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Member since: Sat Nov 30, 2013, 05:06 AM
Number of posts: 4,741

Journal Archives

Stephen Colbert: How Much of Trump's 100 Day Action Plan Has He Completed?

Writing about food: "Shocking Life, The Autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli"

"... the feature of the house is the bar downstairs near the kitchen where one generally eats, with a real zinc counter and a wooden table with vaudeville posters of the nineties. This room has received an incredible number of the most famous and important people in the world. When somebody is asked to dine, the question rises naturally and nearly always: 'I hope it is in the bar ...' There is certainly something psychologically tantalizing in having good china, good linen, and good food in a cellar. One eats everywhere in the house, in the library, in the sitting-room, in the bathroom, in the garden. Only formal dinner-parties are held in the dining-room. Few people restrain from bursting into exclamations of wonder when the door opens and they see what appears to be gold plates and gold tablecloths. Actually the plates are Victorian vermeil and the china was bought when roaming through the English countryside. ... The glasses are of different colours and shapes, and the yellow and pink table-cloths are embroidered in gold by the Bedouin women of Tunisia. There are never any flowers. The extravagance consists principally in the colours and the unexpected setting. It is not necessary to spend millions to make a table glamorous.

"Hard bread and caviare -- and vodka ... . ... We arrived in Moscow in a burning cold. ... We lunched at the British Embassy, a wonderful lunch because all sorts of things had been brought over by air. Lady Chilston was a thoughtful hostess. ... Meals outside the embassies were occasions for farce. My companions would ask for something impossible, like salmon or a minute steak, and were surprised and a little cross when they could not get it. I stuck to the only good menu, hard bread and caviare -- sometimes sturgeon, but always vodka. Caviare was sold in the grocery stores in big barrels of red wood, and one could take it out with a large soup spoon. I can vouch for this diet being miraculous for losing weight, for when I returned to Paris I was as thin as Gandhi and in marvelous health.

"I learned to know London well, and though I was invited into many homes and attended all the parties in the fashionable restaurants ... I also delighted in the more popular places. There is a public house in Wapping (and I confess that I love 'pubs' because they are so human) that pleased me immensely. I would sit for hours at the water's edge, surrounded by ancient and rotting wooden poles, and munch bread and cheese. One could see the tugs and lighters, dark grey in the haze, in the grey of Whistler's Thames, threading their way majestically through the busy shipping. Cockneys laughed at Italians, Chinese would bow to Swedish sailors. Men of all nationalities came in for a glass of beer and a craps game, and though they spoke different languages they understood one another perfectly."

Writing about food: Peggy Knickerbocker, "Sandwich Sub Culture"

"My parents were often grumpy on Sunday mornings. It was the fifties, after all, and they consumed a lot of martinis on Saturday nights during that decade. Having had too much fun the night before, they were in the mood for a relaxing day outdoors with my brother and me. We knew something was up when my mother asked us to pick up a few loaves of French bread and some hard rolls on our way home from church.

"My mother took the warm loaves of bread from us, sliced off the tops, and pulled out the spongy centers. Into the largest loaf she stuffed chicken that she had cut into pieces and cooked with port and orange zest, a recipe inspired by Alice B. Toklas. She then replaced the top of the loaf and wrapped it tightly in linen towels to retain the moisture and warmth. Depending on her mood, she filled the other loaves and rolls with all sorts of concoctions. In one she stuffed olives coated in chopped parsley; in another she tucked sliced cherry tomatoes, feta, and red onions tossed with olive oil; in a third she added red and green peppers cooked with olive oil, garlic, anchovies, and oregano ... . And there was always at least one roll filled with caramelized onions. Offering to help, we cooked some Italian fennel sausages to fill a baguette.

"We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to one of our secret picnic spots under a grove of eucalyptus trees. There we spread out the red blanket and unwrapped the towels covering the bread. Using the towels as napkins, we each got a fork to dip into the various salads and savories my mother had prepared. We ate the chicken with our fingers, and as the pieces disappeared, we were left with the tasty remains of bread. Our parents often brought a fully stocked wicker picnic basket into which my father stashed a shaker of martinis. My brother and I usually settled for slightly warm ginger ale. For dessert, we ate some of my famous lemon squares or a box of gingersnaps, perfect with the Maxwell House coffee my mother brought in an old metal navy thermos. If the air got chilly or it started to rain, the meal was lots of fun to eat in a deserted barn, or we would park the car on a country road and pass the stuffed rolls around, licking our fingers a lot in the process. Whether we ate inside or out ultimately didn't matter; we always drove home fat and happy. And with every last crust of bread eaten, there were never any messy plates to worry about."

