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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You can't make a Chef out of a Dumb Cook

“I read the news today oh, boy…” showing my age with a Beatles quote but it hits the culinary spot. I read an article about the deluge of chef’s memoir. More to the point they are more like exposes about bad boys in hot kitchens a lá Bourdain.

Yes, I have read Bourdain and watched him single handedly elevate the cooking drones to worshipful status. I have watched him develop his “humble” stature with the likes of Eric and Thomas. He has done a lot to expose the underbelly of the cooking industry. Now he eats and barfs on T.V. Great shtick.

I was one of those aspiring female cooks who came in contact with the likes of Bourdain. In fact we danced in and out of one of the same restaurants never to meet. It was a flipping tough gig. Male or female if you didn’t have the cohones you were dead meat on the line, produce or die. As a woman, there was extra scrutiny of your tits, your wiggle, and whose bones you jumped, rumors ran rampant.

Anyone who has ventured into a “professional” kitchen and has survived has scars and stories they could tell. I have always felt these shouldn’t be shared with the white cloth public. A 9-5 business man or tennis wife can’t understand why dueling soft shell crabs and crayfish can turn into a betting super bowl or the need to make a stock of work boots for the morning shift to find is crucial to leaving.

They don’t understand the vice grip a cook is put in when management wants you to wash the fish and sell it as a special when you wouldn’t eat it yourself. For many of us it is the twisted creativity and pressure that rocks us. It’s a hard nut profession.

These stories are only for the workers down below. They are for late night rants over beer, wine, and whatever numbs you. Not even to be shared with lovers or mates. They are the stories that bind restaurant workers together in a scarred and bloody brotherhood.

I never shared my stories w/ NSSP and when Bourdain wrote his book I felt violated. He wrote with bravado about my darkest culinary secrets. He crossed the line to make a buck. Sure drones kiss his feet and thank him for legitimizing their “profession”. I feel upstairs should never be told the truth.

This tell all kitchen memoir has become quite popular and now the ultimate irony~ a “chef” in England decided to write his tell all while still working at said restaurant exposing his exploits (the usual suspects-sex, drugs, and rip offs) only to be fired when the boss read the book!

Cooks beware! Owners can read!!

Original Article Below- Enjoy!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

What are you eating for Passover or Easter?

This week I spent my creative juices on nailing the menus for the next 2 holidays. After playing with Mediterranean recipes for an article, I couldn’t wrap my head around a brisket event. Joyce Goldstein said come hither and I went.

There will only be 3 of us for Passover so it will be a simple affair. We’ll start with an appetizer of Latkes topped with sour cream, smoked salmon, and dill. After the service there will be golden matzo ball soup, a salad of watercress and butter lettuce with a dill vinaigrette.

Keeping with the golden color, our chicken will be roasted with lemon, orange, and ginger. Sides? Rice with pine nuts and saffron and spinach gratin.
Dessert will be a lime scented angel food cake garnished with pistachios and raspberries.

Mark Bittman suggested I make my own variation of matzos. The jury is still out on that one.

Easter is going to be a grander affair starting with devilled eggs a whole lamb gam perhaps roasted outside with either rosemary & garlic or a mild fresh mint shallot sauce (I do have a week to figure this out). Sides? Scalloped potatoes swimming in heavy cream, rimmed with sautéed mushrooms and local asparagus with lemon zest.

There might be another appetizer or salad depending on the final guest count.

Dessert? I gearing up to make a 9 layer cake I saw in the NYT awhile ago.

The real challenge is what are we eating before and around the holidays?

Suggestions dear readers?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Tupperware Chippendale's

There was an article in the Sunday NYT called, “Using the Kitchen as a Happy Place Where Couples Bond”. I have no trouble with that. There are many pictures of happy couples/families in gorgeous kitchens having a blast chopping, dicing, and swilling wine.

The picture going with the article has a happy family replete with smiling blond boy putting green beans in a plastic container and smiling dad watching. Blond mom is patting the family’s golden retriever (is there anything more American?). The whole picture centers around the back of a produce laden farm truck.

