Archive for the ‘Eating Together’ Category

Baking My Own Birthday Cake

Birthday party (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

One of my greatest fears in life has always been that no one will come to my birthday party. I’ll invite everyone I know. I’ll send out pretty invitations on cardstock with glitter ink. I’ll promise party favors and food and fun beverages loaded with crushed ice. I’ll promise home-baked cake. But on the day of my party, people will just trickle in and out, if they come at all, and stare sadly at the limp, swaying streamers.

There’s generally very little anyone can say to allay these fears. My boyfriend said, “Don’t be ridiculous.” My brother said the same thing. I’m just always afraid that something else will come up – an apocalypse, a Backstreet Boys reunion tour – and I’ll be left tearing through the sugared crumbs of cake and piles of party food like a lonely Godzilla.

Birthday guest (Eat me. Drink Me.)

Grilling in Tempelhof (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I celebrated my birthday last Saturday with a grill in Tempelhof, a shut-down airport featuring a runway-turned-park where Berlin’s citizens gather on sunny days to rollerblade and bike down the long runways, lie in the sun, and cook on small, portable grills that send up a haze of smoke.

That morning, I’d picked up one of my best and oldest friends from the airport, and like a tyrant, pushed her through her jet-lag by making her go to the market to buy fresh strawberries and herbs, cheeses, vegetables, dirt-crusted potatoes and stalks of bright red rhubarb. Then I made her help me cook. We made my family’s German potato salad, tabbouleh chock full of bright, sweet tomatoes and parsley, and a rhubarb frangipani tart baked on puff pastry.

Picnic potluck (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Sun in Tempelhof (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We were gathering together the ingredients for mojitos, packing paper plates and picnic blankets, when David asked me, “When did you tell people to meet us?”

“Three PM,” I said.

“So around four?” he said. » Continue reading this post…

Making Home: Won-Ton Soup

Won-tons (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The view from my new kitchen window is a giant swath of salmon wall. On gray days, it’s the color of a salmon slab that’s been sitting too long in the fridge. On sunny days, it’s that flash-frozen pink of a fresh fish pulled from the river and slit open. The windows are uniform and white, and in one window box there’s a slightly infuriating lavender plant that bobs and bobs and bobs in the wind like mesmerizing purple tentacles.

I love my new apartment, but I have the feeling I’m going to grow to hate these inner courtyard walls. I turn my gaze inside. When the sun shines, our apartment is bathed in light. It glances off the lacquered wooden floors and paints the walls a brilliant white. When it’s gray out, and let’s be truthful, in Berlin it’s often gray out, I light all the candles I impulse bought at Ikea, and I am glad for that acted-upon urge.

Whole shrimp (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Green onion (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s easy to forget how much work it takes to move. You think that once you’ve carted your personal effects up and down hundreds of flights of stairs, and thrown yourself upon the mattress lying in the middle of the floor that the hardest part is over. But after you’ve bathed your sore muscles in a bathtub filled with water boiled on the stove (because of course the hot water isn’t working yet), you realize that somehow, all of these things must find a home.

So you go to Ikea (again), and buy a Hemnes for the clothes and some other things you’ve never had to buy because you’ve always lived with roommates who’ve had these things. (Shower curtains and hot water kettles, cutting boards, a bath mat.) Suddenly, you are very grateful for the set of silverware that caught your eye two years ago and that you just had to have, even though you didn’t know what to do with it, so stored it in a box. » Continue reading this post…

Easter’s for the Cats

Easter chicks (Eat Me. Drink Me)

The hungry cat (Eat Me. Drink Me)

My friend Anna has a cat named Monika. Monika, besides being Russian and in possession of her own passport, is small and plump, white with patches of brown and black, with the softest fur in the world. She would make an excellent rug.

But she also makes an excellent cat, a little uncharacteristic in her sociability, quite characteristic in the way she won’t let the puffball Easter chicks live, but has to pull their legs apart and strew the pieces across the floor without a fuss, without a word. The cat’s massacre gift.

