Back in the seventies, I had a girlfriend who was a bona fide groupie with the Allman Brothers Band. To her parents utter horror, she dropped out of high school to follow the band around the country. Then came the Grateful Dead groupie (aka “Deadhead”) phenomenon. My brother postponed college to follow Jerry Garcia and his band across America. I never understood how someone could postpone their life to follow a band or total stranger. But that was before I took cooking classes from Guiliano Bugialli.
The slang word “groupie” was first coined for young women who followed rock groups around on tours. Then the definition broadened to include men (my brother, for example) who followed rock groups around on tours. Now the word “groupie” has expanded to encompass anyone who is basically enthusiastic about anything, including food.
Back in those days, I certainly would have qualified myself as a Guiliano Bugialli groupie. My first class with this talented chef, whom I still consider the master of classic Italian cuisine, was in New York. Then I took a couple of his cooking classes in California, finally signing on for classes in Birmingham, Michigan. (Do any of you readers “of a certain age” remember the fabulous Kitchen Glamour cooking school?)
Since the advent of the Food Network it’s much easier, and far less expensive, to be a “foodie groupie” whatever the food or personality you’re following. As many of my friends, I’m an Ina Garden groupie. We’re impressed with her simplicity, style and relaxed “joie de vivre”. A good friend, in fact, just sent me one of Ina’s (does Ina know we’re on a first name basis?) recipes for a simple corn salad. She said it was perfectly balanced and delicious. She was right. I’m sure, however, Ina went through countless variations and proportional quagmires until she achieved flavor perfection, and absolute simplicity.
Simple recipes require the ingredients be seasonal and, if using produce, right off the farm. Michigan corn is in its prime and corn from Ruhlig Farm in Carleton is a deal at 10 ears for $2.00 at Busch’s. I’m not altering Ina’s recipe, and I shouldn’t. But her recipe includes 1/2 cup of diced onions and I substituted that with a shallot I needed to use. I also added cherry tomatoes,abundant in my garden. Ina is cool-I don’t think she’d mind.