Posts Tagged ‘food’
April 8, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
A counterpart to yesterday’s piece.
Speaking of characters. There was a time when, for a small adventure, one had only to go to a particular bakery in the West Village. You know the one I mean. The owner was unfailingly unpleasant, the coffee unfailingly terrible, the place lacking air-conditioning and, in summer, unbearably stuffy. But the croissants were good in their heavy way, and it was always entertaining to see people attempt to ingratiate themselves with the management.
When said owner retired, he sold his business to a hard-working and kindly employee and today things go on much as before, save that now the customer service is more or less normal. It’s not the adventure it used to be. I happened to stop in for a pain aux raisins and one of those awful coffees the first day they reopened, just by chance. One fellow bellied up to the counter and said in a confidential fashion, “Man, am I glad to see you. Jean was a piece of work. Came here every day for ten years and couldn’t get a friendly word out of him.”
He was clearly looking for commiseration, but got only a noncommittal smile from the new owner, and went away with his desired status as “beloved regular” still very much in question. No sooner had he left than another man, who’d overheard, approached the counter with an equally confidential air. Read More »
March 7, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
Yesterday, the estimable Margaret Eby sent me something she had run across in The Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook, a 1961 oddity fiercely beloved by culinary bibliophiles. This book—which featured an introduction by Alice B. Toklas and illustrations by Marcel Duchamp—is a treasure trove of literary arcana, containing as it does entries from contributors as wide-ranging as Man Ray, George Sand, and John Keats. (Maria Popova did a terrific post on TAAWC, if you want to see more.)
One of the more contemporary offerings, and that which Margaret passed along, is Harper Lee’s recipe for cracklin’ cornbread. It reads as follows: Read More »
February 25, 2014 | by Lilly Lampe
Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity, on view at the Drawing Center in New York through this week, seeks to claim the status of artist for one of the most innovative chefs working today. Adrià gained fame at the now-shuttered Spanish restaurant elBulli, where he sustained a three-star Michelin rating for fourteen years and garnered comparisons to another famous Catalan, Salvador Dali. To call a chef an artist can smack of hyperbole, but the new vanguard in contemporary cuisine, led in no small part by Adrià, is defying previous definitions of gastronomy. But despite the surge in technique—and for that matter, cost—food’s ephemeral, basic-need status inclines art purists to consider it a flash in the pan. Notes on Creativity resolves these tensions with sketches and notes that indicate the complex, restless work of Adrià’s kitchen, to say nothing of his mind.
The objects on display—ledgers, notebooks, scrap paper—illuminate the extent to which cooking is a creative process, as impassioned and compulsory as any. While he ran elBulli, Adrià kept detailed records, filling stray pieces of paper with plating ideas, loose concepts, and flavor profiles. In these ephemera we see the evolution of Adrià’s style over decades, and his determination to articulate his designs. The sketches are a window into the expanse of Adrià’s imagination, in particular the plasticity of his process. As it turns out, he is just as likely to start with a visual impression of a dish, figuring out the flavor components later, as he is to begin with an ingredient—an approach that seems like the culinary equivalent of Ginger Rogers doing Fred Astaire’s moves backward and in heels. Read More »
December 4, 2013 | by Amy Butcher
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 »
November 27, 2013 | by Michael Croley
This Thanksgiving will be only the second time in thirty-six years I won’t be with my mother for the holiday. Last year was the first, when I spent it with my wife and her family. All day long I sat in her mother’s condo above the shores of Lake Erie—ice floes stretching to the horizon—and I thought about my mother, how she always labored over the turkey and dressing, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, dumplings, corn, green beans, and three of four pies. That’s probably not that uncommon in a lot of homes across the country or in the Appalachian South where I was raised and where we like to serve two starches for every vegetable. But what is unusual is the sight of my mother, a Korean woman of five feet four inches, with beautiful salt and pepper hair, and a round face and almond-shaped eyes working away in the kitchen. Forty-three years ago she left Masan, South Korea, after marrying my father, and when she came to this country, after brief spells in Phoenix and Toledo, they settled in the hills of southeastern Kentucky. She was a vegetarian then but that was not a lifestyle decision. It was borne of necessity. Her family had never had enough money to afford beef, pork, or poultry, items considered expensive delicacies when she was a child, and her body had not learned to digest them. Rice (bop) was scarce and precious, as precious as cornmeal to my father’s family when he had been a child, and it was often the only thing she had to eat. And when there was no food at all, my halmuni still lit a fire and boiled water so that smoke would rise from their chimney and the other villagers would not know the family had nothing to eat.
September 2, 2013 | by Molly Hannon
I first considered the meaning of the word snack in fourth grade while reading the children’s book The Giver. The main character, Jonas, remembers elementary school, when the proper pronunciation of the word eluded him. He says “smack” instead and is punished with the literal smack of a ruler until he learns to pronounce the word correctly. The author uses Jonas’s confusion to highlight the book’s main theme: that knowledge and pain should never be tied together.
Though the “snack” incident plays only a minor role in The Giver, it made me realize that prior to pre-school there had been no such thing as a snack. There were three meals a day that were prepared and consumed rather formally. Meals were pleasurable and nourishing and that was that. They had purpose—they knew who they were, followed a routine schedule, had a role, and happily filled their recipients. They gave context to a day and helped quell any hint of insatiable hunger, or bouts of melancholy. They maintained a steady daily course from kitchen to table to belly. They delivered. Read More »