Monday, July 31, 2006

Food person

The Cod proposes a new word in place of f***ie to describe those with a passion for eating.
Allow me to propose "foodneck" as an alternative. I'm not making a big push, just give it a test drive:

"My sister's staying with us on Friday -- she's a real foodneck -- where should we take her for dinner?"

Give it a try, and let me know how it works out for you.
Foodneck. Food Neck. Foodneck.

A commenter (commentator?) named Hugh responded:
As for "foodneck" , how about foodnik? "foodneck" sounds like a cross between redneck and some sort of clam.
To which the Cod replied:
As for "foodnik," I think it sounds too much like a faux Yiddish insult.
I added:
I too was wondering neck/nik and thinking redneck. Mulling it over. I like that it sounds unusual. But I do want a term I can feel comfortable using to describe myself.

My dining companion suggested "fooder," making an analogy to Star Trek fans. We might call them Trekkies, but apparently they prefer to be called Trekkers--they're on the trek too. I have also considered "foodist," which would be better if it didn't sound so much like nudist. El Fooderino?
You may recall that I earlier floated the term foodinista with reservations expressed that it might sound too feminine. I had in mind the Sandinistas and Zapatistas (both of them dudely -istas as far as I know) more than the fashionistas, which Doug seemed to sense in his comment:
"Foodinista" sounds to me like a term of derision an opponent might use to describe an obese Nicaraguan Marxist.
That's a good one.

So, I'm prepared to use foodneck if others will go along with it but I don't want to be the lonely soul saying "aubergine" in an "eggplant" culture. I don't really think it's very likely that we will invent a word since it almost never works that way, but the power of the internet is potentially magnificent.

(Other terms occur to me: foodophile, foodster. I'm not going to start now with words beginning gastro-, eat-, aliment-, grub-, nosh-, and chow-.)

MORE: Jam Faced doesn't have the answer either.
Foodie. "Oh you're a bit of a foodie are you, ho, ho, ho". I'd love it if that last "ho" was cut off by the sound of one of my Global knives being stuck into speaker's solar plexus. It's like, having made a conscious decision to like my food, instead of pouring pig swill down my gullet like some deranged goose destined for a Frenchman's lunch box, I am somewhere between a vegetarian and someone who is into crystals or, in the minds of most of fellow male Englishman, probably just gay.

Bad culinary metaphor watch

Dahlia Lithwick in Slate on the Jessica Cutler case (she had sex with a guy and blabbed on her blog; he's suing her):
In the short term, Steinbuch's suit has only added buttercream frosting to the cake of humiliation Cutler baked him. It's hard to fathom how his privacy interests are being protected by a pleading that recycles every salacious detail from her blog. But he is clearly angry and embarrassed and in search of some justice, and he has thus sued her for the tort of "public disclosure of private facts."
"Buttercream" is a wonderful touch, but I would have dragged my cursor over "cake of humiliation," thought for a second, and hit delete. The image of this man eating her cake is de trop.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

"A vast vault of our common human culture..."

Dear You Tube,
I surrender. You win. I am your humble servant. All hail you.
May I have at least a portion of my life back now?


-PT Anderson talking to Henry Rollins about his current film project based on Upton Sinclair's novel Oil. At 3:15 he talks about being Robert Altman's understudy shooting Prairie Home Companion. HR's tattoos are a distraction. They should put long sleeves on him for this gig.

-Jorge Luis Borges from 1976, in Spanish (no idea what he's talking about).

-Noam Chomsky debates Michel Foucault in 1971 (parts one and two). Foucault listens to Chomsky with his tongue sticking out the corner of his mouth. Both men speak in paragraphs.

-Leonard Cohen in 1966 plugging Beautiful Losers. "By writing a pornographic novel in a sense you're forced into the role of a very minor hero."

-Francis Ford Coppola on film preservation for the LoC. "Technology is a servant. It's not a master." Years before You Tube, Coppola describes the internet as a future "vast vault of our common human culture, the real wealth of the human race."

-Daniel Dennett. "Of course there is no God, but so what?" Later, "Very few people behave as if they really believe in God. A lot of people behave as if they believe they should believe in God."

Rather tedious. If you have a negative impression of academics, this video will not cure you of it.

-Jacques Derrida on suffering anti-Semitism as a child in Algeria. For someone notorious for his academese, he speaks plainly, directly, and with great feeling.

At 1:37 he makes air-quotes with a single pointing index finger on each hand rather than the two-fingered hopping-bunny gesture that itself now comes off as deadly ironic.

At 2:17 he strikes a classic "thinker" attitude, thumb and two fingers against his forehead, as though pressing on his skull will help the thoughts form.

At 2:48 you can see that he's holding a pink bic cigarette lighter in his hand. Details, details.

-Fellini directing Satyricon, his voice on the set at once gentle and authoritative. The director as God.

