Black swan. Unborn puppies. A hundred live doves “baked into a great pie” and prepared to “burst forth in a swirl of white feathers.”
Those are some of the dishes I decided not to attempt for my Game of Thrones-themed dinner party.
George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” books are famously long (1,040 pages for the latest installment), and roughly 50% of the word count is devoted to describing what the characters are eating. One wedding feast features an ode to most of its seventy-seven courses; even a rundown of frozen defense outpost’s dwindling supplies is good for a three-page litany about storerooms filled with “potted hare, haunch of deer in honey, pickled cabbage, pickled beets, pickled onions, pickled eggs and pickled herring.”
The HBO series embraces the books’ gluttonous spirit: The producers got a castle banquet into the very first episode.
For food fans, this is clearly a challenge. A thrown gauntlet. One week ahead of Game of Thrones season 3 premier, I rounded up a few of my geeky friends - and some novices we hoped to convert - for our own recreation of a Westerosi feast.
When we were 11 and 13 years old, our parents dressed us in neckties and blazers and marched us to a French restaurant in our hometown, Charleston, South Carolina. We sulked through dinner until dessert arrived: crème caramel. And in that instant of magical custard, its essence of burnt marshmallow skin made silken-smooth (and grown-up-approved), everything changed. We’d never been to France, but we knew this crème caramel was a journey unto itself, to another place.
Walking home, we conspired to re-create this trip ourselves. We waited until a day when our parents were out of the house, took down Mom’s dusty, stained "Joy of Cooking" from the cabinet above the telephone table in the kitchen, and went to work.
Ashley Strickland is an associate producer with CNN.com. She likes tackling English toffee, channeling summer with sunflower cheesecakes, sharing people-pleasin' pizza dip and green soup, cajoling recipes from athletes and studying up on food holidays.
There is a grace in the harmony of simple flavors and taking the time and care to introduce them to one another. I like to think it’s embodied in a perfect pound cake.
Take a moment to get to know the grand dame of Southern desserts.
This is the fourth installment of "Eat This List" - a regularly recurring list of things chefs, farmers, writers and other food experts think you ought to know about.
Nice, neat things make me nervous. I'm almost relieved the first time a pristine pair of shoes gets a scuff or there's a ding on the bumper of a new car. I'm no longer responsible for maintaining this object in a perfect state, and somehow through the rupture of it, it's finally marked as mine.
Cookbooks definitely fall into that category for me. The more one speaks to me, the more I'll crack it open, weight it down to splay the relevant pages, and muck up the pages in the frenzy of cooking from it. My most beloved are my most battle-scarred.
Raindrops, roses, whiskers, kittens - all lovely items to be sure, but perhaps not the gifts that will make the holidays glow as brightly as you'd like. Certainly not* if they're for the food lover in your life.
With that in mind, as a person who lives, breathes and, yes, eats food for a living, I'm sharing my personal list of beloved foods, drinks, gadgets, books and save-the-world gifts to fill the hearts and mouths of your favorite food freaks. And yes, they're all available online.
"Wait - there's an actual recipe for this?"
My husband Douglas paused his furious stirring and spun around from his post at the stove. I pointed to the book his mother, now resting in the front room, had left spread open and bookmarked on her kitchen table.
"Well yeah," I said. "Isn't this what you're using? Onion, cornbread, celery, the egg? It's the same dressing you make for Thanksgiving, and this recipe is pretty much it, right?"
The photo is both touching and humorous, a loving couple dressed as many of their friends and colleagues recall them. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg beams in her judicial robes, adorned with a frilly lace collar. Her late husband, Martin, gazes adoringly, wearing shorts and a silly French cooking apron.
Now Marty has received a fitting, very personal tribute in the form of "Chef Supreme: Martin Ginsburg," a cookbook released this week by the Supreme Court Historical Society. In addition to being a pre-eminent tax attorney and law professor, Marty - who died last year of cancer - was by all accounts an extraordinary amateur chef.
We know, this sounds suspiciously like an internet ad that tells you how to make money by selling prescription drugs online. No, this might be even easier. Some cookbooks that you just might have sitting on your shelves are going for quite a bit of money on Amazon.
We’re not talking about super-specialized books like Modernist Cuisine, the recently released, $625, 46-pound compendium by Nathan Myhrvold, nor a first-edition copy of Elizabeth David’s A Book of Mediterranean Food, which went for $1583. (Although if you have either of those books on hand, you’re lucky, and potentially rich.) We’re talking specifically about The Last Course, by pastry goddess Claudia Fleming.
Published in 2001, the book ranks just above the 783,000 mark on Amazon’s best-seller list and originally cost $40. Now, a first edition of The Last Course is on sale for $800 on Amazon, with used copies going for $142.
I encounter a notion every once in a while - reiterated recently in an anecdote from Joe Yonan's splendid 'Serve Yourself,' wherein a potential love interest condescends to him because he's got a cookbook open on the counter - that depending upon another's recipes is essentially admitting that you can't cook. Well then, in our collective defense:
A#1: If someone is kind enough to cook for you, shut up and say "Thank you!"
One of the loveliest presents I've ever gotten is a place to put my cookbooks. This may have been, in part, a measure of self-preservation by my husband (he's neat and I'm decidedly not), but I could not have been more touched by the effort to which he went building shelves to accommodate my frankly ridiculous collection.
It's since overflowed the bounds of the four levels, spilling out in messy stacks from the hobnailed shelves. During the week they remain largely untouched. Douglas and I get home late and generally ravenous and on the nights we don't opt for a quick call to Red Hot Szechuan or a taco jaunt, we go with the tried and true. Either one of us could roast a chicken, grill a fish, saute vegetables to toss with pasta or compose an elaborate salad with our eyes closed. It's not terribly ambitious, but it is mostly from scratch and certainly doesn't necessitate a consultation of the manual.