Local Flavors

Joined May 14, 2001
Hi Y'all -

Just a quick plug here for Local Flavors by Deborah Madison. She travelled to farmers markets all over the country and built recipes and menus based on the food she found there. All very seasonal, very local, ver Slow Food .:bounce:

She also breaks with her past by including some very tasty meat dishes.

Check it out!
Joined May 14, 2001
Well, Kimmie, far be it from me to question the experts at the NYT, but you know me, I'm gonna anyway.

In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that Deborah Madison will be my guest here in a couple of weeks, so I suppose I have a slight bias. However, that being said...

The article's author, Regina Schrambling, all but accuses Ms. Madison of being an elitist, simply because Ms. Madison voices her opinion. Ms Schrambling writes "The yogurt has to be goat's milk, the zucchini the Zephyr variety, the basil opal or Thai." What is elitist about recommending something that tastes great? 'Twould appear to me that Ms. Madison is trying to broaden some palettes - more power to her.

Ms Schrambling continues: "Her recipes are either so simple they barely qualify as recipes (simmer squash, toast pine nuts, combine on platter with Parmesan and basil) or so laborious you might want to order in a pizza while you work (for corn and chanterelle chowder, first make a vegetable stock)." Heaven forfend anyone might be encouraged to actually make their own stock! And in a book about farmers markets, no less!

Next annoying quotation referred to Ms Madisons trips "to Madison, Wis., to San Francisco, to Calgary, to Alabama and, of course, to Union Square in Manhattan." Yes, of course to Manhattan . Ugh. Please excuse my provincial Naiveté, but that kind of east coast snobbery is why we're glad out here that folks like Ms. Schrambling refer to us as a flyover state. And this from the woman who accuses Ms Madison, repeatedly, of being "elitist."

Now as for her analysis of the recipes and how well they work, the ones that I have worked with have presented me with no difficulty at all. The only one we (Ms. Schrambling and I) have in common is Salsa Verde with Basil, Cilantro and Mint, about which she says "A salsa verde of cilantro, basil and parsley involved stemming, washing, drying, chopping, blending and then dejection at the blandness." First of all, the book says "mint," not "parsley". Secondly, well, here's the recipe:

1 Jalepeno, seeded
1 large bunch cilantro, stems removed
1/2 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup MINT leaves
2 small garlic cloves
1/2 cup + 2 T olive oil
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
sea salt

"1. Chop the first 5 ingredients very finely, then stir in 1/4 c. water, the oil, the lime zest and juice.
2. Taste for salt and adjust the balance of lime juice to oil, if needed. Or, pulse the chile, garlic and herbs, then gradually add the water, oil, and lime zest and juice to taste."

If Ms. Schrambling got "dejection at the blandness" out of this, regardless of her use of parsley for the mint, I question either the quality of her ingredients or her ability with a knife, or both.

Really, though, what bothers me the most is her suggestion that advocating high quality ingredients is elitist. What would be the point of a book like this if it did not advocate for some of the ingredients that perhaps you would NOT find at the local WalMart Super Center?

Not only that, but the few pleasant things she does have to say about the book are buried 2/3 of the way down the page.

Please, I beg you, judge for yourself. I realize I speak from a bit of a bias here, but the book really is worth your time.
Joined Jul 3, 2002
A rather unnecessarily nasty review, it seemed to me ("bitchy" is the word that comes to mind) . And, I agree, the NYT reviewer exhibited an elitism Ms. Madison would be hard pressed to match.

Devotay, your criticism of the review was clear, intelligent, and far more compelling. Why not send it on to the Times?

And, by the way, I find farmers' markets to be cheaper than chain markets. Even "organic" produce is cheaper than the corporate dead soldiers lining the bins of Vons and Ralphs out here in the West.:cool:
Joined May 26, 2001
I must say, I too was surprised and shocked at the negative tone of the review. But, please, Devotay, don't think that the Union Square Greenmarket was mentioned out of snobbery. It is the seminal farmers' market here in NYC (although possibly the one in Jamaica, Queens started earlier, Union Square has grown and thrived like nothing else). It is truly an exciting place when it's at its peak, with many farmers and fishers and bakers and winemakers and cheesemakers and raisers of poultry and livestock. Ask Shroom about it; she's been here and seen it. Since 9/11, when all the Greenmarkets located at government buildings were closed for "security reasons," and even though the street reconstruction around Union Square has cut off a considerable part of its space, it is still the largest, most varied farmers' market we have here.

Also, considering Regina Schrambling's background (as revealed in her NY Times Magazine and food section articles over the past many years), I find it very hard to think of HER as an elitist. I found the book's mentions of highly specific ingredients to be possible impediments to the many people who feel they MUST follow a recipe to the letter, because they [feel they] lack the knowledge or skill to make satisfactory substitutions. So in that I agree with Ms. Schrambling. Using a more generic yogurt or type of basil would still result in a tasty dish; to list (=require) a certain specific variety is quite off-putting and not necessarily flavor-optimizing.
Joined Mar 13, 2001
I also thought the review was unnecessarily harsh and I wanted to bring about some healthy discussion. Seems like I succeeded :)

Devotay and Shroom: just make sure she (Ms. Madison) authographs your copy and enjoy her book! ;)
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Union Square is a great farmer's Market....alive!!! varied products and so many farmers in Jan. What a treat!

Joan Gussow had an interesting comment about Deborah Madison's book...she said it took guts to put boiled greens down as the first recipe. The respect she had for Deborah was genuine.
Joined May 14, 2001

I meant no disrespect the Union Square Market, I have been there and it is fabulous. That was not my point. My point stems, I suppose, from her use of the words "of course." It reflects the common attitude that the universe revolves around NYC, an attitude that most of the rest of the nation if not the world really resents.

I used to live in NYC (@58th & 1st, above a laundry) and I do love the city, but when people take it for granted that everyone assumes NYC is the first, biggest and best of everything it tends to get annoying.

Now I must admit that I have read only a few of Ms. Schrambling's articles in the Times (I only get the Sunday Times in print - I read the Food section on Wednesdays online sometimes). Ordinarily she does not strike me as elitist either. I do think that her criticism of Madison's choice of ingredients is unfounded, though. This book could not be construed as a first step, beginners cookbook. I contend that if the book is of interest to someone in the first place, they are probably already pretty good at dealing with ingredients. Even if they are not, though, it does not take a culinary degree to come up with the idea that ordinary yogurt might make a reasonable substitute for goat's milk yogurt if that's not available.

To hear Ms. Madison's point of view first hand, I invite everyone to listen to her interview from last week at


Just scroll down to August 15 and listen to this archive interview on Realplayer.
Joined May 26, 2001
Devotay, I do understand your point. But remember that however much they believe themselves to be the national paper of record, the newspaper is still the New York Times. Any such NYC-centrism is to be expected. Were a writer in USA Today to put it that way, I'd be much more suspect of the motivation (not to say amazed that it should be in there at all! ;) )
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