Thursday, May 10, 2007

Confined fine dining

As guilty pleasures go, mine are pretty innocuous. For example: Toothpicks.

Well, not really toothpicks. Toothpicks are a metaphor for guilty pleasure number one: The New York Times Dining Section. I start thinking about the dining section on Monday morning when I read the Times. And then I think about it all day Tuesday. By Tuesday night, I'm beside myself with anticipation. And that, you see, is where the toothpicks come in. Because if you stay up late enough on Tuesday, you can read the section when it's first posted--usually, just before midnight--and by that point, my eyes aren't fused shut only because I've propped them open with toothpicks.

Call me crazy, but I have to admit: For me, reading Dining & Wine as soon as it's out is the half the fun of reading it at all. And after going to bed post-dining section for months on end, I'll add that if you thought Clement Clarke Moore was kidding when he wrote about nighttime visions of sugar-plums, you'd be wrong. My recent dreams have included everything from seafood pancakes to three-citrus curd. Is it any wonder that I'm ravenous by the time I awake on Wednesday?

Another guilty pleasure is my obsession with haunting the cookbook section in any bookstore, anywhere in the world. Even Barnes & Noble. Even Borders. My local favorite is undeniably the Brookline Booksmith. But, truth be told, when I need a fix, I will stoop to the level of a chain.

Between the dining section in the Times, and the hundreds of cookbooks covering every subject from raw food to international cuisine, you'd think I'd be well on my way to recipe saturation. (Did I mention I subscribe to several cooking magazines, too?) And yet, every new article about food, every fresh take on an old standard, every recipe rivaling some restaurant fare, only fans the flames of my excitement.

And it got me thinking: What do I have to add to the discussion?

Looking around at my apartment-sized kitchen the other day--a kitchen larger than most kitchens in apartments of this square footage--it hit me. Because how many people who love to cook (or love to eat) have restaurant- or test-kitchen-quality spaces in which to work? How many have endless expanses of counter top, or the kitchen technology (stand mixers, food processors, ice cream makers, etc.) to create the kind of photo-shoot worthy fare featured in the dining sections of renowned national newspapers?

I don't. But what I lack in counter space, I'm hoping I'll make up for in creativity. Because cooking in an apartment kitchen doesn't need to be a lesson in frustration. It doesn't need to be an experience limited to tasteless, boring fare, or, even worse, prepared food. Though it does call for simplicity.

My hope is to show that simplicity is not a euphemism for compromise. Instead, it's a recipe for fine food, no matter what your space constraints.

1 comment:

Chip said...

Amen Jenny. Welcome. And thanks for the link to Cookthink. Look forward to reading more. If you're ever out in western Massachusetts, let us know.