Archive for the ‘Eating Animals’ Category

Resolutions and Assorted Thoughts on Salt and Things

Chipped venison (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s been a minute. I’ve missed you. I never told you about Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Years and all the magnificent food I cooked and holiday observations I made. I didn’t write about the Greek Meatballs or the Fancy Vegas Dinner, the Skirmish with Lamb Marrow, or the Million Clove Dinner Party. I took a few pictures, but not enough. I let my errands run me. But now I find myself wedged into a MegaBus seat with no WiFi, my copy of Fear and Loathing (plus commentary) finished, fifteen minute nap done (and besides, I told myself I wouldn’t nap this time), and I think it’s time to write a little. It’s part of my New Years Resolution, I guess – to write more. That, and to actually remove the makeup from my face before I go to bed, keep my toenails painted, and use my Crockpot more often. And to be generally nicer.

I’m on my way back to New York from a weekend visiting one of my oldest friends (by which I mean, we have been friends since the age of four) in State College, PA. It’s a snowy drive, and the big windows are streaked with salt spray, which makes the view grim. I feel especially sorry for the people who have been riding this WiFi-less bus since Pittsburgh.

Although it looks, at least, like everyone else’s seat reclines.

We’re pulling into a travel station, and I’m tempted to get a hot dog. Nothing as extravagant, of course, as the hot dogs my friend said she used to get at Hoss’, where they’d carve her name into the unlucky wiener. These are weird moods of mine.

It could be being back in Pennsylvania, where, growing up, a special meal out was at Applebee’s and something super fancy got celebrated at the Olive Garden. » Continue reading this post…

Dinner Stroll: Fettuccine with Chicken-Liver Sauce

Chinatown, New York (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Our apartment’s fire alarm is hyper-reactive, erupting into warning cries at just the intimation of heat. This means that when I cook, I spend almost as much time running back and forth between the two alarms with a long wooden stick and disengaging them with a well-aimed prod, as I do standing in front of the stove.

I do a lot of walking in New York in general, so the fire alarm situation is nothing out of the ordinary. The other night, I met a friend for dinner after work. We were meeting at 6:15 and I was done with work at 5 – so rather than wait around uptown, I walked the thirty or so blocks from SoHo to 6th and 20th. I like to walk casually but with purpose, separating myself from the throng on the city streets. Everyone is stressed in New York, even the tourists, who must somehow subconsciously feed off everyone else’s frantic energy. To set yourself apart from this and still be in it is an almost elevated feeling of peace, like every commercial where there’s that one guy standing there while the rest of the world blurs by like water.

Uptown, New York (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I like the introspection that comes along with walking – the mind’s mimesis of wandering feet.

And especially walking in New York, I have these moments where I thrill that I live here. It’s a very special moment, to know where you are going, to know that after you leave your bank on Broadway and 10th, you can wander generally South and left (I actually do all my directions this way; I’ve mastered North and South, but I find East and West a little elusive), and you can pick up a bottle of cheap wine at the Broadway Liquor Warehouse, check on a new milk frother at Sur la Table and finally end up at your favorite pasta shop on Grand and Mulberry for fresh egg fettuccine and next door, a slab of Sicilian black pepper cheese. » Continue reading this post…

Another Reason to Love Bushwick or Surprise, the Post Office is Not so Bad

Pork bbq kebabs (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Besides the fact that the L train just wasn’t running this weekend (I’m sorry, New York City, what were you thinking?), I keep finding more reasons to love my new hood. These are the last warm days of the year, and now that the park has reopened post a sweeping up of the fallen trees and debris from the tornados, there is a comfortable amount of foot traffic strolling past my still open windows to remind me that I should go outside and eat ice cream, dammit, before the city is covered in an interminable blanket of snow, slush, misery, and fur-lined parkas.

I had the day off on Friday, and as any self-respecting masochistic New Yorker would do, I worked. Three loads of laundry, picking up mail from the old apartment and the shoes I’d had re-soled, scrubbing the bathroom, cleaning out the pantry, and gathering up the energy for a trip to the post office. The post office is unfortunate, like a theme park without any fun at the end of the lines. And in Bushwick, the post offices are especially bad. At my old Bushwick post office, I used to put aside an hour for a trip, because no matter how many people were in line – fifteen or five – the wait was one hour. Always. One hour.

So a trip to the post office requires reserves of zen-like patience and at least one and a half good books.

I gathered my packages. I gathered my books and my patience and set out to find my new post office. As I passed the Jefferson stop, where the train was spitting out commuters lucky enough to come home before 11:30 at night when the train would just. stop. running, I paused at the rich, charred smell of barbequing meat. » Continue reading this post…

Frühstück and Vespern: Friedel’s Fleischsalat

Laugenbretzel (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My verbal skills are now thoroughly mangled. I’m thinking in three languages, navigating through two cultures, and working my way through something like six time zones. So I’m confused, mostly. All I can say for certain is that my family is keeping me regularly caffeinated and fed (and caffeinated) and that they forgive me for whatever errors my German may contain.

Since joining up with them in the rural south of Germany, I’ve been playing a fun game called, “Can I Say This in Schwäbisch,” in which I say a sentence out loud and then in my head try to sound it out in the garbled southern dialect (the aforementioned third language) my family speaks. Say: Meine Sprache ist ganz durch einander. Think: Moi Sprach ist hey. The result is that I speak a very strange German: either correct, crisp high-German pronunciation with a rolling Southern inflection or the reverse – as if an inhabitant from the Pacific northwest were to cleanly articulate the sentence, “That ain’t nohow the way to go ‘bout it.”

