reader (artlife) Thu 18 Mar 10 20:16
hello, deborah! i have been a fan for years, love to cook from your books for the last few years, my children have been out of the nest, and i have been cooking/scavenging/snacking for solo dining most of the time i do miss cooking for others, but appreciate the simplicity of dining solo plus, i like to eat in bed looking forward to reading your book
the secret agenda of rabbits (cjp) Thu 18 Mar 10 20:47
So happy to see so many familiar foodies around here! Deborah, you noted in your book that "personal foods are stunningly strange," and I have to admit that the list that followed that statement had me genuinely queasy. Which one of the "five bad ideas" was in your mind the most disgusting?
Deborah Madison (leafygreens) Fri 19 Mar 10 06:40
First, thank you all for all your comments! I love hearing what you have to say about your own adventures in the solo kitchen. As for those "five bad ideas", hands down, Maragrita Mix on Potato Sesame Bread. That seems to bring a shiver of disgust from everyone, including me, and the kind of bread doesn't matter. Others are more harmless - cookie dough, frozen pound cake, fried leftover spaghetti, sometimes in a sandwich, and all the variations on oyster crackers in coffee and saltines in milk Curiously, what I learned about the latter from people on radio programs was that saltines (and cornbread) in milk were a Depression food, or a plain old hard times food. If you could add a little butter, maybe a little sugar, such blends could be filling and satisfying. People spoke to me about those dishes with a certain amount of fondness and many confessed that they, or their parents, still turned to them for comfort. To a lot of people, these dry/wet foods sound unappealing, but I found a translation from "Cheri and the Last of Cheri" where Colette writes about having her morning coffee with a raft of buttered bread on top, the whole thing toasted in the oven. I copied it out of a book more than 20 years ago because it sounded so enticing. But when you think about it, it's just toast in coffee. But because Colette is so particular in how she describes every nuance of this morning food that it becomes an event, even a celebration. That made wonder if oyster crackers in coffee might have the same possibilities if described with more attention to detail the texture, how many crackers, would they be crisp or soggy or a combination of both, etc.
Bill Costley (billcostley) Fri 19 Mar 10 08:10
My solution is generic cheerioes & skim-milk, in the middle of the night.
Deborah Madison (leafygreens) Fri 19 Mar 10 09:03
Well, there you go. Only in the middle of the night?
reader (artlife) Fri 19 Mar 10 09:23
there used to be a recipe (maybe still is) for "mock apple pie" on the boxes of ritz crackers basically uses the apple pie seasonings, but with crumbled ritz crackers as the filling i don't know anyone who has tried this my late night go-to snack is raw rolled oats with brown sugar, almonds and raisins, moistened with half and half
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Fri 19 Mar 10 09:57
My mother used to eat matzah in coffee, not only during Passover week. She remembered it from her childhood. I grew up eating matzah in hot chocolate. It is very satisfying. A young friend from Spain loved buttered french bread dunked in sweet red wine. I tried it once, it wasn't bad either.
the secret agenda of rabbits (cjp) Fri 19 Mar 10 10:05
Those both sound pretty good right about now! That Colette recipe is actually amazingly delicious, especially with a light sprinkling of sugar on top of artisanal-style bread and good butter so that it gently caramelizes and turns to crunch. I remember being hooked on it when I was in my extended Colette period, and even now make it once in a while to get that wonderful mix of sensuality with nursery food. Yes, a margarita mix sandwich sounds so awful. It reminded me in a way of Ally Sheedy's sandwich of Sugar Pops and Pixie Stix in "The Breakfast Club." And I remember that "mock apple pie" recipe -- (http://members.cox.net/jjschnebel/mocaplpi.html) -- and I heard it was actually pretty good. Never worked up the interest to actually make it, though. But I digress. Deborah, not all of your book is "Ew!" inducing. Some of the recipes, in fact, read like pure poetry. I especially liked the directions from one man that told us to chop the olives "until the stones escape." This shows how much some very personal recipes mean to certain people. Who was the person that waxed most sensually over his or her personal food?
