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Posts tagged ‘Food for Thought’

Reads: My Life in France

My Life in France My Life in France by Julia Child

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Julia Child was a late bloomer. She may be best known as a chef & cookbook author, but she didn’t start cooking until her thirties. She was a rather unadventerous eater until she and her new husband moved to France just after World War II. Upon moving to Frace she begins exploring the world of food and cooking.

My tastes were growing bolder, too. Take snails, for instance. I had never thought of eating a snail before, but, my, tender escargots bobbling in garlicky butter were one of my happiest discoveries! And truffles which came in a can, and were so deliciously musky and redolent of the earth, quickly became an obsession.

 In My Life in France, Julia Child’s personality shines through the pages. The book is warm and engaging and had great descriptions of food and cooking. The book was inspirational. Child’s recounting of going to Le Cordon Bleu for cooking classes made me want to quit my job and go to culinary school. (I will hold off on that pursuit. )  If she could go from not knowing how to cook at all to becoming on of the best known chefs in America it just goes to show what following your dreams and passions can accomplish.

I highly recommend My Life in France to anyone who loves a good memoir or anyone with a passion for food.

read this book as part of the Food for Thought book club. Check out the links on the blogroll there to see what other foodie-readers thought of the book.

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Bite Me: Food in Popular Culture

Bite Me Bite Me by Fabio Parasecoli

rating: 3 out of 5

Okay, honestly, with a title like “Bite Me: Food in Popular Culture” and a cover that is a bit suggestive with a close-up picture of the cleft of a peach/nectarine, I was at the very least expecting a book that was readable and fun. I was expecting something along the lines of Kitchen Confidential, Fast Food Nation, or Candyfreak— an engaging expose on how food influences and is influenced by pop culture. I mean come on, this is a cover that got me lots of second looks as I read it on the train. Yes folks, I am reading a book, with a big naked butt on the cover.

In the end (ha), “Bite Me” was a  little too academic for my taste. It read like an advanced college text book with lots of works cited and a large bibliography.  Parasecoli obviously put a good deal of research into the book.

In the chapter Tasty Utopias, Parasecoli discusses food and politics in science fiction books and movies. The works he looks at include Orwell’s 1984 and the movie Demolition Man.  Parasecoli analyzes what food & eating means to the characters & societies in these sci-fi works.

Food has played a relevant — even if sometimes almost invisible — role in many sci-fi works. I believe this connection is revealing. Food is an important element in any society, determining many aspects of production, distribution and consumption, and providing fundamental institutions and customs.  It is virtually impossible to isolate food from the social, economic, and political structures of a human group. The act of eating, located between the biological and the symbolic, allows sci-fi authors to analyze a large spectrum of phenomena, often with a certain comic impishness.  Imagination is a fundamental dimension of the style and the content of science fiction, encompassing all aspects of human life.

In other chapters Parasecoli compares breast feeding with vampirism and cannabalism, discusses the influence of food in African American culture,  looks into diet culture especially the Atkins diet, and finally how tourism relates to food.

There were some interesting factoids in the book, but overall it was a bit too dense for leisure reading.  While “Bite Me” might have been a bit of a heavy dish for a casual book club book it would probably be ideal fare for a cultural studies course in college.

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Talking with my Mouth Full

Crab Cakes, Bundt Cakes, and Other Kitchen Stories Talking with My Mouth Full: Crab Cakes, Bundt Cakes, and Other Kitchen Stories by Bonny Wolf


rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

 Bonny Wolf works as a food correspondent for NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. In Talking with My Mouth Full, Wolf shares food memories and stories through a series of essays. It is a charming collection that makes a leisurely read for foodies. Wolf takes us on a nostalgic journey through the United States and its different regional foods. The essays focus more on comfort foods than on haute cuisine you find at upscale restaurants.  There are essays about Bundt cakes, Jell-o, popovers, Texas Barbecue, and Thanksgiving Dinner.

In each essay, Wolf relays her own experiences along with those of her friends and NPR listeners.  Wolf includes one or more recipes with each essay. The recipes are for foods that were mentioned in the essay. The recipes range from a simple recipe for basic toast to recipes for chili and roasted chicken. These are recipes that were passed down in someone’s family, or from friend to friend, or clipped from a newspaper.

As Wolf talks about her  folder of recipes clipped from magazines, I thought of my own folder of recipes, which is completely out of control. At least the advent of the internet has allowed me to search for and bookmark recipes instead of clipping them all from magazines. Sure, this has resulted in my epicurious.com recipe box having over 650 recipes in it. These are for the most part recipes that caught my eye while flipping through copies of Bon Appetit and Gourmet.

Bonny helps bring home the true connection between food and sentiment. Many of my own memories are related to food. I remember the bunny-cakes my Nana and great aunt Winnie used to serve every Easter when I was little. Bonny’s essay about Chicken a la King, made me want to call up my mom and ask for her Chicken a la King recipe. It was one of my favorite home cooked meals growing up.

