Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lessons Learned - A Point of View

Goat Cheese with Truffles - made me swoon.

Our warmed olives with thyme, garlic, pepper and lemon zest. Tangy!

Well, I have finished Alice Waters and Chez Panisse and I immediately had to run out and buy her cookbook, The Art of Simple Food. As a longtime cook, I have to say it seems to be one of the best I have used. Very clear - anticipating problems - and the simplest of methods. Last night we had friends (Anna and Andrew) for dinner and, as Anna is a wonderful cook, I invited her to come early to pitch in. Cooking is such a wonderful shared activity IF you don't get all huffy about the mess and the imperfections of your kitchen, tools, etc. Sometimes I do, but I am practicing letting that go so that I can just enjoy the pleasure of cooking with friends.

Here was the Alice-inspired menu:

Warm Olives
Goat Cheese with Truffles
Triple Cream Brie
Roasted Garlic
(from a Biodynamic Farm - so Alice Waters! Thank you, Anna.)

Cucumbers with Cream and Mint
Organic Grass-Fed Beef Burgers on English Muffins with Arugula, Red Onion, Yellow Tomato
(and Ketchup for those that wanted it!)
Roasted Asparagus

Homemade Honey Vanilla Ice Cream (Another of Anna's gifts to the meal!)
Fresh Small Strawberries

We started when lovely Anna arrived with an insulated bag for carrying items that needed to stay cold - like her ice cream. She had taken the subway and said, "I feel like I'm transporting an organ. Now, where is the freezer?" Then, I made her taste some aioli I had just made - egg yolk, garlic, olive oil - for the burgers. I thought it tasted awful! (And my first Alice Waters recipe!) She tasted it and agreed. It was the olive oil. It was green and way too strong, leaving a horrible aftertaste. She thought maybe it was rancid. But I don't think so - just bought it - I think it is the oil....just too strong for a mayonnaise / aioli. The aioli was just greenish gold - not creamy-colored like a mayonnaise. So I dumped it. STRIKE ONE!

Anna worked on the olives and almost burnt them on my hot little gas stove. But in the end, they were divine and very tangy. The cucumber salad is incredible and I will include the recipe below. It was the perfect accompaniment to burger. It was light and fresh in your mouth. Like a garden. And easy breezy to make. Here it is from memory (don't have the book with me.)

Cucumbers with Cream and Mint
Serves 4

2 fresh cucumbers - peel and slice into bowl.
Add salt - it will help them sweat a bit.

Put 1/4 c. heavy cream in a small bowl
Add 2 - 3 T olive oil.
Add juice of 1/2 lemon.
Add pepper.

Whisk or stir well.

If there is much water in the cucumbers, drain that before adding dressing.
Add dressing and toss.

Chop 3 mint leaves - add and toss again.
Taste and correct for salt or pepper.

So, dinner was just great, but more important is what I learned reading the biography and doing some of this cooking again. Drum roll:


Alice Waters has a point of view around which she is uncompromising. That is what I really, truly love about her work. So much of what we experience today - food, fashion, interiors, homes, neighborhoods - are a homogenization of way too many points of view, watered down, diluted, dulled, stripped of character, shall I go on? We know the feeling. The malls across America could be anywhere. The Gap is the Gap is the Gap. (Okay, I shop it.) The architecture that is lifeless and soul-sucking. The food...oh, the food....even at so-called good restaurants is very mediocre now. And, in the design world - the world where I spend my days - how much of it all looks the same? I can name ONE designer right now who truly has a point of view - Ilsa Crawford. Give me a bit of time and I can probably come up with more, but not that easily.

So, I am practicing the Point of View. I am working on relentlessly developing a commitment to what I love in design, writing, food, how I live - because aren't we all drawn to authenticity? That is the gift of Alice Waters.

1 comment:

  1. I love this. What a night that was!

    You most definitely have a point of view. In fact I've been swooning over those little cards you "just printed up" and bundled up in little string packages. So, so lovely.