I don’t remember having currants – red, black, or otherwise – growing up, so I was surprised to find them in one of the older Cuban cookbooks I’d been using, Delicias de las Mesa by Maria Antonieta Reyes Gavalán. Written in the 1920s, I came across it at the University of Miami’s Cuban Heritage Collection. While most other Cuban cookbooks date from the mid-fifties when everyone was only too happy to embrace cans and convenience, Gavalán’s book captures an earlier time, referencing ingredients and techniques that had fallen out of use but worth reconsidering. The book itself was so worn and frayed that it couldn’t be scanned or photocopied, so I spent most of my time in the archives furiously taking notes before reluctantly giving it back. It was complete coincidence when my aunt Marta called from New Orleans to tell me her friend had given her a copy of the book that I could have. Read more
Posts from the ‘General’ Category
I think my relationship with New York is steady enough that I can admit we’d recently hit a rough patch. I’d spent so much time away last year that it felt like I was living consecutive winters. It wore me down and I took it out on the city that had become all work. Now that we’re having this beautiful summer, every day comes closer to New York’s song-and-dance ideal and I’m in love again. I even gave in and bought a new bicycle -albeit one that is technically older than I am – a copper colored Schwinn Suburban step-through with an honeywood basket. It’s heavy, impractical and my favorite thing in the world right now. Read more
It’s hard to believe now, but I still remember going to friends and family’s homes to see “the vacation pictures”. Magnified on what to me was the big screen, it was one of those things people moaned about (when it wasn’t their own slides in the carousel) but I always loved it – both the scale and the ritual. I hadn’t thought about how obsolete that had become until I came back from a family trip to Italy. Between instagram and facebook, everyone comments on what you’re doing and seeing in real time so there’s not much left to tell and every repeated story feels smaller somehow. Still it’s impossible to travel through Italy without thoughts of futures posts running through my head. Rather than go through it all in one go, I’ve decided to take it city by city and share some favorites places and the recipes that came from them – starting where we did in Florence.
Preparing for the trip, I’d gone through my typical pre-flight checklist which ranges from the entirely doable (download Lonely Planet guide to ipad) to the highly unlikely (learn Italian). The week before coincided with last looks on my manuscript so I tried a more balanced approach -checking bookmarked links and noting a handful of things I absolutely wanted to see and more importantly – eat. Read more
I always had a hard time dropping my pencil and turning in my work as a little girl and it’s not much different now. It has been almost two years since I first posted about The Cuban Table, my collaboration with food photographer Ellen Silverman, but I could have happily kept tweaking and polishing it forever. Luckily it wasn’t up to me which is why I have this lovely cover to share, an actual ink and paper bound book on its way, and an official release date from St. Martin’s Press to look forward to this October! Read more
I’ve never been one for meat and potatoes. I rarely go for the steak frites on frenchified Smith Street and I’m as interested in the sides as the slabs of beef served at steakhouses. While I believe hamburger cravings should always be heeded because absolutely nothing else will satisfy, my own burger attacks are few and far between. Still there are exceptions when I really do love red meat: 1) when my mother who is a genius with a Costco steak and open flame grills for us at home (post to come later) and 2) Argentinian-style churrasco drizzled with chimichurri sauce. Read more
I keep coming across lists of things I’m not supposed to like. If I do – which is often the case – then I’m from Florida/Brooklyn, varying degrees or white/latino/other, basic or a hipster. The hipster lists really sting because they’re typically include favorite food trends – but then who doesn’t love bacon, green juice is good for you, and mason jars are very practical. I was considering making my own yerba mate-flavored soda when I saw homemade soda listed as a repeat offender and felt very much caught in the act. Read more
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 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 with so much love. 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