Thursday, June 6, 2019

Buttermilk Graffiti Round Up

I apologize for my tardiness in posting up the April/May roundup for Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee.    It seemed like this was a popular read for the CTB group.  I know that I enjoyed it and am a big enough Lee fan (read almost-stalker) that I read Smoke & Pickles while I reread this book.  I would also love to travel to Kentucky now!   
As Lee writes on his website, we met lots of amazing people and traveled many miles with him on his "Chef's Journey."  He also explains that although there are no accompanying photos for his recipes, you can see the people, places and foods in a photo gallery here.  (It's even organized by chapter.)

Without further adieu, let's get to Culinary Adventures with Camilla.   Cam is almost always the first one up with her post and this time was no different!  She writes:
Although a few regionally inspired recipes are located in each chapter, this is not cookbook per se. It is, as Lee writes, "the story of American foods. It is a recollection of people and places that help paint an image of where we came from and where we're heading. ...The story of American food is one of transformation. Any international cuisine changes once it lands on the shores of America" (pg. 5).
The transformational recipe that she chose was Matcha Beignets from Lee's New Orleans travels.

Beignets were a popular choice and Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm also fried up some NOLA sweet treats.  Wendy used her own recipe for beignets for her own Mardi Gras party.  
Wendy loved the book.  
The book is written by States and Cities visited by Lee, who traveled the USA searching for food from different cultures that have become part of our American lifestyle.  He writes with humor and tenderness.  I found him to be caring, generous, respectful and kind.  Lee is the kind of person that I would love to sit down with and share a meal and some conversation.
 Amy's Cooking Adventures posted up next.  Amy also enjoyed the book and sums up Lee's food philosophy nicely.  

Lee’s specialty is fusion cuisine, but not in the “break all the rules” trendy way.  No.  Lee believes that our experiences change and shape us.  And those experiences, those twists on a recipe because we can’t get those ingredients in our area, that is what makes fusion cuisine. It’s about the heart and the memories, that’s what makes good food.

Although she loves Lee's take on melding cuisines, she did not love the recipes in the book.  She ended up adapting one of Lee's recipes:  Pollo a la Brasa.  

One of the CTB co-hosts, Claudia from Honey from Rock was next up with a melting pot meal.  Claudia found Lee to be a "very empathetic fellow" but saw his recipes as "out there."  That being said, she did find inspiration.
Though Lee puts together some unusual recipes in this melting-pot memoir, I did get a bit of cooking inspiration from him.  In the chapter entitled "Nigerian Hustle", I was drawn to a dish of spicy beef skewers.
Here's her meal of Kalbi Beef Short Ribs (using her pressure cooker) served with rice and kimchi.

Another CTB co-host was up next.   Deb from Kahakai Kitchen featured perhaps the most unusual dish:  Pickled Sweet Peppers & Pickle Juice Gravy with Biscuits.   (Doesn't this sound delicious in a weird way?)
Deb was familiar with Lee from Mind of a Chef  and his competitive TV appearances (Top Chef and Iron Chef) but she had not read any of his writings.  She may have found a new favorite author.
...his unique perspectives and passion for food and the people who cook it made it a win for me. I like his appreciation for the people he meets in his cross-country explorations and how descriptive his writing and storytelling is--it isn't surprising to read that he graduated magna cum laude from NYU with a degree in English literature before turning his skills to cooking. I really enjoy his approach to food too--with his unique combinations of cuisines and ingredients. He made me want to hang out with him in the car and in the kitchen.
I totally agree.  It looks like he could haul a few more people in that convertible.  

I was next up with two different recipes:  Mushroom Hummus and a "New Fashion" cocktail.
Since I was hosting, I had high hopes of doing a dish that truly showed a melding like matcha beignets or mango-jalapeno fries.    Or, something creative like butternut kraut.  Instead, I was intrigued with Lee’s Bourbon chapter in Smoke and Pickles (which I highly recommend as well) and Lee’s non-traditional hummus from Buttermilk Graffiti‘s “Accidental Fast” chapter.

Our fourth CTB co-host, Simona from bicriole, also enjoyed Lee's writing:
Lee is a great storyteller: he brings the readers with him in his travels, inside every eating establishment he visits, next to every person he talks to. Together with the more factual details of his 16 stories, each centered around a place with specific food traditions, he shares doses of personal opinions, memories, experiences.
His writing inspired her to make a dish that exemplifies here own background, origins, travels and  experiences:  carciofi, fave e salsiccia (artichokes, fava beans and sausage). 

Cathy from Delaware Girl Eats found a family connection with Lee's writing.  We don't typically think of West Virginia as a melting pot but Cathy's own family brought their Italian food and culture to the area.
Edward Lee highlights this in his book, Buttermilk Graffiti, in the chapter on his travels throughout that state.  He comes across a woman named Alba, who said that her family came to West Virginia generations ago to work in the factories. "And we never left", she said. 

I also liked that Cathy mentioned Lee's introspective look into food, noticing that his own biased palate might be to blame for his first bite of a pepperoni roll.  
Cathy's pepperoni rolls came from an authentic family recipe.

Since this round-up is posting at the end of the week, you will notice that the June/July announcement post for Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton is up.  Simona is hosting.  (Simona is also hosting Novel Food #36 from now until July 7.)

Thanks for hanging in there with me and being patient!   I am now off to search for my copy of BB&B.  See you all in a couple of months.  Enjoy the summer!

Monday, June 3, 2019

June/July selection: Blood, Bones & Butter


This book was suggested to me and I am excited to read it with you all and see how the reading inspires us in the kitchen.

Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family... By turns epic and intimate, Gabrielle Hamilton’s story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion.
Blood, Bones and Butter traces nearly all of Hamilton’s life and career, from an unmoored childhood through her triumph at Prune, which didn’t end the search for a sense of place and peace that is the overarching theme of this autobiography, as of so many others. It’s a story of hungers specific and vague, conquered and unappeasable, and what it lacks in urgency (and even, on occasion, forthrightness) it makes up for in the shimmer of Hamilton’s best writing. 

Deadline for contributing your post: Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Remember that anyone can participate in Cook the Books: simply pick up a copy of the selection from your local bookstore or library, take inspiration from said reading, cook and post the inspired dish. We look forward to having you read and cook along with in this selection period and beyond. New participants are always welcomed with open arms! (Leave a comment here or check out our Guidelines page if you have any questions.

This selection brings to a close the current set of four: be on the lookout for a post where we announce the next four selections.