Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Culinary’

982060159_7af8f4ad17

(Part 2, continued from preceding post)

No reason, really – why I should have been repulsed by that little scene on the table. The Chef was married but then so was the Sous Chef. Inequalities of power happen all the time. The Chef was gorgeous in an older woman sort of way – the thought did creep into my mind momentarily of her three children but then again it was said that hers was an open marriage. The Sous Chef was much younger than her and biddable. That’s exactly why he was Sous Chef. His wife was the ugliest woman I’d ever laid eyes on in my life. Still is, if I remember right. Why, I can’t explain. It was nothing precise or explainable. She was just plain scary-looking. Ugly. But the fact remains that watching the Executive Chef lean back onto the table laughing with her mouth in a wide open grimace, her legs grasping the chunky chested Sous Chef who was also rather grinning in a frightened sort of way – was repulsive.

It had almost been the last straw. I’d almost quit the job.

The ingredients that went into this recipe of being a professional cook in a restaurant kitchen were so different than I’d expected. I’d thought “Oh! I love to cook!” “Oh! I can do that job!” “Oh! I want to work in a restaurant!” and so, I’d applied for the job and regardless of the fact that I’d never cooked professionally, won the job after a horrendous first day where I thought I’d surely die from exhaustion, where I’d gone and laid down a little kitchen towel on the floor of the dirty white-trash-looking staff bathroom, far in the corner of the worst-lit longest corridor, and I’d laid there curled up for ten minutes to gather the strength to go back and do the job. Lifting fifty pound mixing bowls over my five-foot-two shoulder to pour batter into the prepared ten cakepans in a sweltering kitchen had not been my forte at any time before that day, and it was a bit of a mouthful to bite on.

I’d almost quit, but there was a triangle in the kitchen that I’d either walk out on or break out of victorious. And I was just angry enough to want to emerge victorious.

The triangle consisted of the Chef on one side. The line cooks, Roger and Frank, on the other side. And little Colette the French waitress who somehow had ended up in this eccentric place called Connecticut who ooh’d and ahh’d over the new offerings on the pastry cart (“I am glad someone knows how to BAKE” she would announce in tight short tones. “It has been HORRIBLE“) along with the Salvadoran busboys, who detested the line cooks and who loved cakes and pastries and taking a side wherever a side was to be found. I didn’t want to walk out on Colette and the Salvadoran busboys.

Roger turned up the volume on the radio set tuned to the hard-metal station to a screeching blast that day when he saw me walk in, and started to bob his head like a sick old duck in time to the bass notes. Frank pouted. I walked to the pastry station and right there on the spot where the Chef’s behind had been sitting several days before, I threw down upon that spot my weapon, and got ready to begin the attack.

My weapon was sweet.

My weapon was brilliant.

My weapon was a book.

The name of my weapon was ‘Lenotre’s Desserts and Pastries‘.

(To be continued . . .Part Three Lenotres Cakes)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

2265223584_d9e14acc40
I love QQ food. I love Q food too.

Q is not a question. Q is a texture. Or as expressed much more succinctly and beautifully by Zoe Tribur in the Spring 2006 issue of Gastronomica

QQ is a unique oral sensation that
cannot be mistaken for any other. When you put something
in your mouth—cold or warm, salty or sweet, dry or wet,
it doesn’t matter—if the substance first pushes back as you
seize it with your teeth, then firms up for just a moment
before yielding magnanimously to part, with surprising ease
and goodwill, from the cleaving corners of your mandibles—
that is Q.

Many people do not like Q food. It is somewhat alien to the palate of the eater exposed solely to the foodways of the middle-class United States.

That’s okay. More for me. 🙂

I’ve found a recipe for a Q food served at the Winter Solstice way over on the other side of the world. Tang Yuen. It looks delicious. Yay, tang yuen!

It is a few days past the Winter Solstice, but better late than never. Perhaps this will be the start of a new tradition – our own post-Christmas Tang Yuen party!

Note: The article in Gastronomica on Q is downloadable as a PDF file. It is titled ‘Taste’ by Zoe Tribur and is definitely worth reading, for any gastro of any astral sphere.

Read Full Post »

Superheroes seem to keep popping up in my world.

They are appearing in more forms than I’d ever imagined on the pages of the book I’m reading right now – ‘Who Can Save Us Now – Brand New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories’ . They’re on the pages of  ‘Mental Floss‘ magazine this month in the article ‘5 Comic Superheroes Who Made a Real World Difference’. They showed up in great form at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. And last month they took to the runways at The  New York Chocolate Show, capering and mincing along in astonishing costumes – no longer made of strange stretchy materials – but constructed instead of the fruits of the cocoa bean, warped by knowledgable chocolate-focused culinary materialists and reimaged to be stylin’.

(More images here on telegraph.co.uk.)

While reading the ‘Superheroes’ book I wondered what sort of superhero I’d be (if only I could be one). I’d have to be something to do with food, I thought. These new superheroes can take many different forms. Some are described in this review from bookgasm:

One of my favorites was “The Pentecostal Home for Flying Children,” in which Will Clarke examines the aftereffects of a promiscuous costumed crimefighter and a town full of easily seduced Baptist women. The result is a slew of snotty kids who can fly and wreak havoc on their neighbors’ privacy and well-being. It takes a rather dark, disturbing turn.

Another highlight is the heartbreaking “The Horses Are Loose” by Cary Holladay. Its little-girl protagonist is born with the knowledge that she has the power to fly, but can only use this power once. She’s saving it for a grand plan that she hopes will save her single, clinically depressed mother from a lifetime of misery. If it doesn’t move you even a little, read it again.

