Tag Archives: Laurie Colwin

Thanks Be

Dear Mary Frances,
Thank you for pioneering the genre of food writing.  Your smart prose blazed the way for thousands of writers today – most significantly, female writers –stripping stigma from a field once thought to be solely esoteric and reminding us that food offers so much more than its nutritional content.  Your writing rallies interest in the pleasures, no matter how modest, of the plate.  I have read The Art of Eating at least half a dozen times, and I always discover new meaning with each reading.  You are my idol.

Cher Jean Anthelme,
Your immortal words set the tone for each episode of Iron Chef.  What would the tone of the show have been without them?  Would Chairman Kaga have appeared so Chairman-ish?  The Iron Chefs so ennobled?  Your keen attention to the virtues of culinary enjoyment is rivaled only by your witty social commentary.  I really appreciate that level of attention.  I’ve been wondering… If I believe that wine, cheese, and bread are major food groups, does that mean I’m actually French?  Do tell, do tell.

Dear Julia,
I’m thankful that we share a common first (and nick) name.  I’ve often envied what I’ve read about your marriage to Paul.  He wrote you lyrical love poems for your birthday, for goodness sake!  Together, you created personalized valentines to share with friends each year.  You had what truly seemed like a passionate storybook relationship.  I envy that.  But I also envy – perhaps I should say admire – your robust sensuality.  You would have been so fun to party with! I would have loved to watch you at work in the kitchen.  Sometimes I pretend to be you. (My daughter, Rory, finds these reenactments hilarious.) I think of you every time I accidentally drop a piece of food.  Thank you for making it okay to use the five second rule.

Dear Laurie,
Your writing gave me the idea to host a tea party in honor of my daughter’s birthday.  As I draped beaded garlands over the lights and scattered lavender buds across the table, I thought I heard your voice calling out in singsong approval.  Thank you for writing about your daughter with warmth and affection.

Dear Calvin,
Though I think your wife, Alice, was spot on when she coined the term “food crazies,” and though chances are likely that I am one myself, I appreciate your sustained interest in all things food-related. Thank you for being a “food crazy.” Your version of the first Thanksgiving is far better than the one I learned in elementary school.  I fully support your campaign to make spaghetti carbonara the official Thanksgiving dish.

Dear Harold,
You know you’ve got real cred when chefs all over the world refer to your tome as their “McGee,” as in, “I’ve got my McGee right here!”  I thank you for your tome and your cred. You’ve helped me through many a food inquiry.  I hope you don’t find this too creepy, but I think of you as Uncle McGee.  You seem like the type of person I’d enjoy spending time with on my deck.  As the sun descends over the western mountains, I might casually turn to you and say, “So, Uncle McGee?  Tell me the story about when you wrote your book.  Did you have a grant to fund your daily expenses as you researched?”  And you might chuckle, take a sip of your Malbec, and say, “Well, it all started back in the eighties….”

Dear Jeff,
You are an enigma when you guest-judge on Iron Chef America and Top Chef.  You share the same name as one of my first “real” crushes, a sous chef named Jeff who worked at the finest dining establishment in my college town.  The state he left me in was not funny, but you are.  Thank you for giving your assistant a comically disproportionate amount of work to do and for fielding so many marriage proposals. Thank you for accidentally poisoning yourself with taro leaf and writing about it with humor.

Dear Jane,
Mushrooms, onions, butter, sour cream, and dill…  Who knew? I serve your sour cream sauce over a big bowl of rice.  The mushrooms whisper, “We are so happy,” and so am I.  Thank you for loving fungi enough to dedicate an entire book to them.

Dear Tony,
I started watching your television show before I read any of your work.  I (unfairly) assumed you had writers.  Then I read your books, and your writing bowled me over. I couldn’t believe it!  Your prose is tight!  I haven’t had the good fortune to travel the world like you, but your writing amazed me with its ability to make me ravenous.  I’ve never tried pho, and yet I feel as if I have tasted it with you on the streets of Vietnam.  In my imagination, we traipsed across the globe throughout A Cook’s Tour, loosening our belts and belching happily.  I was your Zamir.  Thank you for making me hungry.  Even though No Reservations is over, never stop being hungry for more, okay?

