Saturday, January 06, 2007

Happy New Year's ????

First let me pray that the Goddess might bless the brow of every single one of you who reads my humble blog, and provide more success, happiness and wealth than you can possibly deal with in 2007. My fervent wish is that each and every one of you might be able to someday say, "I was reading Big Mary when he was just a humble blog, before the radio show, before the Madonna connection, before the movie..."

But moving on ... let's vent a little steam. What's going on in the world of food writing? Here I was, hoping to position myself to morph from the heinous world of corporate catering to the sophisticated world of food writing; only to discover that my new fantasy career has been hijacked by the lightweight thinkers at the Food Network.

While I confess, I don't spend many hours watching cooking shows on any network, the few times I do find myself surfing by the Food Network I'm typically left with jaw dropped and ire rising over both the subtle and blatent misinformation that is sent over these airwaves. The more cooking professionals I speak to about this, the deeper the dilemma appeaars to be. In addition, I've learned the problem is a lot more widespread than I thought.

My best buddy, owner of DM Cuisine Catering in NYC, reports that one of his cater waiters (a breed of server reknowned for lack of knowledge about what they are serving), was recruited by the Food Network to develop a cooking show after her TV commercial for vegetable shortening was so well received by test audiences. When she freely admitted she new NOTHING about cooking, they replied "Not to worry, we can take care of that part."

Several prominent food writers I spoke to at the home of my Jersey food pro pals report the same realities. Unless you're a celebrity chef, or young and pretty enough to fill out jeans more attractively than Big Mary, or better yet a blend of both, there's little chance of your cookbook getting published these days.

Another dilemma facing the modern foodwriter is the Internet, and busybody bloggers like yours truly. As we all know, it is crazy easy to google any recipe you need at the click of a mouse. Unless there's a specific point of view or opinionated palate that you're after, why buy the book?

So, what's to be done? As in most frustrating situations, taking a deep breath is a good place to start. While the books getting the most attention seem to have more in common with People magazine than Escoffier, there still are more cookbooks being published in 2007 than 10 years ago, and 2006 gave us some damn fine ones. Currently I'm devouring "The Improvisational Cook", another excellent cookbook by Sally Schneider. She takes on the daunting challenge of convincing her readers to cook with their noses out of the cookbook. It's an interesting attempt to reawaken home cooks food instincts, and ironically lessen their dependence on cookbooks. Now that has to make you laugh in the context of this rant of mine!

But it also shines the light on where cookbooks need to look toward. I know part of my idea in "taking Big Mary public" was to encourage people to just cook; however simply or complicated their instincts inspire them. In my work kitchen, the cook that I connect to quickest is the cook who can taste food in his or her head. By this I mean someone who can taste something and tell me what are the main ingredients, can tell me what's missing (salt, sugar, acid, herb, fat, etc) and can imagine what it will taste like before adding the needing ingredient. In the most talented of chefs, I think it equates with "perfect pitch" in a musician.

What I find exciting is how random this talent is distributed. I've found it in an illegal Mexican dishwasher who became my sous chef, in a sandwich guy who is now able to handle any station in the kitchen, in a college chum who could practically talk to bread dough, and in the ultimate Goy Guy who can develop a recipe for chocolate mousse with 15 calories per serving.

So, moving forward into 2007, I'll probably continue to frustrate those readers looking for exact measurements and proceedures. But to those of you I say, relax, breath deep andjump. What's the worse than could happen? OK, now what's the best that could happen??? Yeah ......
Contented Eating
Big Mary


Diane said...

My, my, my. When Tony gets his sense of smell back, sense of taste, I think he can sit happily and plan and plan and plan. The kefta in phyllo looks especially appealling (sp?) to me. Love to you, dear.

Edie said...

You write very well.