The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Kitchen Secrets, salad, and pudding

"$40 a day...tip, bitch!"

Anthony's outburst against a certain Satanic (his words, not mine!) celebrity chef was the most memorable quip of last night's Kitchen Secrets talk at the NYPL. Custom printed t-shirts, mugs, and totebags—I see them all.

crappy photo
crappy photo!

I sat with Janet, Allen, and Eunice in a location of low scenic value (behind other humans, I mean) while watching Bill Buford, Mario Batali, and Anthony Bourdain talk about food and...[scratches head]...yup, that was mainly it. Of course, all other topics are kind of unimportant, so that's no loss. It's doubtful I will get the chance to hear the term "kitchen bitch" uttered so many times in a one-hour sitting.

Actually, they didn't say it that much. So what else did they say? A lot. Funny things that made me bellow "ha-ha" less like a lady and more like Nelson Muntz. Which is now I laugh on a normal basis, but...let's ignore that for now.

I wouldn't say many secrets of the kitchen were actually revealed, but Bill Buford's latest book (and a main topic of the evening) Heat probably gives more insight into that (hopefully I'll read it soon!). Hearing them talk about cooking and working in restaurants, portraying a deep passion for food in the process, reminded me of my lack of passion and made me question what it is about food that I'm so into.


basket of carbs

Uh, seriously though. I wish I had more interest in cooking, but I just...don't. Whenever I try to bring up the potentially cool things about cooking to my mum, she seems to brush them off. It's not like I have to take the same approach to cooking (it's a joyless chore) as she does, but if I were surrounded by "bread-baking, potato-ball-making, and more" people like Morten for a long enough period of time, I think my attitude towards cooking might change. I took two cooking courses in school, so I know it's not hard to prepare decent food. (I didn't show any culinary prowess in Norway though. "UHH WHAT DO I DO WITH THESE POTATOES UHH I DON'T KNOW HOW TO USE A TOASTER HUUH" etc. Yup, that's what I sound liike, kinda.) In my house, everyone prepares food for themselves (we all have different tastes, or diets), so I don't jump at the chance to cook for one.

On the upside, my mum likes to buy good quality ingredients and foodstuffs. She wants the best olive oil to dip her just-baked artisan bread in. The most unadulturated slab of butter from a small farm in the middle of nowhere with happy cows. Fresh fruit from the farm a few minutes drive down the road. It's not like she's out to buy expensive goods, just high quality version of basic things. Not that she'd be willing to out of her way to get a fresh whole fish or go through the trouble to bake our own bread. Just stop by Whole Foods!

From what I know, Diana's mum is very different from mine. She'll go out of her way for fresh seafood from a specialty market (Diana thinks her mum would like Norway, or at least the fish market) and prepare Chinese food from scratch. Diana also told me that her mum buys a lot of junk food for the men of the house. My mum doesn't buy stuff for my dad or brother if it's junky, but they don't expect her to.

Uh...crap, I was supposed to talk about the discussion thinger! It's all bits and pieces in my head, various anecdotes and references to things I didn't know much about since I hadn't read Heat. Anthony referred to following the Kalahari bushmen and eating a lot of meatstuffs with fur and poop in em (I'll cross "Kalahari desert" off my list of gastronomic vacation spots). Mario recalled an interview with a potential employee (yeaah, I forgot his name, but he's going to manage a new Batalli restaurant in Las Vegas if I remember correctly) who fell asleep during the interview, a good sign that he was relaxed and should be hired immediately. Related to the $40 a day quote, Anthony said that you should always tip $20% unless the service is really horrible (and arguments about tipping can be found at waiterrant). And something that you definitely shouldn't do is linger around a restaurant right before closing or additionally order a crapload of food while all the employees glare at in hope that you'll finish quickly (or wish death upon you...yeah, that's what the twitching in their eyes indicates) so that they can call it a night.

