Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Latest Food Gurus

How could I have gotten to this place in my food-driven life without having come across the writings of Robert Farrar Capon? Well, all I can say is I am glad he finally found me! This book, "The Supper of the Lamb" was first published in 1969, right about the time I was beginning my own self-directed culinary journey. Oh, I wish I had found this book then! Father Capon (he's an Episcopal priest) speaks as if from my very soul - making connections between food and drink and cooking and life and the divine and life as we know it. His meditation on an onion is a thing of beauty to behold. He writes with such wisdom and wit...I am humbled and verified at once.

I have my friend B.G. to thank for introducing me to Father Capon. I am in particular state of grace at this moment to be living in the presence of this beautiful, natural cook and hostess, music lover, supporter of artists and most especially a READER. Her house is filled with wonderful books, among which not the least are her collection of cookbooks. She is delightlfully engaged with these books and it makes her happy to talk about and refer to a particular author, recipe or passage. She pulled Father Capon off the shelf and handed him to me, saying - "You need to read this. He is so wise." She is right! B. G. is particularly known for her bread baking. This morning we had toast from a beautiful braided loaf. As she set the bread on the bread board, she said to me "This is a particularly supple dough that just cries out to be braided." I thought that was a charming turn of phrase.

B.G's braided loaf

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Barbara's Cookbooks

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My new guru

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Monday, January 31, 2011

Inanimate objects

So the point of posting the picture of my ancestral waffle iron is that I have recently been doing a LOT of thinking about STUFF - like for the last 10 years, since I started going through my parent's stuff and my own stuff - editing, evaluating, keeping, throwing away - STUFF. Such is the life of the orphaned and homeless domestic goddess...

My parents received the pictured waffle iron as a wedding gift in 1938. It's such a beautiful example of Art Deco functional style. The Super Chief of waffle irons. It has been in constant use in my family for 73 years! Well, maybe there were some years in there where in was stuck in a closet...Mom & Dad gave it to me (correction, I "liberated" it) from them in 1988, replaced the cord, got it up to "code" and USED it. It makes the BEST waffles - crispy - not the flaccid, soggy things that modern waffle irons make...Of course, the first one is always a throw away - 1938 being in the pre-teflon era - but the inside of this cast iron beauty is a thing to behold - seasoned and square and elemental....

The night we watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, Mom made us waffles with this waffle iron - Sunday Supper Waffles were (are) the BEST. Filled with bacon for a salty, sweet chewy treat...Oh yeah...The Beatles, bacon & waffles....My youth in a nut shell right there...

I realize I have carried so many "ancestral" things from life to life. I've thrown away ALOT of STUFF in the last weeks in preparation for my next incarnation. Letting go of my parent's memorabilia and much of mine! Lightening my load...Time to move through and on. I have off loaded the ancestral card table, step stool and garden wagon...but the waffle iron stays - Why? Because it is a thing of beauty and because I USE it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

coleslaw with mango and walnuts

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Cooking manifesto

I received Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my 18th birthday and spent the next several years cooking my way through it. That was my culinary school. It didn't occur to me to write about the process. Imagine my chagrin when Julie/Julia came out! After I quit beating my head against a wall and moaning "Why didn't I think of that!" I realized it was time for me to start writing about food, my love of food - preparing it, eating it, thinking about it, reading about it, talking about it, growing it. The good thing about that book is that it made me realize I have something to say about food! I hope so, anyway! You, dear readers, will have to be the judge of that!

Today I'm thinking about how my relationship to cooking has changed and morphed over the years but it has been a constant in my life - I wish I could have been so thoughtful and flexible in my relationships with people as I have been with food! I'm thinking about the role of recipes and cookbooks in my cooking....I hardly ever follow them anymore - except when I'm doing something that has to be very precise - candy-making, baking, canning, preserving. I love the alchemy of carmelizing sugar or watching a ganache set up or seeing oil and lemon emulsify...

But most of the time I think about how flavors, textures, colors go together. I found a really ripe mango at Trader Joe's the other day and immediately thought of combining it with walnuts and cabbage and a slightly sweet vineagrette for a yummy coleslaw. Did I see that combo in a recipe once? Maybe. I don't know. All I know is that it came to my mind in an instant. It was really good and was a perfect compliment to the Chicken Bouillabaisse I served that night to my pals Bill and Lee. I'll write about that in another post. 

cheesy jalapeno cornbread

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

One of Tina's paintings

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Chili for Tina's party

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The Artist's Gathering Place - Tina's Opening

My friend Tina Tammaro is an AMAZING painter! Her show "Contemplating the Spaces Between" opened Friday at the YWCA Women's Art Gallery on Walnut Street. Tina's subjects are family and friends captured in intimate moments in everyday settings - or is that everyday moments in intimate settings? Anyway, they're beautiful and deep and meaningful and rich. And it is so wonderful to see her paintings beautifully lit in a gallery space and to see so many people looking at her work. It was especially fun to see some of the actual subjects in the paintings standing and looking at the paintings themselves! After, we all partied at Tina's loft. The food was great - I made a killer chili and cheesy jalapeno cornbread. Martha brought 2 kinds of spiced nuts - one sweet, the other spicy. She also brought a cheese ball - and I don't mean some hideous orange store bought blob - this was a beautiful, white, silky, lemony bag cheese that started life wrapped and drained in cheese cloth. The ginger chutney it was  served with was a perfect foil to the creamy lightness of the cheese. Barb brought her famous brownies and there was copious wine. Ever notice how the best parties are often on the coldest nights? We escaped the frigid weather and gathered inside to celebrate our friend's success and recognition. I'm proud!