Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Madhur Jaffrey Cooks Breakfast in Key West


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I’ve already been home nearly a week, but denial is hard to shake.  It turns out that spending two January weeks in Key West and South Florida is a good thing—especially if you have recently been diagnosed with vitamin-D deficiency.


I was lucky enough to be at the Key West Literary Seminar for both weekends of The Hungry Muse: An Exploration of Food in Literature.  That meant six days of listening to everyone from Billy Collins to Roy Blount Jr., Judith Jones to Madhur Jaffrey, and Adam Gopnik to Jonathan Gold.  And Calvin Trillin (whose hand I shook-hey, I can be as star-struck as the next guy)! And Julia Reed!  Oh, just go check the line-up for yourself.


Between the two seminars, I spent a week in an inspiring writing workshop.  It was in workshop one morning that I heard Madhur Jaffrey would be cooking breakfast the next day at Help Yourself, a small natural food restaurant in Key West.  The meal came about because Charlie Wilson (the owner), often found herself with curry leaves after Monday market, and didn’t know what to do with them.  Jaffrey offered to show her.


News of the breakfast leaked out, and then it was cancelled, and then it was on again, and cancelled again.  I decided to take a chance and go, just in case.  I love it when I do the right thing.


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Jaffrey mixed together tomatoes, scallions, curry leaves and cilantro. 

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To the pan she added various seeds: red pepper, fennel, mustard, and cumin.  Then the tomato mixture, and finally eggs. 

Along the way she enlisted her husband to help beat the next batch of eggs.  He was already toting her purse for her.


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Breakfast! Served with a side of cumin scented home fried potatoes.

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I can easily say this was probably the finest meal I had in Key West.  Simple and delicious.  If you want to watch her from a front row seat, here’s the video:


Friday, January 7, 2011

At The Hungry Muse


I’m sitting in my hotel in Key West, trying to think about the first day of the Key West Literary Seminar, The Hungry Muse.  My head’s pretty full, which you’ll understand if you read over the first day’s schedule.

A few favorites from today's talks:  Diana Abu-Jaber: The world hinges on cake.

Jonathan Gold, talking about cocktails (and the fact that there are generations that never learned to drink) and the rise of absinthe, turning it into 'the cocktail of pretentious louts'.

Julia Reed telling of a snippet in her Mississippi hometown newspaper, the week after Thanksgiving--apparently a wife grabbed the carving knife and killed her husband, in an argument over the last piece of dark meat.  She was amused that they felt it necessary to mention it was dark meat.  Jonathan Gold agreed, saying it was hard to imagine someone killing another over white meat.

Judith Jones plea for an end to dry recipe writing: no more 'combine first mixture with second mixture'.  Also her story of Julia Child's favorable response to the title of Mastering the Art (it took many letters back and forth to pick one): "Love the gerund!".

Listening to Judith Jones and Madhur Jaffrey talk--both so elegant, intelligent, a real joy to hear.

Calvin Trillin and Roy Blount Jr.  They are both very funny.  You already knew that.  But they really are.

In fact, Ruth Reichl and Diana Abu-Jaber, who were up right after them, started off by apologizing.  Reichl said it would be nice if we’d laugh once in a while, just to encourage them.  But they didn’t need that.  They might not have been as laugh-out-loud funny as Trillin and Blount, but they were great to listen to, talking about writing to remember and eating pastry as research for a novel.

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