Grocery shopping in the time of coronavirus

I went to the market this morning: the Queen Vic on the edge of Melbourne’s CBD. It’s a Friday morning thing. My son and I load up our fold-away shopping cart in the back of the car and make the short journey to do our weekly shop for veggies, meat, seafood, dairy and coffee. Most of our…

What’s for dinner?

So about this home cooking business. I enjoy it, mostly. But honestly, cooking in this weird time of social isolation and lockdown, the pressure to make each meal an event — a highlight of an otherwise grey day — is considerable. The stakes are higher, don’t you think? It reminds me of a passage from the…

A bellyful of oysters

In 1798 I was at Versailles as a commissioner of the Directory, and had fairly frequent dealings with Monsieur Laperte, who was secretary to the tribunal of the department. He was extremely fond of oysters and used to complain of having never eaten enough of them, or, as he put it, ‘had his bellyful of…

Lemon and poppy seed cake

You could call it my opium cake. I prefer the more genteel descriptor: lemon and poppy seed. It’s a delicious cake, made all the better when, straight from the oven, you douse it in a lemon glaze that seeps all the way through. It’s a lovely addition to afternoon tea. In fact, it reminds me…

Ayres on Good Food

“A quest for ‘good food’ cannot be built solely on aesthetic or cultural grounds, particularly for people of faith. To call food good demands a moral analysis of how food is produced, distributed and consumed in society. Otherwise, the ideal of good food is reserved for the farmers market set, a snobbish exercise of privileged…

A farmer’s wife

I have spent the last month immersed in cookery books; old ones from the 17th through to the mid 20th century. They are mainly handmade books — collations of recipes, medicines and kitchen wisdom from women in humble circumstances. I’ve met some extraordinary collators. One of those is Anne Hughes, the wife of an English…

Muto on gratitude

“To be a taker of food or any other commodity without appreciation diminishes our humanity. The height of selfishness corresponds to the avaricious depths of assuming that we are the reason the giver exits. Mother’s table is for me; all the thanks she needs is for me to eat my fill of what is on…

Nancy Willard on how to stuff a pepper

An award winning writer of children’s books, the late Nancy Willard was also a novelist, poet and an observer of ordinary things. Even better, she wrote recipes … my kind of recipes. I’m a cook who doesn’t like to be told. Entice me with visions then leave the rest to me. Thank you Nancy. I’m headed home to stuff…

A Steamy Pentecost

In Eating Heaven, I tried to say something about the café and the role its tables play in our cities and lives. Then I find the collected poems of Irish poet Michael O’Siadhail, and discover he says it with more beauty and fewer words. I tip my hat. Lunchtime in a London Café Table by table…

Rousseau on wine

“Indeed, I must say that good wine seems to me an excellent thing, and I do not at all dislike getting merry as long as I am not forced to do it. I have always observed that false people are sober, and that a great reserve at table is quite often a sign of artificial…

Coffee: the rare friend

“Brewed from beans freshly roasted and ground, good coffee is as transient and enchanting as its own steam or the company of an elderly friend, all the more brilliant and wise because he or she is aware of mortal limits. A perfect cup is much less if it has to stand five minutes during an…

Capon on the taste of eternity

“To be sure, food keeps us alive, but that is only its smallest and most temporary work. Its eternal purpose is to furnish our sensibilities against the day when we shall sit at the heavenly banquet and see how gracious the Lord is. Nourishment is necessary only for a while; what we shall need forever…

Koffmann on embroidery and cheese

“When I am working in the kitchen, I never wear a toque. It is something I find slightly pretentious. I feel the same way over the more recent custom of embroidering chefs’ names on their jackets. I find it ridiculous and more than unnecessary to have my name written on me as though I were…

Capon on Feasting

“Let us fast — whenever we see fit, and as strenuously as we should. But having gotten that exercise out of the way, let us eat!  Festally, first of all, for life without occasions is not worth living. But ferially, too, for life is so much more than occasions, and its grand ordinariness must never…

Capon on food as sacrament

“Food is the daily sacrament of unnecessary goodness, ordained for a continual remembrance that the world will always be more delicious than it is useful. Necessity is the mother of cliches. It takes playfulness to make poetry.” Robert Farrar Capon

Barnes on stove-splash

“In China it’s taken as a compliment if the table cloth immediately surrounding your place is, by the end of the meal, a site of major spillage. … The same principle applies — without any shadow of ambiguity — to cookbooks. The more decorated their pages are with stove-splash, peel-drip, edible Rorschach stains, oil starbursts, beetroot…

Conrad on recipe books

“Of all the books produced since the remote ages by human talents and industry those only that treat of cooking are, from a moral point of view, above suspicion. The intention of every other piece of prose may be discussed and even mistrusted, but the purpose of a cookery book is one and unmistakable. Its…

Mum’s sultana cake

Mum’s cake repertoire was slim. At one of end of things, there were those heavy fruit cakes stuffed full of dried fruit and spices boiled together; at the other end, her simple butter cakes in three varieties — plain, chocolate or rainbow — and covered with icing. To be honest, my natural love of cakes…

Double Chocolate and Cranberry Brownies

Brownies bake with an American accent.  Honestly, I never laid eyes on a local brownie until they were standard café fare twenty years back. As much as I hate to admit it, these glorious squares of fudgie goodness are an import. Given how good and right they are, I would like it to be otherwise….

White Chocolate and Macadamia Blondie

Purists are boring.   No doubt, my recipe for a White Chocolate Blondie will offend on two fronts. First, my cocoa obsessed friends sniff at the very mention of white chocolate. “You know, Simon,” they declare with tedious superiority, “technically, it’s not chocolate at all.”  It’s a “confection,” they go on to explain, as though…