Back Up to New York City: The 2014 Fancy Food Show, Part 2: Events On the Floor and Off the Wall

There were some tasty events happening on the show floor. I met Nancy Radke among an impressive array of opened wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano at a booth in the Italian neighborhood. “Coming to the Parm cracking at the Rogers Collection Booth?” she asked. I did not have to be asked twice.

Surrounded By Cheese

Surrounded By Cheese

It takes skill, time and at least two people to properly crack a wheel of Parm. While this delicate (but at the same time strength-requiring) task was taking place, Nancy regaled the small audience of cheese buyers and press with facts about real Parmigiano Reggiano. Everyone knows about Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, but did you know that every wheel can be traced to its manufacturer through a QR code?

Right Down The Middle

Right Down The Middle

Then there was Cooking with Nonna at the Casillo booth. Rossella Rago, host of that TV series, had brought not one but two nonnas, and one of them was her actual Nonna (Italian grandmother for non-paisanos), Nonna Romana. They demonstrated making pasta with Casillo products, and everybody had a taste. Buona!

Nonna, Rossella, Nonna

Nonna, Rossella, Nonna

 

Watch That Rolling Pin!

Watch That Rolling Pin!

Out in the hallway, there was a taste of the high-tech future. A ChefJet 3D printer had been set up, and it was busy printing sugar sculpture – fantastic shapes and colors which could hardly have been imagined until recently.

The ChefJet Printer

The ChefJet Printer

There were little cube variations, almost too cute to eat.

Sugar Not-Cubes

Sugar Not-Cubes

And there was a convoluted masterpiece to admire.

Wow!

Wow!

Liz van Hasseln of 3D Systems told me that they have digitized and printed rare orchid specimens for the Smithsonian Institution. I can’t wait to see what chefs and food designers come up with to produce on these machines! They are getting less expensive and more accessible every day.

Lastly, a party at the hip Hotel Americano (a very Eurostyle place, despite its name), hosted by the Casillo Group, featured Rossella Rago and Nonna Romana from the booth demo.

There's Nonna Romana!

There’s Nonna Romana!

The occasion was the launch of Casillo’s new video campaign, which was previewed at the party. We met a man wearing a beautiful jacket, who turned out to be the film’s director, Carlos Solito.

It Has Passimenterie

It Has Passimenterie

There were beautiful people, delicious pasta, signature cocktails, copious antipasti, and loud music.

Pasta On Offer

Pasta On Offer

The Hipness Of The Party Is Judged By The Size Of The Cameras

The Hipness Of The Party Is Judged By The Size Of The Cameras

Partiers

Eating, Drinking, Talking

A good time was had by all.

Posted in Cooking, Eating, Events | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back Up to New York City: The 2014 Fancy Food Show, Part 1: World Tour in a Day (or Three)

For some reason, I found the most interesting booths and events at this year’s show were those from outside the USA. The World Cup may have had something to do with it, but as this report describes my subjective view of the show, so be it.

In one of the first aisles beyond the entrance, the exhibitors from Japan were offering exotic tastes. The representative from Abukuma Foods had a big hit with pickled baby peaches, eaten whole, pit and all. Sweet-tasting and a beautiful emerald green, craft cocktail makers would love them.

Baby Green Peaches

Baby Green Peaches

Further down, the Jabri confection booth had a beautiful display of sweets.

Impressive And Delicious

Impressive And Delicious

But Peru lured one in with pisco as well as food. One of many booths to offer continuous and varied tastes of native cuisine, Peru demonstrated the art of cooking with quinoa as well as artichokes (Peru’s biggest produce export – who knew?), olives, and chocolate. And much pisco.

In Peru, One Drinks Pisco

In Peru, One Drinks Pisco

And on the drinks theme, there were impressive, shiny espresso machines,

From Italy, Natch!

From Italy, Natch!

Beer and cocktails in Mexico,

Did She Dye Her Hair To Match The Drink?

Did She Dye Her Hair To Match The Drink?

Lemon-colored limoncello sellers,

Lemon Limon

Lemon Limon

And a woman in a wonderful sari offering Ceylon tea.

