Why We love Joel Stein. Hint: It’s Not (just) Because He’s Cute

I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve been sitting on this post for a bit. It’s about a really smart, witty writer. My reticence to share it proves two things are true:

1. We never really mature beyond the age of 14.

2. I am no better than the rest of you that make up that collective “we.”

Oy vey, this hurts.

Recession-proof Your Kitchen and Have a Laugh

Lucky for you, dear readers, I cannot stand between good, smart writing and you. Even if it comes at my own expense. What if you only want to sit with Joel at lunch now? Silly, I know but it feels just like that.

So, I sat on a draft of this “Meet Joel Stein” piece (Not to be confused with the lesbian love story Kissing Jessica Stein. A good enough movie, but if you’re looking for hot girl-on-girl action, it’s not for you.)

Then, I see this piece “Recession Gourmet” where Joel gets Tom Colicchio to cook with him. For a family of four, on a $10.00 budget. You might think that’s enough to make me crazy. But no, our boy Joel goes one better. He gets Tom to agree to quote him saying perfectly Tom-like things such as:

“Wow, pasta is more expensive than I thought it was,” he says, scanning the shelves of the Ralph’s supermarket on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Colicchio, the head judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, hires people to buy food for his Craft, CraftSteak and ‘wichcraft restaurants across the country. Plus, he’s rich.

and this is classic Joel:

Because Colicchio volunteers with Share Our Strength, a charity that fights childhood hunger, he knows how hard it is for families to get by on a low food budget. “You can do this, but it’s tough,” he says. “Look how much time we’re spending. If you’re a working mom, you don’t have time to look around like this. And you have to know how to cook and grow your own herbs.”

The next paragraph begins “After half an hour, he chooses a pork loin…” ending the piece with:

The food turns out great, and it actually feeds five for lunch: Colicchio, me, my wife, the photographer and his assistant. And we down it with a $2 bottle of Charles Shaw, which is actually just fine. I’m going to make it through these tough economic times. Because my job leaves me more than enough time for shopping and growing herbs.

Classic Joel. And here’s two additional recent gems. These two are the ones that got me started on this “Meet Joel Stein” post. They’ve languished in the Drafts folder a bit, but they hold up well over time, as good writing does.

One is about wine snobbery and the other, about trying to eat in vs. eat out. (See Linda, I told you he is married….) It’s hard to share these because I fear you’ll enjoy reading him so much more than me. When push comes to shove, when you’re pressed for time, I’ll have your footprint on my ass. You’ll forget about coming back and reading me.

I’d almost forgive you. After all, it’s Joel.

Other Choices for Those of us without a Top Chef in the Kitchen, or a Colicchio-sized Bank Account

Lest we forget there’s a food point here…Joel notes that chefs he queried all reverted to chicken or pasta when faced with the severe budget question. Even on Tom’s show “Top Chef”, when contestants were faced with the challenge, not one of them chose grains or beans or tofu.

There’s miles of satiety, satisfaction and good nutrition in meals that are not meat-centered. We just forget about that because our diet here is more influenced by lobbyists than nutritionists or cooks. Look outside our borders at how many other cultures thrive on diets that use less expensive and more healthy proteins:

  • Try a good pot of New Orleans style red beans and rice. (Okay, I know that New Orleans is not beyond our borders. I had to give a nod to this delicious dish from one of my favorite food “culchas.”
  • In Italy (or my kitchen) a green salad gets added boost from farro or quinoa, goat cheese, and dried fruit. Farro and garbanzo beans can be star ingredients in a main dish summer salad.
  • Octopus is eaten throughout the Mediterranean. It’s both plentiful and inexpensive.
  • Looking to the East: all types of legumes are used in Indian foods adding protein, fiber, minerals and iron to spicy, saucy dishes. In Japan, tofu and inexpensive fish have been far more essential to the diet than sushi which more people here are familiar with.

My Gift for Staying with Me. Call it a Thank You, a Bribe; Whatever. Just Come Back After You Read Joel.

A link that you will thank me for: Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries Blog. The blog is beautiful and contains recipes. I had the pleasure of meeting the award-winning Chef Iyer in Monterey and can attest to his skills as a teacher and as a chef. I am in the process of reviewing his book (buy it here) and will share more about it when I return from Alaska.

Iyer is Saucy and Sensational, like his food. Case in point: about cooking with your hands. This is how Indians are taught to cook traditionally. (I was reminded of this watching a Diary of a Foodie episode showing how delicious and healthy parathas being made by hand.) Chef Iyer said cooking with utensils “is like making love through an interpreter. It can be done, but it’s not nearly as effective, nor as satisfying.”

So go on, roll up your sleeves and get on with it!

~ by jacqueline1230 on July 7, 2008.

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