Monday, June 21, 2010

Magazine Review: Jamie

I've always been a fan of Jamie Oliver, owning four cookbooks and two of his DVD series The Naked Chef and Jamie at Home.  Allow me to highly recommend the latter for winding down after a very stressful day.  Watching him and Brian, his gardener, putz about, discussing bugs and greens and the weather, then watching what Jamie does with his fresh ingredients all make for a very soothing presentation.

But I'm here to review Jamie's magazine, Jamie, which I've noticed before at my local bookstore but never purchased until the other day, when I was way early to pick up my boys from school and wanted something to read in the car with my coffee.  I have the May/June 2010 issue.

For starters--and it may sound odd to discuss this--I absolutely love the tactile sensation of reading this magazine. It's not printed on glossy paper, with that subtle whisper of flipping pages.  Rather, this has the wonderful texture of a good-quality paperback book, a little rough and very pleasant to flip through.  I don't know the technical name for this paper stock but it really makes the photos of the food pop; because they're not shiny, they look like what you yourself may have just placed on the table.  It also brings a nice edge to the colorful illustrations that accompany some of the articles such as "Cool Beans" in the "Get Growing" section and a most excellent essay titled "Plate Politics."

The features are standard, including wine and travel, and the cover story is Jamie's visit to Stockholm's Rosendals garden.  What I was very pleased to find were a section for kids called "Little Chefs" and a "Monthly Menu" that was loaded with gorgeous ideas for both food and drink that were easy and would not break the budget.  True to form, all of the recipes throughout were just that, which should instill confidence in anyone who picks up a copy.  For those of you who may worry about the vanity element: no, there are not pictures of Jamie and his family splashed all over the place, making it appear as if you are looking through a photo album rather than a cooking mag.  So you're safe there. Finally, there was a very sweet tribute to Rose Gray, the woman who trained Jamie at the River Cafe.  She died in February of this year and the tribute pulled together reminiscences from friends and those she influenced over the years for a lovely memorial to a woman who lived a rather extraordinary life.

I really liked this issue.  I'm still working my way through it, it's that dense.  In fact, I more than likely will tote this around in my handbag because I think it can withstand the abuse.  Will I subscribe to it?  No, because my store carries it and it's less expensive for me to buy it myself (it's printed in the UK). However, if they did stop carrying it, I would consider shelling out the $80, especially if future issues are of the same quality.  If you'd like, you can get a brief view online here.

And there you have it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chow and Chatter on Blog Talk Radio

Tune in to listen to my friend Rebecca Subbiah from Chow and Chatter on Blog Talk Radio.  Enjoy!

Listen to internet radio with Chow and Chatter on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, June 4, 2010

This looks promising

I was in Newtown today and noticed this:

I like this idea. The sign wasn't there last week and I did see some workmen shuffling around inside so I'll track its progress. I won't be back in Newtown until after July 4th but that should be enough time for the store to make some headway.

I'm really liking the possibility of fresh flavored vinegars like tarragon or raspberry (especially as berries are in season now); or maybe some nice garlic/basil/rosemary or chili-infused olive oils. Those would definitely be a treat. But I'll tamp down my excitement and remain only intrigued by the possibilities.

And the dent this could put in my wallet.

What's in your cellar?

I love salt.  My preference these days is for Maldon sea salt, the chef's darling, a gorgeously flaky substance that adds real pizazz to a finished dish.  And it's sparkly and pretty so what's not to love?  I have a salt pig by the stove full of a Mediterranean fine sea salt that I use for my pasta water and as a cooking ingredient.  It's relatively inexpensive compared with the Maldon, which, in my eye, is akin to finishing a dish with an exquisite olive oil.  And, apparently, I'm contributing to the demise of my loved ones.

The hot topic in food these days is how to "fix" the American diet.  With obesity on the rise across the board (not just in children) it is now time again to pick an ingredient and beat it to death and find some way to regulate it until something else comes along to take its place.  The villain these days is salt. Table salt, curing salt, sea salt, the American diet is apparently busting at the seams with salt.  This of course is contributing to high blood pressure, hypertension, you name it.  So let's regulate it.  Let's take personal responsibility away from people and tell them how to eat.  You know, like we did when we made everything low-fat  Look how much good that did!

Yeah, look how much good that did.  America only got fatter.

And why is this?  Not because the food is loaded with salt or fat or sugar or secret ingredient #5.  It is because the mind-set of so many people is, it tastes good, I want more, I'm going to eat more, and you're not going to stop me.  And there, in my opinion, lies the problem.  The same problem I always find in these "let's tell people what to do" arguments.  Laziness and lack of personal responsibility. Anyone of average intelligence can read a label and think, yeah, that's a wee bit salty, and put it back on the shelf.  That same person could just as easily choose to live off those foods and develop some serious health issues.  And see a doctor.  And be told to go on a low-sodium diet.  And either ignore the doctor and suffer or listen and learn and live.

I'm not perfect.  I just know how and what to cook because I care about what we eat and I want us to stay healthy.  And I always have Goldfish on hand because I have two kids.  It's called survival.  How hard is it to read a label, really?  If your doctor tells you to lay off the salt, read the damn label. Prepare a meal from scratch.  See a nutritionist if you don't want to do it by yourself.  An R.D. can follow your eating habits, help you narrow down what you should and shouldn't be eating, and plan menus for you. Can't get much easier than that.  Stay away from the drive-thru.  Have hot dogs or some really good salami once a week instead of every day. Seriously, where is the difficulty in this?

My other question is why is it the responsibility of the food companies to fix the American diet? Nola sent me an excellent article from the Times that you can read here.  It's long and will take some time to get through but it's one of the best I've read thus far, and far more coherent than what I've presented here.  It's also fascinating from a scientific and industry perspective.

The path to better health starts in the kitchen.  With real food, prepared properly, eaten with joy.  Ideally, there will be pie.