Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Look Santa! Another Julia Child book to add to my wishlist just in time for Christmas! Christopher Kimball, of Cook’s Illustrated fame, reviews a new book edited by Joan Reardon, As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. If not for Avis, I wonder if Julia would have ever managed to get Mastering the Art of French Cooking published.

I’m a bit of a nut for the aroma of pine. Not those hanging pine trees you see in taxis, but expensive candles and soaps, and, of course, real Christmas wreaths and trees, although sadly we have two fake trees so we use one of those instead of a real one. Michael Bauer from the SF Chronicle alerted me to a new culinary trend – chefs are cooking with Douglas fir. I wonder how it would work as a substitute for rosemary.

Have you tried any of the new cheap wines from Whole Foods? They’re selling Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Three Wishes Vineyards — their own version of Two-Buck Chuck, the famous Charles Shaw wines at Trader Joe’s. Slashfood gave the wines a try, and gave them a thumbs up.

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flickr photo by Amy (Samdogs)

Jim and I entered the holiday season with a little extra meat on us, if you know what I mean, so I’m not making Christmas cookies this year. However, I bookmarked a page on the Providence Journal’s website for next year — links to hundreds of holiday cookie recipes published in other newspaper food sections.

Nutmeg makes its appearance in my kitchen throughout the year but has a special role at Christmas when I grate a bit on glasses of my homemade eggnog. It also made an appearance on ABC News this week for its part in a new trend in teenage drug use. Yes, nutmeg. It has quite a history, according to Saveur, and quite a hold on our brains. Food manufacturers add it to the most unlikely products because we’re hard-wired to prefer its taste.

You’ve probably heard of unami, one of the five basic tastes – sweet, salty, bitter and sour are the others. It’s the savory taste that gives food its oomph. Now you can get unami paste in a tube, “ripe with the flavors of anchovies, black olives, tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, balsamic vinegar and Parmesan cheese” – your new secret ingredient.

Here’s a way to keep the fat off during the holiday season: just think about eating. Hmm, I do that anyways, maybe I can do it with more intention and cut back on what I actually eat. I read about a new study that found that “people who imagined themselves repeatedly indulging in sweet or salty treats ended up eating less of the actual foods than people who didn’t visualize eating the same foods.”

Merry Christmas!

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flickr photo by TW Collins

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