Friday, October 31, 2008

Gastronomy: Pot Roast En Vogue?

There are a countless number of famous chefs with blogs that offer great information and advice for the home cook. No, most of them are not from the Food Network (thank, God). Because these chefs are not considered “celebrity,” you may have never heard of them before, but I have a feeling that this trend is about to change. I have seen an increase of Internet writing from local chefs with Midwest roots. One of my favorite sites is by food writer, father, and chef, Michael Ruhlman.

If you are not familiar with Michael Ruhlman, you need to be—his books are a worthwhile read for any foodie and an essential addition to any cook’s library. Some of his more noteworthy contributions include, The Reach of a Chef: Professional Cooking in the Age of Celebrity, The Elements of Cooking, and a terrific blog with topics that range from brining at home to how to approach the subject of wine drinking with your kids. A couple of months ago, Ruhlman asked his readers what their thoughts were on the hot, new food trends.

Once again, he made me contemplate food in today's culture. There is always something that is the newfangled trend in the food community. In the last 15 years, I have experienced the Spanish tapas explosion, the Japanese sushi boom, and Ethiopian food as haute cuisine—all of which I love. Nevertheless, I have seen something completely different from my friends who like to entertain and cook—a return to the simple, not the bland or boring, but the fresh and easy.

For years, we were a world of plastic, processed foods, replaced by complex Asian meets Mediterranean meets Latin fusion. Lately, the restaurants I have visited in Chicago, seem to steer away from the amplified food experience and are showcasing simple foods—pot roast, lamb shoulder, organic veggies, roast chicken, and homemade mac and cheese. Why? Because when these dishes are done right, they are straightforward, uncomplicated, and incredibly satisfying.

I truly think the direction of the modern family kitchen is also moving towards (or returning to) local, seasonal, and uncomplicated cooking. My mother cooks wonderful meals and is the most hospitable person you could ever meet. She learned to cook from my grandmother who was also a really good cook, albeit a simple one. My grandmother walked to the produce market and the butcher almost every day—she bought what was fresh and reasonably priced to feed her family of six. It seems that my friends, who like to cook, are following in her footsteps. They have fresh milk delivered, boxes of local organic vegetables (when in season) dropped at their doorstep, and are making more braised meats with fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market. When you braise a pork shoulder or roast a whole chicken, throw in some fresh herbs and a side of buttered, fresh veggies—there truly is nothing better. The new trend may simply be to step away from over-processed foods and complicated dishes and return to the good, natural, home-cooked meal. Maybe, like Ruhlman reiterates on his blog, fresh and honest cooking should have never gone out of style in the first place. Details:

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Anonymous November 9, 2008 at 3:33 PM  

I live in Seattle and we try to buy a lot of local produce and meats from the Farmer's Market. I am a big fan of "better" food means a better meal even if it cost a little bit more. Kudos also on Michael Ruhlman---I am a follower fo his blog as well.

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After becoming mothers, sisters Sarah Romine and Leah Weyandt wanted to marry the activities and interests that they experienced before motherhood with their new found lives with children. This was not always an easy task—traveling to obscure places, shopping at off-beat boutiques, and sipping lazy-afternoon cocktails doesn't always fit neatly with parenthood. Stemming from their frustration, they meticulously searched, and continue to search, for activities, establishments, and entertainment that they take pleasure in and their families benefit from. The result? Mod City Mom.

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