Posts Tagged ‘NY Times’

The Resurgence Of No Knead Bread


I’ll be honest.

I’ve been categorically ignoring the whole no knead bread trend since I first heard about it back in 2006.

It became quite the internet sensation at the time, died down and now seems to be making the rounds again, due at least partially to Cathy Erway’s new book about not eating out for 2 years, I assume (which includes her riff on the recipe).

As someone who loves cooking and food as much as I do, I can say with alacrity that I’ve often thought of no knead bread as the lazy person’s shortcut, aka baking for dummies.  If you asked my mother, she’d probably cluck her teeth and mutter something under her breath about it being the cowboy way.  Beyond that, even though I start by mixing 90% of my breads in a stand mixer for at least part of the process, I can’t imagine giving up the interaction with the elementalness that is bread just to make life “simpler”.

But, when I saw Erway’s recipe for parmagiano, peppercorn and potato no knead bread, I made an exception and decided to try it.  At the time I had no knowledge of what made her recipe differ from the standard no knead bread, so I followed everything to the letter except for 2 things.  I subbed in a cup of whole wheat flour to surreptitiously improve its healthiness and instead of cracked black peppercorns, I mixed up a blend of 5 different ones that I’ve had lurking in the kitchen, including Muntok, Sarawak, Malabar, Tellicherry and Moula peppercorns crushed in a tea towel with a mallet.


There Go(es) My Hero(es)

I think it goes without saying that Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser and Mrs. Obama are some of my heroes.

I also can’t forget the guys behind King Corn, who have a new documentary coming out this winter called Truck Farm, that deals with their quest to grow a market garden in the confines of the flatbed of a pickup truck.  It’s such a stupidly funny concept that it’s got me wondering why I didn’t think of that.  But to my credit, I am growing most of my food in ugly kiddie pools.

All of these ongoing efforts to bring the campaign for healthy, local, sustainable food to North America are admirable in their dedication, and are definitely not going unnoticed.  More than ever people are taking an interest, whether by reading labels, shopping at farm stands or just growing their own food at home.  We’re witnessing a pivotal moment that could shape the way that food is mass-produced for the children of tomorrow.

However, a few recent articles have put me on to two other people whose goals I admire.  Over at NY Times, you can read about Will Allen, a former professional basketball player who is now putting his talents to use by growing crops and feeding people in urban food ghettos.  The man’s charisma literally oozes off the page, with an aw-shucks kind of quality to everything he says.  Not only is he changing the world, but he’s humble about it, too.

Building on the concept of aquaculture, there was an article about this guy in the Globe and Mail about two weeks ago.  I’m not a huge fan of most cooked fish though I adore sushi, and I would never have a use for one of these setups, but nonetheless, I think what he’s doing is amazing.  It’s that kind of fringe thinking that makes me optimistic that our global community can find a path to sustainability.

And then there’s Jamie Oliver; during the last 2 months The Food Network has been airing a whole slew of his programs geared toward food awareness.  First there was Jamie’s Ministry Of Food, which focused on teaching a town in England to cook.  It was so popular that it’s been picked up for a US version that will feature Ryan Seacrest (ugh!)  Then there was the kitschy, slightly game show-esque Jamie’s Eat To Save Your Life, in which the charming Oliver gets all bedecked in a ridiculous looking suit and perambulates around the stage, informing 18 Brits about the many ways that their terrible eating habits are quietly killing them.  Using shock and horror to poignant effect, one segment shows a woman sitting in a bathtub filled with all the fat she would consume in 5 years at the rate she was going.  The next one hour episode in the series, Jamie’s Fowl Dinners shows a room full of guests excited to have a dinner cooked by Oliver being educated on the vast differences between free range and battery farm chickens instead.  Jamie even manages to get an interview and inside look at one of these battery farmhouses, which is more than could be said for the guys behind Food Inc. It’s seriously disturbing, from the way the coops are extremely overcrowded, to the fact that most of the chickens can barely walk, right down to the end of the show where Oliver learns and demonstrates how to humanely dispatch a chicken.  It’s not something you’d necessarily want to see, but if you’re going to eat meat, you should be able to stomach how it happens.  As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also got an episode on pork (yet to air in Canada) cheekily named Jamie Saves Your Bacon.  I suppose if anyone can do it, Jamie probably can, although even I will admit that after a while some of the shock-rockery of his schtick gets a little bit old.


Are We Hooked On Food?

Growing up I often wondered if I had an addiction to food.

As I became an adult, I would jokingly offer it up for conversation when asked if I had vices.

Food has always seemed to hold a great deal more fascination for me than for most other people I know.  I relish eating it, I enjoy preparing it, and in my off time I take pleasure in reading (and writing) about it.  For a long time I naively assumed that most people felt like this, that there were 2 kinds of people when it came to food; those who live to eat and those who eat to live.  But, as I’ve grown older, I find the more I talk to others about food, the more I encounter glazed looks of incomprehension.  To wit, it seems I have become a “food geek”.

Over the years I’ve been all sorts of shapes and sizes too, owing to my complex relationship with food.  From the rail thin years, to the Rubenesquely plump ones, (again, thanks to Mr. Lee for searing those words permanently into my consciousness) my love affair with food has seen me at all points in between.  The worst was probably in 2003-ish, (what I fondly refer to as my binge-drinking bender years) when a friendly cashier who I often chit-chatted with at the grocery store inquired when I was due.  What made up for it was the sheer look of horror on her face when I sputtered that I was not pregnant at the time, and the back-pedaling that ensued.  A rule to live by when it comes to women; if you’re not sure, don’t ask.  You only risk making yourself look like an insensitive moron if you’re wrong.

At any rate, back to food.

It used to be that addictions were primarily the stigma of gamblers and druggies, but it seems like modern day psychiatry and psychology have expanded their definition.  Now we have addictions to sex, addictions to pain, addictions to just about anything you can dream up.  So why not food?

From personal experience I can tell you that while I happen to overindulge in certain kinds of foods (chocolate, great bread, charcuterie, cheese and Tempranillos, specifically) I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a food I felt inclined to eat so badly that I wasn’t able to stop.  I don’t suffer from Doritos-itis or Pringle-ocity, just the occasional bouts of rampant gluttony.  My brand of obsession is slightly more complicated; I have an affectation for diversity.  When I go out, I want to consume as many different flavours as possible, and I’ve often said that if I were to ever open a restaurant one day, it would be for those people who are just like me.  I envision a place specializing in tiny nibbles of all manner of things, from a duck confit sliver, to a fresh fig stuffed with cheese, to a chocolate covered strawberry, I want it all… just in minuscule portions.