Four Feast and One Foodie

BrockaBooks, Health & WellnessLeave a Comment

In a compulsive desire to absorb as much as I can, I always stack my reading: magazines and books of varying degree and topic. Its easier to read a narrative and a non-fiction simultaneously as the themes never seem to over-lap. This past month proved a different fate. I found myself engrossed with one omnivore frenchman, a conscientious omnivore, a “frenchie” baker, and an alternative baker.
The fast and delightful read was David Lebovitz’s “The Sweet Life in Paris”. I have taken his item-specific classes when he passed through Dallas on occasion, (i.e chocolate series and icecream making) so i was excited to get ahold of a more personal scoop on the man. He is very whimsical with ideas and serious with direction, and fastidious with ingredient source and machinery. From San Francisco, he moved to Paris a few years ago; this book is really a reflection of the idiosyncrasies of the country (malaise and laziness with work), odd-ball character traits (pushing in the streets, skipping lines at market, never being on time) and just general unexplained behavior of french people (a number of ways to say the same thing or absolute difficulty in getting drinking water; my favourite: requiring you pronounce yourself with “Bonjour” everywhere you enter, but not necessarily wanting to speak to you). He equally satisfies his followers with a sprinkling of recipes. It was so true and hysterical. Having spent many days to month’s there myself, I enjoyed the way he characterized the whole scene. I remembered the astonishing sight of standing ashtrays at the end’s of grocery store aisles; smoking everywhere! Though, not so much anymore.
A more provoking read was by the iconoclastic French chef Daniel Boulud. His mindsweeping “Letters to a Young Chef” is a book that reaches inbetween all the obvious and arduous steps in becoming the best, with details of considerable appreciation for whatever edible item he handles. He fills in the obvious bullet-point steps with much personal minutiae. The transition from boyhood farmland beginnings, to observant cook, to apprentice, to chef are a deserved tribute to one revered by many greats of his same generation. He covers the arduous business aspect of running a restaurant, managing your crew, building your patronage and establishing your individuality. This was published in 2003. Non-coincidentally, I happened upon a documentary series (fancast.com) called After Hours with D.B (in similar fashion to Robert Redford’s Iconoclast on the Sundance Channel). He worked with name-brand chefs of cities spanning from Houston, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and Los Angeles… D.B and the chosen chef would prepare signature dishes together “after hours of business” in the said restaurant of the owner, then invite a number of varied people to share their meal: writers, photographers, models, actors, sport figures, etc. It was beautiful to see the stranger’s dynamic and mutual enthusiasm over a shared meal. Plus, as a viewer it was exciting to feel as if you’re eavesdropping on their dinner conversations.
His appreciation for the highest quality ingredients and use of the best sourced protein products is what sets his cuisine to such adoration. This is his labor of love, and it is palpable. Immediately I felt that his love for every morsel of carcass is in direct proportion to a vegan’s hate for his having used the animal at all, unfortunately.
Sidenote: This prefaces a theme I will often revist. There is a natural balance to life and always will be “two sides to every coin”.
I would like to say this next book was provoking, but really the simple fact that it had to be written pissed me off. “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan. I love his writing and his first book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. Unfortunately society has reached a point of such mass-production and equal consumerism that a “fake-ness” has replaced and supplemented a balanced nutrition of our ancestors. They didnt seem to worry over vitamins and supplements and fiber. But we have gotten so far removed from the original use of local grown fruits and vegetables, backyard raised eggs, cow’s grazing on grass vs. re-gurgitated cow on corn/soy. Not only our health but common sense has suffered. When society has reached a point that it needs to be either reminded of the definition of food, or simply taught to not eat an ingredient that you can’t even pronounce, we have a sad issue. Essentially, stick to the basics, and go to the source. If something needed to be added, taken away, revamped, scrubbed, buffed and fluffed, or boxed and preserved to last longer than your own lifespan, should you really eat it? Really?! Practicality and logic seem to be the best diet after ingesting this book.
Lastly, the fun and physically engaging BabyCakes of NYC cookbook by Erin McKenna. A few years ago when I started visiting New York with some frequency, I was all over the restaurant reviews and foodie blogs, especially the bakery info. I was so excited to come across Babycakes, because it really helped propel me further into what I was just beginning to manifest here in Dallas: serving gluten free and vegan desserts that actually taste yummy and delicious. She built her following via her cupcakes and later expanded the menu to a few more items. Her book covers just enough basic recipes to give a novice “alternative” baker a place to start, plus some fun ideas to expand with. I tore threw it immediately, loving all the pictures and little story points. Already Ive baked most of her book. Already Ive altered the majority of her recipes to fit my own taste and style. Either way, Im highly appreciative of her making it all the more mainstream. I am not so delighted in having to traipse through the sensory overload stink of Chinatown to get there. Between the palpable sewage smell fighting over the sweet dumpling houses or shock of dead carcass in store-front eateries, her bakery really is an oasis to enjoy.
The most obvious and consistent current running through all four author’s and their craft or food preference is simply Appreciation. And really, everyday…no matter the topic, this should be our theme.

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