Every once in a while (seemingly all the time, actually), the NYTimes comes out with a little themed supplement, about the size of their Sunday magazine, in which everything the reader needs to know about women’s fashion, sports, real estate, food, etc., for the season is presented in a package that’s poorly laid out and holier-than-thou. Even on the website, it’s difficult to get a sense of what’s going on in the issue.
Ah, but we mentioned food. This past weekend’s T:Style Magazine, subtitled “all the fixings,” sub-subtitled Living Spring 2007 (a sub-subtitle in dire need of punctuation), attempts to locate the current culinary climate, and finds it largely in two places: the post-commercial reemergence of pre-commercial farming and folkways of south-central Europe, and upgrades to classic Americana hardware. Enough of this baroque labeling, though. The articles:
When we said “south-central Europe,” did you think we meant Italy? Not your prissy Italy, with the high fashion and beautiful art and canals, no - instead, the Italy of anchovy fishing villages and charming bottles of amari bitters. Molto autentico, no? What they were doing in Italy in the 50s is what you should be doing now, especially as the salted fish and liqueurs become more readily available in the United States (what is amari? A grammatically incorrect question; amari is the plural of amaro. They’re neutral spirits infused with spices and essences until you get something resembling Jaegermeister, but more Italian-sounding, like Campari). Also note that the current American obsession with pig (which is to say, urban American obsession with fatty and cured pork products) can be well-satisfied with salumi, albeit from Berkeley and not Italy.
South-central Europe also covers areas like Burgenland, a strip of eastern Austria that’s chock-a-block with vineyards and haute-country cuisine served in beautiful farmhouses with views of the Alps - think topfenknodel (sugared cream cheese dumpling), prosciutto with olive oil and lemon juice, and apple strudel.
Meanwhile, returning to America, think back 25 years and what will you find? For starters, the birth of the Silver Palate cookbook, a manual that informed Americans that it’s okay to use ingredients they’ve never heard of before (apology: this was in the Sunday magazine and not T:Style, but whatever). And how better to prepare the food in the cookbook than with the authors’ most valuable tool, the Cuisineart, a food processor whose funeral does not begin upon purchase. Parents might pass these along to their children, at least when they’re off to college, giving the dual gift of quality and convenience (possibly the American credo).
Lest you think the Cuisineart was the last great innovation in American cooking machines, prepare yourself for a new generation of grills - you can now spend $28k on your backyard barbecuer and use 18k BTUs to ramp it up to .9k degrees (that’s 900; we couldn’t help ourselves). Because more ALWAYS means better…maybe these new models also prepare the spice rub and digitally monitor the internal temperature of the meat for guaranteed correct done-ness. Hey, that’s a pretty good idea!
While you may have been able to prepare yourself for the grills, nothing could ready you for the hipsterization of the ice cream truck. No comment we can make would do justice to the photo accompanying this article, and we’d be sued if we tried to run it ourselves, so just click through and come back. We’ll wait.
Finally, as a sort of an anchor piece for the theme of the return to (someone’s) tradition, T:Style offers up a primer on terroir, or the ways in which “place” is transmuted into the taste and feel of food and beverages, especially wine. Your Bourdeaux brings with it a sampling of the mineral contents of the soil of that region of France. Can you taste it? Maybe…about as much as homeopathy actually does anything medically measurable. Which is to say, the psychology of it is as important as the science, because people love to know that their food was made somewhere, by someone. Like everything used to be.
Oh yeah, one more thing. Shout-out to Weegee’s Lounge in Logan Square, serving up classic cocktails with jazz on the jukebox to conjure up the neighborhood in the 1940s (something only possible then and now, and not in between).