with people having secrets, I just wish I had known how truly depressed he was.

He left Nashville last year. We had an impromptu going away party, because I love to throw parties and I wanted him to know we really were going to miss him. He ended up having to come late to his own party because of moving logistics, but we did see him. That was in fact the last time I saw him. We talked on the phone after, about his love life, the new job and that he wanted to be able to have enough money to get his own place. I knew the break up he had been through hit him hard, but I guess you can hide a lot on the phone and I didn’t probe.

I guess I do feel guilty some and pissed off some. Another mutual friend and I were discussing this passing and he said he had learned that you can’t make someone take care of themselves. I agree. You cannot shake or berate someone out of depression and into eating a vegetable instead of a chilli dog. Unfortunately, part of grieving seems to be getting a little pissed off at the dead for the inconsiderate act of dying. It’s an uncomfortable emotion to sit with and too scary or embarrassing to share. I think most people stew on it because you do feel guilty for thinking ill of the dead. But it is a stage in grieving and I think one you have to deal with to move on. I feel like I confronted it pretty early this time and I can feel it receding. I don’t fell better, just calmer.

I keep thinking about the time I found out it was his birthday and someone had mentioned how bummed he was that he had to work, he didn’t have a girlfriend (at the time) and that he was kind of dreading it. I made some chocolate chip cookies and took them to him at work. He was a little speechless at first, but thanked me. I had to run, but apparently he shared them with a few of his co-workers and got some enjoyment out of his birthday. I wish that, or something, anything, had been enough to make him care about himself as much as others did. I do want to believe in something after this life, I hope whatever it is comes with some clarity and that he can see now what he didn’t see before.

January Goings On

victoria  —  January 20, 2008 — 3 Comments

January has already been a busy month. My cooking classes started in Murfreesboro. We are doing a culinary tour of Europe and it has been a blast to prepare menus and hang out with the new crop of home cooks looking for some entertainment and new ideas. We started in Sweden, land of my foremothers, with a perfect cold weather menu. We were in Denmark last week with a revised vision of my International Class final project menu. I am doing all the cooking in about 2 and a half hours, so I couldn’t be quite as ambitious.

I also helped host a couples baby shower for CSG and the Carpenter. Their bouncing baby boy is due on Valentine’s day and Ms. Te, CSG’s sister, another friend of CSG’s and his wife and I wanted to do something for them before CSG got too close to her due date. We had planned an English tea for a Sunday afternoon. The party was in Columbia (45 minutes to an hour out of Nashville) at the friend and wife’s lovely 110-year-old home that they have completely renovated and decorated. Ms. Te and CSG’s sister helped get all the food set up. Ms. Te frosted and decorated the cake and CSG’s sis put the fruit tray together and made duck punch (rubber duckies afloat on Sprite and blue raspberry punch). I have to admit that I am more than dubious of blue food, but it did look cute and aside from that vaguely chemical taste of fake raspberry flavor, it would be a slightly sweet fun punch for kids’ parties too. I think it might be nicer with the blue Jones Soda or something not so sickly sweet as the Blue Hawaiian-style fruit punch.

Baby Shower spread
Who really needs an excuse for currant scones and clotted cream?

My classes at the community college have started as well. That’s been a challenge. Both my classes are online, distance learning courses. One of them I taught as a ground class last semester and the other is a new course for me. The material is fairly straight forward but there have been issues with content management and deployment. That is perhaps the most optimistic way to phrase it. Things seem to being ironing themselves out for the most part and I seem to be fielding fewer phone calls and emails from students who are having trouble actually getting to the content itself. That is a happy thing.

Last Thursday I also had the opportunity to see Peter Reinhart speak and make bread at the Viking Store in Franklin. It was very inspiring in many ways. I am determined now to try to make vollkornbrot, 100% whole grain rye bread. I love those dark, dense middle and eastern European breads. We had the opportunity to head home with a whole wheat and a rye starter but I think the cold in the house has kept them from doing what they are supposed to do. I’m going to give them a stir today and try to feed them tomorrow. Reinhart was mostly as I imagined. I bought his Sacramental Magic in a Small Town Cafe book back in college and was greatly inspired by the work Reinhart and his wife Susan were doing. Along with Edward Espe Brown’s Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings, I was inspired to cook for others. I’ve always liked cooking, the space it offers for meditation. It really is difficult to be distracted with minutiae when you have a knife in your hand dicing peppers for hours at a time or even the seemingly tedious act of babysitting something that needs to be stirred continually until finished. I, not so secretly, love those things and do my best deep thinking doing prep work and handwashing dishes. Both books are infinitely worth the price of admission if you are at all interested in the deeper meaning of work in the culinary industry. They are both, in essence, about really feeding people in a way that soothes physical as well as spiritual hunger. As one is Eastern Orthodox and one is Buddhist, I don’t think you need to subscribe to a particular theology (or theology at all necessarily) to gain from their philosophies.

