Archive for the ‘Eating Animals’ Category

Going Local: Königsberger Klopse

Königsberger Klopse (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I remember the first time I went to a bakery in Berlin and asked for three “Weckle.” The woman behind the counter looked at me blankly, and then slowly, contemptuously, following my line of sight, said, “Don’t you mean three Schrippen?” I nodded, slightly confused at her huff – because even in the States, where we have few regional dialect differences, when someone asks for a “pop,” we just laugh and ask what rock they grew up under (it’s Ohio).

But not in Berlin. Here, Berlinerisch is spoken with pride – and a certain amount of sass, which even has a name. “Berliner Schnauze” literally translates as “Berlin snout,” but is more closely captured by the phrase “smart-ass sassafras pants.” The Berliner Schnauze is a trifecta of “snappy attitude, dry wit and downright rudeness” (a lovely description from Ian Farrell’s article on Berlinerisch in Slow Travel Berlin). Everyone’s a comedian. But a kind of scary one you can’t understand.

Kittys Berlin-Kochbuch (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My childhood experience of Germany was almost solely limited to the south, where they speak their own brand of incomprehensible dialect, Schwäbisch. But since I grew up hearing it, I can understand it – most of it.

But one of the interesting things about growing up in the US speaking a German heavily influenced by a particular dialect, is that when you move to a different region in Germany, you’re not ever totally sure if a word you use is real German (aka Hochdeutsch) or if someone is going to laugh at you for saying “Weckle.”

Anchovies (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Beets in apple cider vinegar (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Meatballs (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Capers (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Technically, Berlinerisch isn’t actually a dialect (or an accent), but a metrolect, “a mixture of different dialects all piled together in one big urban area, usually due to a long history of immigration into the city, from both elsewhere in the country and further afield. » Continue reading this post…

Everything Old is New Again: Cheater’s Chicken Mole

Chicken mole with pickled onions (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

For most of my life, I thought Mexican food was a can of Old El Paso refried beans covered with iceberg lettuce, sloppy tomatoes, and shredded cheddar cheese. What a surprise, then, when I bit into my first real taco from the truck in the gas station parking lot off Exit 33 and discovered that real Mexican food has very little in common with that. The flavors were fresh and incredibly present – aggressively green cilantro, tangy lime and such tender meat it felt ready to fall apart before I even took a bite. And the tortillas were a far cry from the brittle taco shells of my childhood. You could taste the corn with its gritty, dense texture scarred by the bitter burn of an open flame.

This was back at Davidson, and I don’t remember who it was who discovered the taco truck, but after we found it, we were always there – on lazy weekend mornings, on trips home from the Lake Campus, any time we could convince someone with a car to drive us.

Lime-pickled onions (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Browning chicken (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Chopped onions and garlic (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Rehydrating ancho chiles (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

In Brooklyn, I lived down the street from a tortilleria, and many of my favorite evenings began at those dim and sticky tables, ladling plastic spoonfuls of spicy green salsa and pickled jalapeños on tacos and washing it down with garish pink Jarritos.

It was in Brooklyn, too, that I expanded what I knew about Mexican food beyond tacos. I lived in a neighborhood where every bodega sold giant fresh bunches of cilantro and bulk bags of masa harina and dried ancho chiles. My grocery store had an entire aisle dedicated to the Goya line of products. If ever there were the right time to experiment with the flavors of Latin cooking it was there, surrounded by easily-accessible ingredients and inspiration. » Continue reading this post…

Lazy Days: General Tso’s Chicken

General Tso's Chicken (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I can’t remember the last time I had nothing really pressing to do on a weekend. It certainly wasn’t this year. That’s why I loved every second of this past weekend. David and I spent Saturday at the spa, sitting thigh to thigh with naked Germans in the sauna, brunching on omelets and fruit juices, reading novels in the sun-soaked relaxation room. On Sunday, we lounged about in the apartment, reading, watching episode after guilt-free episode of TV on our laptops, and dancing around the kitchen to Taylor Swift’s new pop pleasure album and cooking General Tso’s chicken. Happy days indeed.