Tea Sari

Tea Sari

Morocco and Germany were once again across the aisle from each other. Germany had sausage on offer, but Morocco let out all the hospitality stops with copious food, including a delicious harara soup.

Morocco With Germany In The Background

Morocco With Germany In The Background

Sit, Have Some Tea!

Sit, Have Some Tea!

In the Italian neighborhood (many aisles of booths), the beautiful red prosciutto slicer was manned by the handsome guy I remembered from last year.

He Can Cut It!

He Can Cut It!

But down the row, there was an even more impressive black job, the “Parma 50.” That’s serious slicing! But then, everyone at the show is serious about food.

This One Means Business

This One Means Business

But right off the exhibit hall, there were monitors set up to follow the World Cup, and some folks seemed even more serious about football.

Goooaaal!

Goooaaal!

Next: Part 2, Events on the Floor and Off the Wall

Posted in Cooking, Eating, Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best Hot Chocolate Ever – And Some Excellent Crafts, Too

We were lured to the press preview of the new exhibit, Cutting-Edge Spanish Crafts, Innovation and Design in Contemporary Crafts Industries, at the Former Residence of the Ambassadors of Spain by the promise of chocolate con churros. We were not disappointed.

I have had hot chocolate in several places in New Mexico and next door to the FRotAoS at the Mexican Cultural Institute, but this stuff topped them all. I understand that the test for truly awesome hot chocolate in Spain is that the churro stands up in it without support; it did indeed.

Chocolate con Churros

Chocolate con Churros

This chocolate was so rich and thick (and not too sweet) that one cupful was enough, but I found that mixing it half-and-half with the coffee which had been thoughtfully provided was also a delightful experience.

Before we could fall into a theobromine coma, we were addressed by none other than the Spanish Ambassador, His Excellency Ramón Gil-Casares, welcoming us and introducing Alicia Adams from the Kennedy Center. She disclosed some exciting details about the upcoming Iberian Suite: Global Arts Remix, a major festival highlighting the cultures of the Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking world. Scheduled for March 3rd thru 24th, there will be performances, visual arts exhibitions and installations, and events for literature, design, cuisine, and family participation. It sounds amazing! And, we are lucky enough to live in the neighborhood.

Curator Tachy Mora, Ambassador Gil-Casares, Ms. Alicia Adams

Curator Tachy Mora, Ambassador Gil-Casares, Ms. Alicia Adams

Then we were treated to a guided tour of the exhibit by the curator, Ms. Tachy Mora. This is a diverse collection of examples of design, craftsmanship and clever use of materials from individual craftspeople as well as industries, complemented by a large coffee-table book written by Ms. Mora.

Tachy Mora and Her Book

Tachy Mora and Her Book

Familiar names such as Llandro mixed with those more obscure. I loved the realistic parakeets from Llandro, in contrast to the stylized and idiosyncratic objects which we are used to seeing from this maker. Despite the wide distribution of its output, this Valencian company continues to produce all its products by hand.

The Llandro Case

The Llandro Case

Perching Llandro Birds

Perching Llandro Birds

There was a set of organic-inspired candles designed by Jordi Labanda of Cerabella, winner of a Spanish National Crafts Award. Each candle is dipped multiple times, and takes a full day to make.

Crafted Candles

Crafted Candles

One set of felt balls, although artful, seemed to defy practicality. Maybe it was just me, having a failure of imagination? These “Cocos Pallaresos,” wool containers made by artisan Ester Sánchez, are the result of a revival of traditional felt craft from Catalonia. “They are to put things in – whatever you want,” Ms. Mora explained, helpfully.

Enigmatic Felt Balls

Enigmatic Felt Balls

My favorite objects were a set of Hilo vases, inspired by Spanish botijos (traditional porous clay water containers), by Marre Moerel. decorated by using a pastry bag to distribute decoration around the body of the vase. Each piece is decorated by hand, and is therefore unique.

