Cook The Books Club Winner!

Cook The Books Club Winner!

Last week Deb from Kahakai Kitchen contacted me asking if I’d guest judge their Cook The Books Club contest for the book “Baking Cakes in Kigali.” Well – yes! The Cook The Books Club is a bimonthly book club and blog event in which the hosts, along with any other interested person, reads a predetermined food-related book, blogs her thoughts, and prepares a dish inspired by the book. Fun! Here are my responses to the thoughtful and inspiring blog posts that were submitted, and congratulations to the winner Camilla from Culinary Adventures With Camilla. Thank you for inviting me to play! I plan to join you next time for Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens....
Retro gourmet at Craft & Commerce

Retro gourmet at Craft & Commerce

Imagine the nerdy-cool kid from high school: the quiet and deliberately unfashionable one, the one who chose to wear horn-rimmed glasses and ride his bike to school every single day, the one who actually understood all the cultural references, and who surprised everyone by nonchalantly unveiling an enormous Calvin & Hobbes tattoo on his back one day toward the end of senior year. Imagine he went on to graduate studies in Twentieth-Century American Literature and spent the requisite semester at Oxford where he fell in love with pub life, rough-hewn wood, and full-bodied beer. Then he spent a summer on his uncle’s farm, where he fell in love with state fairs and home-cooked meals and classic rock, spending pleasantly stoned evenings absorbing The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and Welcome to the Machine and Court of the Crimson King through oversized headphones. Then, with newly acquired grown-up tastebuds and the deepened courage of his convictions, he made a life-changing leap to culinary school. And he was good. And so he opened a Restaurant. Imagine he approached the task philosophically, defining the vision of simplicity, value, and quality he’d experienced in his life thus far, and he used that vision to define his design, decor, and menu – inadvertently inventing a nouveau nostalgia along the way. And the rest of the world gets it because they’ve jumped on that early wave of hipster-dom he rode in his youth. Thus he created a Destination. That’s my vision, anyway, of how Craft & Commerce came to be. Call it fan fiction, foodie-style. My fantasy is based in delicious truth, though – here’s the evidence: He...

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...
Squash blossoms in paradise

Squash blossoms in paradise

Here’s a question: if you were stranded on a desert island and could bring one book with you with the stipulation that all your food – recipes as well as ingredients – must come from that book, what book would you choose? (be sure to answer the question in the comments; prize for the best answer!) My friend at Novelbite would definitely be able to recommend an actual piece of literature that would have enough sustenance in food AND story. For me, though, there’s no question – I’d choose a cookbook – California Rancho Cooking. I found it several years ago in Sutter’s Fort gift shop in Sacramento during Kid Two’s fourth-grade pilgrimage to our state’s capital. The fort was built in 1821; much still stands as a visual demonstration of life in that era. Recognizing author Jacqueline Higuera McMahon’s name from her occasional San Francisco Chronicle food section stories, I bought it immediately. It turned out to be was a perfect book for the place; she’s an eight-generation Californian whose family received one of last Spanish land grant ranchos in 1821, just before Mexican independence. Ok, so it’s thin on plot, but she sprinkles in enough glimpses of rancho life to keep my imagination flowing on a desert island. Plus, the flavor of life on a rancho is mouth-watering; from simple breakfasts of sweet milk tortillas to picnics of spicy chicken and potato salad to celebrations studded with Chilean empanadas and sweet tamales, those Spanish and Mexican roots come through strong. It’s the perfect book for my sense of place, too. I know why there’s a recipe featuring wild mustard greens; I...
But what do you think happens when the salads lose their composure?

But what do you think happens when the salads lose their composure?

com-posed adj (1607): free from agitation : CALM; esp : SELF-POSESSED  syn see COOL A composed salad is, as I should have known but did not, the opposite of a tossed salad. I’d actually never given much thought as to whether the salads I make are composed or agitated, so I can see there’s quite a long way for me to go, culinarily speaking. In my recent salad research, then, I found lovely article by Jacques Pepin on the composed salad. It first appeared in the New York Times Magazine on August 4, 1991, a time Pepin had the foresight to refer to as “advent of a new American cuisine.” His grilled salmon and asparagus salad sounds particularly delicious, a perfect warm late spring meal. Hopefully Northern California’s upcoming commercial salmon season, the first in three years, will cooperate with a fresh, local ingredient so I can try it. And now, in honor of National Poetry Month, I found for you a poem about salad: Vegetables poem: Salad by Mortimer Collins O cool in the summer is salad, And warm in the winter is love; And a poet shall sing you a ballad Delicious thereon and thereof. A singer am I, if no sinner, My muse has a marvellous wing, And I willingly worship at dinner The sirens of Spring Take endive – like love it is bitter, Take beet – for like love it is red; Crisp leaf of the lettuce shall glitter, And cress from the rivulet’s bed, Anchovies, foam-born, like the lady Whose beauty has maddened this bard; And olives, from groves that are shady; And eggs – boil...
Sunday Supper, a poem

Sunday Supper, a poem

This poem is much like my children in that I’m occasionally astonished such a thing came out of me. I scribbled this down – an intact stream of images – while at the hairdresser’s, sitting under a fan of hot lamps, individual chunks of hair wrapped in foil. I remember I was giggling at the time. Perhaps I should try and write more under the influence of aluminum. Enjoy your Sunday Supper.

This Is Just To Say

This Is Just To Say

In honor of National Poetry Month I decided it would be appropriate to find and share what bards and poets and other wordsmiths have penned about food over the centuries. Here’s one by the American poet (and physician) William Carlos Williams I first encountered in a class many years ago. It has remained lodged in my mind fairly completely, unlike the concepts of logarithms and half-life: