For this librarian’s money the must-read article of last week was Adam Gopnik‘s brilliant, lyrical meditation on the pull of cookbooks and what they teach us about desire and disappointment. Though Gopnik at times risks overburdening the cookbook with significance (“Anyone who cooks knows that it is in following recipes that one first learns the anticlimax of the actual, the perpetual disappointment of the thing achieved.”), his essay got me thinking about why it is that this deep into the digital age, with old media fast collapsing around it, with the proliferation of blogs and unending flows of free content/recipes/instruction, the cookbook — the kind you can touch and stain and dogear and shelve, the object -- endures, a bright (i.e. profitable) spot in the beleaguered world of book publishing. And it seems to me that cookbooks have held up so well because as books go there is something fundamentally different about a cookbook. It’s an obvious point, but it’s not simply that a cookbook is also a sort of manual, a tool (plenty of self-help guides fit that description), or that a high percentage of cookbooks are purchased as gifts (it’s tough to wrap a bow around an e-book).
The difference, I think, is not in the uses the cookbook is put to; it runs deeper and relates to how a cookbook is, or rather is not, read. Because in a way we don’t read cookbooks so much as we reread cookbooks. Unlike other forms of printed matter, we return to cookbooks again and again. And in the process a relationship forms, an intimacy results. We need cookbooks on our shelves because their presence matters, because their materiality is a form of companionship, and because nothing the digital age has come up with confers presence, offers a person something they can form an attachment to. Respected newspapers my close, beloved magazines may shut down, but cookbooks, I suspect, won’t be going away any time soon.
Jonathan Milder, Research Librarian
Forget New Moon’s team Edward versus team Jacob, Red Sox versus Yankees or even vanilla versus chocolate. In the green room, we’ve caught up with Mehta versus Garces. You can cut the tension between these last two rivals for The Next Iron Chef with a santoku knife. Not really, since grace under pressure is a quality they share, one that helps make them the only remaining contenders to become the next chef to join the roster at Kitchen Stadium.
Stovemates since the top of the season, Chef Jose Garces and Chef Jehangir Mehta boast innovative culinary styles but also a full menu of Iron Chef qualities, including fearlessness, integrity and a gut instinct for innovation. No wonder the final battle for Sunday night’s season finale (9pm/8c) is between them, a world of flavor with a jolt of competitive spirit. Check out the video above for their take on the competition, portion sizes and how the show has changed their cooking; go here if you want to see what they talked about during a live Facebook chat earlier this week.
Garces, executive chef and owner of several Philadelphia restaurants, says Chef Mehta would bring a “refreshing approach” to Kitchen Stadium. Mehta, executive chef and owner of New York City’s Graffiti restaurant, is equally gracious: “Chef Garces would be an excellent Iron Chef.”
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This year the SC is hosting Thanksgiving. One word, people: STRESS. So what could be better than running into the bright-eyed host of Sandra’s Money Saving Meals, Ms. Lee herself, in the elevator here at work? I took the opportunity to ask her for some quick holiday tips. Here’s what she offered:
1. Think smaller. For the turkey, that is – about 10 to 12 pounds. Sandra says, “It’ll eliminate the stress and time it takes to cook a 24 pounder. If you have a larger family, buy two smaller turkeys. Trust me.”
2. Create an edible tablescape. “If you have two smaller turkeys have them book ending your dessert. You could take three premade cheesecakes and put them on top of each other. Spread on a gorgeous cranberry chutney. I like using food as the focal point of my table. Nothing is going to waste.”
3. Try cornbread stuffing. “Cornbread stuffing is a staple in my house every Thanksgiving. I make it the day before. My recipe is so easy! I stuff my bird. I don’t cook the stuffing on the side.”
The cornbread stuffing will be tested in the SC’s personal kitchen tonight. I’ll let you know how it goes. For tips to make your holiday meal delicious, affordable and effortless check out the upcoming Sandra’s Money Saving Meals, Sundays at 12pm/11c and Mondays at 2pm/1c
Eat Well – The SC
Studio A at the Chelsea Market offices regularly changes faces for the filming of Iron Chef America, the Next Food Network Star Finale and a ton of in-the-kitchen shows, from Guy’s Big Bite to Secrets of a Restaurant Chef. But this week, for one afternoon, Studio A was transformed into a kitchen wonderland, a dream world for cooking-enthusiast bargain shoppers. It was a charity auction for Share Our Strength, and it was beautiful!
Items on sale were leftover from shows, equipment from the kitchens and Kohl’s products donated by the culinary department. At high noon, Food Networkers (including Sunny Anderson!) swarmed into the studio and started grabbing (mostly politely) and bidding – small items priced as marked and larger items auctioned off to the highest bidders.
The restaurant critic Jonathan Gold may have won a Pulitzer for criticism (the first food writer to do so), but I prefer to think of him as LA’s poet laureate. Check out the profile of Gold in this week’s New Yorker (subscription only) and you’ll understand why. Or better yet click on over to the LA Weekly for an all-you-can-read buffet of Gold’s writing. He’s the best.