Writing about food: Gabrielle Hamilton, "Blood, Bones & Butter"

"We threw a party. The same party, every year, when I was a kid. It was a spring lamb roast ... . The lambs roasted so slowly and patiently that their blood dripped down into the coals with a hypnotic and rhythmic hiss ... . My dad basted them by dipping a branch of wood about as thick and long as an axe handle, with a big swab of cheesecloth tied at its end, into a clean metal paint can filled with olive oil, crushed rosemary and garlic, and big chunks of lemons. He then mopped the lambs, slowly, gently, and thoroughly ... . Then the marinade, too, dripped down onto the coals, hissing and atomizing, its scent lifting up into the air. So all day long, as we did our chores, the smell of gamey lamb, apple-wood smoke, and rosemary garlic marinade commingled and became etched into our brains. I have clung to it for thirty years, that smell. I have a chronic summertime yearning to build large fires outdoors and slowly roast whole animals. I could sit fireside and baste until sundown.

"The rest of the meal was simple but prepared in such quantities that the kitchen felt hectic and brimming and urgent. There were giant bowls of lima beans and mushroom salad with red onion and oregano and full sheet pans of shortcake. Melissa, with a pair of office scissors, snipped cases of red and black globe grapes into perfect portioned clusters while my mom mimosaed eggs -- forcing hard-cooked whites and then hard-cooked yolks through a fine sieve -- over pyramids of cold steamed asparagus vinaigrette.

"Jeffrey politely kissed the older guests, who arrived more than punctually, on both cheeks. And I plunged in and out of the stream to retrieve beer and wine and soda. Then they started pouring in, all these long-haired, bell-bottomed artist friends of my dad's and former ballet dancer friends of my mother's, with long necks and eternally erect posture ... . Slowly the meadow filled with people and fireflies and laughter ... and the lambs on their spits were hoisted off the pit onto the shoulders of men, like in a funeral procession, and set down on the makeshift plywood-on-sawhorse tables to be carved. Then the sun started to set and we lit the paper bag luminaria, which burned soft glowing amber, punctuating the meadow and the night, and the lamb was crisp-skinned and sticky from slow roasting, and the root beer was frigid and it caught, like an emotion, in the back of my throat."

Colbert: Stephen High Kicks His Way Into North Korea's Army

Happy National Ham Day: Smithfield Ham, from Raymond Sokolov's "Fading Feast"

"Parke Griffin passes the shaft of an ice pick slowly under his nose. He inhales gently, concentrating as he sniffs. Then he smiles. Griffin is not a homicidal maniac savoring his murder weapon; he is a ... farmer testing a country ham. Like his 'one-horse' farmer father and generations of other rural folk in the American South, Griffin cures his own hams, smokes them, and then ages them over the summer until they turn dark red and take on a virile tang. The process is crude, does not involve refrigeration, and has been part of human life for as long as there have been hogs and salt. But it is also a subtle method, a gamble against weather, a matter of intuition and experience, a canny fight with bacteria. ... Griffin begins in January. He sets out scalded wood salting racks on the floor of his smokehouse. On these racks he lays out one hundred hams at a time ... then sprinkles on a small amount of saltpeter. ... After the curing period ends, the hams are washed off with hot water to remove the salt, then pepper is rubbed into the faces of the hams to seal them off from infection and insect infestation. Finally, they are hung high in the smokehouse ... . When the hams have dried for a few days, the smoking begins. ... I was able to buy the last of their 1978 hams, an eighteen-month-old beauty. It was coated with a patina of green mold, a harmless badge of venerability that sometimes fools ham neophytes into throwing out a precious old treasure.

"I liked all those hams. Each one had the flavor impact and directness of a young, rural, pioneer country. ... This is certainly the feeling of old-time farmers around Smithfield, who have watched their way of life erode over the last fifty years, while the packing houses grew into big business. ... 'Then,' writes another Smithfield woman, Mrs. Dewitt Griffin, 'people worked by the sun and not by the clock and they worked hard so by the time they could eat, they were really hungry. I baked my pies beforehand, and then each day I made large pans of potato pudding, cooked beans, cabbage, and snaps and made cornbread and biscuits to serve with the fresh pork. Everything was eaten, which made me feel good.'

"If the country ham is an endangered species, it is not the fault of anyone in Smithfield. It is the result of changes in the outside world, of a new national taste formed by square, water-cured hams in cans, and of naive people who throw away gift Smithfield hams because they find them too salty. Despite these menaces, the Smithfield ham still hangs on as a savory relic of America's early days. Parke Griffin is still spry enough to perch in his smokehouse rafters in a cloud of pepper, babying his hams."

