Foodbuzz 24x24: Food Writing Workshop

posted on: Sunday, January 30, 2011

For lunch I'm having leftovers from yesterday's dinner.

I'm having my asparagus tart, the one that's really Martha's Stewart's Asparagus-Gruyere Tart but I like to claim as my own. It's a special tart I make for friends (I'll tell you more about that in a minute) and since yesterday I was going to have dinner with 12 new friends I figured I would make my special tart.

Every month Foodbuzz hosts an online event called 24x24 which showcases 24 meals in 24 hours. This month I was one of the featured publishers chosen to document a special meal, and yesterday's dinner sure was special. 

Last night my tummy and my soul were fed. As I stood around the table with 12 other women, in a house I had never been before, some shared stories about growing up in the 60s to women who are just now growing up, I felt right at home. Sharing food and sharing stories about food, true life stories, is the definition of nourishment in my world. 

Yesterday I was nourished by the hands and hearts of 12 strangers and it was delicious.

Laura Davis is an incredible writer who's work taught me about parenting and about healing when I needed it most. Yesterday she taught me a little more about food writing. Laura had the foresight to organize a food writing retreat where a group of strangers could come together to write, share, and eat.

Laura Davis had us do a series of writing prompts that were timed. I took a notebook and a pen and an open mind because I am not used to writing on paper anymore, and I'm certainly not used to free writing and certainly not used to silencing that voice in my head that just wants to cross out words and edit. But free writing is important, I truly believe it. It allows you to get all the mess out in order to clear the way for the good stuff. More often than not you realize that within all the jumbled mess of words strung together in a quick and unorganized fashion there are little seeds waiting to be planted into something that will bear beautiful fruit.

Do you want to try a few food writing practices? 

O.K here we go, I will share with you some of the prompts we used yesterday

The rule is that you have to write for 15 minutes and you have to write the entire time without stopping. Use these prompts as beginning points and allow yourself to go wherever the prompt takes you. Don't worry about spelling, grammar or complete sentences and don't cross things out. Think of it as a rough first draft to a post you could develop later on.

  1. Write about a childhood food that has gone extinct.
  2. Write about something you are scared to eat.
Yes, we did a lot of writing and a lot of listening and towards the end of the night we also did a lot of eating. Everyone brought a dish to share. It was pure magic. The dish had to have a story behind it and since everyone has such different life stories there were a variety of dishes to taste from ranging from organic kale salad to a thick creamy pot of tuna casserole with bacon. I brought my asparagus tart and here is what I wrote about it:

If there is one thing I will never attempt to make it is puff pasty. I don't even want to go there, to that place where butter needs to be chilled and intricate layers are involved with the potential of failure. I will never make my own puff pastry, or my own croissant for that matter. But every week I will buy a pain au chocolat from the local French bakery and I will buy puff pastry from the supermarket, either Whole Foods or Trader Joe's depending on how much money I feel like spending on food that week. A couple months ago I bought a Martha Stewart cookbook at Costco. It was on sale and it promised easy recipes. I was sold. I thought it would be good for my family if I owned such a book, with beautiful yet quick recipes to refer to. I looked through every page in that book, sticking little pieces of torn paper between the pages  bookmarking the recipes I wanted to try. One recipe in particular caught my attention it was called "Asparagus-Gruyere Tart". The picture showed beautiful green asparagus neatly laying side by side on top of a crunchy, flaky, bed of warm puff pastry. I bookmarked that recipe with a piece of paper, took out my calendar and thought, "this is a Tuesday kind of meal and I'm making it."

I bought the puff pastry, the asparagus, and Gouda cheese because Gruyere was too expensive, and I went home ecstatic to make this new promising dish. The tart was a downer. My husband considered it a side dish and ate a whole bowl of cold cereal after dinner. Apparently tarts don't fill you up. The baby took a few bites and fed the rest of it to the floor. Then there was Enzo, my four year old who refuses to eat anything that is green. I tried to convince him that the tart was mostly white and that he should at least give it a try. Puff pastry is white, cheese is white, and really the asparagus is the only green thing he needed to deal with, no biggie I thought. Enzo removed what he called "the evil greens" and set the asparagus on the table far away from his plate so as not to contaminate the rest of his dinner. He ate the puff pastry with cheese that was indented with the shape of the missing asparagus. It broke my heart.

I ate the tart and tried to enjoy it but it's hard to feel excited about something when the rest of the family is not. I thought about never making it again but decided that I liked it too much to never eat it again. So instead of abondaning a perfectly good recipe I would give it another try, only this time I would bake it for a different crowd. I made the tart a second time and shared it with my girl friends, women who aren't afraid of green things, who leave their food on their plate, and who certainly consider tarts an entree and not an appetizer before a bowl of cold cereal. They were thrilled.

Food is often where I find myself, my individuality, my likes and dislikes, my true passions. I often don't get a chance to cook for me. I cook for Christian and Enzo and baby Maria. I cook for them because they are my family and I am responsible for their well being. But in so doing I often have to silence the part of me that craves more. So now this is my dish, the dish I make for my friends when I can be away from the family. This is my asparagus tart.

My Asparagus Tart
1 sheet frozen puff pasty
2 cups shredded Gouda cheese
1 pound medium thick asparagus
4 hearts of palm
olive oil
salt and lemon pepper to taste
  1. Thaw out the puff pastry according to the instructions on the package.
  2. Preheat oven to 400*
  3. On a floured surface roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle and place it on top of a cookie sheet.
  4. With a knife lightly score the the dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle.
  5. With a fork pierce the dough inside the rectangle at 1/2 inch intervals.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the pastry dough from the oven and sprinkle with cheese.
  8. Then trim the ends of the asparagus and lay then each side by side on top of the cheese.
  9. Cut the hearts of palm lengthwise and layer in between the asparagus.
  10. Sprinkle olive oil, salt, and lemon pepper on top.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes
  12. Seve it to your friends.
Laura Davis is doing a second food writing workshop in March with all new prompts. 
If you live in or around Santa Cruz, California sign up to come
Maybe I'll see you there. 


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