As I speak and eat my way through the week, I’m working out a theory that culturally, the difference between Americans and Germans is a principle of curves and edges. Lets assume that we evolve angularly against our environments in order to navigate them, that in the yin-yang of the universe, there must always be a balance between curves and lines. In this sense, the Americans are outwardly round and inwardly straight and the Germans are outwardly straight and inwardly round.

Pretend I’m not totally jet-lagged and work with me. American culture is loud and big and comfortable. Americans are easy to get to know, are chatty and open. Advertising is seductive and billboards are filled with colors, scripted font, pictures, and sequins. Yet Americans themselves are inwardly direct and goal-oriented, good at general friendships but wary of vulnerability, in relationships less earnest than flippant. » Continue reading this post…

Don’t Play With Your Food. But Think About It, Do.

Rack of lamb (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

A scene from this year’s Easter fête: all of us, except mom, standing over two racks of lamb, discussing raw meat’s lack of visual appeal. Gross, disturbing, almost human-looking. An actual carcass. Mom was busy bleating in the background, “You killed my baby. I’m going to come get youuuuuu….” She refused to come any closer and did not participate in the subsequent lamb-eating, to be sure. But the rest of us were fascinated by the lamb. It was covered in filmy plasma from the fleshy strip of base up through the gangling, sawed-off ribs knocking against each other, and it gave off an earthy smell, like blood and dirt. Horrible, raw, food for Hannibal.

The cooked lamb was benign. Delicious to be sure, buttery soft and pink near the bone, tasting of rosemary and mustard on its crisp, fat-browned crust. Less like dead baby lamb and more like dinner. Perfect, delicious, dead, baby lamb.

Roast rack of lamb (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

What a contrast with the raw lamb, which made even a meat eater like me uncomfortable. The feel against my fingers of placental slime, the bones’ raw clack, the way it looked like the ribs ripped out from a child’s back.

There’s nothing dangerous in ground beef or pork cutlets, nothing to fear from a link of sausage or a sliver of cold honey-glazed ham. But a rack of lamb is visceral. The other day, in my yoga class, as we folded into half-pigeon, the instructor said, “You’re opening one of the largest joints in your body. You might feel a release of raw emotion. Just breathe into it.”

How ridiculous, I thought. A flow of emotion held captive in my hip? And then I made a rack of lamb and realized that some stretches take us places we’d rather not go and unless we breathe, we’ll never understand where we were. » Continue reading this post…

The Man for Me: Boiled Belly & Lentils

Boiled pork belly with lentils (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

“An ox tongue in brine […] or a bucket of cabbage salting in the corner of your kitchen, what could be more reassuring?” says Fergus Henderson, author of The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. My new culinary grail is a celebration of all those animal bits that are so often overlooked in the western kitchen like tripe, ears, feet, tongue, and brains. Seeing as unusual cuts of meat have been on my mind lately and since they are so conveniently sold at my local grocery store (and my new best friend the butcher’s place), this book came along at a time in my life when there were too many trotters and not enough recipes for them.

I never read recipes. This has gotten me into a lot of trouble on occasion. For instance, when halfway through making dinner, I get to the part of the recipe that says, “chill overnight.” Or when I’m canning zucchini and see the words “mix” and “rest for ten hours,” I assume, foolishly, that the recipe means mix all the ingredients and not just the zucchini and salt, at which point I must cancel dinner with my friends to make zucchini relish out of a bowl of sloppy zucchini mess.

Even when I read through my food magazines, I read the headnotes to recipes but leave the recipe to skim only if I end up cooking the dish. Reading recipes seems so boring.

But not with Fergus.

With Fergus, each recipe is lovingly related, as if we were old friends cooking side by side in a small, stone kitchen somewhere in the English countryside. For example, in his recipe for Saddle of Rabbit, he writes: “Serve the rolls with a salad that captures the spirit of the garden, made up from, for example, scallions, baby carrots, radishes, peas, fava beans (if in season), rocket (arugula), and chopped parsley (and a subliminal caper if you feel so inclined—I do!). » Continue reading this post…

If Your Grocer Doesn’t Sell Pork Neck Bones, You’re Probably Not Poor Enough: Poor Richard’s Pork Neck Bones

Pork neck bones (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

This was the opening line to an email my uncle sent a few years ago after his move to West Virginia, the second poorest state in the country after Mississippi. At the time, I laughed. I’d never seen pork neck bones in any grocery store I’d ever been to. I didn’t even know you could eat pork neck bones.

Then I moved to New York. And not only am I poor, but everyone around me is poor too (unemployed artists and musicians to the left, the projects to the right). So on my first visit to Bravo, my local grocery store, I was intrigued to find that the bizarre cuts of meat outweighed the “normal” selection. Pig tails and feet, turkey necks, chicken gizzards, pork belly, goat meat, beef honeycomb tripe, cow feet, oxtails, beef liver, and pork neck. Remembering that long forgotten email and being of a curious bent, I decided to make pork neck my first foray into adventurous cooking.

I wish I could tell you it was a more bizarre experience than it was. But pork neck is, well, decidedly normal after you’ve cooked it for two hours. The meat is incredibly tender and rich after having soaked in notes of brown sugar, cayenne, and salty broth. I made a regular Southern meal out of it with fried okra and cornmeal griddle cakes, and with pork neck stew spooned on a hot griddle cake—I felt much wealthier than I was.

Okra, pre-frying (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

All this has gotten me thinking about food stigmas, what it means to eat “poor,” and how food often undergoes the same sort of gentrification a neighborhood might. Take grits, for example. Grits are unpretentious. They are plentiful, inexpensive, and staple-worthy. Yet you can go to a five-star restaurant and order grits for $40 or $50. Those better be some damn good grits. » Continue reading this post…

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