Pastry Bag Vases

Pastry Bag Vases

The design of the exhibition emphasizes the “importedness” of the objects on display, utilizing packing crates, pallets and heavy clear plastic panels instead of glass. Clever, but hard to take an undistorted picture through!

Glass Behind Plastic

Glass Behind Plastic

This exhibit will continue until March 29, at the Former Residence of the Ambassadors of Spain,
2801 16th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20009

Gallery hours: Thursday through Sunday from 12 pm to 6 pm;
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday by appointment at: contact@spainculture.us
Admission is free.

Posted in Eating, Events | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I Eat, Therefore I Speak

Review: The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu, by Dan Jurafsky, Norton, 2014.

A book that combines two of my favorite subjects! What could be better?

I majored in anthropology in college, where I picked up a smattering of linguistics, and during my career in information management rubbed elbows with a few computational linguists, so I thought I could give this book a somewhat knowledgeable critique from several angles.

Turns out I didn’t need any specialized knowledge to enjoy 95% of it. Jurafsky bends over backward to adopt a folksy, populist tone as he discusses language analysis of menu descriptions, restaurant reviews, and the cost of potato chips; traces several cases of food evolution through word derivations; and describes the potential effects of vowels on food names.

He explores questions you may or may not have ever wondered about, such as why we refer to food with either sex or drug metaphors in restaurant reviews, or whether there is a relationship between “macaroon” and “macaroni” (guess what – there is).

Several chapters explore not only linguistic associations among foods through time and space, but how these can be used to trace social attitudes of the people who ate them. Anthropology in action!

There are only a few chapters in which Jurafsky’s academic research peeps through. In the very first, “How to Read a Menu,” computational linguistic techniques are used to analyze word frequency in restaurant menus to reveal how more expensive restaurants describe food differently from the cheap joints. In “Sex, Drugs and Sushi Rolls,” those metaphors are analyzed in Yelp reviews. Again, a chapter near the end, “Does This Name Make Me Sound Fat?” makes a discussion of vowel sounds understandable, and even enjoyable, to laypersons.

But his academic background reveals itself in the footnotes, hidden in the back, just before the extensive list of references. With no obtrusive superscript to detract from the reading experience, and indeed, no reference to the footnotes at all in the introduction or text of the book, the inattentive reader may not even realize this feature exists until finishing the final chapter. In my obsessive-compulsive way, I found myself skimming the footnotes to each chapter in advance, just in case I was missing something. Occasionally, there was an additional tidbit of knowledge to be found.

I did find one error in the text that a proofreader should have caught. In one chapter, Jurafsky refers to “the old term for fifty cents…’two-bit words'” – but this colloquialism means twenty-five cents. He uses it again, correctly this time, later in the book. This is an example, by the way, of many instances of repetition throughout, enough so that I wearied of the device. A second quibble I had concerned his constant references to his wife, Janet, and the city he lives in (San Francisco). It’s another way he tries to inject folksiness into a book which could easily turn abstruse. That it doesn’t is a credit to his balancing skills. Still.

The Language of Food painlessly educates the reader in aspects of linguistics and food history. Dan Jurafsky proves himself able to explain obscure topics without sugarcoating the science. I for one would like to go out eating and drinking with him and Janet, next time I visit San Francisco.

Language of Food

Posted in Food Book Review | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Ethnic Bazaars Abound Around Here

Faithful readers of this blog will know of my fondness for church bazaars (another link here). For the 2014 Christmas Bazaar season, we decided to concentrate on those with a big food component. Many in this category were the Nordics (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland), but others were right up there. Here are some of the best we visited.

The Danish Bazaar at St. Elizabeth’s in Rockville has grown considerably since we last visited, several years ago. A big crowd comes for the excellent selection of open-faced sandwiches and desserts. Getting there before the bazaar actually opens is a good idea, because even though they have many tables lined up for seating, they can’t seat everyone waiting to get in until some folks leave.

Danish Menu

Danish Menu

Danish Serving Line

Danish Serving Line

Our Danish Lunch

Our Danish Lunch

The ambiance is reminiscent of a high-school cafeteria, if your high school lunchroom had included whole families.

