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Archive for the ‘For Thought’ Category

I was recently reading an article in Saveur’s December issue.  The article is entitled, “Personal Space: an editor’s kitchen reflects a lifetime.”  The writing is about Judith Jones (an accomplished cookbook editor who published Julia Child’s first cookbook), her kitchen and recent publications, and about how one’s kitchen can be a telling reflection of the style and personality of the cook who spends time there.  This was a thoughtful article, but what struck me the most were the pictures of Judith in her little kitchen and apartment, as well as the mention of her latest cookbook, The Pleasures of Cooking for One.

Judith talks lovingly about the design of her kitchen and living space, thoughtfully created and conceived by her and her beloved husband.  Every detail held special meaning to them, even down to the accidental garde-manger they created during renovation, reminding them nostalgically of the years they lived in Paris.  The pictures in the magazine spread show a tiny and elegant woman.  She stands in her kitchen, carefully cutting chicken; she sits alone in her cherished dining space, her beautifully lined face illuminated by candle light, gourmet meal before her (silver platter included) and a glass of red wine in hand.  Her smile conveys the anticipation of sharing her personal space with such an audience and a youthful giddiness radiates through her expression.  So much like me, she is surrounded by books in every room.  As I continue to read, I think, “Where is this husband of hers?”  My eyes read ahead to the title of her cookbook and I realized with sadness that he, of course, had passed away in 1996. 

I know that the author probably intended for me to be impressed with Judith’s quaint and thoughtful kitchen, to consider what message that my own kitchen may send to its guests, but instead I was instantly struck with the sadness of Judith’s solitude at her dinner table.   My mind wandered through a multitude of memories that are filled with laughter, love, memorable meals and even more memorable people.  I have shared countless days and evenings eating the best meals of my life with people that I love indescribably.  I pictured Judith’s life similar to my own, filled with these same common experiences.  Just like she and her husband lovingly created their perfect environment, so have Jon and I spent time sharing our dreams and hopes with one another.  Perhaps her kitchen and her home itself remain unchanged and are host to many lively dinners with friends, but some things in her life have definitely changed.  The realization that everyone will not always sit at the table and stand in my kitchen hit me with immediate force; it literally brought me to tears.  I cannot imagine not sharing my kitchen, my cooking, the experience of eating, the joy of a lazy evening, with the people that are dear to me.  Not one single person could go missing without drastically altering the fabric of my life; especially my husband – my one true love.  To me, the table is such a sacramental place.  How enormously blessed am I that I don’t have to sit at it alone? 

One of the most memorable (albeit simple) moments of my life was a time when Jon and I had just finished a delightful, weeknight meal; our home smelled delicious, candles were lit, music drifted through the house, my belly was full, and I was sitting next to the man I feel honored to share life with.  I specifically remember that my feet were stretched out and resting on the empty chair that sits across from me at our table, glass in hand, mind at rest.    I was struck, at that moment, with the sheer joy of being exactly where I was.  (A very rare moment for me and my chaotic mind!)

Since reading about Judith, I have considered in depth that these meals and experiences are even more of a treasure than I realized.  Of course they are some of the best times of my life, but also ones that are not always guaranteed.  I’ve experienced the truth of this in the painful knowledge that I will never eat another meal at 421 South Euclid Street, surrounded by my Grandma and Grandpa in what was one of my favorite kitchens.  I will never be able to pick another avocado or lemon out of their backyard.  Reading about Judith and her kitchen has caused me to realize the fleeting nature of our lives with a more poignant immediacy. 

That being said, I would like to thank everyone who shares these times with me, everyone who allows me to cook for them, everyone who has fed me well, everyone that sits around the table with me and hangs out in my kitchen, everyone that has shed a tear with me across the table, everyone that has squealed with delight over the perfect bite, everyone that has poured me a drink and danced with me while we cooked, everyone that has allowed me to gracefully unbutton my pants due to an overstuffed belly, everyone that has shared their dreams and listened to mine as we rested from our dining.  These are the best times and you all are a gift and a blessing to me, a beautiful part of my life that I cherish and appreciate.  And even though I am nearly one hundred percent certain that she will never see this, I would also like to thank Judith.  She’s helped me to think about how blessed we are to share these times with one another.  I hope she really has found pleasure in cooking for one, and that her kitchen is still crowded at times with friends and loved ones that fill her heart with joy.  And most of all, I am so thankful for Jon, who shares the table with me night after night and graciously receives my successes and failures in the kitchen.  While my love of food has been with me since childhood, he was part and parcel to the beginning of my culinary exploration in the kitchen.  I hope I never have to sit at the table without him. 

P.S.  And thanks to Becky  – who conspires with me about a full life and continues to encourage me to blog!

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Dear Mr. Townsend,

I have written a letter to you over and over again in my head ever since hearing the devastating news that the revered and beautiful Gourmet magazine was cancelled.  I believe that it has taken this long for me to write the letter because I’ve simply not been able to come to terms with this news.  I am astounded.  Grieved.  Disturbed.  Angry.  Disgusted.  Every time I look at my teetering stack of precious Gourmet’s, I feel the wind knocked out of me again. 

