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My Holy Week
The last thing I want the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is to have to work hard for my entertainment. Not for me the mind-improving book or soul-searing documentary. After 47 years of La Cuisine’s holiday craziness (which all the Cuisinettes loved even when we were running on fumes), the week between December 25 and January 2, was and still is my time to relax on the couch in my Happy Room — reading something not too mentally taxing, or watching a film or binge-worthy series that makes me think a tiny bit but manages not to be too saccharine. This is the week that I can indulge in trying out a new dessert or carb-laden main course from a new-to-me cookbook, as I never make the dreaded NYRs (New Year’s Resolutions) until after January 1. Definitely a cocktail every night, a fire, if there is enough wood. I might read aloud a particularly funny essay from Barbara Holland’s Endangered Pleasures or one of Semour Britchky‘s scathing restaurant reviews. I leave you just one example here. That said, here is what I am enjoying while I am in a prone position on the couch in this last week of 2019.
All Creatures Great And Small
I watch a lot of mediocre films on food and occasionally find ones that are informative or have great fictional narratives. Some are more relaxing – think Mostly Martha — while others are stark revelations such as The Price Of Sugar. But this particular film is perfect for My Holy Week, and I hope it works for you too.The Biggest Little Farm starts with one of my favorite totally unrealistic fantasies: my own potager. The combination of Chester’s brilliance as a cameraman and his wife’s zany but willful desire to cook (she is a personal chef) what she grows is only part of the film’s allure. Their wholehearted embrace of being California la-la landers, combined with the charming and witty cartoons of their dreams are supplanted by the dog who caused it all. Their often painfully gained knowledge is revealed almost as if they are discovering it with you. It should also encourage you to search out farmers’ markets in your area – if you are not already doing that. And I do like the message about farming in harmony with the land instead of the chemical wizardry that seems to have poisoned our amber waves of grain.
A Couch Potato’s Work Is Never Done
I love KD readers’ book and film recommendations. They are always well curated, unlike the stores and eateries reviewed by Yelpers. American Food, A Not-So-Serious History is one such recommendation. Rachel Wharton, along with her sidekick artist Kimberly Ellen Hall created a book that is just the right read for my Holy Week. It’s a very idiosyncratic look at American Foods – very loosely organized around the letters of the Alphabet. This is not a cliffhanger, so you can go to the kitchen and get yourself another slice of fruitcake or glass of wine. It is the author’s wacky research on things like the American lunchbox, Orange Julius, (I vaguely remember hearing about that OJ but never knew what it was), or the newcomer in the grocery produce stands – the blueberry. And I was entranced by the history of the Italian Sandwich, since I have had my own rating system on subs, grinders, heroes and hoagies since I was first introduced at age eleven in a teensy sandwich shop in Rehoboth, Delaware. So a bit of history, outright sardonic opinions and, yes, even some recipes from the food writer who gifted us with I Am A Filipino And This Is How We Cook and F*ck That’s Delicious. And her revelation about Xantham gum! It was discovered by an American chemist, Dr. Allene Rosalind Jeanes, in the 1950s. I cannot resist telling you that Xanthum Gum is the slime extruded from bacteria found on rotten tomatoes and broccoli when they eat sugars. The slime is, however, purified and centrifuged before it is put into such treats as ice cream and wheat-free breads. Color me happy.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.
Ooh, if you liked that book you should check out Twinkie, Deconstructed.
Merry Christmas. I always enjoyed visiting your store and love reading your blog.
Dear Nancy I am hopping you are relaxed supine and not exhausted prone on your couch. I have become a new fan of Christopher Kimball after listening to his encyclopedic knowledge on his podcasts. Dr. Bill Schindler from the Eastern Shore introduced me this year to the healthy aspects of animal fat. And Chef Angie Mar’s new Butcher + Beast has me captivated.
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
E. B. White