-Richard Feynman first in 1965 standing at a blackboard in b&w, then in 1983 sitting on a sofa in color, explains why they gave him the Nobel Prize. He smiles a lot, and it seems there is nothing he would rather be doing than talking physics in front of a camera. He talks with his hands and his accent sounds Brooklyn (Wikipedia: Far Rockaway, so I'm not far off), and these aural and visual cues are remarkably engaging and persuasive. The curl of his fingers and pitch of his voice seem to make you understand properties of light as it bounces around the room.

-Malcolm Gladwell responds to a sycophantic question (Has the internet reached a tipping point?) with an unconvincing attempt at self-deprecation.

-John Irving: "I don't see myself as an intellectual. I don't even see myself as an artist. I think of myself as a craftsman."

-Jack Kerouac on the Steve Allen Show from 1959. It might seem like nothing if you were a TV viewer in the 50s, but to me it's quite odd that Allen played piano while interviewing his guests.

-Yves Klein, "Anthropometries of the Blue Period and Fire Paintings," 1960. Woman as paintbrush, as stencil. Then out comes an enormous phallic blowtorch. Probably NSFW.

-David Lynch with mesmerizing body language. "I'm looking for a certain kind of fish to translate into cinema." In context it makes more sense, but out of context it sounds more Lynchian.

-Russ Meyer. "Her breasts were so huge..."

-Errol Morris identifies with the topiary artist in his film Fast, Cheap and Out of Control. This clip makes you realize how important style is even in something as seemingly plain as the talking-heads documentary. If Morris himself had shot this clip it would a thousand times more interesting.

On his desire for immortality through his art, which he addresses obliquely by describing a visit to a dinosaur exhibit: "It's only the privileged few of us who get to be fossils."

For comparison's sake, here is Morris's tribute to the movies from the 2002 Oscars. Lots of famous faces here. I count two chefs, Rocco and Alice. She says, "Movies are like food. They're essential to your life." Lots of faces I recognize but without being able to match them to a name. I caught Susan Sontag, Donald Trump, Laura Bush, Philip Glass, and a bunch of others.

-Salman Rushdie on The O'Reilly Factor. Rushdie survived nine years of the Ayatollah's fatwa, so O'Reilly should be nothing.

He seems not to know O'Reilly's reputation. He reacts to the blustery questions about Islamic fascism and people trying to kill him (posed sympathetically) like someone being interviewed by Ali G: earnest, trying to find common ground.

-Jonathan Safran Foer on being a vegetarian. When he says he doesn't think his non-veggie friends are "unethical" you can kind of tell that, actually, he hasn't made up his mind about it. Why promote the virtues of vegetarianism if you don't think this is an ethical choice?

-Jean-Paul Sartre.

-Charles M. Schulz becoming misty-eyed as he describes putting Peanuts to rest. "That poor kid, he never even got to kick the football," he says, laughing through his tears.

-Kurt Vonnegut on The Daily Show. Don Rumsfeld: "He is so dumb!"

-Tom Waits on The Mike Douglas Show in 1976. After performing "Eggs and Sausage" (is there any better food song?) from Nighthawks at the Diner he submits to the interview (beginning around 4 minutes). I always thought Waits's hipster persona was pretty authentic, but here as a young man he seems like a poseur and Douglas pretty much calls him on it, calling him middle-class and asking how he came by his voice. Waits calls himself a "curator," an apt if surprising description of his songwriting.

Asked if he considers himself a poet or a singer, Waits replies, "I'm a Methodist." I think he has used that one more than once.

(Cf. Harmony Korine on Letterman.)

-Wim Wenders interviewed, seems like a press junket setup. Wenders is amused when the reporter's cell phone rings during the interview.

-Slavoj Zizek begins by answering the question, What is Philosophy? But within 45 seconds he is talking about a deadly virus from outer space.

At 1:39 we cut to Zizek pontificating from his bed in what appears to be a hotel room, the covers pulled up over his tummy but his bare hairy chest exposed for the camera. "Philosophy is a very modest discipline" comes off sounding less than sincere from this position. At 2:57 he pulls the covers up a bit and repeats his line about philosophy being very modest, oblivious of his double meaning.

After 3:00 we see a series of fake ads on a vintage television screen pointing out ostensibly devastating contradictions of postmodern life: cream without fat, beer without alcohol, coffee without caffeine. For this you need philosophy? "Today's hedonism combines pleasure with constraint." But not yesterday's? His best example to epitomize the condition of late capitalism is chocolate laxatives. "Do you have still constipation? Eat more of this chocolate." Does chocolate even cause constipation? (I search Google; some claim it does.) An offscreen audience laughs a bit but without a reverse shot we can't hope to tell if they're laughing with or at.

Friday, July 28, 2006

DIY Coke

The Guardian:
Kate Rich and Kayle Brandon are bar managers at the Cube Multiplex, an "alternative" cinema in central Bristol. Opposed in principle to the business and environmental practices of the Coca-Cola corporation, the Cube bar has never served Coke. That doesn't mean there isn't a demand for it. "We'd tried Pepsi and Virgin Cola and various others too," says Brandon, "but they weren't really a positive alternative. They were acceptable, but they weren't Coke. And people really want Coke."