Deborah Madison (leafygreens) Fri 19 Mar 10 11:54
I'm so glad that someone else knows that coffee/bread breakfast of Colette's! Actually, the "Ew!" turned out to be the exception rather than the rule,I'm happy to say. The person who chopped the olives "until the stones escaped" is a musician from Arkansas, an old friend of Patrick's, another Patrick, in fact, though we call him Mokey. He always has the most interesting (and personal) ways with description, like letting a dish "catch its breath" before eating it. Don't you somehow know exactly what that means? You have to let all the parts catch up with one another to make a whole, which is going to taste so much better. His language around cooking is always accurate and very refreshing. Another sensual piece is Dan Halpern's poem called, "How to Eat Alone" which people always respond to when we read it. And there's Peggy Knickerbocker's description of what she'd make for a seduction dinner. It's this methodical assault consisting of foods "she'd give him" Who could resist her tatooed potatoes? Not surprisingly, the dishes in the chapter called, "Meals with a Motive", were the most sensual, but that's probably because it's a chapter about seduction, meals for when you don't want to eat, sleep, or live alone. For me, one of the most sensual (actually sensual may not be the right word here)descriptions came Betty Fussell when she talks about going to the refrigerator, finding bits and pieces, then using them to put together this beautiful cream of poblano soup, which she sips while watching a favorite movie. Not only is it a delightfully breathless dance through the kitchen, but it told me why it's important to know how to cook because if you do, you can make something good out of nothing, and that there's pleasure in that, too.It was Betty's description led us to turn to young people who are just learning to cook to hear what they had to say.
reader (artlife) Sat 20 Mar 10 11:10
peggy knickerbocker! the cooking company, circa 1972 - i spent some time with her back in the day hers was the first cassoulet i ever tasted
Deborah Madison (leafygreens) Sat 20 Mar 10 11:50
Lucky you! I didn't know here then, but I know her now and her food is always so special, such good flavor, so seemingly simple. I'm a devoted fan.
okay it's (kayo) Sat 20 Mar 10 12:15
Ooh artlife I knew someone in the early 80s who had a catering business with Peggy Knickerbocker. Maybe you knew her too. We can chat. Trying not to slip into ultra-bad dining alone habits while laid up with a broken ankle. I'm considering this my opportunity to form some good habits. I realize this is different than "how do you treat yourself when you have the opportunity to chow down alone on some possibly weird personal treat." For me in the past that has been spaghetti, a ton of butter, and parmesan. Not weird, but my go-to just-me comfort food.
the secret agenda of rabbits (cjp) Sat 20 Mar 10 12:22
That spaghetti sounds delicious! Peggy Knickerbocker's prescriptions for seduction were one of the highlights of this book, at least for me. They are so full of ripe enthusiasm. Take, for example, this excerpt: '"But if you want to have sex, you don't want to eat too much," cautions the practical Peggy. "One time I had a boyfriend and I didn't know if we would have sex in the afternoon or at night, so I made a panzanella, a bread salad with tomatoes. It's good early or late; to bring to bed or to keep you going."' But even sweeter was how Deborah's husband, Patrick, learned of her love for Veuve Cliquot Champagne and... 'Patrick quickly learned of the power it had for me. "I don't have to know how to pronounce it," he says, "I just get the one with the orange label."' Or the story of how Deborah's 20-year-old niece was taught the art of enticing a man with a souffle complete with a full seduction menu featuring Olympia oysters and chocolate... all by a chef at Chez Panisse! So I guess I just have to ask, what is the most sensuous meal you've served or been served, Deborah?
reader (artlife) Sat 20 Mar 10 17:54
kayo - flicka mcgurrin?
okay it's (kayo) Sat 20 Mar 10 17:58
Not her but I have only vague memories of that era, so ... we can chat!
Eric Gower (gower) Sat 20 Mar 10 19:11
(making note to self to have VC around whenever there's even a slim chance of seeing Deborah!)
reader (artlife) Sun 21 Mar 10 07:42
kayo - oh, my error, i don' think it would have been flicka at that time - i read your post too quickly and skipped right over the 80s - yes, chat outta here deborah, can you say anything about the tassajara bread business? i was sad to see it fade away - do you think it was before its time?
. (wickett) Sun 21 Mar 10 08:45
Greetings, Deborah! I don't much follow recipes, but, when I want a fresh perspective, I page through your cookbooks and they always inspire a yummy dish. _Vegetarian Cooking_ is so enjoyable and beautiful. The latest cruise through yielded a curried quinoa for Swedish houseguests. Frankly, I find the concept of eating differently when alone rather odd, perhaps because I was single for many years and ate nutritious, delicious meals from a formal place setting, with fine china, and a linen napkin, even if only a poached egg, toast, and strawberry. I was actually quite alarmed once reading about the comfort, secret foods some people indulge in. Secret eating strikes me about as insidious as secret drinking. I understand, of course, that "secret" eating is not your focus, but I'd be interested to hear you discuss it, if you care to.
