Our dual subscription deal with Lucky Peach technically ended last week, but we’re extending it because we’ve still got food and drink on the mind—especially after flipping through The Photographer’s Cookbook, out next month from Aperture and the George Eastman Museum. Commissioned by the latter in the late seventies, the book showcases recipes and pictures from the era’s leading photographers; it was never published before now. Below are five of our favorite photo/recipe combos, including Stephen Shore’s Key lime pie supreme, Imogen Cunningham’s borscht, and a classic down-South dish from the master of seventies color photography himself: William Eggleston’s cheese-grits casserole. —Caitlin Love Read More
The cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt is preparing to release her new book, Hot Dog Taste Test. Hanawalt’s insouciant, irreverent drawings and stories regularly grace the pages of Lucky Peach, and a number of the book’s longer pieces appeared there first, including her illustrated tour of the New York City street-food scene and the James Beard Award–winning “On the Trail with Wylie,” in which she shadows chef Wylie Dufresne for a day: One dish he prepares contains “the most delicate sea scallops basking in almond oil and a single ravioli made from carrot. I eat the ravioli too fast to see what’s inside, but based on the flavor I would describe it as ‘sex cheese.’ ”
The restaurant critic Jonathan Gold has called Hanawalt “the Matisse of the buffet line, the O’Keeffe of the fish ball and the Vermeer of the pigeon with a hot dog in its beak.” We’re pleased to present excerpts from Hot Dog Taste Test, and we can, from firsthand experience, vouch for her advice about Merlot. —Nicole Rudick Read More
In praise of the campus dining hall.
For thirteen years now I have taught at the same small women’s college. Its dining hall is an old building with high ceilings, long windows. I love the dining hall. My students hate it. But hating it is their job—I was like them once. I was a freshman grabbing food as if I were still playing high school soccer seven afternoons a week: the hamburgers, the pizza, the Coke machine and fried everything. Fueling the young body at full burn. The sandwiches. The glutinous cookies, perfectly round.
But I spent those freshman afternoons in the library, reading for Intro to Political Science: that fiery body was already gone. And quickly, I had had enough. One November day, I observed a classmate, Jenny, slender and freckled, sitting across the dining table eating a salad. Her plate bloomed with things that had recently lived. Broccoli and snap peas and sprouts and little tomatoes. A green apparition.
“Where did you get that?” I said.
“What salad bar?”
She pointed with a fork. Straight across the center of the cafeteria it stretched. I’d walked past for ten weeks without noticing it. Read More
Perhaps it is surprising, considering my inauspicious start, that my best skill—my only truly great talent, my art—is making sandwiches. For eight years, give or take the odd day, I packed the same lunch to bring to school: turkey cold cuts with French’s yellow mustard on Pepperidge Farm white bread. When I got to college, I often had turkey sandwiches for dinner as well as lunch. Newly sophisticated, I used Dijon mustard and added a leaf of wilted romaine.
When I wanted a break from making turkey sandwiches in the dining hall, I bought a turkey sandwich from Darwin’s, a nearby café. A sandwich at Darwin’s was, to me, like a meal at Per Se. It was revelatory. The bread was a chewy, tangy sourdough; the lettuce crunched with each bite; the mustard was creamy yet sharp; the meat actually tasted like meat. I started going to Darwin’s with increasing frequency, and I began to despise my old habits. The thought of the dry, bland bread; the shiny slabs of rubbery meat product; and the shock of fluorescent mustard revolted me.
The celebrity cookbook is a perennially popular genre, oscillating through the decades between self-indulgence and self-improvement. Well-known figures like Chrissy Teigen, the prolific Gwyneth Paltrow, and musician/chef Kelis will all guide you through their home cooking if you’ll let them. You can probably get better recipes from your grandmother, but privileged information from a big name—even just their kitchens—is a relatively dignified way to indulge celebrity worship. And stargazing would have been appealing to writer and Texas society-maven Florence Stratton when she compiled Favorite Recipes of Famous Women, published by Harper & Brothers in 1925.
Years ago, I came across this title by way of one single recipe—an anecdotal, two paragraph wonder by Mrs. F. Scott Fitzgerald, described by Stratton as “wife of author of ‘The Beautiful and Damned,’ ‘The Jazz Age,’ etc.” It was an entry called “Breakfast.” Read More
At the table with James Salter.
“To revisit the past was like constantly crossing some Bergschrund,” James Salter writes in the introduction to his 1997 memoir, “a deep chasm between what my life had been before I changed it completely and what it was afterwards.” As it did through his life, an ineludible divide runs through Salter’s work. The same man who gave us great novels and stories of sport, of war and deprivation, produced some of the twentieth century’s most sumptuous meditations on domestic life, on the rituals at the heart of bonding. To read him in both modes is to pace the fullness of Salter’s emotional life—it is akin to entering a room full of people after completing some feat of endurance, a vow of silence or a rigorous fast, and trying to hear every word. What unites Salter’s oeuvre—more than his triumphs of style, the peculiar manipulations of perspective, and the verbless descriptive clauses—is his preoccupation with meals and all that they represent, all they can give and all they can take away.
In 1957, with his first book already published, Salter left the Air Force to become the novelist that he knew he was. As his identity was transformed—from fighter pilot to fiction writer, from that of struggle within the military complex to the isolation he encountered outside of it—so were his novels and stories. Food’s role in them increasingly became a metric for the emotional lives of his characters, who were either driven by the rejection of home or by some elaborate performance that kept the idea of home intact. The dinner table, Salter understood, was the perfect stage for the frailty of our relationships—how we present ourselves to others, how crucial to our sense of self are the recollections of the friends who saw us become the people we were. A much-cited quotation from Light Years perhaps most perfectly encapsulates his feelings about life in the air as a pilot and on the ground as a family man: “Life is weather. Life is meals.” Read More