Part of the Danish Crowd

Part of the Danish Crowd

He Has HIS Lunch!

He Has HIS Lunch!

But the sandwiches were the best of all the bazaars we went to this year. The bazaar also included a baked goods table and a selection of imported Danish stuff, but the thing that made this bazaar unique was the Aebleskiver Operation.

All About Aebleskivers

All About Aebleskivers

Little round pockets of dough, not unlike pancakes but plumper, and often stuffed with jam, these treats are produced by the combination of a special pan, a certain skill in turning, and some practice.

I was especially interested because I happen to possess the first of these, and when I tried to acquire the second by dint of the third, I was a miserable failure. However, by carefully watching the expert aebleskiver operators, I was able to uncover the subtle technique that I sorely lacked. I expect much better results with my next batch.

Pouring The Batter

Pouring The Batter

Turning The Little Buggers

Turning The Little Buggers

The Finnish Bazaar at the River Road Unitarian Church in Bethesda also attracted a crowd, one which could not be accommodated in the relatively small dining room. People were finding seating and eating all over the building. It was cozy, but cramped. Fortunately, no one seemed to mind.

Finnish Menu Flags

Finnish Menu Flags

Eating And Canoodling On The Stairs

Eating And Canoodling On The Stairs

Finnish Seating

Finnish Seating

The food was similar to, but with fewer choices than, the Danish bazaar’s offerings, and suffered slightly by comparison. The serving line had extra added attractions in the form of winsome Finnish serving elves.

Finnish Serving Line

Finnish Serving Line

Winsome Serving Elf

Winsome Serving Elf

Our Finnish Lunch

Our Finnish Lunch

The non-eating part of the bazaar was expansive. In addition to the requisite baked goods and ethnic tchochkas, there were fiddlers, an instant-win drawing with gingerbread houses for prizes, and a selection of giftware.

Finnish Fiddles

Finnish Fiddles

Gingerbread House Prize

Gingerbread House Prize

Bottle Openers.  Make Mine A Moose!

Bottle Openers. Make Mine A Moose!

And some ornaments that brought me right back to elementary school.

And Call It Macaroni

And Call It Macaroni

The smallest and homiest of the three was the Hungarian Bazaar at the Women’s Club of Bethesda. Everyone there seemed to know everyone else – it was like a big party for a few hundred of your closest friends. Who knew there was such a big Hungarian community around Washington?

There were only a few tables selling goods (but there was a big used book sale on the lawn, all in Hungarian). The main emphasis was on food and entertainment. And what entertainment! The Tisza Ensemble, musicians and dancers, performed to Hungarian folk tunes for an hour.

Hungarian Tables And Musicians

Hungarian Tables And Musicians

Hungarian Merch

Hungarian Merch

Hungarian Folk Dancers

Hungarian Folk Dancers

And Audience Participation!

And Audience Participation!

The food was hearty and somehow appropriate to the woodsy, folkloric vibe. We came late (about an hour after the bazaar started), and some of the dishes were already gone. Of what remained, we decided on a sausage on a bun and goulash soup. Also, I indulged in a chestnut puree dessert, but was disappointed in the very faint chestnut taste.

Hungarian Menu

Hungarian Menu

Food And Flyer

Food And Flyer

Overall, we would not go back to this bazaar for the food (unless early enough for the presumably best stuff), but will definitely plan to return for the dancing and overall gestalt. A children’s dance was scheduled for later in the day, but we could not stay for it. I’m sure the kids were just as entertaining as the adult performers!

Posted in Eating, Events | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Botanically Interesting Days

Today I set up my new desk calendar. The nice folks at Botanical Interests  have been sending me their calendar for several years now, and it has brightened my desk with lovely illustrations of flowers and vegetables.

Calendar Cover

Calendar Cover

Cauliflower For January

Cauliflower For January

In Case You Want To Plant It

In Case You Want To Plant It

About The Owners

About The Owners

Their online seed catalog is guaranteed to cause any gardener to desire far more plantings than any one plot can hold – but I am assured by friends who garden that this is a common affliction. I have tried planting my own piece, but predatory deer and too much shade have combined to crush my hopes to grow vegetables. Herbs in pots on my patio are all I can aspire to!

