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I said to a friend the other day that all I want to do in the evenings is a little yoga and then read Wolf Hall. I was explaining why I haven’t been writing much and since saying it nothing has felt more true. With one baby off to bed and another on the way, food has taken a back burner. It doesn’t help that I think the New York Times and Washington Post food sections are suffering under the leadership of Mark Bittman and Joe Yonan. Or that I’ve recently tried several M.F.K. Fisher books and couldn’t get into them. But mostly my taste isn’t what I’d describe as super these days.
This time of year seems to bring a lot of impromptu hosting. With this in mind, I stocked up on some cheese and salami (and olives and crackers) to have on hand for hungry friends. And because many of those friends also arrive chilled this time of year, I make sure to have a pot of soup on hand. This week I did spicy chorizo and greens and chicken and barley soups.
When it comes to buying olive oil, like wine, I might as well close my eyes before making my selection. It seems that every store carries whatever random brands they choose and I never see the same bottle twice. However, I do enjoy olive oil and used to work somewhere high quality varieties were sold. Jim Shahin’s Smoke Signals column in the Washington Post caught my attention because he promises that the smoked olive oil from the Smoked Olive will wow your dinner guests served simply with bread for dipping. Add that to your shopping list.
Where last year’s food issue of the New Yorker disappointed, this year’s has plenty to recommend. Naturally, the issue comes with a piece by Calvin Trillin, this time visiting his daughter in Oaxaca and sampling the local fare. One part food, one part family, ten parts Trillin’s witty writing, so it’s well worth a read. I love this sentence: “Given my experience with nutria in Louisiana some years before, in fact, I suppose that, if I hadn’t been raised to prize modesty, I could describe myself as a man with relatively broad experience in rodent consumption.”
The food sections this week range from meh (baked beans cover story) to ick (squirrel gravy with a description of butchering the rodent that will make your stomach turn), so steer clear. Or maybe just read Pete Wells’ review of the vegetarian joint Dirt Candy, and if you missed it last week, his review of the new outpost of M. Wells at MoMa PS1. I would have loved to try their short-lived diner of decadence in Long Island City. Escargot nestled in bone marrow? Foie gras grilled cheese? Truly a moment in time. And don’t forget the rant it inspired in GQ–a must read.
Thank you, Washington Post for at least giving readers a guide to buying fresh turkeys in the area this week. Not one mention of the most important food holiday of the year in the New York Times though it is only a month away now. The cooking magazines have been rolling in, a bird perched on each cover. Let the planning begin!
You may have noticed that I don’t often write about fish. It’s not a big part of my diet and cooked fish almost not at all. I love a crudo or some sushi every now and then, but I don’t know when I last bought fish to make at home…maybe smoked whitefish for a chowder six months ago. We always have some tinned sardines around and maybe some cheap caviar. But that’s the extent of it. All this is to say that it wasn’t the topic that drew me to Paul Greenberg’s Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food (Penguin Press, 2010).
Last year I read Ruth Reichl’s first food memoir, Tender at the Bone, and loved it. She’s becoming this summer’s Stieg Larsson for me–as in I close one book and go on to the next. I’ve finished Comfort Me with Apples (2001) and am now diving into Garlic and Sapphires (2005). I can’t stress enough that Reichl’s books make excellent gifts (especially for any Baby Boomer you know who is into food and perhaps used to be a hippie–I gave my mother Tender at the Bone.)
There’s a great used book store I like to go to when I visit Connecticut in the summer. Traditionally I head for their food section and stock up for the year, but this summer I detoured to the children’s books. And I discovered a lot of overlap. There was Popcorn, Pizza, Pasta, and Panda Cake and that was just in the “P” box. I found I gravitated to the food-related titles and the two I came home with both ended up surprising and amusing me.
Get ready for my data dump. I’ve been beating the heat reading all my food magazines. I even branched out: Saveur from the newsstand and Cook’s Illustrated from my new subscription by coercion ($19.95 for a year plus a surprisingly slight cheese board). CI continues to be as boring as ever, though I do see more DIY-inspired projects (pasta, flatbread, granola) and the recipes seem a tad updated (Philly cheesesteaks instead of steak Diane). Saveur’s June/July issue was a fine read, but the recipes continue to have too many ingredients for my taste–the spicy chicken wings on the cover that duped induced me to buy it has 17. This recommendation for a “premium” tonic syrup, however, is just what the soda stream crowd has been looking for.