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Posts from the ‘Alfresco Aspirations’ Category

Seascapes & Tablescapes

"When it comes to the sensations of the sea, we've got 'em covered: The flavor of a chilled pea soup washes over you like a wave; sea salt crackers capture the water's clean perfume; anchovy dip hints of ocean depths; and a seafood salad is like an offering from Poseidon himself."

I’m no Gourmet basher. In fact, I was kind of digging the strange dated photo-style they were using for a while (Sara Dickerman at Slate noticed too. I wish I had the wherewithal to more fully articulate these observations).

But once again, I’ve been mesmerized/baffled their bizarrely staged photo spreads. Last month, I was gripped by the overly rustic farm stand. Now, it’s a maritime theme, “Surf Sup” that’s giving me pause. There’s a fine line between eclectically sourced tableau and tablescape. I should know, I watched Sandra Lee this evening (one of the beauties of periodically working from home). Convenience food often charms rather than scares me, but her white pizza put me off, maybe it was the jarred alfredo sauce base (and when I was young enough to think nothing of fat grams, I bought 99-cent Classico alfredo sauce at Grocery Outlet like it was going out of style, um, literally)

I guess I could deal with a miniature lighthouse replica decorating a table. An old suitcase, lantern and patinad celestial globe? Not so sure. The component that pushed me over the edge, though, is the coat rack. WTF? A. You don’t need a coat or hat during August (I wanted to kill women wearing sweaters and jackets on my Monday morning commute. How does 80s with pure humidity require a second layer?) anywhere in the continental United States during daylight hours. B. You don’t need me to tell you that a coat rack has no business being outdoors on a grassy expanse.

I like the menu (I might make the anchovy lemon dip with green beans) and I even like the pert, nearly retro text. I have a hard time getting past those photos (yes, there are more) though.

Get it Ripe

“Leave the chill of the supermarket behind and gather your meal at a farm stand, where the produce tastes of the sun and of fertile fields that stretch as far as the eye can see.”

Every June I dread the grilling barrage that consumes food magazines. It’s not an easy technique for the yardless and renders half of warm weather content useless. But even more disconcerting are the outdoor dining photos that inevitably show up as well. The last few Gourmets that have shown up on my foyer table have dredged up old feelings on the alfresco fantasy.

This mythical fresh air culinary experience is one of my many somethings about nothing that’s busted my chops for years. I discovered that this is hardly a new sad sack fixation; I wrote about something similar in the zine era of 19 freaking 97. This glossy mag, good life porn is merely the grown up version of my former fixation.

I don’t want to live on a farm or even near a farm so maybe it’s the implication that others are getting away that resonates with me. I don’t “summer” or engage in extended getaways because you know, I have a place I’m required to be 10-6, Monday-Friday. Sometimes it feels like no one in NYC has to work for a living. Or maybe these rough hewn lakeside tables teeming with nature’s bounty are illustrative of weekending?

I guess I don’t live like that. I tried tapping into this concept two summers ago and attempted to get a group of people interested in a three-day woodsy share. No one would commit and I lost interest. This year another friend suggested the same and once again no consensus. But frankly, since I loathe the outdoors and swimming and hiking are anathemas to me, my main goal for a group getaway would be drinking, grilling and concocting rustically extravagant dishes. And as the three others initially involved with this plan that fell through are vegetarian, it would seriously cramp my lofty fantasy. Friendship is overrated. A beautifully staged bucolic tableau? Now that’s soul soothing.

Maybe I will feel better about this manufactured phenomenon if I somehow capture and preserve the offending images. I could just tear the pages from magazines but the librarian in me can’t deface periodicals. For preservation’s sake I could scan and print but the miser in me won’t allow such waste of inkjet ink. And what would I do anyway? Tack outdoor dining images all over my bedroom wall so when I commit a gruesome crime the police will find my obsessive shrine, the number one TV and film clue that someone’s deranged? Nah, that’s what the interwebs are for. Enjoy my first in a series of pointless epicurean still lifes.

The recipes for the pissaladiere strips and basil vodka gimlets pictured, plus the entire “Get it Ripe” menu can be found on Epicurious. Farm stand and fertile fields not included.