Some pieces are straight humor, like the Sea Monkeys-oriented “The Snipper,” from Noria Jablonski, and Sam Weller’s “The Quick Stop 5®,” in which a chemical accidental transforms a quintet of convenience-store employees into mutants with the powers of beef jerky, a Slushee, condoms and the like. It’s one of the better stories in the entire volume, marred only by an over-reliance on pot humor.

At first I thought of fruits and vegetables, but my mind became a curious blank slush. No, ‘Banana Woman’ – who would stroll through the most luxurious shopping areas of major cities of the world trying to make the universe a better place by finding the most perfect outfit to buy that ever existed! (while saving cats and dogs and old ladies from ugly-faced muggers who were trying to steal their sardines, bones, and handbags by hitting the muggers over the head with a huge banana that would grow in an instant before your eyes from the end of her right middle finger, leaving the malefactors covered in a pool of disintegrating banana mush rapidly turning brown and attracting flies) would not do.

Besides, it seemed to hint at penis envy.

Forget the fruits and vegetables. On to meat.  Fish were not something I considered – though actually something could be done with a giant clam. Or with a jellyfish. Ever get stung by a jellyfish?

After sifting through various ideas for becoming a meat-based superhero, the decision was made. It was perfect. I would be ‘Caul-Fat Girl’.

I haven’t exactly worked out all the details yet, but basically somehow I would extrude a huge net of caul-fat whenever and wherever trouble arose in the world. I could then wing it through the air to cover and entangle in its fatty folds every single person who was causing all that trouble.

(Actually I thought of honeycomb tripe first, but caul fat is easier to work with. And besides, I’m not crazy about anything along the lines of the name ‘Tripe Sistuh’.)

But what do real Superheroes actually eat? This is important to know. I looked to the BBC for answers, and as always, the BBC came up with some.

Some superheroes need various foodstuffs to give them their strange but wonderful powers. Eric is just a normal schoolboy but if he eats a banana he becomes Banana-Man. When Olive Oyl is in trouble, Popeye opens up a can of spinach and becomes a regular pillar of strength, and all that is needed to give Scooby Doo a little encouragement is a Scooby Snack – a rather delicious dog biscuit. The Flash burns calories in a flash, and in order to re-energise has to eat copious amounts of burgers, fries and power-shakes without any affect on his fabulous skin, and Roger Ramjet would never find the strength to beat up the bad guys without his Proton Energy Pills. Superheroes who get their powers this way all suffer from the same problem – those powers wear off without a constant supply of their magic food.

The first time I read this I scanned it too fast and got a bit worried, for I thought Roger Ramjet was eating Protose Energy Pills and it shrunk my image of him. Protons – now there’s something fine to eat. Protose I still have my doubts about.

It’s good to live in a world filled with Superheroes. I hope the chocolate doesn’t melt too soon.

Read Full Post »

It startled me to see The Fireside Cook Book peering out from the bookstore shelf. The biggest surprise was how very new the book looked. The editions I’ve seen have been battered and worn, food-speckled, and with the non-shiny essence of the year 1949 – the date when The Fireside Cook Book was published for the very first time.

The new edition is red and green and yellow-brown and bright, and the illustrations – tossed in as if by a mad generous cook into a huge happy salad – are a look into another age of cookbooks.

Playful line drawings seem to be on almost every page, each one broadly drawn and colorful: An enigmatically smiling woman holds a garden spade as she bends over the earth almost-bursting out of her clothes while planting cauliflower in a garden as a little bird sits nearby watching her closely . . . a black-coated coachman throws delicately curled reins around the neck of a lime-avocado-green horse resembling a Lippanzauer as it pulls along a Cinderella-story coach labelled (writ large and bold and even saucily) SAUCES, and there upon the top of the coach sit the sauces in their jugs and bottles, merrily bumping along.

It all sounds just too precious. But it’s not. The book’s content crunches any initial questioning thoughts of ‘just too precious’ into a puff-ball which disappears with a slight ‘pouff!’ noise somewhere never to be seen again in the 1217 recipes on the 306 pages.

In this book are recipes, menu planning ideas, information on food purchasing, notes on seasonal cooking, the food of other lands and more. The recipes are written by someone who knows them too well to make a great fuss over them, someone who knows that any recipe ultimately answers to the cook, not the other way around – where cooks answer to the recipes which have somehow transformed themselves into pettily demanding divas. And yet the recipes in this book are far from unsophisticated.

This is not a specialist cookbook, though specialized ingredients and methods can be found in any given section. Beard’s mention of chayote, in 1949, is an interesting example of how very unassumably forward-looking he was.

Mark Bittman writes the foreword, and at the end of it comments:

“The man was born to teach cooking”.

I’m glad he wrote this, for the book jacket bio draws a strong picture of the other aspects of Beard: the well-qualified expert; the world-traveller; and the man who was quite intensely industry-connected.

My vision of Jim Beard (drawn from stories told to me by those who knew and worked with him during his later years in Manhattan) is in alignment with Bittman’s comment. I imagine him as consummate teacher first, bon vivant second, and writer through it all.

‘American Cookery’ is still my favorite book by Beard, but The Fireside Cook Book – this bright new edition – is coming right up close behind it as a very near second for my affections in the world of his writings.

Bread of a day, wine of a year, a friend of thirty years. I’ve always loved that saying. Maybe I’ll tag on to the end of it ‘a book of sixty years’.

Read Full Post »