This week, Zakary Pelaccio, trusty co-author of this here column and noted chef and bon vivant, released his first cookbook, Eat With Your Hands. He threw a psychedelic book release party in Brooklyn. It involved a 200-lb. smoked pig. Now, just a week after the AC revealed the phantom dessert menu from NYC’s Fatty ‘Cue, Zakary and Jori are back with key edits from the cutting-room floor. Buy the book. Print this out. Slide it into the book. Now, you’ve got the complete package.
“Eat with your hands,” I encourage them, the uninitiated faceless diners. “It tastes better that way. You have to eat this dish with your hands. It is the only way.” I say this so fucking much that I hope it means more than the clear, literal imperative. By why? Food tastes better that way, with your hands, licking your fingers, digging into shells, between bones, pinching, pulling and tearing at the most tender morsels long after the effete have laid down their utensils in defeat. Do not be afraid to get your hands dirty. Live this way.
A journalist asked me about the “bad advice” I mention in the Acknowledgements page. She wanted some examples of the bad advice I’ve gotten over the years. I gave her two examples: 1. You should talk to journalists. 2. You should try to answer stupid questions. Because, you know boys and girls, when your teachers told you there are no stupid questions, they were lying. Fucking liars. The lot of them.
Eat With Your Hands includes recipes from four different projects, plus a few home recipes. It’s a brief sampling of recipes I created over the years at Chickenbone Café, 5 Ninth, Fatty Crab & Fatty ‘Cue. Recipes such as “Grilled Rib Eye Steak” are simple, home cooked recipes born out of the late nights and long days grilling at our house up in Columbia County (Upstate New York).
A guy I had never met approached me the other day and asked, “Zak, is your book about finger food?” I chuckled and replied, “It’s more about fingering your food…in the best possible way”.
My Malaysian friends have said to me that eating with a knife and fork is akin to having sex with utensils. I guess they never use props.
A journalist asked me what foods do I not eat with my hands. Soup/porridge, noodles, ice cream…and probably a lot of other things but that’s not really the fucking point, now is it? (Rhetorical)
The montage in the Pork chapter was shot at our farm in Columbia County during one of the legendary Fatty Fests. We’d close all the restaurants over Labor Day and the staff would camp out on the property and we’d spend the day and night swimming, drinking, cooking, eating, drinking, playing games, playing music, drinking, etc.
It began with a pig, a big one, 225 pounds, that would go all night in the smoker. Yes, that recipe has been tested, and as it evolved we included ducks on the spit (for dinner the night before, while watching the pig), a martyred goat on the cross (asado style), and lamb on the spit. On the day of the fest we would tear into our holy trinity of whole cooked animals as if possessed and only a late night bonfire and more wine would exorcise our hunger demons and prepare us for late nights snacks of smoked pig sandwiches.
I do eat salad with my hands. Always. It is the only way.
The bulk of the photos were snapped by my friend, Michael Schrom, in his cook barn in Ghent, NY. He and his lovely wife, Patti, have the most incredible small barn, outfitted with a wood burning oven, J&R char broiler, Kalamazoo char broiler, full range and electric oven and barn doors that open on three sides, allowing for warm breezes, natural light and pastoral views. It’s the place to cook.
Photos not taken by Schrom come from the cameras of Jeff Scott, Sean McEntee, Jori Jayne Emde and yours truly.
Initially, I wanted the cover to be dark brown linen, embossed with a gold drawing of my face done by Jori (featured here). The book’s sales team thought it would be too “cultish,” especially when I mentioned we should enlarge my incisors until they hang over my bottom lip. I told them vampires are hot, jump on that bandwagon, bitches.
We saved one of the lists of names we were playing with long before the book went to print. Here they are:
Memories from my Meatgarden
Chilies and other gatherings on the way to Porktown
Eat With Your Hands, Johnson!
Recipes from a serious eater (with a heavy emphasis on Swine)
Swine time, and a few other treats on which to dine
Yummy Fatty YumYum
Feeling Plucky, Ducky? Lick my Porkpop
Zak grew fatter on the following:
Stuff to Eat
Going down, down to Flavortown
If this were a narrative, pork would be the protagonist
Food for those who eat well beyond the point of hunger
Pork Heavy with a chili back
Eat Bitch, Eat
Confused, pork loving, and still pushing
If I were swine on myself I would dine
I can’t begin to compress the breadth of my joy, frustration, confusion, and love for cooking and eating into this damn thing