I also recall something about the banning of foie gras in Chicago. That we're all doomed? The world is coming to an end? [scratches head]

A Q&A session after the discussion provided more interesting information! A woman asked about screaming chefs and Mario replied that he doesn't scream at people he's disappointed with as he finds it more effective to scold them within earshot of other people so that everyone knows that so-and-so screwed up. When asked what was on their iTunes, Mario mentioned the Raconteurs and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Anthony mentioned Brian Jonestown Massacre and...something else. All three of them agreed that while good chefs could be made just by staying in America, studying culinary arts in Europe and learning from people whose have long histories in certain kinds of food is an invaluable learning experience you can't get here. Anthony "recommended" smoking to stay slim. Oh, and their favorite fats...I think Anthony said pork. Mario seemed to like all of them.

Annnnnd...there were a gazillion other things. But my brain is tired and is in a lowered state of effectiveness due to lack of use. If you didn't go last night yet could've, you missed out! BOO! These guys showed a connection with food that I don't know I'll ever have. Or feel like having. I don't just want the feeling, I want to want the feeling. ...This made more sense in my head. [sigh] Sometimes people expect me to know more about food than I end up knowing since I study it, but I really don't know much about food. I think being familiar with how food is prepared, from farm to table, by actually doing it and not just reading about it is crucial, it's crucial, period. Crucial to knowing stuff about food. I could google creme anglaise to find out what it is, but I wouldn't really know until I've made it. And I have made it, thus I can tell other people "Oh yeah, this is what you do," or rather, "Oh, for the love of god, don't do this," seeing as I've screwed it up more times than not.

Er. No one should think of asking me how to cook anything. Except frozen dumplings. I have that no-fail method down.

I stupidly didn't bring any books with me for Anthony to sign, and although he was just standing by the signing tables talking to a small crowd of people, neither I or any of my friends felt the need to go up to him and remind me that he is awesome, we love him, etc.

Before we left, I got to meet the sweet Annie, one of my readers (wow, that sounds so possessive) with an affinity for Poofy Pancake shirts and an interest in trying the cheeses of Norway (hopefully she'll fill us in on the tastiness of the tubed bacon cheese). It was great to meet her; I hope the feeling was mutual! She said my self deprecation was distracting, but I truly think that I suck and would rather not lie to all of you by playing down how much I think I suck. Or something. I think that came out wrong.

Things that do not suck: this insanely cute flufftastic baby bunny whose beady eyes don't just stare into your soul, but straight through it, because it's probably evil...but so cute, ye can't resist!

I didn't recognize him...
am I a stalker now?

As Janet and I left the quiet zone by the library on 5th Ave between 40th and 41st streets, she noticed Mario strolling by. Shall we continue on our way in the opposite direction or follow Mr. Batali (and in my case, take photos)? We [creepily] followed him from a safe non-stalker distance, funny since...well, we'd see him again in about an hour.

salad yum salad!
I like some kinds of salad

I went to Life Thyme, my favorite place for a quick meal and vegan/organic whatnots, twice yesterday for lunch and dinner. I went there the day before for lunch also. Why? It's cheap (about $3-$5 for an small, but filling salad), probably healthy, convenient, and tasty. Their salads are less boring leafy greens and more chopped/slaw-esque, Ah well, I take photos for a reason—so I don't have to describe anything. One of my favorite salads is the Vitamin A salad, which has cucumber, celery, broccoli, sunflower seeds (or pumpkin, but I'm sure they make a salad with sunflower), and cilantro (I suspect a lot of people hate cilantro, so...this wouldn't be for you), but I like most of them. The wakame salad is probably my favorite, although I didn't see it this week. The slight sweet cabbage salad, kinda like cole slaw without the mayo goop, is another favorite. Most of the salads are simply dressed in some kind of oil and herby concoction and are tossed with white sesame seeds. There's also a wide variety of bean-based salads and if you really want plain ol' leaves, they've got that too. I usually pick at least three salads and moosh em together for variety and pretty colors. To suit my tastes, Life Thyme makes the best salads.

puddingified pumpkin, mm!

Besides making the best salads, I think they make some of the best desserts I've ever had, whether vegan/organic or not. While avoiding baked goods, I've gone into vegan pudding eating mode. The pumpkin pie pudding I tried during Tuesday's lunch tasted like autumn. Sweet, squashy, creamy autumn. I started thinking that eating the whole 7.5 ounce container would make me feel uncomfortable, but as usual my stomach beat the odds and I felt juuust dandy after scraping the cup clean.