In that vein, I am cooking dinner for 6 people who bought a North African feast dinner I donated to the silent auction at our UU church. I haven’t met any of them yet, so it should be an interesting evening and, I am hopeful, an opportunity to make some new friends. My mom will also be here this week so I may get thrown out of my own kitchen (happily) a little bit. I am hoping to entice her to make chicken and dumplings before she goes. I have tried and tried to make them like she does and they just aren’t as good. But, I suppose that is the order of things.

If you are interested in having your very own Swedish night at home, here is our menu and recipes from class. The Danish class was very similar to the one I posted during culinary school. Just do a search in the handy box above for Denmark.

A Swedish Menu

Pickled Cucumbers
Janson’s Temptation
Äppel Fläsk
Köttbullar

Cardamom Coffee Cake

Pickled Cucumbers

½ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons minced dill or parsley
2 medium cucumbers (or one English cucumber)

Combine all the ingredients, except the cucumbers. Wash and dry the cucumbers but do not peel them (it’s therefore important to try to buy unwaxed cucumbers, if possible. The English ones in plastic wrap are nice for this). Slice the cucumbers as thinly as possible – they should almost be transparent. A mandolin or other type of slicer can be helpful for this step. Place the very skinny cuke slices in a non-reactive dish, glass is best, and pour the dressing over and refrigerate for at least three hours before serving. It is traditional to serve the pickles in the dressing but they are a little more refined drained. Also, a safety note: these are not preserved and will only keep a few days in the fridge, but as a new batch is easily made and there are rarely leftovers, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Janson’s Temptation
Serves 4-6

This is not an everyday dish, but something for the smörgåsbord or a holiday meal.

6 medium baking potatoes
10 anchovies in brine
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2-4 tablespoons butter
generous 1 cup of heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325°F and lightly butter a 8 x 8” baking dish, preferably something attractive enough to go to the table. Peel the potatoes and cut into thin strips, similar as to how you would cut them up for fries. Soak the potato strips in cold water for about 30 minutes to help remove some of the starch. This will make the potatoes crispier. Meanwhile, cut the anchovies in half and reserve the brine. Fry the onions gently in half the butter until golden brown.

Drain the potatoes and dry with paper towels or a clean dish towel. Layer the potatoes with the anchovies and onions, beginning and ending with the potatoes. Pour over half the cream over and dot with the remaining butter. Drizzle over about 4 tablespoons of the anchovy brine. Bake for 25 minutes. Pour over the remaining cream and the remaining anchovy brine up to a tablespoon, then bake for another 20 minutes. This is traditionally served with ice cold beer to cut some of the richness.

Äppel Fläsk
Smoked bacon with onions and apple rings
Serves 4

2 to 4 tablespoons butter
1 pound Canadian bacon
2 large red, tart cooking apples, unpeeled, cored and cut into ½” rings
2 large onions, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a heavy, preferably cast-iron, 10 or 12” skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter and fry the bacon until lightly browned. Remove from the skillet and set aside on paper towels to drain. Sauté the onions in the butter remaining in the pan until soft and translucent. Add the apple rings to the pan and cover. Simmer over a low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan at intervals to prevent the apples from sticking.

When the apple rings are sufficiently cooked (they should offer little to no resistance when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife), return the drained bacon to the skillet. Cover the pan and simmer an additional three to five minutes to warm the bacon through. Grind pepper liberally over the contents of the pan and serve immediately. Traditionally this dish is served right from the pan, so a cast iron pan is especially nice. This is a great lunch dish or an easy weeknight supper with a crisp green salad.

