Jonathan Gold explains why the term ‘fusion’ is no longer useful. Plus, he reviews a hot pot restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley. Elina Shatkin explores the food scenes in Game of Thrones.
Tagged with “food” (140)
Momofuku’s umami king, David Chang, is constantly questioning the institution of taste, and always aiming to progress in the culinary world. This week on Taste Matters, Mitchell Davis invites David into the studio to talk about his expanding restaurant empire, neglected flavors, and agriculture. Though David’s food is often described as bold, hear how David uses the subtlety of Japanese cuisine in his cooking. Find out why contemporary diners are obsessed with the idea of umami, and how David brought kimchi into the food vernacular. How do palates differ internationally? With restaurants in Australia, Canada, and beyond, David has learned the minute differences between the dining public’s tastes. Learn about Japan’s rich farming traditions, and hear how the Internet has been detrimental to food culture. You don’t want to miss this week’s edition of Taste Matters! Thanks to our sponsor, Fairway Market. Today’s break music has been provided by Jack Inslee.
‘Everything is fusion, and there are only two types of cuisine- good food and bad food. And we’re striving for the former.’ [4:05]
‘Taste matters not just in fine dining, but everywhere.’ [5:00]
‘If your goal is to stay the same, then you’re going to regress… Our goal is to reach a goal that we are never going to reach.’ [15:00]
‘The Japanese have been farming for thousands of years… They have a culture and history of food that we can’t even imagine.’ [21:20]
— David Chang on Taste Matters
In conversation with Kristen Wiewora Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher better known as the personality behind the award-winning blog Food in Jars, dedicated to the joyful preservation of time in a jar, storing away the tastes of all seasons for later. Organized by season, her new cookbook Preserving by the Pint focuses on small batches of jams, jellies, pickles, and chutneys. Her unique recipes, including Blueberry Maple Jam, Mustardy Rhubarb Chutney, Sorrel Pesto, and Zucchini Bread and Butter Pickles, are perfect for small households, families who get CSA shares, and those with small backyard gardens. (recorded 7/10/2014)
Sushi grew out of a way to ferment fish a couple thousand years ago and in the late 20th century began to take the world by storm. What began as traditional, rigid food has come to evolve with new delicious innovations being added to the original canon.
Bling, the Urban Dictionary tells me, is an onomatopoeic representation of light bouncing off a diamond. Or a Bob Kramer original hand-made chef’s knife, which goes for $2000 and up. Of course some people might be able to justify spending that kind of cash on what is, after all, one of the key tools of the trade … if your trade happens to be cooking. But my guest today, Peter Hertzmann, says he sees lots of knives, maybe not quite that expensive, hanging on the wall in people’s kitchens, unused. “Kitchen knives”, he told this year’s Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, are “the new bling”.
Peter teaches knife skills, has written extensively on the topic, and one of the things he is adamant about is that you never chop, you slice. Even if you’re pretty handy with a blade, you can probably learn a thing or two from his video Three Aspects of Knife Skills. I know I did.
The knife, that most coveted of kitchen tools, is Sheila Dillon’s subject to explore this week.
There’s supposed to be this whole mystique surrounding “proper” pasta: how to cook it, which shape with what sauce, how to eat it, all that. And if you’re not born to it, you’ll never really understand it. Well, maybe not, but with a little effort you can get a whole lot closer to authenticity. Maureen Fant, a writer and scholar who has lived in Rome since 1979, has a new book out with her collaborator Oretta Zanini de Vita, making their Encyclopedia of Pasta a tad more kitchen-friendly. Sauces and Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way is a curious blend of the constrained and the relaxed … just like Italy. One of the things they’re relaxed about is shapes for sauces, which came as a bit of a surprise. One of the things they’re not relaxed about is overcooked pasta, which did not.
There was so much else we could have talked about, and the book is a one of those cookbooks that is as much a good read as a manual of instruction. As for my beloved cacio e pepe, fashionable or not, I am greatly encouraged by the the news that “[t]his is not a dish to make for a crowd … The smaller the quantity, the better the result.” That’s all the encouragement I need.
What, really, is the point of conserving agricultural biodiversity? The formal sector, genebanks and the like, will say it is about genetic resources and having on hand the traits to breed varieties that will solve the challenges tomorrow might throw up. Thousands of seed savers around the world might well agree with that, at least partially. I suspect, though, that for most seed savers the primary reason is surely more about food, about having the varieties they want to eat. David Cavagnaro has always championed that view. David’s is a fascinating personal history, which currently sees him working on the Pepperfield Project, “A Non-Profit Organization Located in Decorah, IA Promoting and Teaching Hands-On Cooking, Gardening and Agrarian Life Skills”. I first met David 15 or 20 years ago at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah. This year, I was lucky enough to be invited there again, and I lost no time in finding time for a chat.
David pointed out that immigrants are often keen gardeners and, perforce, seed savers as they struggle to maintain their distinctive food culture in a new land. That’s true for the Hmong in Minneapolis, Asian communities in England and, I’m sure, many others elsewhere. What happens as those communities assimilate? The children and grandchildren of the immigrant gardeners are unlikely to feel the same connection to their original food culture, and may well look down on growing food as an unsuitable occupation. Is immigrant agricultural biodiversity liable to be lost too? Efforts to preserve it don’t seem to be flourishing.
Seed saving for its own sake, rather than purely as a route to sustenance, does seem to be both a bit of a luxury and to require a rather special kind of personality. John Withee, whose bean collection brought David Cavagnaro to Seed Savers Exchange and people like Russ Crow, another of his spritual heirs, collect and create stories as much as they do agricultural biodiversity. And that’s something formal genebanks never seem to document.
Great wheels of parmesan cheese, stamped all about with codes and official-looking markings, loudly shout that they are the real thing: Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP. They’re backed by a long list of rules and regulations that the producers must obey in order to qualify for the seal of approval, rules that were drawn up by the producers themselves to protect their product from cheaper interlopers. For parmesan, the rules specify how the milk is turned into cheese and how the cheese is matured. They specify geographic boundaries that enclose not only where the cows must live but also where most of their feed must originate. But they say nothing about the breed of cow, which you might think could affect the final product, one of many anomalies that Zachary Nowak, a food historian, raised during his presentation at the recent Perugia Food Conference on Terroir, which he helped to organise.
In the end the whole question of certification is about marketing, prompted originally by increasingly lengthy supply chains that distanced consumers from producers. One problem, as Zach pointed out, is that in coming up with the rules to protect their product, the producers necessarily take a snapshot of the product as it is then, ignoring both its history and future evolution. They seek to give the impression that this is how it has always been done, since time immemorial, while at the same time conveniently forgetting aspects of the past, like the black wax or soot that once enclosed parmesan cheese, or the saffron that coloured it, or the diverse diet that sustained the local breed of cattle. One aspect of those forgettings that brought me up short was the mezzadria, a system of sharecropping that survived well into the 1960s. Zach has written about it on his website; some of the memories of a celebrated Perugian greengrocer offer a good starting point.
Will some enterprising cheesemaker take up the challenge of producing a cheese as good as Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP somewhere else? No idea, but if anyone does, it’ll probably be a cheesemaker in Vermont, subject of the next show.
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