More pudding was required for yesterday's dinner, chocolate and banana (as in, half and half, not chocolate-banana) in this case. Once again, I scraped it clean. Despite that it's made mainly of tofu, it doesn't taste too tofu-esque. (The vanilla pudding has the strongest tofu flavor, in case you like that...or not.) The texture is as creamy as normal pudding. The chocolate flavor tasted a little weird in a way I'm not sure how to describe (er...not like typical chocolate), but I still like it, maybe a little more than the banana. Both flavors go well together though.

I ate too much for lunch. It involved meat since I figure this week...I'm gradually changing my diet. [massages tummy] And I'm going out for dinner. [massages tummy some more] Egad.

Hey, what was I doing a week ago?

mashing time!

Wow...this week flew by rather quickly. I miss weegie-land.


heather / June 22, 2006 4:39 PM

HA-HA! yEAH I'm first to leave a comment finally!
Batali is from Yakima, Washington I think. Just about a 45 min drive from where I live. Crappy town but whatever.
So robyn are you on a health kick now? I've been eating lots more protien now. I can't even remember when I last had a slice of lovely soft bread. Weeps.......into pillow of bread. Yum!

Hanna / June 22, 2006 5:28 PM

So you're a Kent-fan? They're from Sweeeden. Ehum, yah.
Oh, and thanks for the comment on my poor blog...
Makes the echo of an empty blog sound a little less depressing.

1614 / June 22, 2006 5:29 PM

Mario Batali claims to be from Seattle. I am not sure if he was born there, but he emphatically claims to hail from Seattle, WA. His father owns a fabulous Italian deli, Salumi, there. That is, in fact, where Batali gets all of his cured meats from

Adalmin / June 22, 2006 8:27 PM

My friend told me that eating cooked food has the same effect on your immune system as cancer cells.

Yep, she adores Whole Foods.

Mila / June 22, 2006 8:29 PM

I'd have stalked him, love MB. Glad to hear he doesn't do the screaming.
But $40? Yikes.

Cat / June 22, 2006 9:04 PM

So super bummed I couldn't go last night. (Husband had to work late)Pumpkin pudding is one of my fave things, I make it at home alot,...lots of vitamin A. It's ok, I'll stalk Anthony Bourdain later. (Though he might smell strongly of cigarettes which would make me whip out the essential oils) Trust me, there is plenty of healthy eating to be had in this fine city, if you want to head up to red bamboo or caravan of dreams etc. for some me.

jane / June 22, 2006 11:10 PM

Hey, just wanted to let you know of my try @ starwich in the citigroup center...i got the soft shell crab BLT...ehhh it was ok but not worth the 15-something dollars...the bread was perfectly toasted but the amt of crab and how it was soggily-breaded was disappointing...hope ur experience with starwich is going to try the filet mignon sandwich next!

roboppy / June 22, 2006 11:38 PM

Heather: Number one, yey!

Yup, I'm kind of on a health kick. And I want to continue I think I definitely overate stuff that wasn't uber healthy and my tummy hated me for it. :'(

Hanna: KENT!!!! LOVE! Them! )My other favorite Swedish artist is Hakan Hellstrom, if that's okay. But it's just one album...I got his latest album while in Norway and haven't gotten into it. Doh.) Diana bought a Kent CD in Norway and I got the mp3s off of her, hehe. I should listen to those more.

My blog did that empty echo thing for a looooong time. :(

1614: Thanks for the info!

Adalmin: I used to think that, but I changed my mind when I realized that I was surrounded by people who ate cooked food and were quite un-cancered. If cooked food was good enough for them, I figured it wouldn't kill me right away either. ;)

And I have my own thoughts about cancer...that people probably wouldn't agree with. HOHUM!!

My friend told me that eating cooked food has the same effect on your immune system as cancer cells.

Mila: "$40 a day with Rachel Ray" yikes? Or something else?...or...

Cat: Yup there's lots of healthy eating!...but I still like Life Thyme the most because I can buy just how much food I want, ehe. I've been to Red Bamboo and COD (mm, cod) just once But I've been to Spring Street natural a bunch of times. Cos it's tasty. Red Bamboo was good, but I'm not big on fake meat (I'll just eat real meat, I guess). I forgot what I had at COD (it was 4 or 5 years ago!), but it was probably good...ya! I should go back. I remember liking Angelica Kitchen too, another place I've only been to once.

