Was this the best cooking year of my life? (Oh no, there I go saying “best” again.) But, looking back on the past 365 days, I feel like I really came into my own this year in the kitchen. Gone are all the old insecurities that fueled this blog in the first place. Now, I basically know what I’m doing when I step behind the stove. Even if I’m making something that I’ve never made before, I can imagine all of the steps in my head, plot a course that works for me, and get things done with enough time to clean up before the guests arrive. And when it came to seemingly insurmountable tasks (for example: making five hundred latkes for a Hanukkah party, two hundred more than last time), I just took things one latke at a time and managed to get it all done, shedding only onion-induced tears. So in a year of tremendous cooking, the following ten dishes must also be pretty tremendous. I hope you’ll agree.
When you’ve been food blogging for long enough, your old posts can act as your own personal culinary archives. What was I eating in December of 2010? The answer is just a few clicks away. (Looks like it was spaghetti and gingerbread cake.)
There’s a gap, now, in that data from July 2015 to September 2017, when I stopped blogging, and future historians and biographers will have no idea what I ate during that period. Not since the burning of the Library at Alexandria has there been such a loss for civilization. But here I am, ready to remedy some of that by sharing my favorite restaurant meals of 2017. Really, the idea to do this came to me while scrolling through all of the pictures on my phone from this past year. It’s been an insane 365 days: we’ve ping-ponged from Mexico City to Washington State to Provincetown to Florida, with frequent stops in New York, where Craig was working on his latest movie, Alex Strangelove. And, not to rub it in, but we’re ending the year in Paris. Paris! OK, I did just rub it in. But come on, it’s Paris, and Craig’s never been and we’re using all of our miles to go. We are très excited.
After posting yesterday’s post about applesauce and “best recipes,” I woke up to an e-mail this morning from Tucker Shaw, who’s the new editor-in-chief of Cook’s Country at America’s Test Kitchen. Tucker’s actually been a long-time supporter of my blog (a blurb of his is featured on my first book) and I had no idea he’d taken over the helm of such a storied institution. Since I called out ATK in my post, it somehow caught his attention and here’s what he has to say. Don’t worry: I asked his permission to publish this. And I figure it’s only fair to put his response on here, since it so clearly addresses my attack on their use of the word “best.” (Though feeling a little hypocritical after someone pointed out on my Facebook page that my cookbook is called Secrets of the Best Chefs.) Thanks, Tucker, for reaching out.
OK, I’m going to tell you a secret, and maybe it’s an obvious secret, one that you already know (especially since it’s the title of this post), but I also think it’s a secret most people don’t want to acknowledge: there is no such thing as the best recipe.
Now I say this as someone who, for years, titled my posts “The Best” this or “The Best” that. My most popular post of all time was called The Best Broccoli of Your Life. I still have people who come up to me on the street and say, “Your broccoli recipe really is the best.” First of all, it’s not my broccoli recipe, it’s Ina Garten’s. Second of all, it’s an excellent recipe, it yields wonderful results, but is it the best? Let me repeat my point: there’s no such thing as the best.