Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentices

The Sorcerer's Apprentices: A season in the kitchen at Ferran Adria's elBulli

Review:   This book was amazing. The author very successfully compared the motivations, history, recipes, tradition, and end results of elBulli with the classic French restaurant. She managed to present the positives and negatives of both viewpoints without interjecting her own opinion or a bias of any kind. As a result, the book ends up presenting a history of restaurants, cooking, and the way we view chefs in general and offers insight into the future. The author even manages to compare Adria's techniques to other restaurants with the same motivation. The differences abound as the motivation may be similar but the end result can span from whimsical to serious.

The author highlights the lives, motivations and inspirations of several individuals doing a stage at elBulli. Intended or not, these spotlights offer insight into the mind of Adria himself.
My thoughts: This book was an amazing summer read and got my mind going in several different directions.
- For instance, the insane, methodical, and intense focus on the details of mise en place reminded me of descriptions of traditional Buddhist meal times. The same focus on food is evident in both groups.
- The nature of elBulli, with it's ever-changing menu, means that there is no such thing as returning to elBulli to partake in a favorite meal. This speaks to Adria's motivation behind cooking - to "Never copy". The ever changing menu, and the speed which it changes, speaks to the fast-paced nature of modern society. Individuals are on a constant search for something new - the next great thing. This aspect of society sickens me but somehow I accept it in the food I eat. I have a tendency to try a technique, a recipe, a restaurant once and never return. I want that new flavor. Adria wants the customer to be excited and enthralled by his food - and I am sure he is successful. I feel the need to question the way in which he achieves that excitement and enthrallment. Classic, home cooking can achieve that as well. Something which Adria acknowledges as the author presents him watching a stage member cook a traditional fondue. He seems just as enthralled by this classic dish as the customers in his dining room are by his way of cooking. I wonder what applications the knowledge and awareness created by Adria will have for more traditional kitchens.
- The role of culinary school and academics more generally is also raised. Adria claims that they are going to "explain creativity" (19) to the chefs that stage at elBulli. Cooking is one of the few professions that still allows for discipleship in which one learns to cook from watching an expert do it. The role of culinary schools in modern society is lacking as it teaches the bare minimum of technique and does not focus on allowing the student to add to the discipline as more traditional academics aims to do.
- The role of customer appears secondary at elBulli. Adria states "What they like comes second. Creativity comes first.... We don't ask if a dish is 'good' or 'bad'. Here there's no such question. Our question is: Does it make your hair stand up on end? Is it magic?" (131)
-The discussion of creativity in the book was very intriguing. Which are perhaps best described in the author's own words...
"There's no secret to it, it takes hours and hours. If you don’t have time, you can't create." (152)
"... draw up a list of all the uses of corn in their country, which he then organizes into a culinary flowchart of sorts, with ground corn leading to tortillas and tortillas leading to enchiladas and tamales." (156)
"By deconstructing the soup so that its components were discrete entities exposed on the plate, he initiated a process of inquiry - What are our expectations of food? - that continues to inform what he does in the kitchen. (175)
"For that kind of reinvention to happen, creativity can't wait for something so fleeting as inspiration; it has to be codified. And indeed, one of elBulli's ironies is that the more widely Ferran is defined as an artist, the more businesslike his approach to creativity has become." (141) 


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Eating the Web

1. There have been a few amazing food quotes in my twitter stream this week.
    "When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what angels eat." - Mark Twain

    "A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe." - Thomas Keller

    "Bread that comes out of sweat, tastes better." - Italian proverb

2. Raw Milk Debate

3. A debate on the existence of the LCBO

4. Young pine cones are edible. How cool is that?

5. Fast food photo ops! I think he said it all when he said that the president won't be photographed smoking or buying cigarettes...

6. Pairing personal failure with beer.

Follow me on twitter @Sarah999 for more of my fav food stories/quotes/insights!

Monday, May 21, 2012


Larabars are amazing. However, I find the bars to be either amazing or horrible and because they cost darn near $2 a bar I jumped at the chance to try a few flavors for free.

BLUEBERRY MUFFIN: The texture of this bar was odd. It was too soft and mushy. It should have been called BLUEBERRY because the spices associated with muffins were not strong enough.

CASHEW COOKIE: This one was interesting. It had the flavor of a healthy, raw cookie dough. I would potentially purchase this bar.

GINGERSNAP: This bar was good. It had the strong flavors associated with gingersnap cookies. It had large pieces which I appreciate in a bar.

PB and JELLY: This bar was good. I saved it for last as I was looking forward to it. It definitely did not disappoint. It was an amazing flavor and was extra chewy.

The Small Print: This product was received for free in exchange for a review. The opinions are expressed are mine and were not solicited.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dough: Oatmeal Sourdough Raisin

I seem to enjoying eating and cooking seasonally inappropriate food. I drink light beers in the winter and dark ones in the summer. I started my sourdough starter last summer and baked bread through the height of the summer heat. Then I did not bake bread all winter. And now? Since it's summer again - I BAKE!
This is a sourdough raisin oatmeal sourdough loaf. My starter is almost a year old and is getting stronger all the time. I love the raisins in this loaf! You soak the raisins in the sourdough sponge overnight and it makes them all nice and plump. I used really old dried up raisins this time and they still came out nice and soft. The bakery I used to work at soaked them in water overnight but I really think that putting them in the sponge is the way to go.

