citrus pound cake with candied orange peel + weekend links

citrus pound cake with candied orange peel // brooklyn supperMarch has me feeling a little overwhelmed –– between colds, sick days, gentler weather, the time change (What is up with that? It’s been brutal this year.), and too much work, I’m feeling the crunch. But, for now anyway, things are calmer and I’m ready to head into a restorative week.

I made this pound cake a few weeks ago, when spring still felt a little iffy. But now, as the sun shines and pretty blossoms start to dot the landscape, it feels like a good fit for the times –– bright, frosty, and a last hurrah for citrus season. Head over to Handmade Charlotte for the recipe.

On Food52, another kind of in-beween dish, but this time a marinated beet salad with a garlic confit dressing. Balanced, earthy flavors are a good way to bide our time until the first of the spring produce rolls in.

I also made a tray of shepherd’s pie twice-baked potatoes. This dish may seem gimmicky at first blush, but then I hope you’ll realize that all you’ve ever wanted in a meal is mess of vegetables and lamb tucked into a potato and smothered with buttery mashed potatoes. Get the recipe on Babble.

The past few weeks have seen a lot of chatter and debate in the food and media worlds surrounding Food 52’s Piglet. I don’t fully take anyone’s side on this, but am so glad we’re having the discussion. Tied up in the whole thing are big topics, like what it means when us bloggers share an idyllic form of our lives online, and when a person is also a brand –– what’s the line between criticizing their work and just criticizing them? Helen Rosner wrote a great piece on Eater suggesting that it’s all artifice –– whether you’re living the rustic ideal in a French chateau or using a rock aesthetic to lend highbrow desserts an aura of cool. On Design*Sponge, Grace Bonney wrote eloquently on the difficulty in pinpointing the sweet spot between inspiring and ostentatious. There’s so much good stuff to unpack here, touching on everything from diversity in food media, to the purpose of cookbooks, to the fundamentals of what and how we share our lives online.

For me, this debate has really crystallized how unequipped we are to tackle issues of class. Because there’s been a lot of thoughtful commentary about sexism throughout this debate, but class is a central issue and it’s hardly been mentioned at all. Perhaps it’s asking a lot of food bloggers to have a sophisticated economic analysis ready to go when a cookbook controversy crops up. Readers come to us for pretty salads, not our take on Piketty. Still, if we’re going to engage with larger topics that intrude upon the world of food and cooking, we’d be better off really grappling with tough issues (like food blogging’s place in a performative culture that allows good aesthetics to stand in for good actions) instead of easy positions that we know will get us retweets (sexism=bad). It’s a tough thing to do artfully, I’ll admit, but it’s something we’re hoping to do a better job of on Brooklyn Supper in the future.

 

Comments

  1. says

    And this, my friend, is some of the most thoughtful commentary that I have read on the topic. You have masterfully expanded further the argument and the issues to add much more.

    Yes to class being the elephant in the room. We live in a culture where the fantasy is that “anyone can make it if you work hard enough”. And the flip side of that is “if you don’t make it, it’s your fault. Nothing systemic here – it’s a level playing field”.

    I look forward to more writing along these lines on a variety of topics because how can we really write about food without writing about class?

    • Elizabeth says

      Thanks for the kind words, Sandra. And you’re so right on class, and the “anyone can make it” approach. I feel that’s especially the case online. Like, you can do *anything* here, so if you’re not wildly successful, you must not be working hard enough. But the fact is, recipes, food, the perfect IG, and conference attendance are all expensive ventures that just aren’t accessible to many.

      And, I’ll do my best to accept your challenge to address these issues in food. It’s a tough thing to tackle, but I agree that we won’t progress or make real change until we do.

  2. Tricia says

    Ye, yes, and more yes to discussing class. Food blogging is inherently expensive – especially if you do it “right” (aka actually testing recipes, etc). Thus, in my opinoin, the field tends to sway toward that direction.

    Between unrealistic demands from outsiders (a hem: read a pubisher who had very specific demands about how I presented and what I presented) and my husband getting laid off twice it became a major issue in my writing and blogging – I simply could not afford to step outside the boundaries of my budget and didn’t want to compromise to do so. So I walked away. I let it go and stopped playing along. I sold and donated all my “props”. I let my kid use my striped paper straws for crafts and I deleted the publisher’s every ad and email from my life.

