“The writer who never talks about eating, about appetite, hunger, food, about cooks and meals, arouses my suspicion,” writes Aldo Buzzi, “as though some vital element were missing in him.”
This delectable list of literary bites includes authors who would entirely allay Buzzi’s suspicions with their savory descriptions of tastes, textures, and every emotion connected with food. Whet your appetite with Ruth Reichl’s first novel plus fresh new works by Jael McHenry and Michelle Wildgen and venerable classics by M.F.K. Fisher, Elizabeth David, and Buzzi himself.
As a voracious reader, I have a tendency to zip through books; Life is Meals: A Food Lover’s Book of Days encourages me to slow down and read just a bit at a time, in tiny, much-anticipated doses. Author James Salter and his wife Kay — herself a journalist and playwright — offer glimpses into their happy marriage with snippets of humor, philosophy, history, reminiscence, scientific fact and verse (like the love poem from husband to wife beginning, “My darling, you will quickly see/This tiny box contains no Brie…”).
Featured recipes range from a dessert named in honor of Nellie Melba, who dazzled audiences at Covent Garden and New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, to Polpettone alla Toscana. Topics include Giuseppe Verdi, Watergate, yogurt, the Sicilian Vespers, soba, Tex-Mex food, Mme de Pompadour, raisins, Lucullus, hot dogs, Knights Templar, and Madame Bovary, wonderfully complemented throughout with delicate and lovely illustrations by Fabrice Moireau. Reading this book is like enjoying one small, ripe, succulent tomato directly from the vine each day.
Winner of a National Magazine Award and numerous James Beard awards, Jeffrey Steingarten serves as longtime food critic at Vogue and as a judge on The Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef. Steingarten’s collection The Man Who Ate Everything won the 1998 Julia Child Book Award as well as honors from the British Guild of Food Writers, and his work has also appeared in The New York Times and Slate Magazine. Named a Chevalier in the Order of Merit by the French Republic, he rewards the reader with twists of dry humor and a willingness to immerse himself in rigorous, painstaking research; delve into his memorable studies of ketchup (whatever your preferred spelling) and sourdough. Steingarten shares writing talents similar to those of the late great Roger Ebert in his deft facility with description and evocative turns of phrase.
British food writer Elizabeth David (1913-1992) piqued the interest of her countrymen in authentic, seasonal Mediterranean and French food with highly regarded cookbooks and articles in Harper’s Bazaar as well as other newspapers and magazines. Her practical yet deeply scholarly anthologies An Omelette and a Glass of Wine and Is There a Nutmeg in the House? blend historical fact with recipes and vigorous, tenacious opinions. David wasn’t shy about voicing judgments on everything from garlic presses (“utterly useless”) to the “idiotic term crispy” to the herb rosemary (“I can’t say I share the taste to any great extent”).
David’s contemporary, the iconic Mary Frances Kennedy (M.F.K.) Fisher, became one of the most influential American nonfiction writers, publishing autobiographical essays in The New Yorker and later collections such as Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf – about living and dining during wartime — The Gastronomical Me, Here Let Us Feast: A Book of Banquets, and With Bold Knife and Fork. Fisher led a long, adventurous life and wrote about every experience, from the perfect salad to mortal illness. Her dependably revealing and cosmopolitan treasuries are particularly appropriate for travel reading.
Aldo Buzzi (pronounced “Bootsie”) was an architect, a filmmaker who worked with the likes of Alberto Lattuada and Federico Fellini, and, late in life, an author. He died in 2009 at the age of 99. The Perfect Egg and Other Secrets (translated from the Italian by Guido Waldman) gathers Buzzi’s reminiscences and recipes alongside drawings by his dear friend Saul Steinberg, the New Yorker illustrator whose style encompassed caricature and cartoon with hints of Picasso.
