Slicing the pig in half.

Re-posting this because I can’t be there this year and it is such a valuable event. I’m sorry to be missing it, and miss very much my dear friends Brian and Kate Hill and Christoph and Isabell. -MR Christoph Wiesner, the Austrian butcher who raises Mangalitsa, is always tense before the kill. Last year, he told me, yes, he was nervous because it wasn’t his pig, the pig didn’t know him, he couldn’t know what the pig would do. Under normal circumstances the pigs have spent their lives with him and the week before they are done in, he brings the captive bolt, the stunning device, into pens so the pigs are used to even that. The pigs are calm throughout. This year, at Pigstock in Traverse City, MI, Christoph was not only unfamiliar to the pig, he was miked Read On »

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family-meal-@1020

  Virginia Heffernan adds to the increasing noise about how unfair cooking is for working moms in the NYT magazine. I’m a fan of her work, but her Sunday essay, a long, shrill, monochromatic whine about not liking to cook dinner, is so sad and self-unaware I feel compelled to figure out my own thoughts on a subject I write about regularly. I don’t disagree that there are many people who really don’t like cooking. More, I’ve argued that it’s probably important that every family includes people who don’t like to cook. But I do think cooking food where you live is important, as readers here know, and we fail to recognize just how important at our peril. Heffernan early on calls Ruth Reichl pompous for saying that cooking food is the most important thing you can Read On »

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A weeknight braise of chicken in red wine, coq au vin, photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

It was the simplest of observations. I’d never heard it made, but it crystalized for me yet another facet of America’s dysfunctional relationship to food. I was listening to a podcast of “This American Life,” maybe the greatest show on radio, one from the archives called “Americans In Paris,” and featuring still another American treasure, David Sedaris. One of the Americans interviewed by the show’s host, Ira Glass, noted the joy with which the French eat and said, “Americans treat their food like medicine.” Exactly! We eat what’s “good” for us. We avoid what’s “bad” for us without really knowing what is good or bad for us. We eat probiotic food, such as yogurt with active cultures because it may be good for our gut flora. We avoid gluten because that’s what’s trending now. Yes, trending, Read On »

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chawanmushi-2

I’m at Old Dominion University as a writer in residence and also opening up the annual literary festival, which is devoted this year to food and literature. (If you’re in or near Norfolk, come to the open reading this Monday at 7:30.) Back when I began The Making of a Chef, there really wasn’t a job description “food writer,” or rather it wasn’t something that one aspired to. Yes, newspaper reporters covered food, and there were plenty of food magazines. But you weren’t likely to see lit fests devoted to it. But that’s changing, for the better, as we recognize how deeply and pervasively food affects our lives. And I think this applies to cooking as well. Cooking our own food (or not cooking it) has a significant impact on the quality of our lives. I can’t Read On »

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H-1

With all this talk about the home cooked meal with family—is it an elite foodie construct, a romantic ideal that make parents, moms in particular, guilty, or a source of spiritual calm and power in an increasingly busy and chaotic world—I offer this story from Cleveland about the most important meal ever, originally published in the magazine Finesse.–MR The last meal I shared with my dad, a little more than 12 hours before he breathed his last, was burgers on the grill. He loved them, and he’d been grilling them for me well into adulthood. He couldn’t have been hungry, but he dutifully ate two bites of a loaded-up rare burger. It must not have been easy, and we—grandkids, ex-wife and daughter-in-law—complimented him. Straining to keep his eyes open, he said the burger was good. Read On »

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