How Do You Know You’re a Foodie?

I am not so picky when it comes to food, but I will talk for ten minutes about the last great burger I had and how it was on brioche with aged gruyere. Spending time with my grandparents and mom, I’ve just realized that we are a bunch of foodies. Everything is becoming clear! Of course!

But then, maybe everyone is? I mean, everyone on the planet, maybe even more so since the world of food writing opened up, and cooking on prime time became so hugely inspiring. People love to transform perhaps/otherwise mundane into a special, truly tasty thing. So we’re normal, I think…

Or is it natural that we collectively pour over Grandma’s new and ancient cook book collection? Beard, Bittman, Child, 1920s art deco delish and Moroccan tagine text. Breads and crusts, lots from Food and Wine. They are flipbooks of my grandmother’s coding, “V.G.” (very good), “next time use cilantro”, or “Ehh, not so great”. Turning pages, one finds loose dittos of Nigella’s pots de crème au chocolat or a lamb recipe, scrawled by a Greek local. We all come together and suddenly conversations about my aunt’s killer mushroom quiche recipe can fill a half-hour. I recognize each of our handwriting on these papers stuffed in books. The shelf is a portrait of cooking for a marriage, growing children, and hosting parties. This is usable art, science, and health. A foodie’s screenplay.

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Is it natural to utterly pine for the juniper berries and star anise fish salting of a meal a year ago? To still dream of owning my own culinary torch, finishing Friday nights with the creamy custard and caramalized, candied lustre of crème brûlée? How about iron cookware, butcher blocks that make you hunger for lean cut of swirled beef? Or, ugh, to make my own vodka and infused oils. The list goes on…

Both my Grandma’s and my favorite places (NYC and Tokyo), it seems, are huge, high-end food affairs, namely Eataly and the Japanese depachika. (Here’s my article on the exotic place, a grand Japanese affair). When given a whole town of shopping, my mom and I spent our time smelling Tunisian cinnamon and Parisian blend spice blends.

Today Grandpa sharpened his good German knives. As he brought them over to his work space, he turned and said, “You’ve got to have good tools”. I think this is his motto for everything. Good tools, good ingredients, good hands. Good food.

Major arguments and quibbles are over the matters of coffee (roasting, grinding, spooning, and dripping), optimum ways to prep and cook the fish, and what may or may not be washed by hand. Tender conversations, the kind I’ll treasure and repeat to my children include tidbits about my Great-Grandfather, a bread baker, my Grandpa and how we began making bread as he couldn’t get his hands on any decent bread (must have been like Holsum and Wonder Bread, all those white, fluffy varieties forever banned from my home growing up).

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Vintage Image from The Society Papers’, Sociological Images,

Yes, I’d say the family has always enjoyed a certain degree of culture, no offense Ms. Boy Trap.

Ella wafts into the kitchen from the turntable in the living room while cousins laugh and chatter. “So if you go for oysters and I go for ersters”. Grandpa overseas with his particulars regarding the spinning, dressing, and tossing of greens. He’s always been proud to show us quality–the right way, which is naturally refined.

Grandma asks who else might want a cappuccino. It is all food, drink, and before you know it, happy hour. (We really, truly do happy hour here, daily). It is so fulfilling. Relaxing. Maybe being a foodie is being uptight sometimes for the anticipation of relaxing with a bowl of art in your hands. We all have our ticks and quirks, but in the end, dinner is great. Sometimes, superb.

One day I’ll get some yeast going for bread-making. I’ll make Grandma’s famous (one of us better copyright this thing soon) recipe. I’ll maybe (probably no way likely, really) be able to actualize Ms. Julia Child’s omelette flipping technique or her aspic. Some parts of cooking are a bit more realistic. Can you believe these family members of mine used to make calve’s brain? There is sophistication and there is “You probably should just go to med school. Now”. While I’ll probably never encase sausage, or kill and pluck my own chickens, I’m eager to dive-into cooking again, maybe use some of the same recipes with the “V.G.s” written in margins. And I don’t have to wait twenty years to start taking on their roles. I have my own kitchen, my own mouths to feed. My own desire to taste and try, hosting parties, and doling out soups for the sick and tired.

If this is the life–the code of foodies: to try and try and experiment and enjoy when I eat, then I’m in. This is the cozy environment, the generations of foodies, in which I belong.

Cheers & L’Chaim!

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The vintage payoff called cute!

 

 

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!. Friends Who Bake

Now I’m no Betty Crocker or baking maven, but if you’re baking with someone, you’re probably great friends. Or becoming best buds. After all, you’re creating something together. Gosh, sounds like making a baby! Actually, that is what we did.

And the gingerbread men are adorable.

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K and her friend, M, first met as teeny babes. Their first play date was in a crib. They weren’t terribly aware of one another.

Now, with both girls at three, a shared birthday party, and numerous dates including strawberry picking, we families are quite happy. Actually, we’ve all multiplied. Both of the big girls have young siblings, a month apart.

Here we are now.

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Big and little heads.

But really, baking is quite a magical thing, right? There is alchemy, chemical change occurring in the oven. What you mixed up is not what comes out. What you put into a friendship, you could say, is key in what you hope to get out of it, but there is this whole separate thing called synergy. Teamwork almost becomes its own element, mixing with the compounds, to become something greater than each person’s individual efforts or effects. But what did we really do, beyond giving the girls time to spend together.

To make something, but also to just be.

It was while they washed hands, away from us, and on their own, that I overheard a sweet little conversation.

Sweet M, K’s friend, suggested vibrantly, that they take turns.

She then looked right at my girl and

said, “Kariin,  you’re my best friend.”

Even so with my friend, Anna. We got together with our kids and boom. We become so much more. We’re like Team Mommy. We see all, we can do more. We have more fun. There’s honesty, frankness, but we also buoy each other up. It’s support and laughter.

And the gingerbread smelled way amazing. I think it was while we were reading The Gingerbread Man, that the smells wafted out of the oven. The two girls benefited from their shared knowledge of the story, and certainly my girl learned much from her friend’s advanced reading skills.

Not to be all boring, though. The fox eats his conquest, the itty gingerbread man, who now has swollen, buckling, soggy legs that are just melting away in the stream. We, too, had our fill of ginger cookies.

But first, the decorating!

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Long live great smells piling out of ovens, icing, raisin eyes, and the friends who make & eat them with us.

Stay tuned for part deux, Friends Who Schlep.

xoxo

I’m Opening Up a Cooking School

…or culinary institute or maybe just writing a cookbook.

The course of the book will be called “Disable Your Fire Alarm & Open a Window” or “If You Can’t Take the Heat, You Really Should Just Go.”

I tried out two new possible recipes for the book (quite accidentally, mind you).

The first is this: If you leave quick-cooking oatmeal on the stove for I-dunno-maybe-it-was… then when you come back to it, if you have the right, intuitive touch like I do, it will have cooked into its own souffle kind of tarte, still possessing some of the fluffy chewiness you will recognise with regular oatmeal, but in a tidy crust!

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Can you tell that I actually looove reading food writing & recipes?

Simply pick it up, top with marvellous French jams, fresh fruit, or the like, and eat with the ease of a folded pita. Et voila!

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The magic of foldover

The second bit of culinary magic occurred at some point while I boiled three hard-boiled eggs this morning… for some amount of time. Through the process of boiling alllll of the water out of the pot & into the form of vapor, I made oeufs fumé! Perfectly (thank the L-rd!) smoked eggies and I didn’t even have to drain the water! I am saving steps while creating hearty, delicious meals and sides.

Again, thanks to my impressive sensitivity to all things fire-related, I knew JUST when to remember and go to my stove, cut the gas, and save scoop up the three eggs. I am sorry to say there are no pictures of the eggs or my pot. Some things are best written (or not). All of my techniques do come off with a bit of sudsy, warm water. Remember, these two little rubies of culinary magic occurred within maybe two hours of each other. Perhaps the adage, “When the student is ready,…” applies. Anyway, stay tuned. There may be a Julie and Julia-esque project in here, somewhere.

I would also like to say that I burnt the elbow of my best cardigan whilst bending over a flickering candle last week.

Pity.

Love & Flames, Melissa