Adam Gopnik On How We Eat

October 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to catch Adam Gopnik on “On Point” discussing the meaning of food (full audio available here). The interview opens with Gopnik telling the story of Jacques Decour, a resistance fighter, who on the morning of his execution in 1942, writes a letter to his family speaking mainly of…food. The statement Decour puts forth in his letter, “Questions of food, you see, have taken on a great importance,” is one Gopnik explores in his new book, The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food

Gopnik applies this theory to present day:

“Questions of food seem to have taken on a great importance for us now, too. An obsessive interest in food is not a rich man’s indulgence, confined to catering schools and the marginal world of recipe books. Questions of food have become the proper preoccupation of whole classes and cable networks. More people talk about food now– why they eat what they eat and what you ought to eat, too– than have ever done before. Our food has become our medicine, our source of macho adventure, and sometimes, it almost seems, our messianic material.”

And the conversation moves on to other ideas that trace back to this theme. Ideas like:

The meaning of food being a shared pleasure
Food being the most immediate way we express our values
What is going on around the table is more important that what is going on the the table and we need to make a greater balance
Physical, sensory “mouth tastes” almost always become a “moral taste” and what we eat isn’t so much what we are as how we choose to present ourselves

And even though I always immensely enjoy (almost) all my meals, through all these posts and recipes and tastings and dinners out, it’s nice to take a step back and think about the larger meaning of eating. I haven’t read Adam Gopnik’s Paris To The Moon but I will certainly add it to my list along with his new book and keep an eye out for essays in The New Yorker.

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Book Club- Fork It Over

September 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

I think Alan Richman is hysterical. The 15-time James Beard award winner and GQ food critic holds nothing back when writing–like here and here . Unsurprisingly, many people can take offense to the harsh words but  this past month I devoured his collection of essays in Fork It Ove The Intrepid Adventures of a Professional Eater— pulled over the years from GQ, Food & Wine, etc and so not so controversial right now.

Richman was born into a Jewish family with a mother who was “defined by her cooking” and grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia (woo!) before traveling the country (and Canada) as a sports writer and finally settling in Manhattan and getting into the business of food.

He treats eating as his job and has dined in the best of the best restaurants around the world writing candidly about his experiences with sharp wit and self-deprecating humor (“A natural-casing hot dog off the grill can be as thrilling as Charlie Trotter’s terrine of asparagus with goat cheese, beet juice, and hundred-year-old balsamic vinegar. I often make that point when it’s my turn to pay”).

His essays dip into his personal life with “A Mother’s Knishes” in which he describes his aging mother’s declining health and “Play It Again, Lam” when he revisits Vietnam where he served in the war (though admittedly, he had an “unexceptional war” and did not know anyone who was killed). He ranges from a five day binge when he eats all meals at Alan Ducasse’s Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo to a nostalgic search for Tiki restaurants. He always has a very discerning palate–who else would be dissatisfied with all of the pizza in Naples or has trouble finding something to eat in the Hamptons? But he always tells his stories in a thoughtful, smart and witty manner that make for a delectable read.

Book Club- “Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home”

June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

I first read this book soon after moving to New York.. To give some perspective, I was 22, being paid in miniature peanuts (not literally, but you get the gist) and sharing a studio apartment with a friend (sleeping head-to-toe in a queen bed). And then here is Kim Sunée–with just one year on me, she is beautiful, exotic, and in possession of an international businessman millionaire boyfriend who whisks her off to the French countryside to cook luxurious dinner parties and lounge by the pool. I must have done something terribly, terribly wrong.

But Kim is deeply dissatisfied with her position and place.  Abandoned by her mother at just 3 years old in a South Korean market and then adopted by a family from New Orleans, she is on a life-long quest of self discovery. She isolates herself from her family, living abroad and is wooed by the founder of L’Occitaine and finds herself his mistress in his enormous house in Provence and globe-trotting around the world with him. Though her situation and misery may be a little unrelatable, the book is still a really enjoyable look into the life of the frenchmen–the strong relations of neighbors, the daily trips to the market. And of course, I love when recipes are included. I also like that some are just tips so you they are easy to apply to whatever you have. For example, some ways she recommends to use truffles:

“Toss cooked fettuccini with cream and shave truffles over. Sprinkle with fleur de sel, a crack of pepper and, if desired, Parmiagiano-Reggiano.” And “Toast baguette slices. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil; sprinkle with fleur de sel and shave truffle slices over.” SO easy, even I can do that.

I’ve had at least 3 PERFECT peaches this week–so ripe the juice dribbles down my chin and I have to eat the whole thing as fast as possible. For this reason, I think this recipe stood out for me and I can’t wait to try it:

Wild Peaches Poached in Lillet Blanc and Lemon Verbena

6 medium-size ripe wild peaches
1 (750-ml) bottle Lillet Blanc
1/3 cup sugar
2 to 3 tbsp. honey
1 (3-inch) piece orange rind
Squeeze of fresh orange juice (from  quarter) 4 to 5 fresh lemon verbena sprigs, plus leaves for garnish.

Cut an X in blossom end of each peach. Plunge in boiling water, about 30 seconds. remove and peel peaches. Place peeled peaches in a large, wide, heavy-bottomed pot. Pour Lillet Blanc over. Add sugar, honey, orange rind and juice. Gently crush lemon verbena leaves with hands to release fragrance and add sprigs to pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and poach, occasionally turning peaches gently for even cooking, 20 to 30 minutes (depending on ripeness) or until peaches are tender when pierced gently with tip of knife. Carefully remove peaches and place in a  large serving bowl. Turn heat to high and cook poaching liquid 6 to 8 minutes or until thick and syrupy. Pour over peaches. Let cool and chill in refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with more lemon verbena leaves. This is also delicious with a swirl of creme fraiche or soft vanilla ice crème fraîche and grated Amaretti di Saronno cookies. Serves 6

Garlic & Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

May 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

One of my first tasks when I moved to Nashville was to sign myself up for a good old-fashioned library card and I’ve decided to dedicate one post a month to a fabulous read that I want to share with you, readers. Book clubs I’ve tried in the past usually ended up with a lot of wine, no one reading the book, and a heavy dent in the cheese spread.  I’d like to think I’ve matured since then and can successfully carry on a book of the month discussion. And if I haven’t matured, the virtual platform is a built-in restraint.

I just finished Ruth Reichl’s Garlic & Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.  It’s not her most recent work, but it’s a really fun way to indulge in your secret fantasy of being The New York Times restaurant critic, name dropping and all. Without giving too much away, this book made me want to don a wig, jet to New York, and get down and dirty in some fine dining. Memoirs are my favorite genre and Ruth’s voice is very honest and hilarious. I also love that she included some of her own recipes–I am def trying her Roast Chicken with Potatoes (and will share the results here)–so I can do some of my own name dropping as well.

If, when you finish, you just can’t get enough Ruth, you can find her everyday next to your D&G since she is the Editor of Gilt Taste.

P.S. Whoever just renewed Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones and Butter checked out of the Green Hills branch, you know who you are, I’m coming for you. Now open to any and all recommendations.

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