Pull up a chair, I’m going to tell you a funny, though slightly depressing, story.
See, on Valentine’s Day, I was alone in New York. Craig would be coming a few days later and, in the meantime, I decided to spend the night seeing a play I’d always wanted to see: David Ives’ “All In The Timing” at 59E59. (A terrific production, by the way.) I figured seeing a play by myself on Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be a big deal; once the lights go down, who cares that you’re alone? The real issue was getting food before the show started. Eating out alone on Valentine’s Day, now that’s a different story.
Watching a movie is tricky business when you’re dating a filmmaker. It’s never just a casual, “Let’s just throw something in the DVD player” kind of deal; it’s usually a: “Would you rather watch Wild Strawberries or Piranha 3-D?” Luckily, my resident filmmaker is in New York editing his own movie and I have total dominion over the remote control these days. Last night, I found myself clicking through the Criterion collection on Hulu Plus and my cursor made its way over to a movie that I had always meant to see but never found the time to: Babette’s Feast.
Last year, I suffered the greatest humiliation of my life–well, except for that time I got pantsed while roller skating on a Jewish teen tour–when my Glenn Cous Cous Salad with Albert Knobs of Feta lost the Best Oscar Dish contest to Tinker Tailor Shepherd’s Pie. This was at a party hosted by my friends John and Michael; and once again, this year, they threw the same party. I had to bring another dish. THIS TIME I WOULD NOT BE DEFEATED.
Is it possible to love an inanimate object? Was Johnny 5 really alive? These are questions for philosophers, not food bloggers. All I know is that I love my new pot rack.
It all came about because Craig had been complaining about how disorganized our kitchen was and so, for his birthday, I decided to do something about it. I bought rubber gloves; I bought cleaning sprays; I bought paper towels. And then I got to work.
The ladies who lunch really exist. I saw them on the Upper East Side, where I stayed for several months recently, and they don’t necessarily wear hats anymore (“Does anyone still wear a hat?”) but they know how to command a room. Two women I sat next to at Maison Kayser completely ignored their bread basket, full of the city’s best breads, and complained that the iced tea wasn’t cold enough. You don’t see that in Des Moines.
Here in Los Angeles, I found myself alone one night and invited my friend Diana over for dinner. I decided that even though this was a dinner, I’d treat it like a ladies luncheon. I’d serve salad, a crisp white wine and a Roquefort Cheese tart from Simon Hopkinson’s Second Helpings of Roast Chicken.
The green room was filled with male models who do construction, the actor Alden Ehrenreich (star of “Beautiful Creatures”), a mob of make-up people, hair people, managers and agents all hovering around a plate of half-doughnuts, half-bagels and half-muffins. I hovered on the sidelines with my book publicist, Molly, and didn’t allow myself to feel nervous. That, I knew, was the trick.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or, to put it another way, I lost my round of The Piglet. Granted, there was no way I could ever have triumphed over Naomi Duguid’s brilliant Burma. She totally deserved her win.
But I have to confess, I took great comfort the next day when Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem joined me on the loser’s bench. It helped me realize how arbitrary this all was. Jerusalem was a clear front-runner for Cookbook of the Year; but Marco Canora, who judged this round (and, incidentally, is one of the chefs featured in my book!), found Jerusalem wanting. Funny enough, he singled out a dish I had made a few days earlier to great fanfare and called it “not particularly exciting.” Again, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
The other day I Tweeted a recipe and people really dug it. It’s not so much a recipe as it is an idea: “Next time you take a roast chicken out of the pan, pour in a glug of Maker’s Mark and whisk in 3 Tbs butter on high heat. You’re welcome.”
The truth was I’d only done it once before and liked it so much, I wrote that Tweet. Then after writing that Tweet I felt inspired to do it again and take pictures. That’s how this post was born.