May

Julia Child advised that “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” She also noted, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”  The Sunday New York Times book reviewer doesn’t go quite this far but does advise No to Pseudoscientific Diets! Yes to Less Stress About Food!  

This means “Yes to amping up the vegetables and fruits, and yes to drinking more water, for many reasons. No to detoxing, a pseudoscience word that means nothing. Your liver and kidneys are detoxing as we speak, with no help from kale.”  And if you want to know about the Jane Austen Diet, the reviewer says it’s probably better as a literary romp than as a dieting tome. That said, Austen fans “will enjoy being reminded of how smart she actually is about our health, and how she uses food, eating and exercise as shorthand for character. ”

The April 22 New Yorker eat-out columnist complained about the 3 ½ hour wait at a snazzy new restaurant in Manhattan. Once she got in, she had plenty of complaints about the food too: (“plate of mediocre nachos strewn with scrambled eggs”). You can eat at the Charlotte Senior Center on Mondays and Wednesdays with no wait, good company, and a great variety of menus. And for men, there are the Thursday breakfasts twice a month.

APRIL

Jane Kramer, longtime staff writer at The New Yorker, has written the Letter from Europe since 1981, covering culture, politics, and social history. Her 2017 book The Reporter’s Kitchen is food-filled New Yorker pieces including profiles of remarkable chefs, gastronomic history, and her own culinary exploits. These exploits are wildly entertaining and informative, ranging from memorable expat Thanksgivings in Umbria–in July– to  foraging for everything from nettles and yarrow leaves to sea lettuce.  Kramer recounts that it took her two days to make Julia Child’s Beef Wellington, “owing, among other things to the fact that my kitchen was so small then that I had to scrub the hall floor in order to roll out the dough for the pain brioche after each rising.”  About twenty years later her husband said, “I was just wondering, why don’t we have beef Wellington anymore?”

You can find this engrossing account of food around the world at the Charlotte library.

Relive your childhood–and pass it on to the younger generation–with another savory tidbit from a library resource:

  • What’s the difference between an elephant and a cookie?
    • Have you ever tried dunking an elephant in milk?–Joke-Lopedia: The Biggest, Best, Silliest, Dumbest Joke Book Ever!  269 pages of groans 818.6 WEI at the Charlotte Library

MARCH

Book Notes: For laugh-out-loud reading, Don’t Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World’s Greatest Chefs offers gasps and guffaws.

Famed chef Daniel Boulud, who has more than one disaster tale to share, observes: “One place you don’t ever get lucky is in the kitchen. You either make the food right or you don’t.”

Senior Center cooks would add: Even when you make the food right, things sometimes happen.  We applaud chef Scott Peacock, writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Like a dog, biscuit dough can smell fear. But as far as I know, there are no documented cases of a biscuit ever attacking someone. So what if your first batch or two don’t turn out like your father’s memory of his grandmother’s biscuits, or there aren’t angels singing when you take your first bite? Practice makes progress and that’s really what it’s all about–the satisfaction and enjoyment of learning as you go.”

Practice make progress: a motto to live by.

As it happens, The New York Times published Peacock’s recipe for buttermilk biscuits, noting that he does get a little fussy. In another article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution Peacock explained his own family ins and outs regarding biscuits. Who knew biscuits could be such a critical matter? This article was included in Best Food Writing 2008, ed. Holly Hughes

For a warm, funny, touching, and quite wonderful tribute to his momma and her Southern cooking, don’t miss Rick Bragg’s The Best Cook in the World…Tales from my Momma’s Table.

Each heart-warming story ends with one of Momma’s recipes.

Bonus: The Charlotte Library has a copy of Bragg’s book and also an audio with Rick Bragg reading. Not to be missed!

M. F. K. Fisher observed that “Almost every person has something secret he likes to eat.” Are you willing to share your secret? Send it in. You can indicate if you wish to shout it out–or remain anonymous.

Send to: msclass@gmavt.net

This article will give you a lot to think about the next time you drink a glass of milk:

Who Wants to Work on a Vermont Dairy Farm? A Reporter Spent a Week Finding Out 

FEBRUARY

Explore the wonderful cookbook section of the Charlotte Library. Here are a few suggestions for February.

This cookbook, of delicious home-style recipes and stories from Syria by a refugee woman…carries in a true spirit of America. America, the place people across the world come to for comfort, safety, a better future for their children.–Francis Lam, host of The Splendid Table

Try the Everyday Chicken Schawarma. When we served this at the Senior Center, it met with great enthusiasm

Try Tuna Pomodoro or Mustard Crusted Salmon

Try the Poppy Seed Coleslaw