I’ve had a hankering to make General Tso’s for a while now. I don’t eat much Chinese food, or crave it, as a general rule, but once a year, I long for the super buffet. I want rows of sticky, saucy bins filled with deep fried meat and soggy, soy-sauced vegetables. I want crisp, oily egg rolls dipped in questionably orange sauce, sweet, dark ribs stuck with white rice, and slick, salty lo mein. I want an enigmatic fortune delivered inside a thin vanilla cookie folded like a love note and won ton soup.

Fried chicken for General Tso's (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Green onions (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Chinese food in Germany is different. The sauces aren’t as sweet. The soy sauce ratio is wrong. I hardly dare say it’s inauthentic – like much of the Chinese food on American buffets, the dishes weren’t invented in China, but in other countries where diners had preconceived taste preferences and limited ingredient availability. General Tso’s chicken, for instance, was inspired by the Hunanese kitchen, but only introduced to China after émigré chefs returned back home from America.

Sunday was a crave the buffet day. And surprisingly enough, the ingredients for General Tso’s chicken were for the most part staple pantry supplies I always have on hand – cornstarch, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, eggs… I’d just never thought of making it on my own. » Continue reading this post…

The Element of Surprise: Moroccan-Style Burgers with Apple-Balsamic Reduction

Moroccan-style burgers with balsamic-apple reduction (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Cinnamon had been a rash last-minute decision. It settled on the mound of ground almonds and beef like a smug crop dusting. I looked at my hand in surprise. Who told you that was a good idea? my brain said to my hand. The body works in mysterious ways, my hand said to my brain. But by then there was nothing to do but move on with the bold decision, adjusting the plans accordingly.

In Chopped, it’s all about surprises anyway. It’s a game where you have to create an entire, cohesive dish from three disparate ingredients on the spot. There’s no time to research or prepare. You have nothing, and then suddenly, you have to have an idea. You’re already thinking creatively, open to the unexpected.

Whole almonds (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Almonds (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Chopped almonds (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

When we made these burgers the first time for the family Chopped competition in Italy, the ground, toasted almonds mixed with minced garlic and onion piled on pillowy beef reminded me somehow of chicken bastilla, one of my favorite meals in the entire world. Bastilla is a Moroccan dish in which saffron chicken, egg, and toasted almonds are sweetened with orange water and cooked inside crispy, thin phyllo dough. Though it’s garnished with powdered sugar and cinnamon, the filling is a perfect blend of savory and sweet, crunchy and soft.

Ground beef (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Toasted almonds (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Ground beef and spices (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Burger mash (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I don’t think my thought process at the time was as rational as all that, but adding the cinnamon to the burger mash felt right, even though my brain was surprised at quickness of my hand’s action. » Continue reading this post…

On a Sticky Summer Day: Coffee & Cocoa Chili Con Carne

Chili con carne (Eat Me. Drink Me.) I know it’s summer. I can feel the sweat dripping down my back, the wet air making my elbows peel from my desk as I type. My eyelids stick when I blink. And yet… Call me crazy, but I made chili for dinner. I thought about calling this breezy summer chili. Fresh, seasonal meat and beans magic? And then I realized that there was really no point in telling the story any other way than the way it was. It was too hot to make chili, and that’s exactly what I did. Stick, stick, says my elbow, letting me know I spent too long thinking about that last sentence. Chopped vegetables (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Diced garlic (Eat Me. Drink Me.) You know that feeling you get when you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown? That quiet, manic calm that feels watery and full of cracks? I feel a little bit that way. There’s too much to do. I’ve had to read piles of poetry for SAND, the literary journal where I work as the poetry editor. I’ve been working on a translation competition, getting my own poetry collection finished, visiting with family, keeping the apartment clean, working on home improvement projects and crafts, answering emails. It doesn’t even sound like much to write it out, and a lot of it is things I generally enjoy doing – but all those little things add up. And when I think about tackling just one of those things, I go… ah! GIFs on the internet!

