A Celebration of Chefs
Who knew from Mexico whilst being brought up in the Monopoly board
burbs of Southern New England in the fifties? It seemed a very distant
land – exotic, fantastic – as foreign and far away as California. The
word Mexico called to mind jumping beans, dancing with sombreros,
"Z's" slashed midair, Cisco and his humble sidekick Pancho galloping
away, Pancho Gonzales slamming a tennis serve, Speedy Gonzalez slamming
a cat — a lot of really speedy stuff. It's no wonder I thought the
Mexican peoples only ate fast food.
I was growing up in the miraculous new age of instant gratification grub. Chinese food, pizza, take out burgers, and foods hunted and gathered from pouches and frozen boxes were America's new staples. New sorts of consumables were purchased by my parents weekly. I recall my first corn products off a cob – daffy yellow corn chips crunched hand over fist in front of the television console, lumped into a large category called "snacks." Anything one ate away from the dinner table and consumed mindlessly, endlessly, with no silverware, that soiled your fingers and "ruined your appetite" was a "snack." So when I visited California in seventy-two and experienced Mexican food at a party for the first time, corn chips dipped in a tasty chartreuse paste, it continued to seem "snack," and not to be taken seriously.
Clementine, the great west-side L.A. charcuterie has amazing candies, too...
Ok, so I love Shirley Temple. Anyone who thinks I’m a sap can eat me. She was a genius. There’s never been a child performer who could do what she did. At the age of 3, she could sing, dance and act.
When she uh, matured, one of the many things she did was a television
show called Shirley Temple’s Storybook. It ran from 1958-1960. She did
all the classics and even starred in some of them.
As young as I was, I was aware of the schism between her matronly plumpness and the tight fitting costumes she squeezed into as she appeared as The Little Mermaid among others. But, that never diminished my love for her.
There is a difference between jam and preserves. Jam is sweet fruit you spread on toast. Preserves are a frozen moment in time—a piece of summer that you can carry with you the rest of the year: high grass, long naps, warm evenings, your front porch…
My neighbor Mary Wellington makes preserves.
Mary is a farmer. And not only a single-family farmer--a single farmer. She works three acres of very diverse orchards of Glenn Annie canyon all by herself, on which she grows over fifty varieties of fruit.
Her preserves were so treasured and ubiquitous at local farmer’s markets that many people came to call her “The Jam Lady.” Her Blenheim Apricot jam is intoxicating. Her Blood Orange marmalade is insane. The red raspberry is well… indescribable. But Mary Wellington preserves more than fruit.
If you wander up Glen Annie you will find a two story clapboard farmhouse peeking out from behind the persimmon tree. Mary will greet you with her typical burst of enthusiasm and a clap of her hands. She will launch into an impromptu tour of her orchard and its latest bounty: You will flit from tree to tree sampling God’s offerings in a feast of the senses that is literally Edenic. (I know I get religious about food—but I was raised that way.) Taste the Santa Rosas… Smell the outside of this blood orange… Look at the color on these apricots... Oh don’t mind the bruise—just taste it.
This recipe, which originally appeared in the NY Times in 1973 in an article by Jean Hewitt, was featured by Amanda Hessler in her ‘Recipe Redux’ piece in the November 4, 2007 Times Magazine. It looked scrumptious and easy so I tore it out, as I do with many NY Times recipes, and put it aside. “Aside” is also where I put the card the secretary in my Dentist’s office handed me to remind me of my next appointment. It’s where the little yellow rectangular stub the shoemaker gave me without which I can’t get my shoes back went.
And it is also where the Gelson’s receipt, on the back of which I had illegibly scrawled the title of a song I heard on the car radio that would be perfection playing over a scene in the screenplay I was working on before we went on strike, was moved. You can pretty much take it to the bank that whatever is put there will never see the light of day again. Aside, as it turns out, is my own personal Bermuda Triangle.
“Two eggs – any style”. If you see that as an option on the menu and your breakfast companion is French culinary chemist superstar and founder of Molecular Gastronomy Dr. Hervé This (pronounced “Teess”) – I’ve got one word for you and it’s “Run!!!” – unless you aren’t doing much for the next three years. This This sees egg like a bull sees red.
