Beans to Pig Feet, Back In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite, Melissa Clark Interview

After trekking to Vermont last Wednesday for a Vodka Infused conversation, I am back on solid ground or should I say back In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite for my Melissa Clark February 2 interview.

Melissa Clark's latest book In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite (Hyperion) was published in September 2010.


Q: Melissa, this is the 29th book you are involved in, how do you stay fresh, prevent the exercise from turning stale?

Because most of the books were co-authored with chefs and cooking personalities, every book is different, so it's always a fresh experience. That's one of the best things about working with so many different chefs and cooks - I learn so much for each one and each one has a completely different way of cooking.

Q:  Does the title of your latest 'in the kitchen with a good appetite' reflects a belief that cooking is as much about the pleasure of feeding loved ones?

That's the main reason I cook, to share the food with the people I love -- and to pick off their plates if they'll let me. That's the fun part. I also love trying to figure out meals that will make other people happy (as well as making me happy, but I'm easy especially when I'm cooking). Cooking and meal planning are very creative processes for me.


Q: While your parents profession allowed them to take extended summer vacations in France, while you were there did you meet other American families who did the same?

No, never! I'm sure they were there somewhere nearby, but the towns we went to were so tiny they just didn't get a lot of tourists. Which was great.

Q: Was that month long foodies vacation in France a form of therapy  for  your parents? Did it border on the obsessive at times in a child's eyes?


Q: You mention 'eating  what you want when you want it' as your daily approach to food, does it included changing the order of the meal (starting with sweet, ending with salty)?

I'm all for starting a meal with dessert, and I do that frequently - not at restaurants, where it would just be weird. But at home, I'll often have a little piece of cake or a cookie before I sit down to dinner, if I really want it. But mostly I like to eat cookies for breakfast as my personal manifestation of the eat-what-you-want-when-you-want-it philosophy.


Q: Why did you choose a sandwich to grace the cover?

It was a decision made by a committee at Hyperion. That's the way many of these things get decided these days.

Q: Your book is bereft of illustrations except for the sober black and white photos at the start of each chapter, in your mind are glossy illustrations a distraction for the reader?

Not necessarily. This book was meant to be more of a reading book, which is why we decided not to have photos. But I love photos in cookbooks and my next one, which is more of a cookbook rather than a book of essays and recipes, will have them. I'm really excited about the photo shoot!

Q: Does the lack of images means that people who buy your book will actually cook recipes from it and not just browse through it?


Oh I hope so!

Q: With the plethora of TV food personalities, are recipes and dishes created for their looks rather than their taste?

I don't think recipes are created for their looks rather than their taste, but maybe TV chefs are these days (in certain cases....)

Q:  Recipes in this book show many likes, are there foods that you dislike or cannot get close to?

Jerusalem artichokes and sea cucumbers are not my favorites. But luckily they don't come at dinner parties very often.

Q: 'In the kitchen' offers flavors  from all over the world, if I say Middle East, Southern Food and  France, can you name 1 favorite recipe from the book from each area?

That's funny because I don't think of my recipes like that, but you are right! Let's say the Red Lentil Soup from the Middle East, Grilled Squid with Snail Butter from the French influence, and Bacon and Pecan Pralines from the South

Q: Suggest 2 recipes that can be put together in a hurry for short notice guests?

Roasted fish fillets (wild salmon is good), brushed with an herb or spice butter (or oil), then roasted at 425 until just done. I love this with cumin or smoked paprika. It's nice with roasted sweet potatoes.

Pastas are great too. I do a modified carbonara without the cheese, but with lots of bacon and black pepper that people always gobble up. But regular carbonara is a winner if you love bacon. Serve it with an arugula or spinach salad.

Q: Luck, being in the right place at the right time, played a role in your career, if you started today would you need sharper elbows?

Oh my goodness if I started today it would be a totally different path. I don't know about sharp elbows but networking is always a good idea.


Q: With the cold snap we are experiencing on the East Coast, what's cooking in your Brooklyn kitchen?

Lots of beans and soups. I made a lentil soup with spinach and leftover pigs feet that I had from a choucroute article I did for the Times, and that was marvelous, though it would be just as good sans feet.

Choucroute and pig feet bring our chat with Melissa to an end.

Hungry for more, Melissa's most recent Good Appetite recipe in NY Times is Crumpets and Marmalade on Super Bowl Sunday (January 28).

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