Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Kiss me, I'm delicious!

The first and most important thing you should know if you are serious about good food is that QUALITY IS IMPORTANT.

The second thing is that you should OWN a copy of THE JOY OF COOKING and READ IT COVER TO COVER.
Here they are online:
You can link to their book from here. The 1975 edition is the best one.

There are better collections of recipes and there are more comprehensive and advanced guides to technique, but this one book will give you a correct and solid starting point in a very user-friendly format. That's right! Fuck La Methode! America kicks ASS! Rombauer-Becker! WOOOOOOOOT!!!!!11!!1!!

I grew up in a house were the preferred method of cooking was boiling and the preferred ingredients came out of a can. Because eating is kind of necessary and food can be, you know, good, I became a big fan of cooking shows at an early age. Whenever I had something delicious I was bugging people for their recipes. By eight had produced my first culinary triumph; a simple egg and cheese souffle, thanks to Graham Kerr. (Boy, did I get in trouble for that one! 'You're wasting eggs!" said my mom. "MM! mm mmmm mm mm!" agreed my dad, chowing down.) I was the only kid I knew with a table of equivalent measures taped into the cover of her diary.

I've been lucky to have had pretty good chefs for partners. The only loser in this regard was the Dishrag, but at least he had the sense to stay the fuck out of my kitchen and eat what I threw at him.

Margaret taught me how to make awesome hippie- style commune food. We ate really, really well and spent practically nothing. Yes, we were vegetarians. Yes, we made our own yogurt. Yes, we ate brown rice and miso soup. I like that stuff. Quit buggin me.

The Ex was simply a damned good cook, if somewhat messy, and he came from a line of people who could take, notably, Cheez Whiz and stale bread, and make it elegant and tasty. I still make his Yorkshire pudding, beer battered fish, the Red Delicious apple slices with brie, and stir fry.

The Biker is a fantastic cook. He and I watch food shows the way other couples watch porn, only not naked.
OK fine; sometimes naked. Anyway, we take notes. We critique knife skills. We heart Tony Bourdain and we hate Rachel Ray. We long for the return of 'Daisy Cooks'. We discuss saute pans and the relative merits of riveted handles vs. welded. The truly cool thing is, we play off each others skills and interests and ideas, and together we've come up with menus and recipes that I would be proud to serve to anyone, Michelin starred chef, head of state, Ina Mae Gaskin, anyone. Cooking is usually a lone occupation, but somehow we are able to team up and produce things that blow us both away. And at 450lbs combined, we're a tough audience.

You never want to go shopping with us. We yell across the store and brandish whole body fryers in the air. 'Whaddya think, with a glace? OH MY GOD THESE POBLANOS ARE FUCKING GORGEOUS! Leeks? Do you see leeks? Go check the white onions! Ooo shit, deal with the little new haricots verts; they're like jewelery. Where's the produce manager?"
At this point the Biker fades into the background. Produce Muk strides forth with a glint in her eye.

Produce managers all over Washington State have learned to fear me. I WILL go right into the back and knock on the guy's window if I have to. I do not care. I used to fight with the guys in the Pike Street Market just to get the green pepper I wanted, and then pay them in food stamps. Hell yes. This is people's food! This is important stuff!

I was solely responsible for the reinvention of Lynden Costco's produce department. Oh yes! True fact! It started when I had to go tear the produce manager a new one for the disgusting state of his cukes (he blamed the supplier) and bullyragged him again until he stocked his asparagus properly (on end in fresh water, not stacked lying on their sides like cadavers in a morgue), harangued him about the sad condition of his Mexican selections ( "This is almost insulting! It's like some kind of subtle discrimination or something!" I insinuated darkly) pointed out the less-than-optimum condition of the floors, and told his assistant when it was time to turn the stock. "Dude," I said, "come on. There's shit flying around here. Turn the kiwis."

That man shaped his shit up.

I used to go out of my way to tell him what a great job he was doing. He started carrying organics! The produce was glorious! The cukes were no longer coated in lard!

And finally, his department won an award! I shook his hand!

