Back To College: Feed Me!

Happily inundated by college students–nephew’s girlfriend, nephew, son, daughter, vagrants–all year and now, as of two weeks, on a routine, daily basis, I feel as if I’m a slop cook in the barracks.  The challenge has been to stretch the dollars and feed their faces.  Fortunately, the rather spectacular Celtics-Cavaliers series has proved to distract them from the table somewhat, buying me precious time to prepare victuals.

It’s been great fun and a real challenge.  Makes me think of NASA & Neil Armstrong: Trying to reach the moon safely and with economy in mind.

This week it’s been chicken parmesan for the band.  At a cost of $12 and in 20 minutes, six people were fed and we had leftovers.

Last night it was grilled sausages with roasted peppers: $12 and 30 minutes.

Other hits include Sichuan chicken; turkey burgers; and, of course, penne puttanesca: $12, $8, and $6.

They are thinking, Feed Me:

Stock photo : Three Young College Students


Organic Food Prevents Cancer

An interesting piece in Bloomberg News.

Seems that the Federal Drug and Food Administration may be willing to catch up to EU and UK standards on claims made by manufacturers that their food products are healthy.

As Marion Nestle says in the piece: “Health claims are about marketing; they’re not about health,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, in a telephone interview. “If I were a food marketer, I would be trembling in my shoes.”

In the UK, organic farmers are no longer able to claim that their produce is proven to be healthier than that of other growers.  The government stepped in.

In the EU, Dannon–which owns Stonyfield yogurt–was stopped from claiming that probiotics had anything to do with improving health.  Big lawsuit in the millions.

It’s like being duped by a syrup salesman who says: Drink this elixir and stay young.

Probably better to take a long walk and eat a juicy cheeseburger once in awhile.

This will not prevent cancer, but it tastes good:

Wednesday Food Sections: Buffalo Shrimp & The Decline of Greece

Students of history know that the great civilizations ended when the cuisines were mucked with and the ghosts of their ancestors rose up in protest and ate up their souls.  Today’s food sections offer ample proof that trouble lurks.  There is still time to prevent a complete (butter) meltdown, but we need to focus.  It’s got everything to do with Thomas Keller’s love of roast chicken and nothing whatsoever to do with…buffalo shrimp.

The Boston Globe

1) Is there anyone you know who is crying out for a recipe for buffalo shrimp?  Aren’t shrimp supposed to be eaten simply?  Why deep fry the little sweethearts and baste them with hot sauce?  Is the author in recovery?  So many questions, so few answers.

2) Home Soda Dispensers: As the President of the Soda Club in this home, I was thrilled down to my toes to see a piece on a device that you, too, can use to make seltzer at home.  Saves money!  The expensive bottled stuff is a waste: Costly, ecologically unsound.

3) Not thrilled to see a piece on kitchen gadgets.  Goofy, goofy, goofy.  Brownie pans?  Cupcake molds?  Copy to fill pages due to ad revenue down?  More questions without answers.  Who knew that being in the kitchen could be so existential an experience?

The New York Times

1) Corporate gardens: Rapacious dudes who encourage workers to grow stuff.  Didn’t Dylan nail this ages ago?  “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm No More.”  What a colossal distraction.

2) Sangria: Cool recipes for Spanish punch.

3) Asparagus pesto: Cool recipe for upscale, grassy dip.  You can apply the same method to fava beans, fresh peas, etc.  Healthy & delicious & seasonal.

Buffalo Shrimp.  Does this look tasty to you?  If so, are you in pre-release?

Buffalo Shrimp by

Ruth Bourdain

A genius is lurking on the Internet: Ruth Bourdain.

No one knows who “Ruth Bourdain” really is–It’s seems to be an Onion-like site.  What we do know is that someone–the ghost of Chico?–is twittering tweets that combine the tweets of Ruth Reichl with the attitude of Tony Bourdain.  The result?

Insanely funny food humor.

For example:

“Eat only foods that will eventually rot. Then, drink them with a splash of club soda.”

“Scary wind. End of world weather. Armed w/strong Stilton, killer Comte, burrata bombs, salami rocket launchers. Absinthe too. Let’s do this!”

“Parents: Remove skin and excess fats from meats before serving them to your children. Then, eat them when they’re not looking.

Ruth Bourdain also has a website.  Here is an example of the writing there:

Ask RuBo: Don’t Take My Fucking Plate

In the New York Times, Florence Fabricant gives advice on the fine points of entertaining at home and eating in restaurants. Here, Ruth Bourdain takes those questions and gives her own fucking answers.