You see, the cancellation of Gourmet is tragic not only because this magazine was singularly unique amongst food publications, but also because I believe it represents a greater loss and a disturbing downward direction in our culture. 

Gourmet magazine stood to me as the darling of food publications.  Saturated with gorgeous photos, riveting food journalism and delectable recipes, Gourmet was the embodiment of all that is beautiful and sacramental about eating.  Gourmet took us to new places, introduced us to new foods, challenged us to understand the meaning behind what we eat and where it comes from, inspired us to cook and to serve, to cook and eat with imagination.  How incredible that a seventy year old publication could still stand as a smart and sexy educator and authority to a multi-generational audience.  I believe this is because Gourmet elevated and honored the things that are important: food, beauty, truth, meaning. 

Gourmet was the anthem and banner for food being more than just nourishment for our bodies, but also nourishment for our souls. Even more amazing is that this publication embodied these principles not in some irrelevant and dowdy manner, but with elegance, glamour and sophistication.  Gourmet holistically supported and propagated the ideals of artful living and eating.  Cancelling a publication this revered and established, a publication that has educated and inspired some of the greatest chefs of the last century, all due to a year of bad ad sales in a poor economy is egregious – outrageous!  You have closed the Lourve.  Sold Monet’s paintings at a garage sale.  Bulldozed central park for an office park development.  Cancelled your Roman holiday in favor of a weekend in Branson.  Replaced Grace Kelly with Brittney Spears.  Graffitied Michaelangelo’s DavidYou’ve taken your family to McDonald’s for Thanksgiving.   Do I sound dramatic?  I feel VERY DRAMATIC.  Absolutely furious.

I subscribe to multiple food publications because I am an avid cook and have passionate interest in food and eating, but Gourmet is by far my favorite.  The blend of inventive recipes, captivating essays and cultural savvy is unmatched in culinary publication.  I’ve been left with Bon Appetit, which I subscribe to because I can’t help myself.  Sure, Bon Appetit has its merits and strong points, but I believe its audience subscribes for different reasons.  Instead of discovering new little items and delectable treats and nibbles in a section labeled, “Obsessions,” I’ll have to look in Bon Appetit under “What to Buy Now.”  I believe this succinctly summarizes the vast difference between these sister publications.   I do not want to be told what to buy now; I want to be wooed and seduced, enticed because I trust so much the passion and credibility of the source. 

I find it utterly disturbing that one (or even a few) bad years can ruin a publication that is as old or older than our beloved grandmothers.  What is this short-sightedness that continues to surface in a country that is founded on perseverance, dedication, resourcefulness?  It seems that panic has swept the American business community, and I find myself bewildered time and time again as a consumer.  Certainly a giant such as Conde Nast would see that nearly one million customers, disgruntled (at best) and outraged (at worst) costs much more than a year of slow ad sales.  In terms of the transition from print to web, the Gourmet website is a recent award winner; a representation that the Gourmet brand is not only relevant, but strong.  This is especially impressive seeing as how the audience that reads this magazine is most likely one that honors and values a sensory experience, which is much more difficult to have by clicking through a website. 

For me, the website is an interesting supplement to the magazine that I anxiously await each month.  The experience of holding and turning pages in my hands, the smell of a brand new magazine, the glossiness of an undisturbed cover, the knowledge of new things to be discovered with the simple turn of a page, the portability of a tangible publication- these things cannot be replaced by the internet.  The pages of my magazines are crinkled from water and olive oil, my cherished issues having been present next to a hot sauté pan or with me in my nightly bath, delightfully enjoyed alongside a little glass of red wine.  Gourmet magazine has been with me as I have learned to cook, has transported me when I needed to dream and discover new things in the hardest of times, has inspired me to stretch and grow myself as a home cook and food lover.  How many times have I run to the mailbox the moment I hear the postman drive away, anticipating this monthly pleasure that will act as my muse in the kitchen?

There is a reason that history is upheld and protected.  There is a reason that in the midst of exploding social media and an overworked A-D-D society, there are movements to return to simplicity, quality of life, community, and appreciation of the traditions that worked for our grandmothers and grandfathers.  I realize that I’m delving into some wider issues, but for some reason the cut of this senior publication in the midst of a great food revolution just reeks of the brokenness that I observe in crumbling systems and lifestyles that the enlightened seek to overcome.  What are we becoming culturally when we are okay with slashing these beautiful and treasured things in favor of a few more dollars?  Where is the reverence for that which transcends the whim of trends, for the things that are worth preserving because they unite us generationally?  What else should I expect to disappear and fall apart?  I find myself more and more disillusioned in this culture that surrounds me.  I liked knowing that I was connected to and a part of a community that had existed for decades.  There is beauty in the old and the established.  Have you missed this entire revolution and return to quality, even at a greater cost?  I’m convinced that the future sees us returning to this mindset.  This counterculture will become the mainstream.  We have no choice.  The Europeans understand this best (which is why we love their wines, cheeses, foods, museums so much).  Americans, sadly, still continue to lack this vision and sophistication.  I expected more from Conde Nast.  I expected more from a company that published these ideals.   

