A Response To Ms. Thorisson

[Yesterday, Mimi Thorisson of the beautiful food blog Manger took issue with my Piglet review of her cookbook A Kitchen in France. You can read her full take here. And now for my reply.]

Dear Ms. Thorisson,

Two years ago, my cookbook Secrets of The Best Chefs lost its Piglet battle because–according to the judge–the pages were too white. Too white? I practically turned white when I read those words. So I know how it feels to have something that you worked so hard on (three years in my case, I’m sure a similar amount of time in yours) criticized in a public forum. You took issue with my review, calling my approach “shallow.” But my approach–a comic book format–allowed me to illustrate, quite literally, the elements of both books that both won me over and turned me off. Cookbooks are very much a visual experience; so the image of a spoon with a lighter underneath it in Brooks Headley’s cookbook is as much worth exploring as the image of you in rubber boots and a white apron holding an armful of artichokes. Both convey a message and the comic book format allowed me to underscore my response to those messages. You found my response sexist, but I disagree: if a male cookbook author posed for similar pictures in his cookbook, I’d have the same reaction. Something about those images felt a little false and stagey to me, which is why I took issue with them. Does that make them objectively bad? Absolutely not; I was asked to judge this round of the Piglet and that was my honest reaction. If Anna Wintour had judged this round, she would have championed your good taste and high style and you would be flying to New York to accept your trophy right now. Which is all to say, I offered up my most authentic reaction to what was put before me; and I was being sincere when I said that the food in your book looked fabulous. It truly does, as does the food on your blog. I wish you all the best and may take you up on your offer to come visit your restaurant in Medoc if you promise not to poison my food.

Sincerely,
Adam

From The Desk of The A.G. (A Day of Letters)

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Dear Craig Claiborne,

I am greatly enjoying your somewhat notorious autobiography, “A Feast Made For Laughter.” Sure, it’s a little creepy when you talk about touching your dad’s erect penis while sharing a bed, but I appreciate your zeal for people and food. Case in point: early in the book, you tell a story involving Parker House rolls. Your brother passes you a basket of them and instead of taking the basket from him, you start to reach your hand in and take one out and your brother, appalled, drops the basket to the floor saying: “When anyone passes you a basket of bread, you take the basket. Or at least you touch it as a gesture of thoughtfulness.”

This passage amused me because it’s a good story, but mostly it made me hungry–hungry for Parker House rolls. I cracked open “The Joy of Cooking” and found the most basic recipe in the world; a recipe that required only yeast, butter, flour, sugar, salt and milk. I’d write out the recipe here, but it’s so standard any internet search will suffice. And those rolls–which took a few hours to rise–were quaint and comforting, the kind of food you want an American food icon to eat. Thank you for inspiring me to make them; I look forward to the rest of your book.

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