Köttbullar
Swedish Meatballs
Serves 4-6

There are as many recipes for meatballs as there are cooks so feel free to improvise as you feel. Make them small for a starter or buffet and larger if for an entrée.

2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
½ to 2/3 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup light cream or half and half
¾ pound ground beef (round steak is a good choice)
¼ pound veal
¼ pound ground lean pork
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/3 cup butter
¼ cup boiling water

Heat the 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan large enough to later cook the meatballs in (it’s nicer not to half to wash all the pans). When the butter has melted and the foam has subsided, add the onion and sauté until soft and golden. Meanwhile, soak the breadcrumbs in the cream. Combine the onion, breadcrumbs and cream, meats, salt, pepper and cloves and blend thoroughly but with a light hand. Overworking the meat mixture will result in tough meatballs with an unpleasant chew to them. Shape the mixture into small, evenly-sized meatballs, wetting your hands as necessary to prevent the meat mixture from sticking (ladies and gents, I also recommend taking off your rings for this as well). Heat the remaining butter and again wait for the foam to subside. Add the meatballs and sauté until browned on all sides, shaking the pan to turn the meatballs and keep them from sticking. When they are well browned, add the boiling water and simmer over the lowest possible heat for five minutes. This helps to insure that the meatballs cook all the way through. If serving as an entrée, make a cream gravy in which to serve the meatballs, otherwise set them out with toothpicks for a buffet.

Swedish Cardamom Coffee Cake

1 ¼ cups milk
1 package (scant tablespoon) dry yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
¾ cup sugar
6 ¼ cups sifted flour
½ cup room temperature butter
¼ teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
2 to 3 teaspoons ground cardamom

For the topping:
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup chopped nuts
Milk

Put the milk in a small saucepan and heat it just until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan (this is called scalding the milk). Remove from the heat and allow to cool to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup of lukewarm water and allow to proof for five minutes or until bubbly. Add the cooled milk with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Beat in 3 cups of the flour. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in bulk or about 1 to 1 ½ hours. After the rise, add the butter, remaining sugar, salt, egg yolks, cardamom and 3 cups of flour. Reserve the ¼ cup of flour for kneading the dough.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead with floured hands until smooth and elastic. Place in a buttered bowl and turn to butter all sides of the dough. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, again about an hour to an hour and a half. Divide the dough in half to make two cakes. Divide each half into 3 equal portions and roll each of those portions into 16” long snakes. Pinch the three strips together and braid then pinch the braided end together. Place cakes on an ungreased baking sheet. Let the cakes rise until doubled in bulk or about 45 minutes. Set the oven to 375°F about 20 minutes before the braids finish their rise and make the topping. Combine the cinnamon, sugar and chopped nuts and set aside. Brush the braids with milk, gently, and sprinkle over the topping. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely and serve with milky coffee.

I haven’t actually eaten a sandwich today, but I have been pondering this concept for two or three days now. Why is it that if I slap together a sandwich it tastes pretty good (I can make a killer sandwich), but if someone else throws down some white bread with PB&J it is undeniably better. I don’t want to tweely suggest that it is made better with love or something like that. Plus I’d like to think I put some love and attention into my own sandwiches. I would like to know if this is true for everyone. I do wonder if it is more true for people who cook professionally or who usually do all of the cooking where they live. It then might taste better simply because you didn’t have to make it to eat it. That makes sense to me.

Not that these are terribly deep thoughts, but I am feeling more philosophical with Keifel out of the country. It always makes me nervous even though he does have his green card now and it shouldn’t be a problem. I worry anyway. And when I worry actively on one thing it tends to leak all over everything else. And it gives me migraines. Dammit.

I have often bemoaned the fact that I sometimes feel like my brain isn’t being used for the greater good (I have bemoaned this here in previous posts which you may have skipped for the high pitched whine they emitted). Not that feeding people isn’t sometimes complicated and it is almost always noble on some level. It’s just that well… should I have used my intellect for rocket science or cancer research or a cure for spinal cord injuries? I spent all this time being a humanities major and writing about my own “pain” as a poet. Talk about some cringe-worthy reading. You’ll have to trust me on this one. Then I worried about being what I thought I was supposed to be, because I’d received this great free education and blah, blah, blah. Maybe I just can’t be satisfied with whatever it is I am currently doing. Maybe that is a good thing and avoids stagnating at a phase. I am not equating doing this thing, here, now with futility, just suggesting that maybe constantly having true contentment just out of reach is a good thing. Of course, being content in my relationship and in myself aside from work-type issues may be the reason I have the luxury to be philosophical about the work-type issues in the first place. Okay, I’m done staring at my own belly button. Want to see the cake I made for a friend of Keifel’s at work for a Thanksgiving birthday?