Cher Jean Louis,
Will you ever find me indispensable? I think the world of you and would gladly be your scribe.  Thank you for renewing the zeal of my Francophilia.

Dear Readers,
Thank you for reading my work. I’ve been busy with a new job and haven’t been in the kitchen as much as I’d like, but I really appreciate all of your continued support. I am thankful for you.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Love, Jules

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Party Days

Let's party!

In my family, spring is more or less a continual opportunity to celebrate a string of birthdays that begin on March 4th and end on April 18th.  So, between consulting gigs and birthdays and instead of testing out recipes for single meals, I’ve been cooking on a mass scale and hosting a lot of parties.

I seldom need an excuse to throw a party.  It’s Thursday?  You like purple?  Let’s party!  When I watched Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow – the chefs from The Meatball Shop – on Chelsea Lately in January, I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I hosted a meatball party.  My daughter, Rory, who shares my suggestibility, eagerly co-opted the meatball party idea for her fifth birthday.  Though Laurie Colwin, who writes of the birthday tea party tradition she shares with her daughter, had already sold me on a tea party for Rory’s birthday, Rory was so sunny in her hope for meatballs that I couldn’t refuse her.  And then I thought, Why not do both?

By the time Rory turned five, I could barely contain my excitement.  We celebrated last week.  Rory invited four friends (and her big brother) to a princess tea party that was so civilized I almost laughed.  I prepared three types of tea sandwiches: coconut and lime curd, peanut butter and Nutella, and honey with banana slices.  I molded rice crispy treats into small spheres, and served them with chamomile tea and raspberry lemonade.  I learned several interesting things from the giggling guests, including the merits of having a younger brother, the versatility of bird poop, and the hilarity that underlies British accents.  Rory opened her presents, my husband extracted quarters from behind the ears of the guests, and the tea party concluded with a rousing jump on the trampoline in the backyard.  Laurie Colwin, you are a genius.

The meatball party commenced half an hour later, giving me just the right cushion of time to clear dishes and prepare for round two.  The Meatball Shop Cookbook provides numerous options, but ultimately I settled on their pork recipe.  I prepared the spicy pork meatballs the night before (ground pork shoulder, minced white bread, and hot cherry peppers ensure their spicy tenderness), and put them to heat in the oven mid-tea party.   I prepared TMS’s spicy tomato sauce to serve as an accompaniment.  I made a quick sauce of ginger ale, ketchup, barbeque sauce, and grape jelly for frozen meatballs, which I cooked in the crockpot all afternoon for the children of those we invited. (Rory declared the meatballs “dewicious!”) Because sometimes meatball ideas can be daunting, I extended the party theme to “Meatballs and Other Edible Items of a Spherical Nature,” which opened up potluck possibilities for all the guests.  Collectively, we ate the spicy meatballs and sauce on round rolls; African meatballs with green olives and an additional spicy tomato sauce; hominy in cheese sauce; a salad of miniature mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes; marinated mushrooms; grape tomatoes; green and black olives; red and green grapes; blueberries; rice crispy spheres; energy bite balls; donut holes; chocolate-covered espresso beans; and jelly beans and M&Ms. (Other suggestions: oranges, radishes, melon balls, macadamia nuts, caviar, red hots, cheese balls, and any number of round, dough-based creations…)  Similarly inspired by TMS, my friend, Casey, served ice cream floats: root beer and vanilla ice cream for the kids; cream soda and cappuccino ice cream (and rum) for the adults.

We sat at the table well into the night, picking at our plates and laughing, while upstairs the children watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.  It was a great night… and the start of an annual tradition that I will enthusiastically repeat.  As  The Meatball Shop folks say: “You had me at balls.”

Your friend in meatball love,
Jules

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