August 26th, 2007


As I've previously noted here, I like to read cookbooks for fun. If I'm eating alone, there's a very good chance that a cookbook is open on the table in front of me. My favorite reading in this regard is the context-rich sort, exemplified by the awesome Time-Life series from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Lately, however, I've been spending more time with books that focus heavily on techniques. This past month it has been one of Marcella Hazan's more recent publications and a Patricia Wells book on the food of Provence. They're both interesting to read, full of helpful advice. But they have also been pissing me off or, to be more precise, concentrating previous memories of being pissed off. You see, both Hazan and Wells are adamant about the fact that tomatoes and peppers must be skinned. That's not unusual, since the vast majority of cookbooks say the same. In their case, however, the injunction is especially forceful, as if they can't even countenance the idea of eating a dish in which the skin of these foods has been left on.

Now, I used to just feel guilty for not having the skill or time to peel the skin. I figured that one day I would suddenly take to skinning as effortlessly as I took to deglazing or braising. What I've come to realize, though, is that I may never attain that level of culinary correctness because I actually like the skin. Despite reading over and over again about how tomato and pepper skin is unpalatable, I still enjoy the texture and color that it imparts to my cooking. Also, I enjoy the seeds of tomatoes and peppers as well. The crunchiness they provide is welcome in my mouth. Mind you, I do remove the ribs from the larger peppers and cut off the ends for both peppers and tomatoes. I just see no reason to exert myself on a practice that will bring me no pleasure. If that dooms me forever to the status of Ami amateur, so be it.

That Voodoo That He Do

The wonderful chrisglass drove all the way down from Phoenix yesterday afternoon to share dinner, art and dessert with us on the last day of his vacation. He was one of the first people we hadn't physically met whom we got to know on Live Journal and remains one of our favorite presences on the internet. But I have to warn you, should you be eager to invite him to visit your domiciles that he dabbles in voodoo:

Looking at the lumberjack he was skillfully fashioning from clay, you might think that he was using the dark arts to indulge in a little self therapy. But I think the external appearance of his golem was actually a ruse. Because the person who responded most vigorously to his visit was Skylar, who suddenly remembered that she had a camera of her own -- despite her constant art-making, she hasn't done much photography without prodding -- and has been wandering the house ever since composing intriguing abstract shots of household pets that would be ideally suited to Chris's famous "crop." So unless you want to risk being driven to extreme bouts of creativity, you'd better think twice about having him over.

Oh, and I should add that I was myself inspired by his voodoo to break with my usual practice and use Photoshop on this photograph of him working. He gave me permission, for one thing. And there's also the fact that I was working with his lovely D-SLR and neglected to adjust the exposure to match the dimming light of our dining area. The pictures I took glow like the figures in a Rembrandt painting, shining out from the gloom. But this one definitely benefited from becoming brighter and less linseed oily.