It’s Not About Gluttony!
This from a reader, AZ: “Today [6/20], angry response letters to Bruni appear in the NYT, bringing up national health care, animal cruelty, and heart attacks. Strong reminders of why supermarkets are full of lean pork, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, the prizing of lean meats, and turkey everything.”  I was amazed by the letters, too, and saddened by their superior tone. [here they are, scroll down to “Glorifying Gluttony.”]

Smoking Your Own Salmon (delicious but hard to keep lit!)
Posts like this always raise the spirit! Ronnie Suburban, well-known on food sites, a stalwart individual (he carted me all over Chicago on a hotdog quest for an article), has embraced Charcuterie and taken to curing salmon with a vengeance. Curing your own salmon is one of the easiest home curing methods there is and a way to get results better than what you can buy.  Ron takes his salmon further by smoking it (notice the exquisite color in the finished product on the bagel).  This is an excellent description of the process of curing and smoking your own salmon, and check out his cool cold-smoking contraption.

Blogging Food Blogging
In case you missed Amateur Gourmet’s interesting remarks on the power of food bloggers, it’s worth reading.  I believe he’s right, food blogging is one of the most important changes in food journalism in a while—probably since Craig Claiborne raised it to the level of news—and I also believe that the future of food blogging is dependent on bloggers increasing the quality and focus of the work itself.  (And there’s this on the subject from ABC news, which accidental hedonist linked to and commented on.)

Excellent Oils
A while ago this company sent me three oils to try.  I’m not usually one for over-priced fancypants condiments and flavored vinegars etc., and I’m wary of nut oils because they’re so often rancid, but I’ve been using these oils a lot recently—walnut, pistachio and pecan—and they are outstanding.  Delicious, fresh, clean.  They’re especially good to have on hand now with all the fine lettuces available at growers markets.  They also make for good seasoning for desserts.


44 Wonderful responses to “”

  • t-scape

    Those people who wrote in to Bruni sound like they’re so much fun at parties. Especially the one who said “deathstyle” – now *that* is someone who has a way with words. I can picture the appreciative laughter that would greet such a clever pun!

    What I learned from these sage food connosieurs is that enjoying the taste of food made with fat makes me an obese glutton. I have seen the error of my ways – from now on I’ll only eat Lean Cuisines, lest they see me in such an unflattering light.

  • latenac

    I’m more upset by the kibbe letter who the hell uses #1 bulghur for kibbe?

    Actually I’m guessing the deathstyle letter was edited to remove all the links to vegan websites and various factory farming videos designed to make you lose your lunch.

  • Tags

    All three letters evoked the same visual in my mind – that of the snooty old lady in the Marx Brothers movies that says, “Well, I never!”

    Don’t tell them about high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oil. I want to see the shocked look on their faces in the ER as they plunge into denial, saying “I don’t belong here, I always ate healthy!”

  • Kovalic

    Oh, I don’t know. They don’t sound much more superior than, say, Bourdain or you talking about vegetarians. 🙂

    I’m not so worried about the health issues as the mass consumption issues, recently. There’ve been three or so articles on the NYT food blog glorifying gluttony. First noticed it in the search for Szechwan hot part piece, when the diners assured their waitress they’d be ordering more than they could eat…

    The celebration of gluttony for gluttony’s sake just strikes me oddly.

  • fiat lux

    Back in the early-mid 90s, my folks would a do a huge New Year’s Day Open House, and each year Mom would make homemade gravelox as part of the menu. It was extremely easy to do and always impressed people tremendously.

  • Natalie Sztern

    I must be missing something…explain, someone, if u will, should blogging ignore all rules of etiquette and allow the author (who is usually hidden behind aliases)to be able to write without boundaries, or is blogging the future of being able to have the world read ur thoughts but still maintain a certain echelon of dignity, no matter the topic?

  • Natalie Sztern

    chef suzy u can sit this one since i already know how u feel about blogging…at least u have the sense to keep yourself anonymous..

  • ruhlman

    “They don’t sound much more superior than, say, Bourdain or you talking about vegetarians”

    kovalic, good point! (but they’re wrong. I’m not!)

  • sorcha

    The judicious use of fat in cooking doesn’t make people obese, something those letter-writers seem to have overlooked. A person can become overweight eating low-fat food too. And using that idea to justify opposing universal health-care is specious and cold. The guy should at least have the balls to admit he doesn’t give a damn.