Then the store closed down. But it had an award-winning produce department when it did.

On the other hand we have The Green Barn. They are as close to a gold standard as you're going to get in this life. Not only are the staff the most service oriented bunch of people I have ever met, you could not ask for a more perfect selection of produce. Glorious stuff. Locally produced, many organics, lots of Middle Eastern, Mexican and European staple specialties...I cannot say enough about these guys. The place is fantastic. When they were in a little open-fronted building I shopped there in the middle of winterwith the snow blowing in and did so gratefully. That's how good they are. I told everyone I knew about them. I even conducted my own guerrilla promotional campaign...I'd sidle up to people shopping for produce in chain supermarkets and say 'You know, right down the road here you can get the same thing, only better quality and locally produced, for a dollar less a pound. Yup. I NEVER shop for produce here." And you know what? They just expanded! Bought property, built a new building and put in a dairy section! OF COURSE I am singlehandedly responsible for their prosperity. This should go without saying.

Like I said, this is people's food. It's important.


  1. Anonymous12:36 PM

    absolutely agree quality is vitally important because good food is important. I was brought up around amazing and inventive cooks, mum, grand;others and great grandmothers so I've alwqys been passionate about good food cooked well

    One of the things I'm really noticing here in the south of france is just how seriously people take food and good quality ingredients. It's a completely different world from the UK.

  2. Anonymous1:06 PM

    Who's Ina Mae Gaskin?

  3. Anonymous2:42 PM

    I almost can't comment as you are too clever for me... I do grow my own. Would you like some acorn squashes or cucumbers as I have too many...

  4. Anonymous3:59 PM

    my mom's making her famous spaghetti for supper. it's hard to find good onions and bell peppers around here. they don't do their produce justice.

  5. hendrix: I'm really spoiled here on the west coast. We have the food resources of the entire world available and enough of a diverse population to make 'ethnic' foodways popular and everyday. I am really blessed to live here. but damn...south of france?!I thought you were in edinburgh!

    kristy: I'll go you one better. I'll do a post on her. meanwhile, google her name. she is my hero.

    muttley: huh? yeah, send the cukes; i forgot to put any in this year. but...huh? this isn't rocket science; it's just a somewhat more refined form of setting shit on fire.

    pink: but you're in bell pepper and onion country, i thought. the South? Vidalia onions? Texas chiles? YEAH, NOW WHO'S CLEVER MUTTLEY? I'm so confused. crap.

  6. "singlehandedly responsible for their prosperity". Wow, I just knew you had special powers.

  7. Anonymous7:25 PM

    the south is known for it's wide variety of fruits and veggies, but when you live in a small community, and need something in a pinch, you can't always rely on your garden, and the local grocery stores just don't know how to take care of things.

    i can't believe you've never had a tomato sandwich. omg! i love them. i use white bread, spread mayo on both sides, put enough tomato to cover the bread (sliced thick without the peeling), and sprinkle some salt on top, put the top on the sandwich, and you're good to go. for a fall flavor, you can add fresh crisp lettuce, and some fried bacon. that's the southern version of a blt. now that's good.

  8. manwife is sewing. he learnt how to do a rib stitch and cast on/off before I did, and he does it better.
    also, he is using pink needles. with purple hand-dyed thread.
    does this count as a victory...or...i am confused.

  9. Good work - lot better than the dull trash the supermarkets usually stock.

  10. ..and of course, when I say "sew" I obviously mean "knit".

  11. I'll have to re-read this posting as I never got past the words "Tony Bourdain."

    I want to lick the mango juice running down his arm and dripping down into his lap and ...

    oh. we're not alone here, are we?

