Friday, June 10
As a member of Martha’s Circle, I was invited to participate in an event hosted by actress Jennifer Garner for Frigidaire’s Kids’ Cooking Academy, which also supports Save the Children. Alas, the event was in upstate New York, and I’m in, you know, CALIFORNIA. I’m beginning to feel like my life is a constant 2-degrees of separation from Jennifer Garner. First my dear friend Allison got to hang out with her TWICE (you can read about her fun experiences here and here), and now this event that I was invited was, well, in New York. I have such a hard life, eh? Definitely whine-worthy. ANYWAY…since I couldn’t be there myself, I sent one of my far-flung correspondents to pretend he was me. Here’s his report (which, by the way, just made me even more sad to have missed it!):
To tell the truth, life as a far flung correspondent really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. So when I had the opportunity to leave Manhattan on the hottest day of the year (so far) to visit a world-class restaurant and meet a celebrity, I was outtathere in a New York minute.
First the setting: Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barn is a localvore’s fever dream. Once a Rockefeller estate, the complex is now a self-sustaining organic farm where nearly everything that arrives at the table is grown practically right outside the door.
For the event, Blue Hill’s kitchen director, chef Adam Kaye, demonstrated three farm-to-table recipes to a dozen or so kids ranging in age from 2 ½ to six or seven. As the kids worked on crispy zucchini with parmesan, a spring vegetable salad with baby peas, asparagus and edible flowers, and strawberries with mint, yogurt, and honey, Jennifer would pitch in with the demo, or stroll along the table helping the kids out. This lady definitely knows her way around a whisk.
THIS WEEK FOR DINNER: How did you learn to cook?
JENNIFER GARNER: I grew up in a house where my mom cooked dinner every night, and I learned from her. I would help out sometimes, though I don’t think I was much help to her. Growing up that way makes it odd to pull something out of the freezer and put it on the table rather than a home-cooked meal.
TWFD: Do you cook with your kids?
JG: I do a lot of cooking with my daughter. Mornings are for baking, and she has her banana bread recipe memorized, so sometimes she’ll suggest variations, like “Let’s make it with some whole-wheat flour,” or “Let’s add some chocolate chips.”
TWFD: What are some of your favorite recipes to make with her?
JG: One thing is, we make pizza every Sunday. I got a great recipe for honey-wheat crust from Sarabeth’s Kitchen. And I got an ice cream maker as a gift many years ago. It’s so easy to make homemade! Sometimes I substitute the cream for whole milk. I like that you can control the fat, and just add any fruit you’ve got in the fridge for flavor. Also for dessert, I love Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Busy Day Chocolate Cake. I make a little 8” pan of it — so quick and easy.
TWFD: As a mom, do you make sure your kids only eat homemade from scratch?
JG: I don’t really try to restrict what they eat. I want them to know that all food is great in moderation. Some days are just junk food days!
TWFD: How did you get started advocating for children’s causes?
JG: I think it’s shocking that one in four kids America are at risk for hunger. It’s really a silent problem, because these kids don’t have a voice. They can’t rally in Washington. ‘Save the Children’ is doing such a wonderful job fighting hunger in the U.S., going into impoverished rural communities, providing physical activity, healthy foods, and 0-5 early-education programs. The difference these programs make in the vocabulary of these children is so impressive; it’s something you can’t ignore. And I have to hand it to Frigidaire, which has made a $500,000 commitment to ‘Save the Children.’ If other corporations made that kind of commitment, think of what we could accomplish.
There you have it, Jennifer Garner, my almost friend. Hope you enjoyed this little interview with her…and maybe one day I’ll actually get to meet this lady!
Visit maketimeforchange.com to learn more about Frigidaire’s Kids’ Cooking Academy. Every time you do, Frigidaire will donate $1 to Save the Children’s U.S. programs, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a new Frigidaire Gallery French door refrigerator.
Friday, May 14
This giveaway is now closed. However there is a really fun interview with Mireille Guiliano in this post, so keep reading!
