Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sliminess of a more delicious sort

Ok, I have done all the grading required of myself today, and I finished it around noon! (Then I took some time off to lie around digesting while I looked at timewasters on the internet.) I should go work on my article or find something more interesting, recreation-wise, than sitting around on the couch with my computer.

Does anyone else here get those silly upscale catalogs? I kinda love them. Mom is on every catalog list known to mankind and she keeps them in a big stack by the fireplace. It's especially great cause everybody comes over and flips through them and orders last minute Christmas gifts (hence mom being on all the lists.) And they are often hilarious and entertaining.

Now, Williams-Sonoma. I admit I love looking at their catalog and pressing my nose up against the store window. If I had money, I would totally invest in some of their gourmet, high-quality knives. And their pots and pans are shiny. I like looking at their beautiful copper pans. I have no desire to cook in or polish copper pans, just to look at their pretty layout in the catalog. And to imagine I have a clifftop home with huge garden and kitchen full of copperware and somebody who actually gives a damn about polishing to do it for me.

But their latest catalog is all kinds of silly. Seriously, WS, are you planning on contributing to the obesity epidemic? Or to get people on to Hoarders? 'Cause I can't imagine people needing a gourmet popsicle maker and ice cream maker, bbq smoker that roasts an entire animal at once, home poptart/pastry baker or most of the other stuff you are pushing in the summer catalog. Unlike, say, a bowl, these all have very limited uses and take up a lot of space. And you could just buy the food --- unless you're going to roast a pig every couple days or make your own breakfast pastries or minidonuts every day, having your own equipment for it seems like overkill (and if you are making this kind of food everyday, and you aren't selling it at your restaurant, you are going to have some major health problems).

Likewise, I have always thought their highly-expensive-gourmet food was also kinda silly and overkill. Surely you have a place in town you can stop by and pick up good olive oil and sides of meat?


I just saw this.

Wait, you can make savory jams? Carmelized onions and balsamic vinegar? How interesting! I can think of a lot of sandwiches this would be good on. Or roast chicken. I wonder if this would be good as a topping on lentils with greens?

I think I'm going to need to go and research if there are onion jam recipes out there. Do you think it would be hard to make? Would I have to actually learn how to can, considering it's a preserve? I know nothing about canning jars and all that stuff and am overly freaked out about botulism.

If the time/difficulty ratio of making onion jam turns out to be too much (I am pretty impatient with chopping), the jar is only 9 bucks. On the one hand, 9 bucks for a jar of jam? On the other hand, oh my god I really need to taste this stuff. Onions!!!!!! Sweet, slimy, mushy caramelized onions!!!!! And balsamic vinegar. Yum.


Anonymous said...

I feel similarly about the Williams Sonoma catalog. Really? $70 for a mixing bowl? Really?

But, I ALSO feel similarly about OH MY GOD ONION BALSAMIC JAM! I must find this. And I must devour it. And then I must learn how to make it myself.

Anonymous said...

We get amazing rosemary garlic jam at the farmer's market.

Sisyphus said...

Well at least a 70$ mixing bowl, if it were pretty, would be useable for a whole bunch of different recipes, as opposed to the two hundred dollar pig smoker or whatnot. It's not like you'll get tired of recipes for "things that have been mixed in bowls." But yes, I hear you.

And are you going to buy it before you try making it? I just might cave and order once I get back to Postdoc City.

Susan said...

It's pretty simple to make, I think, from the recipes out there. It's just time, and monitoring the stove.

http://www.pickleandpreserve.co.uk/index.php/rapid-recipes/red-onion-marmalade-with-balsamic-vinegar looks pretty easy;
This one: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/16910/onion-balsamic-jam.aspx is along the same lines.

The discussion about this one is useful on lots of levels, especially the way people modified the recipe!

Shane in SLC said...

Even after a year in the vast food desert that is Middle America, you can still write this?

"Surely you have a place in town you can stop by and pick up good olive oil and sides of meat?"

Or maybe you're being ironic and subtly mocking the likes of the Splendid Table, where the cooking advice usually starts with "visit your local fishmonger." Um, my local fishmonger is in San Francisco, 800 miles away, unless you count the Whole Foods in SLC, which is a mere 100 miles...

Sisyphus said...

Well, ok, fish is kinda an exception since I am so deathly allergic. I wish it was even *harder* to get around here so people wouldn't put it in things and not tell me!

But meat ---- I don't know if this is unusual but we must have five or six butcher shops, some co-op type things around the rural outskirts of the town, and people who raise their own (or hunt) and take them to be butchered by a meat shop. If you only want fried/smoked meat and things made out of flour, you are *set* here. I thought it was like that everywhere?

And my definition of "nice" olive oil is the ten-dollar Bertolli stuff, and I buy that at Ralphs. Krogers. Whatever it's called.

Anonymous said...

Clearly you have never met Bullock. We may not be able to fit a whole pig in his digitally-controlled smoker, but it's big enough that it lives in the garage. Meanwhile, the ice-cream maker, sous vide machine, and automatically draining deep fryer live in the family room (see -- you *do* need extra rooms! heh) when not in use, while the Vitamix, CuisineArt mixer, pressure cooker, and super automatic espresso machine live in the kitchen (along with the normal stuff).

Yeah, the man is into his kitchen machines. Note, though, that we make bread without a bread maker, thank you very much. It does, however, required a dutch oven, and ours is from W&S.

Also, what Shane said. For some reason we can't get good, unusual, or non-big-ag meat cuts around here. I *wish* we lived near five or six butcher shops! The ones we do live near don't have the stuff Bullock wants (like, say, pork belly), so we often mail order. Or we drive an hour into the country to go to places with grass-fed beef and hogs that get to wander around and eat the curds and whey made from the milk from the grass-fed beef.

