April 30, 2011Mikel’s last day of work was Friday.
Today would have been my mother’s 91st birthday. I can’t imagine her that old, especially since she died so young and was very young at heart anyway.
The photo of my parents at right was taken on Daufuskie Island in 1965. There was hardly anyone ever on the island and even fewer people on boats in Calibogue Sound then. To think that they were then younger than my nephew is now!
So much has changed in these past five decades!
Several folks have asked me if I am selling my library. I am selling some books I no longer need or use — mostly fiction. But my culinary library will go into storage and, eventually, I’ll donate it.
I just don’t need a lot of cookbooks while I’m abroad, especially since so much of my time will be spent learning a new language and a new cuisine.
April 27, 2011 Culling the books from 4000 down to one shelf
I just went through my hundreds and hundreds of books and these are the only ones — other than an atlas, books about Bulgaria (mostly language), and my own books and manuscripts — that I think that I’ll take with me to Sofia.
From left to right: of the Time-Life Good Cook series, Variety Meats, Beef & Veal, Lamb, Sauces, Soups, & Poultry. I have all of the books in the series, but I rarely cook from books anyway, and these I use mostly for reference. There are collections of recipes from all over the world in each volume, and they were edited by the remarkable Richard Olney. I’ve never been led astray by the recipes. The thin paperback between Poultry and Charmaine Solomon’s The Complete Asian Cookbook, which I’m taking in case I want Asian food and can’t find it, is a sort of Bible for me: The Ball Blue Book of Canning. Hmm…. should I take canning jars with me? From what I hear, everyone is both a backyard gardener and a canner.
Next, A. J. McClane’s Encyclopedia of Fish Cookery, a great reference book that has been by my side since 1977 when it was released. My dear friend Elizabeth Schneider’s authoritative books on fruits and vegetables (see my tribute to her work here) must go with me. I use them more than any other books I own: Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: The Essential Reference and Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables: A Commonsense Guide. Anne Willan’s La Varenne Pratique is full of practical information on techniques and ingredients, a veritable cooking course in a book.
A couple of oddities next: Great Food Without Fuss: Simple Recipes from the Best Cooks was assembled by Barbara Witt and Fran McCullough (who edited my first two books). The book has one of the ugliest dust jackets ever published, but it’s Mikel’s book and just in case he should find himself in the nearly impossible situation in which he should have to cook for others, well, it’s chock-full of easy recipes with lots of tips and variations. The Southern Heritage Cakes Cookbook I’m hoping will inspire me to make something other than my old stand-bys. Their instructions on making caramel icing are perfect.
The Best of Slavic Cooking needs no explanation. I’m hoping it will help me understand the dishes, not how to make them. Two more reference books: Alan Davidson’s classics, Mediterranean Seafood and North Atlantic Seafood. I realize that Bulgaria lies between those two seas, but Greece isn’t far away and surely there will be some fish I don’t recognize. What I need is a book on the fish of the Black Sea, though on this 25th anniversary of the horror at Chernobyl, I have second thoughts….
Only two more cookbooks. Richard Olney’s Simple French Food and George Lassalle’s Middle Eastern Food: East of Orphanides. I’m sure you’re wondering, where’s Paula Wolfert? Where are the Italian books, especially the Ligurian ones? Where are the southern cookbooks? Where are my baking books? Truth is, I just don’t cook from books very often. I’m planning on learning an entirely new way of cooking. New produce. New doughs. Wish me luck! I’ll keep you posted.
The rest of the books are language books and gardening books: my trusty Robert, two Italian dictionaries, and the incomparable 501 Italian Verbs and 501 French Verbs. (Since I rarely have the opportunity to speak either language, I like to study occasionally and I do correspond with friends in both languages.)
On Gardening (and I’m sure that Mikel will add more): Bill Neal’s Gardener’s Latin, Carrots Love Tomatoes and Roses Love Garlic, The Pepper Garden, The Reader’s Digest’s The Garden Problem Solver and their Illustrated Guide to Gardening, The Complete Container Garden (we have 40 feet of balconies) and the American Horticultural Society’s A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. No need to take any of our dozens of books about gardening in the South or Mid-Atlantic, nor should I tote all these books on heirloom vegetables. I hope to be finding Bulgarian heirlooms to grow in pots.
Last, I am taking three field guides to the flora and fauna of Europe: one on birds, one on mushrooms, and one on trees. And that’s it. If I add any books, I’ll let you know. I’m reading fiction on my iPad.
As I go through cabinets and drawers and closets and boxes in preparation to move overseas, I’m finding all sorts of cool stuff I’d forgotten about, or hung onto for one reason or another.
I’m not one to save wine bottles, but I found what I thought was an empty bottle of 1983 Lafite Rothschild sitting in the back of a cabinet, tucked behind glass hurricanes. I have always loved the wines of the Haut-Médoc, and I am quite fond of Pauillac, but I don’t recall this being extraordinary, so for me to have saved the bottle was a bit perplexing to me until I looked more closely and saw that there were pieces of paper therein.
I am not certain exactly when we drank the wine, but I’m reasonably sure that it was shortly after I closed the shop in 1999 because our friend Gilson Capilouto was among the tasters, and she moved out of town shortly thereafter. Each of us wrote down our impressions before we discussed the wine. I’m sure this was one of Mikel’s wines that he had put down for 15 years, waiting to drink on a special occasion. I’m willing to bet it was on his birthday in March. I’m sure he requested what he wanted for dinner as well, but there are only notes on one dish we had that night.
There are the notes on the bouquet before we tasted. They are as follows:
JMT — berry, black raspberry, currant, jam, vine
Gilson — blackberry, blueberry, currants, licorice, dried figs
Ted Keller — berry
Mikel — Charcoal, oak, currant
The tasting notes:
JMT — tastes like leather smells, damp woods, earthy and mineral laden, Hobbitts crushed the
Gilson — black pepper, charcoal
Ted — moss, saddle, dark berry/cherry
Mikel — figs, nice finish, great with the green beans with garlic
I’m surprised that the wine liked the green beans; they rarely do. We probably drank the wine too soon. Jancis Robinson tasted it blind in 2000 and had this to say: This wine has a very dark, treacle-toffee mahogany hue. It is very backward still, but opens out to reveal some rich fruit aromas with time in the glass. It has tannins which, although softening, still dominate the palate. A little backward fruit and spice. Finishes with a show of tannins, and an amazing length that goes on and on. It has to be one of the first growths.
April 18, 2011 We sold our house. Maybe now I will be able to find time to blog again.