After conducting various taste tests, they felt the preference had less to do with flavour than the power of the brand. Any alternative they were going to offer had not only to taste almost identical but overcome the incredible pull of Coca-Cola's marketing. "Given that most of the Cube's customers come because they like the place's DIY attitude," Brandon explains, "one way of doing that was to make the cola ourselves."
The ingredients include:
Using food-grade essential oils, assemble 3.75ml orange oil; 3ml lime oil; 1ml lemon oil; 1 ml cassia oil (nb. reduce cassia content for next production); 0.75ml nutmeg oil; 0.25ml coriander oil (6 drops); 0.25ml lavender oil (6 drops); 0.25ml neroli oil (optional/removed due to high cost).

Using a measuring syringe, measure out the oils into a glass or ceramic container. Keep covered to avoid volatile oil fumes escaping. Then dissolve 10g instant gum arabic (equivalent to 22ml) in 20ml water (low calcium/low magnesium, Volvic is good) with one drop vodka - Cube uses Zubrowka. (Be aware that total quantity of vodka will be 0.0007ml per litre of Cube-cola).
It goes on. It's well worth reading start to finish. (via)

I hate the rich!

My non-blogging pursuits are taking just about 24 out of 24 of my hours lately, but I haven't forgotten about you. There will be more food etc. in these pages, and maybe even a new blog subtitle (perhaps food etc.?). In the meantime here are some things I've been reading/doing.


Duck breast, you know you want it (unless you're a vegetarian in which case...). Scored through the skin and sautéed in the cast iron to medium, about four minutes per side. Now here's the beauty part. While the breasts rest, you toss some parcooked fingerling potatoes in the hot rendered fat and warm them up, then add salt and chopped parsley. Uh huh.


I've been reading all kinds of books about alternative/indie cultures and I may post something comparing food and music "fans" if my act gets together. Can one be called a food fan? Obviously, I'm looking for a substitute for foodie. Maybe foodinista, which I would like better if it didn't sound so feminine. In case you're still wondering, I am of the male persuasion. Anyway, I really liked Stephen Duncombe's Notes from Undergrond: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture. If you have a thing for Marxism or zines, you'll love Duncombe.


This essay by Jay Weinstein, the author of The Ethical Gourmet, asks you to forego bottled water for the stuff from the faucet. He writes: "Beautiful presentation can elevate humble tap water to the fine dining level." I don't care for the essay's didactic tone or the snobby tang of the phrase "fine dining," but he does seem to be onto something. "Didactic but onto something" bascially sums up my feeling about the book too, which of course I haven't read. On Malcolm Gladwell's blog he has been talking about whether or not most blogging is "derivative," by which he means feeding off MSM material (the less kind way to put it would be "parasitic"). And along the way he mentions how many bloggers pronounce judgment on books they haven't read, as though this is a bad thing.

It's not a bad thing. People trying to sell books find it advantageous to give much of them away for free in interviews and published excerpts, and you can learn lots more from reviews, which often contain material unimaginatively paraphrased from publicity copy. Better yet, you can read a genius précis like John Crace on Buford (chocolatelady=source of all wisdom). Presumably publishers do their best to give an honest representation of what a book contains (if they don't, shame on them), and so people have a right to discuss this public discourse. And unlike MSM outlets, few bloggers get free review copies of books. Finally, who has time to read all the books they want to talk about? And why would you bother with, say, Caitlan Flanagan or Ann Coulter or James Frey? You rant about how much it pisses you off and move on to the next thing that drives you up the blog. I understand why, as one who writes books for a living, Gladwell wishes people would buy new books. But he must also understand that smart people wait until a book comes out in paper or until they can get the library's copy. Why wait to participate in the public discussion until you can get a copy you can afford, at which point no one's talking any more?

"Derivative" is such a bogus term anyway. Aren't Gladwell's articles derivative of social psychology and retail science and dog whisperology?


Most of last season's Gilmore Girls is still on our surgically-enhanced TiVo. Since the Palladinos will no longer be running the show, I feel an extra attachment to these last episodes from their years creating it. Last night we watched much of ep 6.05, originally aired 11/6/05, "We've Got Magic To Do" (script by Daniel Palladino). This is the one where Rory organizes the USO-themed DAR shindig and enlists Paris to help in the kitchen. I'm really going to miss Dan's voice writing these characters next season.

PARIS: Hey, boss! It's interesting, you know, Karl Marx has come alive for me today. I never understood what he was yammering about before and now it just seems so obviously wrong that those who control capital should make their fortunes off the labor of the working class. What's wrong with you?

RORY: Shira Huntzberger is here!

PARIS: Logan's mom?

RORY: She showed up with no warning! No RSVP, no donation to the cause that I know of. Just sashayed in expecting everyone to fall at her feet!

PARIS: I hate that!

RORY: I hate her! Hate. Strong, unadulterated, blind, argh!

