Archive for the ‘Eating Alone’ Category

How to Take Yourself on a Date

The Danube in Belgrade (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

1. Be surprised. Ideally, you’ll wake up one morning to an innocuous-looking email from Air Serbia informing you that your itinerary has been changed. You will skim it, expecting to see a flight number switched or a terminal swapped out. And instead, you will realize that your flight has been cancelled, and that your new flight leaves a whole day later than the flight you were supposed to take. And even though you will call Air Serbia and mention the unacceptability of the entire situation, you will hear their shoulders shrug on the other end of the shabby connection as they tell you there’s really nothing they can do, and you will say, “Well, I guess I’m going to Belgrade.”

2. Leave no stone unturned. Insist on being put up in a nice hotel that’s walking distance from the city and has a complimentary airport shuttle. And when you get to the hotel, open all the tiny bottles on the bathroom counter – the shampoo and conditioner, the body wash and lotion, the shower cap and lavender-scented pillow spray – and claim them as yours, as payment for accrued inconveniences.

3. Be brave. Don’t linger over the soaps. Leave. Sling your backpack over your shoulder and grab a map (yes, a paper map because chances are very good that your phone will be about to die) from the front desk along with verbal directions into the city. Listen and nod and understand the uselessness of this endeavor because you are already well-acquainted with your inability to hold more than two directional instructions in your head at one time.

Step through the revolving doors. You are responsible for you and only you. What is it that brings you joy? To pause on a bridge over the Danube, feeling the tenderness of the setting sun on your skin, the cool breeze of early spring with its promise of softer days? » Continue reading this post…

Tells

A new cookbook and Thanksgiving leftovers (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I have a few distinctive tells when things aren’t going so well. One of them is that I clean everything so thoroughly even the baseboards behind the bookshelves shine. And though I have a tendency to forget the tops of doorframes because they’re far too high for me to reach and generally out of my range of sight, everything else is fair game. The windows are scrubbed, every corner gutted of dust and grime, even the insides of drawers emptied out and neatly rearranged. You might think this is a constructive habit – that at least if my inner self is in turmoil, my outer world is dazzling – and I can emerge from these periods of anxiety and overwork into a clean and ordered home.

The Berlin TV Tower at dawn (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

But it doesn’t feel quite healthy. It takes a long time to clean so thoroughly, and everything I haven’t touched feels like the fuzzled spots of green mold on an orange rind, and the orange rind lines the inside of my skin. I can’t just tidy up here and there and call it a day. I have to scrub the apartment from corner to corner. I have to throw the whole molding orange away.

And I’m not the only one who suffers. One of the stranger tics of this obsessive cleaning is that I can’t water the plants until the whole apartment is clean. Somehow, if I’m suffering, I feel the plants must suffer too.

On the street in Sofia, Bulgaria (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My other, maybe more telling tell, is that I don’t cook.

I guess the end of November, early December is a convenient time to decide not to want to cook. The Christmas markets are springing up all over the city, and for the price of just a few frozen toes, you can gorge yourself on crackle-skinned pork sandwiches and bratwurst split open over licking flames. » Continue reading this post…

Cook Like No One’s Watching

roast zucchini and eggplant (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I suffer from performance anxiety. It’s not a big deal, really. It just means that I often cook better when I’m by myself than when I’m cooking for other people. When I’m home alone, there’s no need to prove myself, to live up to having a food blog, to make something so delicious that whoever I’m cooking for never wants to eat anywhere else. I guess that’s what performance anxiety means.

While we’re getting it all out into the open, let me go ahead and admit this now. I’ve never been good at group projects. I like to be either completely in charge or completely the opposite. I take direction well and I lead well, but that nebulous middle ground where everyone’s got a good opinion and we’re all trying to self-moderate – I don’t do that.

It’s not that I was that kid who always got “does not play well with others” on her report card. In fact, I played so well with others that I sunk into the background, becoming an un-player, or a non-entity, a completely forgettable figure. For most of my childhood and young adult life, I’m pretty sure none of my classmates thought I had a personality. If they even knew who I was.

