Last night, I finally finished The United States of Arugula. What a really, really good book. I am wildly jealous of the talent and store of knowledge posessed by its author, David Kamp.
As I mentioned last week, Kamp addresses the rise of the concept of "lifestyle" in the mid-seventies. Towards the end of the book, he brings the subject up again, noting a resurgence in "lifestyle" as an important entity (of course I can't find the exact quote this morning). It was interesting to me to read about a "resurgence" - since I didn't realize that "lifestyle" ever left, at least as a marketing tool.
But then I thought about it a bit. Over the weekend, my parents and Tom and Cail and Erin came up to celebrate my dad's birthday. My dad didn't want to actually sit down to eat, so he suggested we have a bunch of appetizers instead. My mom brought some pate she got from a new shop in Severna Park, and I made scallops wrapped in bacon, mussels in a red sauce (that I'll write about later - I'll be reviewing the book they were in), my go-to potato chips with chevre, red pepper jelly and bacon, and the usual cheese and crackers.
At one point, the conversation turned to the difference between how I cook and how my mom cooks. Cail is also into food, and she has her own, third way of cooking, but it's probably more like mine than my mom', and I think that's a generational thing.
My mom learned to cook not from her mom (who is really good at making reservations) but, like many women her age, from Julia. Her copies of the Mastering the Art of French Cooking books are worn down, dog-eared and faded. She didn't spend her early years slaving over aspics and terrines, but there's something about the way she cooks and what she cooks that owes and obvious debt to Child. It's difficult to describe, but I think there's an emphasis on process and product that she may not have had if she'd learned to cook today.
Not that I reject process or end product, but I think that I could be described as more of a lifestyle cook than my mother (even though I use a lot of her recipes). Certainly today there's more of an emphasis on the original ingredient, and the way you shop has everything to do with lifestyle.
But beyond that, I think there's a different emphasis on how the food comes to the table. I'm having a hard time articulating this, but with lifestyle cooking, the way things look matter, as does they way they're eaten. Making dinner starts at the store and it ends with cute placemats from Crate & Barrel that match the teakettle that matches the art on the walls. And this, on a random Tuesday.
I think, maybe, the cooking process used to be more compartmentalized and today, it has more flow. Not surprisingly, really, when you consider the way the compartments have broken down across our lives. I work from home, stealing a couple of minutes here and there to edit copy or do some research analysis, all while Dixon's playing or napping (and, of course, while I blog).
We live fluidly, so why shouldn't we cook the same way?
I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with this, except to say that I've been thinking about it. I'll end, though, on a more practical note. I've got a couple of big posts coming up - some book reviews and an essay I've been working on for a bit. Unfortunately, sometime during the night on Saturday, my laptop decided it had had enough of this world. Right now I'm writing on Cooper's computer, while Best Buy transfers my old hard drive to the new computer I bought yesterday. So I don't think I'll be doing a whole lot of posting until I get the new computer back - I just don't work well on a non-laptop.
Not fluid enough, I guess. Too compartmentalized.