This year for Easter, Anna and Monika and I cooked a feast. Monika’s way of helping was mostly to lick things she wasn’t supposed to – but also to sit on our laps when we were too tired to cook – and to guard the Easter chicks and eat them should they get out of line.

In the meantime, Anna and I spent the day cooking: roast lamb with garlic and fresh herbs, roast vegetables, garlicky haricot verts, three varieties of puff pastry tartlets (camembert and walnut / eggplant, caramelized onion and gorgonzola / spinach and feta), deviled eggs, Swedish ägghalvor (eggs with caviar), mango and red onion salad, Russian Easter brioche, white bean salad, red cabbage slaw, and sweet nut brittle for dessert.

herb, lemon, and garlic marinade (Eat Me. Drink Me)

browning the lamb (Eat Me. Drink Me)

There’s something quite soothing about spending the whole day in the kitchen. The way scents slowly build – freshly squeezed lemon and cut raw garlic, the first sizzle of meat in a pan, sweet yeast and the vinegar scent of dyeing Easter eggs. There wasn’t any hurry – we’d met early and even had a relaxed lunch of tea with camembert and fig jam on pumpernickel rounds before we started chopping. » Continue reading this post…

Biscuits & Blogging: Sweet Corn & Pepper Biscuits

homemade biscuits (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

When Ellie and I get together, we talk. About lots of things. Like work and men and crazy people we know. We do things like make cocktails and Instagram photos of them, then drink them and make another round, which we do not Instagram. But really, when we get together, what we do is bake.

The baking, of course, might just be an excuse for the gossiping and the cocktails, but then again, it might be because there’s something really rewarding about sitting around chatting and drinking and ending up with yeasty donuts covered in pink gloss, or red velvet cupcakes topped with an icing that involves very. specific. instructions. and slightly strange ingredients.

Because of all the baking and the eating, I think Ellie has made more appearances in this blog than anyone else. There was Thanksgiving (we’re already getting ready to order the turkey for this year…), the plätzchen-baking extravaganza, an ancient Easter, and of course that time we decided to eat in the dark. And probably because of all the appearances she’s made here, she’s spent a lot of time listening to me talk about the blog – why I’m even still writing it and where I’d like for it to go. Or maybe that’s because of the cocktails.

toppings for biscuits (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We talk about the big plans I have. I want to redesign the site so that it’s easier to navigate. I want an index of recipes and photos. I want to write a book…

And then sometimes I want to pretend that there’s not a place where I have been, more – or less – regularly, recording my edible thoughts for over three years. What a long time to throw words into the sometimes uncommunicative interwebs. There are times when I don’t know why I’m still writing it, but there you go – I’m still writing it. » Continue reading this post…

In the Beginning, There Was Butter: Bagna Cauda

bagna cauda recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

“You start with nine sticks of butter,” my aunt says, giving me the recipe for a dish which, at the end of its life, will contain fourteen sticks. Her voice is a Florida twang, an accent no one else in my family seems to have picked up as strongly, though when I am with her, I find my own vowels stretching out. I becomes Ah, as though I’ve been stuck into a Twilight Zone dentist’s office and every personal statement is a chance to glance at my sweet tea-ravaged cavities.

“This is the easy way, but the real way is, you’re going to want to chop up about three things of garlic – at least.” Except it sounds like, Yer gunna wunna

My aunt is referring not to cloves of garlic, but to heads, because this is the famed family recipe for banyacotta, which is the phonetic spelling for a dish which is actually a famed Italian recipe called bagna cauda. The recipe is basically the same. But I think my family uses more butter.

bagna cauda (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Banyacotta is a familial rite of passage. Lovers, fiancés, new spouses, children – you’re not a part of the family until you’ve eaten banyacotta.

