Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

I love food. I love to eat, so I love to cook. I spent much of my adult life working in restaurants in the front of the house and then some time in a pastry kitchen and culinary school. I’m always thinking about food, what to eat, what to make. I love reading about food — blogs, books, cookbooks, magazines — it never tires me because I keep on learning. I once heard an interview with Julia Child in which she said she loves her work in the kitchen because she learns something every single day.

If you were sitting with me now, sharing some good wine or beer, munching on something simple and delicious, what would we chat about? On Sundays I’ll share some of my discoveries from the week, like the dinner being held tonight in a Hong Kong hotel where guests will feast on a 900 gram (about two pounds) white truffle that sold for $142,653 at auction. How about just a wee bit shaved over some pasta? Sigh.

In the back-to-reality category came news about Senate Bill S. 510: FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. I dislike over-regulation but feel something has to be done about the factory farms that keep producing unsafe food because of their disregard of safety in their drive for profit. Trust me, I’m all for profit, just don’t kill us trying to get there. However, many say that one size doesn’t fit all so there’s an amendment to protect small farmers from the potentially harmful economic effects of this bill. I still have a lot of reading to do on this bill and its status since I’ve only heard one side of the story.

There is one less thing to worry about as far as the federal government is concerned: the USDA isn’t using our taxpayer dollars in cahoots with Domino’s to promote extra cheese on pizzas. The Atlantic explains why journalists got that story wrong.

On Tuesday UNESCO added “the gastronomic meal of the French” to their list of intangible cultural heritages. That may sound crazy to those who aren’t devotees of MFK Fisher, Julia Child and others who fell in love with the pleasures of the table because of an amazing meal in France. “The gastronomic meal emphasizes togetherness, the pleasure of taste, and the balance between human beings and the products of nature.” Life at its best.

It was also a good week for Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco who were promoting the inclusion of the Mediterranean diet to the list — “a nutritional model….consisting mainly of olive oil, cereals, fresh or dried fruit and vegetables, a moderate amount of fish, dairy and meat, and many condiments and spices.” For both the French and Mediterranean entries, the UNESCO committee lauded the social elements of these cooking and dining traditions. It’s not just the culinary skill or ingredients that matter, it’s how the entire experience — from kitchen to table — enhances our lives.

Beaujolais Nouveau c’est arrivée! I used to see this sign all over Washington DC, but not so much in Sacramento or Raleigh. Beaujolais Nouveau is a French red wine that’s fermented only a few weeks before it’s released for sale on the third Thursday in November. My friend Scott always arrived at Thanksgiving with a few magnums of Beaujolais Nouveau. It’s a good wine for quaffing — lightweight and fruity alongside pre-turkey hors d’oeuvres. Chris Spagnuolo, in an oldie but goodie post, tells us how this craze began.

The Four Loko mania has led the FDA and state ABC to ban the sale of caffeinated alcoholic drinks. When I was a wild 20-something, an Irish coffee was my preferred way to get a speedy buzz. Will the FDA get around to banning those too? Thank goodness, our delectable roasty coffee stouts aren’t endangered.

I managed restaurants before the days of OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation system, so I had no idea how much it costs for restaurants to participate. A San Francisco restaurant, Incanto, home of chef Chris Cosentino, decided OpenTable wasn’t worth it and explains why on their site. It might be time to check a restaurant’s website and pick up the phone to make that reservation.

I wrote about the Cooks Source copyright controversy on my other blog. It’s no surprise that the magazine is shutting their doors. A tough lesson in copyright and public relations for its now infamous, and most likely unemployable, editor, Judith Griggs. Before their website was shut down, she wrote one last “don’t blame me” unrepentant rant. Maybe she can get her own reality show, she’s perfect for it!

And finally, because she’s a kindred spirit, I want to share this interview with Nigella Lawson.

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