Saturday, July 25, 2009

Culinary Therapy

Favorites (or not)

Is there a chef/cook, real or fictional, whom you admire? If so, what's the appeal of this person?

Alton Brown from the early Good Eats days. He's not hung up on the food, but he's into explaining and having fun and it really comes across in the show. We saw him at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Shaker Square when his first cookbook was published and he was all dazed that people actually showed up and wanted to see him talk about the show and food and buy his book.

And Julie Powell when she wrote the blog of her original project on Salon. She was crazy and funny and stressed out. The book wrote sort of on the same subject was not so good--she needed the structure of that day's recipes and events to focus her.

Is there a chef/cook, real or fictional, whom you find annoying? If so, what's the offense by this person?

In general, anyone who fetishizes and overthinks food drives me nuts. I've mentioned Peter Wells over at the NY Times before; generally most of their food coverage and writing has me spitting in anger while bookmarking the recipes to try later. The Dollar a Day people I find pompous; the 30 A Week couple make good looking food and are less annoying. Tigers & Strawberries needs to learn how to come to the freaking point.

But the worst food creep of them all is Christopher Kimball and Cook's Illustrated. The overthinking, the sucking the joy out of food, and lecturing tone while opining on the incredibly subjective "best" way of making a recipe makes me want to steal their pots and knives and force feed them Chef Boyardee ravioli cold from the can. And I'll snap that fucker Kimball's bowtie in his smug face.

Personal history

What's your earliest memory of cooking--or assisting with cooking--yourself?

My mother did not teach us to cook in order to advance the cause of feminism. I had to teach myself how to cook after college. I did know how to grocery shop though, because I took Ursula Ross shopping at Severence our sophomore year and had to walk her through basic selection of produce.

I remember my mom making French bread out of a box with me as a project when I was 8 or 10. Also around that time I remember being left in charge of the corned beef and cabbage when she went out and my dad fussing at me about it. I told him that if he had a problem with the way I was doing it he could make it himself.

No, wait. The Kraft macaroni & cheese incident. I don't know how old I was when this happened, but my mom and dad went out and left me to make it for my sisters. I didn't realize you're not supposed to keep it on the heat, so the sauce burned and they were all upset and yelled at me. I defended myself with the fact that (at the time at least) the instructions on the box were imprecise. Didn't work.

What do you consider to be comfort food?

Chicken soup with homemade noodles. Salad with oil and vinegar. Beef, noodles and gravy--we ate a variation of meat + noodles or rice + gravy + veg all the time.

What piece of cooking advice would you never take again?

Buying in bulk is a good idea. Convenience foods are expensive and a waste.

What do you enjoy about cooking?

I enjoy the project/learning/showing off aspect. Which is why I make things like homemade samosas, cake for the department fun lunch, limoncello, Thanksgiving dinner for 10, 3 full course dinners for friends.

I also like cooking for people, hence the previous dinner party habit. I also like eating with people (best part of living with my sister and her husband last year).

We always ate dinner together. Either my mom and us girls would all eat early, and then have salad when my dad came home, or we'd eat together as a family.

What do you dislike about cooking?

With the dishwasher, I don't mind the cleanup aspect. I find it lonely, mostly, and time consuming. I have to get my furniture and then maybe I can have people over again.

What animal best summarizes your current cooking and/or eating habits?

A camel. I eat and drink a lot in one sitting, and then I just abstain for a long time.


What is bothering you about your current eating/cooking habits?

I seem to be inacapable of getting food into the house, and then making and eating it. I also come home, don't get hungry for 2-3 hours, and then either skip dinner, eat fast food, or go out. This is expensive and has to stop.

What do you want to be able to say about your eating/cooking habits at the end of eight weeks?

I want to be preparing most of the meals I eat, and eating what I prepare. I also want to be eating more vegetables and fruit--they are so good here, and cheap.


Cookbook said...

Amen, sister, on the bulk foods. The Ex was all about buying shitloads of everything, some of which I got stuck with and will probably dispose of in Phase 1. Not. Useful. Particulary when you are one person who doesn't eat like a fucking vacuum cleaner.

drwende said...

This is why I like a well-stocked urban corner grocery (which mine is not) -- when you get hungry, you can run across the street and get enough ingredients to make one meal, maybe two.

Camels, of course, are
so hot they fan themselves.