Archive for the ‘Comfort Food’ Category

Let It Rise: Fasnet’s Cakes

Fasnet's cakes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There’s been a lot of yeast dough in my life lately. First there were Fasnet’s cakes, then I made donuts. Ok. So there were two instances of yeast dough in my life. But two yeast doughs within weeks of each other is more yeast dough than usually makes an appearance.

There’s something incredibly soothing about yeast dough. It takes time. And I think we spend far too little time taking time. What I mean is, I read this book called Momo, by Michael Ende (yes, yes, the very same Neverending Story mastermind) when I was living in New York, spending a lot of time regularly hyperventilating about how there wasn’t enough time.

Momo is a book about time and how humans construct it cleverly disguised as a children’s story. The sweeper tells Momo, “it’s like this. Sometimes, when you’ve a very long street ahead of you, you think how terribly long it is and feel sure you’ll never get it swept. And then you start to hurry. You work faster and faster and every time you look up there seems to be just as much left to sweep as before, and you try even harder, and you panic, and in the end you’re out of breath and have to stop – and still the street stretches away in front of you.”

I read that and I thought, Oh my God. Momo knows my life.

There’s this moment in the book where the grey men, bankers of time, visit each of the townspeople and convince them to put their spare time in a savings account. And when the people wonder how to save time, the grey men tell them, you know how to save time – spend 15 minutes less on each haircut you give or don’t drive all the way to the nursing home to eat with your mother –

I read that and I thought, My life is full of grey men. » Continue reading this post…

A Fish Out of Water Springs Back In: Roast Fish with Tomatoes, Lemon & Fennel

fish tail just waiting for roasting (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I wonder if I can run some water over it, I said, as I held the fish in my hand.

Then I realized what I’d said.

And truthfully, I can’t say for certain whether I said this or thought this, since, living alone, one develops a lingual fluidity. Since there’s no one there to hear what you say except yourself, the words you say aloud and the words that stay inside your head reach exactly the same audience. Which means, you may quietly slip into insanity without noticing that it’s happened.

I often find myself speaking out loud as I’m unchaining my bike in my building’s courtyard. The courtyard is a gray space between my apartment, where it’s ok to talk to myself, and the outside world – where it’s not. There, in that small patch of stone and weeds and rows of bikes which in winter always look a bit brittle, it’s as though a switch flips in my mind, one that says, hey, it’s not ok to talk to yourself out loud anymore. Of course, I usually say that sentence out loud. It’s followed by: Um, you just said that out loud. Then: Wait, you just said that out loud too. Followed by: Ok, you really need to stop talking to yourself out loud. Ad infinitum.

I’m hoping to curb this habit now that I’m a working woman once again (isn’t that a lovely phrase?). Every day, from 9-6, I sit inside a neo-industrial building near Checkpoint Charlie and write advertisements for a company’s online marketing department. Then I bike home and write more. (Perhaps the slip into insanity has already occurred?)

What’s nice about actually going to work – versus schlepping myself to a coffee shop for five hours where I pretend to write – is that it forces me to interact with people for a large portion of my day, where I apparently fulfill an unmeasured daily public communication quota which prevents me from talking to myself. » Continue reading this post…

Bulgarian Crepe Tacos

Bulgarian crepe tacos (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The beauty of leftovers is that they allow for the most unusual of cultural combinations. See, for instance, Bulgarian crepe tacos.

If, like me, you made too many Bulgarian meatballs (see last post), never fear, you don’t need to eat Bulgarian meatballs three days in a row – you, too, can pretend you’re Sarah Palin, confusing Bulgaria for France and France for Mexico. Sweet, beautiful, cultural cacophony.

Crumble leftover Bulgarian meatballs in their tomato sauce into a skillet and heat. Add a chopped carrot to the tomato and cucumber salad. Cut up some cheese (I found a fingernail piece of hot chili gouda). Find some lettuce. Put the sour cream on the table – you should still have some leftover from the sour cream/lemon/garlic/cilantro sauce. And make crepes. Flour, milk, and egg, thrown together in some measure until the dough is the consistency of a runny nose. I’m sorry, I know that’s unappetizing – but it’s winter, it’s a pervasive problem, and it’s the only comparison I can think of right now.

So wonderful. So easy to throw together. Like the joy of eating those Bulgarian meatballs for the first time. Resist making a bad Madonna pun. Eat another taco to keep from talking.

empty plates are good plates (Eat Me. Drink Me.) » Continue reading this post…

Welcome Back Berlin Fritters: Sweet Potato & Fennel Fritters

Sweet Potato and Fennel Fritters (Eat Me. Drink Me)

I rode my little Hercules down Bergmannstr., and as I did, it started to rain, skinny drops that snuck under my scarf. But even with the rain, all I felt was joy to be reunited with my bike, my little Hercules. I forgot that I need to find another job, need to meet more people, am still so new somewhere. I pedaled through the rain, a route that is familiar to me now and realized, I have stopped comparing Berlin to Brooklyn. Because coming back, even after having been in New York, in my own beloved Brooklyn, feels like coming home. » Continue reading this post…

Fall Homage, In Memoriam: Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve bathed my laptop in liquids one too many times and I have killed it. Killed it dead. Marley was dead: to begin with, as my dear, dear Dickens said. And it’s getting to be that season anyway, though the weather is unseasonably warm here in Berlin. I took a long bike ride today, partly because the weather was so nice – and partly because I had to go to O2 to see if they could get the internet to work on this wonderful computer my dear friend Elisabeth has lent me – they can’t.

