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The Yummy Mummy

Updated: 2017-12-10T17:32:42.857-05:00




Hi everyone - 

I'm pretty thrilled to tell you that I am blogging again. Thanks for waiting me out while I did some non-blogging writing. I needed the time. And I needed the time to freshen up, get inspired, re-connect to the reason I wanted to write here at all. Also, thanks for your emails and comments asking where the hell I went and what the hell was wrong with me. It was nice to be considered. 

So, please join me at It's more writing, less food, but it's where I am right now. 

xo Kim

Charcutepalooza. Nearly The End.


When Cathy and I first talked about curing meat together, it was barely more than an idea for me, a sexy idea. I envisioned myself hanging salamis and standing in the basement, cutting off hunks of the stuff for people to sample, with the jack knife I just happened to have in the back pocket of my jeans. I imagined myself talking about mold and humidity, as if it were second nature. I envisioned a passion for meat so deep, I would give it all up to make artisanal charcuterie, which I would sell out of the back of our jeep, under-ground style, to restaurants, chefs and Brooklyn hipsters. That never happened. I love curing meat, but not so much I want to sell it on Flatbush Avenue. I also love brining, making bacon and even tangling with sausages. I like the feel of the meat in a way I never had before, probably because I never felt so much of it, so intimately. I learned just about every kind of cut of meat can be confited, which is both weird and amazing and makes you want to try it out on anything you have lying around. I am no longer afraid of opening Michael Ruhlman's book and doing something from it, anything. It’s not my calling, but it has changed my kitchen, changed me. But more than meat and the kitchen swagger, what made this year great was you, or really all of us together - being a part of a school that wasn't a school, the bad sausage jokes, people bickering about pink salt, the moment we made something we were quite sure we couldn't make and it came out amazing, how we stared botulism in the face and confronted our fear that we might kill a family member with our home-cured meats, how we figured out that mold is sometimes something you can just scrape off and move on from, the idea we were all in it together, not doing this alone. That was the best. That's why you should read every single one of the posts below, because these people made something bigger than meat. And that's what we had hoped Charcutepalooza would be. Thank you for that. Final Challenge ReminderJust to remind you all: December 6th is the due date for the final challenge. THAT IS TOMORROW! We must have it by midnight. Please send us: •your name, blog URL and email address•a profile photo (jpg format)•50 words describing your Charcutepalooza experience (not your bio, just what you learned this year)•links to the 12 Charcutepalooza monthly challenge posts on your blog•links to TWO of the Charcutepalooza blog posts you want to nominate for the grand prize competitionSend all of it to CharcutepaloozaATgmailDOTCOM. We will be looking for an overall knowledge and creative undertaking of the challenge, your original or adapted recipes, good writing, good photography. This is going to be so ridiculously hard for us. We have been blown away with all the posts lately. But we are so excited to see what you've done. Thank you for playing along this year. I can't even begin to describe how I'll miss the #Charcutepalooza hashtag on my Tweetdeck. Best Posts1. Bite Me New EnglandSpanish Chorizo as food…and jewelry2. Hounds in the kitchenSix year old Lilly makes lardo in what may be the best food video ever. 3. One Vanilla BeanHome-made Chorizo with a recipe for Lentejas Estofadas con Chorizo4. Taste Food BlogWilted Spinach Salad with Warm Balsamic Vinaigrette, Toasted Pinenuts and Cured Pork5. In Scott’s KitchenMan on a meat-curing mission….salami, bresaola, soppressata, Noix de jambon, proscuitto6. A Cook BlogSalami & Cheddar sandwich…totally from scratch, top to bottom7. Eat, Drink, man, Woman, Dogs, CatDuck Salami8. NaomalyFacing Fears: This is way bigger than Chorizo9. Vivek's Epicurean AdventureTurning Pepperoni failure into inspiration. 10. Belm BlogSalami, Bresaeola, Lonzino in steps, or...being unwilling to "cop to the suckage."EXTRA: A Cook BlogEight amazing Thanksgiving courses using charcuterie in EVERY COURSE. Best Photos1. Dabblings & Whimsey 2. Snappy Service café 3. Nic Cooks 4. Eat Live Travel Write 5. Butcher's Apprentice[...]

Chicken Gallantine


This month's Charcutepalooza Challenge is stretching. That means we are taking a duck or chicken and making it feed as many people as we can, using all the bits and scraps, letting nothing go to waste. I made a Chicken Gallantine - a precious rolled-meat concoction that requires you to flay the skin off the chicken - Spanish inquisition style - in one single piece, debone the whole chicken, make pate out of the forcemeat, fold the forcemeat over the partially-grilled breasts so they are a snug surprise in the middle of the roll, and force all of it back inside the skin - that you just took off the chicken - and poach it in broth. It sounds epic, like a kid who takes a radio apart and then reassembles it in a totally different way, and it's a little like that. Making a Gallantine is part mischievous kid and part mad-scientist-with-a-boning-knife, but the exercise helps you really get to know the chicken. It forces you to see and feel everything. And it does take a smallish chicken that might feed four people and turns it into a lovely, flavorful dish that feeds eight easily. Also, this was much easier than any of our casing challenges. Once you've stuffed your own sausages, made your own hot dogs, the Gallantine is child's play. Cathy got us in tip-top shape over the summer. I used Ruhlman's recipe out of Charcuterie. I did a few things differently - I added sauteed spinach to boost the flavor, used more chicken liver, added some extra chicken fat I had in the freezer instead of the pork fat, and poached it in broth made from a smoked chicken - thanks Peter! - to give it a little kick. You can really play with this dish. Here's one of the side dishes that worked well with the Gallantine. It is, I think, the very last hurrah of summer: Yellow Beans Braised in Cream & Thyme. It's rich and fatty along-side the dainty, elegant slices of Gallantine. Serve it with roasted root vegetables and a salad, and the meal blends together all the best of late summer and early Fall. Yellow Beans Braised in Cream & ThymeThis recipe was one my mother made for me as a child when dad's garden beans came in. Actually she made the dish much differently, but this is how I eat it now. It is a marriage of an old food memory made better by reading Jennifer Perillo's Milk-Braised Zucchini recipe, something she made after we ate (and swooned over) the same dish at Prune. I used her technique for coating the beans in a roux, something my mother wouldn't have done, but makes a simple dish all the more decadent. That and the copious amounts of cream and butter - that was my touch. Ingredients4 tablespoons butter1 tablespoon or so flour1 lb. yellow beans, trimmed and cut into spoon size lengths1 1/2 cups cream1/2 cup milkThymeSalt and pepper to tastePreparationMelt 1/2 the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir into the butter. Let it cook for about a minute. Add the beans, making sure they are well-coated by the four/butter mixture. Stir in the cream, milk, the remaining knob of butter, thyme, and salt and pepper. Turn heat to a simmer and let braise for 10-12 minutes. The cream will occasionally froth up, just give it a stir or bring your temperature down a little. Just make sure you don't over-cook your beans or they'll get soggy. You want them to have just a little bite. Serve in a bowl with flecks of thyme. Here are the best posts from September's Packing Challenge:1. Foodie LawyerPate de Campagne2. Cookbook ArchaeologyPork & Prahok Terrine - Cambodian style3.Lighter & Local English Pork Pie4. Butchers ApprenticeGala Pie5. Good for the PalateVietnamese Spiced Paté and Banh Mi6. NaomalyA very piggy birthday & Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Pork Pie7. Do Love WalkPate & Fried Oysters8. Bite Me New EnglandPate en Croute (Duck Breast and Pork) - hilarious, beautiful & Goober makes an appearance9. Saint TigerlilyThe Titus Andronicus Meat Pie10. Biscuits of TodayRustic Chicken Liver Mousse with PistachiosAnd the best photos:1. Tasting Notes from the Edge2. Eat Drink RI3. L[...]

