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October 20, 2010

Contest #3: Christopher Kimball in Mobtown

sandwichFor Contest #3, you must imagine that Christopher Kimball, host of "America's Test Kitchen" and founder of "Cook's Illustrated" and "Cook's Country," has forsaken his beloved Vermont farm for a new life in Baltimore.

Devise the "Cook's Illustrated" editorial we might see after he's been here year or so. Retain his prose style (any use of "Hon" is an immediate disqualification, for starters) and resist, if you can, thrusting him into a lost episode of "The Wire."

Other than that, the choice of setting, situation, and neighborhood is yours.

See this post for an example of Kimball's prose. You'll need some extra time. Entries are due Monday, October 25, 8 a.m. EDT. Maximum length is 350 words (as in the example) but shorter effective entries are encouraged.

A suitable prize will be chosen after being thoroughly tested in OUR test kitchen.
Posted by Richard Gorelick at 5:22 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Contest


You first

Sorry, RG ... I cannot get into this one, as interesting an idea it is (especially for that hour of the morning!).

Don't get me wrong: I love Vermont. Any state that so values face-to-face communication that they have only one Area Code to handle all the electronics is surely okay in my book. But why, exactly, does Christopher Kimball devote so much of his own writing time to essays on rural life instead of cooking? Is he feuding with Vermont Life?

I love that CI refines and sometimes recreates techniques to improve dishes, and almost all of them have worked for me as advertised. I would think that more interesting editorial fodder would come from exploring how and why such "defective" recipes were formulated in the first place, or to comment more fully on changing food trends or trends in cooking tools.

Just my humble opinion.

I'm not a bit Christopher Kimball fan, and his writing is just about unbearable. As someone who used to live in New England, I'm also put off by his fake Yankee-style shtick.

However, I'm all in favour of mocking him.

I'm in:

Dear Home Cook,
As I sit here on my white marble stairs, what the locals like to call a “stoop,” enjoying the finally-cool weather after a summer of record-high temperatures, my eye is caught by a swift gray form on the sidewalk nearby. Back on our farm in Vermont, I would think nothing of grabbing my hunting rifle and bagging a little something for dinner. Here in the city, however, I do have to consider that not everyone shares my idea of “fast food.”

Caroline, my 19-year-old daughter, came home the other day with a case of crabs…a half-bushel of them, to be exact. She and a group of her friends had spent a lazy afternoon armed with the tools for catching this local delicacy: string and chicken necks, along with an unfamiliar one she called a “nattybo.” I believe this is probably the old Baltimore name for an object not unlike a net on a long handle, used to fish Callinectes sapidus from the turbid waters of the Chesapeake Bay. While not the sapid New England-raised crustaceans of our youth, and a shade more difficult to eat, Adrienne and I enjoyed the treat.

I leave you with this: an elderly man approached me on the street the other morning and inquired if I had any change to spare. It occurred to me that he probably had not had a good meal in quite some time, so I suggested that he pick up the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated, which should give him plenty of ideas for preparing comforting Autumnal favorites such as slow roasted pork shoulder and red bell pepper chutney.

Christopher Kimball
Founder and Editor
America’s Test Kitchen

Nicely done, minx!

Okay, minx, I can't top that. (Bonus points for the use of "sapid"!)

Great job, minx!

We declare theminx the winner! Huzzah!

Now let's burn down Frankengore's castle before he sets more tasks upon us! TORCHES!!!

The castle! The castle! The castle's on fire! Ye don't need no castle, let the Gorenlicker burn!

:::curtseying::: thank you, thank you!

I must admit to reading CK's editorials and semi-regular member e-mails with some amusement - and sometimes a pinch of jealousy. His often quaint outlook is kinda refreshing compared to life in the big city. Or Baltimore. The trip my husband and I took to Vermont (to attend a lesbian wedding) was one of the more relaxing vacations I've ever had.

theminx -- Brilliant!

Just wondering if you have any Egyptian in your genealogy. Proper names as they are rendered in Coptic are always accompanied by the definite article.

A Vermont Yankee in Queen Stephanie’s Court : Dispatches from Baltimore

As the days grow shorter and the air crisp, I assume and hope that our sugar maples are slowly turning their trunk-sap and that Chester Mowbray’s Hereford has finally calved. Instead of enjoying these simple pleasures—gazing upon the east meadow as the hawks snap up field-mice scurrying to make warm their winter hollows—I find myself writing from Baltimore.

Baltimore, it turns out, is a city in Maryland, just south of the Mason-Dixon line—but the city’s true nature is neither southern nor northern, but a sort of bastard child of both. It has neither the character of N’awlins (circa 2000, before all that nastiness) or the sophistication of, say, Ottawa.

Yet my family and I undertook the assignment with our typical aplomb. We stocked a temperature-controlled portable larder with must-haves (quince chutney, of course, unpasteurized sheep cheese, and the mandoline), and set forth on our adventure.

