Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Hail Chris Kimball! Hail Chris Kimball!

January 23, 2017

well, yesterday I made veggie bibimbap. It’s a Korean dish with rice, a whole bunch of veggies, some pickled veggies as a side, and a soft fried egg – though we went ahead, broke the yolks, and cooked them through. I had very little confidence in pulling this off at all, especially the eggs where my general lack of patience in putting together a meal really just works against me in all sorts of ways.

But apparently I damn near nailed it. Even the kid didn’t hate it, or at least he didn’t mind everything but the pickled veggies (carrots, bean sprouts, and cucumber).

Except I didn’t nail it. Chris Kimball nailed it. The recipe I used comes from America’s Test Kitchen Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. If you’re a vegetarian, or your spouse, or whoever…this is quickly becoming a must have recommendation from me. I have it out of the library right now, and I went through it and bookmarked all of the recipes that seemed interesting, and essentially 3/4 of the book has a slip of paper tucked into it. This has become the first step in deciding what cookbook we want to buy.  Needless to say this is a book that has passed this first step.

But this isn’t so much about the book as about the guy who apparently built this empire of foolproof cooking. The Wife and I were talking about the bibimbap last night, and I had just heard part of the Milk Street Radio Show while picking up some chocolate covered pretzels that we’re selling as part of a parents of toddlers group we’re in, and it became a conversation about the singularity of Chris Kimball.

From what I understand, everything began with Kimball putting together Cook’s Country magazine, which was very…spartan, I guess, when it first came up. Perhaps a better way of explaining it is that it had a honed focus on creating the best recipes it could, and giving people the ability to cook something, and to cook it well, just by following the directions.

Cook’s Country is still around.

Then there is America’s Test Kitchen.

Now there is Milk Street.

These three things encompass many things within their spheres from television shows to radio shows, from podcasts to cookbooks, to a cooking school.

Yes, this man is busy. He’s also exacting, talented, and a true gift to the at home cook. In twenty years, he is someone who should be talked about in the same vein as Julia Childs and Jacque Pepin as chefs who brought the nuts and bolts of cooking into the home, pulled back the curtain, and made it wholly accessible. This is different from people like Mario Batalli and Anthony Bourdain (both of whom I also enjoy). Yeah, they’re chefs, yeah, they talk about food. But they don’t make it accessible. They don’t put the pan in our hands in the same way and make their experience ours.

If you like cooking, and somehow have not drifted into Chris Kimball’s orbit, you need to do yourself a favor and take yourself there.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain – review (sort of)

November 14, 2011

At this point, I’m not sure there would be anything left to say about Anthony Bourdain. He has his own television show, he’s published numerous books, and he was a chef at a moderately well-known restaurant in the capital of the world, New York City. I’m fairly certain that if you’ve been at all conscious for the past few years, you’ve heard of him, you’ve seen him, and you’ve wanted to travel to half the places he’s traveled to and ate at least a quarter of what he’s eaten.  Hell, it’s why I grabbed this book off the shelf (albeit the clearance shelf at the local Half Price Books, though that’s more a reflection of my poverty status than of the quality of the book). A memoir of my favorite foodie, talking about his life, restaurants, food and everything in between? I’m in. Except I also didn’t know what I was going to write about.

Now, I do know, but it’s not really the book. It’s a great read. If you’ve seen No Reservations, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Bourdain’s voice is all over this thing, just like his ever present voice overs move us through his television show. Ribald one moment, juvenile machismo the next, and then dropping just the right note of seriousness at just the right moment to remind you that,yes, despite his behavior, he’s actually a pretty decent guy; the kind of guy you would want to go to dinner with, and not just watch him act like a jackass on television for the rubber necker factor.

Still, outside of that, I didn’t know what to write about as I moved through this book. I figured it would become another in a long line of books that I have read lately that I haven’t been able to put a blog together for. As I read, though, I came to know Bourdain better, to get a better idea of his world, but I was also able to discover a bit more about my Uncle J.  He died a few years ago, working nearly 30 years as a chef/kitchen manager, the majority of which for a relatively well known national Italian chain. I looked up to him, literally (he was well over 6ft tall) and figuratively. He was one of the few people in my family who had been able to go into the world, and make a pretty decent living doing something he enjoyed. Unfortunately, his work forced him to live pretty far from home, most of the time, and to move often. I didn’t get to see him, or talk to him, nearly enough in the years leading up to his death.  His death was very unexpected, and it’s something that still bothers me. I had been in his kitchens a few times at work, but I’d never really gotten an idea of what it was like. It’s been a part of his life that I’ve always been curious about.

Reading Bourdain’s book gave me an idea of what my uncle’s life must have been like. From how Hispanics dominate the kitchen staff to how the restaurant business, especially the kitchens, are a sort of way station for the lost, the oddballs, and the outcasts. It’s a world for those who don’t really fit in anywhere else. And the appeal of the business suddenly made  a lot of sense. My uncle grew up in a very small town. He was a very big guy, height and weight, and the weight was something he battled with all his life. And he was gay, though not openly around home. Still, he was an easy target. He never forgot how he was treated, he avoided places where he figured he would be likely to run into former classmates, I had the very clear impression that he loathed coming home because of it. I have a feeling that a kitchen was one of the few places where he could just fit in, where he could be accepted, not necessarily despite his differences, but because of them.

Bourdain wrote a wonderful book. It’s worth the read. As for me, I owe him for giving me a better understanding of the life my uncle lived, and that’s been priceless.