PARIS: Wow. You're always so Desmond Tutu-y. This is refreshing.

RORY: I should tell her to leave. I should march up to her and tell her to grab those arrogance-dripping petulance-oozing surgically cosmeticized bims she brought along and hit the bricks!

PARIS: I bet they all have money, too. Every one of those commodity fetishists.

RORY: How can she expect a table? The tables are for the people who are polite enough to respond to an invitation in the proper manner!

PARIS: I bet the Romanovs never RSVP'd either. They got theirs, capitalist scum.

RORY: I hate her!

PARIS: I hate the rich! A hard rain is gonna fall, you know what I'm saying?

RORY: I really hate her!

PARIS: They should die.

RORY: I should probably give her a table.

PARIS: What?

RORY: Well, we have a spare table. I kept it open in case of something like this. I should give it to her.

PARIS: But she doesn't deserve it!

RORY: I know, but this is business! It's not personal. I should give her that table.

PARIS: Fine. Whatever you think. You're the boss. Hey, boss, how much are you being paid in this job of yours?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Volume 1

This little blog is one year old today. In its honor I have compiled this index. The alphabetization is lackadaisical and the categories are a bit arbitrary, but everything I care to remember is here. Entries marked with an asterisk are those I decided to mark with an asterisk.

Bad food
Bill Buford in the NYer on learning to butcher pigs
Body Worlds, the plastinated people at the Museum of Science & Industry
Bookstore w/little man
Dad's pancakes
The Da Vinci Code
Del Posto's breadcrumbs
Eggs poached and scrambled, an anti-NYT mag recipe rant
Elliptical, the word
Flickr interestingness cities
Flosters, the fresh-local-organic movement that some think isn't elitist
Food memoir, some conventions/clichés
Food porn, about an article in Harper's comparing the Food Network with pornography, filthy dirty*
Foodie, a stupid word*
Gilmore Girls, food and drink in
Green tree, on the little man's food lingo
Harold McGee speaking in Madison
Henderson, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating
Homaru Cantu profiled in Fast Compay
Jeni's ice creams, 9 pints of 'em, and an update
Julie Powell, with observations on bad blog photography*
Kugel by my father
Leftover pasta*
The little man's food lingo
Little sister: Canadian in the U.S.
Little sister: on teaching 2nd and 3rd graders
Little sister: a rant about celebrities and Kabbalah
Martha Stewart as adjective
Michiu (Chinese rice wine)
Milwaukee Art Museum w/little man
Monkfish, w/dramatic photo
Music nostalgia (Billy Joel, Genesis, The Police)
Nancy Franklin, against
Old food*
Ordering in restaurants*
Park w/little man
Playground w/little man in chilly April
Podcasts about food
Potlucks, against*
Porn as metaphor (including continuity porn)*
Random, a vexing word*
Royale w/cheese, a hamburger served at The Social
Sarah Lucas (UK artist who uses food in her work)
Schmaltz and multi-cullti kidlit*
Square bagel*
Squash galore
Stravecchio cheese
Stupid kitchen appliances including the Rival chocolate fountain*
Television at mid-season with notes on Commander-in-Chief, Book of Daniel, Idol, Arrested, the CW
TiVo and the little man
Toilet training infants
Toronto eating, Christmastime
Turkey, for
Vitamin water
Whole Foods, Milwaukee
Workout playlist i
Workout playlist ii

Farmers market i
Farmers market ii
Farmers market iii
Farmers market iv
Farmers market v
Farmers market vi
Farmers market vii
Milwaukee public market i

Five food memories
My sister's five food memories
My favorite foods (also pictures of the kitchen here)

Baba ganoush
Bacon-wrapped chicken livers
Beans, greens and sausages
Beer can chicken
Buttermilk pancakes
Caesar salad
Carbonades Flamandes (beef braised in beer)
Cashew chicken
Cherries Jubilee*
Chicken a la King*
Chicken salad i
Chicken salad ii
Chicken soup, "Chinese"
Chicken stock
Chicken vesuvio
Chopped liver
Cincinnati chili
Cuban sandwich
Cure for the winter blues (Champagne cocktail)
Duck breast salad w/cherries*
Duck legs
Eggplant parmesan*
Eggs in aspic*
Eggs w/cheese and onions a la Bagel World
Eggs, devilled*
Eggs, scrambled with morels
Fish tacos
Fried rice i
Fried rice ii
Fried rice iii (this one with SPAM)
Frittata w/carmelized salmon and goat cheese
Gefilte fish/Pacific NW variation*
Green shrimp burger
Habanero vodka
Hash (noodles and beef)*
Hoppin' John
Israeli couscous
Matzo balls
Manhattan cocktail, among my end-of-year reflections*
Mussels w/garlic, chiles, and wine
Pasta with clams alla vodka + pizza margherita
Pizza fontina
Pork butt braised in Bass Ale
Pot roast
Salade niçoise
Sesame-crusted tuna w/wasabi mashers
Short ribs, braised in Belgian ale (from the Zuni cookbook)
Shrimp chowder
Shrimp cocktail*
Skate w/beurre noisette
Spinach salad w/bacon, cherries, and a fried egg
Split pea soup
Steak frites
Steak au poivre
Steamed fish (escolar w/ginger and black beans)
The tuna casserole
Tuna salad, a statement of principles or something*
Turkey burgers
Turkey meatloaf
Turkey pot pie, cornbread crust
Summer veggie stew

