Articles by Roz Cummins
Roz Cummins is a food writer who has worked in every possible permutation of food co-op, natural foods store, and granola-type restaurant. She lives in the greater Boston area and feels it is her mission to put the "eco" back in home economy.
David has asked me to come up with some dishes and menus especially appropriate for entertaining. I've got several full-menu columns planned for the fall: a brunch, a casual dinner, and a Thanksgiving dinner (with both turkey and non-turkey options).
As far as ideas for entertaining in general, I highly recommend Entertaining for a Veggie Planet by Didi Emmons. It includes tips on entertaining applicable to any meal or event, not just vegetarian ones. She is a very funny writer, a fantastic cook, and a deeply committed activist. I had the pleasure of doing a little bit of work on the book with Didi, and I can attest that it is fun as well as useful.
For now, let's talk about the kind of gathering that isn't a full-on dinner party but where you want to offer your guests something delicious to eat -- like, say, a board-game party! In such instances, I like to serve fruit and cheese platters. (These platters are good at meetings, too, as there's nothing spilly or sticky and it doesn't require lots of elaborate plates and utensils. I belong to a writers group and at our monthly meetings we serve just enough snacks to be hospitable and welcoming without it becoming the center of attention or detracting from the work at hand. For convenience and taste, fruit and cheese platters are a great choice.)
Certain people have a natural elegance. They look good in anything (and, presumably, nothing). They speak articulately and judiciously, move with grace, and generally make it appear as though living in this world isn't the vexed, booby-trapped, humbling endeavor the rest of us poor slobs find it to be.
If miso were a person, that's the kind of person miso would be. Its natural elegance stems from its already being complex and complete on its own: you don't need to tart miso up to make it good. Indeed, if you have good miso to start with, simply adding some warm water will create a satisfying broth that reveals something more about itself with every sip.
Because of this stand-alone greatness, I showed my respect for miso soup for years by never adding competing flavors (other than the vegetables I cooked in it). It was a culinary "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Then one day I had a glass of pinot gris and said to myself, "You know what would be good with this? A soup made with yellow miso." So I tried it and it was great.
Next, I added roasted red peppers from a jar and some freshly pressed garlic. I was going for a vaguely Spanish flavor. When I served this to my friends on a cool autumn night, everyone said it was warming and good. So put on some classical guitar or Flamenco CDs and sip this bright red soup while you finish off the rest of the pinot gris.
"Enjoy every sandwich." -- Warren Zevon
As is true for so many people, 9/11 is on my mind this week. I'm thinking of the people who perished on that day in the towers: those I knew from college and high school, friends, coworkers, and of course all the strangers whose families' lives are forever altered.
I'll always remember the breathtaking beauty of that day -- an impossibly blue sky -- and how all my calls to editors in NYC suddenly stopped going through. "All the circuits to New York are busy." It was only when a friend called late in the morning that I learned about what had happened. It seemed as though everything around me was disappearing, as if I might disappear myself.
Once I had gotten through to friends and family in New York, I turned on the TV. The footage of the towers coming down over and over again made me numb, but two things caught my eye.
The first was how quickly people were able to print up and post signs asking after the fate of their loved ones. They must have been carrying pictures in their wallets.
The other was how many of the pictures were of family celebrations around food.
Over the 4th of July weekend, I traveled from Boston to western New York to see my uncle and many of my cousins. I'd been there before but couldn't recall the route from memory, so I quickly printed the directions from a website, never thinking that there could be two different ways to get there when one route is so obviously superior. I hopped into my car and set off.
About an hour after I passed a turn-off for Albany, I thought to myself, "These rolling hills and grazing cows look different." Then I told myself that I was being absurd and that there was no way that a city mouse like myself could tell one set of rolling hills and grazing cows from another, but in fact I was right. These weren't my beautiful rolling hills, these weren't my beautiful grazing cows. My inner GPS told me that I was on a much more southerly route, and my choice of CD, the Dixie Chicks' "Long Way Round," suddenly seemed painfully apt.