Our first encounter with a native turned out, perhaps, to be our best. Upon debarking at our new address—a handsome, brick “row house” complete with a very diverse set of neighbors—we were visibly shaken when a mongrel dog had taken up residence on what the folks here call the “stoop” (an atrophied sort of front porch, made of hard and cold marble and without shade or comfort of any kind).

Later, we would discover that the cur known as a “pit bull” is a kind of local mascot, whose reputation is apparently undeserved. But at that moment, my daughter—whose arms were occupied carrying a clove-studded pig—panicked and dropped the succulent meat onto the hot, stinking asphalt. Fortunately for us all, every resident—human, ill-bred animal, and otherwise—was so distracted by our farm-raised, buttermilk-fed baby pig that we made it to the interior of our new home without further incident.

This odd and rather frightening little city has its own charming ways and norms, probably unheard-of outside of the local imagination. “Pit Beef” is a kind of barbecue which, under normal circumstances (and the circumstances here are, I assure you, far from normal) one would not eat, since it is prepared by toothless men who are not rural, and so have little excuse for their toothlessness.

In fact, this “meat” is prepared in hot drums almost anywhere my Baltimore friends can find room and enough flammable material—the back alley, in front of a liquor store. Heaven knows, they may even prepare it in urinals!

Nonetheless, its taste (if not its texture) is unique among dry-roasted beef (if beef it is) and the twin accompaniments of salt and pump-accessed mayonnaise (something like a southern aioli) compliment its chewy, toothy, meat-like exterior quite nicely.

As we snacked on this local delicacy, a young man took a decided fancy to my wife, and admired my bow tie. I was reminded of the time that old Mr. Satterly had us over to fetch some excellent hens, and put his hand on my wife’s thigh when he believed I was entranced with the flock of Canadian geese, flying in a perfect V above his ramshackle coop. I regret that old Satterly died, the wisdom he could have brought to the young men tossing their Salem cigarettes into the pit-beef grill would, no doubt, have been priceless.

It would be prosaic to bring up the fabled Chesapeake blue crab—too much has been written on the subject by far more exquisite writers than I; furthermore, it’s not really from Baltimore, and in any event I prefer the Dungeness—so I will turn my attention to a little-known Baltimore treat affectionately dubbed the “snowball.” We’ve all had ice treats since infancy—these days, the memory of the ice man with his block and axe are all but faded, like my memories of my penis, but this kissing-cousin of Italian ice is neither gelati nor sorbet, neither snowball nor shave-ice.

A local wag informed me that her visiting Siberian friend, upon presentation of the snowball (in the vernacular, ‘sno-ball’) looked puzzled and said “Why have you given me a cup of ice?” Indeed, the Baltimore ‘sno-ball’ is essentially a man-made cup filled with coarsely and impatiently chopped ice chips, served from a plywood hut in the baking center of a strip-mall parking-lot, overrun by slightly unfashionable and overweight adolescents, and covered in a fly-attracting, Technicolor syrup of uncertain and sticky origin. It is eaten with the narrowest of plastic spoons. My family ate ours in silence as we contemplated the vast field of asphalt stretching before us like a desert.

I continue to uncover this village’s untold secrets. The famous “chicken box” remains an mystery, as does “lake trout”—which, I’m told, is neither trout nor from a lake (are lakes naturally occurring in Baltimore? are fish?) And I have heard talk of the “coddie,” a mythical fish cake more prized, in some circles, than the overexposed crabcake. In my journeys through this land, I am reminded of a quote from Horace: “Nothing is beautiful from every point of view.”

-Christopher Kimball
Baltimore, 2010

Using this website:

theminx = 274 words
clairecarton = 870 words

You can copy and paste your text into a box on that site for a word count.

Call me.

You know, I *became* Christopher Kimball when I wrote that--Shirley McClaine style-y--and just lost track of my word count. If it disqualifies me, then that's fine--at least I've had the experience of channelling a bow-tied Vermont farmer-cum-foodpreneur, whose ramblings are never less than 7,000 words. Well, they seem that way.

Ezra, if I could call you, I would, but you keep broadcasting fascist nonsense on the radio and I've no idea what country you're in--or what your poems mean, you crazy-ass reactionary!!

Claire Carton, il miglior fabbro.

You hit it out of the park, clairecarton. Brava!

Retruned Ecclesiastial Exile: heh, no. I'm just a Polack posting under an assumed name. :)

theminx ... me too.

thank you Laura! you made me feel better (also less crazy).

I'm sad no one else has weighed in on this one. Why?

Because you two nailed it, claire. I can't top that.

This stuff is like kryptonite to me. I literally felt pain when I tried to read the example. I got the idea after about 12 words but it hurts too much. I don't even think that my son could tackle this one. Good job General Gorelick (né Zod?).

Oh, how I long for the red sun of Krypton! This Vermont you speak of strikes at my soul! Why? WHY? WHYYYYYYYYYYYY..........????

Between them, the minx and Clare Carton have said it all!

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About this blog

You are reading the archives. For updated blog posts about the Maryland food scene, see Richard Gorelick's new Baltimore Diner blog.
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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