Submitted to Yeastspotting

Monday, May 14, 2012

My kitchen: Chef's Knife

I love this knife.

Partially because it is an amazing knife.

Partially because it reminds me of my husband.

For years I talked about purchasing a 'good' knife. I was collecting kitchen gadgets like they were going out of style but I was cutting on a tiny broken cutting board with a $10 knife that was 5+ years old. It was time for an update.

As an amateur cook, I tended to think that 'good' knifes were for the 'good' cooks but a well-made, properly cared for knife is the best kitchen tool one can have. Regardless of kitchen talent or skill.

My husband took me to a knife store. It was not long before we were headed home with this beautiful knife and a proper cutting board. 

I was making homemade pizza for supper - not unlike today - and I set my husband out for toppings while I started the sauce and crust. He brought me back a ton of ingredients that required chopping! Whole olives. Peppers. Tomatoes.  

I diced a potato that night. For no reason.

And now, several months later, I love this knife.
   It reminds me of the generosity of my husband.
   It ties together the pass and future - as it will prepare many meals for my family and friends.

I love this knife.
It has not cut me yet (and I hope it never does!)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Eating the Web:

1. Saltine Crackers Going Round: Spokesperson claims this will bring the crackers to the 21st century in a 'relevant and contemporary way'. PR people are awesome.

2. DIY infused spirits: Another thing that has been on my 'to-do' list for years. Maybe this is the year I can cross it off.

3. Peanut Butter Beer: Shouldn't it exist? Yes. Yes. It should. Homebrew adventures here I come!

4. Beer Sommeliers the next big thing?: This is a very interesting article. 

5. Animal Rights protester agrees to be tortured: I am not sure how I feel about this article...

And good news! Sandor Ellix Katz has a new Fermentation book! It's on my wish list!

I've been pinning some amazing peanut butter cups! Like Peanut Butter and Jelly and Peanut Butter and Wasabi.

Follow my food tweets, retweets, and favorites on twitter! @Sarah999

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Guest Post: Jetta Vegas from The Radical Uprise

Jetta Vegas from The Radical Uprise was kind enough to offer a 'Seven ways to kick this week's ass'. She even made it food themed! I especially love the 'eat with your hands' one. If you have ever watched a baby eat it just looks like so much tactile fun.

Seven ways to kick this week's ass!

Pay for it now or pay for it later. This is a line that’s stuck with me for years, overheard by a woman at the market. Her friend was commenting on how much her grocery bill was, bringing up her choice of organic produce and healthy snacks. “Well, you pay for it now or pay for it later. You either invest in foods that promote health or end up paying doctor bills.” Eat smart.
Invest in a juicer. Though some can be pricey, stashing away $25 a week can buy you a nice juicer next month. Juicing promotes health and wellness, it’s fun, delicious and easy!
Host a cookie decorating party. Call up your closest friends or, if you’re feeling really crafty, create handmade cookie shaped invitations and send them out to your pals. Tell people to bring an array of cookie making ingredients, decorating icings and candies. Bump some 90’s music and cherish the simple pleasure of good company and baked goods. Announce a “judgement free zone” and don’t feel bad about how much batter you eat.
“Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables. They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.” / Elizabeth Berry. Buy local whenever possible, supporting farmers in your community. Weekly trips to the farmer’s market can be a fun experience and bring friends and family together for the sake of good food.
Eat with your hands. It’s raw and intimate and, sometimes very messy. Play with your food. Paint pictures with your peas and make mountains out of mashed potatoes. While we were taught at a very young age not to eat with our hands or play with our food, you’ll soon learn why - because it’s a hell of a lot of fun. (;
Make kale one of your best friends. Kale is one of the most nutritious veggies on the planet. And, lucky for you, it’s delicious, too! Consuming kale on a regular basis may lower cholesterol and create a power forcefield against cancer. This wonderful green helps with digestion, is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and can help with detox. How many of your friends have those qualities? Unless you’re friends with super heroes, I think it’s safe to say “zero.”
Showcase what you eat! I’ve been streaming my food onto the Internet for years. Mainly since I’m vegan, I wanted to show people all of the amazing foods I could eat on a vegan diet, since there’s still a misconception that vegans just eat iceberg lettuce. Join foodie groups on Flickr and get inspired to create some magic in the kitchen, as well as sharing your own concoctions with people across the world!

Other places to find Jetta: Blog Facebook Twitter Storenvy

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Drinking: Iced Coffee

Iced Coffee. These are the things that sustain me.

May is going to be a weird and stressful month. Teaching. Moving. Planning.

I successfully defended my MA thesis on the 30th of April. 

In celebration, I bought Issue #3 of The Lucky Peach and a bottle of Baileys. My Iced Coffee that afternoon, was over half Baileys! 

The Lucky Peach has an article entitled "Should you Go to Culinary School? (Maybe, But Probably Not)" by Mark Wilson. 

The discussion about higher education in the culinary field felt particularly poignant as I begin to conclude my graduate experience.

The president of the CIA  - "the Culinary Institute of America, not the CIA that taps phones and kills people" - raises interesting questions

"How can you question the merits of education? Why would anyone lobby for a less-educated workforce? Just how qualified a person do you want cooking your food?"

"However, the best academic institutions don't just teach known ideas; they create wholly new ones."

My brain is broken.

The Lucky Peach is an amazing food magazine!