Slow Food Columbus Blog

Living the slow life… one day at a time

Bear

with 2 comments

Simple Food

Arcimboldo - FallI should be clear about something from the onset. The rest of the founders are people with a genuine, innate talent for food, and some have actual culinary training and experience. I can in all honesty lay claim to neither distinction. That isn’t to say that I cannot cook at all, or that I cannot appreciate good food—I do both. But the sad fact is that the world of cooking violates one of America’s most cherished ideals: the notion that, although we are of course not all born equal, we could, with sufficient application of effort, achieve great success in nearly any field not barred to us by actual disability. While this aspect of the American dream may in fact be true in some, even many, realms of society—and is surely far more true in modern American society than it was in the rigidly stratified polities of the past—, it simply does not hold in cooking. There is no shame, for me, in confessing that I will never be able to make Raviolone alla ‘Nino Bergese’ con tartufo bianco d’Alba the way that Marco Forneris does at La Libera. (Indeed, wouldn’t it be sad for him if I could?) Nor is there any shame in admitting that, even though that dish actually brought a tear to my eye, others surely appreciate it on a deeper level than I do.

All of which just means, as Clint Eastwood put it so simply so long ago, that “a man’s got to know his limitations.” I’m pretty good at imagining how two or three flavors go together, and I’m even pretty creative at times within those limits—ask Colleen about my parsnip and rhubarb purée, or my Irish oatmeal with honey and cardamom—, but beyond that I am flummoxed. I stand in awe of those who can combine more flavors than I have fingers on one hand, in any meaningful proportions, and actually have each one usefully inform the final product. (Exception: I can do this with chili. But so can anyone.) On the other hand, my limitations have led me to focus more on simple, everyday food than most people who cook would ever care to do. You might be thrilled at cooking something delicate and baroque from Charlie Trotter’s cookbook, and if you are, good for you. Personally, my eyes light up when I read John Thorne’s account of how to cook potatoes, with just butter and a little salt and pepper (parsley optional), in a cast iron skillet—a process which, when done properly, takes about an hour and a half and produces crispy cubes filled with a light, fluffy, and shockingly potato-flavored center that makes you realize just how good French fries will never be.

So I’m devoting my page to the recipes that excite my passion the most—namely, the best recipes I’ve found for really simple food. Thorne’s potatoes have to top the list, because they’re the quintessential slow food recipe. I’ll include others as I collect them. To make the list, a recipe has to be simple and it has to bring out some extraordinary quality in ordinary food. If you have a nomination, by all means send it to me, and I’ll be more than happy to try it (though I have to warn you, precisely because my palate is not as refined as many, the bar for wowing me with a simple food recipe is pretty high). If you’d rather be a consumer, I’d encourage you to give each of these recipes a try and decide for yourself whether they’re worth the trouble. I think they are; and if I do, I bet you will too.

To see the recipes, simply click on the links below.

Written by Bear

January 27, 2008 at 8:54 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I think when you’ve got limitations (like both you and I do, neither one of us being “trained”), recipes are a great place to start, and a great place to get inspiration. Recipes help you finally figure out what these combos taste like, and then give you ideas of how you can modify them – like “ok, this is really good, what would happen if I added a touch of nutmeg to the mix?” Or, like we were discussing last night, you just sit down and start experimenting and tasting.

    That’s what I love so much about this group – you’re all as excited about tasting as I am.

    Columbus Foodie

    April 28, 2008 at 10:19 pm

  2. I agree completely. And the reason that simple recipes work for me is that they’re much more like a controlled experiment — fewer ingredients, fewer things to tinker with, far easier to understand how a change in one input has an impact on the final product. A dish with ten different spices in minute quantities is not a dish to be experimenting with if you want to get to know how one of those spices interacts with other foods.

    Bear

    April 30, 2008 at 3:38 pm


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