Chicken Liver Pate


This month's Charcutepalooza challenge is packing - and that means pate. I love pate of all kinds, so does David, but as we get further into the challenges, I struggle more and more with what I can make - dishes that work with the rules of Charcutepalooza and ones that my kids will eat. It never pays for me to make anything that only half the family will eat, which is why I never make headcheese, or stuffed trotters. We were great through sausages, and bacon, and we flew through brining, and somehow I managed to inspire them to eat a shrimp terrine last month, but loaves of compressed meat were going to be a hard sell even on a good day. Could I make a pate that the whole family will eat? I knew that doing something rustic would never work - too many weird obtrusive pieces sticking out here and there, and forget inlaying a little meat surprise in the middle of the pate. That's the kind of weird science that would have me banned from the kitchen. I decided on a pate that was smooth, spreadable, could be served without turning it out of the pot into a loaf. It could be sold to the children as a fun spread, the way almond butter is a fun spread. I went with my favorite pate of all time - chicken liver. It might take a few go-arounds, but I figured I could sell this. Chicken liver pate is not just simple, it is also inexpensive, even if you are buying the best livers, from the best chickens, at the happiest farms, and it barely requires a recipe. In fact, I'm not going to give you one. I'm going to just tell you to buy chicken livers - you won't need many of them, a little over a half pound of livers makes three small pots full - take them home to your kitchen, gently saute them in copious amounts of butter, onions, garlic, add salt and pepper, and handfuls of fragrant herbs, whatever beautiful herbs you've picked up at the market, let it all cook together about 5-6 minutes until the livers are not red, but a lovely pink inside, and add your favorite booze. I added tequila, but you can go right ahead and improvise, bourbon, cognac, it's all good. Heavy-handedness is mandatory here. Put the boozed up livers in a food processor, give them a whirl or two, or ten, until you have a nice thick consistency, no solids, just something like a thick, thick shake. Check for seasoning and add some salt if you think it needs it. Pour the mixture into pots. Cover the top with a few sprigs of herbs and pour a little clarified butter over the top. Put pots in the fridge for a few hours until they set. Serve a cold pot with toasted rounds of baguette, quartered figs, a hunk of good manchego, some slices of duck sausage, cornichons and if my kids are around, a few slices of star fruit and raspberries. As of tonight, I am working at 50%. Lucy loved pate, slathered on toasts with side helpings of cheese and fruit. Edie just ate the toasts. But I take my victories as I get them. I'll be making this again, and I'll take another crack at her. Someday, even if it kills me, she'll love it, just as I do. Kim _________________________________________________________________________ Here are our best-of picks for the binding challenge: 1. Chow Eng Down Tempura Head cheese 2. The Messy Epicure Saffron and Seafood Terrine 3. Artful Wish Chicken Liver Terrines with Shallots 4. Dabblings & Whimsey Chicken Liver Terrine with Chipotle and Raisins 5. One Vanilla Bean Chicken Liver Terrine & Home-made Ritz Crackers 6. Eat Live Travel Write Insane head cheese 7. Inspired By Wolfe Xiao long bao 8. Sensible Worlds The Big Two-Headed Hog Dish 9. Good For The Palate Toe Cheese (Trotters) 10. In Scott's Kitchen Scallop & Crab Mousseline Ravioli in Leek Brown Butter Best Pics: 1. Taste Food Blog Kale Wrapped Salmon and Scallop Mousseline with Tomato Coulis 2. Bona Fide Farm Parsleyed Ham in Aspic 3. A Cook Blog French dip bánh mì 4. Hounds in the Kitchen Almost All-Ohio Trout and Shrimp Mousseline 5. Naomaly Tip to Toe Terrine [...]

Salad d'Imbécile


It takes great talent to mess up a Nicoise Salad. I mean, it can be served many ways but basically it has the same ingredients - tuna, potatoes, capers, a lush bed of buttery greens, red onions, a pile of cornichons, a tangy mustard-y vinaigrette, some quickly-blanched haricot verts, maybe a strip or two of anchovies from a tin. And of course, the olives. The briney little suckers that make the salad, that salad. I was going to be tricky. I was going to sub-out the tuna and replace it with delicate terrines of seafood - the kind I was tasked with making for this Charcutepalooza "binding" challenge - and create a funky take on Salad Nicoise. I was quite sure you would never miss the tuna. I made the terrines the night before. Rock shrimp (Lucy's favorite) and crab (Edie's favorite). I got all my ingredients ready in the morning. I tasted the terrines. Beautiful, light, delicate, still tasting of the sea, and slightly reminiscent of the shrimp salad sandwiches my mother made for me as a child. Then, that thing happens where you have this idea that you should ask your husband for advice about something. Like how to set up your photo. It seems like a good idea in the moment, I mean he is competent about so many things. So you do it, you ask him, and then 10 seconds later you realize asking your husband about food photography might be the biggest mistake ever, because pretty soon, he is arranging beans and peppers into an aerodynamic, architectural, 1980's era Nouvelle Cuisine-inspired tower and waxing poetic about food photography.He produces theatre and concerts. He is not Penny De Los Santos. Still, he made me stop and shoot his plate. Then, it was my turn. I called my version "rustic". I denounced his blatant use of a single nugget of lettuce. I called it un-real, ridiculous. He countered by telling me my rustic interpretation was "throwing lettuce on a plate". He talked about precision and design. I talked about homey-ness, comfort and practicality. I mocked his perfectly-placed pickles. I asked him how many people he thought four pickles was going to feed. He accused me of using more ingredients to beef up my photos. He whined about unequal treatment and standards. He lectured me about how photography is art, not a literal plate that he would bring to the table. He mocked my deconstructed salad, calling it "silly". I countered with an oration about cooking, the ins and outs of actually producing food so that real people, not tiny mice, could eat it. He used this is an opportunity to remind me how mind-numbingly literal I can be. We bickered. We bitched. We criticized. We blasted each others creations. We accused each other of secret sabotage. We were merciless, as only a husband and wife can be, safe on ground we created together, with rules we both understood. It was absurdly fun. More than once, we caught each other smirking. It was all safely violent, all that sparring and squaring off. And that is why, when I took my picture, and my head was full of theories and ideas and one-upsmanship, while driven to be right and make a better plate, a prettier plate than David, with my head in this game we created, I served a table full of guests at tea and promptly forgot the potatoes, the olives, the anchovies and the hard boiled eggs. Just left them in the fridge. Forgot they existed. It was an Idiot's Salad. And I'm pretty sure that's all David's fault. But yours will be different. You will refrain from asking your spouse about food photography. Or what's happening in Congress. You'll stay on task, and make these adorable little terrines. They are very light, perfect for tea, easily adaptable with different herbs and seasonings, and if you remember all of the heartier ingredients you left in the fridge, perfect with a Nicoise Salad.Kim_____________________________________________________________________________Shrimp & Crab Mini-Terrines with Cilantro & ChivesThis is a simple take on Michael Ruhlman’s “Maryland[...]



