Sunday, March 13, 2011

Deviation is Treason

I hate daylight savings time.  I am one of those people who gets jet lag just driving from one time zone to another. The furthest I've actually driven is into the Central Time Zone.  Come to think of it, some of my favorite places are in the Central Time Zone - Little Rock, New Orleans, Panama City Beach - and I always gain an hour of sleep when I get there.  Of course, I deeply resent having to give back the hour on the trip home.  Daylight savings time is even worse, because I haven't driven anywhere at all and I'm still being forced to give up an hour sleep.  I feel like something is being stolen from me. 

So now I am an hour late in starting today's cooking.  I am also an hour late in starting my consumption of caffeine, and an hour closer to what promises to be a week from hell in the office.  But once again, I am living the good life in Orlando, Florida, home of Mickey Mouse and the Orlando Magic, half a world away from the tragedy in Japan, so I am resolved to stop whining and start cooking.

Before there were food blogs ... before there was the internet ... there was Calvin Trillin.

From Wikipedia:  Calvin (Bud) Marshall Trillin (born December 5, 1935 in Kansas City, Missouri) is an American journalist, humorist, food writer, poet, memoirist and novelist.

It is the humorist and food writer I was introduced to in 1981, when a coworker, realizing I was a major foodie, gave me a copy of his American Fried.  I still have it, as worn as it is, for I have reread it many times.  Before Calvin Trillin, I was positively provincial in my knowledge of food.  American Fried opened my eyes to real barbecue, personified in his ode to Arthur Bryant's, the existence of crawfish and beignets in New Orleans, and the absolute joy of travel for the sake of enjoying regional foods.  When my friend Bethe suggested we travel to Italy over Thanksgiving vacation several years ago, because her husband wanted to spend his birthday eating in Bologna, the birthplace of Italian cuisine, that made perfect sense to me.  By the way, it was well worth the jet lag.

One of my favorite Trillin quotes is based on the weight loss experiences of his college friend, "Fats" Goldberg, who ate the same thing every single day of his life (unless he was in Kansas City): "Underlying the Fats Goldberg system of weight control is more or less the same philosophy that led to the great Russian purge trials of the thirties--deviation is treason."

That is why I am giving you the recipe for kasha varnishkes exactly as it has been prepared in my family for 100 years.  If you have Ronzoni farfalle in your pantry, avoid the temptation to use them instead of the Manischewitz egg bows.  It will NOT be kasha varnishkes.  Resist the temptation to substitute stock for the water.  Avoid olive oil, but do not be skimpy with the vegetable oil and for God's sake do NOT try to cut calories by using a cooking spray.  Ignore the fact that the box of kasha now gives directions on cooking the grain by boiling without the initial coating and toasting with a beaten egg.  Do not throw in a casual clove of garlic.  You do not mess with this recipe, just like you do not mess with the recipe for my husband's Grandma's Chocolate Cake, a Rothfeld-Levine family icon. Thirty years ago, I almost got mugged for my innocent attempt to elevate the cake into a black forest version.  That incident is still spoken of only in hushed tones and never in front of young children.  I have been properly chastened and learned my lesson well:  deviation is treason.

Someone should have given that quote to the folks at the original Pizzeria Uno in Chicago, when in 1943 they started selling their deep dish version as "pizza".  Listen to me ... as a native New Yorker, I am here to tell you there is only one kind of pizza, and it is made in New York City.  What Chicago makes is rather delicious, but it ain't pizza.  California-style pizza is a lot closer to New York pizza, but it also ain't pizza.  Don't get me wrong, I think Wolfgang Puck is a national treasure and I love his smoked salmon pizza.  I just wish he'd call it something else.

Wolfgang Puck and my son Cory, circa 2004

In addition to the kasha varnishkes, I am going to be making my version of Deep Dish (It's Not Really) Pizza, and testing a new product off the shelves, Texas Pete Extra Mild Buffalo Wing Sauce.  For the Deep Dish, I purchased two pounds of Publix fresh pizza dough yesterday, combined them into one big ball of dough, punched it down and left it in the fridge overnight to rise.  This morning, I took the dough out to get closer to room temperature.

Don't tell me you didn't see THAT one coming!

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.


  1. It's in the oven as we speak, Mark. Check the recipe site in a little while for the recipe.