Thursday, March 24, 2011

On food writing and oysters

I haven't had a chance to read anything but Children's Literature lately-- specifically some historical fiction, biographies and autobiographies, and nearly every Roald Dahl book ever written. As fun as its been, its definitely made me look longingly at the grown up books reserved in my queue once the semester ends.

Here are a few recent food-related additions (with their Amazon reviews):

 A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
In A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, Molly Wizenberg recounts a life with the kitchen at its center. From her mother's pound cake, a staple of summer picnics during her childhood in Oklahoma, to the eggs she cooked for her father during the weeks before his death, food and memories are intimately entwined. You won't be able to decide whether to curl up and sink into the story or to head straight to the market to fill your basket with ingredients for Cider-Glazed Salmon and Pistachio Cake with Honeyed Apricots.
Best Food Writing 2010 Edited by Holly Hughes
Mourning the demise of Gourmet magazine, series editor Hughes asks "is food writing a dying art?" Readers of this year's anthology will offer a resounding "nowhere close." Ethical concerns of organic and locavore movements and free range meats are tidily summed up by now-famous vegetarian Jonathan Safran Foer. Whereas MIT grad J. Kenji Lopez-Alt shares a recipe for making French fries as good as what McDonalds makes: "salty, crisp, light, and not greasy." And travelling to Tokyo, Kevin Pang discovered to his great surprise that eating a bowl of ramen "satisfied every taste sense man is blessed to experience." A sparkling collection.

Made From Scratch by Jenna Woginrich
Part memoir and part how-to manual, Made from Scratch recounts Woginrich’s growing independence and the successes and missteps she experiences as she learns to more fully live off the land. By turns upbeat, dramatic, and sometimes sorrowful, her story embodies the experience of the new homesteader  one who is committed to reducing dependence on commercially produced goods while still working a day job to pay the rent. Woven into the narrative, readers will find easy-to-follow instructions for making clothing, playing a musical instrument, preserving fruit, brewing the best pot of coffee imaginable, and much more.

Have y'all read any of these? If so, what did you think? Does anyone want to sponsor me for $200 so I can take a food writing class at BU? Yes, I just typed "y'all". And I meant it.

This review is looong overdue: Last night, I met some friends at my favorite spot  Harvard Square, Russell House. It is probably safe to say that I have tried about 70-80% of the items on the small plates and cocktail menus. And because everything is so delicious, I can't go here too often. Its very easy for me to spend my weekly food/beverage allowance on Friday evening after work. But I hadn't had been in a while, so I was ready to get my oyster on. 

photo cred:

If you have never been to Russell House, you should go this weekend. It has a fun atmosphere; the perfect place to meet up for after work drinks, or late-night hangout. Its the kind of place you want to wear your favorite outfit-- know what I mean? I have only sat at a regular table once. The bar is prime people-watching territory, and the bartenders are always very friendly. The pricing is relatively inexpensive, but like I said, it can quickly add up.

Allow me to take a minute to tell you my oyster story. I don't think I had my first oyster until I moved to Boston. I know this seems hard to believe, since I have never in my life lived more than 10 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. But, there you have it. When I first tried the Island Creek Oysters at Russell House, it was love at first slurp. Ever since then, I will take any and every opportunity to indulge. So much so, that the weekend bartenders and I are on a first name basis. (Please excuse the googled photos, I didn't have a camera on hand)

photo cred:
So anyway, last night while enjoying oysters on the half shell with Sabrina and Joel, we got to talking about oyster eating habits. Like me, Joel didn't warm up to oysters until he moved to Boston (from Venezuela). Russell House serves their oysters with a side of cocktail sauce, sweet pickle relish and a few lemon slices. They are beautiful and so fresh. I love seeing them piled up on a mountain of ice behind the bar. Also, they are only $1 every night from 11-12!

I like to load mine up. But Joel is a purist; he eats them without all the fixin's. So when he asked me about Southern oyster eating, I got to thinking.... If there ever was a symbol of the cultural differences between the Deep South and New England, oysters might be it. I told him about my experience over Christmas with my sisters: a $3 bucket of dirty, unshucked oysters(raw or steamed), eaten on a saltine with a splash of Tabasco. Mmmm. Don't get me wrong, we can do fancy if we want to. I'm told the oysters at Casa Marina are to die for (I've never had them, but their Sunday brunch is fantastic). But generally speaking, we serve our seafood deep fried in love & grease and/or in a basket with a side of slaw and a hushpuppy or two. Just thinking about it made me homesick. But when I do make it back home, I will miss Russell House oysters and Dierdre the bartender.

What is your favorite way to enjoy oysters? Who has the best oyster in the land?
Sanne's birthday is on Monday! Ye-haw!! Also on Monday is the sign-up deadline for the Cupcake Camp. Be sure to tell us if you think Sanne should enter! Vote in our weekly poll on the sidebar over there-->


  1. I…LOVE…OYSTERS!!! Hmm maybe I'll go there this weekend….But nothing beats $3 dozen, or oyster roasts at the Clarkson's.
    p.s. I like oysters best on a saltine with cocktail sauce.

    Happy Birthday AA!

  2. I've not yet acquired the taste for oysters, however I did grow up w/ oyster stew which was a favorite--just the flavor in the stew. (of course w/ crumbled saltines in it as well) I will say that I used to not care for sushi either and now I enjoy it. So, I guess you CAN teach old dogs new tricks.

    Happy Birthday Alysanne!! Ya'll have a great w/e celebrating.

  3. Everything at the Casa Marina is good, but the oysters at Orsay are really good too...