Archive for the ‘thought for food’ Category

Table arrangements

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Having returned from our travels we are setting about to make the Mill a proper home for Rabelais in its new incarnation. We’ve got desks set up, shelves are installed and being filled slowly.  The boxes from Middle Street remain sealed.  The integration will need our full attention and there are other parts of the working space that are calling to us at the moment. Moving a business is a tricky proposition.  We were gratified by the expressions of good will from so many of our customers in our last weeks at 86 Middle Street.

Don at his desk
Rabelais is will remain in hibernation for another month. Boxes need to be unpacked. Systems need to be set up. Everything needs to find its home. The kitchen is still a work in progress(!). That wall of books behind Don?  All reference.  He is thrilled to have it all out of boxes and in one place.

I have set up a mini photo studio to shoot books for catalogs and the website.  It feels luxurious to have a space dedicated to photography that doesn’t need to be broken down after use.  If we need some pictures I can simply take the books to the studio, shoot, download and we’re good to go.  Simple.

The backdrop is a beautiful pale blue Irish linen tablecloth that was a wedding gift, and that Raleigh chewed a hole in shortly after he first came to live with us. It is actually a perfect backdrop so I am glad the item has another life.  Was very sad to discover the hole by the new dog years ago. Shooting digitally on a tripod means that I can make a studio anywhere that the light is decent. The mill has big windows and we are on the second floor facing West Southwest, so the light changes in ways that make for creativity in my photography.  A good thing because honestly books are a little dull for photographing.  But I am seeing it as a challenge to make dynamic photos out of static subjects.

Rabelais is also gearing up for the biggest book fair of the year: The New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory, April 12-15. Don is furiously cataloguing new material from our travels and plotting what should and what should not come with us.  This will be our first outing at the New York fair, which is widely considered the most important book fair of the year. We are excited to see the reaction to our books and to meet new customers. For our first showing we will be sharing a booth with another dealer, which was not our choice.  We are happy to be sharing with our friends at Schubertiade, music goes so well with food, but wish that we could have had our own booth all to ourselves.  Space will be at a premium, so our choices of what to bring must be made very carefully.  If you are in New York  April 12th through the 15th, please stop in and say hello. There are some gorgeous new books that we will be bringing to New York.  And who knows there might even be some cookies….


Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

“The only real stumbling block is a fear of failure.
In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

Julia Child


Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

We had a snowstorm the other day.  A real snowstorm with snow that fell for a full twenty four hours. It left a foot of snow around our house.  An executive decision was made not to leave the house, even though it was a ‘workday’.  One of the benefits of being your own boss, and having a business without posted retail hours just yet. These kinds of days are one of the beautiful parts of winter in the Northeast. Sometimes you just have to stay indoors for a whole day. Being housebound leads to various trains of thought, one of which is: what do I have on hand to cook with?  My brain focused on Spaetzle for some reason.  Well, actually I’ve been mulling over Gnocchi since we had a delicious meal with Gallit and Chris of Fishbowl Farm last week.  Gallit made the best Gnocchi I have ever had with a magnificent lamb shoulder and some of their spinach.  I have never tried to make Gnocchi.  Always thought it was beyond me somehow, and that if I tried it I would fail.  Bad judgment on my part, but there it is.I have seen them made many times including when I was working in the kitchen at Craft and Damon Wise would make them every morning.  I would watch furtively from the pastry section.  So since we ate Gallit’s Gnocchi I have been toying with trying them, over and over, in my head.  I have all the ingredients at home.  Full disclosure here, I have still not yet tried, although I may tonight.

No, I thought I would dip my toe in the water with some Spaetzle. A hand-made noodle (dumpling?) of some similarity to Gnocchi, Spaetzle are generally considered a simpler enterprise.  They are made of just three ingredients: flour; egg, salt and a sprinkle of water.  Guess that’s four ingredients.   When Gallit was was giving me her tips on making Gnocchi she pulled out her battered copy of Beard on Pasta by the venerable James Beard.  I have one of those I remembered.  I haven’t pulled it out in a while, but it wasn’t buried too deep in our collection.  Not getting much use lately, it has seen better days.

It was a gift from my Father when I was in college.    He had been introduced to James Beard by his friend Raymond Sokolov who has written about food for decades, including most recently the Wall Street Journal.  When my parents divorced, Ray helped Dad set up his batterie de cuisine, including his early culinary library which included the likes of James Beard, Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey.   Dad had a brand new copy of Beard on Pasta the summer it came out and I made the fettucine with striped bass, except being on Martha’s Vineyard at the time, I substituted bluefish for the bass.  It was a hit at dinner that night so for my birthday, which falls in September, I was gifted my very own copy of this iconic title.

This is a book that has traveled a lot of ground with me.  It has been through many moves, various relationships, and at different points has inspired many meals.  When I took it back to college that first year I would make the fresh tomato sauce (to think I needed a recipe, but I was just 19) that called for four tablespoons of butter to be melted into the sauce at the end.  For some reason I remember it being a whole stick of butter, and that being the reason that I and all my house mates loved that pasta.  However I can no longer find mention of this step in the book.  Did I make it all up?

I look at this book now- dust jacket torn and stained- and see my culinary history. I just put a mylar cover on it.  Don asked why I was mylaring such a damaged dust jacket instead of just finding a clean copy.  Because it’s my copy.  I caused that book to look like that, it holds a small piece of my history and the stories that I carry from cooking from it. I may not cook from this book that frequently, but I am comforted by knowing that it is on my shelf.  Very proud that I did not get rid of it during the no-carb frenzy a decade or so ago.  It’s part of my library.  Something I hold dear.

So of course I was going to turn to Beard if I was to make Spaetzle. He has two variations, one called Spaetzle and another called Spatzen.  The difference is just the addition of a pinch of baking powder. Despite not having a Spaetzle-maker, I think my efforts were successful.  The delicate flavor of the dumplings was overwhelmed by the baked ham and roasted beet that I served it with.  But I will make them again.  And I am one step closer to making Gnocchi.

The things you do on a snowy day.

Thought for Food

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The pleasure in giving a dinner is mostly the pleasure of giving yourself.   The effort you take is your way of showing your company that you care about them enough to give them a good time.”

—  Marguerite Kelly &  Elia Parsons

Thought for Food

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Sir, respect your dinner: idolize it, enjoy it properly. You will be many hours in the week, many weeks in the year, and many years in your life happier if you do.”

William Thackeray


thought for food

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish.”

W. H. Auden


thought for food

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

We plan, we toil, we suffer-in the hope of what? A camel-load of idol’s eyes?  The title deeds to Radio City?  The Empire of Asia?  A trip to the moon?  No, no, no, no. Simply to wake just in time to smell coffee and bacon and eggs.  And, again I cry, how rarely it happens!  But when it does happen-then what a moment, what a morning, what a delight?.

J.B. Priestley


thought for food

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

“The greatest delight the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable.  I am not alone and unacknowledged.  They nod to me and I to them.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


thought for food

Saturday, June 18th, 2011
“A complete lack of caution is perhaps one of the true signs of a real gourmet: he has no need for it, being filled as he is with a God-given and intelligently self-cultivated sense of gastronomical freedom.”M.F.K. Fisher