Sunday, July 1, 2012

Month in Revue - May 2012

Both May and now June were busy months with many distractions. Nonetheless I did have a plan for what I would have written at the end of May, so here it is.
I thought this month we should concentrate on people.
For some time now I have tried to convince myself that my life will only be complete when I have either a Kenwood Chef or a Kitchenaid mixer in my kitchen. There are two reasons why I don't have either -
1.  I can't make up my mind which of the two would make my life completest and
2.  I have a perfectly decent Sunbeam mixmaster which was given to me as a wedding present along with the juicer and blender attachments and hasn't missed a beat (if I can use that term) ever and has been part of my life for so long that it is part of the family. I could not in all conscience cast it aside for a younger, showier model.
What I did not know was the the Kenwood Chef was in fact the invention of a Mr. Ken Wood who went on to become very rich. Read about Mr. Wood here and about an exhibtion to honour the mighty mixer here.

Not only was I less than well informed about the origins of the Kenwood I also didn't know very much about Mr. Craig Claiborne other than that he was an American and his name seemed to get dropped a lot by food people. A book entitled The man who changed the way we eat: Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance by Thomas Mcnamee sounds worth reading to fill in what appears to be a huge gap in my knowledge. Two reviews here and here give a clue to the influence Claiborne had on the American, and international, food scene.

I mentioned Mario Batalli last month but here he is again in a piece which is a though provoking contrast to the articles on Claiborne. And while we are on a roll with clebrity chefs here is a piece by Mark Bittman on Thomas Keller and the influence of Fernand Point. Fernand Point was born in 1897 and died in 1955 and trained chefs with whom we are perhaps more familiar today - Paul Bocuse, Alain Chapel and the Troisgros brothers for example, chefs who went on to promote French cooking in the '70s. Point was not a celebrity chef as we understand that term today and he didn't leave behind a shelf of his recipe books but he is known for his aphorisms, his rules which guided his cooking. Gay Bilson in Plenty. Digressions on Food  includes a chapter where she translates some of these and updates them and they make fascinating reading if you can get your hands on a copy of Bilson's book.
I especiallly like
'A cook who thinks every action makes him a great chef is like a man who repaints his garden gate and thinks he is an artist'
and I like his distrust of anyone who is thin
'The first time I dine at a restaurat, I always shake hands with the chef before I order. I know that if he is thin I will eat badly. If he is not only thin but unhappy, I flee.'
'Before judging a thin person, however, one must ask about his past: he may once have been fat.'

And to end on another food writer about whom I was almost totally ignorant, I was interested in Mark Bittman's piece on Colin Spencer (here), described by none other than our Germaine as 'the greatest living food writer'.

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