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Skindignation - De File — LiveJournal
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
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.

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parilous From: parilous Date: August 26th, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

skins on! apply directly to the forehead! skins on! apply directly to the forehead!

In a similar vein, my husband was ranting on about ethnic food cookbooks that seem to center on one, very hard to find (and possibly not available in the U.S.) ingredient for most dishes. He finds it offensive that such an ingredient is absolutely essential, such that the dish cannot be made without that ingredient. At the very least, cookbook authors should suggest alternatives to that ingredient, with an indication of how they change the flavor of the dish (e.g., "provides a smokier flavor", "adds a little more pungent taste").
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 26th, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: skins on! apply directly to the forehead! skins on! apply directly to the forehead!

I totally agree. Although we're lucky to have the 17th Street Market here, which carries a lot of that hard-to-find stuff, which makes it a little easier to cope with such demands. The cookbooks I learn the most from are those that suggest alternatives as you suggest. To their credit, both Marcella Hazan and Patricia Wells do a good job of that, even if they do fetishize the specialness of European ingredients to an annoying degree. One of my favorite cookbook authors is Sarah Leah Chase because in her Pedaling Through Burgundy and Pedaling Through Provence, she consistently shows readers how dishes are made there and how they can be adapted and even improved with American ingredients.
chefxh From: chefxh Date: August 26th, 2007 07:30 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I like the color and, usually, the texture of pepper and tomato skin. Alas, in some dishes, the bits curl up into these awful, tight little needle things that tend to stick in one's teeth. But usually I don't peel, either.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 26th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I can see that. I tend to cut them so that they end up being neat little squares. Too narrow is a problem.

Glad you didn't add to my shame by disciplining me in public!
chefxh From: chefxh Date: August 26th, 2007 07:35 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Charlie, do you know this book? The Silver Spoon is, apparently, the bible of home Italian cooking. I'd never heard of it, but my friends here in Cheney have a copy. It's arranged by ingredient, which won me over immediately for real, fresh-market cooking. Check it out. I will be buying a copy as soon as I ahve a stable address!
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: August 26th, 2007 07:39 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It's pretty great--so many kinds of risotto! Sadly, my most recent roommate took her cookbook collection with her when she moved out. Now I have to start raiding thrift stores or something.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 26th, 2007 08:12 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
There are good cookbooks in thrift stores. I got most of my volumes from those Time-Life series for under a buck each.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 26th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Oooh. That looks great! I'm there. Having to cook for an Italian is hard work.
chefxh From: chefxh Date: August 27th, 2007 01:42 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
it's so beautifully simple; rarely more than five ingredients in any dish.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 27th, 2007 02:17 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I usually get in trouble with said Italian when I had a sixth or, heavens forfend, seventh ingredient!
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: August 26th, 2007 07:36 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Seriously. I used to get lectured by my first LA roommate every time I chopped up a bell pepper for salad about how there was no nutritional value. This from the woman who consistently ate only microwave dinners.

Then later I had a foody friend tell me she refused to dine at a particular local cafe EVER because the first time she ate there they deigned to leave the skins on their roasted bell peppers. I must have looked at her like she was crazy. Just order something else if your stomach can't handle it. Sure, I remove the skins when I'm going to puree roasted peppers for dips and tappenades--but that's the only time. I like the taste!
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 26th, 2007 08:13 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
And it's roughage! Anything that takes work to process is healthy in my book.
jcoldrey From: jcoldrey Date: August 26th, 2007 09:12 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I love old cookbooks too, they are such a great slice of social history. I especially love the cookbooks from my mother's and grandmothers' times. They provide details and context that are only hinted at in oft-repeated family stories.

cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 26th, 2007 09:52 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Absolutely. I think some of those are becoming available for free at sites like the Internet Archive.
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