Annie: Aw...I read your entry. But you did approach him! And know he smells normal! Wee!

Jane: Aw, just okay? Sorry to hear that! If I had $15 for a sandwich, I'd go to Blue Ribbon Bakery. Ohh man I loved their sandwich. I also liked Clinton Street Baking Co's crab cake sandwich thing.

Cathy / June 23, 2006 7:43 AM

Does vegan pudding taste a lot different from, say, regular Jell-O pudding made from milk and powdery stuff? I'm curious.

Clare / June 23, 2006 12:04 PM

Ohhhhhhhhhhh Tony Bourdain :) I kind of love him. Too bad he is dating the head columnist for Page Six. But I digress...

Do you ever watch the Food Network? That's a great way to get enthused about cooking. I would highly recommend "Barefoot Contessa" and "Boy Meets Grill." They are both really relaxed and easy to follow. Just stay about from the evil stepsisters (Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee).

roboppy / June 24, 2006 12:11 PM

Cathy: It tastes more tofu-y than normal pudding. ;D And the texture of the vegan pudding is runnier. But overall, it probably tastes less...artificial?

Clare: No telly for me, I'm afraid. No cable for one thing, and tv...eee....drives me insaaane! I dunno how it got so annoying, but maybe having roommates for the past two years who watch more tv than even I ever did as a kid bothered me. :(

Deb: YEEY!!

Daisy / June 24, 2006 12:52 PM

It's cool getting to see people like that. :)

I wasn't much of a cook myself until last summer. My mother and I were leafing through cookbooks then I thought "What the heck" and started teaching myself how to cook.

Now I'm so into it that I can't believe I never did it before. Sometimes I'm so proud of a dish, I even post about it, lol.

Hope you get into it too! Though eating's already more than halfway to it... :)

d. yee / June 24, 2006 11:19 PM

My mother cooks too much meat.
Sometimes I wish she does make more healthy conscious decisions when buying certain food and products.

I'm sure the guys would hate it.

I'm sure you know this that I don't normally eat my mother's food on a daily basis. Haha. At least I don't catch enough of her dinner (where she focuses on cooking more). I'm always at work and not home to eat it. And, 65% it's not seafood and it's probably leftovers from three days ago. We can go on with leftovers for days and that bores my taste buds. BUt, coming form this family I see why. Not like my mother is willing to shell out on high end products for something small that not everyone (guys) are going to eat.

That's why I don't eat at home very much. Ha... er... not that I eat out much either. I make my own food. And, that's also the same crap every day! Eggs + unpreservered Ham :O (Breakfast)

I'll learn to cook more!
When I feeeeel like it! :P

roboppy / June 25, 2006 2:30 PM

Daisy: My mum and I look through cookbooks and think, "Ooh that looks pretty"...and then that's it, pretty much. FOOD PORN. I don't think she's ever attempted to cook anything from a recipe. I've done it a few times, although I don't think anything every comes out the way I want it to except for in my cooking class. Boo.

Steph: Hahaha! I guess that's a bit of a hurdle to overcome. His anti-vegetarian rants are hilarious. :D

Steph / June 25, 2006 5:51 PM

I mean, you would think that he would see it as a positive, being that I would never steal a piece of foie gras from him when going out to eat.

And besides the whole "married" thing. Yeah.

lori / June 25, 2006 10:32 PM

Rob, I had to comment about what you said regarding: "...reminded me about my lack of passion and what it is about food that I'm so into."

While you deride your supposed inability to cook or be helpful in the kitchen, I think what you are is an incredibly passionate and considerate eater. You chronicle your eating adventures and I think that you show an immense interest in what you eat. I know I'm not the only one who lives vicariously through your blog, wishing that I could eat what you eat.

So don't knock yourself, sister. :)

Liz / June 27, 2006 11:04 PM

Love his Crocs. I just got back from Seattle and bought some cute shoes, but I managed to resist Crocs and now I waaaaaaaant them :(

The talk sounded like fun! Wish I could have been there. Excited about Restaurant Week yet?

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