Archive for the ‘Eating Animals’ Category

The Appropriate Emoticon for a Butchered Chicken is :o

raw chicken (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Cutting up a whole chicken always seems to involve dangling it by some appendage. Grip the chicken firmly by the leg and lift it in the air as you slice your knife into the jointGrab the wing and pull it away from the body… Holding the chicken by one leg, place the tip of your knife…

It makes me sad for the chickens – not that they’re dead, but that in death, they must weather the ignominy of me ungraciously hefting them into the air by their prickled-skinned legs and hacking away as their naked little chicken bodies twirl away from the tip of my knife…

I will admit: I am an ungainly chicken partitioner. Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes I dig out the lower piece of breast with my fingers because I can’t figure out how to get a knife into that strange curved dip of bone. I can never remember where the drumstick ends and the thigh begins or whether there’s a better way to cut along the ribs. And then there’s all that dangling.

I try to do my butchering in secret, so that no one else must see the shame of what is really all that the connotation of the word butchering implies. I like to have my guests walk into the kitchen with the pan of Nepali chicken curry contentedly bubbling like the La Brea Tar Pits on the stove. The dinosaur extinction scene is just too painful to watch.

bubbling tar pits: Nepali Chicken Curry (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Speaking of pain, I’ve been thinking about emoticons recently, and how I think they’re a necessary function of modern communication. For a long time, I was resistant to using them, and I think I’m still a bit of a prude. My faces never sport noses, or stick their tongue out, and though I sometimes use the winky-face, I find it vaguely pornographic…

I had placed emoticons in the same category as “LOL” or “OMG” or “ROFLMAO” (I mean, OMG, what a string of letters – it takes me longer to work out what that means than to dissect a chicken) without thinking about the function they play in communication. » 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…

Turn Around, Bright Eyes: Bulgarian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

no raw meat in the rings, please (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

“But you have a Kochgefühl,” – a feel for the kitchen – Sylvia says to me when I tell her I don’t think I’ll ever be as good of a cook as my mother.

I’ve been saying things like this a lot lately, loosing the leash of my inner Thomas. Will I ever be a great writer? Should I even be writing? Are my dreams too outlandish? Should I just settle for some mildly literary career – if I can even find a job to begin with? Am I interesting enough? Am I pretty enough? Do I blink too much?

It’s exhausting, to doubt this much.

I’d been speaking with a friend recently about job searching and how incredibly despondent it makes us – the longer we look, the more depressed we are, and the more despondent, depressed, and desperate we are, the less likely we’ll be to get a job. Cruel, cruel circle. What we need is a turnaround. The German word for this is Wende, a word I find incredibly beautiful. It floats, a gentle turn, like a child tucking into his shoulder as he falls asleep. I stand by this interpretation of the word, even though in a historical context, the word Wende is fraught with the political and emotional turmoil following the fall of the Berlin wall.

But maybe that element isn’t too irrelevant to the metaphor I’m about to make. Because I think a Wende often begins with a sharp and incisive moment whose total import may or may not be apparent immediately. Sylvia’s comment was like an incision into the boggy doubt-world I’d been swirling around myself.

Of course I can cook. Maybe I’m not as accomplished as I might be someday, but I have a feeling for food, the way ingredients fit together. » Continue reading this post…

Love is Wherever You Find It

Thanksgiving dinner (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Warm murmur, glasses clinking, candlelight, the smell of herbs and browned butter, a room full of people crammed around a long, improvised table, a whole roasted turkey. Thanksgiving in Berlin, beautiful.

Jamie and I have spent all morning cooking. Turkey with herbs and butter and apple cider gravy, bratwurst, apple and cranberry stuffing, celeriac and potato mash, carrots glazed in sherry, green beans in toasted walnut vinaigrette, cranberry nut rolls, roasted sweet potatoes with sage, kale and Brussels sprouts salad, apple pie, pumpkin pie… All of the good things Thanksgiving means. Elisabeth comes home around one after a long day at school and a quick shopping trip for some last minute menu items, and begins to set up the living room. At three, a quick pick-me-up (vodka/muddled orange, mint, brown sugar/goji berry smoothie), and back to work. We sneak finger-fuls of gravy base at regular intervals, dance around the kitchen to tacky party pop with whisks, improvise baking dishes from cake pans, toast with cans of champagne.

Our guests arrive between six and seven, I slip into my party dress, purchased at a vintage store last weekend in Paris, wipe flour from my face. We work through until eight – the last minute touches to a big dinner party – adding the olive oil to a dressing of Dijon, shallots, garlic, and sherry vinegar whose flavors have been melding all day, pouring pan juices into gravy base, shrieking at how good the gravy is, grating parmesan. » 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…

Giving Some Lip to a Piece of Tongue

Boiled tongue (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

This is exactly what it looked like: as if someone had hacked off a foot, boiled it, and dressed it in a little white boot. It was like finding something from Dexter in my soup pot.

