BH5

The above photograph (by Donna Turner Ruhlman) is of family meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The below essay was originally published by Finesse, Thomas Keller’s magazine, in an issue that explores the notion of community. In light of the brouhaha begun last week over a study arguing that the family meal is a romantic ideal rather than a simply a good idea, an elite foodie construct that merely makes overstressed middle class moms feel guilty, I’m posting it here. On re-reading, it may seem a bit over the top. But then …?   Is “Community” Important? Community. How nice. Hippies bagging granola in co-ops. Neighbors spending an afternoon weeding a communal garden filled with tomatoes and basil, bell peppers and a couple of bean plants. Isn’t that special? How Berkeley! Let’s make it Read On »

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TVDINING9

                              Alerted about an article on Slate that runs counter to my own convictions, I was inclined to regard it as misguided, inelegant and leave it at that. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The home cooked dinner is “expensive and time-consuming and often done for a bunch of ingrates who would rather just be eating fast food,” the journalist Amanda Marcotte concludes, using a study by three NC State University sociologists as her springboard, a study that argues something even more ridiculous: “The idea that home cooking is inherently ideal reflects an elite foodie standpoint.” What I couldn’t stop thinking about was the author’s conviction that home-cooked meals shared by the family is a romantic notion, not to mention harmful to those who Read On »

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In June I interviewed Dan Barber at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland about his superb new book The Third Plate. Barber is not only one of the country’s leading chefs, he’s one of the foremost thinkers and writers on the state of how we grow, distribute, cook, and eat food, which is quickly becoming one of the dominant conversations of our generation. He implored me to make the trip to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, comprising a high-end restaurant plus 80 acres of farmland and pasture and woods for growing and raising the plants and livestock he and his brigade serve at the restaurant. The following month, Donna and I drove up to Blue Hill to take him up on his offer (a full ten years since its opening), arriving early enough to talk with Read On »

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Thomas Herbruck’s father came home with a still when Tom was 15; at that tender age he would distill his first spirits along with helping his father make wine from the grapes grown on their one-acre vineyard in Gates Mills, on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio. He would go on, happily, to become a 401(k) plan consultant at a brokerage company here and, with his wife Lianne, father of four. In 1991, Tom bought a 50-gallon prohibition-era moonshine still from a New York farmer. It was just too cool not to. By 2008, he’d navigated the bureaucratic waters of making spirits legally in Ohio, just for home consumption and for friends and others who might share his passion for distilling fermented liquids. But interest was great, and he’d jumped through enough legal hoops that he was Read On »

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I was asked on Twitter what I thought of the latest movie on the chef world, really the first authentic movie on the work of professional cooking since Ratatouille (one of the best on the subject). So here comes a formidable writer, director, and marquee cast (Scarlett, Dustin, Robert {D. Jr.}, Sofia V., the compelling Bobby Cannavale, and writer/director/lead Jon Favreau) to try to tell a story and also get right what really hasn’t been done well in American film ever, animation excepted: the life of the chef. Spanglish, and No Reservations being two hopefuls that did not get it right. As a narrative, Chef is predictable (I’d seen the previews, all you need to know), almost tired, father-son road movie, guilty hard-working dad, cute kid, likable (ex) wife—worked for Elf, right? My writing mentor said, “No Read On »

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