Q. What is the proper response when the waiter asks, “Are you still working on that?”

A. This is bullshit, and something I cannot fucking abide.

By the laws of the common law dining contract, the plate is effectively yours until it is licked clean.

The only way to respond is with physical force. A fork to the eye or maybe a butter knife to the balls. Possibly, a roundhouse kick. That usually sends the message.

Ruth Bourdain


The new HBO series, “Treme,” is making my Netflix subscription nearly obsolete.  Just about everything on the show is wonderful–better than most of the stuff I’ve been renting (although “Cleo from 7 to 5” was great).  It’s the best thing on T.V. since The Sopranos with better editing and music than that show.

Last night’s episode, written by Lolis Eric Elle, a man with BBQ street cred (10 Speed Press), has the sharpest segues between scenes since Scorsese’s finale in “Goodfellas.”

Wildly entertaining, too, was the restaurant scene featuring Eric Ripert flirting with the chef-owner; Wylie Dufresne as a reticent observer; David Chang smiling and not swearing; and, Tom Colicchio as the ringmaster.  Rabbit kidneys!

Writing Weather

Overcast, rain, a hint of fog and sea: Perfect writing weather, I love it.

Last night’s dinner @ Scampo: Elephant’s ear, fried artichoke and zucchini shoestrings, and, respectively, clam & bacon pizza and a pizza of dandelion greens and crumbled, spicy sausage. Place rocks.

Tonight: Halibut.

Recipe from Zia Federica (Mom’s side) who grew up in Genoa.

Tales from the Crypt

With less than 48 hours from midnight that ended Cinco de Mayo, thoughts turn again to family lore.  I think especially of my mom’s mom, who grew up just outside of Durham, North Carolina, and who, being exceedingly light skinned, could “pass” when she got to central New Jersey, which is where I got to know her.  Grandma Rae brought with her the foods of her home.  She taught me how to make great pulled pork, smoke pork ribs, boil collards, and even cook beans from scratch!  That woman knew her way around a kitchen.

As she got older and her sight waned, I’d cook for her.  She sat at the formica table correcting flavors from spoonfuls of food I bought to her.

“More salt!  Less vinegar!  Add some sugar, boy!”

South in the mouth!

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Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo has always been an important holiday in our family as my father’s uncle, my great uncle Otto, had married a woman from Mexico, named Frieda, in what was the first in a series of disastrous relationships for him.  From this particular tumult, however, came a flurry of wonderful dishes.  Everything I know about a Mexican “fiesta,” as Tante Frieda would say, I know from her.  Diligently, light fading at the end, we sat at her kitchen table in Rego Park transcribing recipes.

All is not lost!

So last night, true to family tradition, I marinated a loin of pork in a cilantro-ginger-pepper-vinegar sauce and then sliced it before grilling over hot coals for about three minutes each side: Charred, juicy!  Accompanied by oven roasted plum tomatoes, grilled corn in the husks, refried beans with red onions, corn tortillas, and ground jalapenos–washed down with XX, it made for a wonderful celebration.

“Sei gesund,” as Frieda would say.

Uncle Otto in holiday regalia:

Up and Running

It’s not clear the source of the shutdown, but this site was indeed shut down the last 48 hours.

Pynchon aside, is it entropy?

Or something more…insidious?

School Lunches!

The school year is nearly over and with a long summer ahead what better time to plan for September?

School lunches–what’s served in cafeterias–appears, despite what are often good intentions, to be overly caloric: Big portions, high fat, the Fryolater the educational equivalent of sous vide cooking.  Add high salt and to childhood obesity you can now see cardiovascular distress.

Jeez, isn’t eating supposed to be fun?

Alice Waters’s Edible Schoolyard project is a perfect example of putting trowels, buckets, seeds, hoses, and dirt in the hands of kids.  Alice enjoys the accoutrement of her celebrity, but prefers giving the center of attention to the ingredients and producers.  You won’t see her shouting, BAM!, on T.V. any time soon.

More to the point are the Japanese school lunch programs, fixed in 1947 and reified in the ’50’s, but with earlier roots in the Meiji period.  The school lunches, especially today, are designed and developed locally by nutritionists and scientists and not celebrity chefs.  Science trumps, not money.

OK, it should be brown rice, but you get the point: