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Tuesday, Dec 18, 2012
I have little to do with Christmas cooking: my job is to show up and help my mother-in-law. This doesn't stop me from being avidly interested in Christmas foods and the many cookbooks addressing what remains to me an exotically foreign holiday.

“I am not by nature a calm person, and, much as I love Christmas, I can be kyboshed by it.  I know from experience how easy it is to be overwhelmed by the sheer workload and the burden of expectations, one’s own above all.”
—Nigella Lawson, Nigella Christmas


Many are the Jews who secretly long to celebrate Christmas. Yes, we have Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, the Menorah, the tasty fried foods. And yes, we do exchange gifts. But there’s no big deal fancy meal, no stockings, no tearing awake at 4AM to see what Santa left under the tree.


Ah, the tree. There are Jews who shudder at this ancient pagan symbol and others who want one themselves: that lovely piney scent, those cunning decorations.


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Friday, Nov 2, 2012
"With me everywhere and always: Rosa."

Laurie E. Colwn, a Novelist and Short Story Writer, is dead
The New York Times (26 October 1992)


Dear Rosa,


We’ve never met, but on this, the 20th anniversary of your mother’s death, I feel compelled to write you.


I’m sorry.  I realize you’ve spent your life being approached by tremulous strangers needing to unburden themselves. I also realize that our version of your mother and the actual person are likely miles apart. That the only thing we can be said to share is how much we miss her.


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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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