Adam Gopnik Knows the Ideal Way to Get a Soufflé to Rise
Plus: so many movies, making quinoa better, and a new take on the latke
Have you ever found yourself able to do something that you were sure you weren’t ever going to be able to do (like cooking, for example)? Remember that feeling? The difference between accomplishment and achievement? Do you ever feel like you’ve really mastered something?
Our guest today on Food is someone who’s thought about these topics at length, who has experienced mastery in many forms, both his and other people’s, and is, shall I say, a master at studying mastery.
With me and Kate here today is Adam Gopnik, one of the most accomplished and prolific writers I know. I, along with many other people, admire Adam’s work, and when I heard about his new book, The Real Work: On the Mystery of Mastery, I was eager to have him on to talk about what the hell mastery really is, and also to talk about baking, and favorite New York meals, and many other things.
I wasn’t surprised that Kate and I had a really lively and sweet conversation with Adam. Here it is. And the recipe from this week’s episode, Adam’s 5C Quarantine Flan, can be found here, and your weekly Marksisms are below.
"If you look at the genetic composition, the DNA, in a — for instance — a French baker's starter, there are traces of it that go back to the 19th century, all the little microbes that we have on our hands communicate themselves to the starter. They're part of what makes it delicious. Shmutz is flavor." — Adam Gopnik
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This Week’s Marksisms
MOVIES, MOVIES, MOVIES
An eventful week during which I had lunch at the Singaporean restaurant Laut, on 20th Street in Manhattan, while a bank collapsed. Later that day, I was at the memorial service for my dear friend Mitch, nicely attended by friends, family of course, and colleagues. Three of the really old guys – Ken, Bill, and me – spoke at some length, and a number of people mentioned different movie-watching experiences with Mitch, who had organized a weekly Zoom-movie-watching club among some friends. Mitchell then sent Ken something like his list of the 50 best movies of all time; Ken responded with the same. I’m sharing both down at the bottom, after the fritters, just for fun, and without much comment, because I get stuck at five. Five. I might work on that; as a Preston Sturges fan I see glaring holes here. In later conversation, I confirmed with Ken that the first few movies I saw, mostly in 1957 (I was seven) were Old Yeller, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Carousel, and The Fly.
PUT AN EGG IN IT
Anyway. There was also some interesting cooking this week. Spurred by Toya Boudy (and later by this, made by Holly), I found myself throwing an egg or two into whatever leftover grain was sitting around. Obviously you can doll this up as much as you want, but even quinoa with an egg stirred in is a comforting breakfast.
Sunday night we had a semi-aborted (because one or more of the dogs in attendance stole and ate the raisin bread, and had to be taken to the vet because raisins are poisonous to dogs) Oscar party, but we cooked as if there were going to be ten people coming.
Our friend Irene made an awesome bubble-and-squeak in honor of The Banshees of Inisherin; Kat made chicken a la Elvis; my contribution, in addition to sous vide tuna (more about that tomorrow), was a platter of celeriac/potato fritters, kind of a re-imagined latke that I thought came out pretty well.