But for anyone reading this who can grow their own, go look at Botanical Interests’ website. They stand out from other seed purveyors by the amount of information furnished both on their website and on each individual seed packet. They have a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and each packet has a beautiful illustration by an artist.

I will spend January dreaming of Cauliflower, Early Snowball, illustrated by Susan Strok. How bad can that be?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Double Down Downton Abbey

It’s time, once again, for us on the far side of the pond to see the new season of Downton Abbey (or will be, starting in January 2015). WETA-TV sponsored a preview at the Marriott Wardman Park ballroom, as they did last year). They filled the thousand-seat ballroom twice, at 3 and 7 p.m., with avid Downton fans. There were tea and scones, cutouts and backdrops to pose in front of, a drawing to enter, and period costumes to admire.

Tea and Cookies and Scones and Jam

Tea and Cookies and Scones and Jam

Posing and Snapping

Posing and Snapping

More Posing, More Snapping

More Posing, More Snapping

The live chamber music included an arrangement of the Downton theme song, among other light classical offerings.

Strings Under the Big Screen

Strings Under the Big Screen

One could vote (just for fun) for the possible next victim (oops, I meant groom) for Mary. I cast a sentimental if unlikely vote for the dark horse, Tom, the former chauffeur. Charles was the crowd’s favorite. We’ll see!

Whom Indeed?

Whom Indeed?

The first episode of Season 5 was full of all the couture, kitchen scenes, dining, and intrigue a fan could want. The overall theme for this season is change – not odd considering it’s set in 1924. Forces unleashed by the war are starting to penetrate even into the countryside, and disturb the social order.

Back in the real world, the fans were delighted by the announcement that there will be a Season 6 of Downton, and that Call The Midwife has been renewed. Moreover, for all you ancient PBS fans (your faithful correspondent among them) who remember the series Poldark, there will be a remake as well as a rebroadcast of the original ’70s episodes. Just so much exciting news!

And now, for lagniappe, a treat I cannot recommend highly enough. Follow this link  to the funniest Downton parody ever, produced in aid of a British charity. I really did Laugh Out Loud – thanks to Slate for the link!

Happy (Downton watching in the) New Year!

Posted in Eating, Events | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sounds Good AND Tastes Great – Appetite at Strathmore Part 2: Everything Else: Saturday

Saturday at Appetite at Strathmore was packed with events, so many simultaneously that missing something good seemed unavoidable – however, we soldiered on into the fray, thankful for what we could experience. Which turned out to be very satisfying.

We arrived at noon (missing the earliest events, which started at 11), but on time for a Talk and Taste hosted by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, pairing wine with charcuterie. The food sampling was very nice, and Wine Director Brent Kroll was free with his advice and opinions.

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting

Charcuterie Went With The Wine

Charcuterie Went With The Wine

Some of them: don’t rely on the D.O.C.G. (Italian controlled origin) label for assurance of a quality wine; orange wine is ‘flawed’ on purpose – in his opinion, “not a wine to go back to;” for value, look for wine from places where the cost of living is low: Chile and Argentina, for instance.

Then, on to see the Grays (Chef Todd and Ellen Kassoff Gray, one of Washington’s premier culinary power couples) cook from their book, The New Jewish Table. While Chef Todd produced a mouthwatering dish of Fig and Port Wine Blintzes, Ellen recounted that Todd had never eaten blintzes or gefilte fish before their marriage, yet they have developed a cuisine and produced a book of lasting value.

Ellen, Chef Todd, Sous Chef Darnell

Ellen, Chef Todd, Sous Chef Darnell

The Grays' Audience

The Grays’ Audience

Camera Envy (On My Part)

Camera Envy (On My Part)

And A Bride-To-Be

And A Bride-To-Be

I enjoyed the session so much I went back for their second set, in which Chef Todd made a fried green tomato sandwich as an example of Farm to Table cuisine; local, seasonal and delicious. My only criticism of these sessions is that they were held in a room too small for the overflow crowd!