Our tired, lazy, dirty, comfortable, sweltering, familiar, life in the grass.

xo YM

Strawberries & Cream Bars. Kinda. Fingers Crossed.


Last weekend, I wanted to do a fun cooking project with the girls. Their friends, Nakamae and Kissa and their parents spent the weekend in the country with us, so there was lots of help. I want to fess up right here and say that if you think I cook with my kids for lofty, ethical reasons, think again. I do it because playing Barbie sucks. The very idea of Edie being Malibu Barbie and me having to be crazy Ken with the bad hair, fake tan and no genitals, and having to make interesting conversation over the Malibu corvette, makes my eyes roll back in my head. Give me a messy kitchen, tiny hands and a bag full of sugar tipped over on the floor any day. This time, I decided we should make Everyday Food's Strawberry Cream Bars. There was much fighting at first - I want this, give me that, I'm sitting here!- so I divided up the kids into two groups: Little Girls (Edie & Kissa) and Big Girls (Lucy & Nakamae). The Little Girls drew the strawberry part. The Big Girls drew the cream. Edie and Kissa ate the strawberries. And put a few of them in the blender. There was pouring. And tandem tipping of the jar to get every single drop into the pan. Then, we popped the strawberry mixture into the freezer, and I excused the Little Girls, and called the Big Girls to the kitchen. The Big Girls were tasked with cracking seven eggs, which is like a dream job for six year olds.And we learned that separating yolks from whites is easier with our fingers, than tossing it back and forth in the shell. And that picking yolk bits out of a puddle of whites is not fun or terribly easy. Then the girls figured out that funny things happen when you turn the Kitchen Aid up to 10, while Mommy has her back turned. Like you can spatter your best friend and your mom's kitchen with cream, and laugh, laugh, laugh your ass off. I found cream on the ceiling. There was the ritual eating of the cream with our fingers. Constant testing of the food is a given in my kitchen. And then we folded the cream onto to the slushy strawberry and put it in the freezer to harden into a beautiful bar that Martha Stewart says should look like this: But Martha doesn't really understand my kids. Because after a couple of hours in the freezer, our bars looked like this:I started moaning under my breath about how we should've waited, and they don't look like bars, and how we ruined the bars with our insistence that they should be eaten too soon, and David, like a guru, said: If we waited for them to form into bars, we wouldn't be able to eat them now. Which, I have to say, is a darned good point. So we grabbed spoons and ate. And it was messy and formless and soupy and I have to say, luscious, creamy, fruity, and frosty. The perfect outdoor, sitting-on-the-deck-before-plunging-into-the-sprinkler, kind of treat. Also, they were good enough that you might find your husband, alone in a dark corner of the house, with the last of the bowl, secretly polishing it off when he thinks no one is looking. Someone call the Paleo Police, my husband is eating sugar. We will make these again, but we will never even try for the fussy bars, (which aren't fussy unless you are six and terribly impatient.) Instead, I plan on taking Lucy's advice and waiting until no one is looking and swirling the cream into the fruit and freezing it that way. Big, fat, white, careless swirls. For some things, children are smarter than Martha Stewart. In case you don't get Everyday Food (which you should - it's practical, simple, straight-forward and the recipes are do-able for every level of home cook), here is the recipe. Make this instead of playing with freakin' Barbie. La la la, Ken you're such a superstar...I love your tan...Wanna climb in my pink corvette and go for a ride? You'll thank me. xo YM___________________________________________________________________________Strawberries and Cream Barsfrom Everyday Food2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled, ha[...]

I Like The Kind of Dinners...


Where I make egg rolls for an appetizer to a much bigger dinner...

And everyone decides they'd just rather have them for dinner and nothing else. And they want to eat their egg rolls while watching mindless TV, in this case Bullwinkle and Rocky, and read their books about how to build a deck, (obviously that's David) and disobey all the rules about how families should eat together at the table. How we should be having stimulating conversation and sitting up straight in our chairs.

Bah Humbug. I sometimes need a dinner like this.

Because the Fourth of July is over. We ate a lot of food together, and cooked together, and ran around playing with our friends in the grass and the woods, and demo'd some of the bigger parts of our country house, (picture me with a crowbar and matted hair) and had some seriously late sleepovers, where all the kids slept together in the same bed and that was fun, but didn't get any of us very much sleep...

And now we need to recover.

So, give us bad TV, home-made egg rolls and Daddy's lap. That is just the post-holiday therapy we need.

xo YM

PS: I use Steamy Kitchen's recipe for egg rolls. I adapt them pretty heavily these days, but this is a terrific egg roll recipe from her mom, with a great wrapping pictorial. Try them. They rock.



