Wednesday, January 30, 2008

There Are Many Great Things about Living in the Midwest but January Is Not One of Them

Last night was a multi-blanket night. This morning, the wind chill is at 30 below.

Not a problem, as long as you've got a stout house and some colorful knitting. These poor Thujas have been languishing while I finished up the Domovoi Shawl.
If you want to look at some pretty handknit socks, you'll enjoy the cooperative SAM 5 blog. The participants all agree to knit one pair per month and post a photo when done. My January contribution is a pair of lizardlicious Cedar Creeks.

For jollying up this Wisconsin Narnia (where it's always winter), food is always a safe bet.

The mail brought Mediterranean Harvest by Martha Rose Shulman just yesterday. It looks absolutely wonderful, as all the reviews have claimed. The food pr0n is thoughtfully segregated into full-page asides, as in a visit to a Greek goat farm to watch the feta being lovingly and picturesquely handmade. You know what I mean about food pr0n? It's when the author invites the reader to press her nose up against the window to watch the author's life.

It can be fun reading but, please: not in the recipe intros.

A recent egregious offender is Patricia Wells' new book.
Wisconsin Public Radio was giving it as a pledge incentive. Wells, a Wisconsin born-and-bred food writer and cooking teacher, now lives in Provence. Here's how she sets up a beef stew recipe (beef stew, 3 cups of red wine, carrots, no potatoes):
"It was New Year's Eve day, and my husband, Walter, and I were having lunch at our favorite neighborhood café on Rue du Bac in Paris. Out of the blue, he announced that he was going to make the famed French speciality, boeuf-carottes, for the next day's dinner."

There is more but I'll spare you the schmaltz. Obviously, this stuff sells and has become a convention in food writing. It also fills space when you have nothing of substance to say, as plenty of authors of recent knitting books can attest.

Of the two cookbooks, Shulman's Mediterranean Harvest is far superior, and not just for its stylistic restraint. She gives over 500 recipes, plus variations, plus do-ahead tips. Today, I'm going to womp up a kettle of her Provençal Chick Pea Soup and pretend that's the mistral howling outside.

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