PBS: The problem with thinking you know more than the experts

American anti-intellectualism. The blurring between fact and opinion, where even facts are something to be agreed or disagreed with. The way people now seem to insist on their own definitions of words, everything is personal -- individualism an obsession, the idea of a society becoming a foreign concept. The way nobody wants to admit they don't know something, think they must have an opinion on everything whether they know about it or not. The refusal to take responsibility and apologize because that's considered a weakness. The tendency to talk instead of listen. Jumping to conclusions: someone says they like dogs and get an angry response, "Why do you hate cats?"

PBS Brief but Spectacular, Bryan Stevenson: America's racial terrorism, 'our silence condemned us"

"Unlike in South Africa, where you are required to hear about the damage done by apartheid; unlike Germany ... in Berlin, Germany, you can't go 100 meters without seeing markers or stones or monuments placed near the houses of Jewish families abducted during the Holocaust. But in this country we don't talk about slavery, we don't talk about lynching, we don't talk about segregation. Our silence has condemned us."

Writing about food: Michael Ruhlman, "The Soul of a Chef"

"One of the things you learn in culinary school ... is that everything ... gets a sauce. ... And to be so antisauce generally, as Michael Symon seemed to be, was foolhardy. ... Willfully, defiantly, hopefully, and skeptically I ordered the chicken, the roasted, sauceless chicken. ... First, the potatoes. Courtney roasted them early in the day and cooled them. When the chicken was ordered, Chatty fired it, plopping the boned half chicken onto the grates of the broiler ... then reheated those precooked potatoes with some red onion and arugula in a saute pan into which he poured a little cream, some salt and pepper. The liquid helped reheat the potatoes evenly and added some moisture and the fat that made potatoes good to eat. When the chicken was done ... he poured the potatoes into the center of a hot plate and placed the chicken atop the pile, gave the plate an artful squirt of balsamic squeeze bottle, and off it went.

"By the time it reached me, the diner, the chicken has rested ... the juices redistributing themselves in the chicken; but it was also losing juices, and when you cut into it, plenty of juice ran out. The bird was stuffed with chanterelle, shiitake, and chicken-in-the-woods mushrooms, which are loaded with juice, and as they rested, they dumped their liquid. The chicken and mushroom juices fell over the potatoes, which were generously coated with seasoned cream. The falling juices and cream were then offset by the acid sweetness of the balsamic reduction. And there it was, a dish that sauced itself -- with all the familiar components of a classical sauce ... . Not only was this ingenious, but it was light ... and practical. From a service standpoint, it reduced for the cook the number of steps needed to finish the plate. You're in the weeds, got a million orders called, potatoes, chicken, vinegar, boom out the door. No dipping a ladle or spoon into sauce and pouring. This was not insignificant, and Symon strove for this kind of efficiency. 'If I can't finish it in two pans, I won't do it,' he told me about his rule for all dishes ... . ... The business of cooking was a craft -- you worked with tools and materials -- and he was mechanically versatile."

Writing about food: Anniversary of the publication of "The Great Gatsby"

"There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. ... Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York -- every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler's thumb. At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby's enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d'-oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another. ... I was immediately struck by the number of young Englishmen dotted about; all well dressed, all looking a little hungry, and all talking in low, earnest voices to solid and prosperous Americans. I was sure they were selling something: bonds or insurance or automobiles. They were at least agonizingly aware of the easy money in the vicinity and convinced that it was theirs for a few words in the right key.

"Most of the time I worked. In the early morning the sun threw my shadow westward as I hurried down the white chasms of lower New York to the Probity Trust. I knew the other clerks and young bond-salesmen by their first names, and lunched with them in dark, crowded restaurants on little pig sausages and mashed potatoes and coffee. ... I took dinner usually at the Yale Club -- for some reason it was the gloomiest event of my day -- and then I went upstairs to the library and studied investments and securities for a conscientious hour.

"'Highballs?' asked the waiter. 'This is a nice restaurant here,' said Mr. Wolfshiem, looking at the presbyterian nymphs on the ceiling. 'But I like across the street better!' 'Yes, highballs,' agreed Gatsby, and then to Mr. Wolfshiem, 'It's too hot over there.'
'Hot and small -- yes,' said Mr. Wolfshiem, 'but full of memories. ... I can't forget so long as I live the night they shot Rosy Rosenthal there. It was six of us at the table, and Rosy had eat and drunk a lot all evening. When it was almost morning the waiter came up to him with a funny look and says somebody wants to speak to him outside. ... He turned around in the door and says, "Don't let that waiter take away my coffee!" Then he went out on the sidewalk, and they shot him three times in his full belly and drove away.' ... A succulent hash arrived, and Mr. Wolfshiem, forgetting the more sentimental atmosphere of the old Metropole, began to eat with ferocious delicacy."
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