Centered at the top of the picture is the word TUPPERWARE. This catches my attention. The article says that Tupperware is staging a media event with a male jock and movie star where they are taught how to cook a meal with “only food, Tupperware products, and a microwave oven”. Now that’s gourmet!!

What’s the deal? The answer is; “…to catch a moose, you have to first catch moose bait. And if you want to target women, the best way is to also go after men.” I don’t think any woman would like to be mentioned in the same paragraph as with moose, other than perhaps the previous governor of Alaska.

So now we know what the advertising gurus are up to! By adding sex to Tupperware, and teaching men to cook, other than slabs of meat on the grill, sales will go through the roof. Not so fast Sherlock. It’s not about teaching the hubby to cook it’s about tempting the little woman to buy products with sexy men.

It also seems that the new Tupperware catalog features Stuart O’Keefe (another Food Network find “starring” in Private Chefs of Beverly Hills-yikes!) to add the testosterone touch to their product. He’s the eye candy for the little woman. “Women want to see sexy guys”. Could this be he become the Chippendale of plastic?

Where do you stuff the money?

Now all they need are hunks manning the mall kiosks and leading the Tupperware parties in the home. Maybe they could pair up with the lingerie home parties for a swinging event!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Junk food the Pied Piper of the Poor

Last Sunday, the NYT ran the story: “The south Bronx, Plagued by Obesity, tops a Hunger Survey”. The nut graph was that “the hungriest people in America today, statistically speaking, may well be not sickly skinny, but excessively fat”. The article calls hunger and obesity the “flip sides of the same malnutrition coin”.

Dutifully the article plodded on with statistics, examples, surveys, and the usual reality that fresh produce and ingredients are hard to come by in a ghetto. “When you’re just trying to get your calorie intake, you’re going to get what fills your belly,” said Mr. Berg & NYT.

He’s getting closer. The one ingredient that wasn’t mentioned in the article was what impact does living below the poverty line have on daily personal satisfaction? We all want to be happy, fulfilled, and satisfied with our lives. What happens to a person who at every turn comes up against a wall that mentally shoots them down?

The do-gooders point their fingers at drugs and alcohol as evil. As the little note from our Surgeon General whispers on the back of a wine bottle, “Alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery and may cause health problems”. Isn’t that the purpose? For a few hours of a day to be numb to the grinding fear in the pit of your stomach and mind? It is not right to abandon your responsibilities but when life year after year stays in the abyss who can tell what is right or wrong.

With no happiness around or even the will to laugh, junk food kills the hunger and provides a food high. It is the only thing that a poor person can justify spending dwindling resources on. For a brief moment a person can go into a clean place with happy colors, music, and hide from a rat infested apartment, or worse.

“Bloomberg administration officials see hunger and obesity as linked problems that can be addressed in part by making healthful food more affordable.” That’s part of it as well as, “income supports, increasing healthy options and encouraging nutritious behavior”. All well and good but you need show people that they can feel mentally satisfied with a nutritious meal and not look at it as second fiddle to Micky D’s $1 special.

Time cooking is constantly discussed with the violins playing the 2 jobs, 4 children, no time song. I don’t disagree but before junk food there were tenements and overworked sweat shop families who must have survived. Some of us are from their stock. I don’t romance poverty in any generation but ours is a generation with an insidious food pied piper.

As a society we need to address how we nourish our bodies. Teach by example and lead nation on a healthy path. Unhealthy food will become an indulgence not a temporary happy fix.

The original article-

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tacky is Only in the Eyes of the Beholder!!

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I discovered this site back in December (ancient history!) and thought of it today. This guy Charles Phoenix is the king of kitsch. Maybe it was because I grew up in the '50's and I was hard wired for tacky I don't know but I just love faux taste and sometimes I have to share.

So this is where the "work" comes in. Thanks to my stupidity I can't figure out how to imbed the links to the Turducken of pies. You have to go to his site www.charlesphoenix.com then click on test kitchen and away you go to a mind numbing creation. If you have time check out the next entry on the Astro Weenie Christmas Tree.They make me want to put on a poodle skirt and tease my hair!

If you are also a king or queen of kitsch sign up for his weekly snapshot into the past.

