From start to finish, this interview with Chris Kimball of America’s Test Kitchen is a great read: the dialogue discusses how to make a recipe as reliable as possible (“we go through a process of trying to blow up the recipe to figure out the most lethal mistake you can make”), the role of cooking as both a creative act and a craft that requires knowledge and skill, and the scam of calorie-counting (“at home, what do you need numbers for? If you want healthy, you know what to make.”) among other things. As a cook with a rather cavalier attitude toward instructions or measurements, I’m nonetheless fascinated by what Kimball says about the craft of testing recipes and writing them down with clarity. Think how much this practice has changed over time, as the available ingredients and general culinary knowledge has changed. I attempted to make ice cream this week with a vintage ice cream maker and recipe pamphlet unearthed in my mom’s house, but despite my kitchen experience I could barely understand the directions and ended up with a chunk of milky ice.
At First We Feast: In Praise of Red Drink, in which red is not just a color but a flavor.
At Lucky Peach: everything you always wanted to know about asparagus. Really, everything: how it grows, when it is harvested, why the stems are sometimes woody, how the harvested stalks can continue to grow even as they are shipped to the market.
I never get tired of reading about campaigns to get people to buy imperfect produce, and I am glad to see (via NPR) that some campaigns are in motion in the States. I’m currently growing little yellow heirloom tomatoes in my tabletop greenhouses, most of which are perfectly tender pearls but some of which are scarred and split (possibly from overwatering, but the rest of the plant looks happy).
When I throw these imperfect tomatoes into a stew or carefully cut around the scar for a salad, I think about the first time I encountered heirlooms in Pennsylvania. At the time, I thought I didn’t even like raw tomatoes; I was accustomed to watery Romas or crisp cardboardy round tomatoes, beautiful but tasteless. The heirloom tomatoes were bulbous, like misshapen pumpkins, with scars and unappealingly purplish or greenish tints, and I was quite put off by them. I don’t remember how or why I eventually came around to buying them; maybe I read enough about pretty grocery store produce which is bred for long shelf life or visual appeal rather than flavor or nutrition, or perhaps gradual exposure to vibrant local tomatoes at the peak of their season changed my mind. At any rate, not only do I happily buy ugly fruits and vegetables, sometimes I buy pounds of ugly and overripe produce on purpose because they are cheaper and perfect for jams or stews.
After last week’s link to Helen Rosner’s piece on chicken tenders, a flurry of tweets led to the co-creation of a chicken tender Tumblr. Beautifully photographed chicken tenders, a new one each day. I hope you enjoy browsing it.
You may wish to follow it with a chaser of beautifully photographed fruits and vegetables.
Last week was kind of a weird week for me, social media-wise. I posted about Ernest Hemingway and was immediately followed by three separate Hemingway bots on Twitter. I included a quote about bananas in the link roundup, which was picked up a German newsletter thing called Das Bananen Blatt. So to close, here is another banana, carved and painted by Dan Cretu.