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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

All We Had

December 4, 2013 | by

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Photo: Luigi Anzivino.

My boyfriend Keith does not like my dumplings. He thinks they’re plain-tasting. I stir the sticky dough. He says that even their color is unappetizing. Like paste, he tells me, like something thick from inside an engine.

“Like papier-mâché, almost,” he says, and I look at him and blink.

Keith and I have been standing in my cramped kitchen for over an hour now, scraping spoons against spoons, and it’s late. On the table behind us, there’s a bowl of French-cut green beans and a whole chicken, getting cold. I take a pinch of flour and release it over the bowl.

“Like this,” I say, but still the consistency won’t come together in the way I know it can. I add another pinch, and then another, and then another.

The recipe for the dish is my grandmother’s, and it is simple: whisk together flour and egg, whisk until the dough sticks to the spoon and then, at last, snaps back against the bowl. It’s all about consistency, something you can’t put your finger on, something you just have to know. That is why there is no written recipe for this dish, this congealed mess of white that gets boiled in bits and drenched in sour cream and salt and pepper. There is no written recipe because how do you put your finger on dumpling elasticity?

“So you just know?” Keith asks. He dips his finger into the simmering stock beside us, pulling it to his lips.

“I just know,” I say. Read More »

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Hemingway’s Hamburger

September 16, 2013 | by

Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Fingers deep, I kneaded. Fighting the urge to be careless and quick, I kept the pace rhythmic, slow. Each squeeze, I hoped, would gently ease the flavors—knobby bits of garlic, finely chopped capers, smatterings of dry spices—into the marbled mound before me.

I had made burgers before, countless times on countless evenings. This one was different; I wasn’t making just any burger—I was attempting to recreate Hemingway’s hamburger. And it had to be just right.

My quest had begun in May when I read a newspaper story about two thousand newly digitized documents of Ernest Hemingway’s personal papers in Cuba finally wending their way to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. This was the second batch of Hemingway papers to arrive from his home in Cuba, where he lived from 1939 to 1960, and wrote numerous stories and the celebrated novels For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.

In his Havana home—Finca Vigía, or “Lookout Farm,” a large house and sprawling tropical gardens filled with mango and almond trees—between tapping out books like A Moveable Feast (while standing up at his typewriter), he also enjoyed dining well and entertaining. The ubiquitous Hemingway Daiquiri, after all, comes from his time in Havana, when he wandered into the El Floridita bar, had his first taste of a daiquiri, then ordered another with no sugar—and double the rum. (So the story goes, anyway.)

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Happy Birthday, Julia

August 16, 2013 | by

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“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” —Julia Child

 

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Everything They Cook Takes Five Hours: An Interview with Director Alexa Karolinski

March 28, 2013 | by

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Alexa Karolinski is an old friend. I first met her in 2005, when I was the editor at VICE Italy, in Milan, and she was a particularly bright intern at the VICE Germany office. Alexa quit VICE a few months after I met her; she then moved to Paris for a while, started working in television for ARTE, met her husband, moved back to Berlin, and then moved to New York three years ago, where she studied documentary filmmaking at the School of Visual Arts. And now she is a film director. Oma & Bella, her first feature-length film, began as her thesis, and was then released in German cinemas after being accepted at the Berlin Film Festival last year. If, like me, you have any sort of fascination with World War II, food, and your grandma, it is an absolutely must-see documentary.

Oma & Bella tells the story of best friends Bella Katz and Regina Karolinski (Alexa’s grandmother), two octogenarian Holocaust survivors among the oldest surviving members of Berlin’s Jewish community, who moved in together when Regina had a hip operation. They spend most of their time cooking traditional Eastern European Jewish food, giving that food to their family, talking about food, organizing dinners, going food shopping, preparing food, washing the utensils they use to prepare food, putting food in Tupperware and freezing it, and occasionally taking a break from the food in the form of an amble to the park or the cemetery. With a delicate grace and a warm sense of humor, Alexa made one of the most touching portraits of an elderly couple―and of Holocaust survivors―I have ever seen on screen.

A few months after the movie was released, we collaborated on The Oma & Bella Cookbook. That is to say: when Alexa told me she wanted to make a cookbook that would collect the movie’s recipes, I begged her to let the Milan Review design it.

I recently got on Skype with Alexa to talk about her movie, grandparents, and food.

So, tell me—exactly when did you decide to make this movie?

It began about three years ago, when I was living in Berlin and decided that I wanted to learn how to cook. At the time I couldn’t cook anything more complicated than scrambled eggs and I decided that one day, my children—the children I don’t have yet—should be able to eat the food I grew up with. Therefore, I needed to learn that from my grandmother, and from her best friend, Bella, who she lives with. So I started cooking with them and then I kind of decided very quickly that it wasn’t enough to just cook with them, that I would have needed to write down the recipes and make a cookbook out of it.

It must have been daunting.

Yes. And they don’t cook with measurements—they go by eye—so I had to learn how to cook with them and invent the measurements just by watching them cook. So basically I started this cookbook project, and within that cookbook project I was looking for a visual landscape. And one day I kind of decided, knowing that I was going to go back to film school, to rent a camera and, just for fun, film them. Then I cut a two-minute teaser out of that, just to teach myself how to use Final Cut. And then, when I moved to New York, I showed this around, mostly just to show some friends how much I love my grandmother and how amazing she is. And people were like, This is gonna be your thesis film, and I kind of thought, Yeah, I guess it is. Read More »

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The Gift of Hunger

January 25, 2013 | by

The first time I cooked for him, it was the height of August. The meal was very simple: a salad; a pasta; some peaches I roasted and served with ice cream. Nothing special. And he seemed to like it okay. But the writing was on the wall: this was a man who ate to live, and not the other way round.

For some of us, this is unthinkable. I am always plotting my next meal, mulling over my last, calculating my degree of appetite. Those days when illness robs me of hunger are among my most hopeless. I remember food scenes in movies and books better than others. The city is mentally mapped by cookies and hamburgers; noodle stands are my landmarks; a trip is an opportunity to eat new things, and work up an appetite, and try more. Read More »

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When Poets Cook, and Other News

November 15, 2012 | by

  • “Few poets, it would seem, are willing to claim as favorite any old run of the mill standard recipe.” When poets cook.
  • Dream homes built for books and the nerds who love them.
  • The Institute of Egypt in Cairo, which suffered damage and losses last December, has been given four thousand rare books.
  • “The reason we decided to do handmade books, sewing them instead of having them stapled, is because we wanted to make durable books that would be precious. When you get a Crumpled Press book, you can feel that it was handmade by somebody, you can feel slight irregularities in it. It’s a precious object that you’re not going to throw away. So if I make 250 or 1,000 copies, those books are going to carry on.”
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