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Hey folks! I’m sitting down to write hours earlier than normal (well, if you’ve accepted that Thursday newsletters are normal, which I have not, so maybe I’m really just always 24 hours late and now am only, like, 21 hours late?) Anyway! I’ve got that POS training scheduled to start at 5pm (2pm for the trainer), so I’m trying to get this newsletter knocked out beforehand so when it’s done I can go home and eat dinner and get to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour. But I’m also still in the thick of the day and feeling a little discombobulated by the idea of trying to enter some creative zone while All The Stuff is still happening around me, so. There’s that.
But! It occurs to me that for months now (maybe even years) I’ve had a Todoist folder called “Blog Post Fodder” and I add links to articles and random ideas to it…occasionally… and look at it while working on the newsletter for the week…never. So, since today I have thought to reference it and am not feeling optimistic about my ability to create any sort of meaningful content right now, I’m going to take the opportunity to share with you several articles I’ve bookmarked.
The theme that emerged as I was reading/skimming a few of the articles that caught my eye today is labor. Or labor saving. Or, if you ask Bee Wilson, the balance between the act of cooking as enjoyable activity vs the dehumanizing labor of cooking all too often assigned to women. It might be a tenuous thread I’m grasping at, to weave these articles of vastly different (well, all food-related) subjects together, but I think I’m not just making it up. Probably if you are reading this right now, you have some interest in food beyond the strictly utilitarian. It might be that you’re primarily an agriculture enthusiast, but I bet you like to eat, and maybe even to cook, as well. Many folks reading probably enjoy cooking as a hobby very much, or maybe even have a professional stake in it (hopefully an enjoyable one). But we all have to eat on days and at times that we don’t have the time or resources to “indulge” in our hobbies, and so it seems to me like just a fact of modern life that cooking can be both an enjoyable activity and a necessary slog. All of these pieces made me reflect on that, albeit in different ways.
I also enjoyed all of them, and I enjoyed re-reading them today under the guise of working on this newsletter, and so — I thought I’d share.
First up (presented here in the order in which they appear on my list, which perhaps is the order in which I added them, or perhaps is something else), an ode to fennel. Now, the fennel we sell doesn’t come pollen and flowers and seeds, but it does come with a nice amount of stalk and frond, if you’re interested in branching out (no pun intended) beyond the bulb. This is a treatise on how much people dislike licorice, sure, but also a commentary on how perhaps our own self-doubts (of our knife skills) might prevent us from attempting something we might wind up loving.
Somewhat more directly on the topic of labor: this Bee Wilson article entitled “What The Instant Pot Tells Us About The History Of Women’s Labor”. It doesn’t have much to do with the Instant Pot, except as an entrée (haha) into the topic of the intersection between kitchen gadgets and labor and the perception of labor, but I think it was probably the title that grabbed my attention, so maybe it’ll grab yours as well. It’s a longer one, but thoughtful and interesting. Also, it made me laugh.
And then, not so much related to the history of labor, and not necessarily gender-specific, we’ve got JJ Goode — a guy who helps chefs write cookbooks — talking about translating the precious and painstaking work that goes into a fancy chef dish into a home-cooked version. I maybe have linked to this one before; I know I’ve linked to something by JJ Goode. If you’ve already read this one, maybe check out the archives of his column and find something new(old).
And lastly — a treatise on making good salad dressings, which relates to labor in that the author asserts that she makes salads because they’re easier than making a “real” veggie side dish, which is an assertion I 100% agree with. And this is prime salad green season (as I mentioned last week), so it is doubly relevant right now.
In my own life, I did some cooking for pleasure this week, in the form of this Sheet-Pan Roast Chicken and Mustard-Glazed Cabbage recipe from the New York Times Cooking, and that’s my rendition pictured above. The author says it was inspired by sausage and sauerkraut, which, while a worthy inspiration, struck me as an odd thing to mention given how far from the original the final recipe lands. That’s neither here nor there, though, and I say it mostly because I’m honestly not sure what to say about the recipe itself. It was good. Like, legit good. It was also more labor than I associate with most sheet pan meals, and also, more sheet pans to clean (two).
It is so freaking beautiful today that I’m hoping that when I get home from the POS training Dusty will have the grill fired up and something(s) to throw on it, but the next time I’ve got a little time I intend to try Melissa Clark’s Sweet-and-Spicy Roasted Tofu and Squash. I do want to try to adapt it to include some more R&R ingredients — perhaps gochugang instead of sriracha, and maybe some combo of benne miso and sunflower oil instead of the peanut oil and sesame seeds. But then what to do for the textural component the sesame seeds add? It’s a good thing it’s so freaking beautiful today — I need more time to think.