  • Tana

    Links to factory-farmed pigs make you want to “lose your lunch”? “Strong reminders of why supermarkets are full of lean pork, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, the prizing of lean meats, and turkey everything”? Supermarkets are full of meat from animals who have been raised in confinement, without fresh air to breathe. The factory pig farms house millions of animals who breathe the fumes from their own feces and urine, and that is what informs their flesh. I believe Mr. Ruhlman has written eloquently about his Amish farmer friend, raising hogs on clean diets in the open.

    I’m not a vegetarian, not by a longshot, but eating filthy meat is sickening: physically, emotionally, and morally. But if that’s what you want to eat, be my guest, and may Darwin’s Law prevail. (Am I preaching to the choir? Possibly to some. Obviously not to others.)

  • Badger

    As a home cook, I’m always astounded (and insanely jealous) when I watch British cooking shows and see the cuts of meat they’re able to buy over there. Pork roasts with the fat and skin still on! You get luscious yummy pork and cracklings in the same dish!

    I would LOVE to be able to buy a roast like that at my local supermarket. As it is, I’m rapidly veering away from buying ANY meat at the supermarket, because the supermarket meat SUCKS. (I know that’s not news to anyone here, but as a non-professional, it was a sad realization for me.)

  • RI Swampyankee

    I am really growing to hate the word lifestyle. Maybe because these days it always seems to come from some finger-wagging scold of some kind of fundamentalist.

    You’re spot-on Sorcha. Becoming a gym rat and maintaining an adversarial attitude towards food won’t protect anyone from the medical industrial complex. With all the ways a person could get hurt in NYC, you’d think that the guy would have a better sense of the bad karma social darwinism can bring. Self-righteous little prig meets big ole bus? Works for me.

  • AZ

    Although my previous comment on them did not capture it, the most surprising thing to me about the NYT responses was the lack of scope. The authors silently assume that these meals, whether it’s the whole pork butt, the lamb ribs, or the lardo bruschetta, are ordinary indulgences, regular elements of one’s diet. The authors seem to be incapable of divorcing food from the everyday and the functional.

  • veron

    I’m currently doing the French Cuisine Boot camp at the Culinary Institute of America. Let me tell you that there is nothing low fat in what we are using in our cooking. Loads of butter, cream, duck fat, pork belly , fat back, etc. Yet the French are not obese and have one of the lowest rate of heart disease. Hmmn…

  • B

    I seems the folks at Peta learned about writing. Seriously. Leave me pork belly, my short ribs, my Foie Gras, and my pancetta alone.

  • ruhlman

    melly, that’s a great idea. i’ve thought about trying to infiltrate the mind of the pastry chef, but, as a cook, i’m fearful. they’re a different and mysterious breed. maybe by starting with michel richard, a genius pastry chef who crossed over to savory.

  • Bob Schaffer

    Just more proof that Americans love to drain the pleasure out of anything: Lean pork, skinless chicken? Sounds like the menu in hell. I’m no fan of Bruni, but I have no problem with anyone who supports bringing flavor back to food, and fat is flavor. What’s a life without bacon fat?

  • Anonymous

    My, my, my, how politically correct the NY Times readers all are! Why do they assume that people who enjoy fatty food are out there eating it ALL the time, and all suffer from obesity, clogged arteries, etc., etc., etc., that drive up the cost of THEIR precious health care? (I must eat an acre of greens and fibrous-y, anti-oxydant-laden, beta carotyne-choked veggies for every slice of porchetta or Peking duck or pork belly steam bun at Momfuku’s I choke down.)

    The point is, if there are people who celebrate the glorious pig and cream sauces and other such nutritional/culinary “horrors”, they shouldn’t have to defend or apologize for their choices – just as the skinless chicken breast, sauce-on-the-side crowd shouldn’t be beaten over the head because I can NEVER get dark meat chicken when I eat out.

    And here’s the other thing – I’m probably paying more in health care to treat THEM for their uptight Spartan neuroses, dysmorphic body image syndromes and eating disorders than they are for me with my 90/60 blood pressure and 179 cholesterol. Even gluttons exercise, you know! (SQUEEEEEEEEE!)

