Ingredients: A hunger for knowledge; boundless energy and enthusiasm; a love of architecture and design; a passion for cooking and for good food.
Method: About three years spent travelling across North America visiting famous people’s homes and museums in a quest for the perfect kitchen.
Recipe for success: A brilliant book called “The Kitchen” by John Ota.
The 13 kitchens John visited are in chronological order in this lively, info-packed and well written book. They begin with the 1627 Pilgrims’ kitchen located in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and end with the Pearlstone Kitchen in North Saanich, Vancouver Island, B.C. In between are the Georgia O’Keeffe kitchen in Abiquin, New Mexico, plus the kitchens of showbiz personalities like Louis Armstrong and Elvis Presley. Most important, John dropped in at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., where Julia Child’s kitchen is a highlight of that institution. Shameless plug: Julia, my mentor and friend, cooked me breakfast of her famous scrambled eggs in that very kitchen in 1999.
John Ota cooked in most of the kitchens he visited. Recipes are at the back of the book. As usual, I tried several of them – all worked splendidly.
Julia Child’s Cheese Soufflé is easy-peasy and delicious. John sought out the celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s home in Pennsylvania; that chapter has a recipe for Baked Alaska that turned out perfectly. And Anne Lewison – a former architecture school classmate of John’s – has lived on the Lower East Side of New York for years. They did a tour of the Tenement Museum near her apartment and checked out its kitchen. Then the pair cooked her grandmother’s Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls at Anne’s home to evoke the many Jewish immigrants that formerly populated the neighbourhood. Here’s the recipe:
Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls
I use my own chicken soup for this; you can use your favourite recipe. Mine includes a mandatory ingredient – one or two parsnips.
These are light and fluffy but hold together.
2 tbsp schmaltz or vegetable oil
¼ cup club soda or chicken broth
1 cup matzo meal
Salt and pepper
Mix eggs well fork in medium bowl. Add schmaltz or oil, soda water or chicken broth, matzo meal, salt and pepper. Mix until blended. Refrigerate for several hours.
Wet hands in cold water and make about a dozen balls.
Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add salt. Add matzo balls. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add to soup.