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Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Food Nerd’s Fantasy

When I woke up this Monday morning, I couldn’t have dreamed that 36 hours later I would be immersed in the ultimate food nerd’s fantasy.  When I commence my weekend ritual preparing swap food (and pretty much every other type of food), I can usually be found listening to one of my cherished NPR weekend shows on my satellite radio.  One of these shows provides constant inspiration for culinary creativity and consistently leaves me wanting to understand more about food.  I actually had to admit in public this week that I often listen to this show 3 or 4 times in a weekend!  So somehow, in that 36 hour span, I managed to score a spot at the book signing for How to Eat Weekends, written by Lynne Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift, the brain trust behind the Splendid Table, this addictive show by American Public Media.  So after a day of built up anticipation, Tuesday night emerged as one of the more memorable nights of my life!

Because the crew at the Splendid Table and their listeners are generally a real food loving bunch (so much so that they devote months of their lives to Food Day events!), the cocktail hour started with passed heavy hors d'oeuvres by Niman Ranch of California.  The executive chef’s explanation of their philosophy about animal treatment was that happy animals make happy hamburgers.  Although the analogy is a bit disgusting, my logical side tells me that his theory is probably pretty solid.  

During the cocktail and pork product portion of the evening, we bought our copies of the book.  As the name would suggest, the book is a collection of the recipes that take more time, energy, and love than your average work night fare.  However, in true food swapping fashion, many of the recipes have segments called “work night encores” where they teach you how to repurpose your dishes in the plight against waste.  As the authors told us during the talk, they spent a lot of time on the words so they should be treasured.  Short on photos, this book combines the recipes for weekend entertaining with skill building tips like what books you should read to really understand certain types of cuisine and thoughtful quotes about food reminiscent of those used in their weekly radio show.

The discussion portion featured Monica Brady-Myerov asking Lynn and Sally about some of the most memorable moments in Splendid Table history.  They spoke about Julia Child reading the paper throughout their live interview, keeping a straight face as Amy Sedaris relates her craft book to food by talking about yarn sausages, and doing the last interview with an American wine giant before he died.  They also shared some of the most important food lessons they learned over the years, including that you should never seed a Serrano pepper because, as their interviewee said, “It’s not my opinion, it’s a thing!”

Over the course of the night, I got to meet many of the staff at WBUR, including a development team member who marched me around to everyone at the event (including Lynne and Sally themselves!) because she thought they needed to know about the food swapping phenomenon!  

Coming down from my giddy cloud, tonight I got to try my very first recipe from the book!  I won't attempt cookbook criticism - it would be like criticizing Scorsese in your high school film class - but join me in a retelling of the experience that high school student's first Scorsese film!  Because, this is not actually a weekend and because one appreciated food swapper brought her farm’s tomatillos to last week’s food swap, I decided to take a stab at the Tomatillo Salsa on page 52.  Although a quality stash from the weekend and brevity were reason enough to make it, the fact that it required a fresh Mexican cheese didn’t hurt either.  I bought a block of Cotijo (because it is my favorite cheese EVER) and went to work on salsa.  It was a quick and easy recipe which makes me think that it was probably an anomaly for this particular book.  It had 7 ingredients (I think Lynne quoted Julia saying, “5 ingredients?  What fun is that?”) and only required peeling tomatillos and a quick whirl of the food processor.  Before adding a few sautéed scallops and some greens, I took a photo of the recipe as it was described in the book.

I’d like to thank the team at WBUR and Public Radio Kitchen (that happened to write a Food Day article yesterday!) for introducing me to my food muse and for planning such a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  I would also like to that Lynne and Sally from the Splendid Table, not only for entertaining and inspiring me for hours every weekend, but also for creating a book that both made a great dinner tonight and will likely create my fantastic weekends in the future!

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