Editor's note: We've long been fans of David Kamp's work (author of The United States of Arugula and, now, along with Marion Rosenfeld, The Food Snob's Dictionary), so we turned loose Adam Roberts on him for a chat. What follows is the second part of a lengthy but entertaining interview. Here's Part One, if you missed it. One of the things I found most fascinating in the book was the idea of objectivity and subjectivity and Giorgio DeLuca's discovery that food can be objectively good. How do you feel about that subject? Do you feel that good food can be objectively good or is it always a matter of taste? People obviously have different preferences. But the idea that some...
Adam Roberts talks to the author of The United States of Arugula and the co-author of The Food Snob's Dictionary in this insightful, thorough interview.
As I relive all this, writing this story, I’m realizing how dehumanizing the whole experience was. Restaurant culture mirrors real-life culture, and if you have any delusions about how the world works, about absolute power corrupting absolutely, go work at a restaurant. Your romantic bubble vision of the world will burst.
I was working as a host at an Atlanta restaurant, but I wanted to be a waiter. Not because I’d make more money (which I would) but because I wanted to be like Flo at Mel’s Diner in Alice and tell customers to "Kiss my grits." A few weeks into my hosting stint, I overheard a manager talking about how a waiter quit and how they needed a fast replacement. "I can do it!" I said. "I learn really fast."
I looked at myself in the mirror, and I said, "Adam, do you want to spend the rest of your life trading integrity for convenience? Stop being a chicken-stock whore. You need to pull yourself together and make this dinner count. Look up some recipes, go to the store, and have the time and patience to do it right."
I’ve been following recipes for as long as I’ve been cooking. If I keep following recipes, the best I can be is a great recipe follower. Don’t I want more for myself? Why can’t I come up with my own recipe? I envy home cooks who throw in a dash of this, a dash of that, and make a mini masterpiece. Why shouldn’t it be my turn?
If you chopped my arm off with an axe, you might be surprised to see that the stump that remained had a giant hole in it. That’s because my body is made of bagels. I am 70 percent water, 30 percent bagels. No week passes in my life without the consumption of at least one or more bagels.
I reflect on my day's activity. On one hand, I've done something perceived as masculine: I have built a bathroom fixture, mounted it to the wall with my bare hands, and did so by following instructions on a sheet of paper. On the other hand, I did something perceived as feminine (if not downright girly): I made fairy cakes.
Eve enjoyed her time with Adam in the garden but found that she had strange cravings. "These tomatoes are nice," she'd say. "But wouldn't they be better slow-roasted in an oven and served on toasted bread with cold-pressed olive oil and aged pecorino?" One day, a snake overheard her thoughts and whispered to her. "Wouldn't you like to try some apple gelée with peach nectar foam on a bed of rose petals? Or mango soufflé in a moat of rosemary vapor with the essence of camel?"
Work, like school, camp, and prison, is an institution. Institutions operate like mothersfeeding, nurturing, and structuring the day for the “children.” People who enjoy institutions tend to have oral personalitiesthey like to be nurturedand it makes sense, then, that people at work crave food. Hence the weekly cake-fueled parties at offices throughout the nation.
Coffee shops offer one of the last vestiges of community in this day and age of isolation, iPods, and Internet. To my single friends, I say, "Don't go to a bar, go to a coffee shop. Read a book and drink some coffee and you'll meet someone."
I suspect that when it comes to making nutrition choices, what worries us has nothing to do with health or longevity and everything to do with a subject that's much more complex and much more powerful: beauty.
Mario Batali is in the kitchen at Otto, and I'm at a table waiting for him. There are two bottles of water in front of me: one flat, one sparkling. I'm offered coffee. I'm offered lemonade. I politely refuse, take out my notebook, and wait. And then he appears.
While men cooking at home frequently raise an eyebrow, restaurant chefs are, if anything, considered more masculine for what they do. Who’s gruffer than Anthony Bourdain? Who’s more brazen than Mario Batali? And look at how those Japanese Iron Chefs wield their knives like action stars.
I’m a passionate personparticularly about food. And that’s just my problem. I can’t mind my own business. I care too much. I care so much that I’ve become something of a food bully. A description my friends find all too appropriate.
The original idea was to make croissants, but that would've been too time consuming. Croissants require lots of resting. I didn't want to spend 36 hours making pastry, so I made a squirrel cake instead.
Eggs Benedict is made with Canadian bacon; Martin Short is hammy and Canadian. The comparisons end there, except for the fact that they were obstacles in my relationship with my boyfriend of nine months.
The Amateur Gourmet and friends take a culinary tour of Southern India by way of Saravanaas in New York City: "We begin studying our menus. They have words we've never seen before, like 'bisibelabath'."
Ever hear of food-show host Pancetta? It's OK. Neither had we, until the Amateur Gourmet brought her to our attention. Here she is with a perfect easy-to-follow New Year's Day recipe. Happy 2007!
The Amateur Gourmet, Adam Roberts, exercises a fair amount of chutzpah and finagles a white truffle dinner out for two out of Alain Ducasse.
In this week's gusticomic, The Amateur Gourmet forsakes Jewish tradition in favor of pine and swine. How does his first Christmas ham turn out? Oy veh!
In today's installment, our hero takes a culinary trip to the other side of the globe.
A few months ago, at the end of September, John Kessler--former food critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constiution and one of our nation's best food writers--e-mailed me. John and I met back when I lived in Atlanta. He wrote a really kind and thorough piece about me just when I was starting out (you can read it here; you have to register and then wither at the sight of my horrible picture (the photographer insisted on using a fish-eyed lens: never fall for that!)) and we've stayed in touch ever since. Last year he took me to a fashion show; more recently he e-mailed me after my Alain Ducasse post to warn me about compromising my integrity. (I haven't eaten...
Tonight I met Craig's mom and sister for the first time (they're visiting from Washington State) at one of my favorite restaurants, Prune. The reservation was for 8:30 and Craig and I arrived at 8 to have drinks at the bar. When Craig's mom and sister arrived (at exactly 8:30, perfectly prompt) the hostess told us that it'd just be a few minutes longer. We weren't seated until almost 9. But guess what? We didn't care! Why? Service! They were so nice about it. The hostess took our coats, our bookbags (mine was especially heavy because I just got my manuscript back from my editor with line edits!) and then helped make room for us at the bar. The...
The Amateur Gourmet's recipe for Susan Boyled Potatoes makes a dish that is "seemingly plain on the outside but on the inside an embarrassment of riches." They're stuffed with a pancetta-enhanced cheese fondue sauce....