Look it's a fat unicorn on a Ferrari logo : )
Hey, look! It’s a… fat unicorn on a Ferrari logo.

Victoria’s Big Week in Food

victoria  —  November 17, 2007 — 1 Comment

Having previously worked in the chaos that is television, I know that I don’t like to be the center of that particular spotlight. However, that does not mean that I don’t like a pat on the back now and then. I had the great fortune of asking a question at the right time and a great thing came of it. I saw that a certain food writer and culinary celebrity was going to be in our berg for an event and emailed to ask if he would come speak with our culinary arts students at the community college. He said yes and came on Thursday this week. He spoke for about 45 minutes about his training and writing and what is important to all chefs, cooks and people who eat. He then answered student questions for about 45 minutes. They asked great questions and he took all their questions seriously and gave thought provoking answers that I think made a positive impression and reinforced what we are trying to do as instructors. He stayed a little while after that for pictures and book signing. (Yes, I did get my picture made with him). It just goes to show it never hurts to ask.

Also, this week, due to Keifel’s pimping of my culinary talents, I am baking some festive goodies for peeps from his office and the Apple store. I decided to do my shopping at the new Whole Foods because part of the selling point of the desserts was that they were all natural and mostly organic. The butter, flour and sugar were all cheaper than the stuff I had been buying at our regular grocery store (which I still like a lot but, you know, it’s hard to compete with a place with a coffee bar and whole fish on ice). So after my cavalcade of shopping (yes, it was just me, but it seemed a sufficiently grand word for the occasion) I am making pie crusts and ginger cookies tomorrow and all the stuff that won’t keep as well Monday night for Tuesday delivery. My house will smell, to borrow a phrase from Nigella, of nutmeg-y goodness far into next week.

Please Stand By

victoria  —  March 30, 2007 — Leave a comment

Foodieporn HQ is moving this weekend. It’s as crazy as one might imagine and I think this whole house thing is giving me an ulcer. I may be on a diet of oatmeal and polenta for the next month to recover, but I’ll try not to inflict a month’s worth of gruel recipes on the world.

Take care and send good moving karma to the Raschke-Agostinis.

Another amazingly full buffet table, I might add. We had a few less people than we had really expected but we did run through some of the big dishes. The orphan food was rather minimal (and trust me, Keifel and I really wanted there to be leftover paté). Everything turned out exactly as I had imagined and wanted. That always makes me feel wonderful, and we all know that that’s why people (okay, me) become chefs. It’s all about the mmmm factor and the validation.

We followed the menu as planned for the most part. Though I jimmied and tweaked based on time constraints and budgetary considerations, also on having forgotten a couple things in the transit from point A (my teeny kitchen) to point B (J&J’s lovely abode). The champagne flowed though we did manage to get through fewer bottles this year. We held a ballot competition to get everyone involved with fabulous non-cash prizes for the guest with the most right guesses and the guest with the least right guesses. The most winner received a choice of two wines from the cellars of J&J and the least winner received a DVD our choice (the name of the movie will be reserved to protect the not so innocent parties that chewed up the scenery).


A cheese tray with a snaking line of fig salami


Chicken liver and proscuitto paté with pistachios (yum)


My favorite picture of the night: bagna cauda with veg


A little smoky fish with accompaniment


A big smoky fish with accompaniment


Whitefish caviar on blini


Salad cups on J’s lovely basket weave platter


The big buffet in situ


The desserts. The thing you can’t see here is the people in room cheering the brownies and trying to steal them on the way to the table.

All in all I was pleased. Imagine me, Ms. Super Self-critical, saying I’m pleased, could be a breakthrough.

