My Cooking Resolution – Continuing a Legacy

With the arrival and departure of yet another holiday/birthday season, my cookbook-only-bookshelves have gained a few more inhabitants. From hip and trendy, to classic and traditional, to quirky and alternative – this collection cannot be tamed and I won’t stop until all the shelves are full. That’s right, ALL the shelves.

There’s only one problem. While my smashing ensemble of gastronomic instruction may have mastered, “sit there and look pretty”, is terrifyingly underutilized for the one activity on which I most pride myself. This is a disservice to all cookbook writers…especially to the ones whose books I really only look at for the pictures. Sorry.

The culprit: the Internet!

With a minimum or 40 cookbooks sitting just feet from my kitchen, I am constantly consulting the Internet for recipes. Let’s just quickly squash any sentiment of hypocrisy here: I have a food blog. I like writing for it and sharing my cooking endeavors and recipes. I like to see what other people are cooking and try their recipes as well. I have no intention to stop looking at food blogs completely, I just think it’s a waste to let beautiful cookbooks sit there and stay clean and pristine all their life, hiding their secrets. When I eventually pass them on to someone else, how will they know which recipes were my favorite if the pages have no grease marks, no coffee stains, no proof I ever touched them?

This leads me to this year’s resolution: Use my cookbooks!

Cookbooks > the Internet. I’m going to crack those spines, spill juice (wine) on the pages, and dog-ear all desserts that call for cream.

I can safely say I come from a family of excellent cooks, and each relative carries a special piece of the food puzzle that makes us all care deeply about the food we eat. Talk of Grandma’s famous spaghetti, Papa’s brandy decanter, or eating pogacha for Christmas Eve still unite my siblings and I stronger than most memories we’ve shared. And there have been a few. Every year I am reminded of the importance of family tradition when we dig ferociously into the Savoray from Aunt Kathy (a recipe so secret I don’t even know how to spell it!), the homemade chocolates from Aunt Bee, the granola from Uncle Bub, and the pecan pie from Aunt Margie. I’m sure Uncle Ed would contribute a Manhattan recipe if he was forced to, and if Uncle Mike could cook, I’ll bet he’d make a mean stew. Or maybe he’d just knit us all sweaters.

Just before Thanksgiving my aunt showed me decades-old recipes written in my Nana’s handwriting on paper older than the Titanic (probably not true, I just really like hyperbole). Seeing the papers strewn about – real property of a grandmother I never knew – readjusted my cookin frame of mind, and made me think deeply about the kind of cook I want to be. And that cook uses books!

Less than a month ago I was taken to a cookbook store in New York City run by a woman who used to correspond with M.F.K. Fisher – one of my beloved cooking icons. Her collection was outstanding. Because I am a junkie for vintage kitchen anything, I wanted everything but settled for nothing. My sister says my apartment looks like a thrift shop – which is to many degrees true – so I’m trying to limit my visits to St. Vincent de Paul and enjoy what I’ve got already. It didn’t matter though, that I came out with nothing, because the visit to that store was a wake up call to the beauty of the history of cooking, and the way it is spread from generation to generation. We can’t all learn the family recipes directly from relatives, and while the Internet offers abundant and frankly amazing insight to creative cooking, you can’t trace your grandmother’s buttery fingerprints on a website.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going back to the books.

Wedding Weekend – Simon & Rachel

Last weekend, my older brother Simon got married to the lovely Rachel Smith. The wedding was gorgeous, as expected, but more fun than I ever could have imagined. But really, how can a Milwaukee wedding not be amazing? I am … Continue reading

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The Dane County Farmers’ Market – A Sensorial Excursion

It’s a sunny Saturday morning and you find yourself in Madison, Wisconsin. Whether this is by choice or serendipity, we’re glad you’re here. Madison is truly a wonderful place to spend a summer day; in fact, a day is simply … Continue reading

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The Seasons of Alsace

Well, that’s it. I’ve finished my stint in Strasbourg and have said my goodbyes to Alsace, France. It has been a truly magical period of time, and although I was only gone about 8 months, it seemed much longer. Once … Continue reading

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Bonjour et Bon Appétit!

Brandy Old-Fashioned

While I may never become the famous chef I always dreamed I’d be, I can still cook, and by George if I’m not pretty good at it.  I’m Claire – Eclaire to some – and I’m an extremely talented eater.  To those who know me, I might be pictured as a straight up sugar cube.  French pâtisseries are my utter weakness, followed closely by tomatoes and all things dairy.  Lucky for me, I live in France, but for only a petit moment. Come May it’s back to the great state of Wisconsin, where gardens need tending, Old-Fashioneds need drinking, and kitchens need Claire…ing.  Pleased to have you along for the ride.