As another summer winds down, and what a summer it has been, waves of wet heat keep me housebound as much as possible. Me, the dog, the cat.
On a positive note, that’s led to a bunch of decent pages of my new book: UKEIRE. Due with Da Capo in 2019, and out in 2020, just in time for Tokyo summer Olympics, the book touches upon day to day practices that we North Americans might cherry pick from and adapt to life here from Japan.
The #1 failing of all food writing is that it exists outside of time, without contexts, and with little regard for economics, gender, and commentary on current reality. If you look at most of it, it could be 1950, 1960. 1990, etc. It lacks sufficient meaning.
So the challenge of contemporary observation exemplified by this new book is worthwhile.
Certainly no chef has influenced me more in terms of cookbooks or smarts than Robuchon. His cookbook is in both places where I spend the most time, and what I love about his work, which seems to have philosophical underpinnings, is his overriding simplicity.
Joël flew me to Vegas ages ago for a weekend, and talked about his life and food. We spent time in his kitchen where I asked him to show me how he made his famous whipped potatoes.
A few peeled fingerlings, salted water, butter. But by far the best potatoes I’d ever had, which he explained had come about because he sourced the best and spent months and months doing so. What a palate.
The meal I had that night at his restaurant remains the best I’d ever had. Four courses of small, tightly focused dishes pairing fresh white truffles with one ingredient each. A scrambled egg. A piece of fish. Pasta.
He told me that weekend that he had thought of becoming a priest.
His patience in the kitchen was natural.
The announcement of his death today is sad.