Off the Menu by Marissa Guggiana
Myra gathered a group of food lovers at short notice for a conversation with author Marissa Guggiana yesterday. Marissa was a judge at Lamb Jam last weekend and returned to Seattle from Portland for a demonstration and book signing with Ethan Stowell at the University District Farmers Market this Saturday at 10am and an ‘Off the Menu’ dinner on Sunday at Tavolàta.
A large stainless steel bowl filled with ice chilled bottled beverages.
There were salumi and pizzas from the Serious Pie kitchen. On the left is translucent mangalitza, and on the right is marbled lamb coppa.
Blistered and charred, the sweet fennel sausage, roasted peppers and provolone pizza is a regular order for us.
Buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce and fresh basil are ingredients of the classic Margherita pizza.
We snacked on a couple of cartons of Dahlia Bakery caramel popcorn.
Author of Primal Cuts and Off the Menu, co-founder of The Butcher’s Guild, ex-editor and contributor to Meatpaper, a 2008 fellow of Roots of Change and a board member of Ag Innovations Network, Marissa studied at Seattle University and lives in Northern California.
An aspiring playwright, she moved to New York after she graduated but soon returned home and was the first employee at Laloo’s Goat’s Milk Ice Cream. Her family owned a food distribution company and was buying meat from Australia, cutting and re-selling it. She became interested in the origins of meat and soon changed the business model to buying whole animals only.
Welcome Books is a boutique publisher focused on the context of food, and published both Primal Cuts and Off the Menu. She took all the photos for both her books.
For Primal Cuts, Marissa drove 15,000 miles in a Prius in four months! She interviewed fifty butchers across the country. She spent days with them recording hours of conversations that were transcribed and edited. Her goal was to present the whole industry and not just the art of butchery and knife skills. The book includes recipes for every part of the animal, a variety of cooking styles and culinary traditions, and from industrial to niche retail butchery.
Marissa identified a need to connect butchers to share expertise and thus, The Butcher’s Guild was founded. She mentioned young butchers were learning from YouTube videos! It takes time for butchers to educate their customers and the guild is a network to support this.
Off the Menu represents Marissa’s approach to cooking. Staff meals are quick, cheap and tasty. Basic techniques and quality ingredients are fundamental. The commitment to dining together every day builds morale and exemplifies respect for each other. Marissa ate fifty one staff meals in two months!
She obtained recipes from the cooks and the chefs submitted answers to a questionnaire. Marissa noted Blackbird in Chicago as a highlight where the staff meal was braised, battered and fried duck leg served with waffles and coleslaw. Tavolàta epitomised the concept of the book where staff meals are after service in a relaxed atmosphere. Marissa was effusive about the culture of service in New Orleans. Loyal staff work at the same restaurant for decades.
Off the Menu celebrates the ritual of communal dining. She spoke passionately about her experience at Camino in Oakland. Dignified staff eat in the restaurant, they understand the food and there is a transparency in how the restaurant operates.
Marissa’s interest is in food systems and her next book will be on the future of protein from an academic perspective. Genuine and humble, sincere thanks to Marissa for joining us for the afternoon.