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Profiles from the Kitchen

Profiles from the Kitchen: What Great Cooks Have Taught Us about Ourselves and Our Food

Charles A. Baker-Clark
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 224
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    Profiles from the Kitchen
    Book Description:

    In an age where convenience often ranks above quality, many Americans have abandoned traditional recipes and methods of cooking for fast solutions to their hunger and nourishment needs. Modern families are busier than ever, juggling hectic schedules that send them to fast-food restaurant drive-through windows and to grocery stores crowded with pre-processed and ready-to-eat foods. With parents frequently working during the daytime, efficient food preparation in the evenings has become the number one priority in kitchens across the country. This trend began during the post--World War II years, which heralded the arrival of "fast foods" and innovative technological advancements that sought to simplify the cooking process. These products were marketed as quick and convenient alternatives that transformed the concept of cooking from a cultural activity and a means of bonding with one's family to a chore that should occupy as little time and energy as possible. Profiles from the Kitchen: What Great Cooks Have Taught Us about Ourselves and Our Food is Charles A. Baker-Clark's call to abandon the "homogenization of food and dining experiences" by encouraging us to reclaim knowledge of cooking and eating and reconnect with our ethnic, familial, and regional backgrounds. Baker-Clark profiles fifteen individuals who have shaped our experiences with food and who have gone beyond popular trends to promote cooking as a craft worth learning and sustaining. The cooks and food critics he writes about emphasize the appreciation of good cooking and the relationship of food to social justice, spirituality, and sustainability. Profiles from the Kitchen highlights prominent figures within the food industry, from nationally and internationally known individuals such as Paul and Julia Child, James Beard, and M.F.K. Fisher to regional food experts such as John T. Edge and Dennis Getto. The result is a collective portrait of foodlovers who celebrate the rich traditions and histories associated with food in our daily lives and who encourage us to reestablish our own connections in the kitchen.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7133-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. The Lost Connections to Our Food
    (pp. 1-12)

    WHEN I WAS A CHILD growing up in the west suburbs of Chicago, my parents took me and my younger siblings to a small resort town in Michigan nearly every summer. Mom and all of us children would stay in my grandmother’s cottage and dad would join us for weekends. Summer food at the cottage was simple but fun to prepare. We learned to cook hot dogs over an open fire and to make edible pizzas from boxed mixes that cost less than fifty cents. In a style similar to childhood time spent by food essayist John Thorne on the...

  5. James Beard The Dean of American Cookery
    (pp. 13-28)

    JAMES ANDREWS BEARD was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1903. The only child of Mary Elizabeth and John Beard, he grew up in a home where good food and cooking were paramount. The locale in which the Beards lived was a vibrant, new community situated in the Willamette Valley, a region later described as a “Garden of Eden” because of its rich natural resources and people (Oregon Historical Society 2004). During this period Portland experienced rapid expansion as many Americans and Europeans made the city their home.

    Life in Portland at the beginning of the twentieth century was a stimulating...

  6. M. F. K. Fisher An Ongoing Conversation
    (pp. 29-50)

    MARY FRANCES KENNEDY FISHER lived a life that defied categorization. She certainly wrote about food and eating. However, when she wrote about food, she invariably touched on many different subjects: the pleasures of appetite, of love, and how to feel at home anywhere. In the words of David Lazar (1992), while food was invariably the central theme of her writing, Mary Frances always managed to “transcend the subject” (xi). It seems that the more I read Fisher, the more I learn about myself and my relationship with food—my wants, desires, needs, memories and fantasies.

    I had hoped to learn...

  7. Paul and Julia Child Mastering More Than the Art of French Cooking
    (pp. 51-68)

    FOR MANY PEOPLE in the United States, Julia Child was the embodiment of good cooking, eating, and conviviality. Over a period of years, armies of her fans and devotees—dubbed JWs (Julie Watchers) by her late husband, Paul (Riley Fitch 1997)—watched her on television, listened to her on the radio, and purchased her books, audiotapes, and videos. They traded stories of their favorite programs onThe French Chef,imitated her falsetto voice, and waited in long lines—clutching gravy-stained copies ofMastering the Art of French Cooking—for her autograph.

    The evolution of Julia Carolyn McWilliams into a cultural...

  8. Elizabeth David Writing Sensually about Food and Culture
    (pp. 69-82)

    ARISTOCRATIC, SENSUAL and at times enigmatic, Elizabeth David wrote forcefully about food for over four decades. The passionate and sensual style of this writer is reflected in the introduction to her first book,A Book of Mediterranean Food(David 1950), where she writes: “The cooking of the Mediterranean shores, endowed with all the natural resources, the color and flavor of the south, is a blend of tradition and brilliant improvisation. The Latin genius flashes from the kitchen pans” (5). For David, writing about food also involved writing about people and places: the splendor of market stalls; the aromatic fragrances of...

  9. Mama Dip A Lifetime of Cooking
    (pp. 83-92)

    GIVEN THAT THE Culinary Institute of America (CIA) graduates a class every few weeks, it is not difficult to envision phalanxes of aspiring chefs entering the hospitality industry. Over the years, their numbers have swelled, in part in reaction to the evolution of the occupation of chef from blue-collar worker to professional and even celebrity.

