Book spine poetry: the food edition

Kid One was quite amused to see me standing in the kitchen this morning, staring intently at books piled on the counters while “Appalachian Spring” played on the iPod dock. He thought it would make a great scene from a movie – I’m hoping he was imagining a romantic comedy of some sort, although knowing him, more likely it was the prelude to a zombie invasion. I was actually not auditioning for my son, though, I was trying my hand at book spine poetry, a concept introduced to me recently by Susan Bearman via Brain Pickings in honor of National Poetry Month. All you have to do is arrange a pile of books so that the titles say something poetic, profound, or perhaps preposterous. It would be a great party game if you had lots of books and a few nerdy friends. This morning I decided to handicap myself by choosing only food fiction or food fact books. There’s a collection spilling around the kitchen; I thought it would be easy. But turns out a shelf of titles starting with “The” and ending in “Cookbook” is a bit limiting, and try as I might I couldn’t figure out how to put “The Widow Cliquot” together with “A Goose In Toulouse” and “The Nasty Bits” without cheating. Here’s the first one I came up with: What Einstein Told His Cook: The Sweet Life in Paris Tastes of Paradise. Banana, Fruits & Vegetables, Nuts, Secret Ingredients, Spam. Are You Hungry Tonight? And then this more haiku-inspired poem: Pacific Feast From My Mexican Kitchen, Fish, Without a Doubt. Then I played around...

Sometimes I just have to amuse myself (3)

I found the milk carton in the fridge empty on Saturday morning, victim of Kid One’s early-morning pre-work power breakfast of Ezekiel 49 and bananas. Kid Two’s Buddy had spent the night and the remaining boys were promised waffles, but I couldn’t find a milk-less recipe in my Fannie Farmer – although I certainly could have done a Google search with much success. The waffle iron was hot, the eggs were out, so I figured I’d try to make scrambled eggs in the waffle iron. If Alton Brown could cook bacon in there, certainly I owed it to myself to give it a try. Here is what two eggs cracked into a bowl, sprinkled with salt, whisked to within an inch of their lives, poured into a hot waffle iron sprayed with olive oil, and cooked for 2 minutes look like. The waffled eggs got fluffy and frittata-like while cooking but deflated when met a cool plate and had a very un-egg like texture that was deemed “very weird.” The results on my experiment were unanimous: Better luck next...
Grilled pizza how-to

Grilled pizza how-to

Jack Prelutsky’s pizza poem made me hungry! Since I’m thinking about pizza I thought I should let you in on the secrets of one thing I do really, really well – handmade barbecued pizza.

In a pickle

In a pickle

Most recently, my universe wanted pickled red onions.

It started one afternoon when Kid Two and his Buddy sat here after school and ate an entire jar of baby dill pickles and a one of cornichons for their snack.

Jordan Marsh blueberry “muffin” cake

Jordan Marsh blueberry “muffin” cake

This recipe card fell out of my old Fannie Farmer cookbook while I was rummaging around trying to remember which pancake recipe the boys like best: A forgotten recipe! I remember writing out this card; I was 16 and on a trip to Connecticut with a high school friend; we were visiting her aunt and her aunt’s best friend and roommate, who I realized some years later was really her partner. I have such clear memories of that trip; they were very gracious hostesses, taking us on a tour of the prep school where one worked and then on a docent-led tour of Yale. They took us on the train into New York where we looked out over the skyline from the top of the World Trade Center then ate an early dinner at Tavern on the Green. They even took us to spend the weekend on the Cape, soaking up the energy of Provincetown in the morning, traipsing through the dunes at the very windy Cape Cod National Seashore in the afternoon, and grilling steaks at our small rental house in West Dennis in the evening. I must have really enjoyed their cooking, because before we left they offered to share several recipes with me, which I copied sitting at the small kitchen table in their condo. One was pork chops placed on top of sliced potatoes in a casserole dish, topped with two cans cream of mushroom soup, and baked. The other was similar – chicken breasts on top of Minute Rice with a splash of orange juice and two cans cream of celery soup, then baked....
A Big Sur Thanksgiving, 1939

A Big Sur Thanksgiving, 1939

Knowing how to brine a perfect turkey is not as important as the ability to remember what, exactly, to give thanks for. Here is novelist Lillian Bos Ross’ description of her 1939 Big Sur Thanksgiving meal. Lillian Bos is one of my heroes; read on to find out more about her.

Umami artichoke soup recipe

Umami artichoke soup recipe

Somewhere along the line I picked up an excellent cookbook called Soups of Italy: Cooking over 130 Soups the Italian Way by Norma Wasserman-Miller. Her short history of Italian soup in the first chapter is really interesting; she writes that zuppa, the Italian word for soup, derives from the Gothic word suppa, defined as “a slice of bread, soaking.” I did have to look this up: it was by the end of the third century that the Goths and Romans crossed paths via Gothic incursion. I imagine Gothic warriors gathered around a fire, soaking up the juices from some spit-roasted wild game with big hunks of rye bread – did they share with the Romans after battle? Did the Romans eye their meal hungrily? Did the Goths share? Either way, it’s an interesting example of cultural exchange during warfare. Soups of Italy is also more than just a collection of recipes; she teaches the language and techniques of soup-making, breaking the process down into its basic components. Battuto is the aromatic starter, such as garlic or onion. Sapori are the main ingredients, the vegetables or meat. Brodo is the liquid component, and condimenti – pasta and grated cheese – finish a soup. It’s possible to improvise an entire symphony of soups once you know the basic construction. Not just with Italian flavors; I’ve been able to create nice Chinese and Mexican inspired soups by transposing the basic components to a different geographic key. But I promised you artichokes. Wasserman-Miller’s recipe for Artichoke and Pasta soup, Minestra de Carciofi e Pasta, was the first one I tried. The tomato-artichoke flavor combination is irresistible ....