A Few Unrelated Things

30Oct08

First off, there’s a new “page” up near the top about why I cook. It’s a sort of rambling essay.  It will probably get rewritten a few times.  If you’re curious about how I grew up eating, when I started reading and writing about food, or which cookbooks/chefs I hold in highest regard, you will find it interesting.  Otherwise, you will not.

Secondly, I finally saw No Reservations. No, not anything having to do with Anthony Bourdain.  If it was, I would have seen it earlier, since I went through that Bourdain obsession over the summer.  I mean, I’ve read the book, the short stories, read his blog, watch the show whenever I remember it’s on, and even saw (and, shockingly, enjoyed) every episode of the short lived Kitchen Confidential based very loosely on Bourdain’s life.

No Reservations is a romantic comedy with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart.  There’s a lot of food tangentially involved, I guess, but Ratatouille probably has more foodie content, to be honest.  Workaholic no-time-for-love female chef’s sister dies, leaving the daughter to her.  She returns to work to find she has a new sous-chef who does have time for love.  It was pretty much exactly what I expected–  a movie I watched, having checked it out from the library, while wearing headphones.  Just take note– there’s not even a hint of Anthony Bourdain anywhere in it.  (not that there was much Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential…)

Next up on “things I have found at the library recently” is The Splendid Table’s How To Eat Supper from Lynne Rosetto Kasper & Sally Swift. The Splendid Table is a segment often found on public radio.  My boyfriend loves radio, and so the invention of the podcast made him a very happy boy.  There are a few bits of media we disagree on–  I like Fringe, and the occasional romantic comedy– He likes The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, which I can’t stand because of one of their regular panelists (and not even for particularly good reason).  But Splendid Table is something we listen to together, and affects how we cook, and how we think about food.  Over the summer, I wanted to look at the new cookbook, but based on how much we were moving (I will never own THINGS again!), it never happened.  Well, I’m very happy with the Arlington Library system (And I’m a serious library snob. I grew up having access to both public libraries and university libraries, and working for a college library within a consortium makes you even worse… or better).

I seem to have wandered.  But this cookbook is an experience, a journey.  It’s not Joy of Cooking—  I use Joy when I just can’t pick between 15 different recipes for peanut butter cookies.  I use Joy when I just need a popover recipe to work.  But I can’t read Joy the whole way through.  I made it farther the last time I tried to read the dictionary (I think I was eight).

This is the cookbook version of a novel.  It starts “When we declare How to Eat Supper, we intend two things.  Of course we will provide recipes and cooking techniques that we hope will make the process more enjoyable.  But this book is also a look at the world that surrounds the food that shows up on our plates.”

They discuss everything they discuss on the show-  which basic pieces to get in the kitchen, and how to determine which to spend money on (what ends up in your sink most often), and then they go into recipes.  They’ve got your basic categories-  salads, soups, pasta, main dishes, vegetable main events, sweets, etc….  but there’s so much more sandwiched inside each.  There’s a discussion of salad greens, how to buy olive oil, what to do with stale bread, suggestions for recipe variations, vignettes.  There are often excerpts from other books, under the heading “Building the Library”– they understand this is not the only cookbook, and give you other things to look at. There are delicious quotes.

They’re reasonable.  They understand that most people are not going to make their own stock, so they suggest which store stocks are preferred, and offer a recipe to enhance store bought stock quickly and easily.  I do not have a stock pot (yet), and stock is not on the top of my list of things to make… But I don’t have a problem adding some veggies and seasoning to a stock that will be a headliner.  They suggest people buy organic things, local things, grass fed/free range/vegetarian/etc animal products whenever possible— but they also note when you get the largest benefit for these things, understanding that not everyone can afford to only shop organic.

I am not done with it.  But that’s because I refuse to skim.  I’m not reading every step of every recipe (this time), but I’m also not just looking at pictures.  I can’t read through Joy of Cooking.  I am savoring reading through this.  You don’t have to, of course.  You would do just as well to open any page of this book and start there.

Most disasterously, I might have to buy it.  You have to understand how menacing a hardcover book looks right now.  Library books are fine.  Magazines can be scanned and processed, allowing me to search the text.  Lots of other things can be read online for free, or put on the Kindle.  But if you buy a book, and grow attached to it, you then have to carry it, and display it, and dust it.  When I am reasonably settled, the books will come out of hiding, but I’m not settled, and haven’t been for the last four years, and the thought of more books……  This book might be worth that.

Finally, assuming you’re an American citizen capable of doing so:  Vote. Vote early if you can– people have already had 4-5 hour waits to early vote in Florida, imagine what election day is going to be like.  Help other people get to the polls.  If you see a problem, like an individual who seems confused and needs help, most polling places will have party representatives who may have more information than the poll workers.  Especially in swing states, both parties are training people to make sure voting happens smoothly, and that problems are resolved so as many people as possible can vote– if you or someone else near you has a problem, try to find one of these people.  If you need help with any part of this, ask.  This is way too important.

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3 Responses to “A Few Unrelated Things”

  1. 1 Jess

    No Reservations is based on a German film called Bella Martha, better known in the States as Mostly Martha. I highly recommend it!

  2. 2 cosetthetable

    Thanks for the tip– I’ve requested it though the library.

  3. 3 Miriam

    How does one buy olive oil? I’m thinking that if I’m in the middle of a country that makes excellent olive oil, I should perhaps bring some home for the cooks in my life, but I want to get good olive oil.


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