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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #136

Updated on May 10, 2020
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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

Welcome to My Kitchen

There were only two questions this week, but boy they were good ones. I don't want to waste any time, so let's get started. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

Who Were the Pioneers in Healthy Eating?

"New one: who were the chef pioneers with regards to healthy eating? Who carried the banner early when nobody was paying attention to fats and the like?"

Bill Holland, what a great question. At this moment in time, we are not dining in restaurants, and, with unemployment or under-employment, perhaps many of us are scaling back our fun (but costly) consumption of take-out fast food. As a result, I hope that we will not only learn (or relearn) how to cook but also how to eat healthier.

So, you're wondering who were the pioneers? Who helped to steer us away from the fatty Escofier sauces, the meat-and-potatoes meals of our childhoods, and the fast-food nation? Well, it wasn't this one.

"With enough butter, anything is good." —Julia Child

And although she has now turned over a new (culinary) leaf because of a late-in-life diagnosis of diabetes, this one also was a cook who gleefully led us down the primrose path of loving all things fatty and porky.

"Down South, even our vegetables have some pig hidden somewhere in it. A vegetable isn't a vegetable without a little ham hock." —Paula Deen

But there are four names that immediately come to mind.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Alice WatersRick BaylessJerry TraunfeldGraham Kerr
Alice Waters
Alice Waters | Source
Rick Bayless
Rick Bayless | Source
Jerry Traunfeld
Jerry Traunfeld | Source
Graham Kerr
Graham Kerr | Source

Alice Waters

The first chef is Alice Waters, an American restaurateur, chef, and food activist who promoted the "slow food" movement (the antithesis of fast food).

She earned a degree in French Cultural Studies at the University of California-Berkeley, even studying in France for a semester. It was there that she fell in love with the farm-to-plate concept of eating local, organic, and minimally processed foods and made a commitment to herself to make market-fresh cooking her life's pursuit. Alice's lack of restaurant experience was exceeded only by her meager supply of cash, but she was passionate about creating a healthy and environmentally responsible dining experience. Together with friend Lindsey Shere, she opened Chez Panisse in 1971.

I was so naïve! I was looking for taste, the taste of food I’d eaten in France. I was looking for a certain way of life. I was thinking about a philosophy of food that’s been around since the beginning of civilization: You buy what’s in the market, you eat what’s locally in season, you share it with family and friends, and you take care of the land. I’m grateful that I had a community of friends I could count on to take of me if I wasn’t making money—because that’s certainly what happened.

— Alice Waters in her acceptance of the National Humanities Medal, 2015

The concept was unique; each day offer a different five-course, prix-fixe menu made from locally sourced ingredients. After eight years and several near-clashes with bankruptcy, Alice was finally making a profit and could turn her attention to her a new creative endeavor, the Garden Project in which she raised fresh produce for the San Francisco county jail and employed former inmates to provide the labor.

Her next project was the Edible Schoolyard, a program that she began in 1995 to establish teaching gardens in elementary and middle schools.

Alice's once Avante-guard approach to cooking has now become mainstream; wherever you are, when you dine on fresh organic foods, you can thank Alice Waters.

Rick Bayless

Rick Bayless has a hefty shelf of awards. He’s a James Beard-winning chef, he won the first season of “Top Chef Masters,” is the author of eight cookbooks, and is the owner-director of three restaurants featuring authentic Mexican cuisine.

This host of the PBS series "Mexico—One Plate at a Time," comes from a long line of Oklahoma restauranteurs famous for local barbecue. Making great food for others is in his blood, but undergraduate studies in Latin American culture shifted his attention from barbecue to Mexican cuisine. Rick delved deeper into the history of Latin American foods in his doctoral study of anthropological linguistics at the University of Michigan, and for 7 years lived in Mexico with his wife. It is there that he authored his first book "Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico."

Rick's recipes are not the foods you will find in typical Mexican restaurants in the U.S. He takes us back to the roots of indigenous cooking, utilizing the plants and herbs and foodstuffs that are native to that part of the world.

He is also one of the founders of Chefs Collaborative, a national nonprofit network whose mission is to inspire, educate, and celebrate chefs and food professionals.

Great food, like all art, enhances and reflects a community’s vitality, growth and solidarity. Yet history bears witness that great cuisines spring only from healthy local agriculture.

— Rick Bayless

Jerry Traunfeld

Once upon a time, there was a teenage boy who lived in Silver Spring, Maryland. He didn’t fit into the jock, or nerd, or popular-kids cliques. When everyone else was into sports or dating or generally misbehaving, Jerry Traunfeld was cooking in his family’s kitchen. His inspiration was Julia Child.

The first hot dish I remember making on my own was [Child's] potato soup," he says. "I taught myself mostly from cookbooks, and throughout junior high and high school, cooking and baking were my main hobbies.