    I still cook awesome, fresh, local as possible food for my family but I don’t put it out there and I won’t compromise who I am to do so. Some people can find that sweet spot where their “performative” presentation, who they are, and what they can do all mesh perfectly, some cannot. There will always be people and books who rub us the wrong way and the unending quest for “authenticity” but there will also always be business and people who make themselves a commodity. Choosing and recognizing our comodification is an important aspect of online consumption which is seldom presented beyond the veil of search words and optimization and the ocassional “authenticity” talks at conferences. We really DO need to start talking about the hard topics – about class and culture and not just as $3 meals and gourmet – there is a space between those places and it is where most of us actually live. We need to also find a way to respect that some people have no issues with using every post as a conduit for a sponser and others who see monetezation as a hinderance to honest communication. I believe we can be both but the ways we talk about it have to change.

    • Elizabeth says

      Tricia, It’s so nice to hear from you! And thanks so much for your heartfelt comment. I miss your voice on the internet, and it was good to hear the reasons you pulled out.

      Brian and I have seen layoffs and other tough financial stuff over the past five years, and I so understand where you’re coming from. I decided to make it my mission to try and create beautiful dishes, but ones that also made sense for busy people and were affordable. I agree 100 percent with your take that we need wholesome, economical food –– the $3 dinner just doesn’t work for us either.

      And yes to just being aware of the strange performance of online life. I learned a lot from Joy the Baker at BSP that year. It was refreshing to see how comfortable she was with her online persona and how it differed from Joy Wilson. But for each of us, we need to find a way to carve these things out.

      Such a pleasure to hear from you –– thanks for the thoughtful contribution to the discussion. xo, e

    • Elizabeth says

      Thank you, Abby! (I had to make it 3 times to get things just so, but I’m really happy with the way that it came out.)

  3. says

    That last paragraph really hit the nail on the head.

    “We’d be better off really grappling with tough issues (like food blogging’s place in a performative culture that allows good aesthetics to stand in for good actions) instead of easy positions that we know will get us retweets (sexism=bad).”

    I feel myself struggling with this constantly but didn’t have a way of expressing it. Thank you for your thoughts on this topic!

    • Elizabeth says

      It’s great to know it resonated with you, Sonja. There was an excellent essay on the issues with, and uselessness of, aesthetic responses to social problems a while back, but I’m having trouble finding the link. I’ll drop it in when I find it. Thanks so much for being a part of this conversation.

  4. Gee says

    I baked two cakes last week both with frostings flavored by orange zest and the zest was the perfect ingredient so am excited to give your recipe a try. I haven’t read Food52’s Piglet but have read Grace Bonney’s essay. Would like to read more, see more “diversity in food media”.

    • Elizabeth says

      Zesty cakes are the best, right?

      And I agree, Gee –– we need more varied voices in the online food world. With Bonney, I love that she’s gone on to commit to featuring more down to earth spaces and projects, alongside the more aspirational ones. I think just featuring more realistic ideas online goes a long way to being more inclusive and relatable to a broader swath of people and curtailing the idea that things need to be “perfect” to share online.

  5. says

    A) This cake is just ridiculously beautiful. B) This is such a huge, weighted issue. I’ve had a lot of discussions recently about the state of food media, in particular how food blogs and social media sites have influenced the direction its taken. I think, like most things, it’s always good to look back and reflect on where we are and where it all came from. And, maybe, it all needs to be adjusted a bit. Anyway, my random, vague thoughts on all this.

    Hope you’re well and everyone’s feeling better!

    • Elizabeth says

      It feels like change is in the air, Brian. We’ve all been hearing that blogging is dead, things are changing, blah, blah, blah, but I really do feel a shift in things. The discussion surrounding the Piglet has been so refreshing –– I’m thrilled to see actual opinions and thoughts being shared throughout the community. I hope we all keep the discussion going.

  6. says

    Such a beautiful cake! And I really enjoyed reading your take on the whole state of food blogging debate. I think you’re right that a lot of the discussion around class (and, frankly, money) has gone unsaid in a debate which seems to have been drawn on gender lines.

  7. says

    Elizabeth, there’s so much I want to say…
    1. I hear you on the time change issue… I’m dragging myself out of bed every morning too.
    2. Your cake looks awesome.
    3. You bring up such an important issue in our world of food blogging, writing. Finding the right tone is tricky… if we don’t present something visually appealing, we wouldn’t have readers, but if we present something unattainable, we alienate folks. I continually remind myself of the reason I started my blog (and I’m guessing this is your reason too)… that I want to share the simple joy, beauty, health, and social connection that only food can bring. Of course a luxurious meal can bring pleasure, but so can a ripe tomato in August. It’s that accessible pleasure that really moves me most and I hope that is the common ground we can all strive to hold.
    Now I’m off to read Grace’s piece…
    xoxo to you and yours,
    E

    • Elizabeth says

      So well said, Erin. And, as you know, I love the balance you strike in your food and writing. It’s beautiful stuff, but also simple and good. I like the concept of “accessible pleasure” and striving to find the best in the everyday and share that easy goodness with readers. I really appreciate you sharing your POV on this. Sending happy spring wishes your way! xo, e

  8. says

    Gosh, Elizabeth, thanks so much for sharing this.