If you prefer the flavor of fiction, try Jael McHenry’s The Kitchen Daughter. Much like Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, McHenry’s debut novel offers thoughtful insights into the perspectives of those with Asperger’s syndrome. Shy, sheltered, introverted Ginny Selvaggio is a gifted cook who finds herself able to speak with the dead through their recipes (many of which are well worth trying, including the flavorful and comforting ribollita). In her distinctive voice, Ginny provides glimpses into a mysteriously different world of perception as she struggles with her protective, domineering sister.
Dream Lake comes from the Friday Harbor series by Lisa Kleypas, set in the Pacific Northwest. With this novel Kleypas begins to actively explore the supernatural — in the shape of an amnesiac ghost — along with food-focused ambience. Innkeeper and chef Zoe Hoffman creates dishes with near-magical effects: “The kitchen seemed to breathe around them, stirring currents of toasted air that carried the bittersweet zest of lemon rind, the dank sweetness of scrubbed wooden cutting boards, the floating richness of cake, the crisp bite of cinnamon and the black tang of coffee.”
The intricate dance of birth order and relationships in Michelle Wildgen’s gorgeously addictive Bread and Butter made it a perfect choice for our earlier summer reading post on sibling rivalry, but the author’s juicy and creative dishes demand equal attention. Three brothers find their footing from childhood rivalry to adulthood and their management of competing restaurants. Charming, captivating and subtly quirky, Bread and Butter delivers romance and tension with vivid scents and sensations.
And Wildgen writes confidently and convincingly about the backstage world of fine dining and the complex balance between staff and customers — just try to resist her spot-on description of a chef’s pâté-centric reaction to certain clientele: “When a table was being nitpicky or snobbish, he’d roll out a hostile, elegant little still life centered on the unctuous rosy brown velvet square studded with green pistachios and dark garnet pigeon breast, accompanied by hand-ground mustard and silky sheets of pickled turnip. He’d had to stop eventually. Pigeon was a pricey form of psychological warfare, and Shelley complained that cooking pâté made her hair smell of blood.”
For ten years the James Beard Award-winning Ruth Reichl was Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, previously serving as restaurant critic for The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. At last, long after successfully publishing the memoirs Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires, Reichl tackles fiction with Delicious!, the story of — appropriately enough — a budding food writer. Those who appreciate Reichl’s reviews and essays may enjoy the different nuances of her first-person novel.
- Check out the Phoenix Public Library and Maricopa County Library systems throughout the Valley
- Changing Hands carries new and used books, and friendly staff members can help you with special orders at two locations:
- 300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 85013 — 602-274-0067
- 6428 S. McClintock Dr., Tempe, 85283 — 480-730-0205
- David, Elizabeth (ed. Jill Norman). Is There a Nutmeg in the House? (2000)
and An Omelette and a Glass of Wine (1986)
- Fisher, M.F.K. Consider the Oyster (1941)
and The Gastronomical Me (1943)
and Here Let Us Feast: A Book of Banquets (1946)
and How to Cook a Wolf (1942)
and With Bold Knife and Fork (1969)
- Kleypas, Lisa. Dream Lake (2012)
- McHenry, Jael. The Kitchen Daughter (2011)
- Reichl, Ruth. Delicious!: A Novel (2014)
- Salter, James & Kay. Life Is Meals: A Food Lover’s Book of Days (2006)
- Steingarten, Jeffrey. The Man Who Ate Everything (1997)
- Wildgen, Michelle. Bread and Butter (2014)
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
ASU Art Museum receives $144k Museums for America grant from IMLS
The ASU Art Museum is the recipient of a $144,000 Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), in support of the museum’s International Artist Residency Program at Combine Studios.
With this grant funding, the ASU Art Museum will commission three international artists to develop collaborative art projects with community-based partners to allow for direct engagement with diverse communities and encourage active participation in the creative process. As part of the museum’s International Artist Residency Program at Combine Studios, artists will be integrated into the community to work alongside social service agencies, community organizations, university departments, residents, artists and students to generate artistic ideas. Each artist in residence will connect to the community through exhibitions, publications, performances, events, lectures, discussions, new community engagement and collaborations. The flow and exchange of artistic ideas will create new audiences, engaged partners and supporters of the museum as a catalyst for change in the community.