No one believes me now when I tell them I’m shy. Usually, I no longer believe myself. But ask my parents, my grade school teachers, my hometown best friend, who I made cry by refusing to remove myself from the folds of my mother’s skirt the day we met.

I’m not sure if I could pinpoint when it was that I grew into myself, my idiosyncrasies, my strangenesses. Perhaps it wasn’t one moment, but a process of growing. It appears mine is a soul that dislikes stagnancy in temperament as much as location. » Continue reading this post…

The Tea and the Honey Pot

the tea and the honey pot (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

If loneliness had a shape, it would be a cup of tea cooling on a white table. It is important that the table be empty, except, perhaps, for an open jar of honey and a naked spoon, just as it is important that the tea be cooling. The things themselves, hot tea and a honey pot are comforting things, but they are starkly separated on the table like sentinels. Nearly touching, but not. The cup will be blue and the honey pot smeared with stickiness along its sides. The type of tea won’t matter, but it should be sliced ginger and mint, so that the weak wisp of steam rising from the cup carries a faint, hopeless whisper of exoticism. The spoon will rest on the table like a compass point, as if to offer an answer. But the cup and the honey lie passive, waiting for an active agent – it must be the drinker of the tea – to dip the spoon in the honey, to drop a knob, sweet and the color of corn silk, into the tea. Are they any less lonely then, the cup and the pot? Or is it like this: the honey dissolves into the hot tea like a shipwrecked man in an ocean and the ocean is a little changed, but impassive and its own thing, alone. » Continue reading this post…

My Life Without an Appendix: Pasta with Fennel & Onions

Alone in the apartment (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s not so bad, really, to live without an appendix. It was nice, sometimes, to take walks with my appendix, to run errands with my appendix, even to have lunch with my appendix. But it wasn’t really until my appendix was gone, that I realized what it was to miss my appendix. I took walks, I ran errands, I ate lunch, and yet, I felt a hole, an appendix-shaped hole, right where my appendix used to be. It’s been a few months now, since my appendix was taken from me, and I feel a little solace, looking at the three small scars on my belly where at least something was given to me in exchange. I’ve grown to like those little scars, to like them almost more than I liked my appendix, since when I had it with me, I didn’t pay much attention to my appendix at all.

I’m alone in Berlin now. It’s strange how, when there were people in the apartment, all I wanted was to be alone and quiet and now, when I’m alone and it’s quiet, all I want is someone else.

This morning, I sent my mother off to the airport at six, and fell back into a cautious sleep. When I woke up, the apartment was already a different place. It was more silent, heavier; I was afraid of the sound of my voice. I’d never paid attention to my mother’s breath, but now that it wasn’t there, I knew what it was to miss her.

I am not comparing my mother to my appendix. How grotesque. I’m only saying that we often spend more time clacking after what we don’t have rather than listening for the presence of the things that are with us. Our lives are in a flux of having and not having and almost always, what we have we will at some point lose. » Continue reading this post…

Where Manhattan Meets Dinner

Bread salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I can see Manhattan from my roof. There is the dazzling slope of the Chrysler Building, the geometric cascade of the Empire State, and further to the left, the spanned wires of the Williamsburg Bridge. I was going through a rough patch a while back, and my favorite place to sit was on the roof, staring over the rooftops of Brooklyn at the Manhattan skyline and thinking of all the other people who were struggling with me. Each light representing a life. I’d sit alone, cradling a plate of pasta or bread with jam, balancing a glass of wine on the rooftop, and be silent and breathe. There was one bad night, where I wanted nothing but stillness, that I made myself a bread salad to eat on the rooftop. I had some leftover, almost stale baguette, and there’s nothing I’d rather do with stale baguette than add cherry tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, garlic, olive oil, rice wine vinegar, salt, and pepper to it. I put in extra garlic. There are advantages to eating alone.

