“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)
Downtown is more than a grid system of streets and square miles. It is experienced in the sights, sounds, feel and tastes that are unique to the place. In this short series, DPJ contributor, Colin Columna hones in on the five senses as his guide to explore what makes downtown Phoenix unique.
The Phoenix Public Art Program was launched in 1986 through a visionary ordinance that allocates one percent of the Phoenix Capital Improvement Program to enhancing the design of public buildings, infrastructure and spaces. The program has been uniquely successful because Phoenix is a relatively new city. Unlike older urban communities, Phoenix has available open space in which to plan and build its future and a citizenry with hands-on involvement in that growth. In the last 28 years, the program has created more than 180 art installation projects throughout the city in neighborhood parks, on bridges, along canals, on public streets, in recycling centers, at airports and in civic gathering places. By bringing together artists, residents, architects, engineers and landscape designers to integrate art into the infrastructure of our communities, the program adds to the dialogue of how we relate to our urban environment.
A good starting point for discovering public art in Phoenix is at The Gallery @ City Hall on Washington St. and Third Ave. Currently on view in the gallery is Art Under Foot: Handmade Floors at the PHX Sky Train. The exhibit highlights the dynamic collaboration between the four artists and the many skilled craftspeople involved in creating the commissioned terrazzo floors at the PHX Sky Train stations. Included in the exhibit are artists’ original drawings, computerized models, hands-on displays, and a short video describing the 40,000 hours of labor required to complete the project. The exhibit makes visible how the process works, how artists are involved from the beginning, and how the art is integral to the overall project.
“Public art,” states Ed Lebow, Phoenix Public Art Program Director, “and the Phoenix Public Art Program in particular, allows us the opportunity ask the impertinent question ‘What if?’ to the blank concrete stares of most urban settings. What if we imagine new ideas for the purpose of public spaces? How can we enhance the experience of traveling through these urban places? Is it possible that an installation can improve a community’s quality of life?”
The answers involve many steps, and many hands, from artist conception to art installation. “The nature of commissioned work is site specific,” Lebow explains. “A place designated for the art piece to be conceptually integrated, to be one of the components of the fully realized project.” Within those parameters, or restrictions, “intensive problem solving occurs. Each project is completed through a collaboration of thinkers.”
The placement of artworks in neighborhoods and public spaces, and as functional elements within those environments – walkways, gateways and bridges – challenges a cardinal rule of art engagement: Don’t touch. “The joy of art is very tactile,” counters Lebow. “Each work is created by the touch of artists: molded, painted, built. They are artworks, but first they are works created by hand. I don’t believe they are something removed or special, but a part of life,” he explains.
Trained as a potter in college, Lebow confesses he “fell off the wheel” to explore other endeavors, but his personal and physical relationship with created works is evident. As a potter applies glaze, he describes the Taylor Streetscape as layers of experience. “The sidewalks are expanded and embedded with artwork to encourage strolling. So touch may be the first sense engaged. Trees are a vital part of the design and set in wide basins, capturing and reflecting water during rainy seasons. Pedestrians hear the sound and feel the cool breeze through their branches. Or they smell the plants as they respond to changes in atmosphere.” In this way, the art lives in the community.
Since its inception, the program has garnered numerous awards for design excellence, including two Design for Transportation Awards from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Endowment for the and, several Valley Forward Association Environmental Excellence Awards. Most recently, the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Year in Review named two Phoenix projects, Ground Cover and Desert Spring, among the nation’s top 37 public arts projects.
“As we build our city,” Lebow says, “public art allows us to create a balance of the aesthetic and the practical…and an environment to keep our senses engaged.”
The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture manages the city’s public art program, administers a grants program, supports arts learning, provides information and assistance to artists and cultural organizations, and oversees the city’s cultural planning efforts.
One way to start your own downtown Phoenix Public Art Tour is to visit The Gallery @ City Hall, or download a self-guided map to the public art located throughout downtown Phoenix.
If You Go
Where: The Gallery @City Hall, 200 West Washington Street (ground floor)
When: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
Cost: The Gallery is free and open to the public. In addition to the exhibition, self-guided public art maps are available in the gallery and online.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
MAYA’S FARM CSA NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR FALL SEASON
Maya’s Farm is now accepting membership applications for their fall CSA season — which runs September 24th through December 13th. Be a part of the small farm movement – join Maya’s Farm CSA today. Save money and time while getting the freshest locally grown, organic, seasonal produce each week. Membership costs are $300/season for 12 weeks (only $25/week).
- The freshest hand-picked Certified Organic produce
- Nutrition and flavor-packed local and all Certified Organic produce
- Exclusive seasonally inspired recipes from local restaurants and chefs
- Advanced notice and early bird pricing for Maya’s Farm special offers, workshops, Farm to Table dinners and special events
- A personal connection to their food, community and local farmer
What is CSA? CSA is Community Supported Agriculture. It is a special opportunity for a community to pledge to support a local farm and farmer. Each member contributes an amount of money in order to offset the huge operational expenses small farms face. It is an excellent way to change the current food system, support community and educate consumers about the importance of small farms. Remember buying local helps to support our local economies. Please share and help Maya’s Farm grow.
Sign-up today – www.mayasfarm.com/csa
Who doesn’t love a parade? And one was held in downtown Phoenix on August 27 for the newly-crowned – for the third consecutive year – Arena Bowl Champions, the Arizona Rattlers. Another parade may occur (fingers crossed) if the Phoenix Mercury reign supreme in the WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky. And speaking of hot streaks…
On August 26, hundreds of downtown advocates and supporters attended RadiatePHX at the University of Arizona College of Medicine’s Virginia G. Piper Auditorium. Sponsored by Downtown Phoenix, Inc. and Downtown Phoenix Journal, the RadiatePHX business and community mixer will be held on the third Tuesday of every month at an interesting downtown space with a diverse mix of programming and speakers. “This is exactly what we had envisioned to bring life back into the heart of the city,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. On tap for the September 16 RadiatePHX at ASU’s Step Gallery in the Phoenix Warehouse District are Steven Tepper, new dean of the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and Councilwoman Kate Gallego.
On August 27, Downtown Phoenix, Inc. and Phoenix Parks and Recreation launched Wednesday Wind Up, a weekly lunch time event featuring food trucks, local retail business booths, and outdoor games and activities at Civic Space Park.
On August 28, TEDx Evans Churchill held its second event, “If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Kitchen,” at the downtown Phoenix Convention Center. Seven speakers spoke to a full-house on food related topics. Afterward, everyone sauntered over to FED after TED to “wine and dine” on food and beer pairings from local restaurants.
The Firehouse Gallery’s “Comedy on Fire” open-mic show is one of the most prominent places for local comics to ply their trade. Held monthly since March of 2013, the show has become so popular that out-of-state comics are being booked to perform.
US Airways and merger partner American Airlines will not be renewing their naming rights deal for downtown’s US Airways Center. First it was America West Arena, now US Airways Center. What’s next? We will know by next fall. Despite the name change we expect great things from the Suns this season!
Lux, one of central Phoenix’s most popular coffee and dining spots, will open a second location at First and Portland streets in the Evans Churchill neighborhood. Both an adaptive reuse of an existing structure and adjacent new construction, Jeff Fischer’s Lux Commonwealth and County will sport the same look and feel which has made the original North Central Avenue location so inviting and successful.
Redevelopment plans for two iconic downtown Phoenix buildings made significant progress. The city of Phoenix picked P.B. Bell Cos. and Davis Enterprises to redevelop the 1915 Jefferson Hotel (aka Barrister Building) and adjacent vacant parcels at Central Avenue and Jefferson Street into boutique-style residential and commercial space. In addition, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors agreed to work with developer CSM Lodging on tax incentives to repurpose the 1931 Professional Building at Central Avenue and Monroe Street into a boutique hotel.
For the last eight years Richard Adkins, our city’s forestry supervisor, has labored to keep trees from falling victim to business and neighborhood development, street widenings, and storm damage — all without a single budget line item for replacement trees. Now, with the support of the new Downtown Phoenix, Inc. Tree & Shade Task Force, comprised of a dozen community leaders and city employees (including Richard), new trees will be added and existing trees will be better maintained in and around downtown Phoenix, all in time for Super Bowl XLIX.
The Grand Avenue Members’ Association and Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts are are teaming up to bring even more live music, art, and local businesses to downtown Phoenix at the 6th Annual Grand Avenue Festival.
Only in Downtown
Phoenix Union Bioscience High School in the Evans Churchill neighborhood was named one of the top 30 “Most Amazing High School Campuses in the World” by BestEducationDegrees.com.
At historic Trinity Cathedral in the heart of the Roosevelt Row Arts District, the Grammy Award-winning Phoenix Chorale holds open rehearsals for anyone who enjoys listening to great music.
