It’s arguable that cooking made us human. Cooked food gave us a huge amount of calories, which made us healthy and we spread our genes and our brains grew and grew. But most important, cooking our own food forced us to work together, to cooperate. Because we learned to cooperate, we grew in groups, and these groups spread across the world and thrived, while others species (Neanderthals, for example) did not. This is important enough to reiterate: in order to make use of the extraordinary benefits that cooked food gave us, the stuff that made us human, we had to work together. Food taught us how to cooperate. But cooperate is a boring word, a weak word with oblique connotations of subservience, compromise, giving in—everything contrary to the rebellious spirit that made this country. So I propose Read On »

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Biscotti is the perfect accompaniment mid-morning when I’m into my fifth or sixth cup of coffee.  I drink coffee all morning long and I’m able to do so because I don’t use one of those horrible drip machines, but rather what I think of as my personal 1956 Lincoln Continental of a coffee machine. The problem has always been that I’ve never really liked biscotti.  Maybe because I’ve only ever had the stuff that comes in a gift basket from Gallucci’s (a store I adore).  Or the one time I tried to make it myself.  It was rock hard and tasteless, so I figured I’d done a perfect job. But a while back, someone asked for a biscotti recipe, perhaps even a ratio.  My able colleague Emilia Juocys was intrigued and so recently set to Read On »

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My number one pick for a great inexpensive gift to give a cook is a Japenese mandolin, aka a Benriner (the brandname). This is a tool virtually all cooks own, used for all manner of slicing, julienning and brunoising. Gnarly sweet potatoes become gorgeous chips. Under 20 bucks—can’t beat it. My most used small appliance is the hand blender, or immersion blender, a fabulous tool for pureeing soups and sauces, making vinaigrettes and mayos. Wouldn’t want to be without one. (The above link is to an inexpensive CuisinArt blender, here’s the KitchenAid version nearly 3 times as expensive but some feel it’s worth it.) If you’re really in to cooking, these round cutters come in handy for all kinds of baking, cooking, plating needs. I recently bought this fat separator and love it—simple ideas work Read On »

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We live in a time of unprecedented interest in, and care for, food and all the issues that surround its growing, harvesting, purveyance, and its cooking.  This interest happened because we were on the brink of losing good food altogether, with farmers disappearing and the masses abandoning the kitchen, handing over our farming to Monsanto and giving our most fundamental and exclusively human act, cooking, over to the ConAgras and McDonalds.  (ConAgra, one of our biggest food processors, is that name a joke on us?! Con, against, Agra, agriculuture—against agriculture! At least they’re open about it!) We only become reflective about something we’d previously taken for granted when it becomes imperiled. I’m not saying that rampant diabetes in teenagers, epidemic obesity, social fragmentation and alienation, nitrogen runoff in our rivers and oceans, oceans increasingly depleted Read On »

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As I’ve said before, the best things happen when you get carried away.  Two people who share this view are Diane Cu and Todd Porter, photographers and filmakers, aka whiteonricecouple.  Two weeks ago, at the BlogHer food conference in San Farancisco, they asked to film me talking, I’m still not sure why.  Diane said she wanted to film me thinking. I thought that was going to be kind of difficult. I’d just come from the concluding keynote panel with glutenfreegirl and orangette, two people I really admire, and had a few minutes before heading to a bacon curing demo orchestrated by Elise.   I’ve got no excuses other than the six cups of coffee before the panel. The book of which I speak, is Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, by Harvard Anthropologist Richard Wrangham. Read On »

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