The roof is a good spot in times of peace, too. The skyline is stalwart whatever my case may be. There is the noise of the basketball games in the park, the ever present cacophony of sirens, planes, Latin music from the bodega on the corner. But underneath the calm of an unobstructed sky, the frenzy is at a comfortable remove. Tonight, I made a bread salad with French bread and plenty of garlic, even though I’m meeting people later. I took it up and watched the sun set.

Bread salad with olives (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

A composition (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There’s a nook on the roof, a joint where the ledge covered in poorly spackled silver paint butts against the building’s edge. I sit here, my back against the wall, my feet propped up, gazing at the skyline as tacky and beautiful as a velvet painting. » Continue reading this post…

Something From Nothing: Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

Onions and garlic (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I wish there was a tiny chorus of approving gourmands that lived over my left shoulder and gave me a round of applause and a miniature pat on the back from each of their sprinkle-sized hands every time I verged on the brink of culinary genius. Like when, after two months of mediocre results, I finally manage to make perfect foam with my espresso machine for four days in a row (right now! I’m drinking perfect foam! Isn’t it exciting?). Or when, on the spur of the moment, I add a layer of strawberry jam between two layers of ordinary yellow cake with vanilla frosting. Or when, coming home after a long day of work, I despondently shrug my shoulders at the mismatched food in my pantry, only to throw the mess together into something delicious half an hour later.

But there are no invisible gourmands. It’s just me and my mouth and occasionally my roommates, who I make eat bites of my food as they walk past on their ways to something probably very interesting.

Can I clap for myself?

Luckily, I have a partner in crime – the other half to my half-full pantry – and together, we are very good at making something out of nothing. The other day, we were sitting around, kvetching, drinking green tea with ginger and honey, and realized that it was dark (no hard feat in winter Brooklyn) and we were hungry. This is kind of how the conversation went:

Me: “I’m hungry.”
Her: “Let’s make food.”
Me: “I don’t have anything.”
Her: “Me either.”
Me: “I have potatoes and blue cheese.”
Her: “I have lettuce.”
Me: “Ok, we’ll figure it out.”

The result being that we scrounged up a salad with peppery greens, blue cheese, canned beets, almonds, and a dressing of oil, cherry flavored balsamic vinegar, lemon, Dijon mustard, and honey. » Continue reading this post…

Nothing is Sacred

Ham croquettes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

As I was packing up to leave home after a relaxing Easter break, I realized there was nothing left in the house to eat.

By nothing, I mean, there was lots of leftover ham.

Hungry, and inspired by an almost hidden recipe in Gourmet, I decided to give in and eat ham again, but this time as miniature ham croquettes. Only a little bit daunted by the recipe’s injunction to “deep fry” the croquettes in a stomach-churning amount of vegetable oil, I dutifully followed the recipe, mashing white rice, ham, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and egg together into sticky balls and rolling them in bread crumbs. Maybe I didn’t let the rice cool long enough, or maybe my egg just wasn’t enough like cement, but my croquettes looked more like misshapen footballs than the cute, symmetrical spheres in the magazine’s pages. Armed with the longest spoon I could find, I plopped those tentative blobs into the hot oil and hoped they wouldn’t disintegrate too much. And then, as I noticed the thick smoke billowing through the kitchen, I mercilessly abandoned them as I frantically opened all the windows and doors within a fifteen foot radius.

Miraculously, the croquettes were only mostly burnt.

The good deed done, the leftover ham used up, I took my benighted croquettes to the table and took a bite.

Bland. Bland, bland, bland.

Why, you may ask, am I telling you this? Let me tell you.

I am telling you this because it teaches some valuable lessons about cooking. One, that not everything you make will be good. Two, that some things will be bad. And three, that the recipe is never sacred.

Taste copiously while you cook to make sure that it’ll turn out all right, and if it doesn’t taste good, add something new, like horseradish or cumin or caraway seeds. » Continue reading this post…