EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: THE WORK WE DO

A recent article in The Atlantic called Restaurants are the New Factories explained that while huge numbers of new jobs have been created in recent years in the broader restaurant industry, there are important questions about whether that growth is real, sustainable or for the better. For one thing, as the article noted, restaurant employees in the United States are notoriously underpaid. In their race to the bottom of costs of ingredients and labor, employers in this country for years have bet that Americans would prefer to pay as little as possible for their prepared food, and they have been right. Paying people a real, living wage for making food would require more and better training, higher standards of quality, and a public prepared to rethink its approach to what food should cost. –Matt Straus

 

BREAD DREAMS

Increasingly these days, bakeries are the places that most ardently suggest my romanticized version of how things could be. While the word bakery describes myriad establishments, from industrialized factories to artisan operations in converted garages, I’m on a perpetual search for the latter. Small storefront bakeries can lead by example into explorations of the history of their craft. Often, by renegade disregard for commodity white flour, they honor the provenance of their essential products: wheat plants growing in a field. –Wendy Hebb

 

13 RUE DE LA SIZERANNE: TO FIND AND TO LOSE

There is a classic image from those days of the vigneron, dressed in overalls, hoe in hand, cigarette dangling from the mouth--the weathered, tough peasant. Michel Ferraton didn’t that caricature. Immediately upon passing through the anteroom full of tractors, equipment, gear, and then entering the chai, one encountered a poem neatly written in black marker on a white wall. While I don’t remember the verse exactly--it was something about man and his relationship to nature, one doesn’t often encounter literature on the walls of wine cellars. It was a message to those who were wise enough to be aware that this man and his domaine were not ordinary, that there was something on over here that was unique. –Neal Rosenthal

 

RECIPE: MEAN BEANS

Then, this past fall, the local organic food store in my new hometown of Juneau, Alaska, posted a help wanted sign for a kitchen manager. I hemmed and hawed over the idea, not wanting to leave the easy money of bar tips, but my better judgment and my ance’s good advice got me back into the kitchen. I am employed now at another well established venue with another lofty-sounding name. Rainbow Foods has been in business for about 30 years, and running a full kitchen since about 1993. –Rya Kirby

 

STRAWBERRY VEAL FOREVER?
THE VANISHING CUISINE OF THE BEAUJOLAIS

All experience shows that when the economics of a given foodstu begin to work against its inclusion on menus, our collective grieving period is exceptionally brief. Few chefs weep. Indeed, when visually identical substitutions are at hand, as in the case of French frogs, Sane minnows, and cal’s ru e andouillettes, the local chefs don’t even blink. To admit the difference would be bad business. These are, of course, just three examples of a wider trend a icting peasant cuisine in France and elsewhere. –Aaron Ayscough

 

COOKBOOKS ON CHRISTMAS

By the following Christmas, my Alice Waters obsession yielded to an equally fundamentalist Thomas Keller phase, initiated by a friend’s gift of the Bouchon cookbook from the classic urban French bistro that Keller created in the tiny Napa village of Yountville. This time, I chose Braised Beef with Red Wine, Boeuf Bourgignon, and will not bore you with all of the components except to say that a quadruple recipe called for the reduction of four entire bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, four quarts of French veal stock that called in turn for ten pounds veal bones and two calfs feet and a pound of tomatoes, and a near-fanatical commitment to straining and de-greasing. –Dan Duane

 

RETURN TO VIETMAN

We sat down for a homemade feast of mackerel, pork skewers, shrimp rolls, cooked cabbage and rice. When Juan o ered us some wine, I asked what his father was drinking. Moonshine, he said, and o ered me some. Why not, I responded. Juan’s father poured me a small cup and I raised my glass to him. It was a toast of building a bridge between two seasoned veterans who had fought against each other. We shared a healing moment of forgiveness as we looked into each other’s eyes and smiled. –Marc Maisano

 

INTERVIEW: CATHY CORISON

I’m not trying to make the wines we made in the 70’s. I want the wine I make to be both powerful and elegant. I want it to grace the table. I want it to have a long and interesting life, and to speak of place. And for all of those reasons, it needs to be balanced, and not boozy. Period. I’ve never dealcoholized a wine in my life. So yes, I pick earlier, because I value those red and blue avors that cabernet sauvignon makes, but as the grapes get riper they lose them. They go into purple and then into black.

In a great vintage, in these great vineyards farmed right and picked right, I can get that entire range that cabernet can provide, all the way from cherries and blueberries through plums and cassis and blackberries. It can all be in the same glass.

 

EATING THE BLUES

Food in the delta is overgrown, humid. Some of the dishes go down your craw like a Lear jet and some pull you slowly downstream, a tugboat hauling a ton of honey and lard up the River. You can still eat cheap, and there’s a hardscrabble sumptuousness to the cuisine, but don’t seek transcendence, just trust that food always tastes better when you’re happy than it does when you’re sad. Though, when you’re sad, there’s nothing better than a good meal. –Thomas Fuller

 

RECIPE: DUCK CONFIT RAVIOLI

I developed a taste for ravioli because I loved the opportunity to create lling for the pasta that could be jam-packed with avor, to be prepared and nally reheated in individual, hermetically-sealed little pods. In cooking school I learned to think about meat especially (though the concept could just as easily apply to minced roasted broccoli or lentils or any number of other things) within the context of a French term called farce. –Matt Straus

 

THANKSGIVING IN ITALY

Service ended, and the guys said grab the stu let’s go. It’s dark in southern Tuscany at night--like medieval, no-power dark. We jumped in the cars and drove in the pitch black countryside, down lanes paved by Romans, passing olive trees and dimly-lit farmhouses, curving around through the hills and switchbacks. They wouldn’t tell me where we were going. You will see, Nicolas, surprise for you. We hadn’t driven too far, maybe 10 minutes, when we pulled up to a gravel lot and an ancient structure.

“Bring the meat and wine!” shouted Tito. In we walked, old men were gathered around a large, stone press, cigarettes hanging from their sun-aged faces. A small re burned in a replace or wood-oven of sorts. –Nick Strawhecker

 

RECIPE: FLÜSTERGEWÜRZ

When it was finally ready to be prepared, I molded the aromatic blend into small cobblestones to resemble the traditional pavement on the Hauptmarkt. I changed the name of my reinvented cookie from gingerbread to chilibread and sent the recipe, the American ingredients, and instructions to my baking collaborators in Germany. Surprisingly, German customs had no issues with the content of my parcel. For several months, my mother and her friends baked chilibread according to my recipe and adjusted it to their tastes and ideas. Everything from dried apples and cherries from a participant’s yard to saffron and elderflowers found their way into the cookies, with various degrees of success. Meanwhile, our group of bakers in upstate New York made traditional Nuremberg gingerbread, to the delight of our families and friends. After several batches, the bakers in Nuremberg and in New York began to interchange the ingredients for ginger and chili breads, and made ginger-chilibread. –Angelika Rinnhofer


Subscribe to kitchen work to continue reading

kitchen work is a printed, quarterly journal.