provided to The Santiva Chronicle
Join Sam Sifton, founding editor of the popular New York Times Cooking app, to hear about the joys and frustrations of home cooking during COVID. For the last year, Sifton has been working – and cooking – at home, and that’s where he’ll speak from virtually on Thursday, March 11, at 4 p.m. for the final BIG ARTS Talking Points presentation of the season.
As a former chief restaurant critic for The New York Times, Sifton knew that chefs would often tell stories to their line cooks, describing a dish in a kind of shorthand, leaving the line cooks to execute the chef’s desires. It prompted him to begin to experiment with his own “stories,” and that led to weekly “no recipe, recipe” ideas included in his four-times-a-week newsletter.
Next week, No Recipe Recipes by Sifton will be released from Ten Speed Press. MacIntosh Books will have copies available, and Sifton will reveal his ideas early for Talking Points participants.
“I presume many of our readers have core competence in the kitchen, but maybe lack the confidence to try stuff,” Sifton said. “Lots of us are not chefs, just home cooks.”
He started simply, working off a photo or idea or something he found inspiring and discovered no-recipe stories were “super, super fun.”
Sifton has a long relationship with Sanibel. His grandparents lived on Sanibel before a bridge existed, finding it a haven from their harsh Maine winters. It was an especially good climate for his grandfather, whose lungs were damaged by mustard gas while fighting in World War I. Later, his mother lived on Sanibel, too.
Sifton’s area visits beyond Sanibel have included Captiva, North Captiva, Useppa, and Cabbage Key; and today his in-laws live in Bonita Springs. NYT Cooking, a digital recipe collection, even includes a Sanibel recipe, Doc Ford’s popular Yucatan Shrimp.
Formerly The Times’s food editor, national news editor, chief restaurant critic and culture news editor, Sifton is also the author of See You on Sunday: A Cookbook for Family and Friends and Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well.
As an assistant managing editor now responsible for culture and lifestyle coverage, Sifton also supervises the At Home section on Sunday, a venture created during the pandemic to bring subscribers something “delightful, and of service to readers.” The goal is to offer a guide to living a “full, cultured, happy life” despite the restrictions needed to fight a deadly virus.
Based on the flood of pictures sent in by readers who tackle a weekly craft project included in each issue of At Home, editors believe it’s been a resounding success.
For Thanksgiving, always the biggest holiday for the food section, editors last year knew they had to rethink how to present ideas for socially distant, smaller-than-normal gatherings. Sifton, who normally hosts 30 guests at Thanksgiving, realized there would be many former guests in 2020 who had never cooked Thanksgiving before. “Do you need 18 sides?” For him, yes was still the answer. But the section helped others scale down and innovate. “It’s one of the things I’m most proud of in the NYT – how many we were able to help through the holiday.”
So what’s ahead? Sifton, who demurs on prognostication, says he can’t predict whether vaccinated folks will roar back to restaurants or rather tentatively head out. Either way, he expects pre-COVID huge restaurant portions may be scaled back soon. Otherwise, after months of home cooking, patrons would be shocked at the super-sized plates of old.
Tickets for Sifton’s talk are available online at www.bigarts.org for $20 or, for those who wish to watch on the big screen at BIG ARTS, please visit the box office at 900 Dunlop Road or call 239-395-0900 for socially distanced reserved $20 seats. Sifton will leave plenty of time to answer audience questions, which may be texted during his presentation.
ABOUT BIG ARTS
BIG ARTS, established in 1979, is a nonprofit organization devoted to providing quality artistic, cultural, and educational experiences to Sanibel and Captiva residents and visitors. Visit http://www.BIGARTS.org to learn more about our 2021 Season, and don’t forget to visit us on Facebook!
BIG ARTS is practicing the highest standards of safety during this challenging time. All visitors are required to wear masks throughout the facility. Please be sure to put on your mask before entering the building. We ask that you are mindful of physical distancing. With physical distancing precautions in mind, BIG ARTS is selling only 50 percent of the seats in Christensen Performance Hall. Therefore, until further notice, only 200 seats will be available for any event in the Hall. A maximum of 25 people will be allowed in the gallery at any given time. BIG ARTS has enhanced its air-filtration system, all surfaces are wiped down between use, a professional sanitation fogger is being used after each gathering, and there are hand sanitation “stations” throughout the ground floor.