I learned a few things while making bratwurst this week for Charcutepalooza - like how every time you turn on the meat grinder, children march into your kitchen, look at you with mad scrunched up faces and accuse you of ruining their Bullwinkle viewing time with your loud, banging machine. And how the kitchen counters fill up with a clutter of dirty, raw meat-caked dishes and pots, until the dish washing takes almost as long as the sausage-making itself. And how every time you finish, no matter how well you clean, there's a tiny voice in your head that wonders if every time a kid touches the counter, they aren't really dragging their little fingers through a patch of lingering salmonella and we'll be spending the night in the ER. There's a sense with sausage-making that it could all go well, or just very very badly. There's also the smell of the hog casings, if your nose gets a little too close. The fact that you have to bribe a member of your family to stand there pushing meat through a pig intestine - fun - so you can actually create something that resembles a sausage. And there's the little unexpected problems, like how people - small whiny people - might clamor for pancakes in the middle of your sausage-making and you have to stop and make a whole other meal in the middle of your raw meat explosion. (Thanks Jennie Perillo, for your "instant" home-made pancake mix. You saved me.) Or how you're chugging right along stuffing your sausages, you're in the flow with your unwilling partner, child or neighbor, the stuffer is cranking, sausages look imminent, and the hog casing breaks and meat is flying through the air, scaring the cats and freaking out the lingering vegetarian neighbor, who you didn't think was coming over, but did, and is now more resolute than ever about not eating meat. Yes, that happened. Sausage-making always feels epic to me. No matter how many times I do it, it always ends up feeling like an episode of "I Love Lucy". But weirdly, I like it a lot. The craziness and chaos and unpredicability are what I love about the kitchen and cooking. You just never know what might happen. Like the platter above. After making the bratwurst from Michael Ruhlman's book, the rest is all down hill. There's Kate in the Kitchen's Home-made Garlic Mustard, pickled asparagus with recipe by Mrs. Wheelbarrow and pickled carrots made with basically the same recipe, only with 1/3 cup of Florida Gallberry Honey. (Big thanks to my good friend Merry Jennifer for the honey). And the Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad from Merrill, which moves brussel sprouts out of the Fall and right into the Summer. I used her recipe almost exactly, except I subbed out the cheese and added bacon.What I like about this platter is that it's simple, because each of the individual components is made by hand or with some kind of love and attention - because the ingredients themselves are fresh and taste good - the whole thing is pretty simple and spectacular all at once. If you make everything ahead, leisurely over a couple afternoons, you're just plating right before lunch. But if you're a nincompoop like me, you just do everything in one time-intensive, crazy, mad-dash across the kitchen. And it's still worth it. xo YM_____________________________________________________________________Here are the Best of the Blogs for the Stuffing Challenge:1. The Messy EpicureAsia Dogs with Mango Slaw and Hoisin Mustard2. The Butcher's ApprenticeMerguez, Tabouleh, grilled peppers and Mom's bread3. Maurine's Kitchen ThoughtsItalian Sausage with Duck & Pancetta (and a tribute to mom)4. Hounds In The KitchenMint Lamb Sausage5. Lighter & LocalSpicy Garlic-Ginger Chicken Sausage6. Eat Drink man Woman Dogs CatThe spectacular fail - duck sausage7. Sir Food AlotYou Must Respect the Process (with gladiator pics)8. A Cook BlogA Tale of Two Sausages9. Au Jardin Potag[...]

The Magic Wood Fairy Smoke Dance


This is a picture of Edie. Eating smoked salmon. Word to the wise - don't leave your meat or fish hanging around our house because as soon as you turn your back to make a cocktail, someone will throw it in the smoker. And then magic wood fairies will do the smoke dance around the backyard. I think a lot of cookbook authors underplay the importance of the magic wood fairy smoke dance, but I find it to be a critical step in the smoking process. Later after the chanting has stopped, we have this:Little children stuffing their faces with salmon and making ravenous beasts of themselves. And then, like vultures descending on dying prey, they tear through the food, leaving only scraps And satiated, surveying the carnage, put their tiny hobbit feet up on the table like barefoot heathens...And then make complete pests of themselves until their poor mother photographs them pretending to be catatonic. I don't know why. I've stopped asking. xo YM[...]

What David Got For Father's Day...


Two little girls peeking into the back window to secretly spy on Daddy as he goes to the bathroom.

So, basically David's Father's Day present is...not getting a single moment to himself.

But this is what happens when your kids want to be around you as much as they can, even when you are taking a pee, because they think you might be the most wonderfully magical, intensely fun, consistently and predictably loving person on the planet. He'll just have to deal with that kind of constant adoration.

He's also going to stain the back deck today. And he's making me help him. Lord. Doesn't he just want a tie or something? Is hard labor really the appropriate gift here? He bought me my own paint brush.

Obviously, he's right in his glory.

xo YM

Before The Show


Yesterday, Edie had her ballet recital. She wasn't nervous. In fact, she was giddy. And unlike last year when David and I had to be recital helpers so one of us could always stay near her, something she demanded, this year we sat in the audience. And Edie went with her class. She sat with them through the whole show. She went backstage with them and her teacher. She walked onto the stage without us nearby in the wings. When we checked on her at intermission, she smiled, waved, and then turned back around to talk to the little girl sitting next to her in the same identical billowy dress. Not one bit of her needed us. She was so this other girl, one I'm just starting to know - confident at her core, sure of who she is, unafraid, comfortable in a path she chose for herself. I thought when this day came, I'd be sad. Maybe I'd feel like I lost something. But I'm just so unimaginably proud of her. These pictures are of Edie before her show, just moments after she put on the dress, and pointed her toes, and turned from girl to ballerina. xo YM[...]