While your at it drop me a line on your own kitsch items!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ideas In Food

I'm fired up! Not too long ago I stumbled on www.ideasinfood.com. Big surprise yet another food centric website. What nudged this horse out of the pack was it's simple daily prose and gorgeous photographs!

I opened my blog and cruised the pics. Absolutely nothing memorable. Then poof! a BOB(burst of brilliance) can I? could I? do I want to try? The answer dear readers is affirmative.

I am as excited as I was when I cracked open La Technique and La Methode by Jacques Pepin. I'm researching cameras, stepped into the Adobe fold, looking at light sources and trying out the lingo.

I will soon be posting more pictures to entice and lure you into your kitchen!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why do YOU cook?

I recently read an article by Michael Ruhlman and then followed it up with a talk he gave on why we cook or should cook. His first reasons were of the passionate nature.

“—I want my family to have great food all the time that’s tasty and good for their body and brains.
—I cook because it relaxes me after long motionless hours at the computer.
—I cook because I love to eat.
—I cook to make my family and friends happy.
—I cook so Donna doesn’t have to.
—I cook because life better is when I do.”

It got me thinking about my relationship with food. NSSP and I are climbing out of a bad twist of fate that has been gripping many Americans these days. Unemployment is a mind numbing desert to travail. You hope there is an end before the water runs out. Each day is the same beginning with a niggling nausea that either stays in check, or becomes a mind spinning sickness that only sleep calms.

Through this, life goes on. I kept my sanity by planning, shopping, and cooking dinner. At 5pm the boys were fed snackies, I poured myself a glass of wine, turned on the classical station and started my dinner dance.

I could feel the anxiety tension recede as I stared into the fridge and gathered ingredients. Laying down my chopping board and sharpening the knife du jour sent me into cooking mode. My ears picked up gentle strains of tafelmusik and my mind was set free to create.

Until~NSSP would come into the kitchen, shattering my fragile wall against reality. Trudging up from his self imposed cell downstairs, he would chat, rattle the newspaper, or turn on Toshi(ba). I couldn’t concentrate; my sanity was violated until I insisted he go into the living room because “it was more comfortable”.

Regaining my composure I would start my dance again. As I chopped and diced thoughts of flavors stretched in front of my palate. By the time I was plating our meal I became a dancing dervish spinning and mumbling in the kitchen chaos.

Turning off the classical and moving on to jazz, lighting the dinner candles and placing our meal on the table; I was able to give NSSP a part of myself. It was my small offering of support and a reward for yet another dismal day.

Life has moved on, we are off the dole and I am still making dinner. Our meals together are nightly celebrations of reaching the oasis and seeing a rosy glow on the horizon. On occasion I don’t mind NSSP in the kitchen I have loosened my territorial hold and enjoy the interaction. I can cook, think, and talk at the same time.

I would like to add “I cook to create and for grounding” to Michael’s list.

Please go to the attachments to read and listen to his thoughts.
Why I Cook
Why I Cook, Part II<br/>The Cooking Imperative

Monday, March 08, 2010

Mini Cheese Burgers with Waffle Bread

Mini-Cheeseburgers With Waffled White Bread (click to view)

I hate cute. Animals, food, slippers, and the cooing sound that goes along with the cute acknowledgment. But~sometimes it is the perfect word to describe what your seeing and in this case it was "Mini Cheeseburgers with Waffled White Bread". I saw, I cooed and wished I was catering again so I could sell the heck out of these little morsels.

My mind spun with twists. Maybe just one big sliced mushroom. A crumble of bleu and finely chopped toasty walnuts. Or perhaps a perfect pringle with a nod to Flaygo's Burger Palace.

I guess the only way I can satisfy my mini mojo is to have a party and serve them. Wait that means picking the day, inviting guests, shopping cooking and then the odious job of cleaning the house. On second thought a slider plate might be perfect for Friday night in the Man Cave...

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

What would you do?

Attention Readers!

I have one shot at enticing a young lady into the addictive world of cooking. She is very well traveled, sophisticated and knows her way around restaurant ordering. No, unfortunately it isn't The Princess but a sorority sister of hers. I'm wracking my brain to come up with the perfect meal.

Tasty, pretty, easy, with some technique but something she would make on her own.

Ideas? Get back to me soon!!