    The academic pathway for these promising careers is now called the culinary arts, with a variety of private and public academic institutions offering excellent training in this field. Graduation from schools such as the CIA, the New England Culinary Institute (NECI), or Johnson and Wales...

  10. Eugene Walter A Troubadour from the Kitchen
    (pp. 93-108)

    AT ABOUT THE SAME TIME that Julia McWilliams and Paul Child were exploring the culinary underbelly of southern Asia in order to escape the blandness of mess hall food, a Southern boy from Mobile, Alabama, named Eugene Walter was digging for oysters in the Arctic beaches of an Aleutian island off the coast of Alaska. The Aleutians hardly constitute a source of culinary inspiration. Eugene Walter’s quest in that frigid region was to find ingredients for a makeshift gumbo that he wished to share with his comrades. He, too, was attempting to find relief from the nondescript chow served up...

  11. Susan Spicer Resolute Dedication to a Craft
    (pp. 109-120)

    IN A CITY STEEPED IN TRADITION, including pride in its gastronomic heritage, Jamie Shannon’s words are a tribute to the talent of chef Susan Spicer. When pressed to describe her work, Spicer modestly replies: “I am a working chef.” Her response is not unexpected. Given the concentration and energy she brings to the kitchen, her accomplishments are also not surprising. She does not have time for labels such as celebrity or star chef.

    Susan Spicer was born in Key West, Florida (“Persona” 1996), but was raised in the New Orleans region. Her father pursued a career in the U.S. Navy....

  12. Carlo Petrini Creating Space for Individuality in a World of Mass Production
    (pp. 121-140)

    IF FARMERS’ MARKETS and their customers protest against a factory system of food production and its accompanying assembly-line lifestyle, they will find solace in the work of Carlo Petrini, the president and cofounder of Slow Food. Petrini was born on June 22, 1949, in Bra, a small town in the Piedmont region of Italy. From an early age he was surrounded by the foods, wines, and traditions of the region and exemplifies the intimate relationship many Italians have with their local produce. This spirit pervades Petrini’s organization as well as the Slow Food movement as a whole (Kummer 2002).


  13. Angus Campbell A Hundred Thousand Welcomes from a Passionate Teacher
    (pp. 141-154)

    ONE SUMMER I PLANNED to introduce the art of making sausages to students in several hospitality- and tourism-management classes I offer at our university. I called several butcher-supply companies for advice on such things as equipment and supplies and even visited one of them. I knew that I was in the right place when the sales clerk informed me that “Chef Angus shops here.”

    Chef Angus Campbell is a culinary instructor at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan. He offers a production class in which students learn how to prepare lunch for the Heritage Restaurant, which is operated by the...

  14. Rick, Deann, and Lanie Bayless Promoting Flavor and the Appreciation of an Authentic Cuisine
    (pp. 155-166)

    RICK BAYLESS FITS EASILY into the persona of a contemporary celebrity chef. He appears to be at the opposite end of the culinary spectrum of, say, Mama Dip. However, even though Bayless is suave, intense, and obviously knowledgeable, he shares a passion for authenticity and excellence with his counterpart in Chapel Hill.

    The restaurants Bayless and his wife, Deann, opened have received national recognition. He won the James Beard Award for National Chef of the Year in 1995, and their cookbook,Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen(1996), was selected as the Julia Child/IACP Cookbook of the Year. Finally, Chef Bayless’s PBS...

  15. Father Dominic Garramone, O.S.B. Food and Cooking as an Expression of Spirituality
    (pp. 167-178)

    THE CITIES OF LA SALLE and Peru, Illinois, are situated along a rural stretch of the Illinois River north of Peoria. Together they represent a community that is the home of St. Bede Abbey, hardly a place one would associate with an accomplished baker who has had his own public television series. This, however, is the home of Father Dominic Garramone, aka Papa Dom, who is passionate about many things—including baking.

    St. Bede Abbey has existed in the La Salle/Peru area since the nineteenth century. It is also the home of Saint Bede Academy, a Catholic preparatory school for...

  16. John T. Edge and the Southern Foodways Alliance Narrative as a Way to Understand Food and Society
    (pp. 179-192)

    I DROVE DOWN TO OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI, in order to interview John T. Edge, the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA). I spent several hours with Edge in his office, where we discussed his background and work. At lunchtime he suggested we drive a few miles south of Oxford and visit the Taylor Grocery and Restaurant, which Edge had described in his bookSouthern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South(2000). It was exactly as he had described: not much to look at from the outside, quiet, and a great place for fried catfish. I first heard...

  17. The Rediscovery of Ourselves and Food
    (pp. 193-198)

    WE LIVE IN A CULTURE in which the pace of living seems to accelerate on a daily basis. As we are pressured to move faster and to assume increasing responsibility, it is difficult even to consider establishing closer ties with food and food preparation. The individuals described in this book challenge us to make such a commitment, to dare to do so in spite of our doubts regarding the possible outcome.

    Among the many lessons to be drawn from the collective experience presented here is the importance of developing an appreciation for good cooks and the craft of cooking. As...

  18. Index
    (pp. 199-210)