Fortune Chinese Restaurant
Harlequin Bakery
Jake's Deli
Kopp's Frozen Custard, and again
Lakefront Brewery fish fry
Leon's Frozen Custard
Speed Queen BBQ

Apples and honey ice cream
Berry buttermilk sherbet
Black sesame ice cream *
Caramel ice cream*
Cardamom ice cream
Egg ice cream
Green chile mint ice cream*
Mango cream cheese ice cream
Mint chocolate chip ice cream
Mocha ice cream
Mojito cream cheese ice cream
Oatmeal raisin ice cream
Peach frozen yogurt
Rice ice cream
Sour cream anise ice cream
Strawberry ice cream
Watermelon sour cream sherbet

Thursday, July 20, 2006


If you read with your eyes open you'll often find in odd sections of the NYT nuggets of food journalism that should make the Dining In/Dining Out crew watch their turf. These days I scan the DI/DO section on Wednesdays hoping to see articles I can feel fine to ignore, but I regularly prowl through the other pages in search of my bonus vittles in addition to the more general enlightenment one always finds in the pages of the Gray Lady.

We proceed to the links, all from today's Styles sec:

-Ice cream served at a funeral graveside. Great photo of the ice cream truck surrounded by somber mourners. The article itself combines creepy rich people (a standard Styles topic) with a morbid subject. I see now that this article is on the most e-mailed list, so you didn't need me to tell you about it.

-Just-add-water meals for outdoorsies:
From 2002 to 2005, sales of dehydrated meals rose to $14.3 million from $12.5 million, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. “Dehydrated food has come a long way,” said Megan Davis, a spokeswoman. “The offerings are more diverse, flavorful, with ethnic options and food-allergy-sensitive choices.”
Excuse my mouth for not watering. The accompanying slideshow of options has mostly photos of packaging, which seems to concede that the food is as bad as you fear.

-Alex Kuczynski shops fair-trade in the Hamptons. The article begins with irrelevant details and offhanded wealth-flaunting but eventually gets to a description of a shop selling products made by offshore workers who are supposedly fairly compensated for their labor. Then this:
Because the Hampton Bays market is sponsored by a Catholic organization, one will find, along with the coffee, tea, jewelry, clothing, musical instruments and housewares, a few items of a distinctly Catholic bent. My favorite was the Bible Bar, a health bar that “contains the seven foods of Deuteronomy,” which are wheat, barley, raisins, honey, figs, pomegranates and olive oil. (The same company also sells bars called Noah’s Nuggets, Seeds of Samson, King David’s Treat and a diet book titled “Moses Wasn’t Fat.”)
You'll wish the whole article had been about Catholic candies but a moment later you'll realize that if the Times ran such a thing it would be totally unreadable.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Retro food: Cherries Jubilee

In Jeremiah Tower's California Dish, the most over-the-top of the culinary memoirs I have been reading (Tower quotes himself in an epigraph!), he includes numerous menus, documents of meals he had or read about. He says he started saving these around 1970 after seeing them in Cecil Beaton. Tower's editor didn't understand what they were doing in his writing so he composed a chapter he calls an interlude to explain them, the way they invite the reader to probe their suggestions of preparation techniques and ingredients and to infer details of the social event at which they appeared. It might come off as pretentious to write down a menu, especially for a casual and modest dinner, so if this sort of pretentiousness makes you want to barf you may skip ahead.

Here is what we ate Sunday evening:

Summer Rolls

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Blue Star Great American Wheat Beer

Cherries Jubilee

Oh do I love the centered list. Just right.

We were six at the table but two of us were wee youngsters so this was all served in rapid succession and with many interruptions for turning on the television and such things. Meals enjoyed in the company of toddlers tend to start and end early and this might seem, if you are unfamiliar with the modern breeding lifestyle, like a heartbreaking cramp in your style. Well, you get used to it. There is an upside: getting the kitchen clean by 8 pm is nice. It gives you enough time to watch a Galactica and two Lagunas before turning in, which is a big help if you are trying to see all the good television shows before you die.

Another thing I love about Tower's menus is the spareness of their language. The restaurant menu of today is linguistically atrocious, cluttered with frivolous descriptions, ill-chosen verbs, and meaningless ingredient provenances. Chefs are too eager to show off what they're doing even before you have had the chance to taste the food. But the traditional continental menu is elegant in its subtlety and directness. Sometimes a dish is described in a single word like pâté or sole. According to setting and context, one can figure out how it would have been prepared. Often this depends on the reader having some knowledge of French cuisine nomenclature, but even if I don't exactly know what it means I would rather see a simple and straightforward name than a long-winded narrative.