When Adventurous Eating is Really Just Picky Eating in Sheep's Clothing


When people compliment me on what good eaters my kids are, I tell them this story:I was invited to a wonderful brunch for bloggers at Loews Hotel here in NYC by my well-connected and good friend Carol Caine. The food was terrific. There was a station with short rib eggs benedict that I still remember. I remember it in my mouth. It was that good. And I had seconds. Maybe thirds. And I made googley eyes at the chef and then he told me his secret short rib technique, which involved an absurdly long cooking time and juicing up the Hollandaise with short rib braising liquid. And there were other stations, omelettes made fresh and at the direction of the diner, pancakes like they had been pumped with air, thick slabs of brioche french toast smothered in berry compote, buckets of beautiful fruit and yogurt and granola. And there were lunch stations, too. The room was littered with stations. Lucy ate eggs, made especially to her liking by some young chef who probably owed $150,000 in culinary school loans and wondered why the hell he was taking direction from a 6 year old. But he did, and he made her eggs just the way she liked them - whites only, over easy, fried in butter, just a little salt, no pepper. I carried Edie around the room, looking at all the food, asking her what she might like to eat, pointing out this scrumptious sandwich or that panko-breaded, asian-inspired, crunchy fried chicken. Nothing. Just lots of head shaking. She didn't want any of it. Not breakfast. Not lunch. We went round the stations again. Nothing. I gave up. I knew we were headed for a meltdown if we didn't get something in her stomach and Lucy was having too much fun with the other kids to leave. I quietly asked someone from the kitchen to get me a chocolate milk. I could get through the event if she had chocolate milk. A little pick me up. It was survival parenting. There was no shame in that. I could feed her something wholesome and nourishing later. For now, it was about getting by. And then we saw it - there was a room just off the side with a whole new undiscovered station in it. Why hadn't we seen it before? Sushi! We rushed to the station, almost no one was there. Maybe it was too early, maybe it was off to the side, but that sushi chef was our bitch for the rest of the brunch. He made her california rolls, eel avocado rolls, and spider rolls. She sat at my lap at one of the many little tables, where people mingled and chatted and kids played around us, and stuffed big fat slices of maki into her mouth in between running back to the sushi chef, where he would hold up his sushi rolling mat and slowly, step-by-step show her how he made the sushi. She was in heaven. That's when it happened. Bloggers, moms, strangers - seduced by the image of my kid with soft shell crab legs hanging out of her mouth - started coming over to me and telling me what a "New York City Kid" I had, what an adventurous eater, how their kids would never eat sushi, how they wish they knew my secret, how they wish their kids would try different foods. It went on. I stammered a lot, nodded and smiled. It was a lie that I couldn't really explain in a quick 20 second conversation in a loud banquet room after getting drunk on short ribs and mimosas, with my cute kid, who - oh look! - just shoved another piece of raw salmon into her pie hole. But here's the truth - that's the only thing in the whole room she would eat. Not the plainest eggs, or most barren, syrup-less pancake, or bone-dry piece of French toast. There isn't a sandwich in the world that would pass over her lips unless you put Nutella in between two slices of toasted bagel. The only thing she would eat at Loews was the sushi.And do you know why? Because Lucy went to preschool next to a very [...]

Screw Sausages!


Every once in awhile you take on a kitchen project and somewhere in the middle - when the sink is piled high with dirty, grimy dishes, when raw chicken and chunks of fat back cover nearly every inch of the kitchen counter, your clothes, your arms up to your elbows, and there isn't a single inch of uncontaminated space, when the children are clamoring for food and a meal is still hours away - and you think, "Why the hell do people do this?...Why am I doing this?" That's the question my best friend Jennie Perillo was asking when I invited her and her family to come our place in the country and make sausages in casings with me. Okay, I didn't actually invite her to the house to make sausages. She was duped. It was Memorial Day weekend and we were planning on hanging out, having fun, relaxing, our girls running around the house playing together, our men, with a couple of long necks, kicking up their feet on the deck. Boooooring. So,I had this great idea, or at least that's what it seemed at the time - what if we did the Charcutepalooza challenge together? What if two old friends got together in the kitchen and made a couple different kinds of sausage and stuffed it into casings? I had never used my new fiery-red Kitchen Aid stand-up mixer with stuffing and grinding attachments. See it there? Gorgeous.(Thank you, Kitchen Aid.)It was perfect. I couldn't even see where there'd be a hitch. We'd laugh. We'd gossip. We'd cook. We'd drink wine until we couldn't stand. We'd eat home-made sausage for dinner. Everyone would love us. We would love ourselves. Jennie would wear her trademark sunglasses, even in the kitchen. It was the perfect plan.Until we couldn't find the blade for the grinding attachment. Of course this doesn't seem like a big deal unless you consider that we had been trying to grind meat without a blade for an hour and a half. There was the slow whining of the Kitchen Aid and the long strips of fat back entwining themselves around the gears, never getting smaller or grinding up, and jamming up the machine. Countless times we stopped, pulled the attachment apart, pulled out all the meat by hand, washed the pieces and started again. There was raw meat everywhere. Eventually, Jennie went on YouTube. Apparently, if you don't have the little piece of metal that actually, get this - CUTS UP THE MEAT - grinding cannot take place. This is when you start feeling a little like Mo and Curly. We plan B'd it. We decided to grind with my food processor, but neither of us was really prepared for the fact that my processor was made circa 1977 and could maybe process a banana into baby food (which was why I had it, to make baby food) but couldn't even remotely tackle the big chunks of pork fat. Instead it kind of mulched the meat and the fat clogged the blade, and more raw meat sort of went everywhere. And that meant more dishes to clean, and counters and surfaces to scour - which was made doubly hard by the fact that our old, struggling boiler went down that morning and we didn't have hot water, so we could barely wash a dish let alone allow our guests to shower comfortably - and we were no closer to making food or having it in our mouths. That's when Jennie started mocking my food processor. And me. And muttering unintelligently under her breath as she cleaned raw pork fragments out of her fingernails. It wasn't pretty. The situation was made worse by my husband, who was charged with going on a booze run and instead took a detour to Loew's and, like many men in the middle of a house renovation, started ogling tools, and supplies, parts for the boiler, and then happened upon a clearance sale on smokers, and during this whole time, had been happily, gleefully sending me 12 different te[...]

Aussie Girl


It's happened. Time after time, I've been setting out plates of beets when we throw burgers on the grill at our country place. Not locally grown, organic beets carefully and gently roasted in the oven with garlic, and sea salt, and expensive Spanish olive oil. Nope. Just sliced beets from a can. The kind Australians use on their burgers. That's right, order a burger in Australia and someone will throw a slice of canned beet on it and expect you to eat it. I was a non-believer that first time. I stared at the plate. I stared at the burger. I wasn't sure about this thing pinking up my hamburger bun. But after a run-of-the-mill, but also kinda-awesome burger at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, I was converted. A burger at a mediocre cafeteria changed me forever. I haven't looked back. Now, I have a pantry stacked with small cans of sliced beets and I never grill a burger for myself or David without piling a few beets, onions, tomatoes, greens and ketchup on top. Lucy, like pretty much all Americans, was also a non-believer. Who wants a vegetable on their burger? A vegetable when it isn't actually necessary to eat a vegetable with your burger? Why chance it? Why not just ignore the plate of beets into oblivion? Why chance having your pee turn pink? All good questions. It took me years. Just putting beets out there on the table, pushing the plate a little closer to her, getting her interested, seducing her with my stories of pink pee. Once, I even told her they were sweet, like candy, on your burger. I'm pretty sure she thought I was drunk. But this Spring it happened. When she was ready - Lucy does everything on her own time, in her own way. She grabbed a slice of beet and shoved it between her burger and bun. Then she smushed it all together to make a "squeeze burger", which is just a burger compressed to it's maximum in the hands of a kinder-gardener. She's famous for it in the school cafeteria. It's a culinary marvel. And she loved it. Just as I did. Just as David has his whole life. The three of us eat our burgers with beets now. (Edie is still a hold out, as expected) But what Lucy always asks, as she's eating her burger, all pink-stained and smushed down into its most compact form, is whether the act of eating it makes her an "Australian girl". And we think it does. xo YM[...]