Hervé This is the reason I flew to San Francisco from Los Angeles this past week — to sit at the feet of the master in this sold-out event. Other spectators ranged from Los Angeles Top Chefs Walter Manske (Bastide) and David Myers (Sona/Comme Ca) to Bravo Top Chef 2nd Season foam finalist with the meringue-peaked hair Marcel Vigneron.
Hervé was in town hawking his recently published English edition of "Kitchen Mysteries – Revealing the Science of Cooking" - and he was also there to change the way the world cooks.
I had never heard of M.F.K. Fisher until I started working at One for the Table. She was/is apparently one of the most famous food writers of the last century. I rarely read about food, only branching out occasionally to pick up Gourmet, Food & Wine or Cooking Light depending on what recipe was featured on the cover. In recent months I discovered I was one of the only ones not familiar with her work, because her name kept popping up in various pieces on this site as one of THE people everyone consulted when it came to enjoying good food. Finally, intrigued by her reputation and tired of reading murder mysteries, I decided to see what all the fuss was about...and found a new friend.
When I was 15 years old I went to Royce Hall at UCLA to see Marcel Marceau. I really hate admitting that because people razz me about it all the time, but honestly, I was dazzled by what I saw. The idea that you could make people laugh without uttering one word fascinated me. Seeing him play the strong man in the circus and give the illusion of holding an enormous barbell as he bends all the way back to the ground, or “walkeeng against zee weend”, or being trapped in ‘zee box’, just blew me away man.
I don’t know what gave me the balls to do this, but I went backstage. After gushing for 5 minutes I asked him if he could recommend someone in Los Angeles who could teach me the technique. Let me first say, that when he opened his mouth and spoke, out came a high-pitched, reedy voice. He chose the right trade. But the guy was so kind and gracious. He told me that Richmond Shepard was a former student of his and a good teacher.
In 1944, Ella Mae Morse had a hit single that began:
Milkman, keep those bottles quiet
Can’t use that jive on my milk diet
That was before my time, but in the ’50s and ’60s the milkman came to our house three times a week, leaving bottles of milk on the back stoop and taking away the empties. The glass bottles would clink in the milkman’s wire basket – a gentle sound I took as a music cue to start my homework.
You probably don’t remember me, but as you read this it may all come back to you after the leagues of students that you have mentored pass by in a blur. You changed my life and I’m sure there is a long line behind me. The first time that I came to your cooking school in Newton Center, Massachusetts with Heidi Wortzel to introduce me, I was where I had always dreamed of being.
The smells on the outside of the entrance pale in comparison to how wonderful it smelled inside. Students were whirling around, busy making puff pastry and tending to their pots on the stove tops all with smiles on their faces. It was magical..I remember thinking you were so busy but so very welcoming as you talked about your school. The brick walls were covered with well-used, brightly-polished copper pots and oddly an upside down framed autograph from Paul Bocuse. It was where I wanted to be and I couldn’t wait to roll up my sleeves and learn all that I could.
Being a Wine Afficianado and not really a Foodie, on June 1st I attended my first
gourmet eating event Share the Strength’s Taste of the Nation in Culver
City, California, which has apparently become a food-lover’s mecca over
the last few years. This event occurs over 55 times a year in locations
across the U.S., gathering the top chefs in each place to showcase the best
the host city has to offer. At this incarnation, the group included
Brent Berkowitz (BOA), Tom Colicchio (Craft), Evan Kleiman (Angeli
Caffe), Mary Sue Milliken (Border Grill), David Myers (Sona), Remi
Lauvand (Citrus) and chefs from about 25 other leading restaurants on
the L.A. scene.
None of the restaurants were familiar to me because I choose my dining experiences on cost (under $40 per person), convenience (can’t be more than 2-3 miles away) and what’s on the wine list. If I could get protein from Pinot Noir I would never eat again. Needless to say, I was way out of my element. Thankfully, I went with friends who are Food Network junkies and knew their way around a food festival.
by Nancy Ellison