January 17, 2006


Heidi Swanson samples her new stovetop smoker. I've had a smoker on my list since Sydney, where I ate some wonderful smoked ocean trout.

Swanson's piece is especially interesting because she's a vegetarian. Smoked salmon, smoked turkey, smoked sausage -- they're all out of bounds. But these, surely, are the foods that people interested in smokers are most eager to read about! She compensates brilliantly with a catalog of things that would be great to smoke, and finds a way to smoke them all. Notice, too, how she casually explains why the recipe is the way it is:

Your vegetables and tofu are probably well cooked at this point but not really looking their best. Now it's time to give them some color and crust.

This sort of information is now ubiquitous in the best food writing, but it used to be quite rare. Just ten or fifteen years ago, you might have six or seven recipes, each proposing the same steps, but without motivating the sequence. Julia Child does this occasionally; I suspect that Cook's might be responsible for its current ubiquity, but I may well be wrong.