There is a school of thought that says we cannot change our basic selves, that who we are intrinsically is who we have to be, give or take a few small choices, that someone like me will always be someone like me, maybe with different circumstances or friends or hairstyles, but always the same me deep down. Do you think that?
I’m not sure. To be totally honest with you, I don’t want to think that. I want to believe I can change—or rather, that I can be changed—and I want to believe that about you.
Thing is, change is hard to measure. Take asparagus. When you trim a bunch of fresh white asparagus and lay it on a baking sheet, rolling the stalks in lemon olive oil and sprinkling them with salt and pepper before you roast it all in the white-hot oven, you can watch it transform before you from hard and cold to bruised and limp, with spots of darkness from the heat all over its thin stalks, and you can know there’s change there, no question. But would some say it’s not much of a change? Though softened and broken, it is, after all, still asparagus?
Or take potatoes.
You can boil baby golds, the way you’ve done before, cooking them until they’re soft, then smashing them and coating their soft skins with olive oil and salt and pepper like you did the asparagus, and you can roast them, too, until they’re crispy and golden, wonderful to pop in your mouth one by one but, at the end, bettered by heat and seasoning and time. Are they changed? Are they essentially the same?
And then there’s fish. Tilapia.
It is always a pleasure to spend time with Jacqui of Happy Jack Eats—that girl makes two hours at a Barnes & Noble book signing seem fun—so this last Saturday, after two months of sickness and holidays and traveling and (for her) wedding planning!, we met up at Honey Cafe, a suburban brunch spot I’d read about online that was said to rival the best of the city, and can I just say? It does.
First of all, it’s in downtown Glen Ellyn, where they have historic houses surrounding a few streets of shopping and dining, all smack-dab next to a Metra station, and there’s a historic theatre and a mom-and-pop grocery (where I bought a loaf of bread! support local business!) and random alleys that make for nice pictures with the blue sky poking through above.
Honey’s also pretty inside. Read more…
I don’t usually dedicate entire posts to books I’ve read, but in this case the book is about the very things this site is, food and writing, so that warrants an exception, I say.
Best Food Writing 2009 is exactly what the title suggests: a compilation of last year’s best food-centric stories, as published in magazines like Gourmet, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, The New Yorker and Saveur; as well as Web sites like Chow.com and eGullet.org. I finished my review copy last weekend, in the air somewhere between Chicago and Charlotte, North Carolina, and I have to tell you: I was sad it had to end.
See, what’s so great about collections like this one, which was edited by Holly Hughes and features work by big-name authors like Calvin Trillin, Ruth Reichl and Frank Bruni alongside essays from new-to-me-but-no-less-gifted writers like Jason Sheehan (newly of Seattle Weekly and formerly of Denver’s Westword), Francine Prose (a celebrated novelist) and Todd Kliman (a James Beard award-winning restaurant critic and Dining Editor of The Washingtonian), is it gives you tastes of so many different writing styles (journalistic, personal, probing, funny) that all have one chief thing in common: a skilled command of language and information that makes you think, whether about the ethics of meat or the community of sitting around the table.