April 06, 2022

Dorothy Kalin's:: The Kitchen Whisperers

A book review (posted to Goodreads dot com)

I fell in love with this book, especially the concept of the book, right away. I cook with lots of wonderful voices in the kitchen - both grandmothers (Coca Cola Cake and Lamb Stew on one side, Lemon Meringue pie and Chicken Croquettes on the other), my mom, good friends, Mrs. Child - of course, the brilliant chefs I've worked with, TV chefs who want to draw us in and get us moving and the quiet cookbook writers and stylists who offer their best.

They all seem to want to engage with us so we try new things, to go beyond our self-imposed borders and experience the wonders of the kitchen, the market, the table. At some point in the book, and it may have been too early on, Ms. Kalin's voice went from collaborative and encouraging to showcasing. Her Kitchen Whisperers are the chefs, the magazine editors and the stylists with whom she collaborated. Somehow, rather than drawing us in, she seemed to have drawn a line - a sort of "us and you" line I found off-putting. She makes a statement about a chef whose new kitchen isn't completed and he brings an amazing meal to the table with two toaster ovens and a hot plate. Brilliant! Wonderful! Exciting! Tell me more, tell me how. Instead, she goes on to comment, "In most chef's kitchens, and especially in most high-end non-chef's kitchens, you'll find a row of shiny appliances that signify mastery to the Williams Sonoma crowd but in reality only telegraph a quick Amazon trigger finger. (Just because they're there doesn't meant they're used, or used well.)" Ouch. There is this unnecessary defense of expertise. I'd prefer she acknowledge the heritage of home cooking - the inspiration, the doing, showing, trying, sharing. It's food! If someone with limited experience gets their hands dirty by using shiny appliances and gadgets, hooray! They're in the kitchen. 

I will say this, the book is staying in my kitchen. It was passed along by my dear friend Michelle - who is a fabulous cook and one of my Whisperers. I assumed I'd read it and pass it along, but I can't! It's FULL of sticky notes, full of ideas for the hours I'll spend at the farmers market and then in the kitchen. (I do wish she'd indexed all the non-recipe recipes!)

This is a good book but sadly, Kalins managed to separate, perhaps unintentionally, the reader and her accomplished associates, when she could have sidled up next to us and become our Kitchen Whisperer.



October 24, 2021

The Milk Glass Collection


Mom fell in love with Milk Glass in the late 40's. She began collecting and learned the markings of real authentic Milk Glass over the mass produced or replications early on in her process. In these weeks of cleaning out her house she's made certain I've removed all the collection to my house. And, I'll say it's fitting in better than I might have expected.

I have my own collecting ideas, but this one has been a part of my life for all of my life. Mom used pieces functionally. A honey jar for honey, a bud vase for a rose bud and that big candy dish? It's annually filled with candy corn in this season, but for now the tart gummy bear collection has residence. 

We had a little earthquake last week and this crew had to come off my stove mantle. The shaking was too much of a close call, but they look so great displayed up high (and without the portable speaker as one of them).

I've been warned about adding to the collection. It's not just pretty glass, it's Milk Glass. Real Milk Glass. Like all collectors, Mom had to turn away (re-gift perhaps?) some well-intentioned gifts. A dear family friend bought her a few pieces of Westmoreland with such kindness and joy. Alas, Westmoreland manufactured reproductions. I've also learned there were no dish sets made originally. I'm steering clear.

When I was four I found one of the dishes particularly pretty in it's design and shape. I grabbed it and headed outdoors to my sandbox. Unfortunately, I tripped on the way and the piece shattered. There's the history of family life. The part of the story I most love in Mom's telling is that I told her I wanted to use it to press those designs into the sand. Apparently I, too, found Milk Glass to be quite beautiful.

September 22, 2021

The calendar says fall. But the garden says spring.


These sweet Delphinium Elatum (Black Eyed Angels) debuted a few weeks ago and now, they're prolific alongside white Cosmos and a white Rose in my garden. They really are summer lights in my nighttime garden.

I was surprised by them coming up all together while the white rose finally bloomed. They must be in cahoots and remind me how much I love surprises, the garden and flowers beyond my dear Dahlias.

This year was my first real attempt at a Dahlia garden inspired by Charlie McCormick's Instagram displays. (See his fabulous dahlias in this article - look at the pinks, reds and corals!) His are magnificent and thoughtfully placed and grown. I had a long row of 12 against the edge of the garden facing sun. Pretty, but I may rethink position next year, hoping for the dense look of all the different varieties in reds and purples popping up together. A few new ones will arrive and I suppose I'll learn the art of dividing too. Ah, Dahlia's. But I digress.

I was considering fall. We've a pumpkin or two on the porch. Mums coming up in the different pots from a very intentional planting last year. (I had no idea they'd only require deadheading and are so prolific, blooming a couple of times a year.) Again, I digress.

Fall. White Delphinium, White Cosmos and White Roses. Lovely. Unexpected joy in the now-cool evenings. Time to sit and savor the last of the post- summer nights and enjoy the intrigue of the display.

Fall. Full of surprise.

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