It always seemed strange to say I had a mentor. It’s the kind of throwback term that describes a commitment, integrity, and generosity of time and spirit that you just don’t see any more. But that is the only way I could describe Steven Shaw who passed away suddenly this past Tuesday – he was my mentor and a throwback in all the best ways.
I met Steven in 2009 when I took the first every food blogging class he taught at the International Culinary Center. An award- winning food writer, he’d already made the jump from blogging (even before that was a term) as the founder of e-Gullet to publish books and write for Saveur, Elle, the New York Times among others – all still considered more legitimate platforms. I had recently left production and was looking for a way into the food world in general and writing in particular. Blogging seemed the only way open and I couldn’t have hoped for a better introduction than Steven’s class. I don’t know if I could adequately describe the joy he took in blogging and the possibilities he saw in it – it was unabashed, it was wholehearted, it was infectious.
Still, it was after the course was over that Steven really stood apart as a friend and teacher. With every new development, he was the first person I’d email with good news and nervous questions – always knowing that in just a few minutes I’d have his thoughtful and well-considered advice to follow. I thought this might taper off as he met new students and started countless blogs but it never did. A couple of times when Steven invited me to come back with other former students to speak to his current class, I questioned whether I had accomplished enough to merit the honor but was so proud that he felt I had.
I also knew that panel speakers were invited to join him at L’Ecole, and if there’s one thing he taught me, it’s to never be embarrassed about going somewhere for the food. Joining Steven for a meal was something like going for a light run with Usain Bolt – you can fool yourself that you’re keeping up but he is operating on a completely different level. It wasn’t just the pleasure he took in a 5 course meal but his ability to write brilliantly post about it immediately afterwards that was so special. He loved talking and writing about food and he wanted everyone to be part of the conversation.
I can’t think of a better way to honor Steven than to blog about him as many have in the last couple of days. My heart goes out to his wife and son who he talked about so often and so lovingly. I’m sad today but know that I’ll always smile when I think of him and feel an enormous sense of gratitude that I have a space – thanks in no small part to him – to write these words.
RIP Steven A. Shaw (1969-2014). Paz, luz, y progreso.
The recent signs of spring are so small that, if I wasn’t desperate, I might not have noticed them at all. A little more light, a little later in the day, and I’m a completely different person. Once a layer comes off, I find it impossible to put it back on. Even with the frequent temperature drops, I stubbornly leave my gloves at home and my puffy coat is not coming out again until next year. All of which leaves me cold but determined. I’m also taking advantage of the break in the weather to enjoy my neighborhood in a way that I haven’t for a very, very long time. I reference Brooklyn in my posts often but the changes in the last few years can sometimes feel like a cautionary tale about getting everything you wish for.
Last year I took what felt like a slightly selfish trip to New Orleans. My excuse was book research, so I decided beforehand not to post or take too many pictures. It felt like if I stopped to post or take a picture every time I saw something beautifully strange or strangely familiar in New Orleans, I’d do little else. Strange because it’s a city so completely itself that it makes you come all the way there to experience it and familiar because I’d always heard stories from my family about New Orleans when it was a short jump from Havana. There were so many parallels that it wasn’t surprising that so many of my relatives settled there when they left Cuba in the 1960s. Read more
When my last and final book deadline came and went this month, I found myself heading back to Miami again for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Now one of the largest in the country, the festival is essentially held in my own backyard though I’d never gone down for it before. After interviewing a few of the chefs who’d be participating for The Latin Kitchen, I was excited to be there for the event itself but had not idea what to expect. Read more
This past December, I went home to Miami earlier – for Art Basel – and stayed later – for Christmas – then I usually do. I was coming back to a cold, gray winter, so any time spent inside felt like a missed opportunity – as though I could somehow store the sun in my skin and the colors in my eyes to get through the next few months. I put together a too-ambitious list of places I wanted to go but was still surprised when I couldn’t get through it all – though what I did see, I loved. Read more
I’ve had a lot of reasons to be grateful for this year, but one of the things I’m most thankful for is that so many of you have stuck with me during long absences while I completed my first cookbook. It’s been equal parts exhilarating and exhausting, and I can’t wait to share the details with all of you over the next few months as it starts coming together. Read more
Now that I’ve talked about the Tabasco, I wanted to get back to the food and more importantly the people, because both were pretty great. Waking up that first morning at the Marsh House, I opened the door and followed a cloud of bacon upstairs to large family style dining room just off the kitchen where Stanley Dry, Louisiana chef and food writer, was making breakfast. Aside from the bacon that woke me up, there was chicory coffee, eggs, boudin sausage, fig preserves spiced with fennel and bay leaves, fried pies filled with persimmon jam or peaches sweetened with Avery Island honey, pain perdu dripping Steen’s cane syrup and trees dripping in Spanish moss on view from every window. That was how we started every day and it couldn’t have been lovelier. Read more
I was very close to not making it. A few months ago, I’d been invited to join a group of food writers at the Tabasco Tastemakers event hosted by the McIlhenny Company. Coming up against an all consuming deadline, I was working until the last possible moment….and then a few minutes after that. Stressed and sleepless, I arrived at the Lafayette airport in a kind of daze. At some point in the short drive thru New Iberia, Lousiana to the Marsh House on Avery Island where we’d be staying, I started to feel a little easier, chatting with other bloggers in the group and asking Dave who was born and raised on the island the first of a million questions he’d answer for us over the next few days. By the time we arrived at Marsh House where we’d be staying, I took my first deep breath in what felt like weeks and it was full of pepper in the best possible way. Read more
Recently, I had the rare chance to attend a dinner for Edible Brooklyn hosted chef Diego Felix of the Colectivo Felix and chef Hugo Orozco Carrillo at La Slowteria. Rare, because Diego is rarely in one place for very long, but then, that’s kind of the point. It was the kind of lingering, midsummer evenings you almost think you imagined the next day. Fortunately, I was there with photographer Emily Dryden who took some lovely pictures to capture it all.
My sister has been asking me to post about canned dulce de leche since I started the site in 2008. Still away on my summer hiatus she saw her opportunity…
When my mother told me to grab a spoon I was confused. I looked around the kitchen and only saw her opening a can of something without a label. “Traeme una cuchara,” she insisted. I walked over to the drawer and brought her back two spoons. She quickly took them from my hand and scooped something brown and gooey out of the mystery can. ‘Try it!’ She said confidently and then she started enjoying her own spoonful. I carefully took a lick and proceeded to light up the only way a fat kid could. I couldn’t believe my mom had made something so delicious. “How did you make this?” I was 8 years old and amazed. “Carefully!”, she answered looking over at the pressure cooker. Read more