    I agree with Sandy in her comment above in that we’ve learned to chant this mantra of “if you work hard, you’ll succeed”, and that idea totally dismisses and invalidates class struggles (and kind of ignores the existence of class altogether). I think about this both in my consumption and my creation of online content. I’m privileged enough to know that my partner and I have enough food to feed ourselves adequately and healthfully. But money is sparse for us and I can’t afford to develop and test recipes, so what I share is what we eat. It isn’t innovative, it’s not meticulously tested (other than with time on our own kitchen table), but it’s what I have and for me, it’s honest. I say this not because I think I’m special or even in the minority of food bloggers, but because it strikes me as strange that it seems not to engage the same respect or attention as more gimmicky, exotic-ingredienty mash-up dishes photographed just so with perfect props and soft sidelight. That’s well and good, but I wonder why? Do we as consumers and followers of food blogs prefer to dream up and “be inspired” rather than to dialog and exchange? After too many hours of staring at neverending feeds of this shit, I think I have learned enough about myself that I can say “no, I don’t”.

    But that’s not to say that I wish everyone would share the way I like to. I’m going to speculate and suggest that Mimi Thorisson shares the way she shares not to communicate a specific hierarchy of classist or monetary privilege, but that, perhaps, she cooks with and represents herself in the way she does because marble floors and picking flowers is as real for her as butter and sugar is for Paula Deen (or as red lentils, Irish tunes, and twenty-sided dice are for me). Mimi’s content isn’t particularly relevant to me, but I can respect her sharing it all the same. I appreciate Helen Rosner’s lucid take on the issues of authenticity and artifice and am totally on board with this: “The constructed identities underscoring both Fancy Desserts and A Kitchen in France are completely okay. They’re both great books. They both tell great stories. If you have to compare one to the other […] it’s not just incorrect but damaging to say that one is real and the other is false, or that one writer’s nonchalance is authentic whereas the other’s is affected.”

    I think these different representations are a natural and unavoidable result of our human capacity to craft a narrative. Some bloggers share extravagant things, be it fashion, food, crafts, or even just ideas, because they are afforded the time and resources to do so, and it attracts for them a hungry and inspired audience. But I’ve seen folks go nutso-aspirational over more mundane things, too, like photographs of camping with just a bicycle, a tent, and some homemade fruit snacks, when it’s presented with appreciation and a strong aesthetic feel. For me, the intrigue lies less with the content creators and more with us as consumers. So rather than asking “Is this real? Is this right? Is this normal? Is this perfect?”, maybe a more constructive line of questioning with regard to consuming content of any medium would be “Am I edified by this? Do I like this story? Do I appreciate what’s shared here? Is this relevant to me and my life? Why and why not?”

    I don’t think the answers to those questions matter nearly as much as that we know we can answer them for ourselves in our every transaction and interaction. I wonder how (or if) our representations and performances and participation as consumers would change if our awareness and reflections of those processes were on the forefront of our minds throughout them.

      • Elizabeth says

        Jaime, I just realized I left this thoughtful comment hanging out there. I had tucked it away for a magical, non-existent time when I was reflective and could unpack all the smart things you lay out here. But, weeks later, here I am.

        I very much agree with your ideas. What’s presented by online personalities, for entertainment, income, or even in pursuit of pure beauty, is maybe best judged by relevance and edification. Turning the mirror on ourselves and our choices shows a lot. Aspirational media definitely has a place, but I do wish we’d all opt for simpler choices like the tent you mention. Any way we dissect this issue, it’s complicated, layered stuff.

        And, oh how I’d dread having my own consumer choices looked at this way, though I’m pretty sure that’s part of the draw of Whole Foods, our angelic status secured as we reached for the shade grown, single source, organic coffee (and that’s what I’d get every time except for that whole income thing.) As always, thanks for your presence here and keeping the conversation going. I’m a fan of those spare, practical recipes you share and the artful way you capture the everyday details of your life.

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