We’ve asked SoFAB staff and friends to share some of their favorite things this holiday season.
Liz Williams, SoFAB Director
1. Favorite gift in the SoFAB Store: My favorite thing changes a lot, but I think that this month I like the glittered dried okra and the glass fruit.
3. Favorite kitchen products: I love different flavors of oil, olive oil, sesame oil, pecan oil. I recently discovered coffee oil. Coffee Oil…Where to Buy
4. Favorite holiday tradition: Sitting around the table talking after a big meal with many generations together.
5. What else? I love color in the kitchen – bright green, red, yellow. I also like copper. I like it bright and shiny and I like it as it ages and turns brown and even little oxidized greenish parts.
1. Favorite thing in the SoFAB Store: This holiday season has been a very busy one. For that reason, I’ve been doing much of my shopping online. I’m a fan of the SoFAB online store for holiday purchases. My favorite thing in it is the PJ’s New Orleans Roast Coffee. A great stocking stuffer, it offers instant gratification for the groggy on Christmas morning. Anyone who has been to New Orleans is familiar with PJ’s Coffee. I love it. We also sell it in the physical store.
2. Favorite culinary book: I love vintage culinary books. I have one called the Complete Cookbook for Men, which says that women cannot cook because of an issue with their fingers. It goes on to say that for the same reason they cannot play the piano or paint either. Food photography has changed a lot over the years. A 1980s James Beard Outoor Cooking book seems to embrace the idea that every piece of meat looks better with a fork in it. When that theme became redundant, the photographer decided to stick a SWORD in a piece of meet. And the reader is just wondering, Why is their a large sword through that piece of meat? Obviously, the photographer exhausted this theme. There is a photo that deviates and it is the funniest – a meal set up outside on a table. In the background, a naked woman streaks through the forest. Why, I have no idea.
I love community cookbooks from the 1960s and 70s. Peppered with tips on how to balance a checkbook and open a bank account, they reflect the changes that were going on in society. The role of women was changing.
A book that influenced me greatly when I was training to become a chef was Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page’s Culinary Artistry. It focuses on how flavors go together, spanning many different cuisines. A cook can read it and be surprised at how flavors go together. The authors explore the concept of food/cooking as art, coming to the conclusion that the culinary arts fits into this definition: “Making or doing things, using unusual perception, that display form and beauty.” The book reminds us that cooking is a craft, an art, a luxury, and a necessity. I believe that it is important to learn the fundamentals really well, before you do anything else. We cannot break things apart in interesting and palatable ways, before we understand how to put them together. Another book I love is On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, which explores the science of cooking. By understand why things work, we can fix them when they don’t. My favorite new book of the year is John Besh’s My New Orleans. This book has wonderful recipes, fantastic design, and beautiful photographs. The first page or so over Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume has my favorite description of beets.
3. Things in my kitchen that I cannot live without: My steel by Dickoron. If you get the Dickoron, use it often and you may never need to sharpen any other way. I’ve seen cooks get made fun of in the professional kitchen for cutting slowly. They would have been almost as fast and accurate as everyone else if they had just sharpened their knives. Besides, a wound heals more quickly if you cut yourself with a sharp knife. Here are the links to the one that I own…The Dickoron Sapphire Cut Round Steel http://knifemerchant.com/product.asp?productID=1400
4. Favorite holiday food: I worked as a chef in Austria, where the holiday season is magical. Because of that, I make spätzle each year. Sitting outside, around a fire, with a mug of mulled wine and a warm plate of cheese spätzle – perfect.
My favorite things… since a lot of my favorite things involve food and kitchens, this is a fairly easy topic to pursue.
1. Favorite Thing in the SoFAB Store: I love our museum store, and I think my favorite item might be the rum cake, closely followed by the ceramic coasters depicting familiar New Orleans restaurant scenes.
2. Best Culinary Books: This is a revelation to me, but I think my favorite culinary related books right now might be Hemingway’s classics. I’ve just discovered the amount of detail that he puts into every drink and every mouthful of food that his characters consume. Thanks to the Museum of the American Cocktail for that lecture!
3. Kitchen Tool I cannot live without: As for kitchen tools, I love wooden spoons. I think they are the best invention ever and I rarely use anything else to stir in my kitchen.
