Retro Cookbooks of Despair

James Lileks has been cataloging sad, unhappy and, at times, upsetting photographs of food from old cookbooks in his Gallery of Regrettable Food for a while, but it wasn't until recently that I saw his copy of Home Freezing of Fruits and Vegetables in which every handpainted page is an endless vista of pain, suffering and existential angst. Flip through it, if you dare, and feel your soul crumble and its carbonized ashes birth a small, mewling thing made of pain.

Things take a decidedly upbeat turn for his journey through Cooking and Preserving Vegetables which has inspired me to achieve an alternate plating of the Cauliflower & Waffles:

Ahhh...cauliflower and pancakes!

And I'm even getting ideas for a new dessert:

Everybody say "Treats!"


How Hot Was It?

It was so hot that walk-in refrigerators at restaurants across the city were failing, one after the other. It was so hot that almost every chef I know was keeping one nervous eye on their walk-ins which were struggling and straining and making alarming noises. It was so hot that even when Dirt Candy was closed I left the A/C on in order to ease the burden on my fridges. I was going to sleep with my fingers crossed that none of them seized up, overheated or failed. But, oddly enough, despite the heat outside, business was great. Last year at this time, Dirt Candy was averaging between 35 - 42 people a night. I was happy with that because I don't have a garden, which attracts customers like candy in the hotter months, and the city is pretty dead in the summer and most restaurants see business drop off some, especially on the weekends when a lot of people are out of town. But for the past month Dirt Candy has been doing between 50 and 57 people per night. Every night. That's in a dining room with only 18 seats. My jaw has been on the floor that business is this good. It's like a non-stop party in here and we're having some of our best weeks ever, which completely and totally defies traditional business sense.

And so while I'm hating this summer because it feels like my face is melting every time I go outside, I'm loving it because every night has been like a vegetable fiesta at Dirt Candy and business is booming. It's taken me completely and totally by surprise, but it's a happy surprise and a wave of goodwill and fun that I'm happy to surf as long as it lasts. So to all of you who've been making the trek through the inferno to get here, thank you!

Getting Kids to Eat Their Vegetables

Everyone always wants to find ways to make vegetables more exciting for kids so that they get into the habit of eating them at an early age because habits formed as a child last a lifetime. Now, some genius catering chefs in the UK have found the way: drug food! First up, their snortable asparagus powder, served at their events chopped into a line on a mirror with a rolled up $100 bill as a utensil. For real!

Inspired by their example, I'm already considering a Fall menu that features Calming Carrot Soup, heated tableside in an old spoon and then injected directly into your arm, Huffable Hothouse Tomato Salad - aerosol tomatoes sprayed into a plastic bag and then immediately inhaled - and Smokeable Cauliflower and Waffles, served in a giant glass bong shaped like a wizard. I'm even going to change my pricing model so that your first meal is free, and then the price increases sharply from there. And I'm looking at a food truck operation that will allow me to locate my business in high school parking lots or maybe I'll just do a pop-up in some schoolyards and public parks. Parents will love this! They're going to quickly discover, now that plain old vegetables have the allure of dangerous narcotics, their kids just won't be able to get enough of them.

"This cauliflower is, like, totally cashed. Can we get another?"

The Old Chicken Salad Scam

The oil rig scam keeps morphing, and now it's become...the old chicken salad scam. Here's what I got in the email a few days ago:

"From: John morris <>Date: July 16, 2011 12:57:00 PM EDTTo: undisclosed-recipients:;Subject: Attn...Manager Or Owner (Chicken Caesar Salad)

Hello My name is John Morris and I would like to order for individual grilled chicken salad in your restaurant for 150 people on 27th of July and pick up time is 4pm and it's for my Mum's Birthday Party and it will be picked up by my courier agent and I am ready to pay the full payment with my credit card so get to me with the following information below....

Restaurant Address:

Total cost for the food:

Personal cell #:

Please advice."

I love the details in this one. A mother's birthday....a courier loaded down with 150 servings of chicken salad (or is it caesar salad with grilled chicken?)...a loving son who must satisfy his mother's urge for a birthday luncheon consisting entirely of chicken caesar salad and nothing overuse of ellipses...a vegetarian restaurant that must make chicken salad for John Morris's mum or ruin this touching gesture from a son to his mother...

Which is it, John? This?

Or this? Call me on my personal cell # and please advice.