As it happens, those summer rolls contained carrots, cukes, and mint leaves acquired from area farms, in addition to noodles and rice paper from the Far East and peanuts from the Planter's can. Likewise, the chowder had corn from around here, coconut milk from Thailand, and seafood from God-knows-where. The beer is the new wheat brew of North Coast Brewing Co., whose Red Seal Ale has long been a favorite.

And the cherries! This was my virgin Jubilee. My sense is that this is one of those many continental dishes that died at the hands of American country club cooks and “fine dining” establishments of the Maison de la Casa House variety. In the standard bastardization (so I have read), Cherries Jubilee is made of overly sweet and thickened canned cherry pie filling and cheap brandy. I made it using fresh sour cherries from near Green Bay and good bourbon, and the ice cream was homemade. The temperature approached one hundred F this weekend, so ice cream went over well. (Chowder might not seem like a summer dish but in fact, when my family vacationed in Cape Cod in the summer of 1978, I ate chowder at every opportunity, hoarding saltines to crumble into my bowl.)

Cherries Jubilee has several things going for it.

1. It contains cherries, "one of the most refreshing fruits and the most highly thought of." (Larousse, 243). Granting that cherries are widely thought of very highly, is this not an insane statement?

2. You set it on fire. Dining room theatrics keeps the dish on menus. Kids and grownups alike are thrilled to see things aflame (not dining room curtains, mind you, which I'm told were occasionally the casualties of the 1970s craze for flambé).

3. It's fun to say jubilee. Queen Elizabeth's silver jubilee in 1977 might not have been Canada's answer to the U.S. bicentennial, but it was the occasion for much fun in my kindergarden class.

4. It is made with ice cream.

The web is crawling with recipes for this dish and it hardly needs one from me. Basically, you pit the cherries, mix them with syrup (sugar and water in equal parts), add a bit of lemon juice, cook until they ae cooked, and squirt in some more lemon if it needs it. I thickened with a bit of corn starch slurried with some of the cherry juice/syrup in the pan and then, just before serving, added a tbs or two of bourbon. I set this on fire and when it went out spooned the hot cherry mixture over scoops of ice cream.

Sour cream vanilla
The sour cream is hardly noticeable but it does balance the sweetness and goes well with a dish made with sour cherries. Using vanilla sugar and vanilla extract makes for an intense flavor.

9 oz vanilla sugar
8 yolks
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 cups half and half
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Warm the half and half up. Whisk together the yolks and slowly incorporate the sugar. Temper into the cream, heat to 170, then add the heavy cream and sour cream, whisking to incorporate. Add the vanilla extract. Chill, churn, freeze, scoop, top with cherries.

More cherries:

The Chocolate Lady's Pitted Black Cherries for that Aching Midsummer Sadness:
Remove stones from about a dozen sweet black cherries with your fingers or the nifty gadget of your choice. Put them all into your mouth at the same time. Grasp the possibility that the pain can end.
David Lebovitz likes cherries too.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Eat your links

-Eating lavender makes you girly.

-NYT sneaks extra grub into the business section: rich people like to eat fancy French food for the fancy, not just for the eating. Actually, it's about economists studying food, and they adopt the stuffy name "Society for Quantitative Gastronomy."
PERHAPS the French complain about McDonald's because they find it so hard to buy their best food at affordable prices. A meal in a Michelin three-star restaurant in Paris can cost $300 or $400 a person, not including wine.

How could food become so expensive? To answer this and other questions, the inaugural meeting of the Society for Quantitative Gastronomy was held in May in Bordeaux, France. The society, founded by a group of young French economists, is bringing scientific measurement to bear on food markets. Their message is that status and image--not just food--play an increasing role in high restaurant prices.

(A disclosure: I am a longtime advocate of ethnic dining--see my discussion at spoke at the society'’s conference in May on "How Did American Food Get So Bad?"” So the results presented at the meeting confirmed my belief that many of the tastiest meals are entirely affordable, at least if we know where to look.)
(A disclosure would be "I spoke at the conference." That's not a disclosure; it's an editorializing plug for the author. Via Kottke.)

-The Food Avant-Garde's Enabler: a Pete Wells story about a French Culinary Institute project to set up a lab for the development of molecular gastronomy ideas (via foodite). Equal time for the other side: epi-log is against the whole technofood movement: "I feel--and hope--it will go the way of the eight-track cassette." Put that in your thermal circulator and heat it to 135!

-Hungry: why Montreal is better than Chicago. Oh, Canada.

-For Bastille Day today, a local French bistro, Elliot's, is giving a complimentary glass of Champagne to anyone who sings the French national anthem. No word what they give you for running a few steps ahead of an Italian, turning on your heels, and ramming your head into his ribcage as he strides toward you. (Local food news as always via the dish.)