4. Holiday Tradition and Food: My favorite holiday food and tradition go hand in hand–every Christmas my family lazily strolls into the living room and kitchen, we make mimosas and stoke the fire, then we begin to make breakfast. We call it Lord Beaverbrook after a hotel in Canada that made it for us, and it’s been a family staple ever since. You need toasted English muffins, steamed asparagus, smoked salmon, poached eggs, and a hollandaise sauce. Assemble with muffin on the bottom, asparagus and smoked salmon topped with the eggs, and a generous dousing of hollandaise to complete it. With a mimosa, it’s the best breakfast in the world!
5. My dream kitchen: I’ll need a goodgas stove, like the one my dad has–an industrial grade stainless steal monster. I’ll have a lot of space and big butcher blocks and paintings of food with cheery colors to keep the kitchen happy. Add a window with lots of sunlight and a great landscape, maybe with a couple of herbs growing on the ledge, and that’s my dream kitchen. If only someone will give me that for Christmas!
1. Favorite thing in the SoFAB store: Definately the deck of cards with a recipe on each card. Since I won’t cook anyway, I can at least play cards in the kitchen while I wait for my food to be delivered.
2. Favorite Kitchen Appliance: I have always had a fascination with blenders such as the Waring Retro blenders – http://www.amazon.com/Waring-RB70-Blender-48-Ounce-Stainless/dp/B000AYDQDO . Who would have thought that the $25,000 Big Band leader Fred Waring invested in Freddy Osios’ idea in the 1930s would still be a staple in the kitchen almost 80 years later? While Jonas Salk used the “Waring Blender” to mix his polio vaccines in the 1950s, I discovered a couple of decades later how to make the perfect Grasshopper- courtesy of the blender.
3. Favorite Holiday Food: The rum cakes from the Pirates Alley Trading Company are great. They weigh about 3 lbs each and 2lbs of that is rum. Its like you can squeeze the cake and get out enough rum for a couple of rum & cokes. 4. Favorite Holiday Tradition: My favorite Christmas tradition is the Kristkindlmarkt or Weihnachtsmarkt that appear in German and Austrian cities around December 6th through Christmas. While these markets have traditional German items like German nutcrackers, angelic figurines, shaved wood tree ornaments and cuckoo clocks, you can also find foods such as lebkuchen and other German treats. At these markets one can stroll through the artisans’ stands sipping Gluhwein (a hot spiced wine) in the damp, cold German night air. Of course, in New Orleans, my new holiday tradition has been stumbling on Frenchmen Street on a damp, cold December evening, my beer sloshing all over in one hand with a limp taco from a nearby taco truck in the other while people try to bang out Silent Night on the drum cart.
1. Favorite thing(s) in the SoFAB store: I really the painted oysters. I cannot imagine the patience and skill it takes to create intricate designs on such a small surface.
2. On your bookshelf? I like cookbooks, but I really love books that describe culinary history or current events in the culinary industry. I loved Julie and Julia, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, The United States of Arugula, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I have a book devoted to the culinary history of France, and another devoted to the culinary history of Italy and I am looking forward to those. This is how I learn about food.
3. Favorite kitchen tool? My omelette pan is a cherished possession. I have a lot of little tools with handles that I really like, but the crock that holds all of them is a a favorite item.
4. Holiday Food: I am not into Christmas at all. I think that means that I need to create some new holiday traditions. I think lasagna or pot roast will become traditions because I love them. Comfort food at Christmas. I love New Year’s – especially the alcohol. I think there’s a reason why a major drinking holiday comes right after a major family holiday.
1. Favorite thing in the SoFAB store: Lacquered gumbo and other replicas of Southern delicacies.
2. Favorite Culinary books: F.T. Marinetti’s Futurist Cookbook and my three-decade collection of Vegetarian Times magazine
3. Favorite kitchen tool: Koziol pasta server (pictured)- he also operates my kitchen fan and lighting. My hanging Mexican clay pots- a gift from a friend with unlimited potential uses, which I prefer to simply admire dangling against the brick wall of my kitchen.
4. Favorite holiday food:
* Appetizer- baked brie (no puff pastry) with mango chutney, rosemary and green apples.
* Main course- Seitan Bourginone or Vegetable torte (with puff pastry and layered mushrooms, spinach/feta and sweet potato).
* Side- Mashed potatoes, however they’re served. And brussels sprouts.
* Dessert- pie.
* Drink= Mom’s eggnog or mulled wine.