This week in food

victoria  —  February 17, 2007 — Leave a comment

The coming week is a great one for cooks and eaters alike. Tomorrow (Feb. 18) is Chinese New Year and the first day of the year of the Golden Pig. Tuesday is, of course, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival Tuesday, or Pancake Day. A day for revelry and feasting, originally to use up all the meat, fats and sugar before 40 days of Lenten fasting. Our somewhat planned menus are a weekend of pork dinners (Trini-style stewed pork tonight and Coffee-ancho rubbed pork tomorrow), King Cake, and big, fluffy American-style pancakes on Tuesday. We aren’t Chinese or practising Catholics but these days are a part of our American melting-pot culture. And, you know me, any excuse for a themed menu.

I wish my ability to whip up Trini food was a little more developed as I know my honey is missing all the fun in Port of Spain over the next few days. In that small way I might be able to alleviate a little of the longing for things from home. Holidays have a way of making us nostalgic. It is in fact their purpose, to commemorate, to honor, to remember those people and events important to who we are as culture today. They serve as mile posts for our personal development as well. They aren’t always happy. For every person with a warm memory of a handmade Valentine from a grade school crush and a harmonious family meal, there is a person with a painful memory of a drunken parent on Christmas day or an envious Easter morning with everyone else in new clothes. Most of my holiday memories are happy ones. I’ve been fortunate. I am also married to a man who respects my love of ritual and my need to make those rituals our own and therefore meaningful.

I hope my son looks back at his childhood holidays (those widely celebrate and those, perhaps oddly, honored by our small family) with fondness. I know there have been times when we didn’t have the money to do things in a big way but we have always tried to make it special. I think those things may mean more to an adult looking back than to a child immediately wishing for that big birthday or Christmas gift that wasn’t there.

Right now in our little corner of the world, snow is falling very softly outside and our house smells of cinnamon and nutmeg from the King Cake in the oven. Keifel is on his way home from work and we will make dinner together in our tiny kitchen, as he is the better “stewer.” We’ll sit at our small table, a family hand-me-down, and eat together. Not to be too cheesy, though I expect it is too late for that, but I think that is a celebration in itself. We have each other, this place, this food, this moment to be together.

I have this hobby, one might call it an addiction to vintage cookbooks and culinary ephemera from the early 20th century. I had started a small collection on my own and then Our Lady J sent me a lovely shot of new and exciting pieces including a lovely booklet entitled “How to Enjoy a Package of Dromedary Dates” by the Kitchen Lady. I mentioned this largess to my mother who (no surprise given the bottomlessness of her cabinets/attic/basement) practically inundated me with a very large Rubbermaid container’s worth of these gems. And there are definitely some gems.

Most of them are booklets to help housewives get the most out of their newfangled appliances with a few very odd recipes thrown in. Some though, one from the Nordic Ware company in particular, have some great recipes that I have made (and admittedly tweaked for, um, modern tastes). I made a carrot and pineapple Bundt cake from the booklet “Unusual and Old World Recipes” that has rocked many a potluck. Bundts are great for looking fancy and impressive when you don’t have the time to be either.

There are also a number of scary, scary things that involve cooking with alum and carcinogenic food colorings and more oleo than a contemporary person would consume in a lifetime. Given my complete distrust of gelatine-based desserts (I can’t eat something that won’t stop moving), the Jell-O and Knox Gelatine booklets are some of my favorites.

The purely anthropological value of a recipe for lime Jell-O with ham, celery, blanched cauliflower and pimento-stuffed olives makes these booklets worth their weight in saffron.

I think that because of the explosion in food magazines and television programming, we have this idea that we are boldly going where no cooks have gone in terms of international dishes and ingredients. From the modest collection I’ve amassed that seems not to be the case. Granted there aren’t recipes that involve things like extremely hot peppers and nitrogen frozen ice cream, but there are lots of curries, Latin flavors and desserts that would make any European pastry chef gleam with pride. Things like avocados, rock lobster tails and such weren’t just discovered in the 1980s.

I especially like the maid’s outfit and the fact that there is indeed a maid serving sandwiches. This one has not one, but two recipes with avocado.

In the mix were some wartime booklets disseminated to help housewives deal with rationing and with the fear, I can only assume here, of being able to protect and feed their families in the event of catastrophe. They are very patriotic and mention vegetables from Victory Gardens and such. The thing that strikes me now is that they all discuss belt-tightening and pulling your own weight for the war effort in a way that our current government and society, I think, seems reluctant to even discuss let alone implement.

That is not to say that, like now, companies weren’t willing to prey upon the miasma of fears that swirl during wartime.


