Cooking by vibration

Vibration CookingIn 1958, at the age of 19, Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor left the US for Paris in search of a career in the theater. What began as a simple search for black-eyed peas in France ended up being far from simple, and led Smart-Grosvenor down the path of writing about food and cooking as a way of expressing one's culture.  Known as an American culinary anthropologist, she celebrated the Gullah food and culture of her native South Carolina. Smart-Grosvenor died last month, and Tejal Rao of The New York Times recently memorialized the author by making one of her recipes

Although she wrote several books, Smart-Grosvenor is best known for her first book, 1970's Vibration Cooking, which was reprinted in 1986, 1992, and 2011. The title  comes from Grosvenor's discussion of "vibrations" in the book, which meant using your intuition and all of your senses while cooking. "When I cook, I never measure or weigh anything; I cook by vibration," she wrote as explanation. 

Rao recalls marveling at the way Smart-Grosvenor "shifted from memoir to recipe, often without breaking the flow of a sentence," and the manner in which the author "embroidered her stories with politics, sarcasm, romance and family mythology, defining the food-memoir genre as we now know it." Smart-Grosvenor died in New York on September 3 at the age of 79. 

An interview with Beatrice Ojakangas

Beatrice Ojakangas memoirBefore Beatrice Ojakangas, there was no cookbook for Finnish cuisine. Today her first book, The Finnish Cookbook, is in its 38th printing. The Minnesota author has published several cookbooks since that 1964 volume, including The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, a Member favorite that has been inducted into the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame. Ojakangas has just released a memoir entitled Homemade: Finnish Rye, Feed Sack Fashion, and Other Simple Ingredients from My Life in Food. Epicurious talked with Ojakangas about the book ,and her long career in food writing

Ojakangas got into baking and food writing through a series of serendipitous events. Shortly after her marriage to an Air Force member in , she learned about The Pillsbury Bakeoff from someone on the Air Force base in England. On a whim, she entered a recipe that she had made only once. The initial attempt at the dish, a cheese-filled bread, was a disaster. So she tweaked the recipe and sent it in without making it again. Okajangas had all but forgotten about the entry until she received a telephone call announcing that she was among the 100 finalists. The recipe ended up winning the second grand prize of $5,000. 

Epicurious also asked Ojakangas about her other culinary accomplishments, which include inventing Totino's Pizza Rolls, cooking with Julia Child, and of course researching and writing a cookbook. She wrote her first cookbook while simultaneously raising two children and holding down a full time job. "You can do that when you're young," she explained wryly. Read the full article on the Epicurious website » 

Jamie Oliver's controversies over the years

Jamie Oliver cookbookJamie Oliver recently landed in hot water with Spaniards  when he put chorizo into a paella recipe. The outspoken chef is not afraid to say what's on his mind, and that often makes people angry. Food Republic has compiled a listing of all the times that Oliver has stirred up controversy.

Most of the dustups that the chef has gotten into with others don't involve adding an ingredient to a sacrosanct recipe. Usually it's something Oliver has said about the food industry or people's eating habits. For instance, when Oliver visited a beef processing plant in South Dakota, he called the product that they made "pink slime" and worse, causing the company to sue him for defamation. However, the statement had an impact, leading to a nationwide boycott of the "lean, finely textured beef" that the company produces.   Seventy-five school districts in the Los Angeles area have refused to let Oliver film in their schools following comments he made in his television show Food Revolution about the unhealthy lunch options provided to school children.

Although many of Oliver's controversies have been away from his home country, he's not immune to criticism from UK residents. Adele had a few choice words to say about his initiative promote breastfeeding in England. Despite all of the blowback, Oliver continues to preach his message about healthy eating and produce more popular cookbooks. Has any of the uproar regarding his statements changed your opinion of the chef?  

Dominique Ansel takes Cronut 2.0 to London

 Dominique Ansel book & pastries

Londoners who want a Cronut now have a much shorter distance to travel to find one. Dominique Ansel has just opened a new London bakery featuring a retooled Cronut plus several new menu items. Queues are expected to be quite long for the new bakery, located in the West London neighborhood of Belgravia. 