“The ASU Art Museum, in all of its work, but particularly through its national and internationally supported residency program, exemplifies much of what the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the New American University are,” says Gordon Knox, the ASU Art Museum’s director (pictured right). “Our visiting artists engage in cross-departmental collaborations and socially embedded projects that have tangible impact on the region, empowering communities and advancing critical reappraisals of some of this generation’s most pressing challenges. Bringing some of the art world’s most innovative thinkers to the Valley and giving them the time and support to engage with the local community in the production of new artist-led investigations demonstrate how ASU is putting new ideas into action while advancing research and educating the next generation. The ASU Art Museum’s work, and support such as this grant, exemplifies and makes concrete core aspirations of ASU and the Herberger Institute.”
Established in 2011, the ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program brings accomplished professional artists from around the world to develop new work in partnership with the intellectual resources of Arizona State University and the diverse communities within Arizona. Through the program, artists develop work that investigates the pressing issues of our time in collaboration with scientists, technologists, social agencies and community organizations.
Images courtesy of ASU Art Museum
Downtown is more than a grid system of streets and square miles. It is defined by something more. In this short series, new DPJ contributor, Colin Columna hones in on the five senses as his guide to explore what makes downtown Phoenix unique.
With our ears attuned to the nuanced sounds of downtown Phoenix, from the distinctive “ding ding” of an approaching light rail train, to the sounds of laughter from people on their bikes and a radio playing from the open window of a passing car, we begin. Our first stop on this downtown sensory tour is along Phoenix’s cultural highway, Central Avenue, at the intersection with Roosevelt Street. On the northwest corner stands the landmark Trinity Cathedral, spiritual home of the Episcopal congregation and secular home to the renowned Phoenix Chorale.
The Cathedral, completed in 1920, provides a graceful connection to Phoenix’s history, but visit during First Friday Art Walk and the space is filled with the sights and sounds of contemporary urban life. The Cathedral Center for the Arts provides the visual experience in the Olney Gallery and Phoenix Chorale’s Artistic Director Charles Bruffy conducts the surround sound of the Grammy Award winning ensemble during Open Rehearsals.
“I love our open rehearsals,” says Bruffy, “they allow us an opportunity to invite people who may be familiar with their own church choir but unfamiliar with what we do, to drop in and experience something new and hopefully surprising.”
At the center of downtown’s thriving Roosevelt art district, and easily accessible from Central and Roosevelt Metro Light Rail station, the free rehearsals add an element of accessibility to classical music while giving Phoenix Chorale serious “street cred.”
Bruffy explains the rehearsals allow for the audience to actively engage with the process. “Our singers have trained and perfected their gift and talent to sing from the heart. The casual atmosphere of open rehearsals allows us to not only sing but talk to our audience, answer questions, tell stories about the songs and tune their ears for the adventure of choral music. Our goal is make it possible for as many people to explore and enjoy the music and just as important to have fun.”
Choral music evolved from the earliest form of musical expression, telling stories through folk songs and devotional chants. Charles Bruffy plays a significant role in that evolution: appointed Artistic Director of the Phoenix Chorale in 1999, Artistic Director of the Kansas City Chorale since 1988, Chorus Director for the Kansas City Symphony Chorus since 2008 and an impressive list of other gigs around the country. His exhaustive schedule ensures that chorale music remain relevant and at the top of the charts.
Under his leadership the Phoenix Chorale and Kansas City Chorale have ten Grammy Award nominations and each garnered two Grammy Award wins. The latest Phoenix Chorale recording, Northern Lights, spent a lucky 13 weeks on the Billboard charts and of special significance to Bruffy, “We were named “Best Classical Vocal Album of the Year” on iTunes Best of 2012, how cool is that?”
