SMORGASBORD: Fit to be tied ... Nora's cookbook ... Julia's 100thYou can tie up herbs, zest and spices in a bit of cheesecloth to flavor soups, stews or hot beverages. Or forget the fabric fuss with an Herb Infuser from Pampered Chef.
By: Herald Staff Report, Grand Forks Herald
Fit to be tied
You can tie up herbs, zest and spices in a bit of cheesecloth to flavor soups, stews or hot beverages. Or forget the fabric fuss with an Herb Infuser from Pampered Chef.
The perforated, soft silicone tube also can be used to infuse water, lemonades and iced teas with herbs or fruit.
Heat-resistant to 480 degrees and dishwasher safe, it’s $9.50 at www.pamperedchef.com.
Nora Ephron had many passions, most publicly her writing and filmmaking. But the author, screenwriter and director, who died last week at age 71, also had great enthusiasm in her largely private work in her Manhattan kitchen. And she left behind a self-published cookbook, by turns droll and earnest, memorializing the zeal.
“Julie & Julia,” Ephron’s last film, focused on the life of chef Julia Child, and in some ways reflected the filmmaker’s own love of food preparation. “The truth is that most marriages have food as a major player in them, and certainly mine does,” she said in an interview with The Times before the film’s 2009 release.
Simply titled “Nora’s Cookbook” and bound with white spiral wire, the recipe collection runs 174 pages and blends Ephron’s wry observations about throwing a great dinner party and using clarified butter with relatively simple recipes for dishes like chicken salad, monkey bread and pot roast.
“I have the book and use it all the time,” said producer Scott Rudin, who collaborated with Ephron on “Julie & Julia.”
In the book (which Ephron compiled for friends several years ago and is not for sale), the “Sleepless in Seattle” filmmaker apologizes for several inclusions that bring to mind dishes from Peg Bracken’s “The I Hate to Cook Book.” Introducing a recipe for cherry cola mold, Ephron writes, “There is no excuse for serving this, unless you are obsessed with jello.” She insists that homemade pastry dough is a waste of time: “Don’t ever make piecrust. Just buy it.” Other recipes call for B&M canned beans, Heinz chili sauce and way too much mayonnaise.
Some introductions read like legal disclaimers, revealing the author’s ambitions (or lack thereof). For a complicated recipe for chocolate buttercream icing, Ephron writes: “I have never made it and I never will. But I have eaten it and it’s great.”
Ephron traveled in circles populated with literary luminaries, and a number of recipes are credited to celebrity creators: “Ben Bradlee’s Scrambled Eggs” explains how the former Washington Post editor uses low heat and doesn’t beat his eggs until they start to set, while “Joan Didion’s Mexican Chicken Thing” details the essayist’s combination of poached chicken, onions, garlic and salsa. Other recipes mention show business landmarks, such as the coffee shop at the Beverly Hills Hotel and the since-closed Chasen’s, whose chili recipe Ephron reprints.
Many of the recipes have titles that are amusing on their own: “The Breakfast Pancake Thing You Make in the Oven,” “Cornbread Pudding Made of Horrible Ingredients,” “Famous Potato Thing” and “Spaghetti With Sand.” But it is in Ephron’s longer cookbook essays that her true wit emerges.
In discussing how to host a dinner party, Ephron advises, “I am also a big believer in buying delicious things that you are either truthful about (because if people love what they’re eating, they have a huge amount of respect for you for simply finding good food) or of course, passing them off as something you made.” She has very specific guidance about how to seat people — and what size and shape the tables should be — particularly if you are entertaining in California, a place where you can’t mix and match guests in a seating plan.
“In California, of course, they never break up couples at dinner for fear of what might happen if someone’s husband were seated next to someone else’s very young girlfriend,” she writes. “But dinners with couples seated next to one another are always deadly dull, which is why there are almost no good dinner parties in the entire state of California.”
Celebrating Julia’s 100th
Julia Child would have been 100 on Aug. 15, and though the beloved star of television’s “The French Chef” died in 2004, she is clearly not forgotten. Alfred A. Knopf, Child’s longtime publisher, is whooping it up on social media with a centenary celebration called JC100.
