Plum Salad


Remember when everyone was eating bacon and bone marrow? I am sure they still are, but we’re having to hear about it a lot less. The pendulum has swung toward vegetables. Now we hear about rice bowls and fermentation—or we did, maybe even that moment is over. It’s odd how these trends effect our perception of food. I found myself annoyed by bacon for years. It had become embarrassing. Once the moment has passed, you’re suddenly trying too hard or something. Those bacon band-aids. 


Earlier this year, we were in Los Angeles and we finally made it to Sqirl. I’d heard so much about Sqirl that I almost didn’t need to be there. It was like the time I saw Oprah in person and had a hard time actually seeing her. She looked like television to me. Was she real? Was it any different to see her in person than on TV? Anyway, we sat at Sqirl eating our obligatory rice bowl and brioche toast (which were, of course, delicious) and I found that I was slightly embarrassed of myself. It really felt like I was participating. Participating in food culture, in a moment. Was I trying too hard? Was this real? Why was I there? Does any of this matter? Is that Breckin Meyer?

ps. To those of you who have never heard of Sqirl, I salute you.

pps. It was Breckin Meyer.


When Bon Appetit relaunched they talked a lot about the connection between food and fashion, but only in ways that were literal and uninteresting. It was just #trends or, like, what someone who works in fashion ate for lunch. It’s too bad, really, because I do think there are interesting connections, and some similar problems, between the two endeavors. If you pay attention to food you notice these trends—you want to puff your grains, dehydrate your carrots, eat burnt things, or drink vinegar. But the trends themselves are the least interesting part of food, and fashion. They are both interesting for the ways they connect with other, more interesting, things like history, politics, color theory, chemistry, ethnicity, etc., and for the ways they tell stories. Alexander McQueen was teaching us a history lesson while telling us a story. Chefs sometimes tell us interesting stories. At their best they inspire curiosity and exploration and engagement. At their best they’re honest, earnest. They are about life. At their worst, they’re both disposable, and self-involved, and empty. It is often the media that muddles it and gets in the way of our enjoying it. One of our modern challenges is finding a balanced relationship with media and cultural reporting—too little, and you’re out of the loop; too much, and you hate everything.

So I continue my personal struggle (portentious!) to maintain a healthy relationship with food and culture—to enjoy it. To accept it for whatever it is and form my own relationship with it.

Today I come to you with an offering, a late summer salad from the NYC cousin of Sqirl, El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette. The salad is a lovely little thing, with jicama, radish, and some pickled plums. It is the sort of salad bowl I like eating in the summer. Earnestly, and without embarrassment. (Free at last!)

Recipe HERE.

The plum sauce is good for other things, too. I liked it with tofu.

16 comments to “Plum Salad”

  1. Do I get a two points for having to Google both Sqirl and Brekin Meyer? Such made-up sounding names, both of them!

  2. Thank for sharing these views, Tim, and I’m totally with you. The trendiness factor in the food world seems to have often overtaken the taste factor, at least in my experience– it’s not enough to be good, it has to be good and COOL (and Bon Appetit is clearly promoting exactly that.) And don’t get me started on these food fads! I agree, the bacon and bone marrow thing indeed got quite annoying, but I’m also finding the veggie world can be equally so. I swear, if I never read another recipe for kale, it will be too soon!

    P.S. I also agree with Marlena :-)

  3. Always look forward to seeing your emails in my inbox. Thank you for letting me know about
    Amanda Rickman coming to Austin, giving me a great banana bread recipe, etc! Loved opening the Plum Salad post as i have been painting watermelon radishes….and lots of other farmers’ market finds in the past two years. We Love Austin did a feature article about the series this week. Thought you would enjoy seeing the watermelon radishes.

  4. I agree with Marcia…too much about kale; I don’t even like it…much prefer spinach! Don’t follow trends for the most part, just take good ideas, sometimes new ingredients m- but for the most part use ingredients I love (that includes bacon…sorry!). This does look like a refreshing salad; will explore a few of the ingredients I haven’t used (ie sumac). Entertaining post,
    as usual!

  5. You’ve expressed some sentiments that have been on my mind a lot lately.

  6. I constantly notice the trend obsessed, scene-ster in me–spending too much money, doing ridiculous things to obtain the illusion of epicurial transcendence, when actually the chase of all things “cool” detract from the point; the point of discovering things in food and life and friends, things that really matter to me. I so appreciate you sharing your opinions, your candor is refreshing and feels genuine, and your recipes are delicious (e.g. Tomato cobbler)!!

  7. Thanks for the mention of the Underground Butcher. Made a few purchases when we stopped.
    Need to get back to Madison to check out the other places on your list. Your use of the word moments in your first two paragraphs made me think of this:

  8. Debbie woodard says:

    August 30th, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    I really miss the Bon Appetit when Barbara Fairchild was the editor …..

  9. I love cooking and trying new ingredients and reading food blogs and basing adventures around where to eat…and sometimes I get too caught up in it and then I look at myself and think, what a f***ing prat.
    Your words on this and similar topics lately have resonated with me. Thank you.
    (The struggle continues).

  10. I identify with this post so much ( I too felt that seeing Oprah in person was like seeing her on TV, but surreal). I no longer feel the need to rush out and embrace the #trends in food and fashion, but still love the way I feel when I can express myself in both forms. I do however feel that there is a voice yet to be heard that mixes fashion in a fun and silly manner ( Leandra Medine anyone?) with a similar perspective on food. The two can go together so seamlessly. And if I see another Munchies video or the latter consisting of chefs bro-ing out in debauchery for the sake of food porn, I may never turn the internet back on. Time to hit the refresh button, my palette is growing dull.

  11. Hi and thanks for another thoughtful post. As a newbie blogger trying to find my way through all the food world/media muck, your perspective has been very welcome and appreciated. Much to think about!

  12. I love this post. You always leave me hungry for a longer conversation.

    Bacon is on my long list of things that have been done to exhaustion and then done some more. Foams, bacon, kale, salted caramel; Scotch, Bourbon, soon Rye.

    I love food. I love thinking about food, reading about food, looking at food, cooking food and eating food. I even still love eating the foods and drinking the drinks in my exhaustion list. I just can’t stand it when the way that people start talking and interacting with food becomes too navel-gazingly intellectual or too tween-girl boy-band crush; it kills it for me. I feel like something very simple (even if it is complex) and honest (even if it is wicked and cheeky) is being made into a “thing” to show whether you are cool or not. Very much like fashion. There is that awful feeling of being tainted because you are contributing to the frenzy (the “moment” you talk about) over something that will, because of the frenzy, live beyond its freshness. Your post wonderfully articulates a vague frustration I’ve felt a lot lately. Post again soon! I selfishly want more food conversation!

  13. Sometimes it seems as though it’s cool to not be cool. I genuinely like kale.
    And many of the recipes you post, thanks very much.

  14. When I was a line cook, I was in the moment and never realized when I was actually taking an active part in the trend. (Let me date it: 2004, working at A16 the year burrata landed in SF. Good grief it was everywhere!) Being very far from that world now makes me feel exhausted about even thinking about what is today’s burrata. Better to go travel somewhere near or far and just plain enjoy food that will never be hip enough for Bon App (and Co.) to cover.

  15. the bacon bandaids actually gave me a panic attack once. ENOUGH ALREADY. i came here on the search for a veggie lunch and you saved me, bless you.

  16. schneiderluvsdoof says:

    October 13th, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    I’ve never heard of SQIRL & you funny & a great celebrity sighter. Site-r?

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