Finally, some television:

-Come Witness Our Grand Gesture!!!. Everwood fans have set July 21 as the date of the ferris wheel extravaganza. If you're in L.A., go and shame the suits at Warner Home Video into releasing the rest of this excellent show on DVD.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Market minute

What's good so far this season? Carrots and potatoes have been best. The carrots have been not only sweet but also tender, they cook beautifully, and make a very nice puree. And the potatoes, the fingerlings and other new potatoes, have been outstanding. After blanching and shocking they're fantastic eaten just as they are, but they play well with others too. I served them early in the week cold with a cucumber raita made with Fage Total full fat yogurt, a pinch each of salt and sugar, and a bit of cumin. Another time I roasted them, already cooked, in a medium oven with olive oil and salt. Once they're already cooked they just need to heat up and develop a bit of a crust, and there no worrying about when they're done.


Radishes have been nice too. These multicolored ones are spicier than the all red bunches, says the farmer who sold them to me. For a snack the other day I made a radish sandwich on wheat bread with a thick schmear of butter and a big sprinkle of salt.


Raspberries (black and red) and strawberries have been appearing for a few weeks. They are superior to the ones flown in from Cali in every way, but still all have been brighter in acidity than they have been warm in sweetness. Am I wrong to want them to taste like candy?

Black Raspberries

I sense that the peas are past the peak of their season here, as the big heaps of two weeks ago have been replaced with medium and small heaps. I could be wrong and often am about these things. We have had barely any great peas this year. Many were good, but some were starchy and some of the sugarsnaps had stringy, fibrous pods. My favorite of the whole family of peas lately are the snow peas. A few meals back, I sliced these in julienne and sautéd them in olive oil with similarly cut carrots, fennel, and red onions. I placed this cooked mixture on parchment paper and laid on top filets of Copper River salmon seasoned with salt, pepper, ground fennel, and coriander. Wrapped snugly with a glug of dry white wine in each pouch, these cooked in a hot oven for about fifteen minutes and we ate them over couscous. Everything about this dish was good but my favorite part was the julienned peapods.

I sometimes wish we belonged to a CSA. I love the idea of buying a share and supporting the local farmers, and I would relish the Iron Chef aspect of having to cook whatever's in the delivery each week. This would certainly improve my chops when it comes to things I rarely cook--Swiss chard, kohlrabi. But I'm also selfish. I like the markets too much to commit to the box.

West Allis Farmer's Market

Monday, July 10, 2006

Food lit

I've been consuming Cheesecake Factory portions of contemporary first-person food lit in my spare time (Reichl, Pépin, Ruhlman) and hope to post something of more substance and insight after I have a few more of them in my pocket. For the time being here are some notes on the form. If you want to write one of these dine-and-dish books, post this over your desk.

-Europe is the source of authenticity; Culture comes from over there. You can't skip it if you're going to make food your living. Ideally the writer gains familiarity both with the provincial pleasures of local meats and cheeses and with the fancy metropolitan restaurant world.

-When the food memoirist drinks, watch out. Wine is taken in litres and barrels and no one bothers with cocktails or beer (cognac is ok though, presumably b/c it's the fruit of the vine). Ideally, the memoirist commits every grape and vintage to memory but one does sometimes sense that these details are fudged à la "I Remember It Well." Anyhow, wine talk to me sounds like the space flight jargon on Battlestar Galactica. I accept that other people find it meaningful but I listen only for the most important information.

-A professional kitchen is run by men and to succeed you earn their respect. Exception: Chez Panisse, which is lovely and feminine and welcoming like a home. (I'm eyeing Jeremiah Tower's book to see how this characterization holds up.)

-When the author describes someone for a paragraph before giving his name, you had better be impressed by the big reveal, especially if it turns out to be someone with his own entry in the encyclopedia (Pépin meets Jean Genet, Reichl Orson Welles). You expect to meet Craig Claiborne and Marion Cunningham (the cookbook author, not Richie and Joanie's mom) in these pages, but when Joe Torre and Bob Costas turn up for dinner at a restaurant in Cleveland (Ruhlman), it's like, OMG!

-Everyone in America would still be eating Jell-O mold salads and TV dinners if it weren't for James Beard and Julia Child. (Actually, millions of people in America still are eating these things, but that's beside the point.)

-A "revelation" is always just around the corner, usually unexpectedly (calf's brains are a revelation for Ruhlman). Surprise is a key ingredient in the food memoir recipe.

-Fois gras is to food lit as "baby" is to rock n roll songs. Too much is not enough.

-When you're young you might not have much money but if you're lucky you'll meet some rich friends and they'll take care of you in high style. How to Cook a Wolf notwithstanding, food lit loves the luxe.

-Nouvelle cuisine cannot be described. You had to be there. (This isn't to say that writers never attempt to describe it.)

