Tis the Season for FOOD PORN. I just got my Williams-Sonoma catalog in the mail, and even though I’m actually under the weather today in a way that makes food sound… well… like a good idea someday maybe I can’t help but look at all the lovely pictures. This year’s catalog is actually slimmer than I’ve ever seen it. Perhaps it’s a sign that people aren’t into importing giant wheels of cheese from England and France this year. Less caviar. Less ostentation. There seems to be a general consensus that breakfast is still a good thing since there’s a waffle iron on the cover.
Perhaps it’s come to your attention, those of you who have read my books, that I have something of a… cooking kink. It doesn’t make it’s way into all my books, no. But my first was a Y/A novel about a boy who was a masterful violin prodigy but wanted to go to the CIA. (Culinary Institute of America.) My characters make fritattas. They boil sugar syrup. They ignite sauces after pan frying steaks. They know what wine will go with dinner and would not ever, as I read recently in a book, leave the beer in a cooler while eating pulled pork barbecue (in TEXAS where beef is usually king but okay, I could go with pork) in order to drink champagne with it.
So yeah. Food kink. Which is bizarre because I staged a total makeover of my kitchen two years ago today, which cost, I dunno, I’d hate to say it, but I wouldn’t mind having it back, to put in nice equipment, gorgeous stone countertops, maple cabinetry with glass insert, mood lighting, and all the usual trimmings, and never put all my stuff back into it. No. I started WRITING, and never got around to cooking. We’ve eaten a lot of fast food lately. Lots of pre-made stuff. Frankly? It shows. My children are so hungry for a good meal they actually started asking me to cook. No mommy please, no more fast food!
Yes! I will cook. As soon as I get my 100 cookbooks down from the attic where I stored them when they redid my kitchen. Oh, and a little aside? The bookshelf they put in the kitchen? NOT big enough to hold my cookbooks. Not just the number, the size. The new shelves in my kitchen are exactly perfect for holding the hundreds of manga that my children collect. Anything taller? Like Julia Child’s The Way To Cook, which I need, along with Joy of Cooking at a moment’s notice day or night? Nope. Not going to fit. Anywhere. Which is an ongoing problem in this house.
My Christmas Cooking Gift to you, though, is this. Epicurious. Every recipe you ever wanted, anything from soup to nuts to nut soups, you will find at that website. These are my Christmas Cookies. I make them every year when I make Christmas cookies at all. These are the most like the cookies my Austrian father taught me to make, from my Grandmother Elsie’s recipes. Oma’s recipe called for things to be measured in pounds and the cup of your hand and a whole bunch of other odd things like, no actual measurements at all. We need a pensieve. That recipe comes from the 1995 issue of Gourmet magazine. That basic butter cookie dough can be made into several different types of cookies, and if you go to Epicurious, you can search for butter cookies, find any and all cookies from that issue of gourmet, and they’ll probably all be made with the same dough. Each batch of dough makes two types of cookies.
Can you make cookies that don’t use pounds of unsalted butter, egg yolks, sugar, and pale white flour; in short, can you make cookies that won’t kill you? Yes. But for the holidays, I want to go home. I want to pull out the old tin cookie cutters and the sprinkles and try to remind myself what it was like when my parents’ family was together, the tree smelled like an actual tree (and not a reed diffuser), and the kitchen smelled like something that didn’t come from taco bell.
Maybe food porn was a little misleading. Maybe you were thinking about that Nine1/2 Weeks scene with the blindfold. Nope. Maybe I should have said ‘culinary porn’. Because this time of year, when the catalogs come out, and the December issue of Gourmet hits the stands it’s not unusual for me to take the phone off the hook, put away the computer, send the kids to the movies with their dad, and just… *sighs* dream a little.