Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Judy Rodgers - Thanks

Unless you are a foodie like me it is likely you have never heard of the late Judy Rodgers, chef at the famous Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. I was lucky enough to eat there only once and it was memorable but more importantly it is people like Judy, who not only love food and cooking but truly cared about the food in its entirety.
The following is an excerpt from an interview done in 2004 (h/t Michael Ruhlman) that expresses how Judy considered food and cooking. It really resonates with me. Judy passed away Monday from cancer at the age of 57.

This from a 2004 conversation, before she became ill with cancer, says it all:
That’s what we’re up against, that it’s perceived as a triumph that you can get strawberries in January as opposed to a catastrophe. Not all choice is good. Even if the January strawberry tastes OK, even if you have a really good strawberry that’s organic, I still know you turned down other things for that to happen.
A lot of our culinary habits in this country developed after refrigeration and freezing and certain technologies were inexpensive, whereas most other old world countries’ culinary traditions evolved before you had all those things. And so you had dried apples—not to put in your Cheerios, you had dried apples so you had something to eat.
That’s something I can do is try to make the menu, as much as I can, reflect a lot of the natural rhythms of this part of the world and reflect that this used to be the way you would eat before you could cheat.
There are a lot of reason not to buy Chilean blueberries. Let’s do nuts or chocolate or dried fruit for dessert. Part of not getting tired of food and cooking is not having every option every day, it’s responding to your constraints.  You don’t have that much to work with, so you have to be more resourceful.  If I were in St. Louis, I’d have a different palate of flavors to play with. I’d probably be more aggressive about putting stuff up myself during the season.
And guess what?  That’s what culinary tradition is, making the harvest season last all year long. My God, the most unique holiday we have is Thanksgiving, it should be something that if you really ponder what Thanksgiving is all about, you would really understand food. But people think it’s about gluttony, as opposed to truly revering your great harvest celebration, and now put stuff up so you don’t starve over the winter. But people don’t think about it that way—here, it’s the beginning of the eating season.
Judy Rodgers, 1956–2013
NYTimes.com obituary by Eric Asimov

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