  • Claudia

    I’m sorry, I authorized the preceding post, but from a CPU other than mine – strangely, it let me post without asking me for my name, etc. C’est moi, vraiment.

  • Tags

    It’s not the fatty pork and foie gras that’s making us unhealthy, it’s the ebullient discussion at Starbucks or Krispy Kreme afterwards that skews our blood sugar and clogs our arteries.

    On a related note, Michael, don’t write that book without talking to Patrick and Isabelle Rurange, who run Le Petit Mitron in Narberth, PA, a couple miles west of Philadelphia. It’s a tiny bakery that sells pastry unlike anything else in the Philly metro area, and Patrick still gets up at 3 AM and stays well after the 6 PM closing. Dedication that is becoming rarer every day. And try his raspberry chibouste, a very close second to breathing as the best use of air.

  • t-scape

    “…the most surprising thing to me about the NYT responses was the lack of scope. The authors silently assume that these meals, whether it’s the whole pork butt, the lamb ribs, or the lardo bruschetta, are ordinary indulgences, regular elements of one’s diet. The authors seem to be incapable of divorcing food from the everyday and the functional.”

    Well said, that’s what I was thinking but couldn’t articulate. I think the reason for that is an inability to look at issues impartially. Once you’re on a high horse, or an ivory tower, or a pedestal, or any other structure that you perceive puts you at a better vantage point than others, you stop thinking critically. There’s also an undercurrent of condescension in those letters about being overweight – again, assuming that someone who is overweight is, without exception, a burden on the health care system. There’s several layers of elitism going on there, and when you see the world that way you are unlikely to see an issue from any other point of view than your own.

  • Connor

    I agree with you, Badger. Even though I’ve been aware for awhile now that supermarket meat sucks, it’s still depressing. While better choices are becoming available, it remains difficult to find really good tasting pork that doesn’t break the bank. My local organic butcher charges $6/lb for pork butt (that’s some expensive pulled pork!), making the Niman Ranch pork butt at Whole Foods seem cheap at $3.50/lb.

    Reading articles like Bruni’s in the NYTimes raised my hope that as more people eat pork belly, etc. in restaurants — either because it tastes good or because it’s en vogue (whatever the reason) — that the demand will trickle down to the supermarket meat case. Strangely enough, though, I know a lot of people who indulge in the fattiest of meats when dining out but who would never buy and prepare that type of meat at home. Not for lack of cooking skill (quite the contrary), but because fat is a “restaurant indulgence,” and in order to order it in restaurants, they simply don’t cook it at home. This mindset isn’t necessarily bad (after all, I would be slimmer if I exercised that restraint!) but I think there remains a big (mental) disconnect about what’s OK to eat in restaurants vs. at the kitchen table.

  • Jennie/Tikka

    When I hear the word “gluttony” I picture the Romans around say, Nero. I don’t think what we’re talking about here food-wise quite qualifies as the debauchery that Rome was indulging in, prompting a later list known as “The Seven Deadly Sins” in the Catholic church (specifically). Early Christians got to witness Rome firsthand. There was far more to Gluttony than the occassional feast of fatty goodies – it was a lifestyle as obscene as Nero’s, with all the focus on bloodsport and luxury at the expense of the people (a la pre-Revolutionary France), that the term was meant for.

    People have been comparing our culture to Rome’s for a while now. I’m just not sure if its really a fair analogy. Makes ya think, though.

    P.S. Fellini’s “Satyricon” was on again just a couple of nights ago – difficult to sit all the way through (sensory overload).

  • Nadine

    I’m awfully tired of people assigning morality to food.

    I did enjoy the guy who wrote about kibbe. I’ll bet that guy would never used that dry crumbly gross feta in the average supermarket.

  • Vanessa

    I assign morality to food all the time but I’m smart enough to know that I can’t force my morality on others. Chips Ahoy, McDonalds, factory meat and veg…it’s all evil. But pork fat…that’s manna baby! As usual, those of us who indulge and agree with the eating of these delicious foods didn’t bother to write to the NYTs and say “bravo”…it’s just those fanatical few that are against it and feel superior that bothered…Hohum. I had to block PETA and anti-meat google ads from my blog…what with my braised pig cheeks and pork jowl muffins…and yet they kept try to advertise….but why?

