Once upon a time, when I was just out of college and had my own apartment for the first time — no, we will not discuss when that was — I owned The Silver Palate Cookbook, The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, The New Basics Cookbook, Great Good Food and All Around the World Cookbook, and everything I cooked came from one of those books. Lukins & Rosso what would I have eaten without you?! (And now I’ve gone ahead and dated myself, but if you recognize the references then chances are you’re as old as I am anyway.)
Those books have long since been supplanted in my repertoire many times over. These days the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks take pride of place and The Silver Palate is up on a shelf that I can’t reach without the aid of a stool which, let’s face it, I’m really not likely to get out in order to pick the evening’s recipe. But no matter how many times I consider throwing away those old cookbooks and freeing up the shelf space, I just can’t bring myself to do it. There were some really great recipes in those books! Even without mouth-watering pictures to tempt me, every once in a while I will come back to those books because the memory of the incredible dishes inside makes me hungry.
One of my favorite recipes, this one out of New Basics, is the Moroccan Chicken. It comes in particularly handy when I’m having company for dinner. I will warn you that I once prepared this for my grandmother when, after I had slaved away in the kitchen for the afternoon and proudly presented her with a plate of my masterpiece, she took one bite and said, “I tell you the truth, it’s a bit dry. Where’s the sauce? Isn’t there supposed to be a sauce? This could really use a sauce?” No, there is NOT supposed to be a sauce! So if your grandmother is one of those folks who likes a sauce with her chicken, DO NOT serve her this dish. Otherwise, by all means, go for it.
I went through a bit of an internal struggle about whether or not to write this post. I am doing it against my better judgement. The fact is, that for all of my talk about culture and art not being elitist, and ideally being an integral part of everyone’s lives and surroundings, when it comes to discreet works of Art — paintings that are meant to be hung on a wall, sculpture – I still believe there is such a thing as Art with a capital “A”. I organize people in a way that I see as realistic, but is probably in fact more elitist than I’ll ever quite feel comfortable admitting to, based on an inherent belief in talent. Some people are simply better at some things than others, and all the effort and training and education in the world isn’t going to change that. I constantly struggle with the ideology which seems to be pervasive at my kids’ school which suggests that, given equal opportunity, everyone is capable achieving the same success as everyone else in everything. Some people are just better at math than others. Those others may be better at sports or at writing. Certainly education and opportunity can shape the degree to which individuals are or are not able to realize these talents. But I do believe the talents are primary.
Supply and demand, price point — market forces are a powerful thing. They’re the reality of how our financial system operates. But still, it’s so darn unfair sometimes … it can’t help but burn a little. Target messed up big time with their Missoni collection. There’s really no excuse. A company that large and that successful, their computer systems simply should have been ready to handle the influx of traffic and should have been programmed correctly to manage inventory vs. incoming orders. I was interested to learn that Target’s website had been managed in conjunction with Amazon up until a month before the Missoni launch at which point Target took on sole management of its website. Oops. If you ask me, it’s just plain irresponsible. And then canceling the orders of customers that were placed at 6 am on the day of the launch while fulfilling orders placed later for the exact same merchandise. It’s incredibly disrespectful of their dedicated customers. But the amazing thing is that Target, most likely, will not have to pay any price for the blunder. Had a smaller company pulled the same thing, it would be out of business, plain and simple. Target being Target, we all somehow still feel the need to shop there — a need that doesn’t go away overnight. We still see it as a unique source of affordable, tasteful fashion. True style for the masses. And the designer collaborations continue.
So, in spite of the morally righteous anger that I feel toward Target for canceling a large part of my order (yes, I’m secretly glad they did, since they saved me a hell of a lot of money spent on stuff I absolutely did not need … but still), I find myself compelled to jump right on board again and order half of the hats in the Albertus Swanepoel for Target collection.
They’re great hats. They’re $19.99 each. I am not a hats person. I feel utterly self conscious in a hat. And yet for $19.99, who can resist? They’re just so darn much fun. And that is much of the beauty of fashion after all — having fun. So I already have the darn hats in my cart at Target.com, and am planning my trip to the store for those that aren’t available online.
OK, I am all about designer collaborations with mass market venues. Missoni for Target last month — AWESOME! Infuriating in how poorly it was handled by Target, but a great collaboration. Karl Lagerfeld for Macy’s at the end of August — hit or miss, but some truly special pieces. I got a blouse which receives loads of complements every time I wear it. These collections are the work of gifted designers. I would not have the opportunity to own their work under any other circumstances. And I see it as a wonderful development that the general public now has access to beautiful clothes made by talented designers previously reserved for an elite few.
So, I can hardly wait for the Versace for H&M collection to hit stores on November 19. I’m not sure what to do about the prospect of having to camp out in front of H&M before dawn in order to have any hope of getting anything, but the women’s designs are fabulous and I have my eyes on a few things. And yet, I am left dumbstruck by the men’s collection.