Ansel is excited about his new space, which is much larger than his US and Tokyo locations. In addition to offering fan favorites like the Cronut and the DKA (his version of kouign amann), about one third of the menu will feature the chef's take on uniquely British items.

The new creations include Welsh Rarebit croissants (stuffed with Guinness Worcestershire cheddar béchamel, fontina cheese, and whole-grain mustard) and a spin on banoffee pie - banoffee paella with caramelized bananas.  For Ansel's version of Eton mess, the chef instructs eaters to shake up the dish's clear box "to make a mess"  of the carefully arranged miniature meringues, strawberries made of mousse and jam, fresh basil, and fromage blanc. 

Like his other bakeries, the London location will feature a Cronut flavor of the month. The kickoff flavor is Salted Butterscotch and Cocoa Nib. Those of us without access to any of Ansel's bakeries will have to make do with recipes from his cookbook, Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes.

Diana Henry works hard to make recipes effortless for us

Simple by Diana Henry

Looking at the most popular authors in the EYB Library you'll see plenty of restaurant chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi and television stars like Ina Garten. Their celebrity helps them reach a wide audience when they release a cookbook. A few authors, however, are popular with Members despite not having such a visible platform to promote their work. Diana Henry is one such author. Her appeal is based on the quality of her prose, the thoroughness of her testing, and the inventiveness of her recipes, Melissa Clark of The New York Times explains.

Clark writes that while you can learn a lot about a writer from viewing her library (Diana has a massive cookbook collection), you need to peek into the pantry of a food writer to get a real feel for the author. Diana's is, as you might expect, extremely well-stocked, containing everything from homemade jams to squid ink. "I think a larder is all about possibilities," Diana explained to Clark.  "It gives me freedom when I'm writing recipes to know that if I'm putting together sweet potatoes with preserved lemon, if I suddenly decide I need to add walnuts for texture, I'll be able to follow it through."

While some authors have a team of people developing new recipes, Diana works solo, creating and testing hundreds of new recipes per year in her gorgeous London kitchen. She draws inspiration from a variety of sources, including her travels to many different countries. Her travels and wide-ranging culinary influences are a contrast to her childhood in Northern Ireland, where her family cooked simple, yet well-made, foods. Her "culinary epiphany" came about when she was an exchange student in France, where she was exposed to different flavors and cooking methods.

Diana's most recent cookbook, Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavors, is out in the US this month. Fans will be happy to learn that she's hard at work on another cookbook tentatively titled North, which will expand on the themes of her book Roast Figs, Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul.

Pairing whisky with food

lasantaWe've long been familiar with wine pairings on menus, and in recent years beer pairings have become commonplace as well. Now chef Marcus Samuelsson is adding another category: pairing food with Scotch whisky.

Working with iconic distiller Glenmorangie, Samuelsson brings his knack of blending different cultures and cuisines to bear on pairing foods with spirits. In his year-long partnership with the distiller, he's developed ten whisky and culinary matchups. When looking to pair flavors with the richness of a single malt Scotch, Samuelsson avoids heavy meats, turning instead to salmon.  "Glenmorangie is situated on the ocean, so this idea of pairing it with a little heat and salmon, for example, I think is a very very good fit," he says.

The chef feels certain types of Scotch, like Glenmorangie's Lasanta, which is finished in spent sherry casks, can pair well with sweet foods. Samuelsson goes on to explain how the spice levels of different cuisines can be handled to match well with Scotch whisky without either's flavor profiles dominating the conversation.

Berry leaves GBBO; Hollywood remains

Mary Berry's Foolproof CookingIn an update to the drama surrounding The Great British Bake Off's move from BBC to Channel 4, host Mary Berry has announced that she will not be involved with the new show. However, Paul Hollywood has signed a three-year deal with the network, making him the only original host making the move.

Berry said that loyalty to the BBC, which had "nurtured her and the show", influenced her decision. Hollywood tweeted that he was "staying in the tent with the bakers where I belong" although he did thank the BBC and his co-hosts "for making my time in the tent great fun and really rewarding."

