Yeah, I'd eat that

It's official: not only am I an adult, I'm also really, really boring. Upon discovering that I would have the house to myself for all of Wednesday (due to Jeff's attending a conference out of town) I felt that I should do something to celebrate.

So what do I do? Do I go wild, dance naked in the streets, party until the cows come home, stage a wild drunkfest at my place, and frantically run around that evening trying to hide the evidence of the day's debauchery?No.

I go to the grocery store, and buy groceries for the latter half of the week. I pick up seafood, since Jeff can't stand the stuff. I go home, curl up with a container of yogurt (raspberry, thankee), watch a couple of Buffy episodes, and spend lots of time making myself spicy shrimp with a side of asparagus.

It was wonderful.

I am so boring it hurts. I mean, really. I didn't even think to dive into the little cabinet and fix myself a finger or two of Oban. Didn't even curl up on the couch with the cell phone to use up some of my free long distance to call a friend. Instead, I scratched the cats, cooked myself a lovely dinner, and propped my little toesies up on the table and talked back to the television.

What's next, macramé?

Can't say that I've been much inspired as of late—it's become a bit evident that I need to take a few days away from the coding on Quarto so as not to blow a brain gasket. I picked out something mindless, silly, and thoroughly opposite from that task: sorting through my old magazines.

I've had a few years' worth of cooking mags stashed in my bookcase for a few years now. I subscribed to Food and Wine for a while, until I got really sick of obviously being much, much poorer than their snobbish demographic. (Cooking for Manhattanites, I called it.) They occasionally had some really interesting recipes, but I eventually tired of wading through three miles each of advertising and articles aimed at people in the nouveau riche social bracket.

I kept the magazines, but ditched the subscription. (I recommend Cook's Illustrated and Fine Cooking, if you're curious.) I kept saying that "one of these days" I'd start pulling the magazines out, one at a time, and start razoring out the recipes that I thought might be passable to yuppie taste buds like mine.

While snooping through the issues, I found a letter to the editor that sounded remarkably like something I'd write:

To be honest, I really don't care what rich people in big cities eat. All you talk about are how chefs in big cities are turning back to native, peasant roots to find the highly-tasty traditional food the city folk seem to have forgotten. Why not quit wasting your time on finding out what the rich and famous are noshing on today and, instead, go to the 'peasants,' as they're often called, who seem to have this eating thing figured out?

While not his exact words, they were his exact sentiments. I'd read one too many articles about and recipes for arty foods that, quite honestly, sounded like they were better left as artistic ideas instead of actual culinary products.

I mean, "Ewwwww. You'd eat that?"

Of the magazines I've ravaged so far, I've kept pitifully few recipes. This from me, the woman who likes to experiment a bit with food. When you read recipe after recipe and find yourself thinking either "You want me to special-order how many dollars' worth of ingredients for an everyday dinner?" or "You honestly think people would eat that?" you know that dropping your subscription was a good idea.

I guess I'll keep my artistic-peasant taste in food to myself, thankyouverymuch. I can at least say that no one has ever come to my house, looked at what I was serving for dinner, and said, "Are we supposed to…um….eat that?"

Oh, well. Nobody ever said the nouveau riche had taste; it's just that they have enough money to attempt to camouflage their lack of it.


The only snobbish, expensive food item that I can honestly say I like is caviar. Yes, it's expensive here in the states, but it isn't in Europe. I acquired a taste originally out of self-defense when I was in Sweden (they love various types of caviar, thus I either ate the food or starved). I got used to it and now it doesn't bother me to think about eating fish eggs. I heartily agree with your sentiments in this post, though. Too often, these cooking magazines are written for the nouveau riche that have all the money/time in the world to spend cooking lavish dinners that I still think the people eating them only pretend to enjoy just to save face. Cooks Illustrated forever!

Don't feel bad...I've had the house to myself for nearly a week and what have I done? laundry... rented and watched movies that Brian didn't want to see... (Vanilla Sky, Snatch, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Oh Brother Where Art Thou and Shallow Grave) subsisted off of fruit for dinner because nothing quite beats fresh peaches and cream for a meal

I often find myself at home alone. The perks of being a military wife, I guess. Mundane is the norm, but often satisfying. As for the cooking magazines, I've never really thought anyone ate that stuff. Kind of like who really wears the clothes that you see on the runways? I find it difficult to find ingredients for many of Martha Stewart's (the devil) dishes. She seems to think everyone has access to the produce of the Hamptons.

-chuckle- I shudder to think what Mom's life was like before my older brother came along. When I think about what my dad was doing in those days ... :

Andrea -- you just pointed out my top reason for keeping my Cook's Illustrated subscription -- they publish recipes for food that real people would eat.

Amen to that. I refer to my Cooks Illustrated magazine collection about as much as I do my Joy of Cooking cookbook.

Okay....time to throw in my "cheffly" two cents to this mix. Those recipes were made for people like me (when I was in the industry). What it meant was that I could order exorbiant foods at a wholesale price since I was ordering in bulk and charge 5-8 times the food cost to the unsuspecting public. I mean think about it....I could make duck confit wth black truffles and foie gras and sell it for 49.95 a plate. Cost me about 8 bucks including labor. And people pay for it....all the time. Those are the people who are responsible for the recipes.

Can I say this for all America, then? "YOU BASTARDS!" :) Only kidding, Oompa.

Coming to the Table Late

I'm a little late in responding to this. Ok, about nine years late. <sjobs>Sosumi.</sjobs>

When I was in college, I got an American Express card. Big mistake, but it got me called to the attention of Food & Wine, so I got a subscription. Had it for a few years, but most of the actions taken in consequence turned out to be less-than-successful.

For example: My wife (then-girlfriend) saw an ad for Karo products, that included a recipe for a chocolate pecan pie. She went and bought the name-brand products, but a couple of mistakes in the process resulted in a large hockey puck.

The particular failure I had in mind was my own, from the early 1990s. I'd come across a recipe for a spicy orange beef entrée of Chinese origin. It sounded tasty, and I thought I'd get the stuff to make it. It referred to a hot orange oil you had to make first, so I went to deal with that recipe, before trying the main dish.

The oil recipe made over two cups of oil. The entrée required no more than two teaspoons.

The recipe didn't produce an especially flavorful or noteworthy experience; it was rather bland, so I didn't repeat it. The extra oil I'd bottled before, and set into a cupboard, towards the back of a high shelf.

In 1994, when we moved from Iowa City, Iowa to Eden Prairie, Minnesota, in the Twin Cities metro, I rediscovered this lost elixir. Unused, it had bred a special bluish crust in its dark environment. It went down the toilet.

By contrast, Amy turned me on to Cooks Illustrated back in 2009/2010, and I have made many items from the recipes in the spare issues she's sent my way. Many are now family favorites. Amy herself has experienced them, and will attest to the joy of eating them, and their staying power.

As for F&W, it is a nice glossy to have around, with pretty pictures -- do they still have cigarette ads? I always thought they were incongruous -- but not really useful for anyone who actually enjoys cooking as a household thing.