-The story isn't really about food, it's about something else--enlightenment, understanding, finding yourself, learning how to live, connecting with the people you love, that kind of thing. This always comes across to me as an alibi for writing about a supposedly frivolous topic, or for devoting one's life to a supposedly frivolous pursuit. I want to say, I don't give a shit about your self-discovery--I'm here for the food. Pépin is least guilty of this, and his is the book I like best of the ones I have read so far. And of all of them, only Pepin's contains a recipe I have tried, his mother's egg dish les oeufs Jeanette, which are basically garlicky deviled eggs, browned in a pan, and smothered in a sauce made of the leftover egg stuffing and olive oil. Great homey food.

Friday, July 07, 2006


E and I are trying our damndest to understand what has happened to the word "random." It used to mean something like arbitrary, as in "random acts of violence." It has a more precise scientific meaning; some would say that violent acts aren't random in a strict sense. Wikipedia prescribes: "The term Random is often used in popular culture in place of the correct word arbitrary." This kind of pedantic correctophilia gets in the way of understanding, though, since different words have different shades of meaning, especially when some words are clearly prefered over others in given contexts and by certain speakers. The kids on Laguna don't say, "That's like just arbitrary." Egotastic woudn't caption a photo of Selma Blair and P. Diddy holding hands on the beach as "File this one under abitrary."

Often it seems to be a rather bland term of praise: "I liked your was random..." (This describing a video of a cooking memoir.) Random often seems to come with a positive connotation, though it can also be used to express skepticism or as a putdown. You hear it on MTV but people as old as I am (I was born in the...early seventies!) also say it all the time. A dear friend of my own vintage called me random awhile back, and I didn't understand why. Did he mean eclectic? Unpredictable? Incongruous? Surprising? Arbitrary? When I asked him why he called me that, he said, "You know, you''re random." Why does everyone else seem to grasp its meaning intuitively? What is its special appeal?

I like to think that some of the avant-garde sensibility of John Cage comes with this usage, that random can mean aleatory, that it embraces chance and resists the strictures of order. But part of me doesn't want give the linguistically lazy this much credit. Random sometimes just means, here's a bunch of stuff. That seems to be what most of these these flickr users have in mind.


Links, perhaps random:

Screens, Virginia Heffernan's NYT blog on online video.

Malls of America contains vintage photos of shopping centers. Addictive.

Paste has a listicle of the top 100 living songwriters, as chosen by a bunch of middle-class American white guys. 11. Randy Newman. 25. Chuck Berry. 47. Sufjan Stevens. 72. Michael Jackson. 92. Alejandro Escovedo. You hate it but you can't look away.

Cronenberg meets Warhol in Toronto. On my to-do list for next month.

The Emmy nominations could hardly suck worse. Industry insiders apparently think the new voting system, which was supposed to make for better choices, isn't working.


Me: That book I got out of the library? It has a recipe for Chicago-style hot dogs, you know, making them from scratch.

E: [skeptical]

Me: Come on, they'd be good.

E: [even more skeptical]

Me: They might not be the same but they'd be good.

E: You've hit on a key point.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Bad culinary metaphor watch

LAT coins a phrase, "sausage casing girls," and isn't afraid of extending the metaphor:
THE Sausage Casing Girls are everywhere this summer, their muffin tops hanging over their hip-skimming jeans, clothes shrink-wrapped around fleshy bodies that look as if they've been stuffed — like forcemeat — into teensy tops and skintight pants.


One is tempted to applaud the Sausage Casing Girls; after all, Southern California is an epicenter of body consciousness, and here they are thumbing their noses at the idea that they must be whippets or Lindsay Lohans to wear the current styles, which for the last several seasons have been exaggeratedly body-hugging and skin-revealing. Perhaps all that self-esteem building has finally paid off.

But this phenomenon does not appear entirely to be about self-acceptance and the conscious abandonment of repressive physical ideals. It is far more complicated than that. Yes, there are plenty of young women who can confidently say that they are happy with their less-than-svelte shapes — and that is to be applauded. But there are many others who in the rush to be fashionable are unable to admit that they are larger than they wish to be, or that their bodies just don't look good in the clothes they are choosing. Instead of reveling in their big, beautiful bodies, many girls instead are deep in denial, pouring themselves into clothes that are putting them in a python squeeze.
Nice to know that since they can't think for themselves, California girls who are big as well as beautiful have the Times to tell them not only how their clothes should fit, but also how to feel about their bodies.

some more:

Here's a passage on Knackwurst in Ruhlman & Polcyn's Charcuterie:
Our friend Marlies Bailey, a native of Germany now living in our heartland, smack in the middle of Oklahoma, and a great fan of sausages, wrote this in response to our question about the name of the sausage: "'Knacken' means to crack, in the literal sense. Knackwurst thus means that when you bite into it, it gives you a good crunchy sound, an explosion of flavor and juices. If you see a woman with a nice firm butt, we say she has a knackiger Asch. Ha-ha! Does that give you the feel of the word? It's a specific kind of sausage that is always boiled or steamed, never fried, and it's often larger in diameter than your basic sausage."
All this reminds me a bit too much of that old chestnut of the the food-politics literature, The Sexual Politics of Meat. Remember this?