Elissa Altman

Elissa Altman is the author of the James Beard Award-winning blog, PoorMansFeast.com. She lives in New England. 

My Blogs

The things we cling to

“The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees that burned with sweetness or maddened the sting: the struggle continues, the journeys go and come between honey and pain. No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.” – Pablo Neruda, Still Another Day Some time ago, a friend from college told me about a brisket that her mother used to make every year for Passover; my friend visibly swooned as she talked about it — the buildup, the frantic shopping for the deckle, the preparation for cooking that involved her mother taking an old, bent Ginsu filet knife and making small, deep slits in the meat into which she would insert narrow slivers of garlic. One year, she added raisins and dill to the garlic ....more

Feeding Late Winter Nerves

I’m sitting in my office right now and staring out the window at a stupid amount of snow. And it’s snowing as I write this....more

All Fall Down

My mother and I have a longstanding joke — not really a joke so much as an observation — that my beloved grandmother, Clara, who died in April of 1982 when I was at college, was among the world’s great fallers. Of all the stories of my grandmother falling, my mother particularly likes to tell about the time in the late Fifties when she came home from a weekend on Cape Cod and found her mother sitting in the living room with her arm in a sling. “What happened, Ma?” my mother said ....more

Trout Crispy

(Note: this fish, above, is not a trout. It’s a striped bass, caught in the waters off Brooklyn.) Many years ago, when I was living in New York, I had the distinction of being fed a special lunch by a local Thai restaurant on Ninth Avenue, the owners of which claimed to have a simple and healthy but still festive cure for the excesses of the holiday season that had just passed. The place was tiny and perpetually dank, and lit by two dangling pink-toned incandescent bulbs that cast a warm, slightly lewd pallor on food and patron alike ....more

And a bowl of oranges too

An absorbing errand is the agreement to undertake and sustain a compelling practice of your own, an effort at mastery that requires time and focus. It is an adventure with many perils. Yet, in return, you gain a window seat, forward motion, and a landscape made new ....more

Holiday Cookbook Clutter: A Lovely Disorder

Even while I’m fighting a horrible case of the flu/bronchitis (it’s probably, in fact, a rare strain of Ebola that no one has figured out how to treat yet), we’re presently de-cluttering for the holidays, which is no easy feat for us; we’re definitely both pack rats. And because we’ve both been in and out of publishing for years — twenty-five for me and thirty for Susan — and because we both could live in the kitchen (to the degree that we’re considering tearing a wall down so that we actually are living in the kitchen), and because I used to be a bookseller specializing in cookbooks, and because I edit cookbooks, and because I’ve also been writing about food for the last fourteen years, we are literally surrounded by cookbooks. They live everywhere: in the kitchen, the den, the living room, the bedroom, the guest room, the two bathrooms, the basement, my office, and the garage ....more

A sort of chicken that we call fish.

Ten years ago, a few months after my dad died, Susan and I cooked our first holiday dinner for my family, at my cousin’s house in Virginia. It involved a twenty-two pound artisanal turkey that we drove south from Connecticut in the back of my Subaru; it rode in a massive, two-ply food-grade storage bag stretched to its limits like a water balloon, nestled in an ice-packed Coleman cooler the size of a small casket. The turkey traveled in its brine, which was composed of a misguided melange of water, salt, Grade B maple syrup, short-run Bourbon, and late-harvest Tuscan rosemary clipped from our herb garden ....more

Judy Rodgers: A Gift from Her Heart

As most of my regular readers know, I don’t post all that frequently; for the moment, I can’t — I have a 3-day-a-week, 5-hour-roundtrip commute to my job as an editor in Manhattan, I’m finishing my next book (which is due momentarily), and by the time I get home from work, all I can think about is eating and sleeping. So while I’d like to be posting a lot more regularly, the fact of my long-form narrative style, which takes a fair amount of time and focus, prohibits me from doing so. I’m currently finishing a post about holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas — and how they often find us cooking not for ourselves, but to impress others and gain their acceptance, approval, and admission into a sort of grown-up, adults-only club that, regardless of how good our food is, may in truth elude us forever ....more

The Long Road to Nashville

Fried chicken is my balm, my comfort, my heroin; the first time I had it — in 1967 at Cookie’s Steak House in the Walt Whitman Shopping Center on Long Island — I was certain I had met God. As a four year old, I was a complainer at the table: I cried, I groaned, I squirmed, I whined, and the only way my parents and grandmother could get me to shut up was to ply me with a drumstick. ...more

Listen: you are not yourself.

“… you are crowds of others, you are as leaky a vessel as was ever made, you have spent vast amounts of your life as someone else, as people who died long ago, as people who never lived, as strangers you never met. The usual...more