Wooly Mammoth

December 11, 2006

There’s a new Flipped up. This week, I take a look at The Mammoth Book of Best New Manga, which is indeed mammoth and features a lot of interesting work. Some stories are great, some are good, and all of them make me want to see what the featured creators do next, even if their offerings didn’t exactly sing for me this time around.

The latest

December 11, 2006

There’s a quick blurb in a recent edition of the Marshall Democrat-News about the ongoing committee work on the materials selection policy. No new details to speak of, but again, it’s nice to see that the paper still has its eyes on the process.

In the kitchen: Ina Garten

December 11, 2006

Ina Garten is an odd sort of food celebrity. Her on-camera career began with some very endearing guest appearances on Martha Stewart Living. During these visits, Garten came off as funny, easygoing, and enthusiastic. (Of course, just about anyone standing next to pre-incarceration Stewart would seem comparatively ebullient.) I’m guessing that many people, myself included, watched Garten liven things up and said, “She should have her own show.”

Now she does. It’s called Barefoot Contessa after the Hamptons specialty food store she used to own. And I don’t like it very much.

Garten is much better as a foil for another personality than standing alone in front of a camera. She’s better now than she was in the early days of her show, when her unease was just palpable, but she still doesn’t seem to have fully mastered the art of treating a camera as a conversational partner. She’s more fun when people stop by to kibitz.


  • Her menus almost always sound comforting. I particularly like her preparations for vegetable sides and salad combinations.
  • She really relaxes when other people are around, whether they’re dinner guests or her adorable homunculus of a husband, Jeffrey.
  • She’s a strong advocate of mixing a little coffee in when you cook with chocolate, which really does heighten and deepen the flavor.
  • Cons:

  • I don’t think that a television cook has to underline or over-articulate safe food handling, but I do think they should at least model it, and I really wonder about Garten. I’m sure lots of home cooks level off dry ingredients with their fingers and use the same measuring spoon in both dry and wet ingredients, but it bothers me to see a food authority do it. Nothing can match the horror of watching her prepare an entire meal, from aromatics to vegetables to loin of pork, on the same wooden cutting board.
  • I’ve never seen anyone so stingy with pepper. Seriously, she makes Betty Crocker look like Emeril Lagasse.
  • She prepares a lot of big slabs of meat, fish, and poultry, which isn’t so bad in and of itself, but her preparations fall into the “intuitively obvious” camp.
  • She advocates white chocolate, which I despise. It’s like solid sun screen.
  • She really isn’t that comfortable when it’s just her and a camera but seems to insist on trying to appear breezy, which can compound the unease.
  • She often ignores the fact that not everyone lives in a well-to-do enclave packed with specialty food stores, fresh seafood, and organic farms specializing in heirloom fruits and vegetables and organic poultry. I’m all for promoting those products, and I’m glad that access to them is getting easier, but it never hurts to suggest alternatives.
  • Summary:

    Maybe Garten shouldn’t have her own show. I think a “Cooking with Ina” program would take better advantage of her on-camera strengths, and that a roster of guest chefs might help widen the scope of her fairly routine menus. And one of them is bound to tell her to use a damned butter knife when measuring cake flour.

    Settling in

    December 11, 2006

    Welcome to the “new” Precocious Curmudgeon, which will differ from the old version only in the fact that I have different opportunities to fiddle with things. (Categories!) I’m liking WordPress so far, though I’m still figuring out some of the features and tidying stuff in the sidebar.

    How sad is it that I still have boxes I haven’t looked at (much less unpacked) from the last time I moved, and yet I feel compelled to trawl through over two years worth of content to put it into categories, even for posts that were barely worth the time I spent writing them initially?