I’ve made one of the recipes from the books so far and will be posting the results soon.

The book made me want to gather together recipes from my mom, from her mom, and my own and compile them all in a family favorites cookbook. Maybe that will be a new project for me this year.  It would make a really nice gift for Christmas, especially with family photos thrown into the mix.

I read this book as part of the Food for Thought book club. Check out the links on the blogroll there to see what other foodie-readers thought of Talking with my Mouth Full.

Bonny Wolf’s Website: http://www.bonnywolf.com/book.htm

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Chipotle Shrimp & Avocado Soft Tacos

Last week I read the non-fiction book Waiter Rant. Inspired by  meal tacos that one of the cooks made for the restaurant staff, I decided to whip together some shrimp soft tacos. These tacos were extremely quick and easy to make. The best thing about shrimp, aside from their yummy-ness, is that they cook up very quickly. I served these up along with the Mexican chicken soup for a meal that wasn’t too heavy.

shrimpsofttacos

Chipotle Shrimp & Avocado Soft Tacos

INGREDIENTS

Avocado & Salsa

  • 1/2 Haas Avocado, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup Salsa Verde (purchased or homemade)

Shrimp

  • 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (or red chili pepper)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound raw medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • chopped small red onion
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

DIRECTIONS

  1. Toss the avocado, cilantro and kosher salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat the stove or outdoor grill to medium-high. Mix the olive oil, chipotle or chili powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Cook the shrimp until translucent, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side.
  3. Grill tortillas, until slightly charred and pliable, about 20 seconds per side. (Alternatively, wrap in a damp paper towel and heat in a microwave.)
  4. Spoon the salsa on the tortilla, then top with about 2 or 3 shrimp and some avocado chunks, onion and chopped cilantro. Serve 2 tacos per person, with a lime wedge on the side

Reads: Waiter Rant

Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by The Waiter (Steve Dublanica)
 
rating: 3.5 of 5

Waiter Rant  was the first selection for the Food for Thought book club. This book club is for food lovers who also love to read. Perfect for me!

Steve Dublanica (a.k.a. The Waiter), the author of Waiter Rant, went to seminary school with dreams of becoming a priest, but ended up moving from dead end job to dead end job until he finally landed  in a job as a waiter at a New York restaurant. In 2004 Dublanica started an anonymous blog called WaiterRant.net where he (you guessed it!) ranted about his experiences as a waiter. I’ve often been tempted to rant about work on the internet, but have always erred on the side of caution. Maybe I am just too much of a chickensh*t and don’t want to risk getting discovered and potentially fired.

I have never worked as a waiter but most of my friends have in the past and I have several who still do. I’ve heard plenty of their rants over the years..everything from the customers who refuse to tip because it was a dinner they won in a contest, to patrons who interpret “formal attire” as pink sweatpants and a matching t-shirt. I enjoy hearing these stories. I have always had a bit of a gossip hound inside of me, wanting to know the inside scoop and dirty little secrets. I read and  loved Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential a few years ago and loved all of the juicy tidbits of info he relayed. So, for this reason, I was excited when Kate & Crew @ the Food for Thought book club selected Waiter Rant as our initial read. Trying to find this book in the local bookstore made me want to start a BookstoreRant blog…perhaps later I will get around to starting that up. 😉

 The Waiter regales us with tales of his experiences working at “The Bistro”, a fine dining establishment in New York City. The Waiter changed the names of the restaurant and his co-workers in order to be able to truthfully related the stories without damaging anyone’s livelihood. There was some cynicism as the subtitle promises, but it wasn’t nearly as cynical as Kitchen Confidential.  You see that beneath it all, The Waiter has a heart and wants to do a good job serving his customers.

We’ve all witnessed bad/rude waiters and difficult restaurant patrons. Hopefully, you are neither yourself. The Waiter prides himself on not being the food-spitting variety of server. He spends a good deal of time talking about demanding customers or those who are too inebriated to behave properly. The waiter also spends a good deal of time talking about how much he doesn’t really want to work as a waiter. This got a bit annoying…if you are not happy with your situation try to do something to change it!

I was hoping that the book would have a bit more “oomph” with more snark about fellow restaurant staff and customers. It seems like there is a good deal of that on his blog.  I like my share of snark. Does that make me a bad person?  Waiter Rant was a fun read but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Kitchen Confidential or Heat, which also gave behind-the-scene looks at the restaurant business.

Tonight, partially inspired by the book (where The Waiter describes a scene where the chef cooks up a meal of tacos for the restaurant staff) I will be making shrimp soft tacos… post to follow, so keep your eye out for it.

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Please stop by the blog roll for Food for Thought to check out what other folks thought of Waiter Rant.  You can also sign up there to participate for our next book, which will be selected soon!

View all my reviews.