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Food in Films: Toast

2 Dec

A little boy peers longingly through market display cases at some larger-than-life Technicolor cheese and meat pies. He begs for fresh food to brighten a colorless landscape of mealtime horrors that his culinarily-challenged mother serves up.  This is the opening scene of the movie Toast, based on the memoir of the same name by British chef and food writer Nigel Slater.

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It’s a Small World: Canning the Cupcake

13 Feb

For some reason, in this supersize nation, we prefer our burgers, fries and drinks big, and our desserts small. We are particularly smitten with one miniature dessert: the cupcake. The cupcake was once humble stuff, let’s face it. It was something a kid couldn’t mess up, and that was perfectly fine if made from a box, frosted any old way, with rainbow sprinkles in either foil or pink, yellow, or blue paper cups. But sometime in the late 1990s in the heart of the West Village, or so legend goes, the cupcake got a makeover.

I am not going to lie, I was crazy for cupcakes. In the beginning.

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The Label Says “French Silk,” But This Pie is All-American

16 Jan

Chocolate Orange French Silk Pie

It was in 1951 that Betty Cooper won the third annual Pillsbury Bake-Off contest for home cooks with her now-classic recipe for the Chocolate French silk pie. I didn’t know any of this until recently, when I had to complete a research assignment on “specialty pies” for my Pies and Tarts lab at Johnson & Wales. When I first saw the words “Chocolate French Silk,” my mind was blank. Obviously it was chocolate (a good thing), but what was French silk? It sounded elegant, old, classic, and well…It had to be, it is French, right?

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Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain

26 Dec

MacArthur’s Park is melting in the darkAll the sweet, green icing flowing down.Someone left the cake out in the rain.I don’t think that I can take it.’Cause it took so long to make it.And I’ll never have that recipe again, oh no! –MacArthur Park (lyrics by Jimmy Webb)

I know that when Richard Harris recorded the song MacArthur Park, he was singing metaphorically about the end of a relationship, not about baking a cake. Back in the 1970s, when people owned record players (and even 8-track tapes) , my parents used to play the Irish actor’s recording of the song humorist Dave Barry deemed the Worst Ever Written. It was always a puzzle for me trying to figure out why anyone would be so upset about a cake with green icing. Who eats a cake with green icing anyway? Maybe Jimmy Webb’s metaphor was ill-chosen, but the lyrics resonate on a literal level with anyone who has ever spent time baking only to discover that his/her end product is not what he/she had envisioned.And let’s be honest, that’s everybody who has ever baked, from novice up through the professional ranks.

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Pie in the Sky

19 Dec

Pies are on my brain today for a number of reasons. In culinary school, I just started a 9-day lab segment of Pies  and Tarts. It is only apt and fortuitous that at the same time I am venturing into food blogging, that I am studying pies. Almost two years ago and a few months into my unemployment,  I dared myself to make an apple pie on a lark. I had been to the local library, a favorite hangout spot at the time, and spied a tome on pies. It got me thinking, and hungry for the homiest of treats. Little did I know at the time that baking a double crust homestyle apple pie would constitute the first (and tentative) step on my path to culinary school. Once again, it was the symbol-laden apple that gave Eve the self-knowledge to walk away from  the prestige and pay of a “garden” career.  (Never mind for my purposes that Western art confused its horticulture and the serpent’s fruit was likely a pomegranate.)

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