Adding to the richness of the Chorale’s sound is the unique qualities of Trinity Cathedral. “Many of our concerts are performed in sacred spaces, like the Cathedral.” he says, “It may be that they are usually of older construction, of stone and hard acoustics that singers enjoy. But there is something very special that occurs when we perform in the sanctuary, a reverb is applied creating an added element to the performance, as if the voice is singing a duet.”
If location is everything, Bruffy believes he could not be luckier. “I love being in the ‘hood. Our city is so culturally rich and there are so many flavors and cuisines to sample downtown.
I can leave work, get to my apartment, go to one of my favorite places Cibo Urban Pizzeria for a meal and still make it to rehearsals on time.” After performances Bruffy is often spotted at a few of his other favorites, including St. Francis, Breadfruit and Hanny’s courtesy of the Light Rail.
The musical dynamo believes the trains add to downtown’s vitality, “When I see the light rail go by, listen to the tone of the bell, I hear the sound of a twenty-first century city.”
Asked to imagine a concert that captures the flavor of downtown Phoenix Bruffy quickly, and expertly, whipped up this selection and provided a few highlights:
“Phoenix” by Ola Gjeilo, the Chorale’s 2010 Composer in Residence.
“In the Beginning” by Aaron Copland. “This piece reminds me of the mythical bird, and our city’s namesake, the Phoenix, always able to surprise, evolve and reinvent itself.”
“Cloudburst” by Eric Whitacre
“Mountains” by Steven Chapman
“Anasazi Women” by Anne Kilstofte. “This piece is selected from our 2014/15 season, Desert Song concert. A musical celebration of the beautiful Southwest landscape in which we live.”
To sample more of the Phoenix Chorale visit their website: www.phoenixchorale.org or call 602-253-2224.
Photos courtesy of Phoenix Chorale
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
DOWNTOWN “SUPER PUB” SHOWCASES LOCAL ART, CHANGING DOWNTOWN
The original cover art depicts a bustling Saturday morning at Phoenix Public Market, in an increasingly vibrant and walkable Downtown.
Local artist Justin Queal, whose artwork can be seen all over Phoenix, most notably at CityScape’s Squid Ink Sushi, was commissioned to paint one of his favorite places in Downtown Phoenix for the new Downtown Phoenix Dining Guide & Directory, which hit the streets this week and represents the most ambitious publication Downtown Phoenix Partnership and Downtown Phoenix, Inc., have ever produced.
Queal’s painting is a colorful representation of what Downtown Phoenix has become—a place where people not only work but live, shop and play. Our community is diverse, artistic, passionate and strong.
Similarly the artistic “super publication,” which for the first time combines the popular annual Downtown Dining Guide with the traditional twice-yearly Downtown Directory, was made stronger by an expanded coverage area that includes the Roosevelt Row Arts District. The expanded coverage resulted in 125 new listings for a whopping 411 total businesses featured.
The Downtown Dining Guide & Directory, the must-have resource for visitors and urban explorers, is distributed throughout Downtown and Valley-wide and features a pullout map, expanded dining editorial, local photography, information about Downtown’s emerging music scene, and a walking tour that encouraging pedestrians to explore Downtown’s historic buildings and public art.
You can download the Downtown Dining Guide & Directory here or stop by and grab a copy at the Downtown Ambassadors Information Center, located at 101 N. 1st Avenue, Suite 190.
For more information about Downtown Phoenix please visit www.downtownphoenix.com.
As summer moves toward autumn, don’t miss a final opportunity to catch Actors Theatre’s very funny two-play repertory before it slips away. Presented at the Helen K Mason Performing Arts Center, The Cottage by Sandy Rustin continues through August 10, while The Book Club Play by Karen Zacarías ends its run August 17.
By scheduling performances throughout June, July, and August, Producing Artistic Director Matthew Wiener deliberately bucked a common misconception about Valley audiences. “There used to be this kind of prevailing wisdom that everyone left Phoenix in the summer…that’s why no one did anything,” says Wiener. “And that’s just not true. I mean, a lot of people take vacations and holidays but they don’t go away for 12 weeks.”