So, my laptop, my love is dead. My internet does not exist. I am shut off and out of the world. And here’s a secret. When, after two hours, the nice man at O2 told me the internet wasn’t going to work, I cursed the heavens silently, first, and then I felt – relief.  Although I don’t know if that is exactly the right word. There should be a word that means something in between resignation and freedom. So don’t tell anyone, but I don’t think I’m upset to be shut off and out the world. I can feel my brain blossoming.

Of course, the only thing to do the night I broke my laptop was to leave the apartment. To find my way to a champagne party whose address I wasn’t quite sure of since the internet had failed before I could plot my meticulous way across the city. To leave the scene of horror, half-sopped liquid still puddled on the floor, and go to meet people and drink champagne with berries and talk it out and then go dance it out. I know nothing more cathartic than hip hop and sweat. But the next day, my first day, waking up to a laptop pried open and drying on a chair, battery expunged (I learned that much from the first time I dropped a drink in the keyboard…), I didn’t know what to do. » Continue reading this post…

Cheese Sauce for Everything

Potatoes and stuff and cheese (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There is a battle royale being waged for my waistline. I live on a sixth floor walk up, so every day I walk up and down, up and down, until I think I’d cry if I see just one more step in my life. But I’ve gotten pretty good at it by now, all the up and downing, so I think I must be getting in shape. And then I come home and I make things like potatoes with cheese sauce, thereby undoing all the good work I’ve done.

After a long day of translating, I walk up my six flights of stairs and into the apartment I’m calling home. It’s easy to step inside and hang a quick right to the kitchen, turn on the stove, and throw some olive oil in a pot, since everything I cook seems to start that way. I turn on the light, there’s only one small light in the kitchen and the large, orange shade around it keeps the ambiance dim. Which is alright, I guess, since it gives my neighbors in the building across the way less of a reason to look in my window. Although I know their lives well, by now, so I’m sure they know mine too.

And yet it feels a little Hitchcock to do too much looking – besides, living in New York cured me of all my voyeurism anyway.

The kitchen is a small space, not even the most economical. The stove is wedged between the broken washing machine and the shower and across the countertops are splayed half-full boxes of tea bags, postcards, a potted plant, stacks of books, cutting boards, empty cardboard packages, jars of honey and nutella, small stacks of coins, receipts, ticket stubs, and a plastic placemat with a picture of a palm tree. » Continue reading this post…

Welcome Home, Berlin

Sardines on toast (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s been a long time, I know. But I just haven’t had the inclination to write. I’ve been doing other things – like moving out of New York, studying for the GRE, hiking in Colorado, making a beautiful assortment of to-do lists – and really, I just haven’t been inspired to write anything. I’ve felt like every time I sit down to blog, I devolve into blasé maxims: food is good, food is love, food brings people together.  And I think all these things are true, but eventually, it’s boring for you to read – and boring for me to write. I needed something new.

As I sat at my new kitchen table in Berlin, I was reminded of an entry I wrote long ago about sardines on toast. This blog was begun as a class project almost three years ago, and when I first started blogging about food, I felt that every entry should be thoroughly researched – a blend of fact and memoir – though if you read through those early posts, they sound stilted. The missing element, my advisor said, was spontaneity. That day, I had a simple lunch – toasted baguette, butter, sardines – and the food was so good and unadorned, I immediately felt inspired to write about it. I’ve written about the sardines and the writing since.

I think I keep coming back to that moment because it encapsulates an essential truth about both food and writing. That both are acts of some skill rescued by intuition and a certain amount of receptiveness, and that sometimes a lesson is felt rather than explained.

Driving down the streets of Berlin from the airport to my new home, I felt both terrified and excited, thinking at the same time how wonderful it would be to grow attached to these streets, and yet, how different they were from my Brooklyn streets. » Continue reading this post…

Southern Comfort

The apron is over the railing (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I miss the South. I miss warm grits melted with cheese and dotted with firm, pink shrimp. I miss slow cooked greens and fatback and sweet and crumbly cornbread. I miss excessive hospitality and humidity and conversations dotted with those little “bless her heart”s. Oh God, I miss sweet tea.

Though the South is not everything. I live in the North because I like it more. Because I need the throb of city life and stripped-of-sugar sass. I need fast-paced and driven. And I really can’t stand pastel.

But what I love about the things I love about the South is that they’re things that for the most part I can bring to Brooklyn. People I love, weather I like, food I could eat until I become obese. Dinner parties.

Jamie and I sat on the back porch, with late afternoon sunshine across our shoulders, dipping strips of fried eggplant and chicken gizzards into buttermilk garlic sauce and drinking Firefly (sweet tea vodka for those of you never blessed). I had just dismembered two chickens, which really meant I had torn apart two chickens with my bare hands (it’s a learning curve) and the pieces were soaking in a salty brine upstairs. We were lazy, off of work, waiting for the third member of our party to join us. Absolute laziness.

My morning had been spent lying on a towel in the backyard, sunning my pale and pasty legs, reading the last five pages of at least three magazines, and working on poetry. I asked Jamie, “Do I look tanner?” “No,” he said.

We spent a few nice hours sitting in the backyard until at seven, we thought we should start dinner. I remembered having told people we would eat at seven.

Fried eggplant with buttermilk-garlic sauce (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Chicken frying (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Jamie pulled chicken from the brine and rinsed it in buttermilk and dredged it in flour mixed with jerk seasoning, cayenne, and salt. » Continue reading this post…

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