Pat and David

Diego Rivera’s food paintings lay bare Mexico’s soul

Diego Rivera’s food paintings lay bare Mexico’s soul

Now that we've run out of other tidying projects, we've been sorting and cleaning up our files of travel photos. We're using Zoner Photo Studio X (zoner.com) for sorting purposes because it lets us tag large groups of photos with key words. Then we can look at related photos together. One thing that jumped out at us was that Diego Rivera obsessed about food almost as much as we do. As we looked at our photos of Rivera murals in Mexico City, we were struck that bread, tortillas, and tropical fruits all turned up even more often than the hammer and sickle of the Communist Party. His sympathies may have been with Marx and Lenin, but his truest devotion was to home cooking. The large...Read More
The quintessential burger for Memorial Day

The quintessential burger for Memorial Day

We still get a chuckle when we think back to an exhibition at London's Victoria & Albert Museum that sought to summarize national cultures in a single object. The curators clearly had a sense of humor. (In a self-deprecatory moment, they chose the W.C. for the English.) We Americans were boiled down to … the hamburger. It is, after all, ‶mass-produced, cheap, efficient, but essentially juvenile.″ The curators forgot to mention that, properly done, the hamburger is also delicious. Americana in the heart of Texas In our part of the country, Memorial Day launches the grilling season. Mind you, we'll be in our back yard, at least six feet from anyone, and there will just be the two of us. Since the celebration is rather...Read More
Learn Japanese home cooking from Rika Yukimasa

Learn Japanese home cooking from Rika Yukimasa

Since 2011, Rika Yukimasa has hosted ‶Dining with the Chef,″ which is a big hit on Japan's own NHK and appears on some PBS stations in the U.S. Many of her more than 50 cookbooks have been translated into Chinese and Korean. But as far as we can tell, Rika's Modern Japanese Home Cooking (Rizzoli, New York, 2020; $40) is her debut in English. (By the way, she went to college at the University of California/Berkeley before returning to Japan to work for advertising giant Dentsu.) The book came out at the end of March, but we've been distracted and just got around to it. Our loss! Here's the link to buy it on Amazon. Yukimasa's subtitle for the book is ‶Simplifying Authentic Recipes.″ She's...Read More
No yeast? Treat yourself to Irish brown soda bread

No yeast? Treat yourself to Irish brown soda bread

We confess to scoring a half-cup of instant yeast last week when we were walking past our ‶sales-by-pickup-only″ neighborhood butcher shop, Savenor's. (Yes, the one where Julia Child bought her chicken, ducks, and breast of veal.) That should keep us going until we're out of flour. But a lot of folks aren't so lucky, so we'd thought we'd post one of the all-time great bread recipes that doesn't require yeast. It's for an Irish brown soda bread, as served on the breakfast buffet at the Marker Hotel in the hip Docklands district of Dublin, Ireland. Seeds in brown bread are nothing new, though the classic recipes only call for oat groats to add texture. This version adds the perfect balance of sesame, sunflower, and flax...Read More
Pasta fazool, for the immigrants we have all become

Pasta fazool, for the immigrants we have all become

We've never eaten pasta e fagioli in Italy. We've never even seen it on a menu there, though a reliable source (Michele Sciocolone) tells us it is Neapolitan. (That's why we posted the Neapolitan chef and food vendor miniatures above. They're masked for Carnavale and sold on the same street as Christmas creche figures.) The dish—‶pasta fazool″ in the Neapolitan dialect—has an Italian-flavored familiarity that marks it as real comfort food. Turns out that it's known mainly in Italian-American cuisine. It's from that branch of cooking born when immigrants made do with canned and dried commodities rather than the fresh ingredients they knew in the old country. We're all immigrants now to the world of social distancing and staying indoors. We're making do with canned...Read More
Patatas a la riojana feeds the pilgrim body and soul

Patatas a la riojana feeds the pilgrim body and soul

We have all become pilgrims, if only in spirit, during our days of worldwide plague. The sign above marks a bar in Plaza del Rey, San Fernando in Burgos, Spain, named ‶The Pilgrim.″ The insignia above the name shows the scallop shell of Santiago (St. James) on a field of blue—the universal marker along all the variants of the Camino de Santiago. We say ‶variants″ because there are innumerable paths that lead finally to the cathedral in Santiago de Compestela in Galicia, just as there are a multitude of paths to any form of enlightenment. One of the most popular routes of the Camino is the French Way across northern Spain from Roncevalles (where the Basques repulsed Charlemagne's forces led by Roland in 778) west...Read More
Homey cooking for a homebound St. Patrick’s Day

Homey cooking for a homebound St. Patrick’s Day

We've never been fans of corned beef and cabbage or, for that matter of green beer—the two principal food and drink ways Americans mark St. Patrick's Day. Nor will we be in Ireland for the holiday, given the travel restrictions. Even Boston's Drop Kick Murphys will play their annual St. Patrick's Day concert online instead of in person. Here's the link for the live concert on March 17 at 7pm Boston, 4pm Pacific Coast, 11pm London, 12am Berlin, or 10am in Sydney: www.dropkickmurphys.com/2020/03/14/streaming-up-from-boston-free-st-patricks-day-live-stream/ That's all a prelude to telling you about the newest cookbook from Ireland's culinary queen, the redoubtable Darina Allen. She runs the Ballymaloe Cookery school and is Ireland's leading proponent of the Slow Food movement. She might have single-handedly brought Irish cooking...Read More
In praise of the humble French classics

In praise of the humble French classics

We didn't eat at any creative new restaurants on our recent trip to Paris. But we weren't disappointed. This wasn't that kind of trip. We went for the Paris sales and decided to save our euros for our purchases. We limited meals to somewhat casual establishments, grabbed breakfast on the go at a pâtisserie, indulged once a day in a modest bistro meal, and made lunch or dinner a hot-to-go option. The humble classics of French casual cuisine never let us down and never left us hungry. One of our standbys is the kind of croque monsieur shown at the top of the post. Is there anything more honest? It's little more than a slice each of ham and cheese—either Emmenthal or Comté—between thin slices...Read More
From the market’s parish church to the tastiest street in Paris

From the market’s parish church to the tastiest street in Paris

In Paris this winter, we visited Saint-Eustache as consolation for the closure of Notre-Dame cathedral. With its soaring spaces and grandest pipe organ in Paris, Saint-Eustache (saint-eustache.org/) provided a real spiritual uplift. Although the church's present structure dates mainly from the 16th century, part of the plan was loosely modeled on the 12th-13th century French Gothic cathedral—a hint of glory by association. Saint-Eustache was originally the parish church of the market district, known as Les Halles since medieval times. When Paris moved the central fresh market to the suburbs in 1971, many people viewed the destruction of the old market buildings as a crime against the spirit of the city. One of the side altars in Saint-Eustache memorialized the loss in a mass of statuary...Read More
Shopping for cookware in the shadow of Escoffier

Shopping for cookware in the shadow of Escoffier

When it comes to making food, the right tools make all the difference. A dull knife, a thin pot with hot spots, and trying to make do with a microwave when you really need a conventional oven are the kind of inconveniences that keep Grubhub and DoorDash in business. To cook with enthusiasm and joy is much easier with the proper batterie de cuisine, as the French call the arsenal of kitchen utensils, pots, and pans. And, let's face it, dinner tastes better when eaten on something other than paper plates and plastic cups. So save some extra room in your checked bag the next time you visit Paris. Two shops within steps of each other in the former Les Halles district of Paris sell...Read More