Opinion is divided on whether the GBBO will be successful without popular hosts Berry, Mel Giedroyc, and Sue Perkins. Michael Grade, former BBC and ITV chairman, is one of the skeptics. "It's a huge gamble in my view," he said, noting that the chemistry between the hosts played a large role in the success of the show.  Others, like former contestant Tamal Ray, think the switch can be good. "About time there was a bit of a shake-up," says the ex-finalist.

Remembering Dorothy Cann Hamilton

A Chef's Story by Dorothy HamiltonOver the weekend, the culinary world lost one of its most influential, if not its most well known, members. Dorothy Cann Hamilton, 67, founder of the International Culinary Center (formerly known as the French Culinary Institute), died in an automobile accident on September 16

Hamilton founded ICC in 1984, as an extension of her family's mechanical trades education institute. First as FCI then as ICC, the intensive six-month program trained some of the US's most acclaimed chefs, including Bobby Flay, Wylie Dufresne, Christina Tosi, and David Chang. Hamilton was also the host of "Chef's Story," a public television program that profiled chefs. 

In 2015, she  received the Legion of Honor award from the French government for her work in promoting French cuisine in America, one of only a handful of Americans to receive the honor. Hamilton was also a former chairman for the James Beard Foundation. She is survived by her daughter, Olivia Hamilton. 

Exhibit on Ferran Adrià opens in Florida museum

 El Bulli cookbooks

His restaurant may be shuttered, but you can learn about the work of Ferran Adrià, from his groundbreaking el Bulli restaurant and beyond, in a new exhibit hosted by the Salvador Dalí museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. In an email Q&A, Bloomberg Business News asked Adrià to discuss the exhibit.

The museum will highlight Adrià's"culinary work from tabletop pieces and flatware he's designed to detailed notebooks he's kept throughout his cooking career." The exhibits appear juxtaposed with Dalí's food-focused paintings. This is the chef's final museum exhibition before he opens his much-anticipated culinary center at the site of the former elBulli restaurant in Roses, Spain. The center is set to open in 2018. 

The Q&A covers many topics, including which chefs Adrià feels best exemplify his cooking philosophy. When asked about whether the media emphasizes chefs too much, Adrià had this to say: "The chef as a rock star? It's as illogical as cooks being sports stars or actors, etc. In an ideal world, it would be much more relevant to be a scientist or someone who makes tangible contributions to society. But that's the way the world works."

The resurgence of Guy Fieri

Guy Fieri's pigs in the blankets

Guy Fieri's career has had its ups and downs, but the chef and television host is currently enjoying an upswing in popularity, says Grub Street, which chronicles his recent positive press. It's a bit of a turnaround for the colorful Fieri, who has been ridiculed by the likes of Anthony Bourdain and restaurant critic Pete Wells. But despite this, Fieri's show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives - "Triple D" to fans - is enjoying a resurgence. 

Recent articles have praised Fieri's perceived populism. Esquire just published a story titled "The Unrecognizable Genius of Guy Fieri", and The New Yorker ran a similar piece called "The Accidental American Genius of Guy Fieri." Both stories emphasize that Fieri chooses to highlight everyday foods, not far-flung locations or exotic cuisine. Says Esquire's Jason Diamond, Fieri "takes every plate piled high with burgers and fries as seriously as you might an entry in the Bocuse d'Or. Simple food-diverse American Food, in all styles, made by Americans - is Fieri's rallying cry and religion."

While Grub Street agrees with the sentiment that good food doesn't have to be fussy or pretentious, the site doesn't think that it is the "genius" of Guy Fieri that has made his show so hugely popular. Rather, they posit that Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives isn't successful because of Fieri, but in spite of him, and that "Triple D" would benefit from a host that wasn't quite as flamboyant. However, that scenario looks as unlikely as a four-star review of Fieri's restaurant. 

Photo of Guy Fieri's pigs in spicy blankets from Food Network Magazine 

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