You Gotta Stick The Landing

There has to be a special circle in Hell reserved for people like me who go to the trouble of marinating chicken in whey for 24 hours and then can’t be bothered to make proper fried chicken with it the following evening. I look forward to seeing what delights await me; I imagine it’s like that scene in Being John Malkovich where Malkovich himself goes through the door except that everybody is Paula Deen and they speak only in emoticons. Probably the frowny face ones with the tears, on account of it’s Hell and all.

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Natural Light

Oh, how I have missed it. Also, can you tell I got a new camera, complete with very good lens? Such creamy goodness, such low light capability. I’m likely to start making bloggings again, now that I have some ambient candlepower to work with at dinner time.

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Winter Thorns

Today brought the fifty-seventh snowstorm of the winter; another three or so inches brought the depth in the yard to about two feet or so, making my shortcut into town a vigorously aerobic trudge. That path takes me by the garden, where I took this picture. It has a suitably prison-y vibe to it, given how confining this climate gets around this time of year, especially when it keeps snowing so there’s no trace of bare ground or greenery anywhere. It turned out that my decision to skip any winter gardening under cover was prescient; all this snow would have crushed the hoops and merely opening the gate would have required a ton of shoveling.

But sap season has begun, and the sun climbs noticeably higher in the sky (on those few days when it comes out) so soon enough the snow will inevitably retreat. When it does, I am going to crawl around on all fours eating all the wild chives, ground ivy, garlic mustard, and nettles I can find, and I’m going to comb the garden for the first new sprouts of volunteer cilantro and returning chicories. There are plenty of vegetables in the stores, of course, this being the land of plenty and all, but they all come from California and I’m sick of buying them. They taste like shit compared to homegrown produce, and after this year I don’t think it’s sound planning to expect those crops to be as available in the future. This may be the year I build a greenhouse.

All Your Diet Are Belong To Us

For the February Chronogram, I went to visit Winnie to talk about her new book and annoy her with my camera while she made me lunch. As an expert denizen of sectors of the food-focused Internet that I assiduously avoid, she has much to say about the current fad for elimination diets and the alarming level of absolutism surrounding certain foods. She is far more patient, understanding, and diplomatic than I will ever be on this subject, and I hope those traits help her win over people too easily swayed by the dietary totalitarians, zealots, and snake oil-peddlers who seem to dominate so much of the discussion these days.

Mayo Clinic

I had a request for fish and chips, which I make occasionally, and since the day was dreary and cold fried food seemed a fitting repast. I don’t do this sort of thing often, since frying is a pain in my ass and makes a big mess (in addition to being unhealthy). On the plus side, it tastes good and best of all it allows me to pour oil all over my table when I take pictures of the finished dinner. You know, for ambiance.

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Cold, Comfort

Well, that felt good. I was overdue for a tirade, I guess. If I had any savvy I’d rave like that all the time, since those posts (see the “best of” page for all you newcomers) always get mad traffic.

I forgot to mention that a contributing factor to the blogstipation around here has been a matter of simple laziness; since I’m out at least once a week shooting pictures, my tripod, light stand, and other gear tend to stay in the car. So when dinner time rolls around, the prospect of going out to get them and set them up in time to shoot a plate of food seems like too much work. Come summer, this will all be moot in the abundant natural light, but for now it represents an obstacle, if a silly one. I did, however, want to show off this new bowl—part of my first ever firing in a wood kiln.

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One Weird Trick To Improve Your Food Photography

I don’t read a lot of food blogs. In fact, I read fewer now than I ever have. This has come about for several reasons. Though I have spent many thousands of hours in museums and galleries, I find that when I’m working on a painting I don’t want to look at other people’s images. They break my concentration and interrupt that precious state of intense yet calm focus which is the desired mode in the studio. As I write more (and blog less, ironically, though that may change soon) I find a similar disruption attends too much reading of other people’s words. Photography, which I have been doing a whole lot of lately, is somewhat different; I got a big pile of cookbooks in December—some of which I want to write about—and I pored over all of them to pick apart the pictures for technical tips.

There’s a certain look to the books I like, and it tends to involve pictures of the food with very little in the way of props. Other books, especially those aimed at a wider audience, tend to be more visually noisy and overstyled. Recently, that overdone look has become epidemic in food blogs as everyone tries to get their numbers ever higher. I’m not a great photographer, but I have become a decent one. And I have done so not on the strength of my styling or the depth of my prop collection, but through my attention to light and how it can be captured, controlled, reflected, and finagled to flatter a plate of food or the act of preparing one.

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Eatin’ Good In The Neighborhood

For the first Chronogram of 2014, I drove to Great Barrington, Massachusetts to visit the Prairie Whale. Some friends met me for dinner there, which made for a lovely outing. Mark Firth knows what he is doing, and this sort of operation looks like an excellent model for “Farm-to-Table 2.0: The New Normal.” It’s the anti-Applebees.  Check it out.

High Spirits

I’ll be on WPKN radio in Bridgeport, Connecticut tomorrow morning at 9:15, talking about regional spirits and drinks for holiday gift-giving and numbing the anguish of spending extended time with family. Down below there’s a list of links to producers I will likely mention.

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Keep On Fucking That Turkey

Going back to 2008, I have made 10-course extravaganzas for Thanksgiving: balls-out, unfettered freestyling wherein my imagination runs wild and my skills try their best to realize the perfervid visions and tie it all together. They’re all documented here on the blog, including the one that won me a trip to France. I have enjoyed cooking every one of them. But this year I wasn’t feeling it, so I took it easy. No manic list-making, no frantic days of prep beforehand, no careful curation of the trajectory from course to course. I bought a goose, and I used the homegrown produce on hand to round it out into a meal.

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Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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