Oregano (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Fresh vegetables for chile con carne (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Bacon! (Eat Me. Drink Me.) So logically, after a full day of work, I pedaled to the grocery store to pick up beef and peppers, coffee for breakfast tomorrow, bacon, sour cream and green onions. My project was herculean, considering the weather. Stand by the hot stove, sweat streaming, to slow-cook some chili. At least I remembered to pick up an icy Hefeweizen to take the edge off. » Continue reading this post…

Veggies in the Fridge, the Leftovers Edition: Thai Green Curry

Thai green curry (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

What to do the day after you’ve made Balinese Gado-Gado and have a refrigerator full of vegetables just begging to be eaten? Roll with the punches. Give them what they want.

And what do they want? Well, they desperately want to be made into a spicy, fragrant Thai Green curry.

Birds-eye chili (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Cilantro (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Preparing green curry paste (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’m particularly fond of Thai food. It’s both comforting and fresh, spicy and sweet, and it makes use of some of my favorite ingredients: coconut, chili, cilantro, brown sugar, and lime to name just a few.

Measuring curry paste (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

This green curry is plumped up with chicken and plenty of green vegetables like sugar snap peas, Napa cabbage, green bell pepper and sprouts. And carrots, which aren’t green, but wish they were.

Green peppers and carrots (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Chicken (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Green curry paste (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s a lovely meal no matter whether you’re using up gado-gado leftovers or starting from scratch. » Continue reading this post…

Let’s Talk About Lard

Toast with Schmalz (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My father used to talk about how when he was younger, he and his siblings would eat toast with Schmalz as a snack. Schmalz and salt when they were in the mood for something savory. Schmalz and sugar when sweet. I used to love the way it sounded. Schmalz. Like something rustic, real. Romantic even. Thick, crusty bread still bakery warm and slathered up with Schmalz, whatever that was.

One day I discovered that whatever it was, was lard. Yes, just good old fashioned rendered and congealed fat. Slap that on a piece of toast and eat it up.

Recently, for work, I was translating menus and got stuck on one of the dishes for the snack buffet: Auswahl von Brötchen mit Schmalz. How was I supposed to translate Schmalz? I couldn’t just call it “lard” and stick it on a menu. What sane English speaker would want to eat “Assorted rolls with lard?” » Continue reading this post…

On Disasters and Finally Finding Pig Tails

Pig tails ready to braise (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The first thing to happen was that the bell fell off. So there I was, seconds after finally reconnecting with my Little Hercules, my beloved and somewhat broken Berlin bike, scouting for my broken-off bell in the middle of the road and trying not to get hit by the oncoming car. It was a success. If you count riding a gearless bike with a screwed-on bell down a potholed Berlin road a success.

I’ve been thinking about disasters that turn out ok recently. Burning sugar and ending up with Christmas cocktails instead of surfer juice. Mixing the cauliflower with the batter before reading the recipe to find out that the florets are meant to be dipped and deep fried – then finding out that the ensuing fritters were great. And myriad other failures that just either weren’t so bad or turned out to be surprisingly nice.

A few months ago, I realized a long-term goal of mine: cooking pig tails. And here’s how this relates: it wasn’t really a success. I’ll be honest, I was actually even a little let down. But what made it ok was that I’d wanted to cook pig tails for years and finally, finally I found them.

Pig tails in a pan (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The search for pig tails started in Brooklyn. I was neck deep in a Fergus Henderson love affair and getting excited in the way that only weird ones do for strange things like offal and bone marrow, dried, salted cod and kidneys. What was great about living in Brooklyn was that these strange things were strangely easy to procure. Salted cod was sold by the bin-ful at my neighborhood supermarket to make Dominican bacalhau, and you could buy everything from brains in a bucket to bull testicles at the nearby Carniceria. So when I read Fergus’ recipe for “Crispy Pig Tails,” I thought, no problem. » Continue reading this post…