I will continue to mourn the loss of this lovely and beautiful magazine.  I am truly heart broken.  I still just can’t believe it.  I can’t believe it.

Most sincerely,

Amanda Hindson

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you be the chef

 

The sky is the limit.

Money is no object.

Add anything you like.

Use all of these ingredients.

What is your creation?

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vernazza - there is life outside my garage

vernazza - there is life outside my garage

Wow – I haven’t posted all week.  Terrible.  I haven’t really even wanted to cook.

There.  I said it.  I can’t believe it.  But it’s good to be honest.  The truth is, I’m in garage sale hell.  I am surrounded by boxes and old items and clothes and dust that seem to be multiplying magically, dividing and reproducing like little single celled organisms.  This was a fun project when it started (seems like one hundred years ago); I have really enjoyed seeing little awards, drawings and photos from my husband’s past.  It feels good to cleanse and purge. 

Now I feel condemned to this bizarre purgatory of boxes and upheaval; I am counting down the days until Saturday!  While I haven’t been inspired to cook (although I did have the eggwich for lunch again yesterday!) and therefore not inspired to post, I have continued to be refreshed by your responses to my questions from the last few weeks.  Every time I read about lavender or basil or strawberries I feel a little breath of fresh air.  Aaahhhh…

So my question this week is about your past – specifically what are some things from your childhood that you cherish or have held on to?  What’s hiding in your garage or tucked away in your closet?

For me:

1. my books

2. letters and cards from family

3. drawings and photographs (although I can’t find hardly any)

4. crayons

5. christmas ornaments

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little cruciferous beauties

little cruciferous beauties

My Aunt Valerie sent me some pictures of her second brussel sprout harvest; they’re beautiful.  I’m jealous that she grows these so easily in her backyard –  talk about “local” ingredients. 

Speaking of local, I have to admit that I am a bit tired of the overuse of “local” – the trendiness of it all has made it a tad too precious.  I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you the benefits of eating local ingredients- whether you are or aren’t a foodie, the American marketing machine is exploiting the local food movement at every opportunity. 

However, the intrinsic goodness of growing food in your own back yard or eating indigenous vegetables from around the corner does feel kinda good.  I have a few little herbs on my front porch – nothing like Farmer Val in Anaheim Hills. 

I do dream of a giant backyard garden, complete with gorgeous hanging fruits and vegetables, fertilized with my own rich compost, my plants pruned daily with joy and a light sweat on my brow.  I’m as wholesome as the veggie patch in my back yard…  I’m practically Jamie Oliver…  Ahhhh….

Okay, so that’s not reality – not even close.  Nevertheless, I do enjoy the few sprigs of rosemary that I can snip from the pot on my front porch. 

Farmer Val

Farmer Val

I’ve loved the responses that came from the last question I posed regardng ingredients, and now I am immensely interested in knowing what your favorite five “local” ingredients are – either from where you live now or somewhere that you have lived in the past.  “Local” can be from your back yard or from your state.  If you have a picture of a backyard harvest – send it to me and I will post it!

Please do think about responding – I cherish the growing community on this little blog.  In the meantime, here’s mine:

 

 

Georgia

  1. peaches
  2. vidalia onions
  3. okra
  4. collard greens
  5. green tomatoes

Texas

  1. okra
  2. pecans
  3. peppers
  4. beef
  5. prickly pear cactus fruit

Louisiana

  1. catfish
  2. andouille sausage
  3. king cake
  4. pralines
  5. trout

So I’m cheating a little bit on Louisiana…

California

  1. lemons
  2. limes
  3. satsumas
  4. grapes
  5. avocados

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little darlings

little darlings

Excluding bread and water, what are five ingredients that you could not live without?  Not dishes – individual items.  I’m really curious about this.  I saw the question recently and I’ve been thinking about my list, modifying, deliberating, agonizing (why?!) and returning to my original thoughts.  It’s more difficult than you think!  Here is where I stand at the moment:

  1. olive oil
  2. lemon
  3. garlic
  4. onion
  5. butter

Golly, that was hard.  Please tell me yours.  Do it.  Do it. 

Oh yes, and I’m including a picture of these gorgeous little baby artichokes that I found at the market.  They are so ridiculously beautiful that I have to share them.  I used them to make more artichoke and potato hash

So back to your list…

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bella roma and meHello Friends – I have missed this little community.  Work, ear infections, Italy and the Beach have kept me away from the computer, but I’m happy to say that I’m back!  I have lots that I want to share about Italy and things that I want to cook and eat this summer, but in the  meantime I offer up this excerpt from the amazing Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert:

“…people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough.  But that’s not how happiness works.  Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.  You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel the world looking for it.  You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.  And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.  If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment.  It’s easy enough to pray when you’re in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments.”

Amen and amen.  Thank you Elizabeth Gilbert.

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