Saturday, June 19, 2010

Food writing

Well, my friends, what you have here is a bunch of cookbook covers--some twice or more for reasons I don't understand. I finally did drag them to the appropriate places, but I can't figure out how to get rid of the extra jackets at the bottom. It's very late, and I've been to a party, had a bit of wine, and am too tired to deal with it. So please ignore the extra jackets at the bottom. I'll figure this out another day.

As I said yesterday it was time to update my web page. Since my writing career is pretty static now, except for projects in process, I don't have much  reason to update--but I figure I can at least change the recipe page. This time I didn't write recipes--I wrote about books on food I've enjoyed lately. And I'm being lazy and copying the update here for a blog post. Maybe this will send some of you to my web page-- I'd love your comments.

Right now, I’m reading The Art of Eating In by Cathy Erway (New York: Penguin, 2009). A youngish career woman in Manhattan decides to give up eating in restaurants or buying takeout for two years—this in a city where eating out is the lifestyle. She began with a blog, “Not Eating Out in New York” that is still up and running and offers all kinds of sub-sites to explore. The book is not just a collection of blogs, but a chronological following of the development of her experiment. When she first started a friend sent her a recipe for squash biscuit. It called for yeast. She didn’t know what yeast was. I can’t tell you much more than that, because I haven’t gotten very far into it. But the narrative is charming and honest, and there are enough recipes scattered throughout to keep cooks happy.
A book I bought for the title: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, by Giulia Melucci ((New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010). Giulia takes us through several of her romances—she too is in Manhattan—and the things she cooked for the men in her life. Lots of recipes here, some from her Italian background, some even garnered from boyfriends’ families, some from friends. I photocopied a lot for my own recipe collection, from simple tomato sauce and pasta for two to angel hair pasta with asparagus and her father’s rather unusual minestrone. But it’s not all Italian—there are recipes for meat loaf, pumpkin bread, “unforgettable halibut,” “frugal frittata,” farfelle with zucchini and egg, pork teriyaki, a cosmopolitan collection. Along the way the reader follows Giulia’s unsuccessful relationships with guys that will make most of you want to say, “Ditch that loser!” In the final chapter, after the departure of the last boyfriend, she turns to pasta, confessing that she never made pasta from scratch—and she delves into that subject. Giulia Melucci may not be much at romantic relationships (I’m still crossing my fingers for her), but she’s a great cook and a good writer.

A book that made a lasting impact on me was Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking With What You’ve Got, by Tod Davies (Exterminating Angel Press, 2009). I must have flagged at least fifteen pages with cooking ideas (there are few recipes, just descriptions) and given ten copies of the book as Christmas presents last year. Davies has an undeniable advantage over most of us: her vegetarian husband has a bountiful vegetable garden, so she can simply walk into the garden and see what looks good that night. She’ll mix whole wheat pasta with butter and shredded cheese and then add bits of whatever cheese she has on hand—Morbier (fat and creamy), Gorgonzola, Parmesan, some Salem Blue. On the side that night she had a sliced tomato that she salted, covered with rocket (a leafy green with a strong flavor) and spritzed with lemon—she let that marinate while she fixed the pasta. How about a meal of eggs poached in a roast tomato/chipotle chili sauce, black beans refried, and avocado/jalapeno/cilantro/scallion lime salad? She describes how to cook one of my favorites: beets with greens, served with vinaigrette. Eggs scrambled with cheese and white wine, put on baguettes, and baked in a skillet till the cheese melts. You get the idea—simple, no-fuss cooking.

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