During a break in sessions, we strolled the grounds and rooms inside the Mansion, which held an array of food exhibitors. Ranging from Swing’s Coffee (local since 1916), Iceland Vodka, and the ladies representing the afternoon tea program at Strathmore, there was something to sample at every turn.

Tea Ladies - Cucumber and Salmon Sandwiches, Anyone?

Tea Ladies – Cucumber and Salmon Sandwiches, Anyone?

Would You Like an Iceberg With Your Vodka? Or a Cardboard Sheep?

Would You Like an Iceberg With Your Vodka? Or a Cardboard Sheep?

And we found an old friend parked amidst the food truck roundup.

Jon Rossler, The Corned Beef King

Jon Rossler, The Corned Beef King

Then we ankled over to the Music Center, where one of the big, echoing rehearsal halls was set up with a demo kitchen. Robert Wiedmaier, another of Washington’s top chefs, had two demos back-to-back. We stayed for both.

There was a lot of space between the audience seating and the kitchen. This did not sit well with Chef Robert. “Come, stand close!” he implored. Many folks did.

Chef Robert, Huge Space, Audience

Chef Robert, Huge Space, Audience

Getting Close

Getting Close

Scallops were on the menu for the first demo. With roe, the best kind. Hard to find around here, he gets them wholesale from Maine. “Find a good fishmonger, make friends with him,” he advised.

Scallop!

Scallop!

There was much banter and interaction with Chef Robert. When the dish, Diver Scallops and Sardines with Summer Caponata, was finished, generous tastes were distributed. It was indeed delicious!

Sampling

Sampling

Even A Group Pic

Even A Group Pic

After a short break, Chef Robert and his sous-chef Matt reappeared to cook up Mussels Provencal. It was a repeat of the first session, entertaining and delicious.

Cooking Mussels

Cooking Mussels

Mussels Cooking

Mussels Cooking

And then, it was time for a Party on the Patio. Earlier in the day, we had looked down from the Music Center atrium to spot a mysterious box being lovingly tended by a couple of muchachos down behind the pavement. Guess what? There was a whole pig in there, cooking away! Scott Drewno, yet another celebrity chef, had brought a crew to roast and serve that pig with steamed dumplings at the party.

Kickin' Back With the Pig

Kickin’ Back With the Pig

That's Chef Scott On The Right

That’s Chef Scott At The Upper Right

Pig: What's Left

Pig: What’s Left

While we ate and drank, we were entertained by Victoria Vox on her ukulele and mouth trumpet. A fitting end to a delicious and entertaining event! I hope it will become an annual one.

Victoria and Her Uke

Victoria and Her Uke

Posted in Cooking, Eating, Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sounds Good AND Tastes Great – Appetite at Strathmore, Part 1: Giada!

Previously known as one of the outstanding venues for music and performance in Montgomery County, Strathmore has taken a leap into the world of the taste buds with “Appetite – A Gastronomic Experience,” two days of talking, cooking and sampling in August. I had a good time at the inaugural event, and hope it becomes another annual date on our local culinary calendar.

Two headline acts occupied the stage at the Music Center on Friday and Saturday evenings. I had a conflict on Saturday, so I did not catch Andrew Zimmern, but on Friday I joined a hoard of fans to hear Giada de Laurentiis speak and cook.

Giada On Stage

Giada On Stage

Giada Close Up

Giada Close Up

Now, I don’t usually watch daytime television, but Giada’s show is on while I use the treadmill at the gym. (What kind of person watches the Food Channel while working out? Let us set that question aside for now.) She whips up delicious-looking meals while inspiring lifestyle envy over her California-casual house and garden. She uses olive oil, sugar and cream with abandon while never gaining an ounce. She’s cute as a button. I hate her.

But she’s also disarmingly endearing and knows how to please a crowd at a live event. She started out asking for audience participation with a twist – three men (a sparse demographic in that audience) to build muffalettas.