Two weeks ago I had the chance to do a phone interview with Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat and The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook, among many other books. Mireille is a lovely person with lovely books and I was so excited for the opportunity. Not surprisingly, we had a lovely conversation! I wish you could have all had a chance to chat with her. She was friendly, sincere, kind and gracious. I’m pretty much in love and ready to do anything she tells me to do. Eat my veggies? Done!
In conjunction with the interview, we are giving away two copies of Mireille’s new cookbook, The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. Simply leave a comment on this post to enter. The book is beautiful and full of wonderful stories and recipes. Comments must be posted by Midnight, Wednesday, May 19. Two winners will be randomly selected and announced on May 20. (U.S. mailing addresses only, please.)
On to the interview with Mireille Guiliano! (In case you’re wondering, her first name is pronounced Meer-ray, with that great French “R” sound. By the way, talking with Mireille made me want to jump on the next plance to France!)
Wednesday, May 5
I recently had the chance to do an email interview with Chef Jody Adams, one of the chefs from Top Chef Masters. I was super excited about this opportunity because I have eaten at her restaurant and it was one of the best meals of my life! When Nate and I were pennyless newlyweds in Boston, my boss gave us a hefty gift certificate to Rialto, Jody’s restaurant in Harvard Square. We used the certificate for our anniversary and it’s a night I’ll never forget. We enjoyed our dinner for well over 3 hours (luxurious!) and every bite was perfect. It was a special night that I’ll always cherish.
Jody is a fantastic chef who is committed to supporting local farmers and charitable work. It’s been fun watching her on Top Chef Masters…and even more fun thinking up questions to ask her directly. I hope you enjoy the interview!
Q: The culinary world is traditionally male-dominated. Was it hard as a woman to break into the field? Has being a woman in this field been generally frustrating or empowering?
Jody: Mercifully, the days when a woman would be excluded from a kitchen because of her sex are mostly behind us. Even three decades ago my first restaurant job was in a kitchen under a female chef, Lydia Shire, one of the most successful chefs in Boston. My first big step up in the game was as sous-chef, for Gorden Hamersley, who had once been Lydia’s sous-chef. Kitchens are meritocracies; at the minimum, you have to be able to do the physical labor. To advance, you need more than that–you need drive, ambition, talent and a willingness to push yourself outside your comfort zone. I’m a hard worker and I knew if I could get in the door I’d have a chance. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never been employed by some moron with dinosaur attitudes toward women. That said, I think the current media tends to spin culinary culture in a way that doesn’t serve women well. It has to do with the whole I’m-a-bad-boy-chef-cooking-with-lots-of-pork affect. The press loves it, it makes good t.v., male cooks know it, and the public eats it up. It’s an easy sell. Not many female chefs enjoy playing in that arena; most of the male chefs I know don’t either. Women are just as tough as men, we work just as hard, but what we’re about as cooks is often a little more complicated. That means writers have to dig a little deeper, and the story’s a harder sell. My hope for the future is that the work I and other women chefs have done for the last 30 years will build a diverse culinary culture that moves forward toward the light rather than standing still or going backwards.
Q: You do a wonderful job of supporting local farms at your restaurant Rialto. Given the growing importance of eating and growing locally, do you think other restaurants will adopt this practice in a timely manner? As consumers, what is the best way we can support this movement?
Jody: The good news is that we ARE in the middle of a local food movement and chef/owners of restaurants like Rialto have been buying from local farmers for over 25 years. We do it because the food tastes better, we are committed to supporting and possibly saving farms and because we can. But not everyone has access to local food, and making sweeping statements about what consumers, in the broad general sense, should be doing is something I like to be careful about. We as a members of the American community that eats food, that would be all of us, should do everything we can to ensure that all members of the community have access to fresh local healthy food. People like Michael Pollan, Anne Cooper, Mark Bittman, Jamie Oliver and of course, Alice Waters are not quiet about this.
So on the personal direct level, I say, buy from local farms and producers, support chefs and restaurants that do the same and enjoy it!
On a community level–and this is going to be political–educate yourself about school lunches, urban food deserts, portion sizes, industrial food, government subsidies. Recognize that these problems are ours and belong to our community and are therefore ours to fix.
