Saturday, August 13, 2005

Cinnamon Toast and Snackmasters

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

I can remember from about age 6 onwards making cinnamon toast (still a favorite) with a recipe from a kids' cookbook that involved first melting the butter and then mixing in the cinnamon and sugar. I'd spread the sludge on toast and loved the graininess and butteriness of it. The first full meal I cooked a few years later involved "Grand Slam Chicken" (pan-fried chicken legs that were apparently supposed to resemble baseball bats) and an applesauce cake make with 7-up (both courtesy that same kids' cookbook).

Who had the most influence on your cooking?

Rachel, my roommate the year I studied abroad in France. In our tiny kitchenette with two burners, one cabinet, and no stove or microwave, she would whip up multi-course meals from scratch. She showed me how good it could be when you prepare food as unprocessed as possible: the herbs were always off the stem, not from a jar; the salad dressing was always homemade; the tomato sauce was always from scratch; we'd have to rinse the slugs off the heads of lettuce fresh from the market or her parents' garden; and once she even came back from a trip home with a huge home-canned jar of rabbit her dad had caught in the backyard. Rachel also taught me how to cook without a recipe, which has been hugely freeing.

Do you have an old photo as “evidence” of an early exposure to the culinary world?

Yep, here's four!

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

It used to be peeling shrimp, but that doesn't bother me any more. Generally I try to avoid spending much time with raw meat, though.

What is your most valued or used kitchen gadget and/or what was the biggest letdown?

Currently the most used: our microplane grater (good for parmesan, ginger, nutmeg) and a gizmo that produces paper-thin slices of garlic amazingly quickly.

Biggest letdown: the Snackmaster. After watching several hours of infomercials about this product in the 1980s, I convinced my parents to buy one so that we too could make hot pressed sandwiches (which I now know to refer sophisticatedly to as "panini") and dishes even more exotic, like tarts (!) from jam and refrigerator biscuits or pizza from tomato sauce, pepperoni, and refrigerator biscuits. Well, after a while, it wasn't all that thrilling. Years later, when I moved to Fort Collins, I got a hankering for the Snackmaster, but it was gone. Fortunately, my mom found one for me at a yard sale; I actually use it on occasion, just not with the original passion of my teenage years.

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

There's this funky goat cheese flavored with cinnamon and cranberries that sounds scary but is actually lovely.

What are the three foods or dishes you simply don’t want to live without? Cheese. Chocolate. French fries.

Your favorite ice-cream? Very chocolatey chocolate.

You will probably never eat: most meats.

A common ingredient you just can’t bring yourself to stomach: bananas. They're vile.

Which one culture’s food would you most like to sample on its home turf? Japanese.

Any signs that your passion for food is going slightly over the edge and may need intervention?

My tea collection barely fits in the hanging racks on the back of the pantry door, and yet I keep buying (and receiving as gifts from friends and family) more boxes and bags and tins, because there are so many flavors I like (or want to try). And because we can't go through tea very quickly (except when making pitchers of iced tea in summer), the collection grows and grows.

Any embarrassing eating habits? Nutella straight from the jar with a spoon. (Mr. Tart adds that I tend to chew on my hair when pensive, but that doesn't count, because I don't actually digest it.)

Who would you want to come into your kitchen to cook dinner for you? Any of the Iron Chefs, Alice Waters, Julia Child.

Who’s your favorite food writer? Peter Mayle describing Provencal fare.


Blogger lis said...

Sarah, if you want the effects of the snackmaster, but with much more finesse, you should try the George Foreman grill. I'm telling you the thing is amazing--the best grilled cheese ever.

9:30 AM  

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