Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Tuesday, Oct 9, 2012
Food, chef and travel writer Naomi Duguid tells us, is the main entry point into another culture. It takes everyone to an everyday level.

Cookbook writer, world traveler, photographer and Southeast Asian food expert Naomi Duguid’s latest book, Burma: Rivers of Flavor, will first engross you with its exquisite photography and evocative writing, then send you into the kitchen to prepare dishes like chickpea soup with lemongrass and ginger, lima beans with galangal, and standout tomato chutney.


Once you’ve cooked your way through this lovely book, be sure to check out Duguid’s six other works (co-written with Jeffrey Alford).  Each is more than just a cookbook, immersing the reader in the cultures and peoples of a place using narrative, history, photography, and divine recipes.


Duguid spoke with me about Burma: Rivers of Flavor, the Burmese political situation, her work in Southeast Asia, and shooting with a digital camera.


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Monday, Oct 1, 2012
Blogger and author Luisa Weiss reassure us that "Most of the time, you can sort of salvage a screwy meal and make it taste good nevertheless."

Luisa Weiss, born in Berlin to an American father and Italian mother, had a splintered childhood. She spent her earliest years in Berlin. When her parents divorced, she moved to the United States with her father, a math professor. Vacations were spent in Berlin, where her Italian mother remained, leavened with occasional visits to Italy, where Weiss spent time with relatives. 


Despite loving family and friends, Weiss grew up profoundly unsure of herself and her place in the world.  During graduate studies in Paris, she met Max, her future husband. Fearing commitment, she ended the relationship, moving to New York City, where she worked in publishing and quickly became caught up in the fast-track life of a young woman in the city.


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Wednesday, Aug 8, 2012
When Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961, gustatory elegance meant canned cream of mushroom soup and TV dinners. Julia Child, a too tall, plain woman happily waving a knife, changed all that for the immeasurably better. Everything changed with her.

“AND LET US NOT FORGET: JULIA CHILD. Everything started—everything changed—with her.”
—Anthony Bourdain, The Les Halles Cookbook


In October 1961, Knopf Publishing released a 732-page cookbook entitled Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  The authors, Louise Bertholle, Simone Beck, and Julia Child, were unknown writers. The book was expensive ($10 dollars!) and unwieldy, its recipes complex. The interested cook needed time, equipment, and courage. Publishers Alfred and Blanche Knopf were sure they’d never earn a dime.  his was an era of gustatory shame in America, a time of speedy meals comprised of processed foods. But a young editor named Judith Jones, herself an excellent cook who had lived in France, insisted there were American book buyers ready and willing to prepare dishes like oeufs à la Bourguignonne (eggs poached in red wine) and oie rôtie aux pruneaux (roast goose stuffed with prunes and foie gras).


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Thursday, Jul 12, 2012
Marion Cunningham, cooking teacher and cookbook author, is dead at age 90.

Marion Cunningham was more than just another talented cook. 


Her career did not begin until she was 49. Until then she was an agoraphobic, alcoholic housewife. Determined to turn her life around, she overcame her fears, stopped drinking, and focused on her love for cooking. Cooking classes led to work with James Beard. When Knopf Publishing began considering revamping the dated Fannie Farmer cookbook, Beard recommended Cunningham to cookbook editor Judith Jones (another great lady). Cunningham’s career took off.  She wrote numerous cookbooks, won numerous awards, and proved that second acts are possible.


Marion Cunningham died this morning, July 12th, in Walnut Creek, California. She was 90. Rest in peace, Ms. Cunningham. You will be missed.


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Friday, May 25, 2012
Even the most timid cook, possessed of the most rudimentary kitchen, will benefit from Seductions of Rice. Read it and allow yourself to be enthralled. Then get cooking. (Hands holding rice. Image from Shutterstock.com)

“In both cities where I live—San Francisco and Paris—robust Asian communities have seductive markets offering such enticing ingredients it’s impossible for a curious cook to remain stubbornly, foolishly Western.”
—David Tanis, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes



Prior to their 2009 divorce, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid collaborated on six cookbooks, glorious combinations of recipes, travelogues, history, and foodways. Both talented photographers, they shot on site, in markets, villages, farms, and side streets, creating exquisitely designed books. Together and apart, they had the ability to befriend total strangers and get invited into homes, where their requests to learn authentic dishes were granted. While the authors and their two sons are a presence in the texts, they opt for a narrative rather than central role. Instead, we see the peoples of Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean, their homes, their kitchens, their cookware, their food.


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