“Actors Theatre is trying to actively reinvent after leaving the Herberger, which was a shock to our system,” he continues, “and I think this summer program is one way that we’re trying to stay vital and relevant and exciting and important to the community.”
According to Wiener, the strength of the company’s performances lies in strong casting. “They’re just marvelous performers,” he says. “I was actually trying to cast both shows together…the characters seemed to line up…and so I started kind of making up my fantasy football.” Wiener laughs. “It was like fantasy casting, and I pretty much got my first choice — my first draft.”
He explains, “I was really looking for actors who are very flexible, who could manage the language — because the language of both plays is pretty challenging — and people who I thought would get along well for 10 weeks.” Weiner continues, “These are very long contracts for the actors…and it was important to me that we work with all local people.” He adds with a smile, “I think I just got really, really lucky.”
Both plays feature Maren Maclean, who’s performed for Phoenix Theatre, Southwest Shakespeare Company, and Verse Theatre Manhattan. Joseph Kremer, who starred in a potent Actors Theatre production of A Steady Rain last season, joins Angelica Howland — familiar from performances with Phoenix Theatre, Stray Cat Theatre, and Childsplay — and Tyler Eglen, an actor-educator with a diverse background in theater and science. Ian Christiansen of Southwest Shakespeare, Stray Cat, and Phoenix Theatre rounds out the cast with recent ASU graduate Alexis Green.
“I think they’re all lovely,” says Wiener, “and they all have different moments.” He points out, “Maren, who plays Ana [in The Book Club Play] — she really has to run the gamut of emotionality. And we actually worked on that, because…you want it to be emotionally truthful, but by the same token you don’t want it to get so deep and horrifying that you can never work yourself out of it.” Wiener smiles. “Because after all they have to live happily ever after — it’s a comedy.”
The Book Club Play delves into the dynamics of a long-running book club, with plenty of shocking revelations and laughably realistic interplay. “I think it’s fun when they talk about the ‘homoerotic undertones of Moby Dick,’ [and] making fun of Twilight,” says Wiener. He explains that the play began as a more satirical, hard-hitting piece until Zacarías — the experienced, award-winning author of The Bare-chested Man, Looking for Roberto Clemente, Mariela in the Desert, The Sins of Sor Juana, and an adaptation of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents – reworked it.
“I think it’s a testament to the writing, and the fact that it’s been rewritten several times,” he says. “Karen is a very careful writer — the language is very specific. And I just have an amazing ‘A’ team up there.”
The Cottage, on the other hand, is pure farce written by actress Sandy Rustin, who created the Off-Broadway sketch comedy musical Rated P (for parenthood). “It has some of the style of Nöel Coward,” says Wiener. “It’s informed by that kind of English aristocracy or English wit.” He adds, “It’s not an earth-shattering piece of theater, but it’s pretty damn funny for an hour and a half.”
“Right now there’s a fair amount of dialogue in the theater industry about the lack of women’s plays being produced,” Wiener continues, “and it’s something odd going on that we’re so far away from parity. But Actors Theatre has traditionally done a lot of plays by women.” He says with a laugh, “Maybe there’s just something about the voices that I enjoy — I grew up in a house filled with women; I live in house filled with women.”
Actors Theatre also presents That’s Life: From Sinatra to Sondheim on August 10, featuring Kristen Drathman, Rusty Ferracane and Craig Bohmler performing standards from the Great American Songbook and Broadway, including tunes by Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Stephen Sondheim, and more.
Look for a future DPJ story previewing Actors Theatre’s upcoming 2014-2015 season, which includes Theresa Rebeck’s Seminar, Sharr White’s Annapurna, Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kiss, and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.
If you go:
- Troupe: Actors Theatre at www.actorstheatrephx.org or 602-253-6701
- General admission
- Venue: The Helen K Mason Performing Arts Center, 1333 E. Washington
(nearby free parking available)