Thursday, December 1, 2011

Schmatz! Lunches at Steidl

I have a complicated relationship with lunch.

As much as I'd like to say that I take my full lunch hour to savor every delectable bite of my homemade meal, and that I use real silverwear, a cloth napkin, and glass stemware, and then take a refreshing walk around the block -- just to clear my head and feel the fresh air on my skin -- I can't.  In fact, that would be a bold-faced lie.

The truth is that the utensils are plastic, the Diet Coke is taken straight from the can, and the plate is either a plastic bento box (Cafe Zaiya), a swath of tin foil (Olympic Pita), or a folded box with "window" (Pret a Manger). The hour is more like 12 minutes and my walk around the block is, well, sitting at my desk reading

I don't feel very proud of how I spend my lunch hour every day, but I felt a lot worse after reading Schmatz! Lunches at Steidl.

Schmatz! -- the book defines the word as 1) smacking one's lips in anticipation of good food 2) eating noisily 3) big sloppy air kisses -- is both a cookbook and an artist book. It's a cookbook, in that it contains the recipes and menus of Chef Rudy Schellong, the full-time cook at the Steidl publishing house in Gottingen, Germany, who prepares delicious lunches everyday for those artists making the journey to work with founder Gerhard Steidl. It's also an artist book in that many of the guests at "Steidlville" -- writers, designers, photographers, and artists -- contributed art work and written testimonials to Schmatz!, praising Chef Rudy's own creative genius in the kitchen.

Karin Mamma Andersson

Producing a book with Gerhard Steidl, from the paper selection, typography, edits, and design is, by all accounts, a rewarding but exhausting experience. (The book-creation process at Steidlville has been made into a film called How to Make a Book at Steidl.) Visiting authors work at Steidl from early in the morning to late in the evening, which makes Chef Rudy's lunches that much more essential to the happiness and well-being of the guests. The dishes are largely vegetarian, centered around fruits and vegetables, and created, shopped for, and executed all on the same day. Examples of dishes include endive with orange-cucumber vinaigrette; pasta fredda with mushrooms, arugula, tomatoes, and olives; lemon pudding with nectarines. They don't serve that in midtown.

This is a book filled with simple, healthful, satisfying, and envy-inducing dishes that are more than worthy of their own cookbook. And that they appear alongside such beautiful and haunting images from artists like Mitch Epstein, Bruce Davidson, and Susan Meiselas, is an added bonus.

Salad with tzatziki

Below is a photograph by Paul Graham, who accompanies the image with the following memory of sitting with Gunter Grass at a Steidl lunch:
I was so in awe of sitting with Gunter Grass for lunch that I have little recollection of anything apart from a long discussion complaining about not being allowed to smoke his pipe in America, the gist of which was that he wouldn't go there ever again. The next time I met him was in the New York Public Library. 

Paul Graham

I wonder what they had for lunch in midtown.


CRD said...

I went to Susan Meiseles' house once. And I sure read a lot of Gunter Grass in college - his books were filled with dwarves and cigarette smokers, so that pipe bit isn't such a surprise. Also? The word I need to type now to prove I'm not a spammer is dirty.

paleorecipe1 said...
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