Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My first “Guest Blogger”: Leslie Fruman

I am always bragging about my talented sister Leslie. I thought it would be great to have her on-board as a guest blogger — so I asked her — and she agreed! We haven't figured out the actual details of if it will be every Tuesday or what, but let's get started and see where this goes.

Take it away Leslie!

For the last 12 months the oven has almost always been on at my house.

It started when I decided to take a year off from my globetrotting career as a journalist-turned- television-producer, and stay put for a while. The plan was to lazily pursue my interest in cooking.

I spent the first few months on the couch with my laptop, cruising Internet food sites and exploring the exploding world cooking blogs. Then I hit the farmers markets and made all kinds of delicious meals from the gorgeous fresh produce I snapped up there. This naturally led to a fascination with pickling and preserving.

My electricity bill soared, and I gained 15 pounds.

Then last fall, when the farmers markets were shutting down for the season, I signed up for a pottery class at the Gardiner Museum. I’d wanted to try pottery for years – and finally dragged myself out of the kitchen and into the pottery studio once a week.

Which brings me to another kind of cooking – and a new oven in my house (and an even higher electricity bill).

Within minutes of digging my hands into the clay, I was smitten. First I made a set of 6 plates… then some bowls shaped like squashes (inspiration from the farmers markets!)…And then I had to buy my own kiln - which is really just another oven, only much hotter.

Now I am happily spending my days cooking up my pots and then cooking up my food, (sometimes in my pots…).

But this “cooking” theme got me thinking about how easily we transfer skills from one pursuit to another.  Whether I’m cooking up a television show, a meal, or a piece of pottery – the process is surprisingly similar, and exercises the same creative muscle. It’s really all about learning to tell a good story, well.

When you tell a story in a newspaper article or on a television show, you first spend a lot of time researching your topic, and gathering information. Then the hard work begins…building the structure.  That is – figuring out how to tell the story. Once you’ve figured that out, it gets easy again, and fun, as you tweak to make it flow.

Cooking? Same thing. Search for just the right recipe – compare it to others – ask friends what they have had success with – then start cooking, and make it your own with tweaks and flourishes.

And making a pot? It’s the same process.

At most pottery classes, instructors offer the basics, and then encourage students to explore. You take a lump of clay into your own, unique, hand, and fool around to see what happens.

But there’s a lot more to pottery than fooling around with clay. You need to learn about (research!) the different clay bodies, learn about glaze chemistry, understand what heat at different temperatures does to the clay and glazes…and then you structure, test, tweak, and create. Just like cooking --only it takes much longer!

 A couple weeks ago I tried to combine all of these steps when it was my turn to host a supper club I belong to. Once a month a group of friends get together to cook an elaborate meal, based on a theme – or “story”. The story this week was Middle Eastern food. The research took me all over the place, looking through my own cookbooks, my favorite websites and a bit of old fashioned library browsing. I found a great selection of dishes from Iran, Morocco, Israel and Egypt. The tweaking happened as I curated which dishes I thought would combine to make a great meal… before sending a selection of recipes off to my friends, who would each choose a recipe to bring to our supper club dinner party.

But I have to admit, the best part – for me – was setting the table with my handmade dishes and bowls…waiting for my friends to fill them with their fantastic interpretations of all those recipes. Our meal was truly great and the table setting that night was part of the “story”.

My favorite dish from the meal was a delicious fennel and pistachio salad from Janna Gur’s fabulous website:

Here’s the recipe link from that site:

(You can see Leslie's amazing pottery at her shop, or on her facebook fan page! Are you looking forward to her next post? I know I am!)

1 comment:

  1. Very talented family you have there!!
    plus that picture of the two of you is cute as hell !!!