Detail from the above manual detailing the devastation in London as a result of the Blitz

Though the wartime recipes do rely on oleo (shudder) for some of the fat in baking especially, as all fats began to be rationed, they move toward what we would consider low-fat or healthy-fat type recipes today. There are pie crust and biscuit recipes that use oil instead of butter, lard or oleo. There are also several cakes that use applesauce and other puréed fruits to replace the fat altogether, something the “healthy baking” recipes of recent years have thoroughly embraced (with mixed results). Again, I don’t think we are reinventing the wheel as often as we think.

Some of the booklets I have kept just because of the artwork or the overwhelming kitsch factor. Booklets with “modern” or “time-saving” tend to be heavy on the latter. I obviously can’t know how these images were received in context. I want to believe that there was a time more innocent and less jaded when covers like the one below wouldn’t make your average shopper laugh out loud in the checkout line.

I also really love it when kitsch and Christmas overlap. I have a pretty extensive Christmas and winter holidays cookbook section in the (now-groaning) library. I have three editions of Have a Natural Christmas, ’77, ’78 and ’79, that are bursting at their yellowed seams with pine cone reindeer and low-sew cloth hobo gift bags. They also have many recipes in which peanut butter and seeds feature boldly. And yes, one in which there are seeds, nut butter and pine cones… but that one is for attracting birds to your burlap and popcorn-decorated yard, as if the popcorn didn’t have them chirping “Hallelujah” already. I do poke fun but having been a wee lass in the 1970s, those popcorn garlands and Coke-can angels make me a little misty-eyed. So naturally (no pun intended) this Reynold’s Wrap Christmas booklet made me giggle like a school girl.


Don’t think I am above including this cotton-haired beauty in my cookie packages this year.

I find the more I read about molecular cuisine and the laboratory approach to cooking with infusers and foams and nitrogen freezing, the more I enjoy these forays into the past. There is an article in May’s Wired (“My Compliments to the Lab” by Mark McClusky) that I read with fascination and dismay. McClusky talks about an outing to Chef Grant Achatz’s restaurant Alinea in Chicago that involves things frozen to -30°F and applewood ice cream suspended on a long wire sort of contraption that you bob-off like an apple on a string. Yes, I see the elements of the novel and of play. Yes, the food can taste remarkable. I’m not entirely sure that I believe it feeds us so much as entertains. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in the end I want to feed people. I really do believe that food made with care and love can sate hunger both physical and spiritual. And before the fat police descend and scream that I am colluding in that sin of confusing food with love, I’d like to get my two cents in.

I don’t mean to confuse “love with lasagna” or whatever that fat-blocking drug commercial says. What I do mean is that food, eating, like sex preserves our species and that unlike all other animals we have made an art and a vice of both. A parent feeding his or her child delicious, wholesome food is an act of love as much as a perpetuation of our kind. A future of food reduced to a pill or gelled strips of flavor doesn’t interest me any more than turkey-baster copulation for baby-making only would. I am going to try to avoid the soapbox but I do feel its splintery edge creeping up on me. Sitting down with people you love, be they friends, family, lovers, whatever, binds us. And for me personally, the people are the entertainment and the food should be fabulous and sustaining. I guess this makes me terribly old-fashioned, but I have to say I’m okay with that. I will happily delve into my culinary artifacts and sit down to conversation and damn fine lasagna with mine.

For further enjoyment

Culinary Ephemera via the U of Michigan

and the U of Iowa

A Chef and His Library

a place to purchase these lovelies if your mom/gran doesn’t come through for you

notes on collecting culinary ephemera and other kit(s)chen-y type things

the granddaddy of food kitsch on the web, James Lileks

A note or two

The tea towels in the photos are courtesy the Doris Raschke (aka Mom) collection.

Apologies for the overexposure on the pics, a photographer I am not.

Take Out

victoria  —  September 26, 2005 — Leave a comment

I cook at school, I cook at work, I read about cooking, think about it all the time and more often than not we have Chinese take out or pizza at home because when I am home I am too exhausted to even think about cooking.

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X: a dinner party

victoria  —  September 9, 2005 — 1 Comment

Julian, our boychick, turned 10 this week and for his birthday requested a seven course dinner party for him and a few of his closest friends.

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