There is a little magazine published in my neck of the city, that I really like.Â It is all about–food.Â I sent off an idea to this magazine that Kelie and I had, about us penning a column in an Ann Landers advice style, of How to Make eating a Home Cooked Dinner a Regular Reality.Â Kelie has worked as a writer for Fairchild Publishing so she is a no brainer for writing an article.Â The problem is Moi.
In my initial contact with the editor I included fun facts like, I am a cook, I write a blog, and I teach cooking.Â When she wrote me back she said, “you know, if I gave everyone a column who wanted to write a column for this magazine, there would be room for nothing else.”Â Fair enough and kudos to the mag for A.Â being popular B.Â checking credentials.
I sent her my credentials, and this was her reply:Â did I go to culinary school, am I a professional cook and do I write my blog as a hobby?
This set me back for a minute.Â If we had been in high school and face to face, I think it could have been a “situation.”Â Which is a reminder to me that A.Â I am in not in high school and B.Â I need to think about what she is asking.Â What I heard was:Â Liar.Â Â What she most likely meant was:Â Prove it to me.
I have no name and no connections, although I have cooked for some famous people.Â Does that make me a better cook?Â I don’t think so. Â In my mind, requirements for cooking are the same if you cook for Michael Jackson (I never cooked for him) or Joe Schmoe.Â In my experience, the fact that a person is famous, does not guarantee knowledge of food; and a cook cooks to the best of her ability whether cooking for Jackson or Schmoe.
Last night I lost sleep because when I wrote her back, along with the links that prove I am a professional, I used the names of the well known people who are my clients or have been my clients in connection with trying to prove my worth. In all my years of cooking, when someone wants to know if I can cook, I say, “yes.” I back it up with how long I have been cooking, what kind of cooking I have done; I might throw in that I had my own restaurant for a few years…but there was something about how after I gave her my information she implied I might be cooking as a “hobby” that threw me over the fence.Â And so I stooped to name dropping as if just because I work for people who the whole country knows and are at the top of their game, that makes me official.
I am so high school.
For the record:Â I have never gone to culinary school–I learned everything I know on the job.Â I started out washing chickens and cleaning dishes.Â Without deserving it whatsoever, I was awarded the job of “pastry chef” my second day at the sink, just because I happened to be the only one working in the kitchen at that moment who knew anything about making a cake and–I offered to make one for 300 people in a crunch.Â The cake was for a famous person, but I swear I would have made it using exactly the same techniques if it were for my mother.
I have never been employed to work at a restaurant (other than my own) as a cook.Â I have done a stage cooking at a well known restaurant, I have eaten at well known restaurants, but I grew up professionally in catering, where I was eventually referred to as head chef of a reputable company.Â I teach in the Tuscan hills of Italy, and the garden of France.Â I know how to chop, sear, and braise my way through just about anything.Â My claim to fame is a state senator (here I go nameless name dropping again) refusing to rush for his plane because he wanted to finish every last bite.Â My other claim to fame:Â my seven year old loves to eat wholesome food. I have written nearly everyday for the last four years about food, including a cookbook that I published and love as much as I would if I had been paid by someone else to publish it.Â At the end of the day, I walk a path just off the main road.
What makes a cook?Â Experience and knowledge. And even if I didn’t get paid by all kinds of people to cook–you can be as brilliant at home as you can be on the job.Â And I do both.Â So there.
(Talk to the hand, and if the hand is not available take it to the elbow.)
Now that I have that off my chest:Â a repurposed recipe THAT I MADE UP MYSELF!
Allow me to step up onto my soapbox under this tent, and hand me the microphoneâ€“â€it is time to peel and grate, to roast and toss, to gently braise and season, to NOURISH your bloodstream, to clean your insides and PURPLE your outsides. I am a well woman nowâ€“my feelings are in order, my eyes are clear, my head is hopeful, and I put it all to the beets. Be brave. There is no substituting cannedâ€“you wouldnâ€™t substitute canned for fresh watermelon would you, when you are sitting on fresh sand with fresh salt in your hair and a real sun heating up your program, would you? No. Buy fresh beets, and peel them. This is the very same pasta dish I told you about two days, ago, but this time I want you to make it. Start small if you have to and make enough for two. Peel and grate one medium sized beet. Get a little sauce pan full of water and add a pinch of salt and a dash of olive oil. Peel another beet and chop it up in small pieces. When the water boils, turn down to a simmer and throw the chopped beet in. Cook until just tender. (you need the cooking water from thisâ€“save the beet for a salad). Heat up a pour of your good olive oil with a tablespoon of butter. Finely chop one shallot and two cloves of garlic. Saute over a very low flame with a pinch of salt. Add a 1 teaspoon hand crushed fennel seeds and few tablespoons of finely chopped fresh parsley. Breathe deep to get that aroma into you. Add the beet. Stir around with a wooden spoon every once in a while until they are cooked, but still have a little snap. Grate a good handful of parmigiano reggiano on the big side. Wash and dry some tiny arugula leaves (a cup). Boil your pasta water and cook either 5 ounces of orchiette or farfalle (I like De cecco) until al dente.Taste the grated beets for salt and give them a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Drain the pasta and tip it into the frying pan with the beets. Another squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a tab of butter, the parmesan, a grind of black pepper, a few spoonfuls of the beet juice, and the arugula. Before you toss everything, give the arugula leaves a tiny drizzle of your best olive oil. Now toss. Taste. You should be feeling better already.