Is there interest?

When Toby and I began this project, I wondered if there would be any interest whatsoever in the history of food reporting. I mean, I knew there are a lot of random, niche research topics out there, but I didn’t know what to expect. (That shoutout’s for you, Franny. Sorry I couldn’t find a better comics link.)

With that, I’d like to thank the person yesterday who ran the term “the history of sesame steak” through their search engine and stumbled upon our site. I don’t know if they found what they were looking for, but at least they were interested.

Sesame steak. We didn't cook this.
Sesame steak. We didn’t cook this.


Published in: on February 26, 2008 at 8:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Just an ordinary guy

Before we left for Michigan, Toby and I made our trip to UW to scrounge through the L.A. Times microfiche. We were on a quest to satisfy my inexplicable curiosity with what sort of students would undertake a marinated flank steak salad.

The grad school library, Suzzallo.

Suzzallo is probably my favorite building at UW, and it didn’t let me down.

Searching for our fiche
Locating October 2004.

The fiche readers they have are pretty high-tech. They’re great quality, plus you can highlight any part of a page and instantly e-mail that portion to yourself. It was extremely convenient, considering that the machines I use at the Seattle Public Library require you to do a preliminary scan, a crop, a final scan, then a save onto a thumb drive (or print it and never have access to it again).

Searching through the archives.
Searching through the archives.

The pictures were pretty muddled, but it looks like the gents who crafted the marinated flank steak salad are just ordinary college students. I did notice that the article gives the disclaimer that these are part of the “essential (but adventurous) kitchen.” So these aren’t run-of-the-mill Top Ramen guys. That makes more sense, then.

I realized I never posted our final product, so here’s that as well:

Marinated Flank Steak Salad 
Ta da!

And so we arrive at the end of our L.A. Times marinated flank steak salad adventure. Thanks for playing along with us!

Join us next time, where we will either:
a) show you my awesome newspaper-related Christmas presents or
b) share the culinary results of Pat Nixon‘s favorite banana bread recipe (true story).

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!


Published in: on December 28, 2007 at 1:11 pm  Comments (1)  
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Are you cooking this stuff?

Who cooks this stuff?

How many people actually settle down at home with their copy of the Sunday Times and say, “Ah, yes, this will be a fine supper?”

Apparently the recipe we’re attempting tonight was originally intended for college students. It was printed on Oct. 27, 2004 in the L.A. Times. After you see the steps involved, I wonder if you will emerge as skeptical of its intended chefs as I did.

Now, it’s entirely possible that as an undergraduate who stayed on campus all four years, my college cooking skills were irreversibly stunted and I am operating on that bias. However, I wish more than anything that I could see the photo of the two USC students that originally accompanied this story.

Christy Hedges describes her son and his roommates this way in her article, “Grill your way through college”:

Oh, brave young homesteader. You are not a newlywed, and no one has yet showered you with Cuisinarts, cookbooks or china. You can make a sandwich or a salad, but that’s about it.

That’s the situation my son recently found himself in. He’s a sophomore at USC, living in an apartment off-campus with two roommates. They love to eat, and have palates more worldly than mine was when I was in college.

“Get a grill pan,” I told him. “It’s like grilling outside; you even get nice grill marks.”

He and his roommates loved the idea. But they needed recipes. And they needed me to walk them through it all.

Who are these young men who have set aside an evening to infuse a cheap cut of steak “with the flavors of chile, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and citrus”? I have put in a request with the Times Company to see the pictures of these diligent young men, because the pictures aren’t included on ProQuest and we don’t have the L.A. Times microfiche on file at the Seattle Public Library. I’ll update you as I learn more.

Photo Request
My photo request, which will hopefully allow me to eventually show, “The writer’s son, Duncan Hedges, left, and his roommate Kevin Kawachi prepar[ing] marinated flank steak salad. The easy-to-make dish also includes grilled asparagus.” As well as “Hedges grill[ing] the steak after it is infused with the flavors of chile, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and citrus.”

I don’t just have trouble picturing people tackling complex recipes when I’m envisioning 20-somethings. After all, one of my big projects for my Christmas visit home is to go through all the recipes Mom cut out and filed away in big manila envelopes. She’s found a few gems throughout the years, but I would have expected a bit more from a stack that reaches close to two feet high.

In her fantastic article on the history of food reporting, Molly O’Neill refers to menus we lust after, yet never reproduce, as food porn — “prose and recipes so removed from real life that they cannot be used except as vicarious experience.”

Food writers have always walked the dangerous lines between journalism, art, and their role as handmaiden to advertising. But we have not wobbled quite so regularly in nearly a half century as we do today. Food has carried us into the vortex of cool. There, the urge to become part of the story is stronger than the duty to detach and observe and report the story.

O’Neill also wants to know, “Who’s cooking this stuff?”

At a book signing, O’Neill’s mom finally tackles the tenderly roasted and stuffed elephant in the room:

“Do you actually cook that stuff?” [she asks.]

“Of course not,” replied the customer, who looked like my mother, tall, lean, with a white cap of stylishly coiffed hair. “Every week I cut them out of the magazine and promise myself I will cook them. Don’t we all?”

Toby and I decided to join the brave few who actually tested our clippings. We printed up the “simple” recipe (the ingredients list barely fit on a typed page) and gave ourselves the one hour(!!!) prep time suggested.

Care to try? Here’s how you, too, can make a marinated flank steak salad.

Christy Hedges. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: Oct 27, 2004. pg. F.3

Marinated flank steak salad
Total time: 1 hour, plus 1 hour marinating time
Servings: 4

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (we used chopped ginger in a bottle)
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, seeded, cored and minced (we went for the serrano)
1 3/4 pounds flank steak (we had closer to 1 2/5 pounds)

1. Mix the sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice, orange juice, lime zest, orange zest, garlic, ginger and minced chile to make a marinade. Put the flank steak in a large resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the top. Close the bag and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of one-half Valencia orange
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1. Mix together the sesame oil, peanut oil, rice vinegar, lime juice, orange juice, ginger, garlic, honey and soy sauce in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Makes two-thirds cup.

Steak and assembly (what does this mean, anyway?)
1 bunch thin asparagus
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Marinated flank steak
2 (5-ounce) bags arugula
1 pint red cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin

1. Wash and trim the asparagus. Brush with the peanut oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a seasoned grill pan over medium- high heat. Grill the asparagus, rolling them to cook all sides until they are just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Remove the steak from the marinade and grill for approximately 6 minutes on each side until medium rare. Let rest for about 5 minutes and slice very thinly on the bias against the grain.

3. Put the arugula, tomatoes and onions in a large bowl. Add the asparagus. Pour dressing over the salad and gently mix to coat. Arrange the steak slices on top.

Click this link for a printable PDF of the ingredients and recipe: Marinated Flank Steak Salad


Published in: on December 2, 2007 at 5:07 pm  Comments (2)  
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