  • jaye joseph

    I’m all for these people that sit in their ivory tower judging us who know from taste (because let’s face it, I’m judging them too, and like Rhulman, I’m also right). As far as I’m concerned, let them be haters of the pork fat, et al. That just means more for me.

  • Michelle

    The worst thing about these ubiquitous, boneless, skinless cuts … is that there is nothing leftover for stock. Speaking of which, do you have any good tips for chicken stock? Mine still isn’t as tasty as I’d like.

  • Manny

    I gotta say, I have just started reading one of your books and already I know you are going to be one of my favorite authors. That being said, I have to agree with most everyone here about the lack of insight most “healthy non fat eaters” have. Yeah, if we all ate fat all the time then I might say they have a point. But don’t come to me with the argument that fat is bad for us. Of course it is, but like everything in life, in moderation it is great. It is like all those people who sing the evils of alcohol and alcoholism. Yes alcoholism is bad, but just because you enjoy a libation every once in a while, that does not make you an alcoholic.
    As for the oils, I have used their hazelnut oil more than once. It makes sauted green beans and oven roasted squash amazing.

  • Natalie Sztern

    there is an olive oil i indulge in strictly for use in salads because of its fruitiness. Nicholas Alziari. i first tasted it at a williams sonoma in charleston, sc. i now order it from toronto’s sonoma store and at 50 bucks a can + 15% sales tax, i hide it from the rest of the family. it is extraordinarily tasty and the perfect accompaniment to a traditional salade nicoise

    For all u americans out there enjoy the pleasures of ur pigs…in canada, there is no such cut as a spiral ham, pig cheeks are hard to find even at my italian butcher….the only cut of short ribs is the flanken style and even mike satzow cannot ship to me, since our rules prohibit it(he is the ‘special’ supplier to lobels)…yet when i cross the border into burlington,vt, i am allowed to bring over kosher chickens??? go know

  • French Laundry at Home

    I just watched the most horrifying episode of Aunt Sandy’s show in which she claims that Batali and Flay gave her some recipes from their restaurants for her to add her special Semi-Homemade touch. I’m hoping that they’ve mounted a class action lawsuit, but if Mario actually sanctioned this, then what’s next? A deal with Friendly’s or Frisch’s?

  • "Chef" Suzy

    Re: The oils

    The same company which makes their name brand version retailing for $6.99 at Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) is bottling them for Trader Joes under the TJ’s house label and they sell at TJs for (I think) $1.99.

    Love the hazelnut and the walnut. Refrigerate after opening…

    Standard mark-up is 100% from manufacturer to distributor, and another 100% from there to retail. So: $1 to oil maker/$2 to TJs (no middleman/distributor). Theoretically then it should be $4 at retail (like at Cost Plus, which also carries the oils).

    $6.99 to Whole Paycheck is your mark-up for “ambience”


  • "Chef" Suzy

    PS: Sztern
    R U serious? $50?

    Who sold you this stuff for $50? Williams Sonoma?

    I’d like a piece of that action! Hey Sztern: How mucha that you want, what kind? USPS OK?

    I’ll can getcha some for $30 uncut in a plain bottle!

  • kristin

    “Who the hell uses#1 bulghur for kibbe?”

    Sounds like a personal problem. I do use fine bulghur wheat for kibbe ( and before you say anything more, I am of Middle Eastern decent, thank you very much.) and it comes out just fine. Remember it is a matter of taste.

    Hey Michael,
    I needed a copy of Return to Cooking for someone as a gift, and it was supposed to be here by early July. Now I have to wait til the end of July.Amazon needs to get on the ball.

  • Natalie Sztern

    ya see Chef, since i sit on the other side of the table paying for the food u talented chefs cook, i don’t have the pleasure of wholesale. and yes, i shop at williams sonoma when i can get to one, and yes quebec has 15% sales tax and yes…for my unseasoned palate this particular oil stays safely under my mattress until further use, kinda like the pea and the princess…so now u found my weakness (ps it is 50 with the exchange rate)

    ps if u can guarantee the taste it is a deal

  • Natalie Sztern

    i have a question regarding pastry chefs: what does a pastry chef do when he/she develops diabetes: is there a professional insurance one buys into?

    i have diabetes and can’t imagine if i had to constantly test and taste as a profession, on top of which it does impact the palate?