The party is a long one, lasting the 100 days leading up to Aug. 15. There’s still plenty of time for fans to take part as the publisher is urging people to share Julia Child recipes, photos, memories and stories on various social media sites under the JC100 umbrella.
Knopf also is generating its own material highlighting Child’s contributions. One of the more interesting is a list of 100 recipes handpicked from nearly 3,700 of Child’s recipes by a jury of food notables, including Judith Jones, Child’s editor at Knopf; star chefs Thomas Keller, Danny Meyer and Jacques Pepin; Anne Willan, an author and cooking teacher.
These recipes range from the famous treatise on French bread in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. II,” to mayonnaise in “From Julia Child’s Kitchen,” to Julia’s croque monsieur from “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home.” There’s even calf’s brains in brown butter sauce from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I,” the 1961 book that launched Child’s career in publishing and television.
The JC100 sites will contain video and written tributes to Child from food celebrities, photographs and quotes, and links to special JC100 recipes recreated by more than 100 food bloggers (vichyssoise, courtesy of “BS’ In The Kitchen,” bsinthekitchen.com, is one of the most recent examples). You can make the recipe at home and post photos of the results on the JC100 site.
Look for the JC100 celebration on Facebook at facebook.com/JuliaChild; on Twitter at @JC100; on Pinterest at pinterest.com/knopfbooks/jc100; and on Tumblr at jc100.tumblr.com.
The vegan debate
Getting kids to eat healthfully and well is a perennial challenge for parents, especially when the younger set begins to make table choices at odds with the familial norm or, to put it more starkly, flatly refuse to eat what mom and dad have made for dinner.
Now comes a new children’s book, “Vegan is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action” (North Atlantic Books, $16.95), which may raise tensions in some households.
Written and illustrated by Ruby Roth, the Los Angeles-based author of “That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals,” this beautifully rendered book offers some ugly observations about how humans often use other species — as lab animals, clothing, entertainment, food — and why vegans choose not to do so.
“As vegans, we live this way because it is best for our health, for animals, and for the earth … and that is love,” Roth writes.
But is it “love” to offer this viewpoint in a full-color illustrated children’s book? A debate is erupting.
“This is the most disturbing children’s book I’ve ever seen,” says Robert Epstein, a psychologist, author and former editor-in-chief of “Psychology Today.” He doesn’t like anything about the book except Roth’s illustrations. “Vegan is Love,” he insists, “lays guilt trips on young children. It’s a bad way to parent.”
“In calling my books ‘controversial,’ people are admitting what we do to animals is scary, too scary to talk to children about,” Roth says. She believes people today stick to a “wealthy Victorian” view of childhood, where children must be protected from the adult world and the harshness found in life.
“In doing this, we’re hindering what children are capable of,” Roth adds. “This book is for anyone and everyone who want children to love deeply, think critically and act responsibly. You don’t have to be vegan to make vegan choices, so there should be no fear.”
Marian Nestle, an influential nutritionist and New York University professor, didn’t want to comment specifically on the merits of “Vegan is Love” because she hasn’t seen it. But she could imagine the scenario that might follow after the book is read by some children.
“The kids announce to their horrified parents that animal foods are out,” she wrote in an email. “Some parents will go along with it and maybe even become healthier as a result. Some will be furious at the added trouble and the idea that someone is playing on kids’ emotions about animals and telling them not to eat them.”
Nestle noted children who don’t grow up on farms are often shocked to learn animals are killed for food. If they choose to be meat eaters, those feelings have to be worked through, she said.
Roth’s book is about choice — and the impacts small and large those choices can have when, as she noted, 7 billion people around the world choose to act.
“The path to a greener future lies in engaging the next generation,” she says.
For Terry Walters of Avon, Conn., author of “Clean Start: Inspiring You to Eat Clean and Live Well with 100 New Clean Food Recipes,” that engagement begins by growing a garden with children, shopping, cooking and eating together; and talking about healthy food choices.
“It’s our job as parents to teach and we teach most strongly through our actions,” she says. “To have a conversation without offering any judgments leaves the children free to make judgments and healthy choices on their own.”