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from my journal: authentic food

April 19, 2011

I wrote this in my journal last night, and thought I’d share it here in case anyone is thinking about this, too.

I am thinking about real, authentic, homemade food. Something that a grandmother somewhere is making for lunch. Something that is still being made in homes in rural Italy or France, in Mexico or Spain.

I’m thinking of a plate of steamed artichokes with a bowl of melted butter and a few lemon wedges. I’m thinking of ripe strawberries that have been roasted and tossed with Pimms. Of a bowl of fresh ricotta drizzled with honey for breakfast. A simple seared pork chop with arugula dressed with lemon and olive oil. A bowl of white beans drizzled with fruity olive oil. Thick yogurt sprinkled with brown sugar and ripe berries. Pasta tossed with olive oil, lemon, fresh herbs, and cheese. Thick slices of toast smeared with homemade jam. Whole chicken roasted with potatoes and carrots. A bowl of ripe figs and walnuts. A bottle of red wine, a hunk of bread, and hard cheese. A simple omelet filled with cheese and herbs.

It’s also the thought of beautiful food. I know that food does not have to be gourmet, organic, vegetarian, gorgeous, perfect in order for it to nourish and be delicious. But there’s something I want out of food – something that Ai captures in her photographs, no matter what she’s eating. Is it presentation? Dishware? Care in preparation? Or the food itself? Maybe it’s a reverence of food, a respect of nourishment?

I can picture a morning table with an omelet and hearty toast. Or a bowl of oatmeal with bright berries and shaved almonds. Or homemade granola with yogurt and chopped apple.

Lunch could be a sandwich smeared with homemade mayonnaise and sliced fresh vegetables. A bowl of vegetable soup and a hunk of bread. Baguette with salumi and cheese. Arugula salad with poached eggs and shaved parmesan.

Dinner might be a whole roasted chicken with potatoes and carrots. A filet of fish and steamed vegetables in a parchment paper packet. A casserole of roasted vegetables with a hunk of bread and cheese. A spread of salumi, cheese, olives, nuts, bread and fruit. potato soup with a swirl of pesto. Simple pizza topped with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

Desserts would be cupcakes, bundt cakes, loaf cakes. Fresh fruit pies. Cowboy cookies. Meringues layered with berries and cream. Roasted berries with balsamic vinegar. Olive oil cake. Ripe, fresh fruit with creme fraiche for dipping. Shards of dark chocolate and toasted walnuts. A bowl of ripe cherries, or a coconut cake.

What is it that these things have in common? What is that thread that I’m looking for? Is it just a return to homemade food? Beautiful food? Simple food? Unprocessed food? The word authentic keeps coming to mind, but authentic to what? I just can’t quite wrap my head around it.

just read that in the 1920s, the average woman spent 30 hours a week in the kitchen for cooking or cleanup. In the 1950s, 20 hours a week. Now – 4.4 hours a week. It’s not that I want to start spending four or five hours a day in the kitchen, necessarily, but somehow that does sound… satisfying. Food is one of my favorite things. To focus on that – on feeding and nourishing me and Justin in the best way possible, sounds lovely. But I know it’s a very romantic view of cooking and eating. It doesn’t seem possible to obtain with a full-time job. And what about those nights when we’re both tired, and take-out is fine?

I wonder if it just has to do with a romantic vision of food? When I think back to what I ate today (at home, not feeling well), it sounds boring. Raisin bran, soy milk, quesadillas, baby carrots, juice. What if that was described differently? Hearty cold cereal doused with soy milk; thick tortillas held together with melted Colby-jack cheese; fresh, crispy carrots; sweet, cold juice. Verrrrry interesting.

Perhaps, then, I am craving homemade food. And I want to write about it, and photograph it with film, and cook it myself. And I want to have the energy and time to do it, and go the farmer’s market twice a week and make my own bread. I want to shake our cocktails into vintage glasses. And I want to sit down at a table to eat each meal. With Justin. And I want a million dollars and a box of rainbows and a pony.

All of this boils down to this: I love food. I dream about food. I think food is romantic, and important, and lovely. I like to write about it, and I like to photograph it, especially with film. I feel passionate about these things. These are things to think about when I’m deciding what to eat and how to spend my time. I think.

Ah, friends. Welcome to my brain. :)

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10 Discussion to this post
  1. Pinjing says:

    You described my relationship with food exactly! What a lovely post.

  2. Wei-Wei says:

    I loved the trip into your brain. It was super entertaining, and actually touched my heart in some ways I will never understand.

  3. char says:

    HEY!!!! YOU STOLE MY BRAIN!!!!
    well,not all of it…but definitely the food bit…which I think sometimes is all of it…
    AND I complain about my littlest creation how she walks around thinking of food AL DAY LONG! Hmmm.I wonder if I have some part to play in this?

    HUGS…thanks for sharing…your brain.
    Char.x

  4. Flavia says:

    i’m on the same track. lately bruno and i have been obsessing for everything homemade. we cook things from scratch all the time, from the broth to our couscous or risotto, to candied fruit and jams, to plain yogurt (and strained “greek” yogurt and yogurt cheese – “labneh”).
    we’re planning to make ricotta and stracchino now, and we’ve even been “gearing up” to have our own salsiches and salami made at home too.
    the feel you get from cooking from scratch is kind of empowering, and you know that the food you’re serving is packed with love and care (and health benefits). this is something you learn everyday living in this nation – every italian is born and grows up eating fresh and homemade food every single day, be they in the country or in the city.
    once you take this road… it’s hard to look back!

    • Crystal says:

      How fun! I’m very interested in making jams and preserves, but I never get around to it. Now that summer is basically here in Austin, my little kitchen heats up so fast! Still, I’d love to hear about your ricotta and salami.

  5. Margo Sivin says:

    oh my goodness yes. this is wonderful, and precisely how i feel as well. :)

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