How Edie Got A Black Eye...


This is how it was supposed to go:

Swinging from the branches of the willow tree in Central Park, with our best friends, like the girls on the flying trapeze.

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And this is how it went:

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Please don't call my mother and tell her her grandchild has been maimed in a small circus accident. The girl is fine. But we have war wounds to show off. And the story to re-tell a couple hundred times. It all gets bigger and more dangerous and more spectacular every time we tell it. We are awesome in our own minds. Our black eye is proof - Fosters are tough.

Hope you get to swing from a few willow branches this holiday weekend.

xo YM

A Quick Thought about Going to Conferences...


A bunch of us food writers recently went to a food writing conference.

It always happens that after a conference, there is a good deal of consternation and analysis across the internet, about ourselves and each other, and then, a general blood-letting of anxieties where everyone confesses how insecure they are at their core, how they weren't popular in high school, and will never be in the food writing world. There are hurt feelings, people feeling snubbed. It always makes me sad to read it.

So, I thought I'd share this with you all...

On the way to the conference, I jotted down a few things. To remind myself where my focus should be. To be mindful. To be grounded. To be aware of what was happening around me. These words served me well for the conference, and probably for more things in the future. I read them every morning. I pulled the book out to remind myself during the day. I carried the book everywhere with me. When I felt myself deviating from it, or forgetting it, or getting focused on something that felt wrong in my gut, I pulled it out and re-read it. Once, I read it in a bathroom stall. It was my road map. It was one of the last things I looked at before I fell asleep.

Life is about meaningful connection. That's it. That's all. We need to focus on the people who get us. Impress them. Care about them. Listen to them. Everyone else can go to hell.

Here's what I wrote. Maybe you can use this for something...

1. Act the part.
2. Fake it if you don't know what you're doing.
3. Be in the moment.
4. Own it & have a blast.
5. Make people feel special.
6. Ask lots of questions & listen.
7. Talk "The Family Talk" (which means don't talk badly about people)
8. Do not soak up other people's crazy.
9. Believe in who you are.
10. Be happy at your core.

xo YM

Things That Happen While I Try To Make Dinner...


xo YM[...]

It's All Australia's Fault


David is in Australia this week on business, and even though the girls and I are keeping ourselves busy with birthday parties, our very first real, over-night, sleep-over with our best friends, back-to-back play dates all weekend, and turning a spare closet into a cozy, pink, secret clubhouse strung up with pink lights and tons of pillows, we're still very aware that something, someone, is missing. We are a group, us four, and when one of us isn't around, well, things can be good, and fun, and even exciting, but they're also just a little off. And things have been a little off without David, for sure. I mean, not one person has left their dirty, black, balled-up socks on the floor. Weirdly, I miss that. And when I tried to make coffee in the French Press yesterday, it was runny, brown, coffee-tinged water. And no one has read my writing this week and told me that it reads like "the rotary club year book." That was harsh, but true, and I think it might be the best piece of literary criticism I've ever gotten. And the orange sweater? I even, I don't miss the sweater. Not at all. I miss the sex, but no wants to hear about that here, and there's a new episode of Friday Night Lights I'm dying to watch, but can't because we watch it together. And David takes the kids to school every morning, so I ready for that little piece of hell to be over, and he does the laundry, and so I'm wearing dirty clothes. Also, the cats won't sleep with us because David isn't here. I found out this week the cats hate me and only tolerate me because I feed them and come with the marriage. And I think I might be on the verge of menopause. It's all going to shit around here. I blame it on Australia. I haven't spent much time in the kitchen this week either and that too, I think, is Australia's fault. My main kitchen responsibilities seem to be keeping juice cups washed and also retrieving beverages for small children. That's really all I do. When David's home, I cook longer, more complicated, more deeply textured meals, because I know he appreciates them, because we appreciate them together. The girls, on the other hand, for all the good food they eat, would be just as happy eating pizza every day. And so, when we are going it alone, there's no sense in making a big elaborate dinner because they eat like tiny field mice. It's a lot of effort for not a lot of results. So, I’ve been making simple dishes: one or two pans tops, under 15 minutes from prep to table, and things I’m sure the kids will wolf down without too much shouting and dismay. Even though it's not pizza. Or noodles with butter. I try to avoid that moment where they look into the bowl, realize what's there and then make some kind of stink face. I don't want to see that stink face until David comes home. Yeah, that's the one. Here's two easy meals for people who are really pissed off at Australia...xo YM______________________________________________________________________Cold Shrimp, Guac & ChipsThis is one of the girl's favorite meals and it feels more like a fun snack than dinner. Buy the shrimp cooked and peeled and you save a ton of time. Put the shrimp in a bowl and add a couple good squeezes of lemon, a handful of chopped cilantro, a pinch of salt. Mix it all together and chill in the fridge for a few minutes. Make the guacamole - a couple avocados, a squeeze of lemon, a little salt, chopped cilantro - mash it all up with a fork. Put the cold shrimp and guac on a platter with some chips and serve. Herbed Lamb chops with Sautéed Broccoli & BaconThe broccoli in this dish is really for m[...]

The Great Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner Debate In My Head


David is in Vegas and then, LA on business. It's just me and the kids and a long expanse of togetherness. I like all the girly togetherness, so that's fine with me, but last night while hiking the kids through our neighborhood Duane Reade (the drug store for you non-New Yorkers), I walked past a shelf of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner boxes. Nice blue and yellow boxes. I stopped. And that's when my mind started having a conversation without me:David's out of town. No one has to know. The kids will love me for this. One pan, virtually no clean up. A one dish dinner in minutes. $3. Dinner for $3. The box says it's the cheesiest. I know it's not really cheesy but still, it says it's the cheesiest. It must be a little cheesy. There's got to be some cheese in it. But cheese-schmeeze, who cares anyway? My kids eat from-scratch meals all the time. They are the healthiest kids on the planet, why Edie hasn't had a fever in two years. I'm awesome. I rock. I made my own damned bacon, for Christ sakes. People who make their own bacon can feed their kids the box once in a while, right? No need to become one of those brittle pedigogical psychos who never let their kids have a Tic Tac. Oh My God, I have this huge stain on the front of my shirt. How the hell long has that been there? One night of crap isn't going to kill them. That's right, and they are gonna think you are the coolest mom ever for this. The coolest. For 3 bucks! And on Mother's Day. After they made you those cute cards with feathers and pom pom balls and all those hearts. There were so many freakin' hearts. Seriously, I can't go out anymore with stains on my tits, I look like I'm breastfeeding. They DESERVE to eat the crap this once. That's why you're such a great mom, you're flexible, open to anything, a revolutionary, not stuck in a grind or an ideology. You are bigger than ideology. You are a slave to no one...Damned right. I am a slave to no one. So, I plucked the box from the shelf trying to forget that I had written a terribly sarcastic, mean-spirited attack on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner just a few short years ago. How had I fallen so far, so fast? This stuff is like crack. I shook off the thought and tucked the box under a bag of beef jerky (why am I not making my own freakin' beef jerky?) and made my way to the check out. I didn't have to blog about it. No one would know. I searched the store, surveying the aisles, looking for foodie neighbors - I'm talkin' to you, Red Cook - and assessing my chances of making it from aisle six to the check out lady without being spotted. I considered tucking it under my sweater but that looked a little like shoplifting. No need showing up on Food News Journal busted for a box of mac and cheese in my shirt. Two ladies were in line in front of me. I tried to look non-chalant. Not a care in the world. Like I had bunches of kale in my trolley. Finally we reached the cashier. I pulled out the box. Edie looked at the box, looked up at me. And she said, "I don't like that. I want something else." And then turned back to the stuffed monkey in her arms and started talking about something nonsensical and totally unrelated. Something about sparkly hair and unicorns. I handed the box to the cashier, lowered my eyes in shame and said, "We won't be taking this...sorry."Then, we went home and while the kids played, I made miso soup - from scratch - with home-made dashi. I eyeballed the dashi from watching Youko make it at Gomen Kudasai in New Paltz, New York. It did not cost $3 dollars and it took more than 15 minutes. Way more[...]