  12. FN , I too love cooking , its a familly thing , when I go home to Ma Beasties we all hunker down in the kitchen and cook up a storm , unfortunatly we have been blessed with family incomers and the resulting offspring that wont eat anything that doesnt come out of the freezer or Mc D's - which is terrible for poor old Ma Beasty.
    I am an ambience cook , I have to have the right music when I am on a cooking fest , and for some bizzare reason the only thing that does it for me is swing , dunno why , nothing else hits that cooking vibe

  13. Anonymous1:57 AM

    We do live in Edinburgh but F is from the South of France and I've been a bit down recently (hence the lack of posts)so he decided to sweep me off to the sun for a month to cheer me up. I have to say that after four days of sun, swimming in the sea, fabulous food and being spoilt rotton by his family I'm starting to feel much more like myself.
    And the food, the food! They take cooking (and eating) really seriously here and the quality of the food, sun drenched organic fruit and veg, good quality fresh meat, wine like you wouldn't believe.... Dinner lasts an average of two hours by the time you work your way through the starter, the main course, the salad course, the cheeses and then the deserts. I consider myself a pretty good cook but I'm scribbling down recipes here like you wouldn't believe (fresh fig and walnut jam, farcie - summer vegtables stuffed with herbs and forcemeat, pot au feu, gratin of mussels... the list goes on and on and on) and none of it is fattening and all of it is good for you. I've spent the past few days drunk on food!

  14. Do they sell Fray Bentos pies at the Green Barn?

  15. i grew up eating fried ring balogna and onion and hamburger helper. it wasn't until i was at college (and mom and dad had the time and energy to spare) that my folks became good cooks.

    but in the past few years i've become incredibly passionate and excited about food. I love cooking, and i've been lucky enough to share flats with people with very different cooking styles from mine, who have taught me loads about new flavors and seasonings.

    but i have so much to learn! at the first opportunity i have i'm going to fly out to sumas so you can teach me everything you know! I WISH YOU WEREN'T SO FUCKING FAR AWAY!!! WAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!

  16. You should read the article in the New Yorker about the guy who tried to only eat very local food - that is, only food produced in New York City. The part about the arugula grown in Brooklyn that is spicy because it's grown in elephant manure from the Bronx Zoo had me giggling.

    P.S.: I think I will allow you to cook for me sometime. You're welcome.

  17. I love food...maybe a bit too much. I often find myself dreaming of it.

    Oh, the joys of good yummies!

    I must say, I can cook too...took me a whole lot of boyfriends to experiment on, but I finally got it.

  18. gale: more 'special' than 'powers', ya know.

    pink: huh! never hoid of it. had the blt and that's a treat with a fresh tomater..hmmmm *looking at counter full of tomatoes and drooling...*with home made mayo, perhaps? olive oil and lime, maybe a little fresh tarragon? on my fresh yogurt bread?? *shirt soaked in drool*

    SSA: you don't have to worry until he starts dying his hair black and wearing it in a swoosh down over one eye. is he quoting alan alda yet? no? then have him make me a pair of mittens for winter. (SO JEALOUS WHY CAN'T I KNIT??? oh...because i lack patience. meh.)

    joe: we're really lucky here, like I said in my comment to hendrix. a large aging hippie population helps!

    mj: oh yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah. and I love his attitude. the man is up for anything. goat stomach, durians, atomic chili peppers, japanese rope bondage, beads...

    beast: that sounds so fantastic. you're lucky to have stuff like that in your life. i listen to a lot of Muddy Waters when I put up the garden stuff. (yeah I'm a man! WOOOO! a full grown man now! WOOO! ise a man! WOOOOOO! yeah, a man chile! WOOOOOO!) of course you have to stop what you're doing and go 'WOOOO!' along with the backup singers. i'm sure everyone in the neiborhood appreciates this.

    frobisher: WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH CANNED PIE? see, now I'll have to go look next time. huh.

    CB: i wish you were closer TOOOOOO! in the meantime, JOY, my darling, JOY. (mr. taller lying down waves 'hi!' from the top of my bookcase!)

    danator: I will. that sounds cool! and yes, bring the mrs. and we'll eat a northwest dinner! salmon, morels, potatoes and stuff from out back, blueberry muffins for desert!

    awaiting: i dream about food too! last night a dreamed about barbecue! i did! chicken hines and pork chops and keilbasas! shit, i need to eat breakfast.

  19. Part of English Rose's appeal is her cooking. Up until now, I thought the microwave oven was the only cooking utensil one needed.