Deborah Madison (leafygreens) Sun 21 Mar 10 15:49
Oh dear, I should have checked in earlier today instead of raking up the leaves in my garden and prowling around for some green signs of spring! Artlife: About the Tassajara Bread Bakery -- I can't really say much about its demise as I wasn't there, but it had a good long run and yes, when it started, it was a little ahead of its time. Wholesome bread and blueberry muffins were, believe it or not, new and people responded pretty favorably to those breads and muffins,also the lemon bars, poppy seed cake, macaroons with chocolate bases and all of that. Today none of that seems quite as compelling as it did during the years of the bakery as there is so much good bread available, and pastries, too. CJ: AS for a sensual/sensuous meal that I've been served? I can never come up with answers for such questions. Let's see ... it wasn't a seduction meal in the way we've been talking about, but I might have to name my first dinner at Chez Panisse in l977 as being the most sensual. I can still remember the meal and how it felt to eat that food for the first time after eating Zen Center food forever, how it tasted, and what a revelation that dinner was. In fact, it seduced me to declare my independence and go work there. Wickett - I agree. The concept of eating differently when alone is rather odd. In fact, my favorite answer was from the woman who said, "Eating alone does not change what I do." Why should it? I do understand when one is under a lot of pressure around meals, then is suddenly sprung and given a night or two off - I'm thinking of parents deservedly might want to take a break from it all. But people who are used to eating alone often do figure out how to do it the way you did. You're not alone with setting a beautiful table and cooking decent and better food for yourself. This is why Dan Halpern's poem, How to Eat Alone, was so important. In the end, you're your own best company, so you might as well set the table, open that bottle of wine, and enjoy it. Eric - I'll let you know! Now, back to the leaves. It's the equinox today, a good day for house and yard cleaning.
Steven McGarity (sundog) Sun 21 Mar 10 21:58
Fabulous subject for your book! I mostly eat alone and work with basic foods too. I rarely deal with fast foods, grilled cheese on wholewheat sometimes. Yesterday and today it was aduki beans. I cooked them with some various seasonings and a little oil after soaking an overnight. Added young carrots and tofu cubes to the soup. It was tolerable. Sometimes eating alone seems like a chore but I do still enjoy the cooking. Generally though a lot of work for one person, I think. I end up eating more than I might with company! Today at lunch we had a community potluck and seed exchange equinox kind of thing. I found myself just sampling bits of this or that. I was more interested in conversing than eating I guess.
Andrew Alden (alden) Mon 22 Mar 10 11:50
I'm remembering, no doubt imperfectly, the story of Lucullus the ancient Greek gourmand who always laid out lavish feasts. One night he had no guests, and his servant wondered aloud why he was ordering a sumptuous meal. He replied, "Lucullus dines with Lucullus tonight!"
Deborah Madison (leafygreens) Mon 22 Mar 10 15:47
I think we do eat more when we eat with company because our attention is with other people and talking and there's no such thing as portion control, of course! On the other hand, I have to wonder about Lucullus. It does sort of fit with the Daniel Halpern poem, true, but it seems a little on the greedy side. At least with the 3-pound leg of lamb in the poem, you suspect there were leftovers to be enjoyed. I doubt it with Lucullus somehow.
the secret agenda of rabbits (cjp) Mon 22 Mar 10 23:07
That makes me laugh! And I think that you're probably right... One thing I've wanted to ask you about are the illustrations. Could you tell us a bit about how Patrick drew them, what inspired him, what were his or your favorite illustrations? Some of the imagery is priceless, like the food merit badges or the Big Cal bottle of red with the menacing corkscrew, and they really add to the unique flavor of this very unique book! Did anybody else have favorite pictures?
Deborah Madison (leafygreens) Tue 23 Mar 10 06:13
Oh, I'm so glad you asked! I wasn't 100% sure about doing the book until Patrick came up with a few drawings, like the fellow exposing his secret cupboard. Then there was no going back. I absolutely love the illustrations and they still make me laugh! A lot of the images were inspired by what people said. When Marty, the pacer,mentioned old vegetables, carrots with walkers popped into Patrick's mind. When a man said that big California wines frightened him, there was Big Red sloshing around and looking dumb and menacing. (These two are among my favorites.) When I was researching Boy Scout merit pages, Patrick had his own vision: badges for vegetables. A friend of mine saw a print of that and just had to have it for her husband, a former Boy Scout. You never know. Some of the illustrations are more lyrical, like the little watercolor of the house divided in shade and sun for breakfast burritos for day or night, or the very meticulous drawing of a man in his library with a glass of wine and red tablecloth to accompany Halpern's poem. By contrast the man tossing salad (into the air!) is very exuberant. Women seem to love the illustration of a skinny gal wearing an American Idol t-shirt staring into her empty sub-zero, which is based on a real refrigerator and a real skinny woman we met while doing a benefit dinner for a farmers' market. The male equivalent is the guy staring into a fridge with a carton of Red Stripe and a ham. We made a lot of the illustrations into prints and somehow I've ended up with lot of them on my office wall. (You can see the, as of this afternoon, on Patrick's website: www.mcfarlinoil.com. He's promised to post a folder for What We Eat ...
okay it's (kayo) Tue 23 Mar 10 10:01
I love his work. But I'm not seeing any prints...
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