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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Baked buttered corn. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

                            I think I post this recipe and preparation each year because its so good, and at this time of year, as the corn begins to lose its sweetness and grow bigger and starchier, there’s no better way to cook it. I use this corn cutter, but you could slice the kernels off the cob and puree two-thirds of them in a blender for the same effect. Baking a mixture of pureed corn and whole kernels, cooking off much of the liquid, reduces the corn to an intensely sweet rich corn pudding. Nothing but corn, butter, salt, and pepper. This dish, on a cool September evening, is for me a sweet, salty reminder of summer’s inevitable deliquescence. Baked Corn 6 to 8 ears Read On »

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the-last-martini

For now, that is. I need to focus on work and, well, most things come to an end, no? Though the inevitable catastrophe of death awaits us all, not so for the finest cocktail: The Martini. As perfect as a sonnet, Mencken said. I began The Friday Cocktail Hour two and a half years ago with a martini (outraged, outraged!, when I ordered a martini and was asked which vodka I preferred). I attached a memory of the best martini of my life to my first book contract this spring. And with a martini I finish. Because this concludes, for the nonce, my beloved Friday Cocktail Hour, we shall call this one the Is That All There Is? Martini. Gin, almost needless to say, flavored with vermouth and lemon, something to sip for comfort as Read On »

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