Recently, I synched my Apple TV with my Flickr account so that when the screensaver comes on, all of my pictures on there–over 28,000–dance across the screen. And, wouldn’t you know it, most of those pictures are pictures of food. In fact, when I open my iPhoto and try to find pictures of me and Craig or me and my family, I have to fight my way through a tangled web of food imagery; portraits of dinners and lunches and breakfasts past. Recently, though, as I watched these images scan past on the TV in my living room, I began to have a thought: these pictures of the food that I make actually reveal something about me. But what, exactly?
Today’s my grandma Ronnie’s 85th birthday. And though she doesn’t have a computer, my grandfather gets my blog on his Kindle; so hopefully he’ll read this to her tomorrow morning when she wakes up.
For most of my life, my grandmother has been a major presence. Legend goes that just as I started speaking, she sang “You Are My Sunshine” to me from the front seat of her car and from the back seat I started singing back. We spent a lot of time together, when I was growing up. Her second husband (she’s been widowed twice), my grandpa Joe, owned a pickle factory on Long Island called Stern’s Pickles and when I was very young I’d go with her to the Roosevelt Field Flea Market where she sold them. She was quite industrious with her pickle stand; eventually, after he died, she started selling splatter art t-shirts. I remember being in her yellow wallpapered kitchen on East Lexington, in Oceanside (where I’d ride my bike almost every day), and she’d offer me a diet chocolate soda with some milk in it and we’d lay white t-shirts on the table and decorate them with puffy paint and little mirrors. She was always keeping busy.
In that house, she’d often boil vegetables and sprinkle them with Mrs. Dash. They tasted pretty great to me. In the guest room upstairs, she kept bags of Hershey’s samplers (maybe leftover from Halloween?) and I could have all the Krackel I wanted.
Eventually, she married my Grandpa Roy (the one with the Kindle) and we all moved to Florida where she and I would frequent The Olive Garden, Bagelworks, and another bagel shop called Bagels With next to Ross Dress For Less, where I’d go with her after my onion bagel with whitefish salad and raw red onions. Those raw red onions were a prominent part of my childhood; my mother and grandmother would always ask for them with their egg white omelets. We all had terrible breath, but who cared when we were mostly talking to each other?
Grandma had no qualms about taking me to slightly inappropriate movies. With her, I saw Single White Female and Legal Eagles and whenever there was a sex scene, she’d give me quarters to go play video games in the lobby. When Grandpa Joe died of a brain tumor, I took her to a movie to cheer her up. My pick? Beaches, the least cheerful movie you could possibly pick in that situation. But she was a trooper and I secretly loved it.
Grandma Ronnie (who gave herself that name because she didn’t like “Rebecca” or its derivative “Becky”) is a force of nature. If the world is a battleground, she’s General Patton. And she’s charged through her life with so much fortitude and verve, it’s easy to forget what a good heart she has underneath all that armor. When she and grandpa went to see Craig’s movie, she said: “Tell Craig I think he’s a genius. You’re very lucky to have him and he’s very lucky to have you.”
And we’re even more lucky to have you, grandma. Happy 85th to one of the greatest people I know.
There’s a new restaurant trend afoot, one that takes the form of a casual, shoulder-shrug of a sentence, usually uttered by a server after he or she takes your order. It’s the sentence in the title of this post: “Just so you know, food arrives when it’s ready.”
It’s a sentence I heard last night at Alimento, a terrific new restaurant in Silverlake where I had some of the best pasta dishes of my life (more on those in a moment). It’s a sentence I heard last week at Republique with my parents, when they were here for Craig’s premiere. It’s a sentence we also heard at Bar Ama, where we went for lunch with both of our families (pictured above) after scoping out our secret wedding venue downtown. It’s a sentence that didn’t really bother me at first or even, really, grab my attention; but now that it’s becoming more and more common, it’s making me wonder: what’s it all about? And who does this really benefit: the restaurant or the diner?
The original plan was for me to take my shirt off. I know, you’re all drooling on to your keyboards at the thought, but settle down! I needed a goal, something to motivate me to get into shape. This was in February. I rejoined my old L.A. gym, Crunch, which makes absolutely no sense because it’s really far from where I live in Atwater Village; only, I really like that gym and when I was a member, I went regularly. I had friends there. So I rejoined and ever since February, I’ve been going four days a week. That’s almost six months of regular gym-going and if I had to take my shirt off now on my blog, I’d be a lot less freaked out than I would have been six months ago (OK, maybe I’ll show you my biceps).
The question for me, though, was never really a question of exercise. We all know that exercise is good for us; there’s not much to think about. You go, you do it, you look better, you feel better, etc. The harder question was a question of diet: how do I change what I eat to maximize my efforts? If I wanted to see changes (and I did want to see changes) what did I have to do?
Modern food blog convention would dictate that this post should begin with a picture. In fact, it’s a bit of a suicide mission to write a post without one. I went on to Google images (a risky proposition, because you can get sued for using someone else’s image) and then thought against it. The whole picture-at-the-top-of-a-post instinct is a byproduct of the very phenomenon I’m here to decry: the death of food blogs as food blogs and their reemergence as newfangled newspaper food sections and magazines.
Last week, Martha Stewart caused something of an uproar in the blogger community when she said, in an interview with Bloomberg TV: “Who are these bloggers? They’re not editors at Vogue magazine…I mean, there are bloggers writing recipes that aren’t tested, that aren’t necessarily very good, or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. So bloggers create kind of a popularity, but they are not the experts.”
She’s since backtracked; a wise move considering that her empire includes an entire network of bloggers with MARTHA STEWART plastered prominently on their pages. At first I was offended by her off-the-cuff remarks, now I’m mostly amused. This was a telling, unguarded moment for Martha and one that reflects the vintage, bespoke bubble she’s living in with her dogs in Connecticut.
You can divide coffee shops, these days, into two categories: those pushing the sugar (Starbucks, The Coffee Bean, Dunkin’ Donuts) and those scorning the sweet stuff. Most of us start out in the former camp–I began my coffee-drinking habits with Frappuccinos–and migrate to the latter camp, the independent coffee shop where the beans are of the finest quality and the baristas glare at you if they see you shaking Sweet N’ Low into your iced macchiato. That glare, though, isn’t necessarily encouraged by coffee shop owners: at most of the indy coffee shops I frequent in New York and L.A. (Joe, Gorilla, Commissary, Intelligentsia) sweetener is offered up in a myriad of forms: blue, pink, white little packets and a big bottle of simple syrup to address your iced coffee drink needs. Last week, however, I visited a coffee shop that L.A. Weekly just named Best Coffee Shop 2013–Handsome Coffee–and discovered that sweetener isn’t offered in any of its forms. No pink packets, no blue packets, no sticky syrup bottle. If you want sugar in your coffee, you’ve got to go somewhere else.
Once upon a time, I Tweeted: “Artichokes: not worth it.”
As with all Tweets like this, it had its share of supporters and detractors. Though I was being tongue-in-cheek, I was also sort of being serious. I hate dealing with artichokes. For my cookbook, the terrific chefs Alex Raij and Eder Montero taught me how to make a gorgeous spring vegetable confit with fava beans and asparagus and lots of green things including the dreaded artichoke. In their kitchen at Txikito, Alex showed me how to cut through the top of the plant, how to trim the stem, how to cut out the choke. When we were done, what looked like a bowling ball suddenly looked like a ping pong paddle. Did it taste good after it was confited? Yes. But was this something I’d really want to do in my own kitchen? Not really. When it comes to artichokes, I’m happy to eat them. But prepping them is the pits.