How I ended up making tongue for dinner is a roundabout story. What I really wanted was to try out this adorable sounding Fergus Henderson recipe for crispy pig tails. And I figured, in my neighborhood, with its preponderance of funny animal bits, I would definitely be able to find them somewhere. So I walked to the carniceria on the corner and asked for pig tails. The butcher laughed at me. And I thought – really? – because I’m staring at a pig’s head next to a goat’s head, right above bins of offal and piles of trotter. And he laughs at me for wanting pig tails?

So he gives me the address of a few more carnicerias in Bushwick and I begin a trek into the hoods of Brooklyn looking for pig tails. No luck. One butcher didn’t even know what part of the animal I was talking about, and we played an embarrassing game of charades trying to determine just what the tail of a pig was. I drew curlicues in the air. Despondent and luckless, I hopped on the train to Union Square to see what the early Spring Greenmarket had to offer. Not much yet, a few root vegetables and hardy winter greens. But I did find some beautiful broccoli rabe and a jar of silky creamed honey, some Jerusalem artichokes and a perfectly round, perfectly yellow squash. No pig tails.

Having given up on the pig tails (for now, just for now), I took the train back home to Brooklyn and walked back into the carniceria on my corner. “I’m back,” I said, and the butcher, a young guy from Mexico, not much older than myself, shook his head at me. » Continue reading this post…

Pilgrimage

Bone marrow and parsley salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I stopped speaking. I vaguely heard the man beside me rant about the Americans as my friends gossiped about mutual acquaintances and all around in the rest of the restaurant was the low hum of conversations, women laughing, sniffs at swilled glasses of port, the rustle of waiter’s whites as they brushed between tables and the open kitchen at the back. But for me there was nothing but toast spread with bone marrow, pungent sea salt burning my lips, vinegary parsley salad cut with capers and paper-thin slivers of garlic. My mouth smeared with grease.

This was heaven. This was the silly smile of kissing, the quiet of vacation mornings on the beach. Bone marrow and parsley salad at St. John’s Restaurant in London, my own nirvana.

Fergus Henderson’s restaurant is on the tip of one of those winding London streets that fork abruptly into other cobbled lanes, overshadowed by low-storied buildings that lean precariously over street lamps and clustered packs of suited, smoking office workers. Inside, warm lights glint off steel trim, the décor is simple and white, the floors stone. The waiters are attentive – coats are hung, dropped scarves quickly scooped from the floor, chairs pulled out, menus discreetly slipped onto the tablecloth.

We set our shopping bags under the table, slipped into the silk of quiet conversation, took sips of syrah, spread thick smears of butter on bread. Already the atmosphere of the restaurant, casual yet completely elegant, impressed itself into our attitudes, and we sat with the sensual, fluid postures of posh and wealthy women. Not that that’s not what we were.

The food was unassumingly described. Ox tongue and chips. Pigeon and beetroot. I told my waiter I was deciding between those two things; he said, well, the pigeon was a really lovely gamey bird, perfect if I liked gamey meat, but the ox tongue, oh, the ox tongue was nice. » Continue reading this post…

Midnight Feast

Baby octopus (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There are few things for which I will willingly stay up late. Pork belly is one of them. Of course, as I trekked through the slushy Brooklyn night I had no way of knowing that a thick and streaky slab of raw pork belly was waiting for me just past the Bedford stop.

I was on my way to a midnight cooking feast. In two weeks of schedule scouring my friend Ben and I didn’t have one overlapping free hour to cook. And all we really wanted to do was cook. So lets cook at midnight, we said, and that’s how I found myself struggling to stay awake on an empty train, kicking myself for having agreed to something as ridiculous as not being in bed at midnight.

Our plan was to let ourselves be inspired. To not plan a single recipe until we looked at what we had. During his 11 pm grocery run, Ben bought whatever looked pretty and cost less than $2 a pound.

I felt like I was on Iron Chef, watching as he pulled each ingredient out of a Whole Foods shopping bag and laid it on the counter. Lemons. Eggplant. Baby potatoes. Red and yellow beets. Pork belly. Parsley and cilantro. Jicama. Tangerines and grapefruit. Fennel. And lastly, a small, brown paper-wrapped package. “Guess,” he said. “Chorizo,”  I guessed. “Stranger than chorizo.” “Tripe,” I guessed. “Less strange than tripe,” he said and unwrapped a tangled mess of baby octopi.

We threw around ideas for our meal – should we do an Asian-inspired glazed belly or slice it up and cook it like bacon – should we roast vegetables or frittata them – could we do anything without vinegar? (No, was the answer, and Ben made a quick run to the corner store for two bottles of vinegar.) We settled on belly flash seared and then braised in a citrus glaze and a jicama and roasted beet slaw. » Continue reading this post…

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