The most important meal of the year

Kick off your culinary year with hope and leisure. Plus: Last week's winners

By Francis Lam
Published January 5, 2010 1:25AM (EST)

Every week, your challenge is to create an eye-opening dish within our capricious themes and parameters. Blog your submission on Open Salon by Monday 10 a.m. EST -- with photos and your story behind the dish -- and we'll republish the winners on Salon on Tuesday. (It takes only 30 seconds to start a blog.) And yes, mashed potato sculpture counts as a dish. Emphatically.

After a couple of tense years, our wish to you this new decade is for exciting beginnings and ample leisure. And what says new beginnings quite like breakfast? So this week, let's revel in that sense of promise: Make the finest breakfast you can think of, one worth lingering over. (Of course, you can serve it at dinner.) Take the time to enjoy it. And, because nothing on the breakfast table says "Stay awhile" like fruit salad, fruit salad will get you bonus points.

Be sure to tag your post: SKC new year's breakfast

Scoring and winning

Scores will be very scientific, given for appealing photos, interesting stories behind your submissions, creativity, execution and touchdown-to-interception ratio.


Last week's challenge brought out lots of first kitchen memories, of parents kindly and less so, of children playing at grown-up and of seductions with spaghetti and soufflés. And the winner is ...

Max Lindenman! For a hilarious story of cigarettes and a need for fried eggs so strong it trumps utter kitchen ignorance.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .


In the Mud Pie category:

Beth A., for 5-year-old ingenuity, and for asking the eternal question of spitting parents everywhere, "Why would you take pie from a 5-year-old?"

In the Kitchen-as-Medication category:

Kolika Elle Kirk, for an adorable childhood BLT and a bit of hard-earned wisdom: "No matter how crazy and chaotic my life is going, at the end of the day, if I go into my kitchen and mash butter and flour together, it will always make a roux. If I add salt to a soup, it will always make it more salty. If I sauté a steak and add a half a cup of wine to the hot pan, it will always smoke up and boil off the alcohol to leave the flavor. That's what happens. Always."

In the Best Title category:

Kris T Parker, for "I Nearly Killed Off My Entire Family," which also happens to be a fun story of family homage and very dead fish.

In the category of Life Lessons With Eggs:

Ann Nichols, for memories of her dad's particular cooking triumphs: "He gave me a lot more than a thrifty and versatile meal option, or a set of good, basic egg-cooking skills, my dad; he gave me an example of patience, craftsmanship, gentleness and the importance doing one's best, even at the humblest of tasks."

In the Mommie Dearest category:

Robin Sneed, for a heartbreaking story of learning to cook the really hard way: "If you don't learn what I know, no man will ever have you. You will be a cocktail waitress somewhere, nothing more."

In the category of Revisionist Fairy Tales:

FusunA, for a story of virgins, broken teeth, self-actualization and a very interesting aside: "Even in fairy tales bad happens. Well, I can change the stories as I wish, in my mind. Sleeping Beauty adopts Grumpy and Sneezy, and the family opens a venison burger chain -- GREEZY. The sugar plum fairies are really persimmons; and my Prince Charming, as Mickey in disguise, feeds me slices." (Recipe for "Arrival Cake" included.)

In the Toast With Buttercream for Breakfast category:

Beth Fortune, for a tale of early culinary triumph, and, well, not so much for a while: "I wish I could say my early victory in frosting led to a long phase of exploration in the kitchen. Well, that sort of happened, but it was really more a phase of mixing disparate ingredients together to see if they made food. For some reason toothpaste was often in the mix. The result was never anything like food." (Recipe for muffins with cream cheese frosting included. I will eat anything with cream cheese frosting, but I would even eat these muffins without it.)

In the category of Taste Wisdom:

PB&J, for discovering croissants, and a new definition of taste: "You may have heard of the sixth [taste], umami. I would add a seventh, packaging, which explains the appeal of processed foods that snap, crackle and pop before they're even eaten."

In the Cute Kids With Enormous Grins category,

Warsaw JoeC, for a brief but warm story of passing on snickerdoodles to the next generation. (Vintage 50's recipe for snickerdoodles included.)

In the category of Never as Good as the First Time,

Maplover, on heady, youthful seductions with cheese soufflé, and the magic that might not come back: "The soufflé tasted as I had remembered, but did not transform my long-distance relationship with my boyfriend, which collapsed of its own weight later in the year. When my mother returned, she was flabbergasted that I had started my cooking career with cheese soufflé. I trotted out the soufflé once more in the service of love when I was in graduate school, attempting to prove my culinary bona fides to my then prospective, now ex-husband. He pronounced it French sissy food. " (Recipe included, adapted from "The Joy of Cooking," ca. 1997.)

In the Which Came First, the Frog or the Egg? category:

Linda Shiue, on how a love of quiche made her a Francophile, and Francophone: "Buying the ingredients in our local Pathmark was a bit of a treasure hunt for me and my Taiwanese immigrant parents. Other families may have kept heavy cream and Gruyère in their larders, but these were not used in my mother's Chinese cooking. And bacon? I think we substituted some Oscar Meyer ham from the pre-packaged deli section, because we could use the rest for our lunchbox sandwiches. Authentic? Pas vraiment. But I was hooked, and made quiche frequently." (Recipe for quiche included.)

In the Harry Chapin Song That Coulda Been category:

Sagemerlin: "She was a dancer; I was a writer. Neither one of us was making a living from our craft, so she worked as a figure model, and I was driving a cab, which was how we met, I think. The breakfast consisted of T-bone steaks, ham on the hock, a dozen scrambled eggs with poached eggs riding on the scramble, a plate of bangers -- those big Irish sausages -- a rasher of thick, home-cured bacon, and the best home fries I ever ate, replete with onions, peppers and mushrooms, topped with a bang-up chili." (Outrageous chili recipe included.) 

Francis Lam

Francis Lam is Features Editor at Gilt Taste, provides color commentary for the Cooking Channel show Food(ography), and tweets at @francis_lam.

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