Archives for the month of: October, 2010

I am a huge fan of Mad Men and had a very mixed reaction to the finale (no spoilers in this post, I promise), so I started poking around the Mad Men website to see what other people thought about the episode. Among other things, I stumbled across this interview with Cara Buono, known as Dr. Faye Miller on the show. One of the questions was about Dr. Faye’s aversion to cooking:

Q: Faye doesn’t cook. What about you?

A: I am the opposite of Faye. I love to cook. I love to cook for myself and my husband and big groups. I find it very relaxing, and I love socializing around a dinner table. Although, it’s funny because Faye always says she wants to get something to eat, so I think she likes to eat. I just think she doesn’t like to cook. So in that way Faye and I are very similar: We both love to eat.

I’m clearly more of a Cara than a Faye, but the question got me thinking about cooking and identity. On the show, Dr. Faye’s dislike of cooking suggests that she is not as domestic as other females; she’s so devoted to her career that she has neither the time nor the interest in making food. Her love of eating out also suggests that she has the sophistication and means to enjoy fine dining, much like the male advertising executives we see in other parts of the show.

In 2010, a love of cooking no longer seem connected to domesticity. Identifying oneself as a cook now has a much different connotation than it did fifty years ago. In fact, with the explosive rise of celebrity chefs and foodie culture, cooking has become its own brand of cool. People have always and will always need to eat, and I love how political, social, and cultural history have left indelible marks on the history of cooking. By looking back at how people used prepare the food they ate, we can discover large issues and find charming details about our past. However, despite the changes in the cultural position of cooking, one thing has remained constant: we still love to eat.

{Read the full interview; images from the Man Med Photo Gallery}

I am in North Carolina this weekend visiting my parents and dogs and going to the North Carolina State Fair. I used to go when I lived here, but never made it back during college. After living in New Jersey for four years and New York for a year and half, I have developed an unexpected longing for Southern food. In my more sophisticated moments, this longing manifests itself in a desire for truffled grits or catfish or other items you might see on a respectable restaurant menu. At other times, a far more gluttonous desire rears its ugly, deep-fried head.

{image from Serious Eats}

Lucky for me, the State Fair presents the perfect opportunity to indulge in such deep-fried, fat-laden treats. Featured in this year’s fair were the deep-fried pecan pie and the Krispy Kreme cheeseburger. These were in addition to the traditional stable of deep fried candy bars (Mars, Snickers, 3 Musketeers), fried pickles, and fried Oreos. I personally indulged in a serving of fried pickles and sampled the Krispy Kreme cheeseburger. I have had fried pickles before, and this particular serving lived up to my standard. They were also served with a packet of ranch dressing, which seemed odd to me, but actually did not taste bad. The donut cheeseburger was also shockingly delicious. The dough of the donut ends up tasting very similar to the average fast food burger bun and the glaze adds a hint of sweetness. I’d compare it to the sensation of spreading sweet barbecue sauce on something savory.

I did not have the stomach capacity to taste test every single deep-fried possibility at the fair this year, especially after slurping down a large cup sweet iced tea (New York, you will never get this right), but I was very happy and satisfied with the experience. People in the North seem to be afraid of dumping alarming amounts of butter, sugar, or lard into their recipes, so I thoroughly enjoyed partaking of a cuisine that is so completely unashamed of going over the top. I am glad I do not eat deep-fried slices of pie on a regular basis, but every once in a while a guilty pleasure must be gratified, and for that I thank you, North Carolina.