Thursday, June 18, 2009



both lovely, you choose

The Way You Look Tonight
featured in the film Swing Time, sung by Fred Astaire. Music by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Dorothy Fields.

Some day, when I'm awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you...
And the way you look tonight. (….)

Lovely ... Never, ever change.
Keep that breathless charm.
Won't you please arrange it ?
'Cause I love you ... Just the way you look tonight.

Mm, Mm, Mm, Mm,
Just the way you look to-night.

I am humble enough to realize that not a lot of my gentle readers have been following my blog since the early days. One does have to make oneself known, of course. You can’t always know everyone at the party before the host introduces you around, now can you? Early on, I described how my Husband the Science Guy decided that I suffer from (suffer so to speak) Gourmand Syndrome. I do indeed show all the symptoms

“This is no simple, newfound appreciation of gourmet fare, … but an intense, consuming passion for food – addiction-like cravings for their taste, an inordinate interest in their appearance, a savoring of trips to shop for ingredients, and delight in the memory of particular restaurant experiences.” Regard and Landis, Neurology, May 1997

Now this behavior does describe many foodies out there, yet I show all of the signs right down to the cause of this wondrous syndrome: sudden-onset damage, very often occurring in childhood, to the frontal lobe of the brain such as a stroke, tumor or a trauma - a good knock on the head - seems to cause the transformation into a “gustatory hedonist”, the development of a preoccupation with fine food. I won’t repeat the story now, I’ll let you discover it here (after the recipe) if you so desire.

The only symptom that has me worried, though, is the ‘inordinate amount of interest in food’s appearance’. Are they speaking in general terms or specifically what we should be able to create ourselves?

Don’t get me wrong; I love beautiful things. I am thrilled to the bone when a gorgeously dressed plate, surely the ultimate thing of beauty, is placed in front of me at a restaurant. Swirls and swags, delicate spun sugar shapes played in an architectural balancing act, sculpted creams and sauces swept across the plate fascinate me as nothing else can.

I love the beauty of Sergio Rossi shoes and Francesco Biasia handbags, stunning designer clothes and the handmade jewelry chosen for me by a man of taste (my man). Green sweeps of land and majestic mountains, new books and shiny kitchen utensils ditto. On the other hand, I do prefer Edvard Munch to Claude Monet and Grünewald’s Issenheim Altarpiece must be one of my favorite works of art.

E. Munch, The Scream

M. Grünewald, from the Issenheim Altarpiece, Colmar

But the talent to appreciate and the talent to perform are not one and the same; I guess that I simply was not one of the lucky ones born with the decorating gene. Messy dollops of whipped cream slathered on a dessert, frosting plopped on a cake and smeared until there are no more holes while any attempt to create delicate buttercream roses nipped in the bud (ha!) on and about the second jerk of the wrist, thinly sliced fruit carefully aligned and overlapped only to slip and slide all out of control, food piled willy-nilly on the plate, my cuisine will certainly not win any beauty contests.

Yet in my former life as a milliner, I was able to achieve harmony and grace, a higher state of loveliness than I do in my cooking. Go figure.

former collections of J. Schler (though I usually worked in fabric)

I blame it on my formative years, the years spent in a bedroom decorated by brother and mother in shades of sickly green: mint green walls, mint green and white gingham (gingham! me?) lamp and window shades (slowly fading to yellowish). My whole personal look and style was everything that was anti-beauty and my favorite foods to eat had nothing to do with chef’s creations. Even my wedding cake, dense, dark chocolate with a gorgeous cognac buttercream melted in the July heat as I tried my little heart out to spell out my love in words and flowers.

I shrug my shoulders with casual nonchalance and defend myself by pleading lack of interest each time the frosting goes awry or the meal looks like road kill. I have always been one anyway to get right to the heart of the matter : how does it taste? Is the texture perfect? Does it smell like heaven? It may be a plus that it looks pretty as well, but does looking pretty really make it better? Or maybe it’s a bit like being parents: our own babies are always the most beautiful no matter what!

This month, the Bread Baking Babes and Buddies have gone seasonal! Lien of Lien’s Notes and Beautiful Bread Baking Babe has chosen Asparagus Bread for the June challenge. The list of ingredients intrigued me; asparagus, walnuts, rocket and Parmesan cheese and the photo of Lien’s bread amazed! Her bread is simply gorgeous: puffed up perfectly and finished to a shiny, golden crust gently accentuated by the woodsy green branch of asparagus delicately lying atop this little beauty. I just had to make this bread and participate in BBB June.

Here is mine; once again, I was just not able to achieve the glory of creating an eye-pleaser. Brown and dull and oddly shaped. Even my bit of asparagus looks out of sorts. Luckily I can laugh at yet another unattractive production and look beyond the crust and see the beauty that lies beneath: tender and moist, light and fluffy crumb, the taste of the Parmesan standing out magnificently. This was a fabulous bread and I am indeed proud of the results. My baby!

Beauty, as they say, is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

Let's get baking, Babes and Buddies!

For the recipe, I send you over to Lien’s Notes.

The ingredients :

Truly a thing of beauty (I replaced the green with white) :

Steamed and chopped (I replaced walnuts with pecans) :

Let's make bread :

Mix-ins and fold in :

Ready to go :
before rise

after rise

Let's shape it :
Risen and the sprinkled with more Parmesan :
And bake :
Perfect texture, perfect bread :

Mm, Mm, Mm, Mm, Just the way you look to-night.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

My decorating skills are not too great either ;-p! anyway, your loaves look appetizing and I'm sure they tasted heavenly!