  • fiat lux

    “like everything in life, in moderation [fat] is great. It is like all those people who sing the evils of alcohol and alcoholism. Yes alcoholism is bad, but just because you enjoy a libation every once in a while, that does not make you an alcoholic.”

    Words to live by, Manny. Well said.

    By the way, I decided to broaden my horizons and I tried sweetbread at the nice restaurant we went to for dinner last night. Very tasty!

    I’m still not sure I’ll be trying tripe or brains any time the the near future, though…..

  • "Chef" Suzy

    Sztern: I’m shocked!

    …or maybe then again, I’m not. I can spot a jones-ing freak a mile away. Maybe it’s ’cause I spent my jailbait years on the mean streets of Berkeley.

    Nicholas Alziari green? Walnut? Hazelnut? I can getcha what you need, no prob babe. Just say the word. Oh – and PayPal via Ebay is the new international cash economy. Discount on quantity (as always), and I PROMISE I won’t step on it too hard with the ol’ canola.

    Why just the other day I received an express package containing “samples” of a fine white powder and a fluffy beige powdery substance from a Japanese concern, labeled completely in Japanese.

    Turns out that the beige powder is called “Flava-Crave”. They claim on their translated website that it is in fact, ultra-pure refined “essence of umami”, the “newly discovered fifth taste” (after sweet, salty, sour, bitter…), and that adding a fat line per ki will make any food irrestible. Supposedly the addition of this substance to any food will render the eater helpless to stop eating until the food containing it is gone. I.Shit.You.Not.

    The white powder is pure uncut Japanese sucralose (unavailable in the US due to FDA regs). The 100 grams they sent is apparently the equivalent to something like 500lbs of sugar. The dosage is so minute that it is impossible to measure accurately without an atomic scale. I guess I’ll maybe dissolve it in some water and dole it out using a dropper. That, or perhaps I’ll download the archival blotter designs from and use paper as a carrier.

    I knew it was just a matter of time Sztern. You should be feeling MUCH better soon (especially once you can remove that oil can from under mattress).

    See what’cha started Tony? Once you quit alluding to your D.O.C. as your “problem in the ’80s” and ‘fessed up to “booting up the crystal meth”, everyone else has been able to Speak Their Truth.

    Thank you Tony!

  • "Chef" Suzy

    >>>Posted by: Natalie Sztern | June 24, 2007 at 09:04 AM

    i have a question regarding pastry chefs: what does a pastry chef do when he/she develops diabetes: is there a professional insurance one buys into?<<< INSURANCE??? As in "health insurance"? For pastry CHEFS? ...weee don' need no STEENK-innng een-SURE-ance!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!

  • latenac

    “Sounds like a personal problem. I do use fine bulghur wheat for kibbe ( and before you say anything more, I am of Middle Eastern decent, thank you very much.) and it comes out just fine. Remember it is a matter of taste.”

    So am I. What country? I did get into an “argument” with an Armenian once. Apparently they use #1 for kibbe. I’m Lebanese so it’s #2 for baked and #3 (I think) actually for raw. And then there was the cousin who married into a family that used cumin in their kibbe. Far more scandalous.

  • Give It A Rest Suzy Eleventy One

    Suzy, you do need health insurance. No, really. They pay for mental health care and meds, did you know that? Seriously, you should maybe try to get hired on someplace with benefits. The other patrons of Ruhlman’s blog will be most grateful.

  • Give It A Rest, Suzy #1

    I second that, Eleventy One. Better living through pharmaceuticals, as GIARS #1’s sister is fond of saying . . .

  • TAKWeber

    “Moderation and variety in everything.” Words to live by. My great grandmother, who lived to be 97, had a slice of bacon and a homemade biscuit every day of her life. She never over ate, used pork in her beans, lard in her biscuits and lived a long happy life. Recently I had a 1.5×1.5 inch chunk of braised and seared pork belly as a side to a spit roasted pork loin (both Berkshire) at a new restaurant called B.A.N.K. in Minneapolis. I’d much rather have a chunk of pork belly than a pat of butter (and I love butter) if I can get it. I also had a big salad with a slice of Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheddar. All in all, I wasn’t stuffed, but felt incredibly satiated. Fat makes you happy in ways that fat-less, carb-less food can not. We should listen to our grand parents!