The Guys Build a Muffaletta

The Guys Build a Muffaletta

There were questions about her daughter and her aunt, her go-to family meal (Turkey Meatloaf with Feta and Sun-dried Tomatoes), and her favorite cake (her fellow Food Network star Ina Garten’s Seven-Layer Fudge Cake).

Then it was time for the second recipe, also with audience participation. This time it involved actual cooking and the other gender: Tortellini with Pea Pesto and Pancetta.

Cooking Tortellini

Cooking Tortellini

The Big Screen

The Big Screen

And a final question: What would Giada be if not a chef? A Formula 1 race car driver.

That was Friday. Saturday proved to be so full of scheduled demos, talks and music that one person could attend only a fraction of them. Still, I gave it my best shot. (That’s another post.)

Posted in Cooking, Events | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Next Best Thing To Eating

The “Feast Your Eyes” Exhibit at Annmarie Garden, and a Related Book Talk
Books That Cook edited by Jennifer Cognard-Black and Melissa A. Goldthwaite, New York University Press, 2014.

Jennifer Cognard-Black could have filled the hour by lecturing on the subject of her book, or reading excerpts from it, both of which would be the sort of things one would expect from an author asked to give a book talk. Instead, Dr. Cognard-Black presented a visual and physical manifestation of her thesis, and asked the audience to prove it to their own satisfaction in a sort of culinary show-and-tell.

The Box Is To The Left Of The Podium

The Box Is To The Left Of The Podium

Some Of The Recipes

Some Of The Recipes

She brought a box full of her Grandma Peg’s recipe cards – all 1,400 of them – collected over a lifetime of cooking in the mid-20th century, and asked us to read them as if they were works of literature. Treating “recipes as manuscripts” allows one to bring a set of critical tools to an overlooked genre. We saw the recipes with new eyes, as stories with the elements of title, exposition (list of ingredients), resolution (set of instructions, beginning with a verb, inviting the reader into the “story”), and – always! a happy ending (eat)!

Grandma Pegs Recipe

One Of Grandma Peg’s Recipes

Reading From The Book

She Did Read From The Book, Afterward

 

Almost every one of Grandma Peg’s recipes includes an attribution to her source – usually one of the women in her circle of friends and relations. One can derive from this a picture of a collaborative community of sharing; a mutual respect inherent in the act of swapping “trade secrets” with trusted peers.

What a great exercise in deductive anthropology! Not what I expected from an excursion to Deepest Southern Maryland. Down Route 4, just before you fall into the Bay at Solomons, Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center covers 30 acres of Calvert County with art and nature. I had known about its existence but never had a good reason to visit until last week, when the exhibit and book talk coincided with several of my keenest interests.

The exhibit is housed in a large shed-like building with no internal supports other than a staircase to an open loft, conducive to flexibility of display space. The talk occupied a corner of the exhibit area.

The Exhibit Sign

The Exhibit Sign

Book Talk Corner and Wooden Books (Burger Night by Mark E. Elfman)

Book Talk Corner and Wooden Books (Burger Night by Mark E. Elfman)

Exhibit Hall Overview

Exhibit Hall Overview

The exhibit contained a congeries of artworks of varying media and styles, some more inventive and surprising than others, but most on the conservative, representational end of the art spectrum. Only a few were willing to be provocatively ugly; most would be welcome in any living room. Here are some of my favorites.

That Over Which We Have No Control, by Carolyn Tillie

That Over Which We Have No Control, by Carolyn Tillie

A Menu Dilemma: Seafood In Red Sauce vs Green Salad, by Julia Musengo

A Menu Dilemma: Seafood In Red Sauce vs Green Salad, by Julia Musengo

Cake, by Laura Shull

Cake, by Laura Shull

Brief History Of The Tomato, by Melanie Kehoss

Brief History Of The Tomato, by Melanie Kehoss

And on the way down, Route 4 offered up a surreal vision – a giant inflatable turkey, the size of a pickup truck. It was easy to make the comparison, since there were several of the latter parked directly beneath the huge fowl.

The Turkey That Ate Solomons

The Turkey That Ate Solomons

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Cooking, Events | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment