Wednesday, August 15, 2012

California Style

We celebrated my eighty-first birthday on September 1, in California, and one of my gifts was 40 Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering by Alice [Louise]Waters and Friends, with a Forward by Calvin Trillin and an Afterword by Michael Pollen (Clarkson Potter, 2011).

  Below:  Martine Labro, who wrote three books for Chez Pannise on pizza, pasta and calzone.

  David Lance Goines created this poster (first of many, many) for Chez Pannise. He is remembered as a friend, artist and calligrapher, Waters' former lover, one-time partner and supporter. The poster depicts Goines' interpretation of a portrait of Martine Labro, who did the very first poster for Chez Pannise. Lance Goines


I must also mention two films about California's sNewe Cuisine: Les Blank's "Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers" , which documents one of Chez Pannise's most redolent annniversary froplic


Food Fight a computer-operated documentary about our food tases and icons 2005?


Henry Jaglow's Eatng,: another 1970s piece that focuses on a totally different eating issue: the pressure to NOT eat and emain "attractive" to men and ANoREXIA...


Now: Below, I mention three books that paved the way for this spectacular narrative, beginning in Berkeley, California, in 1964. Interestingly, "The Free Speech Movement" (with Mario Savio et al and even this blog poster) forms the root of this enterprise and Waters'"search for a contentment that was unsterilized and fertile and hand-made, a contentment that I would find a few years later in the kitchen, a contentment that would last my entire life".


California Dish: What I Saw (and Cooked) at the  American Culinary Revolution by Jeremiah Tower (Free Press, 2003), the first chef at Chez Pannise and later the owner of Stars in San Francisco.

I read this tale shortly after it was published. It is a delightful narrative of  Tower's childhood, travels, cooking  life, and love life, approaching all with his signature bravado and taste, and probably with one of his bottles of his beloved 1960's (but not 1964) Chateau d'Yquem (Think of the best sauternes or Sauvignon blanc and served with goose or roast beef).

 The best  parts of  Tower's book are the colorful contexts of  his cooking gigs. The brain-storming for a innovative menu, the forging for the best produce or fish, the legal and critics' battles.the tangle of chefs in the kitchen, and the wonderful (usually) response from eager diners. It reveals, I think, who Towers really is and was, from Europe to Australia, from Newport to San Francisco's Stars, at Civic Center: a passionate chef and one of the great founders of the new American cuisine.

 The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food by David Gopnik.:

 Adam Gopnik, 2008.

 Adam Gopnik, (born August 24, 1956 in Philadelphia, PA) is a Canadian-raised (Montreal) American writer, essayist and commentator. He is best known as a staff writer for The New Yorker—to which he has contributed non-fiction, fiction, memoir and criticism[1]—and as the author of several  essay collections. With his friend Kirk Varnedoe he curated the famous 1990 High/Low show at New York's Museum of Modern Art

This blog focuses first on  The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food  (Knopf, 2001) a collection of poignant, wry and very useful essays for students of Food in The Arts, asking the readers to  come to terms with eating, their memories of eating, and the cherry on the cake, 4 categories into which fall fiction writers. 

What stops me cold here is the possibility of someone NOT remembering certain memorable (if not mind-blowing) food experiences, dinners, unusual fare, simple farm meals, hard-to-reach chateaux, a first Japanese meal, a last Scotch with a friend, now long departed.

When I read Gopnik's  essay "What Do We Write About When We Write About Food? " I was almost certain that he had read this blog's texts and (being an educated engaging pro) decided to pull much of it together, insofar as fiction in  concerned. 

His modest selection of authors have revealingly different purposes for including food experiences in their fiction: Proust (obligatory and Trollope, Robert B. Parker and James Bond.  Even J. D. Salinger, Gunter Grass and in particular, Ian McEwan's novel, Saturday (2005).  I wonder what he might have said about Cormac McCarthy's apocalyptic novel, The Road (2006).

Briefly, the four categories of food-in-fiction:

1.  food that is served by the author to characters who are not expected to taste it  (Trollop, Dickens)

2.  food that is served by the author in order to show who they are (Proust but also Salinger)

3.  food that an author cooks for characters in order to eat it with them (Ian Fleming)

4.  and food that an author cooks for characters but actually serves to the reader (Nora Ephron, Robert Parker, Ian McEwan, and Kurt Vonnegut's Deadeye Dick (1982).


David Kamp and the United States of Arugula:

Another book of collected essays is very different: The United States of Arugula by David Kamp (Broadway Books  (2006).

If Gopnik favors food issues in La Belle France, Kamp knows and adores the "food movement" as it was planted and grew in Berkeley, California , and to some extent, simultaneously elsewhere.  Having read  Jeremiah Tower's California Dish: What I saw (and cooked ) at the American Culinary Revolution (2003).

 Tower was raised in the United States, Australia, and Great Britain, two-time James Beard Award-winner Jeremiah Tower was a man without a country -- until he immersed himself in the borderless world of great cooking and set out to create the "serious simplicity" that would change our notions of fine dining. Stumbling almost by accident into Berkeley's then-unknown Chez Panisse in 1971, he dazzled the San Francisco Bay Area -- and then the rest of the country -- with his dedication to fresh, local ingredients prepared simply. Eager to fulfill his own dining vision, he embarked on his quest to build the ultimate high-style "democratic" brasserie, San Francisco's Stars, where blue-jeaned rockers mixed with tuxedoed operagoers


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