— Jerry Traunfeld

Those hobbies became a career in 1983 when he graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. He quickly landed executive chef jobs, first at Ernie’s and then at the prestigious Stars. While still in his 20’s he moved to Seattle to become the executive chef of The Alexis Hotel.

Jerry had another artistic passion—gardening. In 1990 his love of cooking and gardening merged when he became the executive chef of The Herbfarm, a small restaurant in Woodinville, Washington, just 30 miles north of Seattle. Originally The Herbfarm was little more than a few dining tables adjacent to a working herb nursery but with Jerry’s expertise it became a top-rated dining destination, gaining national attention when he won the James Beard award for “Best Chef Northwest.”

Traunfeld is the author of The Herbfarm Cookbook, Simon & Schuster, and The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor, Harper Collins. A trip to India in 1997 took his career in yet another direction. While there conducting research for a new cookbook, he discovered thali, round platters filled with six individual “small bites” that feature sweet, salty, bitter, sour, spicy, and umami. So, it came to pass that after 17 years of working for The Herbfarm, he opened his own restaurant in 2008. Poppy (named after his mother) fused the small-platter dining with his signature flair for using seasonal produce and fresh herbs. Jerry sold Poppy in 2019 and he and his husband now live in Palm Springs.

Graham Kerr

And then there was Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet. He, along with Julia, was one of the first TV food entertainers. Born and raised in London, he first stepped in front of the camera in New Zealand in 1960 with “Entertaining with Kerr.” In 1964 he moved to Sydney and became an overnight sensation. A lucrative offer from an American television company brought him to North America in 1969.

He was a "galloping" gourmet because, under the direction of his wife/producer Treena, he began every episode by leaping over the sofa (glass of wine in hand) into the kitchen. That isn't all that was memorable about his program. To say that his cooking was over the top is a gross understatement. Graham was once labeled “the high priest of hedonism” and awarded the Broken Spoon Award by Weight Watchers International for his displays of excess with heavy cream and clarified butter. In response, he quipped “Madam, you could go outside and get run over by a bus and just think what you would have missed!”

Then overnight his and Treena's lives were changed. They were involved in a near-fatal auto accident (rear-ended by, of all things, a vegetable truck). Graham made a full recovery but his beloved Treena was never completely the same again. For years she battled pain pill addiction, then a heart attack and ultimately a debilitating stroke.

Shortly after the car accident, both of them became Christians. Graham made a culinary about-face. Full fat excess was abandoned for flavor-forward cooking which he dubbed “minimax”—minimum fat and cholesterol and maximum aroma, color, texture, and taste. Graham produced a new cooking show “The Graham Kerr Show” in Seattle, Washington. Along the way, he wrote 30 books.

He retired from television in 1995. Treena died just five days before their 60th wedding anniversary. Graham lives alone now. The home that he and Treena shared in the Skagit Valley was sold two years ago. He sold/garage-saled many of his belongings and relocated to a retirement community.

He fills his days cooking for friends, gardening (a new passion), doing volunteer work for his church, and occasionally gives talks at local meetings. He is in the midst of authoring one more book, this one on what it is like to live alone.

I’m still cooking and gardening, but now I cook for one. I don’t have Treena to look after anymore, but the ripple has widened. I want to see how I can serve others, here in this community and elsewhere.

— Graham Kerr

Is Store-Bought Ever Better Than Homemade?

"I saw that you made ramen noodles and it made me wonder if there were some things you just wouldn't make because the time/cost/taste of home cooking wasn't worth it."

homemade ramen noodles
homemade ramen noodles | Source

Mary, you're right, my daughter and I did make ramen noodles last week—not the wavy brick-shaped dried block with the salty seasoning packet, but honest-to-goodness fresh noodles. I had seen the recipe on the website Serious Eats and it sounded like a fun challenge. Without a pasta roller, I wouldn't have attempted it, but Beth and I managed to get the dough rolled thin and cut to make oodles of noodles (enough for two meals) in less than an hour. And the only cost was 2 cups of flour and 2 teaspoons of baking soda (mere pennies). Would I do it again? Probably not although I make pasta often, so this wasn't a real stretch for me.

Are there things I won't attempt? Goodness yes! I tried to make croissants once, and although they weren't bad, they were not as buttery and flakey as the ones I can buy at the local bakery. I enjoy cooking; it's (for me) relaxing and "forgiving." But on the other hand, baking is more of a science; it requires precise measurements and exact timing. At my age, I just don't have the patience anymore.

That's not to say that I never bake. You'll still find me writing about cookies or cakes, and I love just about any kind of pie. Baking a loaf of bread seems like an all-day process, but most of the time spent is waiting. My mom baked bread every Saturday, so for me, it's part of the routine. But a complicated layer cake or macarons is something I'll happily leave to the pros.

We're Organized

Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.

My cooking/baking/writing "mews"
My cooking/baking/writing "mews"

Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address:

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2020 Linda Lum


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