The best diners are the dirtiest.
Determining the authenticity of a diner proves difficult in a town like Cooperstown; a proliferation of tourist traps confuse the eye and bewilder the tongue; main street, three ice cream parlors, a wax museum of baseball legends, the hall of fame: everything dances wildly between the bases of reality. Nevertheless, somewhere between the Triple Play Café and a hidden ballpark hot dog joint the Cooperstown Diner takes a daring leap. No gimmicks, no cheap tricks, no sideshow thrills. This diner is “dirty”—the tablecloths feel waxy and get a quick wipedown after each guest (a hint of stickiness remains), and dinge crowds the walls with a veneer of shabbiness. A fly buzzes idly and then nosedives into a recently poured cup of coffee, drowning. The Cooperstown Diner feels dirty without the actual grime, age and wear accumulating a palpable presence. It is deliciously authentic.
Who knew that Baudrillard hated foodies?
More precisely, Jean Baudrillard, intellectual celebrity, dead Frenchman, and “radical thinker,” hated collectors. Finding that they “invariably have something impoverished and inhuman about them” (The System of Objects 114), Baudrillard launches an extensive critique of collecting based on his “system of objects” theory and a psychoanalytic grab bag. As I will argue that foodies engage in the active collecting of restaurants and dining experiences, by the transitive property of philosophy, foodies must have something impoverished and inhuman about them. Yes, I read Baudrillard for fun. On my vacations. What that indicates about my personal richness and humanity remains inconclusive. Continue reading
Vermont is where farm-to-table kitsch comes to die.
In New York City, restaurants oftentimes emphasize their connection to local markets; they are “market restaurants,” “farm-to-table,” or participate in “sustainable foodways.” Still, eating fresh produce sequestered in a metropolitan fortress of steel and concrete feels disingenuous. Knowing the name of the farm that grew those ramps or raised that rabbit means little without context. A name is only a name when stripped of the named object. So we go to the farms, the creameries, the foragers, and the fishermen, seeking the intrinsic narratives of the food we consume. So we go to Vermont. Continue reading
When I think about futurist art, I think of a sub-chapter in the high school art history textbook, describing a few works most likely by Umberto Boccioni. The books always use “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space,” a bronze casting created by Boccioni in 1913, as their prime (and often only) example. Boccioni’s sculpture captures motion through space, speed personified in a cubism-influenced rendering of speed blur.
Pork tenderloin gets a bad rap.
“Dry.” “Flavorless.” “Lackluster in every imaginable way.” So I’ve heard this cut insulted. I, however, disagree. When properly prepared, briefly cooked over heat equivalent to the surface of a star and then finished in a gentle oven, pork tenderloin transforms into an insanely tender dish. With hints of luxurious liver and musky pig, this narrow sliver of protein plays well with fruit.
Craving some pork—who isn’t—I wanted to develop a recipe that would sauce the admittedly lean meat with acid and sugar. Although June seems early for peaches, I figured that the recipe would perform well throughout July and August, even with slightly under ripe fruit. A lonely onion camped out in the vegetable drawer, so I decided to craft a savory-sweet marmalade to provide a summery dressing. Originally, I intended to prepare a buttery sunchoke mash, rough and nutty, but the local megamart had no little knobbly roots lurking on the shelves. So I picked up a parsnip, similar in flavor profile, and roasted it in thin slices to generate a chewy, crispy texture.
If only I had a kitchen in my dorm next year, I could cook for myself every night. Or at least until I got tired of the work, since this meal (while technically easy) took around 45 minutes. For less than $10 though, I felt I got my college money’s worth.
We live and die in a batch of pie dough.
For years, Theresa H., one of my mom’s best friends, provided my family with the best blackberry pies. Overflowing with gem-like fruit, these pies were like playing in thick honeysuckle bushes on a summer day: fragrant beyond the bounds of expectation or propriety. Individually deep ruby, the berries formed a purple-ebony mass stuffed into a tanned crust.
Only clichéd adjectives serve to describe that crust: flaky, buttery, unprocessed to perfection. Intuitively, I knew that Theresa’s blackberry pie required a summation of simplicity. But I remained content, at least until recently, to live in ignorance of those quiet facts, those ratios of water, flour, and fat. When she offered to show me how such a pie came together, how could I refuse?
Wednesday, Josh Ozersky tweeted: “The next time you think we’ve how far we’ve come read this:
And Slate wasn’t ashamed to run it! 2:53 PM Jun 16th via web” (I’ve made the link active for your convenience.)
Reading this tweet, I immediately considered what heinous content Slate might have published. An advocacy of factory farms perhaps? A polemic against sustainable fishing? Praise for high fructose corn syrup, dangerous food additives, fast food, obesity, and all that “foodies” (I hate that word) consider wrong with America? To misquote King Lear, No, no, no, no, no, and no. Slate‘s article, “Shoe-Leather Reporting,” explains the “history of well-done meat in America.” Continue reading
Summertime in St. Louis, evenings drip down through storm drains and gurgle; the humidity mounts and each particle of air seems to vibrate. Each breath feels strained and damp, like gasping through wet cotton. Food is an afterthought.
Although heat functions as the primary player in the kitchen, the absence of heat (cold) also possesses transformative properties. Flame provokes violent changes, caramelizing and then burning even the most stalwart subjects. Or the gentle, lapping roar of an oven coaxes batter into cake, dehydrates, toughens, and then destroys. Cold, however, gestures with a lighter hand, sapping the warmth from custard and suggesting the first crystals of frost. Beyond the obvious physical manifestations of cooling though, cold dramatically alters flavor perception. As temperatures decrease, the activity of certain volatile aroma compounds diminishes, eliminating overtones and scrubbing a flavor profile of undue complexities. Core elements of the product remain salient, making that frozen grape taste sweeter, smoother, more two-dimensional in its “grapeness.” Additionally, psychological factors like expectation setting and memory distortion enhance this unwrinkling of flavor; strawberry ice cream ought to taste like strawberry ice cream: cold (if such a taste exists), creamy (more a textural percept), and faintly strawberry-y.
Today, I decided to dust off the ice cream machine and churn out key lime sorbet and charentais sorbet. Continue reading
“What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for
I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache
self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went
into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families
shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the
avocados, babies in the tomatoes!–and you, Garcia Lorca, what
were you doing down by the watermelons?”
– “A Supermarket in California” by Allen Ginsberg
The past week, I ate meal after meal in restaurants; alone, with friends, or on the street, I sampled global cuisines and American classics, basically consuming whatever appealed to me at a given instant. A hedonistic venture. Rather than write formal reviews, I’ve decided to distill these dining experiences into haiku. Inspired by David M. Bader’s Haiku U., I attempted to concentrate restaurant “experiences” into sparse syllable clusters. Images, random thoughts, and irreverent remarks characterize some of these works. Some are just bad. In fact, I’m not sure what compelled me to write some of these haiku. Some may not actually be haiku. No guarantees. Continue reading