E-Books: Why Today is a Good Day to Be A Writer


I was really surprised by the response to my Angry Mom post. Thank you for the stories you shared either in comments or in emails to me personally. It got me thinking...there's more to say about this topic. And there are more people who will want to read about it. I couldn't think of a magazine I felt was right for a longer piece on anger and motherhood and truth be told, I didn't want to write a journalistic piece - something smart but distant, with lots of quotes and research to back up my thoughts. I wanted to keep the raw-ness and intimacy of the original piece. There just aren't many places for that. And I didn't want to write a whole book about it either. In my head, I shelved it.But after talking to David, we decided I should write a longer version of the Angry Mom post and submit it as a Kindle Single. Think of it as being the size of a New Yorker article, more full but just as personal, a real story. This will be my first Kindle Single (if it is accepted)- my big toe in the water of self-publishing. Many of you know that I've ghostwritten other people's books for years. Some of those have been self-published by vanity presses, some e-books, and some by traditional publishers. Back in the day - like last year - there was still a second rate status to self-publishing and all kinds of barriers for marketing and getting seen at the bookstore. Self-publishing just didn't have the same rep, because it wasn't vetted by the New York gatekeepers. It didn't have their stamp of approval, which was proof the work must be good or at least of some professional and worthy quality. So many self-published books suffered from bad cover art, poor editing and a simple lack of professional writing ability and insight. It seemed only the unpublishable self-published. It had the mark of defeat. Even last year as I spent nearly 11 months writing, re-writing and re-tooling the book proposal for my hopefully-insanely-funny memoir about cooking with four year olds in Lucy and Edie's East Harlem public school, I would never have even considered self-publishing. It would've been a step down, like going to the prom with a perfectly nice, pimpley-faced boy who rides a scooter and wears high-water pants. I wanted to go to prom with a quarterback. That was four months ago. Now, everything has changed. All of a sudden, Lord help me, I love high-water pants.I have a perfectly awesome agent - thanks to all the virtual pavement pounding I did last year and fellow writer Beth Lipton - and Cathy and I are at work on a Charcutepalooza Cookbook proposal that we hope will find a home somewhere. I don't want to say too much about that book project since we are in the middle of working on it and it doesn't just involve me - but we are stupidly excited about it, as we are about anything that has to do with meat, making meat and Charcutepalooza.Still, nothing is the same in publishing and I can't shake the idea that big things are in the works for writers. Maybe I've been reading too much Joe Konrath - I now get it when people find you and love you immediately and start reading your blog backwards devouring every word, that is me with Joe Konrath - but it seems to me that for the first time since the invention of the printing press, good writers are no longer beholden to publishers. This is fantastic news for writers who have some experience under their belts. These are the writers who have several discarded novels sitting in their drawers - what I mean by that, is that they've written a few book-length projects and know[...]

To Grind or Not to Grind?


I realize something about myself – I am not a gadget person. Not even in the kitchen. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about reading Grace Young’s The Wisdom of The Chinese Kitchen and her ideas about being mindful in the kitchen, cooking as meditation. I was inspired. Her stories are really some of the best in food writing. I also bemoaned the fact that I had to buy a scale in that post and suffered a tragic beat down by scale-lovers on Twitter. I get it. Scales rock. Please don’t write me anymore and tell me that. Truth is, I rarely use my kitchen machinery. I don’t own a mixer anymore, since mine was maimed in a terrible house-moving accident, and oddly, was never replaced. I have a beautiful, fully tricked out food processor that only gets used when the woman next door borrows it. Still, it looks pretty and very technical sitting in my cupboard. I couldn’t even bring myself to buy a simple meat grinder for this Charcutepalooza challenge. I just wanted to drag out my big cheap cleaver that I bought at a knife store in Chinatown for $12 and have at it. I like to make a mess. I like to eyeball it. I like porky hands. I realize this is weird, and not conducive to order, ease of preparation or even success in cooking. But it is, I think, good times in the kitchen. So, for the grinding challenge this month, I hand-chopped a boneless pork loin into a pulpy, fleshy pile of meat shards and made Kian Lam Kho’s Pork & Chinese Chives Pot Stickers. No, pot stickers are not sausages, technically. But the challenge this month was grinding and seasoning. Grinding is a primer for all kinds of sausage-making. It's about getting to know the meat, taking it apart, breaking it down into little fatty pieces, feeling it and watching it go from one form to another under your eye and tutelage. Then, it's getting the seasoning right, playing with those spices, tasting, reflecting and tasting again. Kitchen mindfulness at it's best. In Cathy's words, the insides of a pot sticker are the same as the insides of a sausage. It's ground meat and seasonings. Revelation. The hand-chopping was so fun, I watched an evening of YouTube videos in French - didn't understand a word - and decided I wanted to make steak tartare next, which is always hand-chopped to get that sinewy, corpulent texture that feels both buttery and slightly knotty in your mouth. And then, I watched Chef Hubert Keller hand-chopping his burgers on Chow and decided I wanted to make all our burgers this summer from hand-chopped meat. I wouldn’t have gotten that from a meat grinder. It's all in the porky hands, I tell you. This recipe for pot stickers comes from Kian's blog, Red Cook, which is up for a James Beard Foundation Award this year. And deservedly so. Both the dough and the fillings for these pot stickers are deceptively simple to make, but give yourself time and kitchen volunteers - making dumplings is always heavy on the labor, and if everyone is sitting around the kitchen, drinking something shamelessly alcoholic, and wrapping pork filling into pot sticker dough, well, that will really set the tone for the meal. In Kian's post he talks about the imperfections and joys of communal dining in Chinese culture, and one of the things I love best about this dish is that it can be a family dinner in every sense of the word - a platter of dumplings surrounded by dipping sauces, arms reaching across the table, no one politely stuck to their seats, all the requisite stories, squabbles, and if you have kids,[...]

