Checking It Twice

My friend Ellen, like many people I know a much more skilled cook than I, wrote with some well-taken exceptions and good additions to my post on Megan's updated kitchen gift list. With her permission I offer an abridged summary:

I completely agree with you on all points, but one: Calphalon. I took the finish completely off on two separate and newish pots, twice, with batches of a rhubarb compote. Returned pots to company, who swore this was impossible, but they admitted it and that the anodizing does go in the presence of high-acid (think also tomato sauces). I sold every piece I had, concerned about leaching of aluminum and its anodized components into food (not good).

I've had similar experience with acidic ingredients: I long heated tomato sauce in a large Calphalon pot while pasta boiled in the gorgeous Alessi double pasta pot I got as a gift (it still retails for $500! Seems like it did fifteen years ago; the company's Web site dates it to 1982), and then I would heat the drained pasta in the sauce--as you of course also do every time you make pasta. The bottom of the pot turned white years ago. I assumed it was the acid, but haven't been concerned about leaching, because once aluminum, the core material, is anodized, it is said not to leach into food, and it never occurred to me that anodizing itself could deteriorate. Similar concerns might explain why a nice-looing set of three Calphalon pots, unused, turned up recently at my local thrift shop.

Have since cooked only in stainless (Sitram), stainless-lined copper, cast iron, and enamel-lined iron (Le Creuset). Am baking Jim Lahey bread in my brand new splurge Emily Henry ceramic pot.

For some reason Le Creuset seems to be undergoing a big revival this year. Always reliable, like well-seasoned cast iron, which of course is the base, and the enamel saves you from having to worry about the seasoning to keep it fairly stick-free. Maybe it's the new colors the enamel comes in, contra Megan's advice never to buy colors you'll later regret.

I, too, haul out my ancient Cuisinart for certain but rare applications (grinding nuts with flour, making a vat of hummus every few weeks, and also for your Unbeatable Chocolate Biscotti, made frequently). My knives, the Kitchen Aid mixer, or the blender I still have (wedding present to my parents--you can imagine the colors) by far the best.

Two Cuisinarts also appeared at my local thrift shop, one the original, and handsomer, International Style squared-off design, one the less-successful rounded one. The signs said they worked perfectly. They were still dusty.

Am mystified by the Silpat craze. I don't even like the feel of it, like all those ghastly sticker rubber kids toys of gross creatures. Just bake cookies on parchment!

And buy sturdy metal cooking sheets, and lots of them. Time to decide which cookies to bake in the snow--and finally dig in to some of the new cookbooks I've been saving for this week. Report to follow, but know that my first stop is Jim Peterson's new Baking, which like all of his books--many of them written in collaboration with our Sally Schneider--will be instructive beyond the recipe at hand.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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