But anywho, some people just like to do their own stuff or to experiment with machines for that Modernist Cuisine effect. It's the culinary equivalent of crafts or DIY home improvement or, in Bullock's case, a chemistry lab. Bullock likes to render his own lard, cure and smoke his own meats, and make his own ice cream. (And lately he's been infusing vodka and carbonating grapes and other weird stuff with his "whipper" gadget. But that one is small.) It's a hobby, you know? But then he's the guy who makes our furniture, too. Does he *have* to? No. But he likes to.

But yeah, it's entirely yuppiefied and bourgie and requires disposable income and free time. And W&S is totally selling a lifestyle with all sorts of crap myths attached. I realize that. We don't *need* any of it and it doesn't make us superior. But we enjoy it. And what else are we supposed to do with our time and spare cash in Rust Belt?

And that jam looks *delicious*! Yum!

Sisyphus said...

Hmm, I have to disagree with you on modernist food --- I *really* dislike it. The turning solid, crunchy things into foams really did it for me. I must be very middlebrow when it comes to cuisine --- which makes sense considering I was raised on Velveeta and Wonderbread (ooh, and pimento loaf! I just now remembered that. Thank god my mom gave that up around the time I went into high school.)

And you can't get pork belly?!? Well come on down!!!! I never said anything about grass-fed or organic, you will note, but I can get you any part of the pig you want, fresh, pickled, or smoked. Sadly, this makes me realize how much of a Western girl I am, because a) I miss beef and b) BBQ IS BEEF NOT PORK YOU WEIRDOS WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Ahem. Sorry. Where was I?

Anonymous said...

I thought I was supposed to have a summer home in the hamptons where I keep all my kitchen gadgets that are only useful when I'm feeding the armies of people I've invited for a week or two at my ten bedroom summer home in the hamptons.

Anonymous said...

Anastasia -- Hah! Yes, I do think that's the image WS is selling. (Don't know why I said W&S earlier.)

Sis - Wait, how can you disagree with "some people just like ... Modernist Cuisine"? Isn't that a fact? But actually, it's not all about changing the natural textures. The Sous Vide Machine (which cooks vacuum-sealed things in a water bath) makes lovely things that feel and look just like what they are, only often, better than what conventional cooking does for them. But I won't get into all that here. Come over some time and Bullock will cook you BBQ beef spare ribs he sous-vided for 48 hours. (You still finish meats in the pan or on the grill to get that sear, but OMG, the sous vide makes them sooooo tender.) Mmmmmm...

My point was more that this was all specialist/hobbyist cuisine -- I don't think WS necessarily thinks everyone will want/buy all of these gadgets (just like you don't like Modernist cuisine), any more than everyone is going to build their own computers or, in Bullock's case, furniture. That's why they sell the regular stuff, too -- the pots and pans and table cloths, etc. Does that make sense?

My word verification is "drogr," which is a lot like "draugr," which is a Old Norse zombie-like thing, so it's creeping me out. Just saying.

Sisyphus said...

Oops, I didn't mean that I disagreed with the fact that people like modernist cuisine, just that I can't get on board with it. OTOH, I agree with Anastasia that WS has that "oooh I have a house in the Hamptons" feel, which doesn't feel really, you know, modernist. I mean, most of the catalog has French-country style crockery and linens and stuff to make it look like you come from generations of old money, not the slick industrial loft style I associate with modernist cuisine.

And you really should see the over-the-top layout of this one summer catalog for WS, which *does* pretty explicitly say you are going to buy a smoker and fifty different kinds of grilling pans for your outdoor grill kitchen, along with a breakfast-tart maker and press. it's just weird and extreme even for WS (which is, as I pointed out, usually my guilty pleasure.)

Anonymous said...

Oh, I totally agree that the aesthetic of WS is country French (or some such), but many of the gadgets are much higher-tech and the rant part of your post seemed to be about high tech stuff and not the copper pots and 19th century tech (that said, only Sur La Table -- which has a much more industrial look -- sells the Sous Vide Supreme and we got our smoker at Cabellas, the sporting goods store!). And they're totally selling status with the high-end gadgets as well as with the Le Creuset and the copper pots, etc., which I bet many people don't even use that much, but just set out to look pretty with their Viking ranges, etc. But we use our self-freezing ice cream maker a *lot* (to name a gadget you mentioned and which we bought at WS), for example -- and yet (to go back to your obesity point), we *eat* *less* ice cream because we make it instead of constantly and easily buying it. Plus, also...mmmmmmm...it tastes so much better! And so fast! No overnight freezing! And those expensive KitchenAid stand-up mixers? They *really* *last* as well as doing the job better than hand mixers. Bullock has had his since 1989 and he *uses* it.

But we put a lot of importance on eating well in our household, because that's what we like, and it's hard to eat well in Rust Belt. So we spend more money in the kitchen than in restaurants so we can get closer to replicating the good things we've had elsewhere. And I have to say, we have the best BBQ and ice cream (among other things) in town! (And Bullock needs that big smoker when he does 30 pounds of pulled pork for a party -- and boy, are our friends grateful.) And while some WS gadgets *are* silly (you don't need special peelers for every kind of fruit and veggie!), many of them work really well at their specialized job. (And Bullock would say to the tech-haters: why should we still be cooking with 19th century technology when we wouldn't accept that in other parts of life? So yeah, he's not a fan of the *aesthetic* of WS and the pushing of the Julia Child copper pots.)

So don't be a gadget hater, Sis. Come visit us and we'll feed you well -- but no seafood, I promise! :)