Q: We know you can’t give any spoiler alerts, so without getting too detailed, what has been your favorite part of being on Top Chef Masters?
Jody: Finding out how much fun it was. I was scared going into it–no support staff, no “do-overs,” none of the second chances I’d get in my own kitchen. But my competition and I shared an enormous amount of mutual respect. In some cases we’ve cooked at each other’s restaurants or worked fund-raisers together. Although each of us was trying to win, there was a kind of we’re-all-in-the-same-leaky-lifeboat camaraderie, so it ended up being fun, everyone in the same kitchen cooking for their lives.
Q: Any fun kitchen tips for at-home cooks?
Jody: Buy one really good knife–it’s an investment in your culinary life–and learn how to use it. Here’s my cheap tip: get a Microplane–what it can do with garlic alone is worth many times the twelve or fifteen dollars it will cost you.
Q: One final quick question I have to ask…it’s fast, but maybe impossible to answer! What is your favorite food?
Jody: It depends on the time of the year and the circumstances. A lot of what I love about particular foods is the way they evoke people and circumstances with whom I’ve eaten them, and I like calling up those feelings whenever I can. Down at the Cape where I spend time with my family every August, my favorite food is striped bass or bluefish, fresh out of the water, grilled at a picnic with friends, accompanied by local corn and tomatoes. On Christmas, it would be roast goose, followed by my mother’s plum pudding, and then a couple of days later, goose and cranberry risotto we’ve made from at my sister’s house from leftovers.
Be sure to check out Top Chef Masters Wednesday nights. And here are a few recipes from Jody!
Monday, April 28
I am so excited about today’s Guest Blogger! Paul Lowe, author of the fab blog sweet paul, is a food and interior stylist in New York City. He is super creative and talented as well as a fellow chocoholic. I love his blog and am intrigued by his job…and he’s agreed to give us a sneak peek into his world!
Paul is originally from Norway and is doing some great work here in the States. He has several beautiful books, works with some amazing photographers and magazines, and even does cool things like style for Katie Lee Joel’s cookbook…and then hang out with her husband Billy during the shoot (yes, THAT Katie Lee & Billy)! Anyway, I wish Paul lived with me so he could style for my blog, but alas, I must enjoy his talent from afar. Without further ado…here’s Paul!
Guess the whole “making things pretty” gene runs in the family.
My grandmother was a great cook and my mother has always had very good taste when it comes to decorating. With this mix of genes running in my blood, it’s no wonder I became a food and prop stylist. I have been doing this for about 16 years now and am loving every minute of it.
I have always enjoyed being able to tell a story without having to use words. And I find that photography is the perfect media to do this with. I also think I have a different approach to my work than others in the same field. I do both the food and the props. Usually people do one or the other, not both. I really enjoy doing both. I like to be in control of the whole thing and love to mix food, interiors and craft, all in one story. I really hate putting food on an ugly plate!
I start by choosing a theme – it can be an ingredient, a color, a material. A while back I did a story for the Norwegian magazine Interiormagasinet. I wanted to make knitted tea cosys. But I can’t knit. So, I bought a white woolen sweater and made a lot of props with the sweater and a hot glue gun.
When I start on a story I decide on colors, props, etc. Then I go prophunting. New York is good for props as there are a lot of great prop rental places. You can find amazing things there. I pick out the props I want to use, then find surfaces and backgrounds.
I also usually make my own recipes. I love to go food shopping. Whole Foods is my favorite. They usually have everything I need. Farmers markets are also a great place to find stuff.
The morning of the shoot, I drag all my bags to the studio and start unpacking props and food. I always have an assistant to help me. He or she will prep all the food and I will put it together.
When I do the set up I always think about where the camera will be, what angle, etc. I don’t do too much ‘hokus pokus’ with the food, maybe just a little extra oil or a spritz of water.
We always eat the food for lunch. Sometimes that can be quite a spread! Afterwards we pack up the props, do the dishes and go home.
I’ll leave you with a few more images* from my portfolio.