The Duce, a kick-back restaurant, lounge, vintage shop, and boxing gym located in a 1928 brick warehouse at Central Avenue and Lincoln Street, was recently named as one of the 12 most “Unusual American Restaurants” in the U.S.
Congratulations to the board and staff of the Arizona Science Center at Heritage & Science Park for receiving a $246,000 grant by the APS Foundation to continue ASC’s Rural Expansion Project that brings valuable teacher, leader, and community professional development along with student programming to school districts in our rural communities.
As more and more bicycles take to the road (and sidewalks) in downtown Phoenix, the State Press reports that cyclists balance legality and safety under the watchful eyes of police officers on downtown’s busy city streets.
On the first Monday of every month between 4 and 7 p.m., individuals with legal questions can stop by Songbird Coffee and Tea House on E. Roosevelt Street for “Cafe O’Law.” There Phoenix attorney Lora B. Sanders of the Sanders Law Firm provides free legal advice to anyone who drops in to purchase a cafe au lait or other snazzy drink refreshment.
Early September Activities
- 9/11 Week of Service & Remembrance, Valleywide, Sept. 6-14
- WNBA Finals, US Airways Center and UIC Pavilion, Sept. 7-17
- Fridays in the Park, Civic Space Park, Sept. 12
- Arizona Diamondbacks MLB baseball, Chase Field, various dates in Sept.
On Thursday, August 28th, some of our city’s brightest ideas were presented live during Tedx Evans Churchill, a local edition of the popular TED lecture series, held at the Phoenix Convention Center.
TED talks are public lectures based on the concept of presenting “ideas worth spreading.” TEDx events are independently organized talks meant to showcase ideas and stimulate conversation on the local community level.
The theme of TEDx Evans Churchill, “If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Kitchen,” focused on the many ways that food is a part of Phoenix’s cultural and community landscape.
According to event organizer and president of the Evans Churchill Community Association, Kevin Rille, the theme was an obvious choice: “Phoenix’s food, on a national scale, is really high quality and getting better, so it felt like a natural fit.”
The emcees for the evening were Megan Finnerty of the Arizona Republic and Dave Tyda of Affordable Food Festivals and the EaterAZ food blog. The co-hosts guided a sold-out audience through seven passion-filled presentations from a range of voices from Phoenix’s food scene.
Local restauranteurs like Brad Moore of Short Leash Hot Dogs and Aaron Pool of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soups talked about what it takes to successfully open and operate their respective food trucks and restaurants.
Highlighting the healing properties of food, Kelly Watkins of Juby True juice bar discussed the holistic benefits of juicing, while chef Payton Curry of Brat Haus delivered his case for “weediatrics,” or the medicinal use of cannabis.
Showing there are many ways that food can sustain a community, Dr. George Brooks, Jr. detailed his initiative to eliminate food deserts in the valley through aquaponics, a farming method that combines raising fish with the growing of plants in water. Johnny Garippa shared the fruits of his labor with Hope House Farms, an urban farming program in downtown Phoenix that teaches youth about farming, food and leadership.
And to wash it all down, Chuck Noll, master of fine beer for Crescent Crown distributors and certified cicerone, took us down the path of his discovery of and love for craft beers.
After an hour of talking about the many ways food permeates Phoenix’s culture, attendees were able to sample some of the goods at FED after TED. This portion of the evening featured a collection of the city’s best restaurants offering samples of their favorite creations, paired with local and regional craft beers.
The selections ranged from comfort foods to more adventurous fare, but all equally delicious. Some of the offerings included ICON Lounge’s braised lamb tongue tacos paired with New Belgium’s Tour de Fall pale ale, Squid Ink’s seared Japanese scallops paired with San Tan Brewing’s SunSpot Golden Ale, Short Leash’s brat sliders and mini doughnuts paired with San Tan’s Devil’s Ale and Kincaid’s teriyaki tenderloins paired with New Belgium’s Fat Tire amber ale.
With full bellies, hearts and minds, the feeling of inspiration and pride in their city was palpable for attendees. It was clear that Phoenix is a place where great ideas are planted, cultivated and sustained.
Kevin Rille and the Evans Churchill community believe in the importance of amplifying these ideas. Says Rille, “It’s doing cool stuff in a simple way. A lot of the national news about Phoenix is really negative, really terrible, but there’s a lot of cool stuff going on. It’s fun to see all these people engaged and to celebrate that.”
With the successful turnout and the buzz surrounding the event, Rille is hopeful it can become a more regular occurrence: “It was cool to see people excited about it even before we did the advertising. People were engaged. Hopefully we can build this into something we do more often.”