Dispatch From the Gender Wars
Also: great food books. The best chiles. The simplest seafood. And a vintage wine menu.
I’ve been going through my collection of vintage Gourmet Magazines and came upon this irritating article from a 1952 issue. It's called Shaming the Shrew. And it pretty much speaks for itself.
All I can say is GRRRR.
In response to an article lampooning the culinary contributions of men, Leslie Charteris attempts to reclaim the kitchen from "the new woman."
The essay is long - too long. And repetitive. So I’ll just share part of it:
"I know that by the time I had come to years of discrimination, I realized my own mother’s food, without the sauce of sentiment, would never be worth walking around the block for; and I have also eaten the cooking of many other people’s mothers without ever tasting any that excited me….
And if these marvelous Moms really exist somewhere, why didn’t they do a better job of housebreaking their female offspring? At least what would have given me, and other husbands of my acquaintance, some second-hand evidence of their existence. It says in the folklore about young girls that they used to be taught a modicum of such kitchen craft as their mothers could pass on; but the generations that have crossed my path were apparently too busy being emancipated, or looking for husbands, or keeping up with the Hit Parade to have any time for such ready studies and figured on picking up all they needed to know after they have had a breadwinner safely hooked. I have yet to meet a girl who approached marriage with any more culinary qualifications than an elementary cookbook and a lot of gall.
The entrenched feminists can’t have it both ways (although that’s the way feminine argument will make you mugs have it, if you don’t watch yourselves in the clinches)...
Why do women make out that kitchen duties are a sort of minor martyrdom which they endure with dreadful nobility and which thereby entitles them to the special gratitude and consideration of their fawning mates?”
I find this article so infuriating that I want to counter it with this list of favorite food books I sent to NPR in 2007. So many impressive food books have been printed lately, but it’s comforting to remember the books that came before.
The Language of Baklava, by Diana Abu-Jaber. I was talking to Diana the other day, and she said, “There’s something safe and wonderful about being raised by a strict father, but it has its drawbacks.” That’s pretty much what this memoir – about growing up partly in Jordan and always with food – is about.
Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey. Madhur is an extraordinary cook with an amazing ability to recall – and recreate – the evocative flavors of the India she grew up in.
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. The original bad boy chef – and so much fun!
The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten. Before there was Bill Buford (Heat, Dirt), there was Steingarten. Few people are as erudite – and no one is as food-obsessed – as Jeffrey, who will follow any food trail to literal absurdity.
The Tummy Trilogy by Calvin Trillin. Could be subtitled: Why life is more fun for people who like to eat.
The Apprentice, by Jacques Pepin. There is a reason why Jacques Pepin became one of our most celebrated French chefs. He’s a cook with a remarkably interesting mind.
Fair Shares for All by John Haney. An extraordinarily affectionate book about growing up hungry in London’s East End.
Talk Talk by T.C. Boyle. A novel about identity theft that contains some of the most wonderful descriptions of cooking I’ve ever read. And why not? And if you haven’t read Boyle’s great short story, Sorry Fugu, you can read it here.
Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell. The ultimate writer’s writer, Mitchell is not usually thought of as a food writer. But so many of his stories are about markets, pubs and restaurants. And this book contains my all-time favorite food story, “All You Can Hold for Five Bucks.”
Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin. You’ve never read Laurie Colwin? What a treat you have in store.
Between Meals by A.J. Liebling. Most famous quote: “The primary requisite for writing about food is a good appetite.” Probably our greatest food writer.
Hotel Splendid by Ludwig Bemelmans. An endlessly amusing behind-the-scenes look at a great hotel restaurant by the man who wrote the Madeline books. Bemelmans wrote from experience; he worked at The Ritz.
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell. Contains a remarkably graphic, and completely unforgettable, behind-the-scenes look at restaurant kitchens.
The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher. My favorite of her many books.
Simple Steamed Ipswich Clams
There's nothing more annoying than sitting down to a big bowl of steamers and finding yourself with a mouthful of grit. So you want to get them really clean.
Here’s the best way to do it.
Stir 2 tablespoons of sea salt into 4 cups of water, swirl it around until the salt is dissolved, put in your clams and place the bowl in the refrigerator for a few hours (or overnight).
By morning the clams should have extended their long necks and the bottom of the bowl should be filled with sand. Throw out the sand, wash out the bowl, and if you have time, repeat.
Now all you have to do is put your cleaned clams in a pot with about an inch of water (or wine or beer if you prefer), cover the pot, turn up the heat and steam them open. It should take 5-7 minutes. Discard any clams that don’t open.
Serve with some melted butter and mugs of the delicious clam broth. A perfect little lunch.
If you’re a chile lover, you know that there’s a well-deserved cult around New Mexico’s Hatch Chiles. The season is now, it will soon end, so if you’re planning to order, act now.
The Hatch Chile Store has a long, proud chile history. Their website is a great resource for chile recipes and they ship fresh, just-picked chiles across the country.