This is mostly due to the fact that for a full two days after eating it, you trail the scent of garlic behind you thicker than Pepe le Pew on an amour trail. It is imperative, for this reason, that everyone in the family partake, so that we don’t notice our stench, naïvely wandering through the world in our own little garlic reek.

For a long time, I had no idea that banyacotta was not just something that had been handed down in my family from generation to generation. All of the friends I told about the dish – it’s a dip of butter, garlic, and anchovies and you eat it on cabbage – were disgusted (but then again, that isn’t quite the favorite foods lists of an eight year old). » Continue reading this post…

Every Kitchen Gets a Post: Ethiopian Lentils

fresh lemons (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

In my new home, we have a tablecloth. It is a dusty pink tablecloth and on top of it are placemats upon which we eat. Our china is rimmed with roses. Our mugs match. At last, I think, I have arrived.

In the last three years I’ve had five different kitchens, and I’ve written about most of them. First there was the Davidson kitchen where this blog began, and my ever-recurring ancestral home’s blue-walled affair. There was the first kitchen in New York, which was tiny – enough counter space only for the mice. Then there was my second kitchen in New York, which stood unused for a long time while we were too busy battling bed bugs to cook. There was the kitchen in Berlin, shower beside the stove. And now there is my new kitchen. Where we use tablecloths.

We are three women in my new kitchen, and of course the tablecloth may have something to do with that. Which is not to say that men don’t care for tablecloths. Just that, well, I don’t think they do.

The Neukölln kitchen (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Normally I’d balk at the idea of living with only women. There’s too much estrogen. Too much makeup, too much body lotion, too much bickering and gossip about boys. But my new little Neukölln apartment is different. It has a good feeling, something I sensed the first time I went to see the place – calm, relaxed, communal.

The kitchen is our shared space. There’s always someone in it – reading the newspaper, doing the dishes, cooking something. It’s also the first time I’ve lived somewhere where there’s an absolutely effortless attitude about food and sharing it. Whoever’s cooked, cooks for whoever else is home. But it’s not as stressful as being required to cook for everyone. It goes more like this: someone cooks, someone walks into the kitchen, food is shared. » Continue reading this post…

A Murmur, the Wind, Some Fish, a Sea: Homemade Pizza Dough

Baltic Sea (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Everything sounds like ocean in the Baltic. The wind brushing through the tops of trees, sand sweeping against itself, the hypnotic hiss of fire on wood – even the ocean sounds like ocean. I felt disoriented my first morning, awake before the rest of the house and out for a walk. There was a brisk wind carrying the smell of brine and fish, driftwood and the specific salinity of coastal air.

Our house was part of a series of small summer houses, all pained the same cream color with the same thatched roof and thick green shutters. There were clearly big plans underway, and the clean green lawn outside our windows dropped off to an abrupt construction site. Swaths of bare earth still half frozen with winter, caked with the ridges of a dump truck’s wheels and forlorn palettes of latticed wood and bricks – this was our ocean view.

I wandered around the development, even ventured into the woods where I found an abandoned locker room whose placement I couldn’t quite comprehend. Why one would need to shower and change so far from the water was a mystery to me. The only solution being that the badgered ground was covering up the remnants of an old swimming pool. Children’s summer sunshine memories buried under frozen dirt and soon covered with vacation homes.

We must give the archeologists something to do.

For a while it was nice to be in the open air. Smelling ocean. Blinking in unadulterated sunlight. No big buildings, no noise, no city hemming-in. But I had underestimated the wind and I desperately wanted a cup of coffee.

Back in the house, people were waking up, and our bedraggled-looking crew grew in the kitchen. The sound swelled, murmurings, an oceanic susurrus with the break of laughter.

Ostsee (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

am Ostsee (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Officially, we sat down to breakfast around noon – but for that, the spread was plentiful and pretty. » 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…

Privacy Preference Center

Close your account?

Your account will be closed and all data will be permanently deleted and cannot be recovered. Are you sure?