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Ode to Lacey, O’ Queen of My Foodie Heart

19 May

Recently my beautiful friend Lacey invited my friends Scott, Mary, and myself to her idyllic lake house where she lives over for dinner. All I knew is that she said the key words needed to invoke my interest: barbecue, mojitos, and “private dock.” I’m in, duh.

She went bananas with the food, as she is wont to do since she is, especially when it comes to cooking, an ambitious tornado. Lacey has taught me the most about cooking, and when we worked together I learned new things every day. Even at a casual dinner, she teaches without pretension, which I adore. Here she casually murders a crab while some dreamy, cute music plays in the background. That is the essence of why I adore Lacey: she can disembowel a living sea creature while, you know, just hanging out. What a dreamboat.

 

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There were artichokes.

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And because she is ambitious and too generous, there were oysters. And crab. And new york steaks. Strawberry balsamic salad with feta, asparagus, angel food cake, and mojitos loaded with mint. Just like in that tragic scene from Dirty Dancing, I brought a watermelon. I was Baby. Clueless! Luckily there were no swarthy, gyrating Patrick Swayzes around to make me feel idiotic.

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As usual, she was gracious and welcoming. I recently picked up a hostessing handbook from the 50s at a rummage sale and ate up all the antiquated traditions listed in its pages. Not only did we break all those rules (no fingering the asparagus, elbows were all over the table, and certainly I was guilty of speaking with my mouth full), but it was positively perfect that way. If I were to write a book on hostessing, it would be a single sentence. It would read, “Just do whatever Lacey does.”

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The steaks rose like relics! Look at them! They were a work of art. And when it came to oysters she showed me a thing or two.

And then we slurped them down like an underwater circus act, rolled up our sleeves and ate the grilled piles of luxury like it was no big deal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when I grow up I wanna be Lacey.

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A Letter to Julia

15 Aug

Dear Julia,

Happy birthday! Today you’d be 100 years old, but its’ hard to imagine that in only 100 years so much has changed in the world. American food culture has gone from neglected, to convenient, to showy and back several times in the past hundred years. People’s food attitudes are so varied and so interesting, but you remain like some untouchable beacon of good humor and appreciation. If I could be a fraction as charming as you were when frustrated with trussing or  de-boning, I’d probably have more friends (or less irritated coworkers, anyway). If I could remember half the things you seemed to so easily tuck into your memory about sauces or braising, I’d probably have much more impressive dinner parties. If I could approach cooking with even an ounce of the unbridled enthusiasm and driving devotion that you did, well… I guess I might be famous then, too. But the world can only have one Julia, and in just being yourself, you uprooted an entire culture’s attitude about food and cooking and gender roles and sat it upside down on the counter and stuffed it. I’m in awe of your life, if for nothing else than your access to the what sounds like the best damn raw ingredients on the planet. Happy birthday Julia, I hope you’re enjoying a nice sole meuniere, as it was the first time you tasted it: “perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top.”

All the best,

Sally

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