Jonathan Milder, Research Librarian
- My friend's farm: Rachael's destination
What do you cook when Rachael Ray’s coming to dinner? That’s what I asked my pal Brent Ridge when I heard Rachael Ray visited his farm to film a Food Network special, Rachael’s Vacations: Farm to Table, which airs tomorrow at 11 pm EST/10 C. I’d lean on comfort, just to make myself comfortable: Something seasonal, mac-n-cheese or chili, probably. But whose? Would making my own offend? Would making hers be odd? Brent had a different approach, one I appreciate. Menus must be more clear from the outset when you spend days growing your own food and minding your own herd of goats, which beget luscious creamy goat cheese.
A few years ago Brent, a physician, blogger and all-around interesting guy, and his partner, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, parlayed their New York City love of terrace-grown tomatoes into an ex-pats’ paradise Upstate called Beekman Farm. Their “experiment in seasonal living,” as they call it, has become a full-on way of life, with 60 acres of land to tend, dozens of animals and 110 different kinds of heirloom veggies to sow, grow, harvest, can, freeze, pickle and share.
Brent’s always cooking up something fun, but I’m sure he had a few moments of panic at the idea of entertaining Food Network. “Sharon Springs is a very, very small town,” Brent says, “and of course the news that Rachael was coming couldn’t be kept a secret…”
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Most secretaries don’t count testing video games as part of their job responsibilities. But Food Network has high standards and everything gets tested plenty–even our new Wii game, which hits stores tomorrow, Cook or Be Cooked! We Food Networkers all wear many hats, so when I was asked to try out the new game, I got my nunchucks waxed and ready to go. I loved having a sneak peek and I corralled a few colleagues to play with me in one of our television-filled lounges (sorry, those pictures are top secret!).
In seconds, VP of Marketing and The Next Food Network Star judge Susie Fogelson and Food Network Kitchens chef Mory Thomas came to life before us, explaining how to play the game and how we’d be judged. Funny how something that looks so simple and seamless on screen took hours and days and weeks and months of planning! They’d be watching how we cooked, of course, including timing, seasoning, multitasking and temperature of several different dishes. Then, they’d give them a taste. The pressure was on! The idea is to start with simple dishes and cook your way through dozens of culinary treats until you’re master of a Food Network-worthy virtual kitchen. Read more »
The Foodnetwork.com staff — and pals from our sister sites Food2, Recipezaar, Fine Living and Healthy Eats — kicked off the wicked weekend with a Halloween sweet swap.
The FN Dish’s own Secretary Confidential led the sugar charge with these ghastly goodies (above). She claims she’s no cooking pro, but these chocolate-y brownies, drizzled with icing in the shape of ghosts, tasted frightfully good. (Try making similar treats with Ina’s Outrageous Brownies.)
Our resident baking goddess, Alexis, built this clever graveyard cake from her mom’s chocolate cake recipe and homemade chocolate frosting. Then she used assorted candies, marshmallows and shortbread cookies to make spiders, ghosts and tombstones. (By the way, we were mesmerized by the new Blood Orange Dots candies she found at the market.)
See more of our tricky treats »
A trip home to my parents’ farm, Vala’s Pumpkin Patch in Nebraska, was all about family, friends and great food. I spent most of my weekend mingling, catching up with my pumpkin patch family (including 500+ part-time, seasonal employees) and trying to eat everything in sight.
Farms aren’t usually known for smelling good, but when you walk into Vala’s you’re greeted by the aroma of coffee and freshly baked cinnamon rolls. (When the craving hits, try Cinnamon Rolls from Food Network Magazine for a similar homemade version.)
Am pretty sure the latter was posted a few months ago, but is there a new trend I’m not aware of, of discussing food and wine in Radiohead terms?
From Jarrett Wrisley‘s piece in today’s Atlantic Food Channel:
And this: “Black pepper, cumin, soil and leather. Elegant. A hint of fruit, but not a lot…Cherries. They’re playing ‘Paranoid Android’, which is also nice.” I wrote that about the Meerea Park Terracotta 1998, which an iPod at the wine bar decided to pair with Radiohead’s best album. Welcome to the New World.
Then there was a Thomas Wines Kiss 2007 that was aggressively oaked and very fruity, and finally the Brokenwood Graveyard 2005. The Graveyard Shiraz is probably the Hunter’s most celebrated red. That wine, which was equal parts red fruit and savory earth, tasted like it would age wonderfully, but it was admittedly strange at first. Sort of like OK Computer.
Which is all completely fine, and understandable on the face of it, but in the context of my recently having seen this in McSweeney’s, I have to wonder.
(Unrelatedly, Daniel Maurer over at Grub Street had a whole analogy comparing David Chang to Fugazi-era Ian MacKaye, which I can totally get behind, though if it were my metaphor, I’d probably err on the side of Minor Threat-era.)
Rupa Bhattacharya, Culinary Writer