Cheers and have a nice weekend,


Heavenly Housewife said...

I also have a fondness for all things beautiful. But you know what really stinks? I hate it when something looks georgeous and tastes bad. Remember, its whats on the inside that counts ;)
By the way, I love your writing. In a way, a good writer like you is able to decorate their thoughts don't you think?

Jamie said...

@Heavenly Housewife - Exactly! Taste counts first! What good is a pair of beautiful shoes if they hurt? Thanks for the compliment on my writing! That means a lot to me. The blogs I love the best are those with a story to tell or a personal touch in the post.

shellyfish said...

Oh the complexity of aesthetics! Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder! This bread is so interesting sounding - I love asparagus and bread, so putting them together shouldn't be bad at all!

astrid said...

Oh Jamie, I knew your bread looks good! To me it does. Taste on the other hand is way more important anyway.
What use does a pretty looking dish have when it tastes awful? joy, no!

Chef E said...

hmmm, an argument I have tried to win on many counts...I actually thought the loaves are gorgeous, so maybe I see beauty in the right way...

cooknkate said...

'You must remember this
a kiss is just a kiss
a sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
as time goes by'

Beauty fades, as we all know and today's decor is tomorrow's trash, but a good loaf of bread will endure and sustain regardless of time or fashion and one's skills of bread making will never go unappreciated. I'm one to have followed you from the start and I love what you do. There are some foods that simply won't look as amazing as they taste, but you always excel in describing your goodies so beautifully that a photo seems irrelevant.

Carry on, my friend!

Sirenoftitan said...

Your bread looks really good to me and as those above have said - how it tastes is what really matters.

"Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart."
Kahlil Gibran

Jamie said...

Kate : You are a gem! Coming from you this is a compliment indeed!

buffalodick said...

I participate in the State of Michigan BB-Q cook off each year. It is sanctioned by the KCBS. Presentation has become more important, as most of the food is pretty good. I am no decorator, and I know it costs me points, but I feel you should be looking at what you're going to eat, rather than how the parsley is spread around the box!

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

A home-baked loaf is more beautiful to me than a well-styled plate any day!

Mary said...

It is a lovely loaf fit to match your lovely post. Have a wonderful day.

5 Star Foodie said...

What a fun post and your asparagus bread is a beauty!

Lynda said...

Your bread is gorgeous and very appetizing- I see nothing at all wrong with it or your pictures!
Enjoyed your post very much!

asiangrrl said...

The Scream is my favorite painting (surprise!), and I love Hieronymus Bosch, especially his triptychs.

As for your bread, the simple, rustic nature of it is beautiful to me, as is your writing. Aren't you glad I gave you back your brilliant ideas?

girlichef said...

Beautiful bread!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Fantastic Jamie. I always love how you twist and turn the story into the food.
I see only beauty in your loaf. Wonderful that you enjoyed the eating, I did too.
Delighted to have you baking with us again.

albanyice said...

I have this desire to try and make bagels. Is there any truth that water makes the differance in bread making? Love the family stories. Cousin Howard Albany

Jamie said...

@Cousin Howard - Hi!!! Supposedly water does make a difference in bread making as does the type and quality of the flour. But seriously, when I want to make something I go ahead and make it and see what happens. Once you have made a certain bread a few times, usually you should be able to figure out what you are looking for as far as texture, wetness, etc of the dough and adjust accordingly. Buy a good bread book that explains it all (Peter Reinhart, Rose Levy Beranbaum, for ex.). I'll try bagels again and see.

Check out my friend Susan's Blog Wild Yeast.

Sippity Sup said...

A millner? Really very cool. GREG

Rambling Roses said...

Hi Jamie, OK, I am going to try this again....I do LOVE your blog! Have just finished reading "Cooking for Mr. Latte" by Amanda Hesser. It's a real foodie book! Loved it! And, again, love your blog! Sheila (Debbie's Mom!)

Elra said...

I am a visual person, so I always look the overall appearance first, but I don't let myself be fooled by it. I also appreciate anything homemade, there is something special about it that you can not find even in a five stars restaurant, psychologically I found it very beautiful. Your homemade bread is a good example of what I mean.
Have a wonderful weekend,

Muneeba said...

I love the word "rustic" - it forgives a multitude of not-so-pretty food that comes out of my kitchen! Pretty food is lovely, but I'm a taste-oriented gal ... once I'm drawn to the combo of ingredients in a dish, I don't really care what it ends up looking like! Btw ... side note .. u were a milliner, Cathy?? I'm intrigued!

Muneeba said...

forgive me .. I meant JAMIE .. not "cathy" ... eck, the mind is finally going.

Lien said...

I can't believe I haven't commented yet! I thought I did, but my brain isn't what it used to (at least I pretend it was on a higher level once.... long ago).
Love your hats, isn't it strange how you can have a former life not so long ago (I recognise that)that is so different.

Love your breads too, I think they're just perfect, bread is much more forgiven than a cake that needs to be decorated.
I'm still having lots of computer problems, I had the badge made and I'll send the badge as soon as I have it back (I hope it's still on the old computer that they took to clean)
Thanks for baking with us! see you next month.

Culinary Wannabe said...

How interesting! What did you serve it with? I would think this would really be a stunner on the table all by itself. And I think it looks lovely! I say you don't know how good you are at making things look beautiful, cause you are constantly doing it!

Baking Soda said...

Gorgeous hats! Isn't it amazing how our path wanders and meanders?
Love the way your bread looks, don't mind to have a bite -or two-.
Thanks for baking with us


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...