The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Varieties of Reluctance

September 1, 2015 | by

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One of Alex Jardine’s illustrations from The Reluctant Cook.

I was delighted, at a London bookshop, to encounter a recent reissue of the 1954 Ethelind Fearon manual The Reluctant Hostess. As far as I’m concerned, Fearon’s entire oeuvre should be in print always, regardless of commercial considerations. She is that idiosyncratic.

Fearon, who died in 1974 and at present doesn’t even rate a Wikipedia entry, was an authority on restoring medieval houses and an accomplished gardener—at one point she kept H. G. Wells’s garden—but as her official Random House bio would have it, “under pressure from publishers and an eager public she also wrote a number of books on such diverse but essential subjects as pigkeeping, pastries, how to keep pace with your daughter, and how to grow herbs.” (I want to meet every member of this supposedly clamoring public.) Read More »

Salmon Mousse, or Absolute Power

August 17, 2015 | by

First edition, 1988.

Cooking, as we know, is a constant test of character. It’s easy to pretend we’re all attracted to the high-minded ideals of fostering community, continuing traditions, and feeding souls. But catering for others is often competitive—even if the competition is only with oneself. There is the constant temptation to show off, to experiment, to give into exhibitionism, to put theoretical pleasures before a guest’s actual comfort. The turning out of a completely anodyne meal can be an exhausting exercise, because for every normal and pleasing dish served, there exist the ghosts of a hundred more exciting possibilities considered and abandoned, haunting the dinner table with their potential glory. The trick is keeping overweening ambition at bay. The trick is remembering that, for the duration of the meal, you have a kind of control over others.

And so the question really becomes: What does one do with absolute power? The Stanford Prison Experiment is always looming on the horizon. Benignity goes against nature. Read More »

Culinary Complicity

May 8, 2015 | by

The beloved family wine cake

Back in 2011, I wrote a paean to my family’s one and only signature recipe: the wine cake. I hadn’t read it since it went up, and recently ran across the post while searching for a recipe for the cake; I was craving one for my own birthday.

At the time, I described wine cake as the sole edible thing to emerge from my grandparents’ kitchen, and explained that it was a constant at all family birthdays. It wasn’t too galling, so far as rereads go. But I worry that I failed, in 2011, to express the most important thing: wine cake is amazing. Read More »

Sleep of the Just

November 24, 2014 | by

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Illustration by Randolph Caldecott.

You know how J. M. W. Turner tried to exhibit his work at the Royal Academy and the Royal Academy was all, Wow, your work is way too innovative and interesting and we can’t show it because it would threaten all our hidebound, bourgeois ideas and force us to reevaluate everything and make important societal changes? Yeah, well, I totally see their point. Once a year, anyway.

Because every November, all the food magazines and blogs start trying to bully us into to reinventing the wheel. Don’t be a fogey! they scream. What, you’re still eating turkey? HAHAHA. Well, if you insist on being a “traditionalist,” stuff that turkey with linguica and kale! Baste it with ramen! Douse it in pomegranate molasses! (All this is said in a vaguely threatening, SportsCenter-style cadence.) This isn’t your mom’s green bean casserole! You’re not even seeing those losers, are you, with their stupid political views and opinions about your love life? Surely you’re having some awesome no-strings Friendsgiving celebrating the new family you’ve chosen! Right? RIGHT?! SRIRACHA. SRIRACHA. SRIRACHA. 

Look. I get the market demands of the newsstand. You can’t just recycle the same stuff year after year. Nor do I mean to advocate a slavish adherence to tradition. In my family’s case, that would mean cleaning the dining room table off in a panic at the last minute, barring entrance to the rooms where we’ve stuck all the mess, then watching my mother stand in front of the digital meat thermometer with tears rolling down her cheeks.  Read More »

Food for Thought

November 12, 2014 | by

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From the jacket of the first hardcover edition of The Supper of the Lamb.

Recently, I was putting together a list of good food writers for a group of students. I didn’t have Robert Farrar Capon on the list, then I added him, then I removed him again. He seemed not just too religious, but too—specific, somehow.

Capon, who died last year, was an Episcopal priest, and he wrote a lot about his high-church beliefs, but you don’t need to be devout to read him. Believe me: the sum total of my theological training took place ten years ago, when I attended the introductory session for a Christian education class at a large Manhattan church. It was held by the parish theologian in a halogen-lit room that bore very little resemblance to the Gothic house of worship. It contained a circle of music-class folding chairs, an industrial coffee urn, a handful of engaged couples, and at least one mentally-ill person. I was doing a little half-assed spiritual seeking at the time, trying to redress what I then saw as my parents’ joint educational neglect. (It was the same impulse that had led me, several months prior, to become the class dunce in Introduction to Yiddish at the 92nd Street Y.)

I don’t know what I expected, although I’m sure my fantasy involved no actual religion; I was probably hoping for Barbara Pym–like busybodies, homemade cake, and very possibly a secret religious awakening that didn’t actually infringe on my life or challenge anything I already thought. I’m sure I wore some kind of demure costume. In actual fact, a man wandered in, took a large handful of animal crackers, and left. Another woman in a faux fur rested her chin on her bosom and promptly fell asleep. One guy asked a lot of really stupid questions. The teacher did a good job fielding them, actually, and I told myself I’d come back and knew perfectly well that I wouldn’t. I still get e-mails announcing lectures on Ecclesiastes or C. S. Lewis, and I can’t bring myself to get off the mailing list. I mean, no one made me go there. Read More »

Good Taste

April 7, 2014 | by

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Chef Frédéric Piepenburg, of Murray Hill’s Chez le Chef. Photo via MeSoHungry/MightySweet.com

Over the weekend, Kitchen Arts and Letters, the wonderful culinary bookshop on New York’s Upper East Side, held a sale. I scampered over and, among other treasures, came away with something called The Eccentric Cookbook, by one Richard, Earl of Bradford. The 1985 cover showcases the author sporting one of those aprons made to look like a lady’s body—or, in this case, her brassiere and garter belt.

As promised, the cookbook is idiosyncratic. It is a strange combination of anecdotes and recipes, and the eccentrics profiled within run the gamut from historic figures, to folkloric oddities, to vaguely wacky people in the author’s social circle. The recipes that follow these either do, or don’t, have anything to do with said eccentrics. Read More »