Meme: The Cook Next Door

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I was tagged by Adam, the Amateur Gourmet who picked me for this food meme. (Then split for 2-3 weeks of vacation!) Here’s my responses…

What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?

Good Seasons salad dressing.

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The measuring!
The mixing!
The magic!

No wonder I became a pastry chef.

Who had the most influence on your cooking?

Lindsey Shere, who was the original pastry chef at Chez Panisse. I was so fortunate to have someone like that influence me right from the start. I learned how to really taste things from her, and how important ingredients are to good cooking. Much more so than fancy techniques.
Alice Waters also was a positive influence as well. She has a great deal of belief in what she’s doing and is truly dedicated and passionate about her ideals.

Do you have an old photo as “evidence” of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it?

Don’t have one on my hard drive. A downside of the digital age.

Mageiricophobia – do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?

Squid (or anything with tentacles.) I refuse to touch it or even look at it. Squid scare the shit out of me. Those suckers are U-G-L-Y!
My first day on the job at Chez Panisse in 1983, the chef handed me a huge bus tub of squid and told me to clean it.
Only after years of therapy was I able to overcome the trauma.

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest letdown?

Favorite:
My KitchenAid 5-quart Mixer
Oxo Salad Spinner (and zester and whisks)
Heatproof Spatulas

Biggest letdown:
Where do I begin?
Ok, I’ll choose the 3 worst offenders:
1. Those thick rubber heatproof gloves. You can’t get a grip on anything.
2. I hate silicone baking molds for cakes. Every time I teach a class, people keep asking me if I like them. So quit asking.
3. The French Press is perhaps the worst apparatus for making coffee. I don’t care what anyone says, so don’t try to tell me otherwise. The coffee comes out muddy, over-caffeinated, and gets cold fast. Plus they’re hazardous; I had one fly across my kitchen as I was pressing down, spraying my entire kitchen (and me) with coffee grounds. I hear about complex methods for brewing good coffee in them, but who wants to deal with that in the morning? I’ll stick with my espresso pot.

BONUS RANT: The Le Creuset Tagine that has no flange on the lid. The first time I used it, the hot lid slid right out of my hands and crashed (there’s no way to hold onto it.) They refused to give me a new one, although they did change the design eventually. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who complained. And since I sacrificed my lid for the good of others, they should send me a new one, don’t you think?

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like – and probably no one else!

I like to eat dried pasta right from the box. Especially elbows.

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don’t want to live without?

Dark Chocolate-Covered Marshmallows
Fried Chicken without gravy (so it stays crisp) but lots of salt
Caramelized Salted Peanuts (or anything caramelized, for that matter.)

Any question you missed in this meme, that you would have loved to answer? Well then, feel free to add one!

…from Nicky at Delicious Days
Your favorite ice-cream…

The chocolate and caramel ice creams at Berthillon on the I’le St. Louie in Paris, and the Gianduja gelato at Caffè San Marco in Torino.

You will probably never eat…
Anything with tentacles.
Or Puffin.

Your own signature dish…
Fresh Ginger Cake from Room For Dessert which I’ve been served in lots of restaurants and bakeries. I’ve received more emails and kudos (from home cooks as well as people who serve it in their bakeries and restaurants) for that cake than anything else.

…from the ChefDoc at A Perfect Pear
Any signs that this passion is going slightly over the edge and may need intervention?

I’m blogging when I should be cooking.

…from Clement at A La Cuisine!
Any embarrassing eating habits?

I used to eat lunch in the shower because I was so busy when I worked in the restaurant business and never had time to eat.

…from Sarah, of The Delicious Life
Who would you want to come into your kitchen to cook dinner for you?
Aside from hauling out my Ouija board and raising Julia Child from the great beyond, the warmer-blooded Elena Arzak from Arzak restaurant is an astounding contemporary cook and is mindful, yet playful, without being silly or pretentious.

…from Adam, of The Amateur Gourmet:
Who’s your favorite food writer

Hard to pick just one. It’s definitely between Roy Andries Di Groot who wrote The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth which is the best food book ever written…(and the dude was blind!), Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book is full of great recipes and superb writing, and Richard Olney, who had the amazing ability to deftly describe a technique or taste without pretentiousness. He was American, but wrote and cooked while living in France, wandering around his kitchen in skimpy briefs drinking Scotch straight from the bottle.

…from David Lebovitz at David Lebovitz.com:
What’s the best food city in the world?

San Francisco and Barcelona.

Three people to pass it on to…

Judy at Over A Tuscan Stove

Kate at French Kitchen Adventures

Pascal at C’est moi qui l’ai fait!

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6 comments

  • Hi David, great responses! I found myself nodding enthusiastically in agreement about French presses, and squid, and caramelized salted anything. Not so sure about pasta elbows, however… But what I most agree with you about is Barcelona. I’ve been shouting into the void trying to convince everyone I know that Catalans are cooking up some of the best food anywhere on the planet (and have been for a long time)… Maybe they’ll listen to you instead. :)

  • Melissa:
    Well, when I invite you for dinner, I won’t serve you pasta elbows (raw) or Good Seasons dressing either. Or squid, which is gross–I don’t care what anyone says. I don’t know why people insist on saying to me, “But you don’t know what you’re missing!” I mean, what do they care if I eat it or not? Maybe I should start singing the praises of raw pasta in response…

  • I love Richard Olney’s work. Simple French Cooking and the French Menu Cookbook are great, my favorite is the books on salads he did for the Time/Life series, especially for its picture of a platter of sliced brain.

  • Hi David,
    I love your answers. Thanks for choosing me. I’ve already answered but in french … it’s here : http://scally.typepad.com/cest_moi_qui_lai_fait/2005/06/la_cuiine_et_mo.html

  • So much for my feeble attempt at globalization! I guess we’ll have to wait for Kate and Judy to pick up ‘le baton’…and I’ll get out my dictionary and check out your responses ‘tout de suite’…

    David

  • I will be picking up the baton…this weekend!
    work does get in the way sometimes!

    Also need to think of who to tag!!!
    I haven’t read many Italian blogs…but will look..to keep it global!