Friday, September 11, 2009

Bayless: stirring, stirring, stirring

Author: Rick Bayless
Book: Mexico: One Plate at a Time
Recipe: cajeta

I got prodigious amounts of work done this morning by heeding the wisdom in this piece by Laura Miller, the book critic at A certain writing project, over which I have agonized and intermittently labored for months, was almost completed in under two hours just by forbidding myself email, Facebook, and online shopping for a duvet cover. I imposed other restrictions: no snacks, no fussy tidying chores, no visits to the henhouse to look for eggs. The increase in productivity has been shocking. I should have done this years ago. I should do this every day. 

But the two hours off-line are up, I've earned my screen time, and am also making cajeta -- Mexican goat-milk caramel sauce -- because I bought the goat milk a few days ago, it needs to get used up, and my mother and grandmother are coming to dinner. This cajeta recipe takes an hour during which you are supposed to stir the simmering milk, sugar, and cinnamon stick "regularly." Here's Bayless on cajeta: "Perfect cajeta is like perfect wine: silky smooth, balanced and complex."

The wine comparison -- not the most vital simile. But I love the long, impassioned, scholarly preamble about his collection of antique Mexican cookbooks (in which he has found recipes for desserts containing jicama and fava beans) and the history of cajeta. I like Rick Bayless. He's friendlier than Diana, who can be very starchy and severe.

The plan is to read and stir. I'm no longer sure A Gate at the Stairs is working for me. Specifically, I don't feel that the narrator's voice is that of a college-age Midwestern farm girl. It's the voice of a nervy, worldly, middle-aged woman, i.e. Lorrie Moore. It's one of my favorite voices, but an underage virgin who grew up on a potato farm and has never flown in an airplane just doesn't know this much about Bartok, and marriage, and race relations, and the semiotics of food, and she probably doesn't use words like "verklempt." 

Though maybe Moore will convince me that she does. Maybe all will be redeemed in the end.

Must finish now.


  1. You've hit on what I like about Rick Bayless: There's so much wonderful writing alongside the recipes that you really want to make the food. I haven't really found any other cookbooks quite like that.

  2. I have to tell you that another mostly-but-not-exclusively-food blog I read mentioned Lorrie Moore (sp?) the same day you did, so I was intrigued. Of course I'm in the middle of three books and have two more for book groups in the queue so thanks for the update!

  3. What blog? Lorrie Moore's Birds of America was one of my all-time favorite books.

  4. "Verklempt" was one of my favorite words when I was an underaged virgin...