For Those Following Along...


The egg hunt at our house went much better than the one last week. Hallelujah. The winning formula: Three kids. Four hundred plastic eggs strewn across our front and back yard. Plenty for everyone. Our choice of outfits to wear. No tears. Chocolate for breakfast. Better. Yes, much better. xo YM[...]

The Worst Easter Egg Hunt Ever


Saturday was the town Easter Egg Hunt at our country house in New Paltz. Last year, the egg hunt was unmitigated joy, face painting, baskets loaded with colored eggs, an appearance by the Easter Bunny himself, candy eaten scandalously in the backseat of the car, little faces smeared in chocolate. In a word, awesome. This year, the egg hunt began with weeping. And ended in nudity and weeping. This is sometimes how it goes for us. Every Easter Sunday, David gets up at the crack of dawn with a garbage bag full of plastic eggs - that took us hours the night before to fill with candy and little tiny annoying useless toys - and litters the yard and the surrounding woods with them. The kids jump out of bed on Sunday morning to find a proper Easter basket. They rifle through that for awhile, pop a chocolate or ten into their mouths for breakfast, and then, grab a bag and hord - I mean, find - as many eggs as they can. The town egg hunt is a whole different affair. The whole town comes out. There are firetrucks, a huge bunny walking around shaking hands and posing for pictures. There are moms selling cupcakes, an easter basket raffle, and several large expanses of grass flush with colored plastic eggs. Then someone blows a whistle and seemingly sweet, nicely-raised kids knock each other down and rip eggs out of each others hands, all so they can fill their baskets with crap, as parents look on proudly. It's a nice event. With nice people. Which is why I was surprised when the whole thing turned to shit on me. This year, David was working so I took them to the hunt by myself. We have ballet (Edie)and gymnastics (Lucy) Saturday mornings, so we each brought outfits to change into for the hunt...well, not Edie, she forgot hers, so we swung by the house on the way to the hunt and David handed us a fresh change of clothes through the car window, with the motor still running, and everyone agreed the clothes were good - or so I thought - and we sped off toward the hunt. Did I tell you it was cold? It was. And that it started to rain? It did. Which is fine. We are Fosters. We are tough (Lucy hates it when I say that) We parked the car and started to change our clothes. The hunt was about to start. We had five minutes. We could do this. Lucy was in and out of her clothes in under 30 seconds. Nothing gets between her and a good race with candy at the end of it. Edie was looking at her clothes. The wrong clothes. The ones David got very very wrong. She burst into tears. Lucy was looking out the window at the kids lining up for the hunt. Edie started screaming and throwing the clothes and sobbing harder. I had a brilliant idea. I was calm. We could solve this problem. She could wear her ballet outfit, her tutu even. She loved her ballet outfit. That's when she became inconsolable. The very idea was a misery. The rain was really coming down. Lucy was antsy, eager, afraid she'd miss something important, but still trying to be patient, still thinking of her sister before her own needs. I knew we had to get out of the car and start heading over or we'd miss the whole thing. I didn't want Lucy to miss any of the hunt because of Edie's tantrum. One way or another we were going to cross this grass and go to a friggin easter egg hunt. I gave Edie the choice: ballet outfit or Daddy's outfit. Screams. I grabbed her spare clothes, the hated clothes, thinking I could get her to put them on, picked her up and told Lucy to head on over t[...]

The Kitchen Scale


I do not own a kitchen scale. There is a growing number of food writers out there - people I love and follow and read voraciously - that are encouraging and inspiring cooks to put down their teaspoons and cups, and embrace the scale. Measuring by weight gives you better results, more precise amounts, it helps you use a recipe with more efficiency. It gives you, they say, better food. And I believe them. But I can't bring myself to buy one. And until I read Grace Young's elegant, beautifully-written book, The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen I couldn't figure out why. Why was I balking? It's just a scale. But when I read Grace's chapter, "Cooking as Meditation", I understood what I was feeling. If you've never read her book, you should. She is a graceful storyteller. She writes with economy, every word is essential and necessary. You never feel like it's too much. It's just what it should be. Her writing is precision, craft and heart. How much do I love this book? I've photocopied this chapter and have it in my kitchen drawer, so I never lose my way in the kitchen. That's how much. Grace writes:I was taught early in my life to appreciate the fragrance, texture, succulence, and taste of a well-composed dish. Baba and Mama pointed out to me how a chef achieves greatness only after years of practice. They called this honing of skills mastery, or si fu. I have since learned it is also possible for nonchefs to master cooking without relying on elaborate techniques. When certain virtues are applied, an experienced cook can take the simplest ingredients and techniques to form a work of beauty. The most important virtue is alertness to senses; knowing when an ingredient has the correct visual cues, smells, sounds, tastes, and texture is more valuable than mastering the intricacies of a complicated recipe. In the modern home kitchen, the true art of cooking by instinct is diminishing, partially because of the emergence of so many appliances that replace the need to rely on one's own cooking judgement. Kitchen gadgets have replaced culinary expertise. Rice cookers alleviate the cultivation of judgement of when to slow the fire and when to simmer the rice to begin the steaming process. Deep-fat-fry thermometers indicate when the oil has reached the right temperature for frying, and instant-read thermometers take the intuition out of knowing when the meat is cooked. Food processors grind meat that was once hand-chopped with a cleaver...My parents maintain ardently that the patience to hand-chop or hand-shred produces a tangible difference in taste and texture....My parents teach that when you cook you must be able to change directions, chun bien. You must use your powers of observation, regarding every situation as unique, and adjusting accordingly...The high heat on my parents' front burner is more powerful than the setting on the back burner. This simple fact affects cooking time....As in life, one must observe the subtleties of cooking and adjust, remembering not to be enslaved to a recipe's cooking times or measurements. It is mindfulness, attentiveness, and gaining self-confidence through experience that nourish success.Sometimes the reason we cook or write about cooking gets lost. We think it's about complexity and difficulty and impressing people. We think it's about gadgets and equipment and perfect outcomes. We stupidly think the meal is about us, our way to express ourselves, and sho[...]