I've been doing some touring of the major newspapers today, reading the food and wine sections. Here are some gems:
In Paris, a Critic Criticized by Elaine Sciolino (NYT)
Wow. I had the BEST time reading this article. Chefs and restaurant critics…they suit each other so well, as it’s all ego…and then more ego on top of that. Mr. Simon is certainly correct in trying to take chefs down a notch, but he has also clearly been put on a pedestal (perhaps he put himself on that pedestal). Anyway, it’s all subjective, isn’t it? How many times have I sat at a table with my husband, my family, my friends…and we have all had different impressions of a meal. Or of a restaurant’s ambiance. Food, and the experience of it, is such a deeply personal, sensual, and entangled thing that I – quite frankly –find the role of the critic superfluous: the experience that a single food critic has in a restaurant cannot possibly relate to the experience I would have, even if he and I were in the same restaurant on the same day at the same moment. Indeed, even if we were at the same table. So then what is the role of the critic other than to listen to themselves criticize?
Fresh Start for the New Year? Let's Begin in the Kitchen by Mark Bittman (NYT)
Mark Bittman (or “Bitty” as Mario Batali calls him in Spain…On the Road Again) lists pantry must-haves for the New Year. I love what he says about lemons: “I never put lemon on something and regret it.” Ditto. Also ditto on the dried parsley and basil – this isn’t a matter of opinion, people…get rid of them. He also recommends banning canned beans and going for fresh instead. I’d like to take issue with this: I’m a working mom, and it’s a challenge to get even canned beans on the table…let alone something that needs to soak overnight! But he might sell me on this – if I could exhibit a little foresight, I could do it over the weekend and freeze them in serving sizes. I’m open to trying it; I just have to get in touch with my Inner Planner. And I absolutely agree with him on the tomato paste – buy it in a tube versus the can. Also, he’s right on the prosciutto or bacon – having either or both of these on hand has saved me on many, many weeknights.
She Brings Enthusiasm to the Table by Lisa Zwirn (Boston Globe)
This is an interesting piece for all you working parents out there. Unfortunately, I found the article a little too slapdash: “See, working moms and dads? It’s easy and simple to have family dinners every night!” I get a little rankled by broad generalizations like that. Minus the 1-2 “adult dinners” that Adam and I have each week, we do eat dinner as a family every night. But I won’t try to tell you it’s easy, and I don’t think others should. It’s a challenge and it takes lots and lots of planning, practice, and fine-tuning. It doesn’t just come naturally. I felt like this article made it sound as if it did…but I suppose that helps sell books. You don't sell books by telling someone how difficult something is.
Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, Magical by David McIntyre (Washington Post)
I loved this article on Cotes du Rhone wines because Adam and I have been growing particularly fond of them, but we do experience some sticker shock from time to time. This article has some really good tips for buying these French wines. I don’t know about you but I’d rather have the “simple-sounding ‘country wine’” any day over a mass-produced, natural-flavors-added, overblown, corporate wine. (Note: all the wines mentioned in this article are $15 and under…my kind of prices!)
At S.F. Shop, Cooks Find Pages from the Past by Tara Duggan (SF Chronicle)
Shamefully, I have not been to Kitchen Arts and Letters here in NYC. In fact, chances are quite good I’ll go to Omnivore Books before I end up at Kitchen Arts and Letters, given that I visit family on the West Coast and have friends who live in the Bay Area. Just ask me how badly I want that MFK Fisher first edition…there aren’t enough words to express it, really. Speaking of which, to digress a bit, I’ve started reading The Art of Eating by MFK Fisher (a Christmas gift from my brother and his wife)…and I’m thinking I might stop. I don’t know if there’s anything that can make a wannabe writer feel more inadequate than reading MFK Fisher.
Eat, drink, and rejoice in all the great food articles that appear daily!